Category Archives: Not cool, Mommy

Craptastic, I can’t mess these kids up fast enough.

Elf Help

Last year, Elf on the Shelf came to live at our house–a gift from Grandpa. And it was a godsend. Big became immediately obsessed with it, and carted it around everywhere with him. The elf even went with him in kindergarten, and seemed to have a somewhat positive effect on what was otherwise a rather uphill slog toward appropriate behavior.

I was a little dubious, at first. After all, I am a Pinterest Denier, so I certainly wasn’t going to make more work for myself moving that elf all over the Fun Apartment every night. After all, there’s just not that many places to hide things around here. How many times can we hide the elf in the cat’s litter box before that gets old? But after only one time of nearly getting caught with the elf stuffed under my pajamas, we worked out a solution. Luckily, it seems we have an elf that is lazy and kids with low expectations. We don’t have to stay up all night stuffing the elf into unlikely incriminating situations. Instead, he stays put and just writes them notes in my handwriting. And he only does it sometimes. When he remembers.

And I was mildly uncomfortable ceding my authority to six inches of plastic. And I don’t love the dynamic of it: Shouldn’t the motivation to not grab from one’s brother be “Grabbing isn’t cool”? Not when the elf is there. Then it’s “Don’t grab because this elf has his overly-large eyes fixed on you. And he will report you.” And there’s this whole thing, too.

In the end, I swallowed my reservations last year, and the elf really did help, however dodgy the whole thing seemed.

This year, I was kind of looking forward to having the elf back me up on some discipline issues. The elder lad seems to be have some background application running, that doesn’t free up enough memory for him to pay attention or self-regulate. This rough patch was starting to get ugly and I was kind of looking forward to elf-regulation, instead.

Maybe I should have gotten a tougher elf. Do they make one that had a few inches of rubber hose, or some brass knuckles, a very deep voice and lots of interesting scars? Because it only took about two nights of “The elf is watching!” before the elf became less of a magical holiday friend and more of a snitching party-pooper. Before our first week of holiday preparations was up, the boys played a game in which the elf was stuffed in a bucket and sent to Africa.

No elves were (permanently) harmed in the taking of this photo.

No elves were (permanently) harmed in the taking of this photo.

At least it was a holiday-themed bucket.

I’m relieved and disappointed all at the same time. I don’t necessarily want kids that slavishly follow a plastic doll’s instructions. (Or if I do, then I want a film crew in here now to capture the whole thing and turn into blockbuster!) But I wouldn’t mind a little fear of repercussion once in a while, or a little back up on the obviously empty threat of no Christmas presents.

That would really help on the elf control around here.





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Field Trip!

Lately, I have realized that despite living in one of the world’s greatest cities, we never spend much time in it. Not really enjoying it, doing New Yorky type things, all four of us together.

Since that’s kind of the point of the Fun Apartment, and we seemed to be missing it, I planned an outing. “We’ll go to IKEA!” I thought. “All together! What Fun!”

(Believe me, the irony of going to visit a Scandinavian Megabox Superstore with a giant parking lot as a New York activity is not lost on me. But I’m cool with it.)

So off we went. And here’s something cool about visiting the Brooklyn IKEA: Sure, you can be a regular person and take a car or bus there, but why would you, when you could take a water taxi?

Rollin' on the river.

Rollin’ on the river.

We as a family have always been suckers for boat rides. In fact, I’ve always been a little surprised that we don’t live on Staten Island. Also, once the man of my dreams discovered that the water taxi stopped at the home of his mistress, we had to physically restrain him from diving off the boat before we reached the dock.

And we disembarked in the giant wild IKEA parking lot for our adventure. “Yay! Family activity! The kids will love this!” I thought. All those pretend rooms! We will have to pull them out of here with pliers!”

This store has chairs!

This store has chairs!

However, upon entering, all my vast hopes were dashed. The yahoos spotted the playroom. And after that tantalizing sight, the charm of the little rooms went out the pretend window. During our long progress through the showroom, I had to answer the question “When can we go to the playroom?” a number of times that I have no idea how to express using scientific notation, not being a math person.

OK, there was a small amount of fun in the pretend rooms. And I wasn’t even that into them, either. There must be something wrong with me. Is IKEA-mmunity a thing? No new and novel ideas jumped out at me. We will not be redoing the Fun Apartment with unpronounceable accessories. Kinda surprising, considering I’m pretty Swedish.

Hmm. He was just here. . .

Hmm. He was just here. . .

Although the section with kids beds was a bit of a revelation. Everyone was very intrigued by these trundle bed drawers. But if we got one, the bed in the drawer would block the door to our bedroom, so scratch that. Or are you allowed to push in the drawer while the kid is sleeping?

But finally we proceeded to the playroom, where the tired kids had to wait in a long line to enter paradise through the eye of a needle. Smarter people, I assume, not being one myself, bring their kids there straightaway, and then dash off, load up those enormous bags on funky carts and reclaim their offspring somewhere near the hot dog part of the outing. As it was, the hot dog line seemed to expand to outrageous proportions every time we went near it. (Although only one of us likes hot dogs. It’s the little guy.)

Eventually, we claimed the children, our box and obligatory impulse buy, along with a package of apple cookies for our return journey and IKEA spit us out into the giant parking lot. Dazed, we made our way in the rain back to the water taxi.

All in all, after we stumbled in late for dinner and long past bath time, the outing wasn’t a complete wash. The resident architect made several notes and is over on the couch sketching on graph paper. (Or possibly drafting a divorce agreement.) While the whole shebang was a good faith effort, I think next weekend we might try something a little more manageable.

But we did secure this:


Tray tables in their locked and upright positions.

Awesome, right? It has solved the racetrack, play kitchen, and Lincoln Log storage problems in one fell swoop! The man of  my dreams won our storage solution contest! And I didn’t even know he liked squid.

Except, now I think we might need another one. Maybe two.

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Filed under Living Small, Not cool, Mommy, The outside world

First time for everything

The Fun Apartment has seen some firsts lately. For example, there was the first day of first grade. This was also the first time Big put on his shoes without being asked–same day! There was my husband’s first time remembering where the salad spinner goes. My first attempt at grilling flatbread was largely successful, too.

But the big first is this:

Somehow, the button down shirt just says "first day of school," doesn't it?

Somehow, the button down shirt just says “first day of school,” doesn’t it?

That’s right, the little guy is going somewhere, too. OK, it’s only two mornings a week, but that’s Two! Mornings! Every! Week! And it’s at the Y! Where another grown up is the boss of the fun!

We’ve needed this for a while. For all the press about how awesome staying at home with your kids is, there are drawbacks. (Oh, let me count the drawbacks. . . ) I can’t really introduce him to circle time. There’s only so much Thomas the Tank Engine I’m willing to withstand. And the poor kid doesn’t have any friends. Sure, there are kids he sees on the playground occasionally. There are younger siblings of his brother’s school friends. But there are no friends that are just his.

So, while my enthusiasm for this is entirely selfish, my motives are not. He needs to learn things from other people. He needs his own friends (although I will promptly begin to stalk all the other parents for the full contact bloodsport that is playdate scheduling.)

And at drop off, there was a pang. There was the sweet feeling of his little hand holding mine for reassurance. Then there were Legos on a table. After that it was “When are you leaving, Mommy?”

I’m kinda working myself out of a job here.

That’s the point, though, isn’t it? Ultimately, I want these boys to not need me. And there are definitely times that I want them to stop needing me right now. But we’ll go forward gently.

After all, one of them is still too short to reach the sink.

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My point is this.

So you know how after you have some sort of accident, you always want to tell the story over and over again? Well, luckily for me, I have a blog, so I can tell you all the story at once and stop pestering people over the phone, or pinning down random strangers to relate a tale of gruesome idiocy.

We recently had a revamp of the the kindergarten behavior plan, and had to think of a bunch of suitable prizes for good behavior. It is hard to think of prizes that are free, easy, plentiful, and motivating at the same time. I have great sympathy and respect for whoever lines up the Showcase Showdowns on The Price is Right. You have no idea how close we came to getting a rabbit.

And one prize, chosen by the prize-earner himself, was to make lasagna. It was a slightly mystifying choice, because we have only made this dish once before, for anniversary dinner, and I don’t recall him particularly loving it, but I think the whole layer assembly process appealed to him. So we put it on the prize list, because desperate parents can’t be choosers. He tried to earn it for a week, but it was a particularly bad week, so we had borscht instead.

But lately the yen returned, and so before school, after three inexplicable meltdowns, my young lad requested lasagna for the prize. Sure, I said. Whatever you want, sweetheart, I said out loud. No chance in H, E, double hockey sticks, I said in my head.

But at pickup time, he emerged from the school doors, grinning and waving his chart in the air. Not only had he earned the requisite eight smiley faces, he had ELEVEN. People, this was unprecedented.

Now lasagna is not something you can make at the drop of the hat, but I had stocked up for it, just in case, for the lasagna false alarms, so I was reasonably sure I’d be able to pull it off. But of course, my recipe is not the easy, short cut way. Sadly, here at the Fun Apartment, we never met a complicated process with lots of steps that we didn’t immediately claim as our own. So, I had to make the tomato sauce from scratch (and then I didn’t realize we were one 28 oz can short, so a mystery jar of Ragu had to supplement anyway), and boil the noodles (because I have only heard tell of these mysterious “no boil” kind, they being too fancy for our humble grocer, apparently) and shred the cheese (both kinds) and mix the ricotta (light here too, so I had to use greek yogurt, which I figured was better than maple, the only other option) and thaw, squeeze dry, and puree the spinach–because just chopped is obviously insufficient.

So I attempt to throw all these balls in the air so we can make lasagna, because eleven is eleven. And that is where the trouble began.

I had the noodles boiling, the tomato sauce burbling, and was attempting to deal with the spinach. It was starting to thaw but still full of ice crystals, which made squeezing it dry not a terribly pleasant experience. I tried to warm my hands over the pasta water. Finally, out of fear of frostbite, I decided the spinach was thawed and squeezed enough, and attempted to puree it with my stick blender–a kitchen appliance with which I have been having a torrid affair. This handsome devil had opened up the world of pureed soups (and hiding food our children claim is undesirable in pureed soups) to our household. No more throwing out recipes upon reading the dreaded phrase “Working in batches. . . ”

But pureeing spinach ice cubes was not so successful. And I did the dumb thing that is making you all cringe in anticipation. I pulled the stick blender out of the spinach popsicle mess and attempted to clean out the chunks from inside. While it was plugged in. Success! I freed a big chunk, freeing the super sharp blade to resume whipping around at top speed! On my finger! Zoom! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

(We will all pause here for you to promise yourselves never, ever, ever to be this dumb.)

I squawked and ran to the bathroom, convinced I was holding several pieces of my finger, finely pureed, or at least thinly sliced. Blood trailed behind me, as did my kids. I tried to block their view to the sink, letting water run over my gashed finger, which did appear, fortunately, to all be attached. “I just cut myself. It will be fine. It’s ok. Can you guys umm go to the living room, please? I’m almost done. We’re all fine . . . here . . . now” After extracting a promise that I not use the sparkly bandaids, they did depart the bloody scene. And I let loose a whispered stream of curse words, and breathed deep blowing breaths, like they taught me to do when I was in labor.

What to do next? It was still a long time til my husband was due home. And there was still the lasagna to assemble. And eleven is ELEVEN. And Mommy does not let her boys down.

So I wrapped a huge boxing glove of paper towel around my hand and attempted to finish the lasagna preparation. I shredded the parmesan one handed. I tore the fresh mozzarella. I drained the noodles. I washed off my abuser boyfriend/stick blender and used it to combine the ricotta and spinach. I did not, however, attempt to finish pureeing the spinach ice cubes. I’m not stupid, after all. And I had to sit down on the floor in the middle, twice, and will myself not to pass out.

And we made lasagna. Both boys were thrilled and it would have been awesome, had I not been concerned that at any moment blood would begin spilling down my arm. The prize winner was delighted and made all sorts of genius comments about sedimentary rock layers and patterns. Normally, I think that whole “kids eat food they help prepare” thing is a load of hooey, but I did witness its magic there. Or it might have been the blood loss / lightheadedness talking.

And with a trembling sigh, I slid the whole layered masterpiece into the oven, with an oven mitt balanced on my forearm. Whew! I had done it! Mommy does not disappoint! “Now I am seriously going to pass out,” I told myself.

And then, I got a text message. One of our neighbors whose child is only around a few times a year wanted to know if they could come by for a few minutes, because his kid was dying to see my kids. I looked around at the bloody wreckage of the Fun Apartment. It looked like the sight of some unholy kitchen sacrifice.

Sure! I typed. Of course you can come over! (I am a Midwesterner, after all.) No problem! Any time is good!

And I began stumbling around, attempting to clean up, while raising my hand high in the air. I volunteer! I know the answer!

I did manage to mop up the blood and shove most of the mess into the bedroom by the time my husband got home. “Open the wine,” I gasped. Before he could open the wine or the giant wad of paper towel, our neighbors showed up, and the mini impromptu playdate commenced. I think his kid remembers the Fun Apartment as some sort of bizarre toy wonderland, which it sort of is.

At any rate, there was playing, there was chatting, there was handraising. Our guests politely suggested that maybe I might possibly want to seek some sort of medical attention. Urgent care, they reminded me, has many convenient locations — including one right across the street from our second home. Urgent care?! Why didn’t I think of urgent care?? The only medical attention thoughts that crossed my mind were “I wish I had paid more attention to those reports of ERs closing downtown. . . .”

Nonsense, I waved my boxing glove dismissively. I just need the Mister to look at it. “What good will that do?” Our neighbor asked bluntly. “He’s an architect, not a doctor.” The Mister concurred. “We only know how to remove appendages with exacto blades.”

After they left, we peeked under the paper towels. And then promptly wrapped more paper towel around the horror show my finger had become. I deftly broke my promise about the sparkly bandaids, glanced ruefully at my beautiful lasagna, reiterated my pride about the smiley faces, and headed out the door to Urgent Care.

I did consider briefly going en famille, as this kind of errand is not one to fly solo, but the thought of unfed kids in a waiting room doused that fantasy candle with efficiency.

There was — miracle! — no wait and the lovely people at Urgent Care had me sitting down, wearing a blood pressure cuff and answering mundane questions within moments. (Height? Weight? Allergies? Date of last tetanus shot? Oh, no idea? Well, tonight it is then!) Lucky me. I am spectacularly bad with needles. Imagine a nurse chasing me around the chair with a needle, bonking me on the head with something heavy and then sticking me while I’m unconscious and that’s pretty much how I do shots. I was actually hoping to avoid stitches entirely and just have the doctor pour a lot of glue on my finger. After all, I have famously attempted to substitute super glue for health care before and my son’s forehead scar is hardly noticeable now!

But it was not to be. After the tetanus shot, the three anesthetic shots, and the sewing needle that hurt despite the anaesthetic, I bore more than a passing resemblance to a pincushion. But they did save me the indignity of passing out on my own by laying down the chair so it felt more like I was just sleepy and imagining phrases like “multiple lacerations.” And about 5 hours after the initial act of colossal stupidity, six stitches tighter, I emerged into the night sporting what felt like a giant stadium foam finger. We’re Number 1! We’re Number 1!

One of these things is not like the other.

One of these things is not like the other.

A brief stop at CVS allowed me to pick up both antibiotics and jelly beans, because if you go to drugstores with kids, you have to map out your route through the store very carefully, so they think that drug stores are just places to buy diapers, lightbulbs, and shampoo, and not the magical pirate treasure caves full of candy that they really are. Go to a drugstore alone, and all restraint goes out the window. But perhaps, I should have waited until I was coherent, because I’m not sure how I feel about “spiced” jelly beans.

Now, three days later, I still have the giant foam finger, the stitches, and night terrors about using the stick blender again. Accidental brushes against my hand, say when putting on one’s shirt, are likely to result in panicky gasping screams. Nightly cleanings give me some insight into what Victor Frankenstein’s day to day routine must have been like. Between the Mister’s residual-cold throat clearing, and my finger in the air like I have a point to make, it’s as if the Fun Apartment is at a really long, pointless work meeting.

But I don’t have to do the dishes. I do have to break lots of typing rules that Mr. Pirlot drilled into me to scratch this out, because it’s too hard to use only words that don’t contain f, r, t, v, or g.

And there is plenty of leftover lasagna.




Filed under Not cool, Mommy

Pillow Talk

Night, folks.

Night, folks.

(A conversation before bedtime, in which we discuss jewelry, fear of commitment, arranged marriage, homosexuality, gender confusion, and anatomical differences between men and women. And during which I nearly choked myself trying to stifle the giggling.)

T: Mommy, why do you have to wear your wedding ring?

Me: Because it’s special to me.

T: Does Papa make you wear it?

Me: No, I like to wear it, because it’s special to me. It means I’m married.

T: I want to get married.

Me: Someday. Good night, sweetheart.

T: I don’t want to ask someone.

Me: Oh, well. Maybe someone will ask you instead.

T: I hope someone picks me.

Me: Someone will pick you. Good night, sweetheart.

T: Mommy, I hope it’s one of my friends who picks me. Not a stranger.

Me: It won’t be a stranger.

T: But what if the stranger is nice?

Me: It will probably be someone you know. Someone you love. Good night, sweetheart.

T: Will it be a girl?

Me: Umm. Probably, but maybe not.

T: Sometimes it’s a girl and sometimes people have two daddies.

Me: Yes. Sometimes they do. Good night, sweetheart.

T: I’m going to be a daddy.

Me: Yes, not anytime soon, though. Good night, sweetheart.

T: Am I a boy?

Me: Yep.

T: I might not be, you know.

Me: I’m pretty sure.

T: Sometimes girls look like boys. And sometimes boys look like girls.

Me: That’s true. But boys have penises. Good night, sweetheart.

T: Girls don’t have penises? How do they pee?

Me: They have something else. They have vaginas. Good night, sweetheart.

T: But do they pee with their baginas?

Me: Vaginas. Yes. Good night, sweetheart.

T: Do girls have bums?

Me: Yes. Everybody has a bum.

T: Everybody? Even Kitty?

Me: Yes. Everybody.

T: Good night, Mommy.

(And off he drifted to sleep, safe in the comforting thought that everybody has a bum.)

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Stroller Derby: Reflections of a Pusher

There are a few things that I have been able to anticipate in this parenting gig. Like the way I avoid hostage negotiations by pointing out something really interesting in the street as we walk past the puppy store — I must be a psychic. And the stomping tantrums that herald the the onset of the dreaded threes? Totally called that one. But here’s something I didn’t see coming. I didn’t ever imagine that we would get rid of our stroller. I don’t even think I ever imagined such a thing was possible. I just assumed families with teenagers still walked around their stroller to get to the bathroom.

After all, for so long, this thing was crucial to our life. Without it, we were little better than shut-ins. We could go outside, but if we had to cross a street to go somewhere, well, we weren’t going there. Or if we needed to be somewhere at a specific time (and by specific, I mean “afternoon” or even “today”) we needed the stroller to get there.

And suddenly, I find, I haven’t used it in three months. Granted, it’s winter and the stroller doesn’t have snow tires, but we are still going places outside, and getting there the same day — sometimes even before nightfall! This is a miracle that I may be submitting to the Vatican for certification.

Mind you, I’m thinking of getting rid of ONE of our strollers, not both. (New parents, go breathe into a bag: you will probably end up owning more than one of these suckers.) But I’m angling to let go of the big stroller, the one built for industrial use. Our bugaboo bee with the running board, once endemic to the sport of parenting, is kinda like a bouncy seat: now just a good way to break your toe more efficiently in the night.

I find I’m almost sentimental about it. After all, I am the one with stroller callouses, who once marveled at its nimble agility, who fondly remembers stroller napping, who once told the kids that the strap was a unicorn leash, who could put her iced coffee in the cup-holder, and fill the basket with all sorts of useful items, like wipes and sunblock (even if I didn’t get the sunblock on the kids, at least it was near them.) In fact, I should make sure that the boys’ birth certificates are not in there, before we get rid of it. Still, it seems fairly clear that we’re not going back to stroller territory, at least not to live, and somehow, against all reason, the kids are growing up.

This will not be a shock to most of you. “Kids? Growing? With the passage of time?” You are saying to yourselves. “Yup, sounds about right.” But trust me, I am here. All. The. Time. I am watching. This growing is very, very sneaky. It’s only when I have something to use for scale — like the stroller! — that it’s apparent to me. Imagine, a ride that moves too slowly for the eye to catch, yet the speed of it has left me breathless.

See. They're enormous.

See. They’re enormous. And this photo is posed.


Filed under Not cool, Mommy, The outside world

Something for everyone!

As I think about struggles in school a bit more, it brings me back to something that I’ve puzzled out and been kicking around for a while. Here it is: Everybody gets something.

Got it?

What’s that? It’s a tiny bit unclear? Well, here’s what I mean.

Remember when we were all pregnant? Some people had swollen ankles and some didn’t. Some people had itchy skin, some didn’t. Some had gestational diabetes. Some had to have antibiotic iv. Some  folks did the whole business at home when the time came and some people scheduled c-sections in big hospitals.

And then we all had newborns, and some slept, and some didn’t. Some nursed fine, and some didn’t. We had babies and some crawled fast, and some didn’t. Some ate everything in sight, some went on quirky one ingredient diets, some came to the table with their game faces on. Then we had toddlers, and some of them expressed themselves in complete, grammatically accurate sentences while others grunted and pointed. Some potty trained themselves, while others had parents compelled to research just how big diaper sizes get.

And it seems, it’s still like that. At school, some kids are hanging their coats in their cubbies just fine. Others, not so much. Some are reading every word on the wall, others are still flipping their Bs and Ds. Some kids sit on the rug and listen silent and rapt to the lesson. Others chew on their neighbor’s sweater. Everybody gets something.

And the something you get, in your kid, is the something you handle. It might not be easy, but you manage the [bed sharing/non eating/bed peeing/obscenely early rising/mitten losing] because what choice do you have? And you talk to other parents, and they tell you that their kid is [bed sharing/non eating/bed peeing/obscenely early rising/mitten losing] and you think “Sheesh. Lucky we don’t have that. I couldn’t handle that.” Because everybody gets something.

And your something is also your beloved child, for whom you would do [almost] anything. And that’s really something.



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