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Jan 6 2012

How to Make the Perfect Fruit Face

By at 2:11 pm

fruit faceMiles is sick. Just a cold, really nothing big or bad, thank God. But he’s 6. And being sick when you’re 6 and feisty is a combination of novelty and opportunity, I suppose.

When I was a child, I didn’t mind being sick. I got to stay home from school, eat foods not normally eaten, and spend time with my mom. These were all good things. Fun foods in our house were ginger ale and white rice, and sometimes a little chocolate. My mom said it was good for an upset tummy. I needed to believe she was right!

Since we homeschool, sick days don’t involve missing school per se, but they do involve fun foods and extra time with both me and my husband, who is home with our boys when I work. Here’s the conversation I had with sick Miles yesterday morning:

“Miles, I already made you miso soup and toast with [vegan] butter and jam. I know you asked for porridge but that’s a lot of carbohydrates. So let’s pick a fruit or vegetable.”

“Ummm. Watermelon.”

“Miles, it’s winter. I don’t have watermelon.”

“Ummm. Cantaloupe.” Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 28 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Gratitude

By at 3:27 pm

"Are you Irish?"

I’ve been spending a lot of time feeling grateful lately, and not just because I’m still enjoying the leftovers from Thanksgiving. My baby girl got croupy (again) on Thursday night, and we ended up back in the emergency room. Sure, I was thankful for the excellent medical care we got, but one interaction I had in the hospital reminded me of just how lucky my family and I are in other ways as well.

The respiratory therapist who came to give my daughter a nebulizer treatment saw her name (Rose) and asked if we were Irish. In a rare moment of self-restraint, I didn’t point out that our last name is Naumburg (not O’Naumburg or McNaumburg), but I did mention that we’re Jewish.

“Ohhh! That’s so cool! I totally have a Jewish friend!” And with that announcement, that nice young respiratory therapist proceeded to goo and gaa at Rosie, all the while talking to her about Hannukah and latkes and apple sauce. I managed to ignore the Jewish friend comment until she finished my daughter’s treatment and wished us “Salaam Aleikum”—a traditional Muslim greeting meaning “peace be with you”.

She was serious. She didn’t know the difference.

All of a sudden I flashed back to my childhood in New Mexico, when I was given ashes on my forehead for Ash Wednesday by my public school teacher. (The possibility that we weren’t Christian was never considered; neither was the separation of church and state, apparently.) I was reminded of the time in college when our dining hall was decorated for Passover with glorious pyramids of freshly baked challah. And I remembered a conversation just last week with a new babysitter. Although we had specifically looked for one who wasn’t Jewish (our previous babysitter was a Rabbi’s daughter, and thus unavailable for Kol Nidrei or Erev Shabbat services), I wasn’t prepared for her complete lack of knowledge of anything Jewish. (Although she was quite eager to learn about “our Sabbath”, as she was interested in some nice young Jewish boy.)

As I sat in that hospital bed, holding my daughter, I couldn’t help but think that I am actually part of the 1%; Jews make up approximately 1.7% of the population of the United States, and just 0.2% of the population of the world. I have lived in a suburb of Boston for over a decade, and as such, I’ve been sheltered, and incredibly lucky. We live within a 30-minute drive of several synagogues, Jewish day schools and preschools, and Judaica shops. The public schools in our town are closed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We can buy Shabbat candles at our local grocery store, and which bakery makes the best challah is a matter of hot debate in our community. I write for an amazing online magazine where I can make reference to Yom Kippur, and none of my readers accuse me of making up a holiday just to get out of an exam (and yes, that’s a true story).

I live in a happy little Jewish bubble, and when it gets burst, I notice it, and it reminds me of just how fortunate my family and I are to have such an amazing Jewish community—both in real life, and online.

Nov 3 2011

We Got the Croup!

By at 4:03 pm
flying superhero woman

When it comes to emergencies, I'm sort of like a superhero.

If anyone had driven by our house at about 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning, they would have seen a small, fuzzy monkey sitting on her Mommy’s lap on the front step.  No, this wasn’t an extension of our Halloween celebrations.  I had wrapped my daughter in her monkey blanket and taken her outside to breath the frigid air because it’s the only thing that helps when she gets the croup (other than a trip to the emergency room, which she has also required at times).

For those of you who are lucky enough to have avoided the croup, it’s basically difficulty breathing as the result of swelling around the vocal cords, usually caused by a virus or bacteria.  It’s most common in infants and children (although my daughter’s pediatrician diagnosed me with it over the phone last winter).  Kids with the croup bark like baby seals when they cough, and when it gets bad, they wheeze.  When it’s really bad, they can’t breathe.  The symptoms usually manifest in the middle of the night (of course they do) and last 5-6 nights.  (Because who needs to sleep for a week when you can stay up all night worrying about whether or not your kid is breathing?)  Treatment at home usually consists of either hot steam or cold air, and of course my girls only respond to the cold, which is why I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit sitting on our front step in winter or sticking my baby’s head in the freezer in the middle of summer.

The croup has been an unwelcome visitor in our home since my girls were babies.  Frieda’s been to the ER at least twice, and Rosie was admitted to the hospital when she was 4 months old.  Listening to my baby struggle to breathe has got to be one of the worst experiences of my life.  Yet, somehow, I feel like I am at my best as a mother in those moments.  Yes, I am anxious and worried, but my anxiety is focused on something real, something actually worth worrying about.  In those moments, when I am holding my daughters, listening to their breathing, watching their chests rise and fall, I am completely present.  I’m not checking my phone or cooking dinner or rushing the girls along.  I’m focused on my baby, on her breaths, waiting to see if the coughing will stop, if the wheezing will calm. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 15 2011

How to Get Thinner Thighs and Cope with Toddlers

By at 11:32 am

"I sweat my buns off to a trashy Ke$ha remix while watching Regis on closed caption...I had more energy, dealt with his tantrums better and overall just felt, stronger."

I’m super attached to my child and not just in an “attached-parenting” sort of way.

My husband works insane hours and we have no family nearby so I’m pretty much the sole caretaker of our little guy. I love that he’s my constant companion from the time I wake up until the time I rock him to sleep at night. We share breakfast, lunch and dinner, stories and play dates, happy days and cranky ones. But as toddlerhood rears its bi-polar head, I find myself needing a “Mama time-out”. Perhaps he’s bored with me or just wants to push my buttons to get a nice big reaction out of me. I swear I say, “that’s not for babies” FIVE HUNDRED TIMES A DAY or “Yuckies, give to Mama!” before he pops a cat turd in his mouth. Diaper changes? Forget it. Try Mama-baby wrestling sessions complete with pooh-flinging and powder clouds. And if I dare open my laptop or talk on the phone the result is complete hysterics.

Mama needs a time-out? More like Mama needs to snort some Xanax, take a 20 minute shower and then pound a bottle of cheap wine while watching Bachelor Pad.

Instead, I broke down and went to the gym. I need a way to vent my frustration and he needs some fresh faces in his day so I figured it was time to try the baby drop-off. I fret over what a selfish bitch I was to abandon my child just so I could have thinner thighs, wondering if he knew how horrible is was going to be when I took him to a room full of toys and strangers and LEFT HIM THERE. I pictured him sobbing in the arms of some poor high school girl while I sweat my buns off to a trashy Ke$ha remix while watching Regis on closed caption. Read the rest of this entry →

May 11 2011

Fool With No Mama

By at 11:21 am

When I was in high school, our principal used to come on the PA every morning to make the following announcement: “Make sure you’re on time to class. Don’t be a fool with no mama who gets caught in the Tardy Sweep.

(Incidentally, our high school mascot was a unicorn. Because we are special and magical and we all shit rainbows. Fools with no mamas or not, we have Unicorn Pride.)

But I digress.

(Please forgive me – I’m a little more tired and neurotic than usual.)

Anyway, if one more person asks me “Why are your kids getting sick all the time?” I swear to Yoda that I will aim Little Homie at them and hope he’s in the mood for a good old fashioned round of projectile vomiting.

(Usually, I don’t like to see my kids hurl chunks everywhere. It’s messy and sometimes kind of scary, but again, if I hear this asinine question ah-gain, I will make an exception. You’ve been warned.)

Ok, let me qualify this: If the question comes from a place of love and genuine concern, then I might let it slide. In fact, if I’ve had more than an hour of sleep, I might even smile and shrug and say something about how “oh, you know how kids are.”

Because kids get sick. Period. The End.

BUT it seems more often than not, this question is really just a treacly disguise for the real question:

WHAT ARE YOU – YOU, MAMA! YEAH, YOU! — DOING WRONG?

(Because let’s face it, no one ever asks B. why his kids are getting sick all the time.)

When Little Homie throws falafel on the ground, the waitress glares at me. Not B.

When M. has a five alarm meltdown at the petting zoo, and B. tries to sooth her, it doesn’t matter whether he succeeds or fails. All that matters is he’s trying. And everyone smiles.  But, if I can’t calm her down, I look incompetent. Big time Mama Fail.

If B. takes Little Homie out for a walk and forgets to put socks on him, three people — THREE FUCKING PEOPLE, I KID YOU NOT — will ask him “Why didn’t his mother put socks on him?” Because clearly, it’s my fault. Always and forever. My. Fault.

And when the kids get sick, everyone peppers me with questions about their health habits, what they eat, and how many times they poop. No one thinks to ask B.

Even though B. and I are co-parenting–we both work, we both raise our kids, and we both try not kill each other or ourselves in the process–when he’s helping out it’s called “helping out” or “giving me a break.” And the whole fucking world throws a ticker tape parade in his honor.

(I bet some of you know what I’m talking about.)

The grunt work. The scut work. The nails-on-a-chalkboard-grind. The dirty dishes. The lost socks. My fault. All of it.

My. Fault.

And one day, if my kids get caught in a Tardy Sweep, they’ll be fools with no mama. And they probably won’t be wearing socks, either.  Call Child Protective Services and arrest me! Throw me in Bad Mother Jail without a trial because I’m guilty until proven otherwise.

It’s all my fault.

(Anyway, at this point, I was going to turn this post into a mordant commentary about sexism and family dynamics vis-a-vis sick children, but I spent all my energy looking up “vis-a-vis” to make sure I was using it in the correct context. And I’m still not sure. Google Fail. And that sound you hear are my graduate school dreams getting flushed down the toilet.)

Look. I’m tired. I’m scared. I’ve got a sick kid who may or may not have an underlying health problem. After all, two cases of Pneumonia in three months is a bit… weird.

And, on top of all of that, I feel guilty.

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