The Who and I spent the whole day in Boston, at his request.
The Who and I spent the whole day in Boston, at his request.
If you read my last post, you know that we have tickets to Florida for this winter vacation. You also know that I called those tickets the best thing I bought this year. What you don’t know, though, is that our plane took off from Philly at 12:20pm today and at that precise moment, I was sitting in a local diner with The Who, sharing some eggs and practicing letter sounds.
We didn’t go to Florida.
I think on some level, I knew this was going to happen when, last week, The Who woke up in the middle of the night, telling me that it was “too loud in his ears” and only going back to sleep when I pressed my flat palm against the side of his head and held it there. I took him to the pediatrician the next day and she confirmed that his ears were full of fluid. (It is worth noting that by this time, I was also feeling the itchy, scratchy beginnings of a cold and his pediatrician took a peek in my ears and gave me the same diagnosis.) This was Wednesday. Flight on Monday. He’d be better, right? Piece of cake. And, miraculously, he was. He didn’t develop an ear infection, he started sleeping through again (after three solid weeks of waking up) and his appetite and color came back.
Enter: The Adult Cold. So much worse than the kid one.
I will spare you the gory and disgusting details (because there are some involving the colors yellow and green) but, the bottom line is that while The Who is chipper and well, his moms are not. I’ve got my Debra Winger voice on full-force, a migraine pounding away, and what sounds like the ocean rumbling in between my ears. Going on day 5 of this business. M* is suffering similarly, minus the migraine, but plus double pink-eye. We’re a motley crew, let me tell you.
Yesterday, m* tried to broach the topic of maybe postponing with me and, while I heard her and understood where she was coming from, I didn’t really want to hear it. There was going to be sun! Swimming! Sandal-wearing! In December! We had plane tickets, a non-refundable car rental, and a very excited Who, drawing pictures of airplanes and chattering about the whole family being on vacation. We decided, then, to push through. M* kept on with the laundry she was plowing through and I bought more Ricola and pressure-reducing earplugs.
Late last night, after m* had gone to bed, I did all I could to make the morning go smoothly, including gathering all our summer clothes and gear, hauling four suitcases up from the basement, packing our carry-on, and carefully selecting and packing a suitcase full of toys. I was up too late, I knew, but it seemed worth it. I downed two more decongestants, threw back some Advil, and pounded a bottle of water before finally going to sleep at 12:30, feeling decent, all things considered.
But then, this morning, m* came upstairs to the bedroom, with a grave, woeful look in her pink eyes, and said, “We can’t go on this trip. We just can’t.” She felt horrible, she was anxious, she had a bad feeling about it, and she just couldn’t. I have never cancelled a trip like this. The thought of breaking the news to The Who brought me right to tears. The idea of all that time at home with everyone cooped up, all the stores closed, and no plans panicked me. I had friends in Florida who had turned themselves inside out to get time off to spend with us. My brother-in-law was cooking Christmas dinner for us. And to top it all off, The Who kept popping into our conversation to show us the airplane he had drawn and the snacks he had packed for the trip, which I knew probably wasn’t going to happen.
We talked about our options. Could we postpone a few days? (No. The flights were sold out.) Could we do it in a few weeks? (No. the house we were staying at is rented for the rest of the winter.) Could just The Who and I go, leaving m* at home? (Maybe.) Could we all just stay home? (No effing way.) The only thing that we knew we could do (and had to do) was talk to The Who about it, which we did.
I have to say that, all things considered, he probably handled it the best out of all of us. He was sad. He rested his chin in his hands. He explained his sadness in a very 4-year-old way (“The lower my body is, the sadder I feel,” he said, and then he slid down to the rug and crouched into a ball.) He tried to offer up solutions (“Maybe you can take some medicine while Mama and I go out out for breakfast and when we get back, you will feel better!”) And, then finally, he accepted it, but was angry. (“You can’t be in our family anymore,” he told m*.) We mostly just listened and echoed his feelings back to him and, a few times, I cried watching him move through the disappointment. I was sad for his sadness, but also so moved by his realness and raw honesty. I was a little bit in awe of his process.
In the end, The Who felt pretty strongly about not wanting to go on this vacation if we couldn’t all go together and, as it turns out, Southwest is awesome because they allow to cancel and apply your travel funds to any other flight in the next twelve months. We even were able to get the discount name-your-own-price website to refund our car rental, which is virtually unheard of, but because we had taken The Who to the doctor about his ears, we were able to provide a medical reason for not being able to travel. (Pro tip: “Absolutely no refunds or changes” doesn’t always mean just that.) However, still faced with the dreadful notion of a solid week holed up at home with a sick wife and a stir-crazy boy, and to offer a consolation prize to both The Who and me, we re-packed our summer-clothes suitcase with warmer duds and we’re headed off to Boston for a week while m* stays home to recuperate.
All’s well that ends well. M*’s anxiety started to fade away as this new plan was hatched, The Who bounced back delightfully, having expressed his full range of reaction emotions, and is excited to see his grandparents and cousins. And, although replacing “shorts” and “tees” and “bathing suits” with “pants” and “hoodies” and “snow boots” on our packing list stings a little, I am settling into the idea of our new vacation. I’ll get to see friends I have been sorely missing. I’ll get to spend time with family and re-connect after a series of events that have put some distance between us. And, above all, I’ll get to know that we came together as a family, worked through a difficult situation, and were able to honor all of us and our many and varied needs through the process.
What more can I really ask for?
1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
I baked biscuits from scratch. I can’t say they were terribly tasty. I need to work on my technique. Plus, The Who thinks they should have had frosting in them.
2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did keep some of them, yes. Mostly they were about shifts in the way I think and behave. I will make some for next year because I think always striving for something helps me keep my focus on living the best life I can live.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! S* and G* finally have their long-desired baby girl! And S* and J* had sweet baby Z*!
4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, because I am a lucky SOB. There was a lot of death and loss this year, it seems, but our family was spared.
5. What trips did you take?
A visit up to Boston in June, our annual Provincetown pilgrimage in August, and we’re about to end the year in Florida.
6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
A little more self-acceptance, a little more patience, and a lot more money.
7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
10/31/12, the day that The Who fell and had to be rushed to the ER via ambulance for stitches in his sweet little face.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Keeping my kid alive and happy. Anyone who has parented knows that this is no small feat.
9. What was your biggest failure?
My biggest failures always seem to be professional. I don’t think I am living up to my professional potential and my failure lies in not making sure that I do.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I got me a bad cold right now, yo. But other than that, no, which makes me a very lucky lady.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Plane tickets to Florida. Mama needs her some mid-winter sunshine.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
The Who was a-mazing during the whole face-stitches ordeal. And so was m*. She totally could have blamed me or made me feel like crap for the fact that the worst injury of his little life happened on my watch, but she didn’t. She comforted me and understood me instead. Also, that awesome medic who stopped and helped us until the ambulance arrived. She totally saved the day.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I have a couple of “friends” who really surprised me and appalled me with their political/social views. That was a bummer.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Food, in all its varied incarnations. Groceries, dinners and lunches out, snacks, comfort.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
This could be any number of songs from The Wizard of Oz or Mary Poppins because The Who sings them incessantly. Perhaps my favorite misheard lyric of 2012 is, “Cast up the shuffles of estoy bien.” (“Cast off the shackles of yesterday.”)
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier overall, I think
ii. thinner or fatter? Same
iii. richer or poorer? Poorer
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Seeing more live music and/or live theatre. This is something I hope to get back to once The Who is a little older. I am really looking forward to taking him to NYC to see a Broadway show. Maybe when he is 6.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Wasting time. I am the greatest time-waster that ever there was. Witness: this meme when I should be painting shirts, building online classes, laundry, packing, cooking, etc. etc. etc.
20. How will you be spending Christmas?
We’ll be having dinner with my brothers-in-law poolside!
22. Did you fall in love in 2012?
Not with anyone new. Though I love me some m* all the time.
23. How many one-night stands?
Ha. Haha. Hahahahahaha.
24. What was your favorite TV program?
I can’t choose just one. Homeland, Dexter, Nurse Jackie, American Idol, Top Chef, Project Runway, Parenthood, Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition (don’t you dare judge me!), Dance Moms (ditto), Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo (and again), and Shameless.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I don’t hate anyone. But I did lose respect for a few people.
26. What was the best book you read?
I didn’t read shit this year. Well, no adult lit anyway. The best kid’s book I read was And Then It’s Spring.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Instrumental Klezmer on Pandora.
30. What was your favorite film of this year?
Mary Poppins, which I am well aware is not a “film of this year” but I re-discovered it this year and I pretty much never get tired of it. (And good thing because we watch it constantly.)
31. What did you do on your birthday?
I don’t remember specifically, actually, but I do remember that it was a great day.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A bigger paycheck.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
I don’t really have a “fashion concept” but my best fashion discovery of the year was leggings! Leggings FTW! Leggings made it possible for me to dress appropriately to teach in the cold weather and not be miserably uncomfortable all day. Thanks to L* for the spot-on recommendation for me to “get some nice, roomy leggings.”
34. What kept you sane?
Therapy. Love me some therapy.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I really enjoy Mandy Patinkin. All soft and fuzzy and protective as he is in Homeland. So earnest and thoughtful. And I bet he has very soft lips, too.
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Easily, the presidential election.
37. Who did you miss?
38. Who was the best new person you met?
M* and her littles: e and s.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:
I learn this lesson again and again and again: always be as real as you can be and you will get realness in return.
40. A song lyric that sums up your year.
“Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way.”
A couple of weeks ago, just before Hanukkah officially began, Sandra over at West Philly Mama and I got together to do a little teaching and learning. The Who and I brought our menorahs, books, dreidels, and the ingredients for latke-making and then — lucky us! — Sandra agreed to guest-post about our day. (I’ll be returning the favor over at her blog sometime in the next week or so.)
If you like what you read here (and, of course you will) head on over to West Philly Mama to read more and more and more. (And see multiple pictures of her impossibly cute children.)
As part of our Darkest Days Of Winter calendar, we had The Who and his mama over to share a bit about Hanukkah with us. I wanted to incorporate learning about other traditions into our winter festivities – but I had envisioned going to the library and checking out a book or two. This was SO much better!
I’m embarassingly clueless about Jewish traditions so I anticipated that Leo and I would be learning together (isn’t that one of the coolest things about having kids, it motivates you to explore subjects you’ve been too “busy” to research up to now?), but I thought I’d have to do most of the legwork. Thanks to MamaWho’s generous offer we just had to open our door and they came in with bags full of chocolate gelt, a CD of Hanukkah music, dreidels, Hanukkah books and ingredients for latkes. I didn’t even have to google a latke recipe.
We started with a game of dreidel. The Who played a few rounds patiently while Leo and I got the hang of it and MamaWho explained the difference between Nun, Gimel, Hei, and Shin. I was impressed with Leo’s interest level and willingness to wait his turn and give back coins if the dreidel so dictated – I mean, for a two and a half year old anyway. After several rounds The Who couldn’t wait any longer and asked if they could have a gelt. This was my absolute favorite part of the day because Leo had NO idea that there was chocolate inside the gelt – and this was infinitely more exciting than had they actually been made of gold.
After hooking us with chocolate, MamaWho moved us on to peeling and shredding potatoes. We listened to the CD while we worked (and I’ve had “It Was A Miracle!” in my head ever since). We began with two adults and two small children working on the project. Soon Leo and the The Who lost interest and wandered off to play, leaving just MamaWho and I at the helm. That is, until Zoe (my five month old) needed my attention. I’m pretty good at doing things while nursing, but grating potatoes while breastfeeding is not something I’ve mastered – so MamaWho was flying solo. Luckily, she was pretty awesome at frying up the latkes and we were eating in no time. The most important lesson we took away from the day? Be sure to use BOTH sour cream and applesauce on your latkes. This is not an either/or situation.
After we’d had our fill of (freaking delicious) latkes, MamaWho read the kids a couple of Hannukah books. It was a pretty well-rounded day. A few days later Leo got to witness the lighting of the Menorah at a party we attended, which was the final piece in his (our) crash course in Hanukkah. I’m really grateful that The Who and MamaWho were willing to share this with us. It made it so much more genuine than if I had tried to piece something together on my own.
We spent the whole day at the museum today and it didn’t even feel that long, despite personal space negotiations with our friend, X, and the resultant incessant tattling. When I finally threatened to leave the museum if The Who told me one more thing about X, he clammed up, but it was hard. And then when we were in the coat room, leaving, he said, “Now I can tell you about X because we’re leaving.” But I didn’t let him because the idea was for him to learn to handle some of the more minor social infractions on his own. But then when we were driving home, he begged to be allowed to tell me.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you need to know,” he answered.
“Why do I need to know?” I challenged.
“Because you just do. Please can I tell you what X did?”
I let him then because whatever his reason for really wanting to tell me, it must have been pretty pressing. So, he told me: “He [pretended that he] ate all my [pretend] ice cream.”
“Ok,” I said. “I heard you. I’m sure that didn’t feel good.”
“Yeah. It didn’t,” he answered and that was the end of that.
It didn’t occur to me until just now, though, what the four-year-old’s pressing need to tattle comes from. It’s to simply be heard. It’s for someone to bear witness to his pain or angst or frustration. And isn’t that what everyone wants? And it just so happens that four-year-old injustices occur that much more frequently that we hear about it all day. This one hurt my arm. This one is touching me. That one said I don’t know my ABCs, but I do! The tattling, if not to bust someone (which, in The Who’s case, it rarely is) seems to be the four-year-old’s way of saying, “Can you believe this shit? He touched me! He fucking touched me a-fucking-gain. Jesus.” And that’s it, really.
I don’t know what the insight will do for us. Maybe it will give me more patience during those play dates that are heavily peppered with tattles and complaints. Maybe I’ll be able to come up with a response that will both diffuse the situation and sate him at the same time.
Maybe knowing it won’t do anything practical at all. But every speck of insight into the way these tiny humans’ brains work is like a nugget of gold. And just because I’ll surely never have it all figured out, there’s no reason to stop trying.
We have developed three distinctly bad habits over the past four years. The first is that, despite an early commitment to no tv-watching at all and a later commitment to “screen-time” awareness, we all fell into a routine of starting our day with a show. It began, I think, when the sleeping at night was just so disrupted that when I discovered that he would sit for an hour of Sesame Street on my lap and I could nap, I was delighted. Of course I was going to do that.
The second came right along with this one: breakfast in front of the TV. We have always been fairly committed to no eating in front of the TV (for him and for us when he is awake) but with that early-morning Sesame Street-watching came the morning bottle and then the morning sippy cup of milk and, eventually, the entire morning meal, eaten in front of at least one show and often more in a row.
The next habit was what he was actually eating for breakfast. We’ve always been of the mind that there is no specific “breakfast” food, so if he woke up and requested chicken nuggets or a grilled cheese (which he actually did, sometimes) we gave it to him. At some point, this mode of thinking devolved to a place where if he woke up requesting cookies and chocolate chips, we gave him that, too.
So, what we ended up with was a 4-year-old who woke up, demanded candy, and then plunked himself in front of the TV for an hour to start his day. This was so not what I envisioned my child-rearing choices to be. To our tiny bit of credit, however, we did take him off high sugar first thing in the morning and swapped in buttered whole wheat toast and his usual cup of warm almond milk with a small squirt of TJ’s organic chocolate syrup. Still in front of a show, though, and still largely protein-free. So not only was he mindlessly eating while watching TV every day, he was also melting down an hour later when the carbs had burned off and he was left with nothing.
Often, we could offer eggs and he would sometimes eat them along with the toast, but more and more frequently, he’d lose his focus on the meal, engaged in the television, fill up on toast, and we’d be back at square one. Not to mention, there are only so many eggs one can buy/prepare/eat in a week and other decent options were not “portable” enough for the living room (like yogurt or a bowl of cereal.) On top of that, with the very rigid daily breakfast was also following a shortening list of the things he would eat throughout the rest of the day. If he started his day with carbs only, it seemed, he would eat carbs-only all day. Things were looking decidedly grim in this particular department.
Finally, a little later than I would have liked, but a lot sooner than never, we came to our senses: Breakfast at the dining room table. Every day.
It’s working out beautifully, I have to say. He was remarkably amenable to this change (presented simply as, “Eating and watching TV is not good for your body. We’re not going to do that anymore.”) It’s only been two days, but I already notice a huge difference in both the nutrition he is taking in and his later morning behavior. By making this one little change, we have reversed three bad habits. We eat a varied, balanced breakfast together, we talk to each other instead of staring at a screen, and we are both feeling more fortified heading into our day.
One change. That’s all it it took. Three birds. One stone. Dead.
I watch too much Cake Boss.
For some reason, despite the fact that I have never used fondant before and have only once “sculpted” a cake (if you can call following this video “sculpting”) I thought it would be a good idea to attempt a Lego Firetruck cake for The Who’s birthday party. I didn’t think about the timing and that it would come right on the heels of Thanksgiving, right in the middle of grading 65 final papers, and directly leading up to my busy t-shirt painting season.
Lucky for me, I was able to enlist a willing (dare I say even enthusiastic) accomplice (who, it’s worth mentioning, has also never taken on a task like this, but does at least have a husband who is a pastry chef, so owns all the necessary tools for assembly.)
There were two smart decisions I made in this whole process. The first was to choose to make pound cake instead of regular boxed cake. I can’t even imagine the crumbly disaster regular, fluffy cake would have been. The second was to pre-bake the cakes before heading to my pal’s to assemble and decorate.
As it was, it took us 5 hours, one bottle of wine, and several bottles of cider to complete. Imagine if we also had to bake eight pound cakes.
Eight cakes. This is not a typo. I baked eight cakes for this foolishness. And to think I worried that we wouldn’t have enough to feed all the kids. (The entire front end of the truck is now domed unter tin foil in my fridge. Could we possibly eat all that leftover cake?) To be fair, it really was 4 boxes, but each one baked in two loaf pans.
And, then, despite having eight (8, EIGHT, eight) cakes, when it came time to lay them out and assemble the shape of the truck, I still wished that I had four more.
(This is what it sounds like inside the mind of a crazy person, in case you’ve ever wondered.)
Ultimately, the cake looked pretty awesome, especially given our collective [lack of] experience in cake-decorating. The question now is whether he (or I) will expect me to match or top this next year or if I’ll ever be able to go back to the “cookies made of sugar” on top of an 8-inch round.