Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'Tis the Season

It's that time of year filled with joy, cheer, party overload and desperate attempts to bring the magic of the holiday season into sharp focus for toddlers everywhere, so long as they still believe.

After the season got off to a roll with a pre-holiday "just because" pancake party, it was off to the races with the first event: a holiday-concurrent birthday party. Which went something like this:

Hello All,

Just a quick reminder that there is a bit of a schedule. We are very excited to see everyone tomorrow!!


3:45-4:00—Dress up! Costumes passed out. (Tutu, wings, wand, halo—so have kids wear clothes that they can put the costume over).

4:00-4:15—Picture Time

4:30-5:00—Craft Time

5:00-5:30—Pizza, Salad, Cake, Cupcakes

I think the important thing to point out here is that the child in question was turning 3. I don't think I need to explain beyond that.

Next, was a holiday party at an indoor playground - complete with crafts, cookie decorating, bouncy house, obstacle course, temporary tattoos, face painting, magic show, parachute, and cupcakes.

Throw in some holiday baking (OK, a LOT of holiday baking), walks to admire the neighborhood lights, nighttime train rides to Santa's house, plans for Disneyland, Nutcracker recitals (too much? too soon?) figuring out Santa's list and endless scouring of Internet holiday event listings (amid self-flagellation for each missed event) and the pressure to make this magical season well, magical can get the best of any elf. Especially an elf who has yet to finish her Christmas shopping.

And then sometimes the favor is returned, a thousandfold. Tonight, as I put my girl to bed, after the obligatory sprinkling of magic dust AND powder, she reached under her covers and found some magic powder to scatter over me. It was the perfect, irreplaceable, unsolicited gift.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Playdate Pressure

It's been exactly a month since Otter began her academic career, and while some things have drastically improved (like actually wanting to go to school), other aspects of her socialization have um...plateaued (like, say playing with other children). To this end, her teacher suggested several times, that we contact one of the other parents in her class and set up the ubiquitous "play date."

Now as my friend Kate points out, play dates are a rather new invention. When we were kids, which admittedly was a while ago, but not THAT long ago, you were just friends with the kids on your street. But be it a question of progress or geography, cars abound and children running up and down our block are noticeably lacking. Which leads to the necessity of pre-planned spontaneous outings where the children play and the parents referee and (hopefully) bond for what may be a life-long - or an afternoon-long - friendship.

And therein lies the rub. I have a history of shunning forced socializing with strangers. Not that I mind meeting new people - but I had never joined a sorority. Or even a club, really. Networking was always more of a chore than a pleasure. And those Mommy and Me groups sent me running for the hills. It's not that I'm better than those people (ok, I might be better than a few of those people) but after 7th grade I've never belonged to a clique. And it seems odd to start now, when I've fairly mastered the skill set required for making friends organically.

I was hoping that during the orientation meeting at the school, I would naturally gravitate towards someone, whose child would naturally make a perfect playmate for mine. But as we sat pretending to listen to the teachers describe the school, while in actuality sizing each other up one thing became clear to me: I do not fit in with these parents. Jumping to conclusions? Perhaps. Judgey? Most likely. But there I was, with my bleached hair and combat boots. and there they were - in their sun dresses and rhinestoned sandals. So, I'm just saying...

And to be fair, I wouldn't doubt if they had the same initial, unfounded, utterly superficial assessment of me, thinking "Which hooligan did she birth and then enroll with my angel?!"

Which leads me to the little angels I have to pick from. Or rather, the ones Otter has chosen. So far I have been presented with 4 options:

First there was the "Sandbox Companion" - let's call her SC for short. SC seemed very promising - in fact, SC's mom (we'll call her SCM) seemed receptive to the idea. So much so that on the morning we were told of the unbreakable bond of sand toys, SCM suggested to Otter that she go and play play dough with SC. And when Otter didn't jump at the opportunity, SCM took my befuddled child and started leading her away. And that's when it all went south for me.

Really SCM? Do you see me manhandling your spawn into coming closer to the Little People House? Are you suddenly in charge of this classroom? Last I checked, you were just another parent dropping her kid off. So please take your mitts off mine, and note that as of this moment I don't like you, you pushy broad. SCM may have sensed my bristling - the second time the teacher reintroduced us (again, suggesting a play outing for the kiddies) she pretended to be surprised and not recognize me. Yeah, SCM is kinda full of it.

Option two is a young man who is quite proud of his Potty Training prowess. Which he announced (and someone demonstrated) in class. I know he's only three and yes, this is my "my kid is a head taller than everyone but won't potty train sour grapes" routine but come on. Ironically, I think I like PT's mom.

Option three is recovering from a case of Hacking Cough. Enough said.

Option four is Otter's Cubby Roommate. CR may have the most going for her though that is the full extent of what I know about her.

Though from what I'm hearing (much to my shock and chagrin), who I like is fairly irrelevant. Apparently its Otter who gets to gravitate towards friends and I get to do her social planning and follow meekly along. Better find that class roster and start dialing.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

School Dayz

So with all the hub-bub of me starting a new job, and what with the travel and unexpected passings, I've completely dropped the ball on reporting on a major event in Otter's existence: the start of her schooling.

Now that the wheels that will take her down the road of unfathomable success or epic failure have started turning, I can step back and assess SB's reaction to the start of the journey.

The first day was met with dubioius interest. On the upside, from the open house, she knew there was a bunny and toy cars there. And paint. And cookies for snack. And a brand new lunch pail, shaped like an owl that she could take. On the downside, aside from those certainties, she had nothing to go on. And in our household, strange = bad.

The first few days went well enough, with us staying in the classroom and Otter tentatively playing with the myriad new toys available to her. And then we took a trip to see grandparents - followed by a "no kids" trip to Vegas. And though Otter continued to go to school while Bree and I did up Sin City, upon our return SB began the "I don't want to go to school," routine.

But after days of using every tactic to get her into the classroom - from pointing out all the cool stuff there to telling her she can quit, but has to tell her teacher in person - it seems that SB has found her stride. She's now playing "school" at home - which involves us eating a lot of "snacks," - eating up the aforementioned school snacks with gusto, singing songs, and mentioning what the other kids did that day.

This morning, she rushed me out the door, saying "It's time for school!"

Apparently to a good end or bad end, this school thing is here to stay.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Requiescat in canem pacem.

He was there the day she first came home from the hospital. And though he was less than please with her infringement on his despotic rule of our household, he became a model "big brother" - patient to a fault, submitting to being crowded, pinched, having paws run over by strollers and toys, and, despite our best efforts, having to play second fiddle to a baby.

We broke every conventional "wisdom" with him - giving him more freedom once Otter came home. He would sit on the bed with us while I nursed, sometimes putting his giant head on my lap. I would put SB on his bed, a tiny infant lying near a giant of a 100 lb. pit bull. He gained bed sleeping privileges for the first time. We'd often curl up together - all 4 of us squished on a queen-sized bed.

And as Otter grew, she did so with him as a constant, furry, larger-than-life companion. Whether she was trying to climb on him, dress him in Christmas hats, make sure he got his fair share of pancakes, join him on fund-raising walks for homeless dogs, pummel him, or - ultimately - hug and kiss him, she loved him with all her heart. She grew to respect all animals, to approach them carefully - or at least more carefully than most toddlers do.

On September 20, 2011, Foster died.

More terrifying than sitting at the vet, knowing we'd never see him again, more frightening than the deafening silence, emptiness and lifelessness that filled our house with his absence, was the prospect of explaining to my 3-year-old that this incredible fixture in her life was no more.

Bree and I waffled between the big doggie playground in the sky or that he became a star. In the end, we followed the advice of SB's teacher, and told her the simple truth: Foster was very, very sick, and he died. No fables, no euphemisms. Those, said her teacher, were for us, the parents. Otter would understand, albeit in her own way.

SB is taking the news in stages. Though she first ignored any mention, telling us she wanted to play, she's since been asking about him.

"Where is Foster?"

"Can we go get him?"

Her questions make my heart bleed. My answers tear it to pieces.

Last night she asked me, "But where did he go?" And after a panicked pause, I again, told her the truth. "I don't know honey," I said. "But he won't be coming back to our house." I suggested making an album of his photos to remember.

I'd like to think that perhaps he did become a star, his dogly energy - a glow that outshines his physical size a million-fold - returning to the infinite universe. If that is the euphemism I need, I'll take it. My great pain is that on his celestial journey, he took an irreplaceable part of me with him. Though that's the least I can offer him.

Rest in peace, Foster.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Bean

Three years ago today, I entered the hospital a bloated, fat, waddling woman and left, several days later, a mother.

In those 1,095.75 days she has gone from She-Blob, to Otter, to Chicken Otter, to Booty, to Bean. She has grown 39 inches, learned to talk, and count, and feed herself. She's made friends. She's lost a grandfather. She's learned to count, and have picnics (at which she serves wine), to recognize letters, avoid potty training and get chocolate out of us. She is smart and feisty and frustrating and willful and the most amazing creature I've ever met, who owns my heart even on the days I'm at the end of my rope. She cracks me up with her jokes. She shocks me with her insights. She confuses and confounds me with her questions. I am in awe of her.

Long before she became, my mother told me that until I had a child of my own, I would never understand what it means to have one. That the way you love your child can never be predicted or replicated or even imagined. I didn't understand it then, but I do now - which is exactly as she told me it would be. I am both privileged and humbled by the awesome responsibility that is being her parent.

As you embark on the 4th year or you life Bean, I will tell you what I tell you every night: I adore you. Happy birthday.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

America's Most Wanted

At the end of a really brutal week, I came home last night hoping for a glass of wine, a chance to complain, followed by some silence. By the time SB was in bed, wine had been upgraded to gin and complaining had been replaced by full-force whining. My reverie of self-pity was interrupted by Bree's ominous words: "There's something I have to tell you."

This is never a good way to start a conversation. It is rarely followed by "We won the lottery," or "I got a promotion, 200% raise, full benefits and a Hawaiian vacation." More often, the follow-up goes along the lines of "The roof collapsed," or "Your mother's moving in with us and all her belongings are in the guest room now." Last night, the news was far, far more potentially devastating.

"Baby Ducky is gone. It may be for real this time." Baby Ducky (the sleeping one, NOT the bath one) is the Animal du Jour. Like, he is IT. And while he's been ousted from bed during the Great Bed Animal Purge (making his descriptor of "the sleeping one" a bit of a misnomer), he is nonetheless, a very hot commodity.

The story seemed to be that 3 animals left for the park with Otter, but only 2 returned. This did not bode well - once the stuffed creature is out on the streets, the best one can hope for is it's not picked up by some young sociopath-in-training waiting for some unsuspecting fiber filled animal to practice his craft on. Plan B needed to be put in place immediately, since Plan A (looking for Baby Ducky come morning) seemed folly at best.

I'd like to say that I am one of those parents who has backups of the favorite animals. Or at the very least knows the manufacturer, serial number, model and make. Or even who gave the particular animal to us. Alas, all I could tell you about Baby Ducky is he was small and yellow. And while I was convinced that I knew the manufacturer, an Internet search proved that I had actually been thinking of Baby Chicken. Which isn't even something I realized - until Bree pointed it out.

Now we were really in trouble. I decided to forgo dinner, and instead, settled down to an evening of searching images of stuffed baby ducks in hopes that one of the thousands of pictures that Google inadvertently pulled up would jog my memory. Without making light of it, what followed was akin to scouring missing persons listings. I frantically scrolled through page after page of stuffed yellow ducks, occasionally saying "I think it's this one!" only to realize that no, it was not. Bree came up with a fuzzy iPhone photo, that we blew up, cropped and desperately tried to compare to the online toy ads. It was like searching age progressed backs of milk cartons for a toy duck. Still, we somehow came to a consensus that one particular duck may have been Baby Ducky's doppelganger - or at least a close enough match, if you accounted for matting, fading and lighting in the respective photos.

As the sun rose, I prepared my story. As predicted, the first question out of SB's mouth was the whereabouts of Baby Ducky. Tales of him napping, which had held her at bay the previous evening were futile. I opted for the truth: that Baby Ducky was lost, but we would go to the park to look for him. But as I walked through our park, my already-shaky faith was being broken down by the moment. If Baby Ducky had ever been in the park, he was long gone. Dejected, I turned home and began the painful "I think he's gone" explanation. Which went over surprisingly well. As soon as I made a promise of procuring a new duck, SB seemed satisfied with abandoning the search and rescue operation.

As we neared home, and just as I was wrapping my my tale of new ducks who were just like the old duck but (possibly) just a little different, I happened to glance across the street. And there, right in the roadway, was a clump of pale yellow. I dashed across. There he was! A victim of a hit and run, Baby Ducky was more grey than yellow, squished, missing an eye - BUT present and accounted for. I virtually yelped with glee. "Look, we found him! Isn't that great?!" Otter didn't miss a beat. "I don't want him," she said. "I want a new one."

Oh no - not after what I'd been through! Reassuring her that there was no need for a new duck, I high-tailed it home. A wash and dry later, Baby Ducky is almost good as new. Sure, he's half blind and probably emotionally scarred by his fiasco. But he was dragged around all day, and even accompanied Otter on a picnic. He may still be banished from bed, but he's definitely back in the fold. Welcome home, Baby Ducky!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rules to Live By

Things to remember:

The crib is the train.
The office chair is the plane.
The armchair is the boat.
The truck is the car.
The rug is the truck.

Sneak Preview or Daddy's Girl

I usually joke that Otter is almost 3 going on 13. And it might more true than I want to believe. In the last few weeks, I've been progressively getting previews of what's to come some ten years in the future, or now - whichever comes sooner.

It started innocently enough - being told to come back when she wasn't quite ready to get up in the morning. Then came the day I was sent away while she was playing train ride with Bree. Last week, when I accidentally nudged her with the door, she ran off, sobbing and burying her head in the guest room bed. She screamed, "Go away!" while I vainly tried to apologize. Eventually I had to retreat, only enticing her out by loudly telling the rubber duckies how sorry and sad I was, and reading them the bedtime story meant for SB.

And today the beginning of the end...well, began. After 2 nights of being late - an event that usually requires extra attention - I came home early enough for someone to go to the grocery store. But when she heard that Bree was heading out, she freaked. And when I asked her if she wanted her Papa to stay and put her down (again) while I left, she quickly, and happily, agreed. And why shouldn't she? Papa plays Elevator, Train Ride, Airplane Ride, and Picnic better than I ever will.

My place in the sun is temporarily (or permanently?) eclipsed.

And it's weird, and surprising, and a little liberating. Good luck, Papa!

From the Bad Mommy Files: Wino Rhino

Our little girl is growing up. Faster than we may have bargained for.

As I worked late the other night, Bree was manning bedtime, and specifically, the requisite pre-bedtime picnic. It is a complicated game, with ever-changing rules that are as hard to follow as they are ephemeral. Mainly, it involves the stuffed animals (known collectively as "all the guys") to ride around in the toy F-150, then be deposited on the kitchen floor (along with the rubber duckies and the 'nest' of plastic eggs), wait for the elevator, when it's too hard to take the stairs, and possibly eat and drink.

And so, I received the following message from Bree:
Good job mama. Guess what the animals are drinking at the picnic?


Yep. They have two big glasses that they're sharing.

Now, there are several ways to interpret such news about your not-quite-3-year-old. And here is what I choose to go with:

1) All things being equal, some wine guzzling teddy bears aren't as bad as it could be. Hell, they can be taking shots, smoking cigarettes, or engaging in risky behaviors. Not to imply that that goes on in our house.

2) To make wine taboo is to nearly ensure a future in sneaking drinks.

3) Let's not forget - the animals were sharing. And sharing is a good thing.

My only question - Red or white?

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Of late, Otter's been skipping naps.

This development was met with unadulterated horror on my part. She's not even quite 3 - should this be happening? Will she be getting enough rest? Will she be melting down by day's end? More importantly, will I? How does one survive one's own child for an uninterrupted 14 hours without going mad or developing a serious Valium addiction?

Sure I say I relish every fleeting weekend moment with my kid. Those charming impromptu picnics on the bed, digging in the backyard dirt, pretend train rides in her crib - but this is all contingent on a 2-3 hour span where she's tucked far away in dreamland, while I get to be a grown up. Dragging my kid through the mall because she wouldn't nap so I took her to go shoe shopping and now I'm peeling her off the mannequin in the Lucky Store display and talking her out of splashing in the fountain after she refused to even try the ice cream she begged me to buy doesn't quite inspire parental bliss. The only thing that gets me through those days is the knowledge that once she hits the pillow at 9, within 15 minutes (at most) I will be free to pursue the illusion of being an untoddlered adult.

On the other hand, the days she does nap we pay the price at bedtime. After putting SB down diligently at 9, we spend the next hour to hour and a half returning to her room at intervals for hugs, kisses, sips of water, the occasional diaper change, blanket adjustments, resetting the music, resetting the night light (which times out at after a length of time the makers deemed sufficient for your average child to fall asleep). This rinse and repeat process is maddening - my dinner, work time or (if I'm feeling really crazy) reading constantly interrupted by plaintive bleats of "Moooommmy, " emanating from the baby monitor. Ignoring the summons is of no use - as they gain volume and urgency with each passing moment. You'd think she was dying of thirst. Eventually, worn down by hours of making me run to her, she thankfully falls asleep, leaving me to enjoy and 11 o'clock dinner.

Which leads to the Catch-22 - which madness do you choose?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

From the Bad Mommy Files: Alert AA

I've always tried to keep my drinking around SB to a minimum. Sure I've imbibed in the occasional glass of wine (I mean I don't want the girl growing up thinking we're teetotalers or anything), but I had been under the impression that the majority of my Bacchanalian endeavors were happening after hours.

But either I've been less careful than I realized, or my kid is showing some early proclivities... Today as we were getting sandwiches from a local market, Otter walked me to the wine section. "Look at all those wines," my 2 1/2-year-old enthused. "We should get some."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Big big floozy

Instead of dinosaur, SB says "Giant Whore." I kinda hope she never stops.

Monday, February 28, 2011


A child's imagination is a magical thing, opening a world of possibilities, both real and extraordinary, to the tyke. In the right hands, it is also a powerful tool to manipulate and give the otherwise hapless parent a half step up on their equally manipulative offspring.

My tale begins several months back, when our family visited friends on the East Coast. Along with the joy of a plane trip, the experience of new sights and sounds, endless reruns of the animal show they'd kindly recorded, they had a far more prized possession - two cats.

Otter was fascinated and smitten. She rejoiced in looking for them throughout the house and looked forward to giving them treats every evening. And long after her memories of excursions faded, the torch for Bob and Mabel burned strongly in her heart. Months after we were back home, she would quiz me on their names and inquire about their whereabouts.

Most days, I'd tell SB that the cats were doing well, though living far away. Perhaps one day she'd see them again but in the meantime I suggested she just treasure the memory of the days they spent together. Tonight however, I was hit with a bolt of inspiration that may prove most useful in the coming days.

I decided to pretend the felines were with us. We called them by name during story time, invited the up on the bed. And when the imaginary cats jumped up (complete with the light pitter-patter of feet courtesy of yours truly) we petted them, fed them imaginary treats and red them a story. Bob and Mabel then became highly interested in Otter's tooth brushing technique, were fascinated by her change into a night-time diaper, and positively overcome when SB demonstrated how she gets into her pajamas. And after holding them carefully in her hands while did our late-night hugs, SB was amazingly all too happy to settle in, get covered by her blanket and wait for B and M to curl up under it.

There were no calls for last kisses, no mad scrambles out of bed or protests against lights out. The girl, her stuffed animals, and her new pretend pets curled under her blanket, were cozy and happy and ready for sleep.

I am amazed, touched and overwhelmed by SB's ability to immerse herself in this new, make-believe world. But if I'm to be honest, there is an ulterior motive. Sure I like to nurture the flights of fancy, hoping that one day Otter's outside-the-box thinking will make her the next Einstein, Shakespeare or Van Gogh. But at the end of the day (literally) all I really care about is getting her to bed in time to enjoy a glass of wine and a bad TV show. I just wonder how long this currency will last.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Art of Negotiation

For the past week, we've been trying Otter to poop. We have explored all the obvious avenues, from bribery...
("Every time you go, you'll get a sticker!")

to story-telling...
("All the animals go poopy, every day!"
"The doggies?"
"Yes, the doggies."
"The penguins?"
"Yes, the penguins."
"The maned wolf?" Really? The maned wolf???
"Yes, especially the maned wolf.")

to reason...
("If you don't go, your tummy will hurt. It won't hurt if you go every day.")

to mildly veiled threats...
("If you don't go yourself, I'm going to have to use medicine. Now I'm not telling you this to scare you, but just to tell you that's going to have to happen...")

Negotiations are not going well.

But perhaps this is because once again, we've under-estimated our opponent. The other day, SB was playing with a stuffed hamster/mouse and, in the course of their morning had him "go poop." I thought we were just a hop, skip and a jump away from her following suit. Instead, she demanded a sticker - on his behalf.

And somehow got it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Freakin' Chicken

Since we decided that expletives uttered by a toddler are more crass than cute, I've been trying to watch my sailor-mouth around the kid. And quite frankly, I thought I was doing quite well. I may have been using sound-alikes for my utterances, but had I not removed the more common 4-letter nouns and verbs from my vocabulary?

But perhaps I had congratulated myself to soon. This morning, after searching for her doll and finally finding her in the bathroom, Otter shook her head and muttered, "Freakin' baby."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Keeping Score

Parenthood is a balance sheet, your victories listed on the blood-strewn, tattered side in an all-too-short list, your defeats stretching from the distant past into the equally distant future. On the better days, you find yourself philosophically assessing the the invaluable lessons you learned on this long and winding road. On the bad days you just fight back tears and blinding rage.

This weekend proved a fertile battleground - an array of skirmishes with no clear victor, and many wounded. And so, on to the scorecard...

1) Otter chooses not to poop. SB has long battled with digestive issues but now it appears that we've shifted gears. And while I am grateful for mankind's ability to control certain bodily functions, this same capacity has left me completely out of my depth. How does one reason with a 2-year-old, who is unhappy with how her past experiences have gone and seems determined to never repeat them? This was SO not in the manual - not even in the fine print. After pleading, cajoling, bribery, guilt-trips and self-deprecation had all failed, we resorted to medicine, and pathetic whimpering.

2) Otter refused to nap. Largely due to point #1, we were robbed of our downtime. Because let's face it - at this point we need her nap more than she does.

3) Otter challenged our plan for walking Foster. Now that Foz is back on the walk circuit, SB naturally expects to be included. Unfortunately, the novelty of walking doggie lasted approximately 5 minutes, until Otter decided that their path in the urban jungle diverged. When I didn't back her plan to follow the one less traveled, she responded by lying down on the sidewalk. Unlike my usual response at home, I could not just leave her there. Though I did consider it.

4) Jumping in puddles. Judging from the above, anyone would surmise that this day of combat belonged to Otter. But wait - before you judge... After the pouring rain, SB insisted on going outside. At first, we - the reasonable parents - resisted, but she wouldn't take no for an answer. Donning some boots we went outside, where I tried to control the mad dashes up and down the rainy street. Of particular fascination was the knee deep puddle near our neighbor's driveway. Initially, I firmly insisted that SB avoid the cold water. But then I said, why do I care? Clothes can be changed, after all. So there she was, wading into cold water, happy as a clam. I even flirted with the water's edge myself.

And for my encore performance, I managed to convince my girl that jumping into pretend puddles on our living room rug was just as fun as the real deal, and participated happily as we bounced and "splashed" in the "water."

Sure I endured tantrums, tears, and mineral oil injections. But watching my girl bound around my living room I still think I won.

Monday, February 14, 2011

From the Bad Mommy Files - Why I Suck

Today is the day reserved for love, overpriced flowers and heart-shaped boxes of cheap chocolate. It is the day Hallmark and Jane Seymour have groomed us for, what with the heart-felt messages and hideous jewelry. I, however, will take this day to tell you how I suck - and not in the vampire-y Gothic, romantic kind of way so much as the falling short, massive fail variety.

It is no secret that Bree and I have given Valentine's day less than its due. After the first few years of obligatory gift exchanges and fancy meals, we called a spade a spade and quickly slid into non-celebratory complacency. And even our early February nuptials did little to up the romantic ante. Sure, I still called my parents on an annual basis, trained by the years of macaroni art, but all in all the big day of romantic overkill was lost on me.

You would think that having a child would have renewed my interest in a holiday based on pure love. That I would jump at the chance to shower Otter with tokens of my adoration. You would be unfortunately, and gravely, mistaken. And while Bree and I paid lip service to doing something in the days leading up to the day, once the 14th dawned we had given up on it.

Until Susana showed up - carrying a balloon, a hot pink monkey, and a bottle of wine - ostensibly for us. I was chastened. I was shamed. Not that I expected any less of our amazing nanny, I'd just expected a little more of me. But there was nothing to do except for tuck tail and flee to work.

Sad as the scene was, it wasn't the day's low. That came at around 2pm, when I made a mad dash to Walgreens to try to come up with a thoughtful gift for my only child. I was clearly late to the party, and as I perused the picked-over aisles, my shame burned a Valentine's Day-appropriate deep red. I slunk out with a blue Toy Story ball and 2 packs of sparkly stickers.

As if that weren't enough, I ended up staying late at work, not making it home until long after SB was in bed. As I fruitlessly tried to balance the the ball on the table, grateful for the fact that at 2 1/2 SB still has no concept that we screwed up, and with a commitment to do better next year.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How Parenting is Turning Me Into an Alcoholic

I am a born optimist. I face each day hoping for the best, that no matter what life (or, more specifically, my child) throws at me, I'll be able to take it on. Or at the very least, duck for cover fast enough to avoid getting hit in the face.

So when I decided that the day after a cocktail party (followed by some late night/early morning margaritas) I should probably lay off the vino, it seemed like a smart, healthy and easily executable plan. But then a day like today happens.

It starts off innocently enough - the child wakes, but I'm prepared. My head might be a little tight due to the aforementioned libations, but this is nothing I couldn't have expected. Time to pour that comforting cup of tea and settle in for the Animal Show. A surprise blessing occurs - our nanny, who watched SB while we went out, has stayed over and offers to take take her off my hands so I can get some sleep. Tight head wins out over pride. Besides, my kid seems FAR more interested in hanging out with her than with me. I gratefully accept and slink off to bed. My Pollyannaish streak tells me I've got this day by the horns.

The morning passes with little to report. Breakfast goes swimmingly. The tantrum upon leaving the playground is more contained than usual. At lunch, I manage to not only shovel in chicken while SB is distracted by sorting through the videos on my iPhone, but follow it up with a plate of broccoli. I continue sipping water, confident that the most challenging part of the day is nearly over.

The tide begins to turn shortly after SB is put down for her nap. After completing the ever-expanding ritual of "last hug and kiss" - a somewhat ambiguous affair, given that there are approximately 5 requests for "last" hugs - I manage to make my escape and throw some food on my plate. The calls for "mommy" are our first indicator that we may not be out of the woods quite yet. "There's no need to panic," I tell myself, willing positive thoughts. "She's done this before. Another hug, and we're off to the Land of Nod."

But the Land of Nod eludes us, as does the Land of Passing Out From the Exhaustion of Weeping for a Solid 30 Minutes. Eventually we wave the white flag and get my sticky, weepy, blotchy child up. Let the afternoon festivities begin.

Play dough. Park. Even leaving the park to go home for dinner. It's all manageable enough, and I can still hold out hope that this day will pass - sooner or later. The fabric of the lie I'd created to console myself begins to unravel as soon as we get home. The Witching Hour is upon us, and my overtired, overstimulated, over-opinionated toddler begins to melt. Changing her diaper has me lunging across furniture, trying to contain her as she flees. Washing hands for dinner begins as a test of patience as SB runs laps around me, going anywhere but the bathroom, and ends in hand-to-hand combat as I forcibly dry her hands while trying to avoid being kicked in the face by a writhing creature that resembles my child in the throes of demonic possession.

"Do you want me to handle her?" asks Bree, as I storm out of the bathroom and plop down on the couch.

"If you want her to eat tonight," I respond tersely. "Because I'm done." I angrily suck down my hydrating water. It tastes just like...water, and has all the kick of H2O. Which is beginning to feel a bit lacking.

Dinner itself is a nightmare of screams and screeches in the ultrasonic range. Only far more audible. SB will neither sit down in her seat, nor allow us to lift her into it. By the time we finally wrestle and strap her down, the affair has become a hostage negotiation, with us playing the roles of both negotiators and hostages, and our kid portraying the radical with her finger on an atomic bomb. She-Blob wants bread and eggs for dinner? Why, of course. She has requested her giant panda (the one nearly the same size she is) to share the seat with her? I'll be happy to feed gobs of eggs to them both. She has decided that her panda is out of favor and would prefer the stuffed animals currently in her crib at the other side of the house? Bree trots off to retrieve. All we need to do is get through this and bath. At whatever cost. My visions of abstinence are fading, replaced by the realization that wine won't even begin to cover this.

The rest of the evening passes in a blur of acquiescing to every whim and request (why sure, the soaking wet ducky wash cloth can read books with us on our bed), punctuated by my mental countdown to the moment SB's head will hit the pillow and I will have peace and a largish drink.

And so here I am - a bit battered and bruised, but nursing a drink of rum and tropical juices. I don't even like rum. Or pineapple juice.

In the words Perry Farrell's Jane, "I'm gonna kick tomorrow." I am, after all, an optimist.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Clocking the Competition

Today, we took our step down the road that will determine She-Blob's academic accomplishments, social standing and general happiness for the rest of her life. That's right - we're looking at preschools.

For those who have not ventured down this path (a group that included Bree and myself for the better part of 36 years), the concept of preschool can be an ambiguous thing. What is preschool, after all? Neither school nor daycare, preschool has evolved from a frivolity of the spending class to an institution without which further academic and social success are seemingly impossible. Rising from the ashes of the failings of generations past to properly socialize their rug rats in an evermore isolated world, preschool has offered to close the gap, turning our biting, grabbing, hitting, screaming offspring from wild animals into humans right in time to start "real" school.

I don't need to go far for real-world proof, for I, too, went to preschool - albeit in a different country. My most vivid memory is of pretending to be a passenger on a cruise ship, while being reprimanded for mistreating my doll by dressing her by holding her head tightly between my knees and shoving her dress over her feet. All I wanted to do was be one of the "sailors," a vocation reserved for the boys in the class. In one fell swoop, preschool socialized me - teaching me basic child care (or at least how to avoid charges of child abuse in the future) and reminding me of my place in the world.

But times and geography have changed since then, so it was I who led the charge to the first of 3 open-house/prospective parent meetings of the week. Why 3, you ask? How better to compare the student/teacher ratio, preschool philosophy (yes, they all claim different 'philosophies') and play-dough recipes available to us? If SB is going to be improving her finger painting technique to the tune of $700+ per month, I want to be sure we're getting the best finger paints.

And it's not only the teachers and craft supplies a modern parent needs to worry about. When I recently mentioned our impending tours to a friend, he asked me if it was to make sure the other kids were up to snuff. "Mostly it's to see if the playground is acceptable and make sure no bodies are buried in the yard," I replied.

But let's face it - he has a point. If this is where SB is going to be spending her days, the other crusty toddlers there are going to become her friends. Which means (the potential horror) that their parents are going to become our friends. And it was obvious as we all circled each other pretending to encourage our respective children's progress in the trough of cornmeal while casting surreptitious glances on our neighbors, that we were all there trying to weed out the close-talkers, infrequent bathers and other social outcasts.

We left satisfied - Bree and I with the answers to the probing and impressive questions we'd prepared, SB with the quality of the toy cars. Now all that remains is two more tours, and the agonizing decision which approach and classmates will best suit our child. Because we all know the rest of her life depends on this.