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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Feeling small again

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We all stood there in a little bit of awe and disbelief and maybe a tiny bit of horror as we watched the small child read (from notebook paper, not a giant cue card) in Spanish to a group of 75 adults. We were at a family event at the Spanish preschool where our kids go.

We had watched the class of 2-year olds act out a book-related skit for (what felt like) an hour; we had watched the class of 3-year olds sing a (perfectly timed) 1-minute song and then our socks were knocked off with the class of 4-year olds’ skit, including an adorable little boy reading to the room. In Spanish. And then he read in the dark. He was not reading simple phrases like, “Hola. Comment estas?” He was reading sentences and sentences BEAUTIFULLY.  The cranky Spaniard next to me commented that the kid’s Spanish was great and another friend wryly noted that he read better than she could, and she’s 42.

Of course, I couldn’t have been the only one in the room wondering, “What kind of genius is he?” And if I’m being honest, my next thought was, “How’d I get such a dummy?” Because my 5-year old could more likely vomit on command than speak in front of a room of strangers, much less READ in front of a room.

“I’m sure it’s like those little boys in the Little League World Series with questionable birth certificates,” I joked to the parents we were standing with. “He’s probably ten years old – they put in a ringer to help lure prospective students…” See, I was testing the waters.  I sought a sign from them that THEIR kids weren’t brainiac early readers because mine isn’t either. Isn’t that sad? He’s five and I was instantly worried about him keeping up with everybody.

I take spin class at the gym.  I am more competitive than I like to admit and spinning is a perfect outlet for that. The tan, skinny lady on the bike next to me might look better in low-slung jeans but I can chase her down and beat her on whatever imaginary hill I am riding. And no one ever has to know we’re racing.

I think I might need to add more spinning to my week –certainly, to keep me out of mom jeans, but more importantly, to keep me from adding competition to my kids’ lives. They’ll add that soon enough on their own.

(Incidentally, I did a little research:  kids begin reading at all different ages, with the range being 3 – 7, for the most part. Yes, 3 or 4 is early.  But as we know, all kids are different.)

Filed under Kindergarten, Parenting
Jan 31, 2011

Pick me! Pick me!

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Since I was always big and relatively sporty, I wasn’t one of the kids picked last for teams when I was a kid. Last one picked to dance in 6th grade, yes, but not last one picked for dodge ball. (Equally scarring, I expect.)It dawned on me last night at 2am that the best way to conquer any of those didn’t-get-picked demons is to have a kid or two. Because now, I ALWAYS get picked. Actually, I should clarify – I always get picked at night. During the day, if he’s around, Daddy is fun city and definitely wins.

The other night, for example, Jake (coughing like every other child on the Upper West Side) woke up at 2am in need of water. Or something, I don’t remember the specifics but he definitely had cause. So he climbed down from his bunk bed, left his bedroom and walked PAST the unusual light on in the living room where his awake and generally able father was sitting on the couch, probably on his computer reading about Cross Fit (his new obsession) or water skiing (his constant obsession)  – both way better than the online porn he could be cruising. Passing the not-sleeping person in the living room and the kids’ bathroom, (which is FULL of water), Jake appeared at my bed where he stood next my head whispering “MommyMommyMommy” until I opened my eyes to scowl at him before getting him water and getting him back to bed. (Actually we had a quick scuffle about which cup to use and then he got back to bed – my husband sometimes questions my recollection and I know he would want me to point that out.)

But why am I always picked? I’m not that nice. Is it cosmic payback for not really getting picked by the tall boy when I was in 6th grade? (Actually, he did pick me once and we slow-danced to the Police “King of Pain.” Dreamy.) Do the kids pick me to make me feel needed or loved? Are they maternally drawn to me at night because of that first year of night feedings or is picking me at night just a habit, since I’m closer to the door?  Because, really, my husband is definitely the softer of the two of us and the kids would be WAY better served by waking him.  While I might scowl and help Jake get a drink before shuffling him back to bed, my husband might scowl, offer him a bowl of Cheerios and put in the Dora DVD for him.  (I exaggerate, but you get my point.)

I know that very soon the kids won’t want us for anything (except money or car keys), especially not at 2am. And while I’m not ready for that to be the case, I would be okay if they picked Daddy once in a while at 2am. Or for that matter, anybody who is already awake. Like the elevator guy Carlos; he’s awake all night.

Filed under Parenting, Sleep
Jan 26, 2011

Ditch your spouses and kids for the weekend

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That’s the gist of the invitation I received last week for a weekend-long reunion of sorts. I was invited with several other close (but far-away) friends to (what amounts to) a booze-up outside of San Diego. The invite is clear to point out that this weekend is not one to tour the sights (I have never been to San Diego) as we will be under house-arrest — eating, drinking and staying at a friend’s house on top of a mountain. (Wonder where her kids will be?)

The invite list is pretty short — good friends from my first few years in New York. Our lives then were simple and consistent — we went to work and then met up to drink beer, play pool and maybe eat some 4am Famous Ray’s (excepting the one friend who insists that if you go to bed hungry you wake up thin). We used pay phones and checked our home answering machines to find out the next destination, (though one friend might pull out his work cell phone that was bigger than my current laptop), and those with more money would buy the most rounds.

Do I sound nostalgic? Probably. The (real or perceived) strength in the numbers of our group left us a little bit invincible. Eventually, most of us left New York and continued with a more grown-up (?) life  – bigger jobs, fewer hangovers, maybe a spouse and some kids.

So why revisit it? Can lamemom ditch her family for a few days and buy an expensive ticket to visit a city she’ll actually not see? Fully aware that she’ll wake up with a headache every day of the trip? Absolutely. And I can’t wait.

Filed under Uncategorized
Jan 20, 2011

May I mambo dogface to the banana patch?

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I have heard about it for years, but until last night I had never even seen the Steve Martin bit referenced in today’s post title. In the bit, Martin suggests people teach kids how to talk “wrong” at home  so they might get to school and ask the teacher if they can go to the bathroom, only they would ask, innocently, “May I mambo dogface to the banana patch?” Funny, right? Yes, until you live it.

Last night after dinner, son Jake proudly read to me the cover of his maze book, “Your Book of Mazes – Animals.” (He’s an almost-reader so any words he can “read” are huge victories and I find the process extraordinarily painful.) At the end of the table, Jake’s sister protested because she couldn’t see the book cover. She asked him to “read” it again and show her which words were which. I sighed with relief, thinking,  “Phew, at least she’ll read early.”

Not so fast. Jake leaned in and conspiratorially whispered, “Let’s show her the wrong words.” Then before I could stop him, he pointed to the book’s author’s names and the publisher, telling her it said My Book of Mazes. The poor girl (now definitely not destined to be my early reader) followed along as he “taught” her to read.

Looking to the positive, she was as proud of herself as he had been a minute earlier when he was “reading.” And fortunately, the “lesson” was brief and in English. And there was no reference to dogface or banana patch, because I can’t hear banana patch and not laugh (maybe a male Speedo swimsuit reference, I’m not sure).  But still,  Jake will not be doing much reading to his sister for a little while. I decided he has either seen the skit (doubtful for a 5-year old, even one in public kindergarten), is wildly clever or just plain mean. I’m pulling for the middle option.

Filed under Kindergarten
Jan 19, 2011

Stealing from a baby

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As the husband was traveling and we were hunkering down for the snowstorm that actually came last night, the diner brought us dinner – waffles and bacon and French fries. And if that seems like a low point because of the dearth of nutrition and abundance of saturated fat, you are not only no fun, you are also just wrong. The low point came much earlier in the dinner process when I realized I didn’t have the right cash to pay for said delicacies.

My wallet contained two ones and a hundred dollar bill, which is essentially useless because I didn’t let the diner know when I ordered that I only had a big bill and the delivery guy was already en route I realized it. I have life-long money issues – (stemming, I’m sure, from a bike ride with my sister to the Dairy Queen when I was about 7) – so I got a little anxious and started rooting through my coat pockets and bags to find money. Fortunately, I’m also a little careless with cash so I quickly found enough to pay for dinner, but I was a little low on the tip

Enter young son. Poor guy didn’t see it coming.

“Do you have a one-dollar bill I could have?” I asked.

He has a cash register that is full with fake money, Canadian money, coins and the rare US dollar or two he comes across.  Helpful as ever, he agreed immediately.

“Actually, do you have two ones?”

Again, he did not balk and set off for his room to get his lamemom his dollars. Once in his room, I see a ten-dollar bill in his register.

“Actually, do you want me to give these TWO ones for that one ten-dollar bill?”

Admittedly, I was getting greedy, but the ten would allow me to pay for dinner, tip the guy AND pick up a coffee in the morning when I was walking the dog. – it was solving my problem and promising a smoother morning for everybody. Jake jumped at the offer – two bills for the price of one and a happy mother – win-win.

Did I feel badly? I was without doubt taking advantage of my 5-year old son. But I really wanted that ten, and isn’t it better to play a little trick (unbeknownst to him) so we all come out ahead? The vanilla shake I “accidentally” ordered helped assuage my guilt. And now I know we need to spend a little bit of time practicing money math.

Filed under Kindergarten, NYC
Jan 12, 2011

Apparently I’m not so loose.

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I was all fired up a few weeks ago that it’s fine for my son to have a pink kayak, because who cares? Apparently my laisse faire attitude regarding gender specificity doesn’t include undergarments.

One of my family members yesterday tried to sneak out of the house in a pair of the 3-year old’s Hello Kitty undies. They’re adorable:  white with a scalloped top and a repeating pastel Hello Kitty pattern on them – if I weren’t long past a size 3T, I would try them out, too. (Especially if they cost $20 because then they would most certainly make my butt look great.) Well, said family member was so pleased with the undies that it was impossible for him to keep them hidden under the pants he was wearing out that day, and he showed just the tiniest scalloped edge to his lamemom.

I stifled a laugh and excused myself to get more coffee. Do I really care? Do I believe that there’s anything wrong with him going out in little girl underwear? No, not at all. I actually think it is cute and figure it will be a great story some day (or right now).

So what did I do? I returned to his room and insisted that he change them before he leave. He countered with a very sure, “No.” And then, “Why?”

I grabbed that band-aid and yanked: “You can’t wear them out because you won’t be able to not show your friends, and some of your friends, or at least some of the other kids, will be mean and make fun of you.”

Is it my job to protect him from others or to prepare him for others? Maybe both, but today, I chose to protect him. At lease partially. I’m certain he though he was fooling me when he simply put his underwear on over the Hello Kitties. I felt a tiny bit relieved, as he marched off that day in layered underwear, that if he was teased, at least he could kick the tar out of the offender if it came to that. Yes, he is one of the bigger kids in his class but don’t the magazines all say good underwear will make you stronger and more confident? And, having read enough of these magazines, I have to admit that I was also relieved that it was the son, and not the husband, who was sneaking out in pretty undies.

Filed under Kindergarten, Underwear
Jan 11, 2011

Keep on quitting!

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Happily, I don’t have to quit smoking, but last week, in a wave of poor judgement spurred on by an interesting article I read, I thought it would be a good project for me to try to st0p yelling for a week.The first day, I was Mary Poppins — no raised voices to be found. I should note that both kids had school and the babysitter was here after school. The second day – kids in school again (partial day!!) but no babysitter – I was screaming by bedtime. And my spiral continued until on Friday night when I was driving the kids to our lake house in a snow storm and I screamed myself hoarse for the last several hours of the (normally 2-hour) drive.  In fairness I should also mention that I’m recovering from an ankle reconstruction back in September and that I still am unable to run, which is a big deal for an every-day runner – so I’m a little crazier and yellier than normal. At least I hope that’s part of the reason.

I have lots of friends who never raise their voices at their children. How is that possible? I’m pretty sure my kids’ teachers don’t yell at the children in their classes. And my kids’ babysitter, the kindest, calmest woman ever created, definitely never yells at them. She says she sometimes yells at her sons when they don’t come to dinner on time, but I don’t believe her. Am I missing some sort of “chip”? My next-door neighbors don’t seem to yell at their kids, either, because I’m certain I would hear it. So why me?

Obviously, that’s what I should probably figure out. But in the meantime, I’m going to try to start my week-of-no-yelling again. Maybe I can make it two days this week.

Jan 10, 2011

Superfood two-ways

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Remember how great we were at parenting before we had kids? I would watch other kids eat nothing but pizza or macaroni or bread with jelly and I always figured that somehow I would be better at it – that my young kids would eat everything – tofu and leafy greens and sushi. Some of my friends’ kids do eat like that, but so far, mine do not. Jake and Jenn don’t even eat burgers, much less tofu.

The most recent meal-gone-bad started out reasonably. My son’s plate included a cheese roll-up:  melted cheese and a tortilla. There was a bowl of blueberries and some cut-up apples and some little carrots on the table – our meals all include cheese (are my midwestern roots showing?) – but there’s usually a couple other colors included. I had learned that day how to make a sweet potato in the microwave oven  (Super easy – stab it so it doesn’t explode, put it on a folded up paper towel and cook for five minutes. Superfood at your fingertips.)  so I decided we were going to be better eaters and not eat cheese roll-ups every day and the children were going to enjoy some sweet potato with me. I was (foolishly) optimistic. I gave them each a cube of sweet potato – smaller than a sugar cube. All they had to do was eat it. To sweeten the deal, I also bribed them: cookies after dinner if the cubes disappeared. (Don’t start on me about bribing my kids with food — I know, I know.)

Can you see where this is headed?  Jake said, “I tried it and I didn’t like it.” I saw an entire sugar cube left so I said he had to eat it and give it a fair chance so we could all move on. I also gave him the help-me-out-with-your-sister look, which is a twitch/wink combination, because we knew he was the key to her superfood satisfaction. He finally realized the small bit of food was standing between him and a reindeer cookie. He popped the cube in, started to swallow and suddenly morphed into a cat with that hairball-cough thing they do and yes, the little stinker barfed that sweet potato right back up.

He willed himself to do it and up came half a cheese roll-up, several other colors and a tiny cube of sweet potato. I was furious yet impressed at his skill. And because I’m his mother, he leaned in to me as the food appeared and I automatically cupped my hands in front of him so I was suddenly holding his dinner, including the superfood. He looked at me innocently, said, “I told you,” and accepted a napkin and a clean plate from his father, seated across the table.

Helpful as ever, his father pointed out that now Jake had not only not eaten the sweet potato, he had also not eaten the rest of his meal. Fortunately, he managed to keep the reindeer cookies down without any problem.

Filed under Bad Parenting
Jan 6, 2011

I have a new hobby

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My son’s kindergarten class has a Yahoo group for the parents to communicate with each other and share information. Easy enough, it seems. But somehow, it is difficult -everybody keeps sending emails to the whole group when they are clearly intended to be sent to just one member of the group. This lamemom isn’t mean spirited but I laugh really (really!) hard every time one of these little gaffes makes its way into my email! (And I’m a little afraid to write about this because I don’t want to jinx myself and tomorrow send the whole group an email inadvertently.)

Last month, it was particularly embarrassing as one parent was (kindly) sending pictures of a school event to the list.Unfortunately, the pics were big and were sent one by one during the middle of the day. Problematic, but ultimately, the sender’s heart was in the right place. Finally, one parent fired off an email to the group, “Can we stop this?” There was a collective gulp and pause and the pictures stopped. Ultimately, of course, the replying parent realized he hadn’t just been snarky to his wife but to the entire group. He apparently took a few deep breaths and sent a very gracious email saying sorry for the misunderstanding and thanks for all the great pictures. Well handled, I thought. But it makes my palms sweat, still.

Do you know that embarrassed panic-y feeling when you think you sent an email to the wrong person – like, one about how your mother breathes like DarthVader on the phone and as you hit send, you think you see your mother’s email address at the top of the page instead of your sister’s? It’s the same feeling I get watching the show The Office. Well I now get that panic-y feeling every time I see an email from the kindergarten group. I hate it and love it all at once.

Earlier this week, one mother sent an email about a birthday party, referencing one child. Of course, she didn’t mean to invite all 25 kids, even though she sent the whole group an email about the swimming party. Rats. One mother quickly asked if she had meant to send to all and party inviter apologized and said no. The story should have dropped but another mother had already fired off an email complaining that the list should only be used for group emails blahblahblah. (I thought to myself, my kid didn’t get invited, either. And he LOVES swimming parties.) Then maybe firey-email mother either had a cup of coffee or her husband emailed that she had seemed like a bitch and she sent another email apologizing for seeming harsh but the list should only be used for group emails blahblabhblah. Is she wrong? No. But did she think that poor party mother intended to send that email to the whole class?

It’s all together too easy to quickly reply to something in haste and regret it later. As much fun a I get out of these mis-sent notes, I expect that eventually I’ll be the sender of one. If we all counted to five before we hit send we would 1) maybe avoid the inadvertent group emails and 2) maybe not have to apologize immediately after.  It’s the same tool I have been trying to pull out of my “toolbox” this week as I try not to yell at my kids. Thank goodness I can’t yet send them nasty emails.

Filed under Kindergarten
Jan 5, 2011

Stop yelling for a week!

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Or something like that. That’s what hooked me as I glanced at emails on my phone over the weekend. I had gotten an email from WebMd and it challenged me to stop yelling at my kids for a week. I was coming off of two weeks in the woods – (not really the woods, but not the city, that’s for sure) – where I was virtually yelling non-stop by the end, and my interest was piqued.

The article’s author, Amy Wilson,  writes, “I don’t consider myself an angry person. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve shouted at my husband, and I wouldn’t dream of raising my voice at a rude salesperson.”

I continued reading and the author seemed to be writing about me:  she has one more kid than I but same age range-ish and she’s not a yeller normally,but her kids bring it out in her. I occasionally yell at my husband but that’s not the norm.  I expect that most people who see me without kids would be very surprised to hear the fishwife I become when the kids push my buttons or (gasp) simply don’t instantly obey. I never yell in a work setting; I don’t yell when my coffee is wrong or my cable is turned off or my taxi is taking a ridiculous way across town. I should also note that I don’t yell much at my kids in public but I have mastered a very scary hiss. (I’ll note, my sister and mother also have perfected the hiss.)

So I decided that Monday, January 3 is the day to begin the no yelling. Can I do it? Most of my fans say no. My sister, upon hearing my plan, suggested that I start small, trying to not yell at them for one day instead of one week. My husband just shook his head warily, albeit a little hopefully. Certainly, that fuels my motivation. One week it is.

Filed under Parenting
Jan 4, 2011

What you’ve missed