Monday, November 30, 2015

Dear Santa...

Last Christmas Clara was two. She was excited about leaving out cookies and milk for Santa but still took a lot of prompting to remember what she was doing and why. Needless to state, she didn't make herself sick with excitement the night before Christmas waiting for Santa to show up.

Yes, I am THAT mother. The one who wants her daughter to stare at the ceiling all night long straining to hear reindeer hooves on the fire escape. I stubbornly believed in Santa until I was almost ten, and still kinda do. This year I want to make Clara as over-excited as possible.  I already have her hooked looking at all the Christmas decorations all over the neighborhood and I know I'll have to actually hide all her presents this year or else she'll TOTALLY find them.  Tomorrow we're breaking out the advent calendar.  Open a little door EVERY DAY and get a little prize! (WHAT!? AWESOME!)  This is good training for Clara as she will become my willing accomplice as the years go by in making her baby sister totally over-excited about Christmas as well.

We made this snow-globe craft together.  I think Clara did a really good job making the tree. Maybe I'm biased, or maybe I just LOVE CHRISTMAS!


On Sunday, Gerald sat Clara down o help her write a letter to Santa.  He took down everything she wanted to say.

Dear Santa, I hope you love your list. I’m really excited for Christmas this year. I’ve been a very good girl this year. We should make a present for you too! Here’s my list:

Anna Bubble.
Art Supplies
Shopkins and Blind Bags
A “Big Girl” Hat
“Serious” Books
Chocolate Treats
Teddy Bear/Olaf Toy
A Pink Umbrella.

Thank you so much, Santa!  Love, Clara.

Now did Clara really understand the whole "I've been a good girl this year" thing?  I'm betting not but I give Gerald major Christmas points for working it into the letter.  I like how Clara is trying to soften up Santa with the whole "we should get you a present too, Santa." Good woork, little girl.

I  find Clara's present list both heartwarming and hilarious.

Let me first address the "Shopkins and Blind Bags" request.  For those of you not in the know - Shopkins are tiny. cheaply made toys that come in tiny shopping baskets. But here's the kicker - you don't know what one you're getting until you open it-  and you know how little kids love surprises.  Each shopping basket comes with a list - a key if you will, of the names of each of these little cheap pieces of plastic  and whether or not they're common,rare, super rare....etc.  So for the bargain price of 3.00 if you might get a pinky nail sized coffee pot named  "Coffee Drip",  and a sneaker with glamorous eyes named "Sneaky Wedge." At least you get two to a basket.  We can thank You Tube and the Disney Cars Toy Club channel on aforementioned You Tube for introducing Clara  and by extension, her parents, to the wonders of Shopkins. Clara would watch Amy Jo unwrap Shopkins for HOURS on You Tube if we let her.  When we buy her Shopkins as treats she always says "I hope we don't get a duplicate," just like Amy Jo does. It's ridiculous.  But who am I to talk?  I collected Garbage Pail Kids.

Anyone have some suggestions for "serious" books for a three year old?  What does she mean?  Who knows?  Better get cracking, Santa. And while you're at it, keep a lookout for a "Big Girl" Hat. Just cross glitter off the list, Santa, and please take note of Clara's three references to Frozen. Anything Frozen - she's not discriminating. She might even sing you all the songs from Frozen if she catches you putting presents under the tree this year.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

And Then There Were Two.

As of August 24th, 2015, Gerald and I now have two children.  Two daughters. 6 weeks later and I finally have a moment to write about it. Boy, do you forget how much time and effort it takes to care for a newborn. And a toddler?  We're just a little tired. (Gerald will totally back me up on this one.)

Clara arrived fashionably late, one day past her due date.  I was pretty sure I would go the full 40 weeks with the second, so I felt only a mild twinge of anxiety when Gerald wanted to go see Andy Pettitte's number retired at Yankee Stadium.  I was a week away from my due date...and really, what were the odds?  I made a joke on the way to the train that if I went into labor at Yankee stadium, our TBD little girl was going to be the first female Major League baseball player. Gerald bought tickets and we headed to the stadium on the subway.

Before the fateful "water break."
Freya already planning her jail-break.

We had great seats in the upper levels - plenty of leg room and space for Clara to walk around if she got antsy.  We watched Andy Pettitte get his number retired, and then it was time to watch the ball game. (Yankees vs. the Indians)

We had only planned to stay for about 4 innings anyway.  Clara can last only so long, even distracted as she was by pizza and ice cream.  Gerald suggested packing up to leave and I excused myself to use the restroom for the hundredth time (thanks to the baby using my bladder as a pillow and punching bag.) Except, when I stood up, it felt like I wet my pants.(embarrassing) I quickly waddled to the bathroom.  It wasn't pee.  My water had broken, which along with about fifty other pregnancy symptoms I had been experiencing with this pregnancy,  hadn't happened when I was pregnant with Clara.

I hurried back to Gerald and Clara and told him the news.  Gerald, with an excellent poker face, said: "Well, let's get going." The people in the row in front of us heard, cheered loudly, and suggested we name her Andy. In the lobby of the stadium I suggested asking guest services to help us get a car service to the hospital.  But the words: "my wife's water broke" incurred a frenzy of activity.  Soon we had an entourage of 2 EMT's and a police officer.  No, I couldn't walk - they would get me a wheelchair.  And a car service was out of the question - we would ride in style in an ambulance.  To be fair, Gerald and I both expected this labor to be pretty quick.  Common wisdom proclaims that your second labor will be about half as long as the first.  Clara's was six hours so we assumed we had to get moving.

They wheeled me over to first aid to wait for the ambulance to arrive.  Family was called, and my sister and mother planned to meet us at the hospital to take Clara home, and Gerald's parents hopped in their car to come down to the city and stay overnight with Clara. An absolutely lovely police officer whose name I can't recall (edit: Gerald remembers: Officer Vanessa De Los Santos) stayed with us while we waited for the ambulance.  It arrived, and the two EMT's (Andrew and Guy) manning the ambulance were equally lovely and had a sense of humor about the whole thing which was greatly appreciated. They treated Clara like a princess and made her ride in the ambulance seem like an adventure instead of something scary. It was my first ride in an ambulance ever, and the two EMT's made it fun and made me feel safe.

We pulled into the Emergency Room at Columbia Presbyterian. The ER was backed up and I waited on the gurney in a hallway with a lot of other people waiting on gurneys and in wheelchairs for care.  Gerald stood next to me, holding Clara's hand.  I soon noticed that all he people around me were acting sorta strange.  Well, really strange.  The woman across the aisle from me made some funny faces at Clara (normal), then made some slightly obscene faces for my benefit (less normal), then licked the cheek of an unconscious woman sitting beside her who may or may not have been known to her, and told a passing orderly she was in love with him. The EMT's from my ambulance came up to me and said: "Just so you know, everyone else waiting here is high on K2."

I told Gerald to get Clara out of there and find my mom and sister - I would let him know where I ended up.  Shortly after Gerald and Clara left, an ER nurse asked what I was doing there, and I was promptly wheeled out of the ER and up to maternity.

My water broke at 2:30.  At around 6PM I was admitted to Triage and they confirmed my water had broken, but I was only one centimeter dilated.  I was having contractions but they weren't really strong.  Gerald and I watched Into the Woods on his phone.  At around 8pm a labor and delivery room freed up.  My first reaction to the room was: Is this a film set?  It looked like a staged labor and delivery room in a movie where the laboring mother's hair and makeup remains perfect while a nurse blots her lightly sweating forehead with a cloth handkerchief.  The wall-to wall picture window had a sparkling view of downtown Manhattan.  In front of the window was a giant sofa that folded out to a bed for Gerald.  Our nurse told us that down the hall was a lounge with a fridge stocked with sandwiches and drinks for the dads. AMAZING.

At 11pm the on call obstetrician came in to discuss pitocin.  After insisting on being checked to see how dilated I was and finding I was still one centimeter, I agreed to start a low dose of pitocin. Contractions enhanced by pitocin are no joke.  They felt nothing like my first (drug-free) labor.  They were intensely painful and radiated out from my pelvis.  I labored through the hellish pitocin contractions for 4 hours before considering an epidural.

On the fence about an epidural I asked the nurse for her advice.
She said: "Well, it depends on what your birth plan is.  Do you want to feel the worst pain imaginable while giving birth, or not?"

I laughed hysterically at this and the nurse replied:

"You still have the energy to laugh, you're going to be in labor for a while longer."

Epidural please.

After the sweet relief of the epidural kicked in, I labored for another 5 hours for a grand total of 18 hours.  The end was very quick - I pushed three times, and there she was on my chest.  Her first sound was a pained: "Owwwww."  Ow, indeed.  Gerald cut the cord and we both got to meet our second child - Freya.  Gerald insists the labor was so long because our littlest Yankee fan couldn't bear to be born on a day when the Yankees she waited for a day when they did. (Astros vs Yankees)

Clara meets Freya.
 Welcome to the family, Freya.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


You seem so excited about your new baby sister.  You kiss my tummy and say “hello” to her.  You tell me how you’re going to teach her how to walk, and feed her bottles, and change her diapers.  You want to teach her how to laugh.

You also just turned three.  You sometimes throw things when you don’t get your way. You confuse me sometimes.  Like when you ask for an apple and I go to get it and you yell” NO APPLE!” but when I move to put it away you start crying and want the apple back. You love to help set the table and empty the dishwasher but usually put up a fight when it’s time to clean up the toys.

You amazingly take new things in stride.  When we took the side off your crib, you happily got in bed at night and didn’t constantly climb out. You switched into the bigger bedroom for you and your future sister, and slept through the night the first night and every night since. The tooth fairy “took away” the binkies the same week you independently decided to give up naps. At night you were overtired and binkie-less and yet you slept through the night. A few days later your “big-girl” twin sized bed arrived and you had no trouble sleeping in it, even with your “old bed” - soon to be your little sister’s crib - across the room.

I remember the first three months you were alive and how tired your Dad and I were from feeding you every two hours.  We got through it and every day was a little better. I worry about those first three months with a newborn and an active, inquisitive three year old. I don’t want you to feel lost in the shuffle and I want to be able to focus on you both equally but I worry that you’ll be sad or think I’m ignoring you. I don’t want you to worry.  About anything.  Ever.

At 35 weeks pregnant I am tired now but you seem to understand when Mom needs a break.  Like yesterday when it took us a half an hour to go one block because I had to keep stopping to sit down from stabbing cervical pains.  You patiently sat beside me on building stoops and stairs while I caught my breath.  Each time we stopped you would quietly sing me the Doc Mc Stuffins song: “I know you’re scared. Tell me what’s wrong. I know there’s something we can do.”  You waited patiently for me to collect myself and keep walking.

Maybe I should just trust in the fact that you’re taking everything in stride.  A three year old is showing me how not to worry. Ok...I’ll stop worrying. Really. OK...I’m stopping worrying….

Solo-Duplo building.

Silly face time while Mom lies down on the bed for a minute.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Clara Turns 3.

We threw Clara a birthday party this past Friday. I know that everyone says it but I literally cannot believe Clara has been in our lives for THREE years...three years 9 months if you count womb time. How is it even possible?  I look back at pictures and see how small Clara once was and think: "How long ago was that?" It feels like last week.

I tried to compare the passage of time to other three-year long intervals in my life.

11 to 14?  Interminable waiting to be older coupled with knife-sharp growing pains. Felt like forever.

18 to 21? Most of college - intensely studying while trying to have fun and make friends. Flew on a plane for the first time. Studied abroad. Less angsty than high school but time certainly slowed down while I navigated the murky waters of social interaction with my peers.

Six weeks from now I will give birth to my second child. If Clara was born yesterday, how is this possible?

Back to the party.  Clara's friends with their parents (a.k.a adult friends) in tow, and other friends and both sides of the family gathered to celebrate.  Clara loves all things doll/stuffed animal/and princess...much to the delight of my twin sister who loved all these things when we were children while I ran away screaming looking for a board game or an encyclopedia to read. My mother always invented elaborate games for our birthday parties as kids, and in that same spirit I planned a Princess Scavenger Hunt for the kiddies while trying to keep the pink princess frou-frou aspect to a minimum.

Here is what the kids had to find:

Princess Tiana's Frog - a delightfully squishy, slimy toy frog. (would probably stick to the wall if thrown,  like those crawling octopi  I used to love as a child)

Princess Ariel's Shell - A seashell whistle. (Surprisingly, it made a pure, pretty tone.)

Snow White's Apple - a plastic apple with a toy insect inside. (Clara's cousin Cricket actually found a cricket in hers)

Cinderella's Pumpkin - a plastic pumpkin with a stuffed toy mouse inside. ( big hit with the three year old set, who loved finding other things to fit in the pumpkin and the, close...repeat)

Tinkerbell's Pixie Dust - a plastic egg filled with iridescent slime.  (this was like  drugs to the three year olds. Each one of them carried around the slime for at least an hour.  One little girl made herself a bracelet out of it.)

Elsa's Wand - A light up snowflake wand. (I know...I KNOW.  Elsa doesn't have a wand...but we can't exclude Frozen from our repertoire, Disney would revoke my parent card)

Abandoned Tinkerbell Slime.
The kids spent the remainder of the time running around like loons. Clara got over excited and wiped out at one point, needing many kisses and band aids. Gerald and I walked around talking to adults while Clara disappeared into the pack of roaming children. Many hot dogs, chips and dip, and cupcakes were enjoyed by all.  The three year old's eyed each other to see who would be the first one brave enough to request a second cupcake before the firsts' sugar high kicked in. 
Wish time.

Should I ask or just take another?

 While opening her gifts Clara reveled in ripping open the paper. She then proceeded to look at the revealed gift for exactly 3.5 seconds before saying: "Let's open another one."


All in all, it was a great day. Gerald and I could see how special Clara felt when everyone sang her Happy Birthday and she got to blow out the candle.

I don't think there's anything better than throwing a birthday party for a child. It's all new and amazing to them. (Even if I don't quite believe that we've just celebrated her third birthday)

Happy Birthday, Princess.

Some of the guests...

Charlie and Marek.
Me and Lauren.

Skip, Jason, and Susan.
Samantha, Becky and I.

The satisfied parents.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Things That Go Bump in the Night.

I remember talking to a friend long before I became a parent.  A new parent himself, he told me about how he found it impossible to watch most series television since having children.  The idea was baffling to me.  He explained that he couldn't stand to watch anything where especially children but really anyone came to harm or was threatened with harm.  Since series television is flooded with law and crime procedurals whose plots almost always hinge on a brutal, violent, act against another human being he found himself avoiding the television.  In the abstract I could understand but I didn't really.  I absolutely love horror movies.  The more gore and gratuitous violence the better.  I'll see your Jason Voorhees and raise you a Freddy Krueger and a Cabin in the Woods.  Cabin in the Woods, a terrifically scary and funny horror movie, was the last scary movie I saw before giving birth to my first daughter and as it turns out, it remains the last horror movie I have seen since having children.  My friend was right.

And it isn't just horror movies. I can't watch the rape/murder/abduction story lines in network dramas, and since the last series comedy I watched regularly was Family Ties, I find myself watching Top Chef, reruns of Chopped and Antiques Roadshow, and Game of Thrones. (somehow the violence is acceptable when it's set in a feudal fantasy world.)  My friend, and fellow mother, Libby Emmons recently posted about this same topic. (read it here.) Libby had her husband turn off the first episode of Daredevil because a little boy was injured and blinded in a car accident.  She writes: "Dave said 'but it’s okay, he ends up the hero.' I demanded that we turn it off. The anxiety produced by feeling like something bad was gonna happen to someone’s kid was more than I could deal with." Her experience echoes my own.  She's right.  It doesn't make it okay when the injured, blinded kid becomes the hero. It isn't okay is that there are terrible people who would do terrible things to children or that there are terrible things that happen randomly to people with no rhyme or reason - like car accidents, lightning strikes, and natural disasters. And beneath it all is the heartbeat-strong current inside of me that is silently praying: "pleaseletnothingterribleorpainfulorscaryeverhappentomychildeverpleasepleaseplease." 

I used to pride myself on keeping up with current events but I can no longer watch the news. Everything is terrible.  I know that in this 24-hour news cycle world, drama and tragedy keep people coming back for more but not me.  I wish there was one news program that focused on the goodness in people.  It has to be there, it just isn't being reported.  Instead I keep myself current with my subscriptions to TIME and New York Magazine.  It's easier in print.  It's easier in tiny doses.

Not afraid of a little mud.
Most of the time this parent anxiety is manageable.  All of the time, really.  Watching my child grow up and experience the world is heartening and hilarious and tiring. My husband and I trade funny stories about our daughter and about our lives and it is okay.  Except when it isn't. 

I am six+ months pregnant with my second child.  A few nights ago a small sound woke me abruptly from my sleep. I was immediately convinced someone was trying to come in through our bedroom window.  Some part of my psyche clearly knew I was being ridiculous, as I decided not to wake up my sleeping husband.  I peeked through the curtains to the open window (with a gate on it).  No one was on the fire escape.  I lay down.  Another tiny sound from somewhere. I looked through the curtains again - surely someone was out there.  No.  I close the drapes, think for a moment, then close and lock the window - cutting us off from a cool night breeze.  We must be safe now. I lay down. But wait....what if the sound I heard was not from the fire escape but from somebody ALREADY IN THE APARTMENT!.  I get up and walk around the apartment - checking the front door is locked, looking in closets, checking the kitchen, behind the shower curtain (maybe an elf burglar squeezed through our tiny bathroom window), and finally checking to make sure Clara was still in her bed (not abducted by the tiny sound).  I then spent the next three hours awake envisioning break-in scenarios and wondering if there was anywhere I forget to check for burglars (under our bed with the Christmas ornaments?, behind the chair in the living room?, Could an adult fit under Clara's toddler bed?)  In the light of day, over tired and still burglar-free it all seemed ridiculous - even the word burglar became ridiculous as visions of the Hamburglar trying to squeeze through my window with his giant head made me laugh.  But my parental anxiety needed some place to go, someplace to release - and in that instance midnight worries about phantom burglars did the trick.

As a parent it feels like I can't afford to be scared.  I can't afford to show my daughter that I am worried or fallible.  In this way I can protect her from everything she may be afraid of or worried about.  In this way maybe she won't ever be frightened or worried about anything.  (Rational, I know.)

One night, around 10:30 Gerald was still at work.  I was sitting on the couch watching Chopped, and Clara was (supposedly) asleep in her room.  Next to my head, the baby monitor goes off.  I hear Clara say:  Mama, it's opening."

Heart attack.  Cue the opening sequence to my own personal horror movie.  What's opening?  The window?  (Murderer/Kidnapper/Burglar/Madman)  Or even worse, the closet? (Monster, Clown from Poltergeist, Alternate Dimension) Had I been alone I would have run out the front door in my pajamas and no shoes.  But I'm not alone anymore - I am never alone.  I am the mother.  I am my daughter's first line of defense against all thing terrible.  So I got up - ready to do battle with anything - though hopefully not the clown from Poltergeist.

Inside Clara's room I find her calmly watching the air conditioner blow air,  That's what was opening, the vent on our mini-split a/c unit.  "Mama, it looks like a smile."

I tucked her back in and left, my status as defender of my child intact.

Maybe the secret to surviving parenthood lies in the power to stay positive.  And also maybe trying your best to keep your children safe from things that have at least, a small basis in reality.  

Good-bye, horror movies...see you in 20 years when my second child leaves for college.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

First vacation with kids, Bathroom renovation, and some recent Conversations with Clara.

When we found out I was pregnant with our second child we decided it was time to go big or go home.  Our falling apart bathroom...literally falling apart....needed to be renovated before we became a family of four and GOSHDARNIT, we needed a vacation.  With the exception of a few visits to friends and family, our last vacation had been when I was pregnant with Clara, 3 years prior.

So if your one bathroom needs a gut renovation and you need to be out of the apartment for it, why not go to DISNEYWORLD!  We were pretending we were rich from a recent sale of Gerald's old apartment so we booked a 6 day trip to Florida with the rest of Gerald's immediate family.

Now I have never been to Disney, or Florida for that matter, and neither had my sister in law's fiance. But the rest of the clan had been to Disney on many, many vacations over the years.  I started hearing things like "We're having dinner in France on Thursday, and we're going to Mexico for lunch." (what?) "We're staying in Old Key West instead of Fort Wilderness." (??) "We couldn't book a breakfast with Cinderella." (thankfully Clara is young enough not to care, as I wiped away a stray tear.)

I don't know which of us was more excited.

Before I knew it everything was booked, reserved, and we were on a plane ride (Clara's first) to Orlando. Over our trip we visited every park at Disney and Universal Studios.  We averaged 6 miles of walking a day, and Clara decided vacation was just too exciting to take naps.  Clara was tall enough for most of the rides - clocking in at an amazing 39.5 inches for 2.5 years old.  She swam in a pool for the first time and fell in love with swimming.  Her take away advice from It's A Small World  after seeing the Hawaiian dancers doing the hula in bonfires.was: "Mama, Dada...don't dance in the fire."  

Spinning Teacups Ride
She requested a second time around on only two rides - the Spinning Teacups ride which she found hilarious, and bizarrely, the still chugging along animatronic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Ride.  She loved flying on the bicycles and waving and talking to all the little E.T. aliens she had just saved from extinction on the Green Planet.  She thought the Haunted Mansion was "spooky" and laughed at the dark. She rode the Hippogriff Roller Coaster in Hogsmeade (an adult ride), with her Aunt Margaret, and her only comment at the top of the hill was "Wow, this is high."  While she rode the roller coaster, Gerald and I tried Butterbeer...which was actually pretty gross but made for a nice photo op.

Butterbeer mustaches.

She also loved the Dumbo Ride which has ingeniously installed a Dumbo's Circus Playground for kids in lieu of making kids wait on line while you wait to actually go on the ride.  All the kids were vying to sit in this fire engine.  Clara finally got a turn with this little boy.  He was pretending to drive when his mother said "Johnny, it's our turn to go on the ride."  The little boy cried out "SON OF A BITCH!" clearly irritated about leaving the fire engine, jumped up, and ran away to join his mother. Totally surreal. Clara happily shifted over to the driver's seat.

Right before the outburst.
Fingerbomb high-five.

Clara kept it together until the final day when all the new experiences finally caught up to her.  We took her to Hollywood Studios where she was impressed but exhausted by the Little Mermaid Show, Muppets 3D,  and the Disney Jr. Live show.  Given any chance to rest she promptly threw herself down on the floor and refused to stand up. (I had sympathy because I felt the same way.)  This floor launching continued at the airport where we found our flight had been delayed an hour. and our bathroom renovation wasn't complete.  On the flight Clara moaned quietly in her car seat exhausted past all reason until she suddenly, without warning, fell asleep, head lolling and drooling.

First Epcot.

We arrived in NYC at 10:30 at night and found ourselves at my mother's vacant apartment, who was conveniently on vacation herself.  We lived out of our vacation suitcase for four days before I finally got to set eyes on my beautiful new bathroom. Back in our apartment and back into the swing of things, Clara continues to make us laugh with her new witticisms.

Last night, Gerald made milkshakes for dessert as a treat.  Clara had never had one and really, really loved it.  After drinking it up, she ran around the apartment shrieking and laughing for twenty minutes.  Shortly after she flopped down on the couch and said: "Mama, My brains are very heavy with all the sugar-milk. That means I need to take a nap."

Clara continues to pitch "Sister Grandma" as the name for her new sister.  My friend who is pregnant with a boy asked Clara for name suggestions the other day when she was over.  Clara thought seriously for a moment, then offered up: French Fry Girly" as an appropriate name.  

Next steps - big girl bed for Clara, Clara's 3rd birthday, and the arrival of our second daughter at the end of summer.  Can't wait to meet you, Sister Grandma.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Conversations with Clara. Episode 10.

Clara is closing in on her 3rd birthday and she has a lot to say.  Some recent interactions:

Riding the elevator to the basement.

CLARA: Who are you calling, Mama?

ME: (no phone in hand) No one.  Who are you calling?

CLARA: Yellow.

ME:  Who's Yellow?

CLARA: (coy) He's my boyfriend. (pause) He's coming to my birthday party.

I look forward to meeting the mysterious Yellow.

Early morning, I am sitting on the sofa trying to enjoy a cup of coffee.  Clara wants me to play with her and her entreaties quickly escalate as she slaps me on the face with a peremptory: "Play with me NOW, MAMA!."

This not being the best time of day to get slapped in the face...(when is it ever, really?) I order her to her room and tell her to play by herself because I don't like being hit.  My voice was raised, Clara left.

Three minutes later Clara returns quietly to the living room.

CLARA: Would you like to hear a song, Mama?

ME: That would be nice.

CLARA: (singing a song from Daniel Tiger) If you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath (takes a deep breath) and count to four. (pause, Clara contemplates me for a moment)  Now you should sing that song, Mama.

I thought Daniel Tiger's songs about social interaction were for the toddlers...clearly, Clara feels differently.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Conversations with Clara. Episode Nine.

Here are some of Clara's recent words of wisdom.

The other night, Clara is running around the laundry room playing a game she calls: "Stop.Go."  It involves her running around like a maniac and stopping when I say "Stop." and running again when I say "Go. " Clara thinks this is hilarious.

CLARA: (out of breath) Ok, Mama. Now it's your turn.  You run around and I'll say stop.

ME:  No, Clara.  I think I'll just sit here.

Clara, shakes her head slowly and walks over.  She climbs up onto the chair next to me and pats my knee.

CLARA:  Ok...let's talk about this.


Or last night, the wonderfully potty trained Clara pooped in her overnight diaper while trying to fall asleep.  I change her diaper.

CLARA: UGGGGH!  What's that smell!!!???

ME:  That's your poop.  It's a lot less smelly when it goes in the potty, right?


Clara thinks for a minute while I finish changing her.

CLARA:  Mama...don't ever eat poop.

ME:  Good advice.

CLARA: Also, don't ever drink Wee wee.

ME:  Also good advice.

Clara clambers into her crib, and I try not to think what event may have prompted this sage advice.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Conversations with Clara...Episode 8.

Kicking back after lunch.

Over the past few weeks, Clara and by extension, her parents, have experienced the harrowing process known as potty training.  All I have to say about this period in our lives is: 1) I have never uttered the words  "poop" and "pee-pee" so many times in my life.  And 2) bribe your children with M and M's.

That being said, Clara has said some incredibly funny things recently, which helps you in the dark times when you're cleaning poop off her elbow and wondering how it got there.

Here are some excerpts:

CLARA: Let's read the magazine about poop.
(referring to the book, Everyone Poops.)

Gerald has managed to hold onto one shred of privacy by going to the bathroom with the door closed.  Clara does not like this turn of events, and often waits outside the door.

The other night, standing outside the door to the bathroom.

                                               CLARA: (eyes light up) I hear Pee-Pee!
                                               ME: (walking by) That's right.
                                               CLARA:  Dad is a big girl.

Clara, looking up at a guitar hanging on the wall out of her reach at a friend's house.  She considers ways to retrieve it, then gives up and lies down on the floor, dejected.

                                               CLARA: It's just no use...

Clara also takes occasional forays into more philosophical realms.

                                               CLARA: I'm little. You're big, Mama,  And Dada's big.
                                               I am small but one day I will be big.

Clara, discussing nighttime, or just stalling before bedtime.

                                               CLARA: Mama, it's not sunny out.  It's moony.

With her friends, (from left to right) LaLa, Meow Meow, and Magic.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Conversations with Clara. Episode Seven.

This morning I was up early getting ready to go in for work.  Clara was eating her yogurt.

Clara: What are you doing?

Me: Getting ready for work.

Clara: You don't go to work.  Dada works.

Me: You're right Clara...usually Mama only works on the weekends but today I am going to work.

Clara: But I want you to stay with me.

Me: I know you do.

Clara: You stay here. Dada goes to work.

Me: Today I get to go in and work with Lauren, my friend.  Isn't that nice?

Clara: (thinks about this) I don't like Lauren...I like cats.

I think Clara needs to develop her arguments a bit more but points for originality.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Why I am Raising My Child in New York City.

I am a native New Yorker who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan long before the Upper West Side was fashionable and rich.  These days, I live in Washington Heights with my husband (also a native New Yorker), and our 2 and a half year old daughter.  I recently came across an article titled “Why I’ll Never Have Kids in New York City” written by Eudie Pak. (read it: here or here.) As a parent choosing to raise her own child in New York City I was initially interested in Pak’s ideas on the subject. Then I read the article.
Her first premise is how excruciating it must be to carry children in strollers up and down subway steps.  What Pak doesn’t consider is the incredible freedom that public transportation gives you in New York City.  Many people grow up in the suburbs, small towns, or the country.  These people are shackled to their cars.  Everything is far away.  Every place is a long drive bookended (for parents) by stuffing your children in and out of car seats. I will gladly take the subway stairs over the hassle of driving a car everywhere.  NYC transportation is also incredibly freeing for those under the legal driving limit.  As a teenager I wasn’t dependent on parents or older siblings to drive me everywhere. I didn’t have to count the days until I was old enough to get my driving permit because I could already get everywhere on my own with a token or,  (these days) a metrocard.
Pak is also offended by those hardworking mothers trying to wrangle their young children on a subway car.  After 39 years of living in New York City I have yet to see the scene she describes as commonplace: “…the little tykes hijack the train, running from one end of the subway car to the other, while temporarily making pit stops to swing on the poles as they almost knock your teeth out. Like deja vu, embittered mom senses she's been in this situation before but her rage overtakes all rationality. Spitting out pieces of soft pretzel as her Winstons fall out of her purse, she screams bloody murder (e.g. "Shut the hell up and sit cho a$$ down before I break them legs!"), indicating she's lived a damn hard life. In response the kids often blink with immunity and proceed to cackle at her threats, while holding an open bottle of Mountain Dew as remnants of potato chips and candy fall out of their mouths.”  All Pak needs to complete this unflattering image of the mother is to have her pick up her pack of Winstons, light up, and blow the carcinogens directly into her children’s faces.  I have found it far more likely to be bothered by a group of raucous teenagers (without adult supervision) than to be angered by tired toddlers and their loving mothers, or fathers for that matter. I don’t think any parent – in New York City or anywhere else – would want to be characterized as “barfing out obscenities” at their children.  Riding NYC public transportation is not that stressful for anyone.
Pak then goes on to describe the endlessly annoying upper class children who complain about organic food and yoga while being pushed around in double-wide strollers by foreign nannies. She chastises these rich families with bratty children and foreign nannies.  “Just imagine all the emotional displacement going on between the rich parents, their ugly baby, and the nanny who's spending all her time with junior in order to send back moolah to her own young kids, who are thousands of miles away craving her love and affection.”
Whether or not her criticisms are justified her critiques only cover a very small subset of children and families in New York City.  What about low income and middle income families?  New York City is an expensive place to live but it isn’t entirely populated by the 1%.  There a many of us who take our children to wonderful free events hosted by local libraries, or to the city parks. By hopping on a train we can take them to world class museums, cultural institutions, and zoos - every day if we want to. We meet other parents in the playground and form playgroups.  In Washington Heights a local parent formed a Yahoo group that makes our large community suddenly smaller.  Parents swap clothes, used toys, cribs, high chairs, and parenting advice.  They post about local events and classes for kids.  They discuss what local schools are the best to apply to and how to navigate the newly instituted UPK system.  In short – we aren’t all absent parents who have emotionally abandoned out children – regardless of your economic class. We are all doing it how we think best and trying our hardest to raise healthy, happy, balanced children.
Pak’s final critique is over the often competitive process of finding the best school for your children in New York City.  First, Pak erroneously links New York City public schools to the system of paying lots of money on test prep, tutoring, and practice interviews.  Parents eager to spend money to get their children into the “best” schools are likely prepping their children for the ERB which many elite private schools use.  Those same elite schools cost upwards of 30-40k a year which makes them hilariously out of reach for most New York families.  It’s another dig at those parents in the 1% which may or may not be true but certainly is not representative of most New York families.
I went to New York City Public schools from Kindergarten through high-school with a brief need-based scholarship stint at a private school from 2nd-4th grade.   I attended my local zoned school for K-1st grade then applied to and was accepted at a local magnet school for 5th through 8th grade. Yes, they considered my grades, and I was interviewed by a teacher. It wasn’t an automatic ‘in’ to the school of my choice but luckily there are thousands of other schools with different specialties to apply to. I went to LaGuardia High School for Art, and yes they considered my grades and my art portfolio.  No one I knew could afford test prep for the Science and Math High Schools and yet magically – most of us still got accepted.   Today there are a lot of schools in my district I would like to send my daughter to and most of them are lottery based.  Like this system or not, my daughter has about even chances of getting in with everyone else.  And if she doesn’t get in?  There are literally thousands of other schools to choose from.

New York City is not a small town with one local elementary school and one local high school that everybody goes to.  It is a city of millions with thousands if not hundreds of thousands of children that need to go to school.  Sure, the NYC school system is a bit of a madhouse to navigate but I wouldn’t trade the experience of growing up here (for me or my child) for anything else.  I grew up going to school with children of every conceivable race, religion, country of origin, and economic class. That is what makes urban communities, and New York in particular and amazing place to live AND to raise children.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hide and Seek.

Clara loves Hide and Seek...even if she doesn't totally get the rules.

At any moment, she will say,  out of nowhere: "Okay...I'm hiding."  And then run off.

I will count to ten and come try and find her.  The thing is her hiding places make me laugh out loud. In our courtyard she will stand behind a leafless, potted bush.  Or even better, she will walk up to and stand facing a wall.  It seems that if she can't see me, it must be that I can't see her.  And if I happen to spend too much  time "looking" for her Clara will call out: "I'm right here!"

The other day her friend Billie came over for a playdate.  Clara declares it's time to hide and runs off into another room.  Billie looks at me for guidance.  "Go hide with Clara."  Billie smiles at me and runs of to find Clara.  

Count to ten.  

First Hiding Spot:

Billie, poking her head out as if to ask: "This can't be right...." Clara interrupts: "I'm right here!:

Count to ten.

Second Hiding Spot.

They hid here a few times.  
They wanted some toys to play with while hiding, so I passed them some, 
while pretending I couldn't see them.

Count to ten.

Third Hiding Spot.

Billie hid under the desk featured in photo one.  This is the only time they hid separately. 
 I had to step over Clara, pretending I couldn't see her.

Count to ten.

Fourth Hiding Spot.

Brilliant, ladies.
(thanks for resembling the twins in The Shining)
As soon as I snapped this photo, they both starting shrieking and chased me through the house.

Hide and seek is a fabulous past time with one toddler...with two, it's pure comic genius.