You take the good, you take the bad….

InstakidsYesterday I posted this photo to Instagram (and syndicated it to Facebook).  It’s one of the first times that Julia has ever held Luca’s hand in public, and it was so cute that I could barely handle it.  My heart filled with joy as a mom, and I wanted to share it with my friends. Within a day of posting it had 50 likes on Facebook and 22 on Instagram.

I crystallized a beautiful and real moment and wanted to share it with my friends.  But that’s the thing about social media – it showcases just a moment. As any parent can tell you, this parenting thing is a twenty four hour grind made up of a multitude of moments, only a few of which are this good each day.  It’s the exact reason you cling to them, the exact reason you want to share them, but it can also create a false sense of what your life is like to those who see your feed.

In the post,  I included my #truthinparenting hashtag, which is how this blog got it’s name.  I started sharing my struggles with parenthood on social using this hashtag a few years ago, and it was those stories that drew other moms to my honesty and eventually convinced me to start blogging to spread the message further.  But I committed to myself a few years ago that I should use the hashtag for good stuff too.  If you lose sight of the good, there is no life boat to cling to on a bad mom day.

So I posted that picture yesterday because it was almost oppressively cute.  But later, I felt guilty (and yes, we should definitely talk to about mom guilt sometime soon).  I felt guilty because of all the things the picture doesn’t say.  This was taken at the spring festival thrown by our school district.  Julia and I went alone last year but I wanted Luca and Brian to join in on the fun this time.  But it wasn’t turning out so fun by the time this pic was taken.  First, Brian and I argued about the parking spot, which was technically not a legit space on the school grounds but which I was 98% confident they wouldn’t ticket us for (for the record, they didn’t).  Julia started crying in the car when it looked like Brian might need to circle the huge lot again to find something legal.  Then once I convinced him and we hopped out, it was raining and I couldn’t get Luca’s stroller to fully open.  The family, cranky and impatient, implored me to leave the stroller in the car.  Which meant that I ended up carrying not just my purse, but also a diaper bag, craft projects, balloon animals and everyone’s jackets, instead of stashing all that in the stroller.  It also meant that instead of Luca just chillin’, he was running around like a tiny wild bronco which took a lot more energy from both of us to reign him in.

I should also mention that returning to the car two hours later, we discovered that the stroller hadn’t been pushed far enough into the back of the SUV when I hastily returned it. So the remote close for the trunk had sprung back up without us knowing and had been open the entire time we’d been at the fair. Thankfully the rain hadn’t soaked the interior and no one had stolen anything from our car or the car itself, so I’ll take that one as a win.  Also, Brian did not lose his will to live immediately upon seeing this, which I will also take as a huge win. As someone who grew up in a rough-ish (at the time) part of a Brooklyn, it took him several years in the suburbs before he stopped using the club on our steering wheel and folding in the side view mirrors.

I’m sharing this with you guys not because it was extraordinarily terrible, or cancels out the bliss I felt seeing my little peanuts rocking the sibling love, but I felt it was important to keep it real with you.  Mom tip: Just remember what you see on social isn’t ever the full story, but it’s still OK to share the moments that keep you sane.

A moment of levity

All of my blog posts so far have been a bit on the intense side, so today I bring you a moment of levity.

Nanny dynamics are interesting, to say the least.   I have TONS of very dramatic, intense stories about nannies that I will share in the future when I am ready.  But recently I had a very comical, yet serious exchange with my current nanny, who has only been with us a short time.

“I need to show you something” she said to me, her face concerned.  Cue instant panic. I did not like the sound of this.  It’s like a boyfriend that says “We need to talk” or a doctor who says “We found something”.  It’s not going to be that she found a thousand dollars in the closet or that my daughter is able to recite the declaration of independence by heart at five years old.  I tried to stay calm.  The best I could hope for was that maybe she had broken something  that was not expensive and/or we didn’t care about.

“I found it on Friday, but I wanted to wait until I could show it to you, because, well, here it is.”  She went to a shelf and picked up a small plastic packet.  Inside were a number of smaller plastic baggies, each filled with a white, powdery substance.  I immediately knew what they were, but from the look on my poor nanny’s face, I realized what she thought they were.

I started to laugh, which might not have been the best move.  She looked at me wide eyed as I started to explain.  No friends, we didn’t have baggies of cocaine hanging out in the kids playroom.  That’s the good news. The other good news is that while I knew what the baggies were, I’m not quite sure what they are made from, so it was still best to get them into a safer place (ie. away from toddler hands).  I realized with a bit of paranoia that there is still a chance she might not believe me.  I tried to stay calm because while I knew I was telling the truth, my keeping her as my nanny really depended on whether she believed me.

These mysterious baggies are actually part of a fairly complicated art project Julia received for her birthday called Aqua Illusions.  You fill a tray with water that you mix with this white powder.  It creates a gel base that you can then squirt and drag paint over to create a design.  You then make a print of the design by placing a piece of paper flat onto the water and pulling it out carefully with plastic tongs.  It’s quite the commitment for a five year old, but we tried it a few weeks ago with one of her friends. It came with extra bags of powder, and when we put the project away that day bags must have fallen out of the box.

But imagine if you found tiny baggies filled with white powder in someone’s house.  Wouldn’t you assume it was drugs?  That poor woman must have been worried that not only were my husband and I cocaine users or even worse, drug dealers, that we had left the cocaine out in our children’s playroom.

The nanny relationship is one that is based on trust from both sides – and that can be really hard for both parties.  You need to feel a strong level of trust in the person who is taking care of your kids every day, and they need to trust that you’ll give them a stable and secure environment to work in.  Considering we’ve only had her as our nanny for a few months, I’m glad she at least asked me instead of quitting on the spot or reporting us to child services!   So, while I have plenty of CRAZY stories to share with you in the future about the complexities of childcare, at least this one ended in a laugh.

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons why I let my kids watch TV

There’s a lot of discussion among moms on screen time.  Countless blogs, articles, research studies and playground talk focuses on the evils of too much TV for kids (and of course now tablets, laptops and cell phones enter the equation too as additional screens).  But I for one don’t buy it when it comes to TV.  I think it’s all about the who/what/where/when/how of the experience.

See, we’re die hard TV lovers in our house.  We have a high capacity multi-room DVR.  The TV in our living room feels like a small theater.  We designed our bedroom closet system to leave room for a wall mounted TV between the closet doors.  We watched a ton of TV before our kids were born, and when we decided to put a built in wall-to-wall cabinet system in the kid’s playroom, we left space for a large wall mount TV there too.

We have a set of operating rules for our TV consumption, so it’s not as if it’s on 24 hours a day.  Here’s how we do it in our house:

  1. TV should only be used as a “babysitter” sparingly.  Firstly, our kids, especially Luca (who is turning two next week) can’t really be left alone in a room.  If Julia (who is 5) is in the room with him, TV can buy us a few minutes at a time to do things like set the table for breakfast, wash dishes, or put the laundry in without having them underfoot and/or whining.  In the morning we have it on for the kids in our room while we get ready for work.  They stay in bed instead of getting underfoot making demands in the short time frame we have in the morning.  It makes life so much easier and eases their transition into the day from their early wake up time.
  2. Don’t watch TV in place of being outside. Our TV consumption goes up a lot in the winter between activities and playdates because it is too cold to go out in the backyard or to the playground.  But when the weather is nice, there’s no reason to be indoors so much staring at a screen.
  3. If we hate a show, the kids don’t watch it.  I’ve heard people complain over the years about everything from Barney to Caillou and resent that their kids love it (we don’t mind Caillou but apparently he really drives some people crazy).  Our strategy is that once we’ve seen a show a few times and know we can’t stand it, we don’t really encourage watching it.  Since we’re with our kids most of the time that they are watching TV, why do we need to suffer through Max & Ruby (I HATE Ruby) when we could watch Sofia the First or Peppa Pig, which I genuinely enjoy and think have good lessons.
  4. Focus on TV that encourages interaction/activity.  Julia loves a weird Australian kids’ show called Hi-5 that she found on Netflix.  There is a lot of singing and dancing on the show, and Julia will often sing and dance with the show instead of watching it from the couch, which I much prefer.  We also put on YouTube sometimes and dance together to videos.
  5. Watch shows that teach them things. Right now  as I type this we’re watching an episode of Sofia the First that is teaching it’s OK for girls to like activities traditionally reserved for boys and vice versa.  This little boy was embarrassed that he liked ice dancing, but Sofia helped him accept it was OK to want to be on the ice dancing team instead of play hockey and encouraged him to tell his dad, who was a little old fashioned. When Julia was little we were all obsessed with these “Classical Baby” DVDs – there was one for art, one for poems, and one for classical music.  I recently took Julia to her cousin Allison’s orchestra concert and she loved it.  I’d like to think it’s because she has a familiarity with classical music from watching those DVDs as a toddler.

Like anything as a parent, the decisions that work for your family don’t work for every family.  I’m ok with my kids watching a few hours of TV a day, as long as they aren’t passive zombies, because selfishly I enjoy watching them too.  Peppa Pig is my jam, I could watch her all day.  But I know people who don’t let their kids watch TV at all or only a teeny tiny bit, so I will end with one of my key Mom Tips: You do you.  For us, that means embracing our love for TV and sharing it with our kids.

 

 

The importance of Diner Friday

When Brian and I first bought our house in the suburbs eight years ago, we spent time remodeling it ourselves before moving in.  Every weekend we’d work from sunrise to sunset and then drag ourselves to this diner we’d found in town to scarf down dinner and try not to fall asleep in the booth.  After we moved in, we established a routine of going out to dinner every Friday.  More often than not we found ourselves at the diner.

When we had Julia, my sister suggested that we continue to go out for dinner even when she was a baby.  She said she’d started taking her kids out when they were babies and they learned from an early age to behave well in restaurants.  Parenthood cramps your style in all sorts of ways, so we figured we’d try to keep this particular routine alive even with the variable of a newborn.

We made it through diaper changes, crying and nursing in the booth  Then we made it to the high chair, tantrums, and food throwing.  We also made it through some very fun, easy dinners, don’t get me wrong. We started making friends with other families who frequented the diner at the very early hour we did.  We got to know the hosts and hostesses, found a regular waiter who knew all our favorites – diet cokes, pickles and coleslaw for everyone before the meal, a bread basket to keep the kids busy, but no vegetable tray (who eats radishes by the way??).

I’ve written previously about how demanding my career is and how long my hours tend to be, especially when you add my commute to it.  I’ve also mentioned how early my kids go to bed.  Diner Friday requires that I leave work at the very early hour of 4:30, well before my colleagues, in order to make a train that gets me in at 6, and at the diner by 6:15.  By the time we’re finished eating we’ve pushed past both Luca and Julia’s bedtimes, but they seem able to rally somehow specifically for this night.

That’s why I do it every single Friday.  Four days a week, I only see my kids an hour a day.  But Diner Friday is my chance to have a meal with my kids.  My industry has a lot of young people in it, folks who can eat dinner at 8, 9, or 10 o’clock at night if they so choose.  That’s awesome for them, and I certainly enjoyed my time doing the same thing when I was younger.  But if I want to keep our Friday dinner tradition alive, I need to make the decision that’s right for me and our family.  At each job I’ve worked in since I had kids, I made this part of the deal.  Need me to put in hours of work Saturday and Sunday nights?  No problem, I’m home most weekend nights because babysitters are expensive.  But try to schedule a meeting with me at 5pm on a Friday?  Nope. That’s family diner night.

Mom tip: Decide what your non-negotiables are, at home and at work and stick to them.

 

I ugly cried last week. twice.

This post is by guest blogger Rebekah Farley and was originally published on her site Jaunty With a Side of Doubt in December of 2016.  Rebekah is a plus size model who currently works on air modeling for QVC.  She is also the mom of 2.  Son “C” is 5, and daughter “M” is almost 2.  “M” was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at four months and Rebekah writes about her struggles with CF on her blog.  

I ugly cried last week.

twice.

one was at my son’s preschool; the mommy -n- me thanksgiving day concert, craft and snack, and i forgot the oreos.

the oreos!

i went up to the other mothers in the parking lot, hoping one would say, “oh, honey, i forgot the cheese cubes, you’re not alone, it’s all good,” but no, instead, everyone just looked at me with eyes of sympathy.
as i dropped little c off at his classroom, his teacher greeted him and his reply was, in the lowest of tones, “i forgot the oreos.”

my heart broke. my little 5-year-old taking the stress of mommy forgetting the treat of the day. i fought back my tears for about 5 seconds and then openly lost it and did a deep gut wrenching ugly cry on a fellow mom’s shoulder.

well, at least losing it in front of moms i’ve known for 4 years at our local church nursery school isn’t as bad as if i would’ve lost it in front of complete strangers at the cf clinic’s parent information night.

oh, crap. but i did…

so, our local cystic fibrosis clinic set up a parent information night. they had a rep from great strides, the non for profit fundraising organization for CF, it was great to reconnect and start talking about the walk in may.
the respiratory therapist was there demo-ing different devices that help people with cf exercise their lungs.
the smart vest company was there with different sized vests and here, we found out that we have had the wrong size vest for baby girl!!

add a little “grr” as well, since maybe a too big of vest has been part of the struggle??
well, we were able to get some contact information and made a phone call the next day and had a smaller vest sent and oh my gosh, it’s already so much better.

focusing on the good.

but the main focus of the program was a 26-year-old professional woman, living with cf. she was there to speak to us parents of kids with cf.
she recounted her life, her late diagnosis (at age 12,) and the emotional effects which then led to physical exacerbations.

early 20’s, she rebelled, stopped her treatments and then ended up in the hospital multiple times.

that’s the thing with cf, they need to keep up with their treatments, even when they are well, or the progressiveness of this disease takes the lead.

this woman spoke proudly of her parents, as they have always been and still are her biggest supporters and her loudest advocates.

she talked of having depression and the emotional turmoil of this disease.

and this is where it cut me.

here, she has two amazing parents, fighting for her, fighting with her, cheering her on…

all things we do, here as a family, for little M.

but what if that isn’t good enough for her?

what if she needs more?

what if she still finds herself in the depths of despair, beyond hating the disease — with just plain apathy — no longer caring for herself?

this broke me in so many ways.

my husband’s shoulder was my immediate comfort as i uncontrollably sobbed, as softly as i could, before i rushed off to excuse myself.

as i wiped my tears away in the sterile hospital restroom, i took in deep breaths to calm myself.

i had to go back into that room, but so much of me wanted to leave.

leave it all.

that is not who we are.

this is pretend.

this isn’t our life.

our life is C and i paying a babysitter right now so we can eat chips and salsa with a frozen margarita. we are not at the hospital, hearing story after story of each hospital stay for the kids of these parents.

this is not us.

i can not relate to the new mom sitting across from me, crying about her 8 month old.

…oh, but it is.

i somehow managed to walk back into that room and take my place — hoping no one noticed my exit…except there were a few tissues that had been placed on my seat by one of m’s nurses…

~~~~~~~~~

as the past week has gone on and i’ve had time to reflect (and cry some more) i can only say that,

we will never stop being her front line.

we will never stop struggling with her treatments and medicine.

we will never stop questioning the doctors’ protocol.

we will never stop voicing our opinions regarding staffs’ procedures, offering our input for ease of future visits and care.

we will never stop raising awareness.

we will never stop fundraising for a cure.

and we will never stop doing our best to be better.

for little c. for little m.
never ever stop.

The days are long but the years are short

There are some parenting days that are exciting, delicious and fun.  Julia’s preschool graduation ceremony comes to mind.  It was so adorable it made me laugh and cry.  Each kid recited a poem about what they wanted to be when they grew up and they wore tiny graduation hats. But most parenting days are not those days, even the good ones.

I am a working mom, so I probably get a greater balance of the good days than stay at home moms do, because I’m not handling the mundane as much.  But yesterday was just a regular day.  No birthday parties, no trip to the zoo, no first steps or first words.  Luca and Daddy went to the supermarket, and Mommy took Julia to a playdate.

It was a pretty decent day yesterday. I didn’t yell at anyone, no one got hurt, there were no major arguments, everyone went to sleep on time.  So, especially if you aren’t a parent, you’re thinking, sounds pretty chill.  Except that every parent knows that a pretty decent day as a parent is a lot different than a pretty decent day before kids.

Pretty decent day before kids: Maybe you sleep until  9 or 10 am.  Run a few errands, laze around.  Eat lunch on the couch, binge watching some TV. Cook dinner, or maybe you order in.  It’s possible you read a magazine, or take a nap in the afternoon.  You make decisions based on what you want to do.

By comparison, a pretty decent day with kids is going to have a relatively high level of chaos.  First of all, there is not likely to be any sleeping in, at least not in our house.  Our kids are early to bed (Luca by 6:30, Julia by 7) but also early to rise.  Julia has a wake-up light in her room (a cow that is either dancing or sleeping) that tells her when she is allowed to get up.  The cow dances at 6:10 am because that’s when we get up for work five days a week, and it’s too damn hard to change the settings every weekend, so that’s our lot in life.  But it’s not like we could really sleep much later – Luca is up before Julia is, but we just won’t go in there until she wakes us up (thankfully he’s not a screamer in the morning).

We go downstairs on the weekends at about 7am to make breakfast, before which we all lounge together in bed watching TV (Paw Patrol is a favorite).  And by lounge, I mean that Luca attempted multiple times to slide off the bed and accidentally hit people with all the books he brought in. We did have two delicious minutes where Luca decided to sit on Julia’s lap while she rested on my lap and we had a cuddle party. For a second there it felt like what you picture when you dream of having kids.   But then Luca pulled her hair, and that was all over.

So, like most weekend mornings, Julia inevitably forgot to bring in “monkah”, her beloved stuffed monkey, and tried to convince us to get it for her (no).  She and I got into our usual discussion about her sucking her thumb (I say discussion because I refuse to argue about it anymore, even though the orthodontia is going to be a nightmare). She complained incessantly about being hungry but when offered the option to go downstairs and get herself something to eat she acted like I suggested she climb into a pit filled with alligators.

This week the hunger argument was particularly heated, because Saturday is the morning she gets to help fill Mommy’s pill box for the week. Mommy takes a lot of meds (I’ll get into that on this blog another time), and oddly Julia loves helping with the sorting (yes, she knows not to take them, don’t worry).  So she wanted a scenario where she can come back upstairs. Various debates/discussions ensued, there was crying, then screaming (both her, I stayed calm – Mom FTW!), then we finally came to an agreement and she ran off to get the squeezer on condition that she eat it downstairs, then come back up.

By 7:30 we were all playing nicely in the playroom while Daddy made breakfast (did I mention that my husband does all the cooking in our house? It’s heavenly).  Then Julia lost her will to live for a few minutes because she mistakenly thought the corn beef hash Brian was making from our leftovers was going into the eggs, and YOU CAN NOT PUT THINGS IN HER EGGS if she is unfamiliar with them and/or they contain meat or most cheeses.  Instead, she now wanted to have cereal and a cereal bar.  I said no dice, one or the other, and she should still try the eggs.  I am the worst person on earth.  She acts as if I am torturing her.  We clear up that the eggs will be regular Julia approved cheesy eggs, so she is then willing to have them and cereal, forgoing the cereal bar.  Crisis averted.

But hey, let’s stop here for a second.  We hadn’t eaten eaten breakfast yet and already I was mentally exhausted. I mean, it’s exhausting even describing it to you.  Yet, it’s the reality of parenting (the #truthinparenting , perhaps?).  I mentioned in my first post for this blog  that after a while, you just get sort of used to this.  Doesn’t make it easy, but makes it easier.  Because like I said, this was a decent day.

The thing about decent days is that they will mostly be forgotten.   There’s a relief to this, because it reminds me that things will get easier as they get older.  But there’s also a sadness because the very fact that they are rote in nature means I will will most likely forget them.  I will forget that Luca all of a sudden yesterday started calling his play computer a “peter”.  That Julia and I were doing coordinated clapping to Fitz & The Tantrum’s “Handclap” (Or was that today? I’m telling you, these moments blur together).

I just finished reading this terrific book called “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin (I highly recommend it by the way).  One of the things she says repeatedly is “The days are long but the years are short.”  It sums up exactly what it feels like to go through the early years of parenting. There will be so many days like this and many of them will drag on for what seems like an eternity.  But looking back I’m sure I’ll remember so little of them.

So what is there to do?  It sounds like I should end this post saying that I’ll try to be more grateful for these days because I’ll look back on them with wistfulness.  True, gratitude is important.  I actually started keeping a gratitude journal a few months ago and I have found it has helped me appreciate my life more. I write down five things every day that I am grateful for. Some of them are certainly related to my children.  But it feels pat to say that gratitude will solve all my parenting struggles because it’s not true.   What the gratitude journal helps me do is also remember more.  Even when it is hard, I want to remember.  I think that’s what will help get me through.