Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I Knew That and It's Not Fair

My house, and probably yours, too - if you happen to live with a four year old, is an unending chorus of "I already knew that" and "It's NOT Fair!". The former is generally used to mean "I'm ignoring you" and the latter is used to mean "I don't like it". As in...

Connor, you need to get your swimsuit on so we can go to the pool.
I already knew that.

The casual observer might think Connor didn't know that, given that he was, in fact, not putting on his swimsuit. If I take Connor's words at face, I'm led to think he's merely saying "I don't want to" or "I'm ignoring you" in a way that he finds more socially palatable.

The latter phrase comes up in the context of:

It's time to go to bed.
It's NOT fair!

You need to finish dinner.
It's NOT fair!

You may not have another dessert.
It's NOT fair.

This drives me nuts, because if anyone has it good, my kids do. We've been talking at length about the meaning of fair. Turns out, the concept is harder to explain than I thought. We also talk a lot about how in many ways, Connor is right. Life is not fair. Many arbitrary and somewhat capricious rules exist. And part of the work of life is figuring out how to maneuver along, constraints and all.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Taking to the Water

Helen loves the swimming pool. And that's a good thing, seeing as how she's been at our neighborhood pool twice daily since it warmed up. She goes in the early afternoon with our au pair and Connor, and then back again with whomever is available around dinner time. She waves and applauds when Connor hits the diving board, she jumps in from the side, and she constantly demands "hold my jacket" which is Helen Speak for asking someone to hold the back of her wet suit while she paddles happily around.

Last week, Helen began her first series of lessons. She told the instructor she was there to learn how to swim "all by myself - with no one touching me". And then she added "and then I can go off the diving board!".

Her lessons, along with Connor's are at 5:00. I signed them up for this series because my endearing memory of swim lessons at my own neighborhood pool growing up is how freakin' cold it is in the morning before the pool opens. As it turns out, the water is so warm right now, that even the morning lessons are probably bearable. But the evening lessons still rock because I can swim laps while the kids are in someone else's hands.

For the past few days, Helen has been loving her goggles, using them to go underwater and look at me or Ed. She can propel herself a bit, and let all her air out while she's beneath the surface. After one particularly deep swim, she came up, shook her head, and shouted to me "That was SERIOUS! It was A-MAZIN'!"

Yes, Helen, yes it was.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Play on Words or Hearing Trouble?

We play a lot of word games around here. That's what happens when you are blessed with children who talk non-stop. It provides a good way to keep some sense of order in the cacophony of my life.

It started last year when Connor, Helen, and I went through a mad stage of playing "woot toot" (a simple rhyming game) that goes something like this.

"What do you call it when your sister gets a cantaloupe?"
"A Helen melon!"


"What do you call that blue thing up there?"
"A high sky!"

And let me just tell you, we played this at the park, in the car, but mostly, we played it in front of Ed because it provided an endless way to torment him. Because Ed? He's not really a fan of the game.

However, Ed does join me in near constant word play where we substitute a similar sounding word for one that someone said, making a joke of it. For example, as we were traveling to visit my friend last Friday, Connor said from his seat in the third row of the car (which is most definitely NOT a minivan, but rather, an oversized station wagon) "I can see Helen's mouth and nose in your mirror" and I replied "you can see a mouse on Helen's nose in my mirror?". And laughter from all parties in the car ensued because my kids find me that funny. Ed and I play this game almost subconsiously. But lately, I can't decide if Connor is playing it with us, or if he really can't hear. A couple of days ago, Ed was talking about Bluemont park and said to Connor "you know, the one where we had your birthday party with boats" and Connor replied "what birthday party with goats?". Almost all of the time Connor does this (and it's starting to be rather frequent), he's pretty funny.

I'm crossing my fingers that Connor is testing out dork humor, of which I am a master, rather than having real difficulty hearing. After all, it has taken me TEN MONTHS to get Connor to the eye doctor that his pediatrician referred him to last August after he failed the vision screen (my excuses are many). That appointment is on Tuesday morning. I'm not sure I can handle the responsibility of making another speciailist appointment. Frankly, Helen used up all that I have the ability to make in her first year of life.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cupcake Battle Week 3.2: Daddy Cakes in Topeka, KS

OK, so at first I was thinking we'd go to a cupcake store every other week, and then I thought maybe we'd go every week. But do you know what? When you're visiting your grandma and aunt, you get to go twice in one week!

After leaving my sister's house, we headed for my parent's house in Topeka. My mom knew about a cupcake shop that had recently moved to a bigger location - Daddy Cakes. Plus, a friend of mine suggested I go there when she read about these outings.

In case you hadn't heard, Topeka was recently ranked as one of the 10 best cities for the next decade in the country. And lest you think the list is completely bogus, it included standard gems like Seattle, Burlington, DC, and Boulder. I grew up in Topeka, and unless massive changes have taken place, Topeka does not belong on this list. As one of my friends recently said, Topeka is a great town to raise your kids in, and then watch your kids flee from.

But that doesn't mean I don't have a soft spot for this place I called home for so many years. And I really do hope this cupcake shop survives for a good long while (and the store was crowded the day I was there) because Topeka seems to be one of those towns where great things come and go, but never settle in. For example, there used to be a great Mexican restaurant near the University there that closed a few years after it opened. Topeka once built a huge performing arts center, only for it to sit basically unused. And I cannot even recall the number of minor league hockey teams that have tried to set up shop there, only to go through a season and be shifted on to some other small town who wants to make a go of having a team. Ed and I might be the only people still wearing our "Topeka Tarantulas" t-shirts. You have to admit, that's an awesome hockey team name.

Anyway, this store has great selection. And, because my mom was buying, we got to purchase a dozen cupcakes rather than the standard one or fewer per person. I was almost tempted to purchase the cupcake flavor that they created when they were on TLC's cupcake wars show, but the secret ingredient was seaweed, and I'm not cool enough to order a seaweed cupcake. Connor initially chose the vanilla ones with vanilla frosting, but when he sat down to inspect the box, he went for---wait for it---cookies and cream! This cookies and cream cupcake was WAY better than the one at the last store. Helen went for---wait for it---the pink one! Which was strawberry flavored cake and icing.

Even though the store was teeming with people, the little people weren't about to wait for Grandma to return from her errand. So I dropped the box right in the middle of the crowded store and they dug in.

Connor went with his standard two thumbs up rating:

And Helen decided to go with two thumbs down, though in this particular shot it looks like she might be easing up a bit and giving the cupcake a one thumb down, one thumb sideways.

I'm going with 3.5 stars - but they were better than Bakeshop. Selection was terrific. I love that they have three cupcake sizes (Daddy Cake, Baby Cake, and Petite Cake). But, the sugar in my icing wasn't fully dissolved - giving them a low score in my book on consistency of icing. I'm guessing they mistakenly took the sugar off the stove before it had a chance to fully turn into a liquid, though maybe this was intentional.

Thanks, Grandma!

Week 1: Georgetown Cupcake (Washington, DC)
Week 3.2: Daddy Cakes (Topeka, KS)
Week 2: Bakeshop in Clarendon (Arlington, VA)
Week 3: Smallcakes (Overland Park, KS)


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Changing Allegiances at the Ballpark

Among other problems, one of the major ailments affecting many folks growing up in Kansas and probably the western half of Missouri is the designation of being a lifelong fan of the Kansas City Royals. To bear this cross is harder than most folks can imagine. It might not happen so much these days, because the team has failed to field a quality product for so many consecutive years with two exceptions (the strike-shortened season of 1994 when they headed into the strike with something like a 14 game winning streak and 2003 when they flirted with the post-season pretty late in the season).

But I came of age when George Brett was chasing .400, when the Royals got a lucky call and went on to win the World Series, when - as another fan and I reminisced at Nationals Stadium last night - you had to get in line early to get a $4 General Admission ticket because they would definitely sell out.

So I root for the Royals. In good weather and in bad weather. I just can't break the habit. I'm happy to have the Nats around as my NL team, but my heart lives in the AL (although admittedly, these days I watch very few games and couldn't tell you the names of the starting line-up). Last night, I got to root for the Royals from sweet seats that a friend gave me. Here are two tips I will give to baseball fans in the area. (1) Games start at 7:05, not 7:35. This handy fact is printed on the tickets, if you bother to look. I chose not to look, but instead hallucinated about a conversation I had with Ed where he told me the game started at 7:35. For those wondering, he was in his seat for the opening pitch. (2) The Nationals have not decided to start playing at RFK again, and the subway stop for the current Nationals Stadium is Navy Yard, not Potomac. (But should you take my circuitous route to the ballpark, your kids can ride on the subway for oh, I don't know, an extra half hour.) We had so much time together as we traveled to the game that we were able to go over that we were all Royals fans. Connor diplomatically decided that since Daddy liked the Nationals, he would be most happy if the Royals won, but it would be OK if the Nationals won. By the end of the game, he changed his tune. But I'll leave you in suspense guessing as to what it might be.

As you might guess, the night started off a bit behind schedule. When I arrived at the (correct) subway stop with the kids, rain was coming down harder than I have seen in a long time and the wind was blowing so much that even in the subway system, there were few dry spots. Moms with two kids and one cat in a stroller look pathetic though, so we secured one of those coveted dry spots without having to throw too many elbows. And believe me, nobody wants to throw elbows with Helen. She can really put the hurt on your knee!

Predictably, the storm disappeared as quickly as it came on and my crew then headed to the seats, where Ed was waiting for us. It was 8:30. Naturally, Ed wondered where we had been, and I had to explain we had two long delays for transfers, plus, when did they move the stadium? Sheesh. But, the game was only halfway done and had been halted by a rain delay (thank you, higher power, for sending that storm our way - without it, I might've missed the whole game!). We settled into our seats with plenty of time to wait for the Royals comeback.

Since I received the tickets free, I figured the kids could have whatever they wanted from the concession stand. Oh, who am I kidding? I would've given them whatever they wanted even if I'd paid an arm and a leg for the tickets because I appreciate those rare moments when both kids sit quietly observing their surroundings, be it the on-field play or the popcorn.

Connor isn't particularly fond of loud noises (though he does put up with Helen quite well) so he sought refuge from the noise by clamping his hands over his ears when his hands weren't occupied diving into the popcorn container. Helen though? She LOVED the ballpark. I'm not sure she even knew there was a game being played in front of her until Ed tried to inform her of the basics in the 8th inning. She fit right in, soaking up the entire environment. Her first question:

"Mommy, why did you just say dammit?"
"Because I'm a Royals fan."
"Oh, me too."

Next, a drink salesman came by singing:

"Ice cold beer, soda, lemonade"
Helen gleefully shouted "LEMONADE!" only the stadium was so loud (not actually loud for a baseball stadium, but loud compared to Helen's constant talking) that only the guy in front of us heard Helen's request, rather than the salesman. I'm sure Helen is still offended by the slight. I'm telling you though, if you have a child who talks nonstop, go immediately to the baseball game. They can talk their heads off and you will not even notice it that much.

Helen's next request to Ed was ice cream. This ice cream was a genius purchase, because she was so darn cute the camera guy came by and put her on TV, though apparently just the local channel since my parents didn't see her on their recorded version of the KC feed.

She ate her ice cream and waved.

Then she did a little jig.

Our old seats at RFK were frequented by the scoreboard camera so much that I don't think there was a game Connor attended where he didn't also appear on that scoreboard those first two years of his life. It's only fair that Helen sought TV fame when Connor went in search of french fries with Ed. As awesome as Ed is with the kids, he knew when he saw that enormous ice cream beginning to melt all over Helen that he better deliver her to me pronto before attempting additional snack procurement.

As the game continued, Helen decided she better start getting things ready for tomorrow. After all, it was a day game. She diligently wiped off all of the chairs in the row in front of us and a few in the row in front of that. She even enticed Connor to join her, despite the fact that he was enjoying the game from Ed's lap.

The 9th inning approached, and the Royals made a legitimate run at a comeback, ultimately falling short by one run. Ed kindly took the kids one aisle away so I could hope without distraction. I didn't ask him if he did this so the kids wouldn't be subject to the cursing that could possibly fly out of my mouth when the inevitable happened, and the Royals didn't win.

As we headed to the parking lot (yes, the free tickets came with a very good parking spot as well) I asked the kids how they felt about the Nationals winning. Helen was totally mad about it. That's why I love Helen. And for the record in sports, being completely irrational and stubborn is completely appropriate. It's why I'm still a Royals fan. Connor announced he didn't care who won and who lost. He was a Red Sox fan. I can't decide if that's better or worse than when he was a Yankees fan.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cupcake Battle Week 3: Smallcakes in Overland Park, KS

This week's cupcake tasting took us all the way to Overland Park, Kansas. I'd heard from my sister that Smallcakes put crack in their cupcakes, and I thought my team out to check it out. So, we flew across the country to do just that. Oh, and we also visited my family for the week.

The selection was fabulous, which means they had one that was pink and a bunch of other random flavors. The pink one came with either chocolate or vanilla cake, eliciting several "hoorays" from my youngest taster. And, because my oldest taster never wants to feel left out of anything that my youngest taster is loving, he chose pink frosting over a vanilla cupcake. It doesn't seem like Connor is keeping true to his goal of trying lots of flavors, but maybe he's going to breakout with something crazy at the next shop.

My sister and neices accompanied me on the trip. You can see my younger neice here, checking out the goods. She's been here before, and wasn't about to be tricked into something so boring as a vanilla, vanilla cupcake. She wanted something deluxe!

I chose "drumstick", my older neice chose "cookies and cream", I think that's what my younger neice chose, but I can't remember because I was so busy snapping photos of my sister who chose the world's messiest cupcake. It had some sort of gooey chocolate filling in it. All my life I have loved chocolate. I never thought of my sister as a chocolate lover--except for milk chocolate covered caramels. Then a few years ago she busted out with an incredibly decadent chocolate dessert at dinner and I was totally shocked and she informed me she did love chocolate. Only she likes the milk chocolate kind and I like the dark chocolate kind. That's how we roll on a lot of things. Similar, but not quite the same. My sister, by the way, can eat whatever she wants because about a week before this photo was taken, she biked across half the state of Kansas - about 200 miles.

My cupcake was sublime. There weren't very many nuts on top and I'm pretty sure the frosting has some lard in it. Which might be other people's thing, but it is not my thing. However, although I have never tested crack on my own, I do read stories about such people, and I didn't find myself running across the parking lot like a wild banshee, nor did my heart start racing, and I had no strange urge to commit any crimes. So, I'm going with my gut that there isn't actually crack in the cupcakes.

Although I was not terribly impressed by the shop, all five other people involved in the contest devoured their cupcakes, and the ratings were a nearly across the board two thumbs up. Helen is turning out to be a pretty harsh critic with another two thumbs down. That's the same rating she gave Clarendon's Bakeshop. A bit of a contrarian do we think? I'll give them 3.5 stars.

It occurred to me during this visit that this cupcake battle might have two side effects, one intended and one not inttended. The intended side effect is that Connor and Helen are having a ball, even though Helen claims by her rating to not enjoy these cupcakes at all. The unintended side effect is that I might need to buy a new wardrobe at the end of this summer. I'll count this photo below as my "before" photo, even though I'm three weeks into this already.

Wrap up (in rank order - and week order at this point, but that will surely change):

Week One: Georgetown Cupcake (Washington, DC)
Week Two: Bakeshop in Clarendon (Arlington, VA)
Week Three: Smallcakes in Overland Park, KS


Monday, June 21, 2010

Fairy Wands

Every time I attend a Waldorf festival, I see all sorts of handmade toys that I want to purchase, but then almost always convince myself I should just make the toys myself at home. Well...I've made a few toys in the past, but not that many. At Connor's Spring Dance last year, my friend Carrie had made a bunch of fairy wands. I loved them, but at $18 a pop, I added them to my list of things I ought to make instead of purchase.

I stitched the top of the wands on the trip up to New York and at our camping trip. Predictably, progress on the wands halted when I needed the wooden dowel for the actual wand part of the project. Luckily, my mom is the kind of person who knows that it's best to do a task when the opportunity presents itself, rather than waiting for what might seem like a more convenient time later.

Last week, while my dad took Connor and Helen to story time, my mom took me to a fabric store. After consulting with a sales rep briefly, I realized we should just head to Crate and Barrel for supplies (I'll show this project when it's done), but along the way I had mentioned I needed some dowels. My mom told me we were close to Hobby Lobby so we could go get them right now. Of course, I told her there was no need for an extra trip, that I could just get the dowels when I was back in DC, knowing even as the words were leaving my mouth that I was probably looking at another week before the almost finished project would be completed. My mom drove the car right to the store, we went in, got the dowels, and now I have these!

Now, let's see what sort of magic Helen and Connor can perform with them!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Elements of a Great Father's Day

First, have your wife and children travel one time zone away. Have them return Saturday night at 10:00 PM, and make sure no one slept on the airplane.

Enjoy seeing 8:00 pass on the clock on Sunday morning without the sounds of any children accompanying that passage of time.

Receive handmade gift from son.

Receive kiss from daughter (not photographed).

And then spend the day beating your yard back into submission, heading to the pool and realizing your two year old daughter honestly thinks she will be swimming independently at the end of her upcoming swim lessons and seeing your four year old son dive off the side of the pool, cooking dinner for your family, and finally sitting down around 10:30 to watch the Daily Show on DVR.

Not so relaxing, eh?

Happy Father's Day. I had planned to serve the leftover Mother's Day ice cream cake to Ed for desert, but he ate it last night before I could tell him my plans.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Easy Come, Easy Go

My mom has been faithfully printing out and saving everything I've ever written on this blog and the blog's predecessor. She compiles these blog entries into scrapbooks that I have thumbed through more than once. When I take them out, Connor and Helen get a real hoot out of the photos. When my mom gave me the first installment, I admit, I was thinking "What are you doing this for? Do you think the Internet is going to disappear?". Well, um, here I am, eating crow.

No, the Internet is not disappearing, but my freelance writing gig over at SVMoms is. A few days ago, all of the writers in the group received an email indicating the sites were folding as of July 1. This includes DCMetromoms, the site for which I have posted just seven times, but in those seven posts, I have enjoyed thinking about parenting issues and issues about living in DC that were not specific to Connor and Helen. I was bummed by the news, because I felt like I was just hitting my stride.

At first, it was unclear whether the site would remain on the Internet or not, and writers were encouraged to move posts to their personal blogs. Now, it appears as if the site will remain up, but no comments will be allowed, nor will any new posts go up. I have just finished copying the posts over to this site. I have entered them in the days I posted them over at DCMetromoms. I have labeled them "DCMetromoms" and all of the titles begin with DCMM:. It's not an elegant solution, but I didn't want the posts to be subject to randomly disappearing some day.

Lucky for me, some of the fine women who have been writing over at DCMetromoms a lot longer than I have been are planning to launch something new. So...maybe my freelance writing career will be saved. I hope so. I was having fun.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cupcake Battle: Week 2; Bakeshop in Clarendon

Last Friday was a little bit sad. It was the last time Connor would attend his beloved Oak Tree Kindergarten for the year, and next year when he starts up again, the "Tall Oaks" in the class will have moved onto 1st grade. Parents were invited to attend a picnic, and Mr. K - the world's most awesome Kindergarten teacher ever - gifted the students with a marigold seed that he had sprouted a few weeks earlier. Each of the children excitedly accepted their gift. The class gifted Mr. K with a wringer and a butter churn for the classroom. Mrs. G. - the world's most awesome Kindergarten assistant teacher - received a gift card for some craft supplies. She has plans to open at Etsy shop this summer, which I am very excited about.

After having pretty big lunches at the picnic, I decided we'd start our weekly cupcake challenge on the way home. Helen and Connor are ecstatic that they have basically been promised a cupcake every Friday for the entire summer. Naturally, we picked the place closest to us, the Bakeshop.

Here's the thing about the Bakeshop. We've been in here before. We went for Family Date Night #3. At that time, the owner told us that the slim selection was a function of him not figuring out the street traffic just yet. He told us he had just sold his last vanilla-vanilla cupcake, which at the time, was my family's flavor of choice. OK - It was Connor's flavor of choice, and since Helen adores all things Connor, she would follow suit and choose the same cupcake he chose when faced with a decision. Which meant that disappointment in one child resulted in magnified disappointment in the second child.

When we went in the shop on Friday - at opening time! - we were greeted with the same slim selection. This was disappointing. Thankfully, in the spirit of playing along with the Cupcake Battle, Connor had already announced he was going to taste different flavors of cupcakes, and he was going to taste them two weeks in a row to see if he really liked or disliked something, or if he had made up his mind too quickly. Seriously. The dude wants to be fair in his judging.

We ended up getting two specially frosted chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and chocolate sprinkles on them. I don't know what this flavor is officially called other than "this is seriously the only thing you have at your counter?" and then the owner saying "I can frost up something different if you want".

Both Connor and Helen gobbled their cupcakes down. I had intended this trip to be a take-out adventure, but clearly that was a terrible idea because who gives a kid a cupcake and then asks them to hold onto it for the next ten minutes. So, Connor and Helen cracked into the goods on the spot. Only, I saw the parking lady coming by, and I hadn't budgeted enough time for the meter, so I looked up at the salesperson and the owner and said "I'll be right back. They'll be fine." and I left Connor and Helen teetering somewhat precariously on tall barstools. Tall barstools that Helen only tried to tip over twice. And the second time, I really think she was seeing if her first experience almost falling off could be replicated or it happened for no good reason, because that's how Helen rolls. She replicated the near fall perfectly. I ran out of the shop, crossed the street, dropped in my quarter, and lunged back into the shop before the counter guy knew what hit him. The owner sat outside the whole time chatting it up with someone who looked like she wanted to be his Lady Friend.

When asked to rate the cupcakes, Helen gave them two thumbs down and Connor gave them two thumbs up. I give them 3.5 stars. The buttercream they use is almost identical to the one I make, which makes it less impressive than something that tastes different. Though it is a damn good buttercream. Selection was pretty boring, although this will probably change when they have their official "grand opening". We'll give them another try then. They get bonus points for not calling social services when I bolted from the shop to feed the meter.



Connor has always been empathetic beyond his years. He's a child who notices when other children hurt, when they need help, and when something doesn't seem right. Helen's carefree nature sometimes makes it harder to see her compassionate side, though certainly she possesses one.

Today, my parents took us all to an amusement park. As we approached a small train, Helen clapped enthusiastically exclaiming "Oh, I want to ride the train! I want to ride the train!" As soon as she saw how small the train cars were, she looked at me and said "It's just for kids. I'm so sorry. I'm really sorry."

Don't worry, Helen. I had fun watching you and Connor loop around the track.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Big Parenting Decision #1

When a woman finds out she is pregnant with a boy (or, as in my case, chooses not to find out so must plan for the possibility of both a boy and a girl), among the first decisions she and her partner will need to make is whether or not they will have their infant circumcised.

Ed happens to be friends with a prominent member of one of the leading groups trying to end the practice of male circumcision. And, as part of his advocacy efforts, this friend sent Ed and I some "literature" on the subject. Ed and I talked about the issue quite a bit. In the end, I don't think either of us could imagine taking the effort of taking our baby to a hospital or pediatrician's office, or wherever one goes to have this done. So we didn't, figuring that if we had a son, he could make the decision for himself later on.

I have never regretted the choice we made, but I did feel fairly ostracized about it at one point.

I wrote about it over at DCMetroMoms a few days ago. Click on the link if you want to read more.



Monday, June 14, 2010

DCMM: Hey AAP: Ready to Reverse Course on Male Circumcision, Too?

I run in a pretty “crunchy” crowd. Or rather, I used to run in an ultra-crunchy crowd. You know - the kind that grows vegetables in the backyard, argues about the conservative media bias, and generally considers Birkenstocks to be perfectly acceptable for the office. I never seriously considered a hospital birth because I knew from the start I wanted my babies born at home if at all possible. But I knew when I was a new mom I needed to flap my social wings a bit. I found myself socializing with other mamas, if only for the reassurance that my son’s (remarkably poor) eating and (remarkably poor) sleeping was normal. (It was). Imagine my surprise, then, as I sat with a group of moms at a Friday jazz program at the National Gallery of Art when the conversation turned to circumcision.

One of the moms of a girl asked the group (which formed from a lunchtime gathering at the Breastfeeding Center of Greater Washington) about whether folks had their sons circumcised and at the point when I was about to say “of course not, I’m friends with the author of the MGM bill, and he has convinced me the procedure is unnecessary and potentially harmful”, I was interrupted and another woman answered (and I do not think I will ever forget this) “Of course I did! I don’t want my son to be a freak! I want girls to like him!”, and then the next woman spoke up about her son’s bris, and a third chimed in about how her son didn’t even blink during the procedure which clearly showed it wasn’t painful (though others would argue her son might have been in shock). At this point, I looked down at my glass of wine, blinked back a tear, and took it as one more sign that life as I knew it before a baby was gone. If I wanted to have some mommy friends, which I desperately did, I was going to have to take a step to the right and bite my tongue. Or at least bite my tongue.

I was reminded of this conversation a few weeks ago when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) put out a position statement —which they subsequently reversed—regarding female circumcision, or female genital cutting (FGC). After a loud public outcry, the AAP has reaffirmed their opposition to all forms of FGC, noting that it is forbidden by federal law in the United States.

But I wonder, what will the AAP say in the revised policy on male circumcision that is due out later this year? Currently, the AAP’s policy indicates that circumcision is not essential to a child’s health and furthermore, scientific benefits of the procedure are not sufficient for the AAP to recommend that all infant boys be circumcised. Yet, at least in this country (though few other Western countries), circumcision remains the norm (though that majority is getting slim). Contrast this with Canada, where fewer than one-third of infant males are circumcised. And that’s true of many European countries as well.

How did I make the decision? I thought about a few things. My son could only reasonably expect to be able to reverse my decision to not circumcise. A choice to have him circumcised would be a lifelong one. My husband and I thought this decision ought to be his. As a mom that often looked like a deer in headlights, I often go back to the mantra “first, do no harm” – and this pointed me in the direction of not having him circumcised. I dismissed the argument that my son wouldn’t “match” his peers the same way my mom dismissed me when I used this logic as a girl “If Suzy jumped off a bridge would you follow her?”. But most of all, it just never made sense to me. The routine removal of a body part wasn’t something my husband or I could justify. And so we didn’t. I'm crossing my fingers that when the AAP's new policy statement on male circumcision comes out, they agree with me.

This is an original DCMetroMoms post. Elaine writes about less controversial topics at Connor and Helen!

These were the original comments on the post:

Jessica C./Claire Jess said...
This mama of an intact boy says thanks for writing!

Reply June 14, 2010 at 05:44 AM Tiffany said...
Oh, I know that feeling. Making non-mainstream decisions regarding your children puts you in a veeerrryyy awkward position in mommy groups. Comments like the ones you heard make me cringe as well. It saddens me that the choice to remove a normal healthy body part is based on the desire to look good for the girls.....Gah!

Reply June 14, 2010 at 05:57 AM ElaineMM said in reply to Tiffany...
How girls may or may not perceive my son is not - and hopefully never will be - grounds for a decision like this.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 07:02 AM Rebecca said...
Great post. I am a mom four uncircumsised boys. I'd like to think the woman they pick to marry would look past that part of them to the men they will be. (In answer to your friend's reasoning.)

Reply June 14, 2010 at 06:26 AM ElaineMM said in reply to Rebecca...
Me too. In all the conversations I had about this, how a woman would perceive my son never came up.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 07:01 AM Marilyn Milos, RN said in reply to Rebecca...
Any woman who understands the importance of the foreskin and recognizes how much better sex is with an intact man will thank their mother-in-law for protecting her son! My grandson and his wife have both thanked me!

Reply June 16, 2010 at 10:47 AM Robin (noteverstill) said...
We're Jewish and religious(ish) and my son had a bris. We never considered otherwise - I just can't turn my back on a multi-thousand year tradition and what we are taught is God's commandment. I wonder, though, if I wasn't Jewish... I think I probably would be against it for many of the reasons you describe. My first two kids were girls and I never had to think about this. With #3 it was only a philosophical discussion because we do feel religiously obligated, but it was an interesting philosophical discussion to pursue. I so understand about biting my tongue re: parenting opinions. I hope those of us who circumcise for religious reasons, at least, don't make you uncomfortable with our decisions. I think the most important thing is that you're putting so much thought into how you'll care for your son - that's what will make him turn out right.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 06:31 AM ElaineMM said in reply to Robin (noteverstill)...
Because I'm not Jewish, I never had to think about it, so it's hard for me to truly be in your shoes. I do, however, appreciate that thoughtful parenting will go a long way. And yes, biting tongues. Always biting tongues in new crowds.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 07:00 AM Marilyn Milos, RN said in reply to Robin (noteverstill)...
I suggest you read Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America, by Professor Emeritus Leonard Glick, MD, PhD, in which he discusses how circumcision was inserted into the Bible in Genesis 17 by the priests (P text)about a thousand years after Abraham allegedly lived. The original covenant was Genesis 15, which said nothing about circumcision. Many Jews today are now welcoming their babies with a bris shalom, a celebration of peace, a naming ceremony, without the cut. It's not being circumcision, but being born of a Jewish mother that makes one a Jew.

Reply June 16, 2010 at 11:01 AM Marilyn Milos, RN said in reply to Marilyn Milos, RN...
Oops, that should be been "It's not being circumcised but being born of a Jewish mother that makes one a Jew."

Reply June 16, 2010 at 11:02 AM Kiki La Roo said...
Good for you, from a mama of an intact boy.

The "I want girls to like him" excuse kills me. My daughter has seen her brother's parts many a time...it will be normal to her, when the time comes.

It's the penis owner's choice in my book. The end.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 06:41 AM ElaineMM said in reply to Kiki La Roo...
This is the reason that kills me most as well. Seriously? I like to think I would not have cared about this, even as a 20-something. GAH!

Reply June 14, 2010 at 06:59 AM Vickie said...
Hmm. I have no memory of this conversation, but I can sympathize with the tongue-biting.

T's circumcised. We never thought he wouldn't be, because where we come from, ALL boys are circumcised (or at least, all catholic/christian boys are; am not sure about the Muslim population). In his dad's time, it's a rite of passage, typically done before setting foot in high school. Most families nowadays have it done soon after their boys are born, though.

We always thought we'd be headed back home within a few years, so it made sense to me that T ought to resemble what I thought would be his peer group. I don't think anyone thinks twice about this back home. I've also never heard any stories of circumcisions gone wrong back home. I did read that book about twin boys in the midwest where one was mutilated during his procedure and his parents decided to raise him as a girl with horrible consequences.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 10:28 AM ElaineMM said in reply to Vickie...
You read the most interesting books, Vickie! I can tell you more details about the conversation. I remember a lot. But I do not remember you being there, so possibly you weren't. It really bummed me out at the time, and I didn't have the confidence to engage anyone in a debate about it, so I just sat there quiet and stunned. Now, I wish I had challenged the person in question a bit.

That's interesting that the procedure used to be rite of passage that took place at a time when a boy could understand what was happening. I wonder what motivated the change to it being an infant procedure.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 02:25 PM Vickie said in reply to ElaineMM...
Haha! The book was nonfiction (and I am too lazy to google it now) but I remember the impression it made on me--back in the 60s when the mutilation happened the thinking among psychologists that gender identity is tied to genitals. But the boy who was forced to become a girl grew up unhappy and aggressive and not comfortable in his own skin until he found out the truth. As an adult he decided to be who he really was (a man), got reconstructive surgery, etc. and last I heard had a family.

Quite possibly I wasn't there--I don't remember making NGA Jazz until T was older, and never with a big group.

In the less urban areas back home, I think this is still a cusp-of-teenage years ritual for many boys. (Who don't even go to a doctor for this--sometimes it's a barber, sometimes a faith healer.)

I think as people become more affluent, they make the decision to have it done early to spare their sons the spectacle of spending the days after the procedure wearing their sisters'/mothers' slips or skirts. And they may rationalize it by saying that the baby won't remember the pain.

For us it was also an insurance decision! Circumcision is covered completely when performed within a certain number of days following birth, but my brother-in-law found out the hard way that if you wait till your boys are teens or tweens AND you live in the US, it costs minimum $700 per kid.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 08:00 PM Deni said...
This is a personal choice and we all need to allow it to stay out of the list of things we judge! I am the sister of 6 brothers (dad and brothers not circumcised) mother of 6 (4 boys all circumcised) our decision was because we had seen a friends boy that had to have it done at 4yrs old for medical reasons and thought better to prevent with it done early. We realize that it is the exception to have issues either way and left the decision for our 4 grandchildren to their parents without judgment!

We are all free to be individuals so just base your decision on who you are not what others think!

Reply June 14, 2010 at 10:57 AM ElaineMM said in reply to Deni...
That's true often, right? We ought to base our decisions on who we are, not what others think. Now that's a lesson I'd like to figure out how to pass on successfully. Could apply in a lot of contexts.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 02:26 PM Marilyn Milos, RN said in reply to Deni...
Now we're beginning to understand circumcision as a human rights issue, so we've begun to recognize that it is not our right but a choice that actually belongs to the person who will live with the loss and consequences of a decision made by someone else.

Initially, we didn't understand how the pain, trauma, or harms of circumcision affected our sons but, during the past 30 years, thousands upon thousands of men have voiced their complaints. They describe their scars, skin bridges, missing pieces, the problem of premature ejaculation in the early sexually active years, and the problem of sexual dysfunction leading to impotence later. Form cannot be altered without altering function. Circumcision disturbs the normal sex life of both the male and his sexual partner.

Believe me, I am not sitting in judgment, I have three circumcised sons. But, after witnessing a circumcision when my sons were 10, 17, and 20, during which the baby screamed horrifically and the doctor looked into my tear-streaked face and said, "There is no medical reason for doing this," I devoted my life to bringing an end to non-therapeutic genital cutting of non-consenting minors, whether they are boys, girls, or intersex children.

Now, I have four intact grandsons, so we learn.
Reply June 16, 2010 at 11:19 AM ohslowburn said...
Thanks for this - I wasn't aware the AAP had reversed it's recommendation, something I care and blogged about (whole other subject!).

As for the male circumcision thing, I take comfort in something my husband said when we decided not to have our boys clipped - "honey, no one will say a thing, it's really not like men walk around looking too closely at one another's shlongs." Okay then. :P

Furthermore, if he really really wants to "be like the others" he can choose to do it later in life. I imagine it's an ordeal, but at least he'll have a choice and will go into it with his eyes open.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 11:07 AM ElaineMM said in reply to ohslowburn...
Wow! Those are some powerful posts. A friend and I went down this same debate road right after the policy came out. It is all about protecting young people, in the end. And wouldn't life be easier if we knew exactly how we could do this best? Thanks for writing! You've given me more to think about.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 02:32 PM Jenni said...
Mom to two intact boys. We never even considered it. We just felt like the foreskin is there for a reason and we did not feel comfortable with the procedure.

You know, I heard that the AAP is actually going to alter their recommendation to the "for circumcision" category as some studies show it may reduce the spread of AIDS. I can't help but think that teaching our sons to practice safe sex would go a lot further with regards to AIDS prevention.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 11:32 AM ElaineMM said in reply to Jenni...
I know about the study that made a big splash in Africa about AIDS prevention. Two subsequent studies had the opposite findings, and of course, you point out that there are more direct ways in the US we can think about AIDS prevention. I'm definitely curious about what the AAP is going to say.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 02:19 PM Marilyn Milos, RN said in reply to Jenni...
You're absolutely correct that safe sex practices would go a lot further to protect against AIDS. In fact, the spread of AIDS has been curbed in Thailand, Senegal, and Eastern Uganda because those governments took a strong leadership role, educating about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, with a new campaign of "100% condom use 100% of the time!" Then, they distributed free condoms.

The African studies, done by researchers who were promoting circumcision for other reasons before they used AIDS as the excuse, are suspect!

The horror is the vast numbers of men who are being circumcised in Africa now because they've bought into the hype. Our NOCIRC of Kenya director, Prince Hillary Maloba, reports that Kenyans who have been circumcised to prevent AIDS are wondering now why they've acquired it, even though they were circumcised. How many more will be harmed, have their sex lives diminished, or die because of this misuse of funds. In addition, those men who think circumcision will protect them may very well be even more promiscuous because they're circumcised, believing they're protected.

Education, not amputation!

Reply June 16, 2010 at 11:26 AM Jenni said...
Glad to hear they retracted that bogus position on FGC, though. Ridiculous.

Reply June 14, 2010 at 11:34 AM Ladybug Crossing said...
My husband and his brother both had to have circumcisions at the age of for medical reasons. Trust me, it was not pleasant for either of them. When our son came along, both my husband and my BIL were adamant that our #1 get circumcised as an infant. I absolutely agreed. Genetics were not in our favor for leaving things alone.
Do I care if you circumcise your boy? No. Will I tell you what happened to my Mr. and his brother? Sure I will. But, when it comes right down to it, the choice is yours.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Technology and I Don't Always Agree

A few years ago, our dial-up internet would go down for whatever reason, and I would barely care. You see, I worked at my office almost exclusively, and it didn't really matter if I was connected to the world at night or not. Now, things are different. I get completely annoyed any time my internet goes down, because now I work from home, and I need the high speed internet available to me.

A couple of weeks ago, I was annoyed by my home internet being down and a very technology minded friend of mine said "I consider this real progress, Elaine". I'm not sure I do. I'm over at DCMetroMoms talking about the intersection of the playground and technology today.


DCMM: Powering Down: Why Being a Part-Time Worker and Parent Can Be So Hard

The choice to become a parent brings necessary trade-offs. Time does not expand, after all. For me, it meant essentially giving up pottery as a hobby and working part-time, rather than full-time. I don’t regret the choices for a minute. And if you could see the way my son solves problems daily or the way my daughter laughs, you’d know why in an instant. Absent my children, I never would’ve gotten to see the world anew in a totally different light.

A few years ago, my husband and I made the choice that we’d send our son to a Waldorf pre-school, and that meant giving up a few more things. No more NPR in the car with the kids; no more television news before dinner; trying really, really hard to be present for my kids and do tasks that they would find meaningful, rather than sitting behind a keyboard. I do it willingly. While some folks might consider it to simply be replicating the ostrich approach to parenting—my head firmly planted in the sand while the world and all its technology swirls around me—the philosophy agrees with me. I’m one of those people who, when call waiting came out, would hang up if someone switched over to answer another call. The person I was talking to would either decide we were done talking, or call back and ask me why I’d hung up on them. I’d always answer “I didn’t hang up on you, you hung up on me. You chose to answer another call rather than finish our conversation”. And that’s a fine choice to make, but it seemed to me that I shouldn’t have to wait on hold while they took another call. They could call me back when they had the time to talk.

A recent article in the New York Times struck a chord with me. The story points out that we are pulled constantly by technology. Be it a Twitter alert coming in, a Facebook status update received through our Iphones, Blackberries, and other hand held devices, or a phone call from our offices. That last one happens to the part-time workers amongst us. I have a love hate relationship with my cell phone. I love that I can work part-time and give my office the comfort to call me whenever they want on my days off. I hate the rare occasion when they actually take me up on that offer. I get the feeling I'm not the only DC mom who feels this way.

I get the upsides of communication and technology. And were I to go toe-to-toe with someone in a debate about whether technology is—on net— good or bad, I bet I would be on the losing side of the debate every time as I argued how bad it is, despite the fact that I am a former college debater and coach. But I can’t help it. It makes me really sad every day when I am at the park and I see parents paying more attention to their electronic devices than their children. I see parents wandering around with an Ipod in one ear, giving their children probably less than half their attention. I’m sad not just for the kids who sometimes seem to be getting short shrift. I’m sad for the parents too, who because of tremendous advances in the ability to carry technology out of the house probably feel compelled to do so, and that just adds the to the number of ways we’re pulled every day.

So…who’s up for joining me at the park this Friday with no technology? No need to call if you’ll be late. My cell phone will be at home. But shhh...don't tell my office!

Photo Credit: Samantha Fein

This is an original DC MetroMoms post. If you want to see Elaine’s daughter’s adorable smile or read about what her kids are up to, you can do so at her personal website.

Posted by ElaineMM on June 09, 2010 at 05:00 AM


Sue @ Laundry for Six said...
I was at a park earlier this week populated by several nannies and their charges. Every single one spent the whole time talking on a cell phone and barely paying attention to the kids. Even one poor toddler who was sitting in a baby swing that had stopped swinging. I have to be honest, I was feeling a little judgy about the whole thing. But then later the same day, I went to my neighborhood park and saw a couple of moms that I know doing the same thing.

I think if people could see themselves they would realize what an opportunity they are missing out on. I'm not necessarily the mom who is running around the playground with my kids, but I am sitting on a bench enjoying watching them play.

Great post! (And I will remember never to try and debate with you!!)

Reply June 09, 2010 at 05:55 AM ElaineMM said...
Sue, I have had to implement a no cell phone policy for my caregiver, unless it's me or my husband calling, or one of a very short list of playdates. I pay for the cell phone, so it's easy for me to do. I see the same thing, and it's even more unacceptable in my eyes for a paid caregiver to be rattling on. Few jobs would consider talking on the phone all day professional behavior.

Reply June 09, 2010 at 06:27 AM Betsy said...
Seeing parents out at the park with their kids, ignoring them while they talk or play on their cell phones is a pet peeve for me as well. Why leave your house and attempt to do something kid oriented when you really just want to talk on the phone or be online? I'm an IT person and even I find it to be too much at times. I admit I do my share of email checking, texting and FB at times to but if I'm doing something with my kids, I try to be with them physically and mentally. Those moments at the park with them won't last forever but technology and the relationships you maintain with it will march on even if you check out for a bit.

Reply June 09, 2010 at 07:35 AM Thrift Store Mama said...
I started writing a really long comment, but I think I'm just going to do a post on it instead !

Reply June 09, 2010 at 01:14 PM ElaineMM said in reply to Thrift Store Mama...
I look forward to it!

Reply June 10, 2010 at 06:18 AM Helen said...
Oh boy. The playground is my outdoor office -- when I have a work call on one of my days off I always try to go to the playground with the kids. Yes, you can hear the background noise of the playground, but if we're there it's much less likely one of my kids will scream directly into the phone, like he or she would if we were at home.

You know I agree with you on technology generally, especially for kids. But the only way it works for me to be part-time is if I am available, and sometimes that means being available, via technology, when I'm alone with the kids.

There have also been recent studies showing that parents, and especially mothers, are much more involved with their children than our parents were with us -- even if our mothers were single parents. So I guess I feel like I'm doing plenty with my kids, even though I need to be available to work.

Another great post, Elaine. Gotta go -- I'm supposed to be working! :)

Reply June 09, 2010 at 04:49 PM Helen said in reply to Helen...
Not SINGLE parents. I meant stay-at-home-moms.

Geez Louise I better get back to work.

-- H.

Reply June 09, 2010 at 04:51 PM ElaineMM said in reply to Helen...
I don't believe the studies, but I'd have to look back at them to remember why. Which is really not a response, I realize.

I understand why we talk on the phone with our kids at the park. I think it's just another thing that makes part-time work really hard. I was in Key West recently, preparing to board a tourist train with my kids while I was on a very important conference call that could not happen at any other time. It was ridiculous.

The middle ground is doing our jobs when we have to, but not turning to the phone just to swap stories with a friend, I suppose. But like I said in the post, I'll lose this debate every time.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cupcake Wars 2010 - Bring It!

Before I went on maternity leave with Connor, there was a store that served cake located between my office and the National Geographic building. I used to make a habit of heading over to Nat Geo to check out the latest exhibit, and then stop on my way back to the office for an incredibly large, delicious slice of cake. The slice was large enough that it would typically last a few days. That's what I call an investment.

Before I started my love affair with the cake place, I used to go to the art exhibits without stopping on my way back, and then I heard a story on NPR and the storyteller used to cheer himself up by thinking "may I feel like I feel when I'm about to eat cake" and I stopped and thought about it, and that's exactly the feeling I want to walk around with.

I went on maternity leave, and the store closed. Apparently I was the only person who thought this business venture was a great idea.

I've long been a fan of Cakelove. After all, I used to frequent them on my way to the pottery studio on Thursday afternoon. Sense a theme here? In the past couple of years, the number of stores selling cupcakes in the DC area has exploded. And that is, of course, good and bad. Good, because I love cake. Bad, because I'm very good at recalling that NPR story and convincing myself to stop in and get myself a treat.

And I'm indoctrinating my kids into the cake loving club. We went to Cakelove on our first family date night. And then on our third family date night, we went to Bakeshop. While we were at Zoofari, I attempted to score a couple of cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake, but by the time we waddled over to the dessert area, the cupcakes were long gone. This was no surprise as we'd seen lots of people walking around with several.

A few months ago, my friend turned 40, and the treat at her party were cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake (I took two home for Helen and Connor), I've been there with friends after Mom's Night Out, and a coworker sent me home with a couple of these delicacies a few weeks ago when my boss quit her job. So let's just say, I have a bit of experience with these doodads. The number of times I've been disappointed? Zero.

But last Sunday, after we returned from camping, I went to an event for DCMetroMoms contributors and guess who was there? The founders and owners of Georgetown Cupcake and their mom. How cool is that? They have a TV show on TLC which starts in a few weeks, and I'm hoping very badly that it actually gives tips on how to make these goodies, rather than just showing funny times in the shop. These women are so nice, they sent me home with FOUR cupcakes. One, I ate on the car ride home. One, I split with Ed, but two were decorated exclusively for Connor and Helen and do you know how I know Helen is related to me? She looked at her cupcake and gasped "Oh my gosh! It is beautiful!"

Though I can't claim they're the pickiest of connoisseurs, I can report that they hope I score some more of these delicious nuggets in the future!

And so I bring you...Cupcake Wars 2010. The kids and I will be rating cupcake places all summer long. I'm going to use a 5 star system, and I'm giving our first unknowing entrant 4.5 stars. Why? Mostly, because the cupcakes are delicious (and as you can see, I've tried MANY of them), but also because they donated to the zoo (yay!), they're funny in person, and they're super nice. I can't give them 5 stars because then there would be no room if I find something better. I particularly loved the hint of cream cheese in their buttercream icing.

I think we'll visit a different cupcake store every other Friday, although we might need to go every Friday because there are that many stores in the area. At the end of the summer, Connor, Helen, and I will rank the shops.

Full Disclosure: As noted in the post, Georgetown Cupcake gave me not one, not two, not three, but FOUR of their cupcakes. And, they offered to give me a lot more but I am a newbie on the DCMM blog and I had met only 1 person before the event. I didn't take Georgetown Cupcake up on their offer because I didn't want to become known as the woman who took home a dozen cupcakes. Although I sort of regret that choice now, because those cupcakes were good.

Finding his niche

I'm not ever going to be a daddy. I'm going to be a chef. No, actually I'm going to be a trash collector. One who juggles in the back of the truck.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 2 in New York City with Kids: Alone for the afternoon

Friday night, after our arrival in Brooklyn, Helen and Connor had some trouble falling asleep. In fact, they didn't fall asleep until around 11:00 when Ed went to bed. That's about 3 hours later than normal. For Connor, it probably wasn't so bad, because he napped for a couple of hours in the car and he had slept quite late that morning. He was probably just about even on sleep. Not so for my little darling though, who was probably down about 3 hours of sleep. She's 2. That's a lot of sleep to be missing.

The original plan for the day was to head to some fantastic kids place in Queens with Vickie. Ed would leave for the baseball game around lunch and I'd meet him and the rest of his family for dinner. That was a plan I could handle. But since Teo was in the hospital (getting better, thankfully!), Vickie would need to spend the day with her husband taking shifts at the hospital rather than entertaining us. She handed us a package of City Walks for Kids cards, which are these fabulous little day trips for kids.

Our revised plan was to head to some train related museum near Vickie's house, visit Teo if we were allowed into the hospital, and then Ed would head to the Bronx to meet his family. (Notice, I did not say uptown or downtown, because I do not understand directions in NY very well.) The train museum was closed, so we opted to head to the only thing we could find for kids that was open on Saturday morning - some firefighter museum in Manhattan.

We rode the subway.

Then we stopped to admire a trash truck, because those are cool everywhere.

And you know? Our day could have ended right there and Connor would have been happy.

Had I not told him that a museum with old train cars existed.

We were still a little early for the opening of the firefighter museum, so we walked down to a pier to see the Statue of Liberty. We were, after all, in New York.

And then Helen tried to launch herself into the Hudson. Luckily, Ed is quick, even though I told him to wait until I snapped the picture. Sheesh. Doesn't he know I have a blog to keep up with and I need exciting stories to tell? Just pretend his hand isn't in this photo, because it wasn't when she was teetering on the ledge even higher up.

And then Helen found a penny on the pier and taunted Connor.

And at this point her day could have been complete. But did I mention the time? It was 9:30...AM. That is not quite a full day.

Finally, the museum opened and we were the first ones in. It was mostly lame because they wouldn't let kids (or adults) climb all over the antique firetrucks. That would've been cool. Helen and Connor did manage to slip their hands into cases containing some memoribilia, and thankfully no alarms went off.

And now I needed a plan for the rest of the day. The part of the day when I wouldn't have Ed. I think it was starting to hit me that there was a legitimate chance that by the time I met Ed and his family for dinner, I might very well be down one cute, blonde-haired child.

Ed escorted us to lunch and then he took us to a very cool children's art museum that has lots of projects and a small play area. As I went to pay the entrance fee for the kids and me, I started wheezing. And then I could not get any air in, and midway through the transaction I was really questioning what was happening and I coughed out "I have to go get a drink", which I did, as I coughed and coughed and coughed as if I had a very advanced case of TB. And then I spent a while coughing in the bathroom drinking lots and lots of water, and then I was a little dizzy, and every time I lowered my head I thought it might fall off. It was at that point that I wondered if I was having a panic attack. I don't know if the ability to diagnose one's self means that one is not actually having a panic attack, but whatever. It was a little scary. I made my way back to the front of the store and Ed asked if he minded if he left. He noted that he was late for the game.

I paused, decided I was in a place with few people, mostly staff, and all of the staff seemed nice and to like kids. I decided if something happened, like I fell over and stopped breathing, these nice people would surely take care of my kids. So I assured Ed I was fine. What I thought about doing was asking him to get me some Motrin, but when he seemed in a hurry, I decided I would be fine. In retrospect, that was stupid. I should've sent him to a store.

Despite my blinding headache, Connor, Helen, and I had a ball at the art museum. Really, what was there not to love? Watercolors, scissors, tape, a dude who made Helen a pink clay cat, and basically individual attention from a whole host of artists, one of whom was totally impressed when Connor asked her if he could do some pottery. He wanted to learn how to use a wheel. I had to explain that I have a wheel in my backyard that he's interested in learning how to use it.

There is also an area roped off with lots of pilates balls that kids can run around in. Connor found someone to play with him in there for a while while I set Helen on a bean bag with her bottle. I had a small hope at that point I could close my eyes for a few minutes to try and get rid of my headache, but that's didn't happen.

Finally, we had all had our fill of the art museum. I had bandied about the idea of getting on the ferry for naps, but that would mean I'd have to take an extra subway ride, and I didn't think I could manage it. Instead, I decided we would go to Central Park and rest.

We got on the subway, went the wrong direction, got off, went the correct direction, and then I mistakenly thought the dinner location was at 91st not 71st, so we rode all the way from SoHo to 96th, which is a nice long ride. I kept thinking my head would explode. When we exited the subway, there was a magical little store that sold all sorts of great things. I acquired Motrin, gummi bears, Starburst, and Gatorade. I had determined that this would make me feel better and keep the kids happy.

I ate the Motrin, chugged some Gatorade, and then we headed up to street level. I had told the kids that it was rest time for everyone and we would all lie down at the park. For some reason, they agreed. We passed a Starbucks on the way and I acquired an enormous coffee drink and a fruit salad.

When we got to the park, I knew my day was headed up. For starters, my headache was abating. And...I don't know the liklihood of this, but we actually ran right into a playground. How lucky is that? We found a shady spot, the kids gobbled the fruit up, and I sucked my overpriced coffee down.

And then we rested briefly. Wow do I have fabulous children. I had told them earlier that I wasn't feeling great and I needed to sit for a few minutes. They were totally happy to sit there and play the game of "will more taxis or regular cars pass us" for several minutes. The answer? Typically on this little pass, the ratio of cars to taxis is 2:1, but occasionally, there will be more taxis. Only once did a bus come by. I gave you that information because I knew you would not sleep tonight if I left that question hanging in the air.

After counting cars and taxis for a while, we went to locate a public bathroom. There was none. Helen ducked behind a dumpster.

This is the point when I knew we were going to make it to dinner. Which we eventually did, only a few minutes late. I consulted my notes to see that I was 20 blocks away from the restaurant, not 5, so much to Connor's delight, we hopped on the subway. This time, I was totally relaxed because my headache was gone and neither of my children were, and we were within a few minutes of our final destination.

I wasn't sure the day was going to end well. But you know what? We all had a really fun time. Nobody whined (even though we were short on sleep and nobody had a nap), everybody got to do things they enjoyed, and for possibly the only time in her life, Helen was quiet for about ten minutes which was just enough time for my headache to subside.

The only thing that could've made the day better was if I'd been able to deliver on the promise to see the old train cars. But at the point I decided to skip the ferry, I also decided to skip nap option 2 of heading back out to Vickie's place and the old train cars. Connor did ask about the train car museum, but he understood that the hours just didn't work out.

Be warned, New York City, we'll be back!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New York City With Kids

There is a local blogger who makes a living telling tales about her misadventures. Funny tales. Tales that I wonder if they are true. Tales that make me think she ought to consider staying closer to home. Except that I usually laugh a lot when she tells these tales, so I hope she keeps telling them for a long time.

Anyway, I think her spirit followed me to New York City this past weekend, and all I can say is that I am very grateful my entire family made it out alive and together, and I hope I'm not about to start that phase in my parenting where I cannot leave the house without worrying that we won't all make it back.

For quite some time now, I've wanted to go to NYC. Brilliantly, I selected Memorial Day weekend as the weekend I would travel. Because if a bazillion other people are doing it, it must be a good idea. The plan was to leave Ed's office around 2:00 on Friday. On Thursday, my last working day, the friend I was visiting updated her Facebook status to this:

Stuck with two kids and a constipated cat today. Hoping none of them ruin the long weekend!!

My reply:

Should I be scared?

Her response:

Think the cat is OK. Teo is out of sorts and has a low-grade fever. (But was jumping all over Trader Joe's!) Will let you know how things progress this pm.

We kibitzed on Friday a bit, and it seemed like Teo was on the mend, and the trip to the doctor was more of a "just to check-in" sort of trip instead of a "my son will be spending the next 48 hours in a hospital room as he recovers from pneumonia and he gets oxygen" sort of trip. As it turns out, it was the latter sort of trip. But that was discovered after we were already on the road.

Typical travel time to NYC from DC = 4.5 hours. Build in time to stop and purchase an enormous package of french fries for the little people, and the trip should be a whiz, right? Only I didn't get to Ed's office until closer to 2:30, because a lot of cars decided to cross the bridge into DC about the same time I decided to cross it. And then, those same cars decided to keep right on driving to Interstate 95, and after over an hour in the car, Baltimore was not all that close to being in our sight. At one point, Ed suggested bailing, but damn it, I was not going to let a little traffic keep me from seeing Vickie, Teo, Benjie, and their cutie Luna - who I haven't seen since she decided to take her first steps with a walker at my home quite some time ago. Plus, I don't believe in sunk costs.

Sometime around 7:00, I got word that Teo would not be coming home. Only I was about an hour away from NYC at that point, and we were not going to go home either. And luckily, Vickie is the most generous host in the entire world because she was all "don't worry. We won't be able to do the things we had planned for tomorrow, but you can still have fun!" And, lest you think that I am the biggest jerk in the world, Ed planned to go to the baseball game with his parents on Saturday, so we'd be cancelling on them, too.

We pulled up to Vickie's apartment at 8:15 PM on Friday night. That detail is important. We pulled up next to a sign that read "No parking midnight - 3 AM Monday, Wednesday, Friday". I unloaded our bags as Connor, Helen, and Ed ran to the dry cleaners next door that had a donkey out front that children could ride. Helen about burst a gasket when Connor dropped in 50 cents and the thing started moving. At just about this time, Vickie and Luna came walking up the street. Vickie and I hugged, Connor and Helen jumped for joy at seeing Vickie, the woman who they would choose as mother if they had the choice. Helen hugged Baby Luna, and then Ed pulled away to park our car on the other side of the street, which had a sign that read the same as the above sign, except the days of the week were Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Those readers that are smarter than Ed and I know what will be waiting on our window Saturday morning. HINT: days start at midnight, not 8:00 AM. But the $45 we would ultimately owe was the least of our problems.

When Ed returned from across the street, Vickie and I turned to go into the building. A quick count on my part showed I was short one child. One very small child who occasionally wanders around. So I asked "Ed, where's Helen" and he looked at me as if to say "how would I know? I've been moving the car from this perfectly legal parking spot to an illegal parking spot across the street." What I had missed in greeting Vickie was this:

But what I found a moment later was this:

Awesome. Child found. I went into Vickie's building with Connor, the cooler that held Helen's milk, the bag of stuff I packed for the car (none of which was actually used), Ed's backpack of clothing, and a few loose ends.

Ed came in a bit behind me with Helen on his shoulders.

After the excitement of seeing all the new toys died down, I went to fetch the children's pajamas. I looked around for my suitcase, and asked Ed where it was. Only, he had no idea because apparently he possesses the skill of walking right by a suitcase without picking it up.

All I can say is this. Vickie must live in a very good part of Brooklyn because when Ed went downstairs to fetch the suitcase, it was still sitting there, untouched. And I had been so careful about emptying the car! What a waste.

Meanwhile, Connor queried
"are there any toys in that suitcase?"

"No, Connor, it's just clothes."

"Oh good, because I would be really sad if we lost some toys."

"Yes, that would be sad."

"Oh Wait, Mommy! Is Daddy's rainbow shirt in there?"

"Yes Connor, you put it in there this morning."

"It has my toys in it!!!! I wrapped them up this morning. I will be so sad if they are gone."

So that was our first few hours in NYC. I'll tell you about the rest tomorrow. The preview? I believe I had my first ever panic attack and definitely had a migraine headache while Ed sat through the longest baseball game of the season.