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Nov 14 2011

Plane Trip Turns Into Road Trip

By at 10:18 am

van on the road

Woman plans, God laughs.

When last we spoke, I was all overwrought about my four month old’s first “vacation” and plane flight. An hour-long plane flight to Virginia (Colonial Williamsburg, specifically) would, I was convinced, turn into an hour-long screaming poopfest. I would be the recipient of looks of pity and disgust from my fellow passengers. My husband would offer to get bumped.

That’s not really how it went down.

The day we left, I woke up Baby G at 5:30 am – yeah, that’s right, I woke up a sleeping baby, which is a violation of the Geneva Convention. She smiled at me lovingly as if to say, “Mommy, don’t worry – I’m the Perfect Baby.” She is, actually, the perfect baby. I haven’t written here about how she started sleeping through the night at four weeks old because it is the biggest keyn eyn hora anyone ever heard of, but the fact of the matter is, this kid is an absolute sweetheart. She gets it from her father.

So we schlep to the airport – me, husband, baby G, the two boys, ages 6 and 8, and my parents, who are simply the best human beings in the world. We get through security, where my mother’s hip replacement and baby G’s car seat stroller are given thorough scrutiny (you know, because both of them are aspiring terrorists). And then we find out that, thanks to the fog engulfing the New York area, our flight is cancelled. The boys’ faces crumple like Kim Kardashian’s ketubah (fine, she didn’t have a ketubah, but you get what I’m saying). Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 9 2011

Leeeeaving on a Jet Plane

By at 2:56 pm

I'd like my vacation to look like this. What do I need to bring?

I’m not sure where I first heard it, but it’s true: traveling by yourself, or with another consenting adult, is a vacation. Traveling with kids is no vacation – it’s a trip, in every sense of the word.

That being said, traveling with children does get easier as kids get older. If you only have toddlers, suffice it to say that you have no idea how great the difference is between a plane trip with someone who poops in their pants and with someone who knows how to do “scene selection” on a portable DVD player. The latter is far more pleasant and can even have you throwing an aspirational Vanity Fair into your carry-on luggage.

Allow me to brag a little bit about the wonders of self-sufficient-child travel. On a comparatively recent plane trip with my two boys, I reached the Nirvana of plane travel with children. The boys actually sat across the aisle from myself and my husband, alone, and watched a DVD together, giggling all the way. Not only that, but they sat with some other random adult, who commented repeatedly on how smart and polite the boys were. I mean, is that not every parent’s fantasy? Who even needed the vacation after that?

Now, however, I have a wonderful 4-month-old daughter, and am about to face a traveling adventure: we’re going on a plane. I’ve never been on a plane with a baby. Okay, I have – other people’s screaming babies, who I’ve unmercifully hated and attempted to avoid. I’m now ashamed to admit to having acted in that horrible way people do on planes toward babies (you know what I mean: “I’ve never seen a creature like that before in my life, and am certainly not going to admit any degree of empathy or even the fact that I once was someone like this.”). In fact, I dimly recall having written for Kveller on baby-free sections on planes and how utterly unsympathetic I’ve been to those frazzled parent travelers toting two tons of baby crap plus baby.

And now, I will be one of you. Go ahead, laugh all you want. Payback is a bitch.

For a trip of a mere three days to Virginia, Baby G will travel with more stuff than Elle Woods would pack for an entire summer on the French Riviera. It’s really astounding. Changes of clothing for those pooptastic moments, hats, bibs, bottles, bottle brush, formula (horror!), pacifiers, car seat, car seat stroller, little baby hairbrush, medicines for every conceivable baby ailment (pu pu pu), moisturizers, tush ointment, wipes, and, of course, diapers.

I know I have been unkind to you all and am now sorry. Please show me mercy and help a mother out here: what am I forgetting to bring????

More tips about travel with children here.

Sep 6 2011

Vacation is Over, Getting Your Kids To Eat Well Again

By at 1:00 pm

I got back Saturday from five days on the beach in Cape May, N.J. (It should have been a week’s vacation; I’m looking at you, Hurricane Irene.) And instead of feeling rejuvenated, I’m nursing a stomach sick from eating ice cream, crab cakes, ice cream, saltwater taffy, ice cream, chicken cheese steaks, a hot dog, and ice cream. But that’s not what’s eating me. I’m more bothered that Ellie, my 20-month-old, keeps saying her stomach hurts, too.

I’m not going to pretend that she eats perfectly all the time. If it’s green or meat, she’s not interested, and I’m convinced that if it were not for the existence of challah, she would have long ago starved. But in Cape May, the only options on the kids’ menus were hot dogs, grilled cheese, fried shrimp, chicken fingers, buttered noodles, and mac and cheese – all served with fries and a tot-size soft drink. There wasn’t a veggie to be found. (Potatoes in the fries don’t count.) When I asked at a pricey Italian restaurant if the chef could steam some carrots in place of the fries, the waitress said no.

Much to my annoyance, my husband wasn’t nearly as concerned as I was about what Ellie was putting in her mouth. He justified her poor diet as a casualty of being on vacation. After all, we weren’t exactly scarfing down broiled salmon and crispy kale. “She’ll get right back on track when we get home,” he assured me.

That kids’ menus offer little more than fat- and cholesterol-laden options is not new, not unique to Cape May and, when you get down to it, not very surprising. After all, those are the foods most kids – heck, most adults, if we’re being honest – would prefer to eat. And us parents, hoping to avoid a scene in a public place, let them eat it.

But even McDonald’s lets you choose apple slices and milk in lieu of fries and a soda in a Happy Meal. Isn’t it time for more restaurants step up to the plate?

Now we’re home and Ellie keeps asking for mac and cheese. She hasn’t gotten it. Tonight she had a tantrum because she wanted ice cream after her bath. She didn’t get that, either. Of course, at her age she doesn’t connect her tummy trouble to what she ate, so getting her back on track will apparently be tougher than I naively thought it would be.

Short of packing a suitcase full of fruit, yogurt and whole-grain bread, what’s a parent to do? What do you do to make sure your children eat healthy away from home?

Jul 8 2011

Mayim Bialik’s Adventures in Legoland

By at 10:28 am

We first went to Legoland in Oceanside, California when my second son, Frederick, was born. It was my first outing in 40 days, and my older son, Miles, was almost 3. I was in a peasant skirt, Converse hightops, and my pajama top. Literally: I was in my pajama top, since I nursed pretty much round the clock for the first months, and I had barely been in real clothes since Fred was born anyway, so why make an exception for Legoland?

I mostly sat on benches in a hormonal daze and nursed while trying to not draw attention to myself since I was crying out in pain (nursing my sons for the first several months of their lives elicited that for this lucky mama). Miles and my husband had a blast going on all of the amazing 3-year-old-friendly rides. Fred screamed the entire two hour ride home, simply because he could. I almost lost my mind and vowed never to leave the house ever again.

Cut to almost three years later. Yes, I have left the house, and yes, Fred has stopped screaming in the car for no apparent reason. Now he screams in the car because–don’t you know it?–he is “DONE DONE DONE” with the car “NOW NOW NOW.”

We ventured to Legoland again last week; Fred is the age Miles was when we first went, and Miles is almost 6 and super pumped about both LEGO and spending the day with his 6-year-old friend who was there with his family to celebrate his birthday. Yeah: this family we are friends with bought a 5-day pass, stayed at a hotel inches from the entrance, and really lived it up. Way to make us look like the loser parents, guys.

Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 1 2011

See You Tuesday

By at 2:49 pm

Like the rest of the country, Kveller is going on vacation. We are taking a long weekend and will be back on Tuesday, July 5. By then we’ll have lots of stories to share. Amy Deutsch can tell us why she was in Detroit. Molly Tolsky will tell us about her two weeks in Israel on Birthright (she’s our resident non-mom around here). And perhaps our contributing editor, Jordanna Horn, will be live tweeting her birth.

What will you be doing?

Happy July 4th!

Hello? Is There a Doctor in the House?

By at 12:33 pm

Happy July 1st! For some of us, i.e. me, this is the month where we’re scheduled to have a baby. For others, this is the month where a new job will commence. And in some situations, these two unusual circumstances will collide.

New medical residents start their shifts on July 1st. The maximum hour shifts for first year residents, as of today, is 16 hours…apparently laid-back, compared to the normal way of life of a first year resident. Second year residents are allowed to work 24 hour shifts, although “strategic napping” is recommended. Sort of like being a new parent, isn’t it?

I’m due next week, so who knows what will happen…but here in the US, many know that July 4th is…well, July 4th. And on July 4th, everyone with any seniority in any job in the world decamps for beach, mountain, or recreational locations, leaving people who don’t know what they’re doing…I mean, people who are comparatively new on the job…to do the work. I’ve been in that position myself, and have fond memories of spending my Fourth of July weekends working on briefs that were fairly eviscerated by partners after the fact.

I don’t like the idea of my baby, due to scheduling constraints beyond my control, being delivered by someone who has less experience delivering babies than I do (this will be my third, after all).

But the fact of the matter is that baby birthin’ is fairly unpredictable business, regardless of the time of year. You never know what’s going to happen or where. With my first child, I remember going to my Lamaze class and being surprised that everyone had drawn up elaborate birth plans. I looked down at my piece of paper, which said, “Have the baby.” I mean, homework for Lamaze class is a bit much…but also, the fact is that this is one of those “Women plan, God laughs” kind of situations. The more elaborate the birthing plan, the more guaranteed it seems one is of having a c-section.

I’ve been having off-and-on contractions and pain for the past few days and am trying to go through life with as little variation as possible. I went to a film screening yesterday, and am relieved to report that I didn’t give birth either inbound or outbound in the Lincoln Tunnel. In an effort to court as many germs as possible, I’m taking my older son to the pediatrician today so he can get over his cold in time to hopefully meet his little sister in the hospital when she’s born. I have flip flops to return. Will the day end with me having a baby? Who knows?

You can’t sweat the small stuff or the big stuff. Resident possibly delivering my baby? I can’t stress about it – you never know what’s going to happen. And so that’s why when I watch the fireworks with my husband, parents and boys Monday night, I’m going to make sure I get a good seat – right next to the E.M.T. truck.

Jun 27 2011

Why Mayim Bialik Is Fed Up with the TSA

By at 10:06 am

I love this country. I know we have to be vigilant against terrorism. And I respect the men and women who defend our country against all enemies foreign and domestic. I have appreciation for TSA workers.

However, I have an issue with certain aspects of TSA at American airports. Have since 9/11. I have flown to Israel over a dozen times since I was 16 via El Al, the national airline of Israel. They have never made me take off my shoes or empty out my toiletries into a ridiculous Ziploc bag like I am in kindergarten. They have even insisted that I leave my sleeping toddler in his stroller rather than wake him up to pass the stroller and his plump sleepy body through security separately.

Why do I have an issue with TSA?

Here are some of the irksome security-related things that have happened to me. Maybe you don’t find them bizarre, but I cannot help sighing and harumphing about as these indignities (yes a strong word; but I think it applies) have occurred, much to my husband’s chagrin. (Both of his parents served in the army and he has a tremendous respect for both order and authority. He finds me a tad bit embarrassing at airports.)

Okay, back to the indignities. They fall into two categories: my kids and me.

MY KIDS

1) Our boys wore little moccasins instead of shoes until they were about 2 years old. We are hippies; we like their little feet to not be constrained by hard soles, blah blah blah. Little teeny tiny moccasins on little teeny tiny feet.

Indignity: Are you seriously making me take the little teeny tiny moccasins off of their little teeny tiny feet to pass them through the scanner? Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 14 2011

My Husband is in Israel, and I’m Worried

By at 12:32 pm

My husband is in Israel this week, traveling for work.

Yes, I am intensely jealous. Not only does he get to go to Israel, but he gets to do it without kids. I love my daughters, but what I wouldn’t give for 11 straight hours with just my iPad, a pair of headphones, and an endless supply of Diet Coke. And that’s before I even get to the vacation part!

I am also incredibly anxious. I do get a bit nervous any time he travels, even if it’s just to Minneapolis or Jacksonville. But this time he’s traveling overseas, and to Israel no less. In my American mind, Israel is not only the land of my ancestors, of King David and Masada and the Western Wall and the best damn hummus you’ve ever tasted, but it’s also the land of bus bombings and kassam rockets and war and scary things happening without warning.

Maybe I’m worrying for no reason. (I certainly hope I am.) Josh and I went to Israel in 2006 during the war with Lebanon. We thought about canceling our trip, and we asked our family and friends for their advice. Without exception, our Israeli connections and anyone who had ever been to Israel said we should go. Our friends and family who had never been thought we were nuts for even considering the trip. We went, and had an amazing time. (Which, in itself, was a bit of a surreal experience—the country was at war, and we floated in the Dead Sea while people were dying just a couple of hundred miles away.)

But maybe I’m worrying for a reason. We’re lucky in that we don’t know anyone who has been injured or killed in Israeli violence. There are many, many others who aren’t as fortunate. My husband narrowly avoided a bombing when he was studying there in college; by some twist of fate, he and his friends chose a different ice cream shop for their afternoon snack. But I can’t think about that too much now, not when he’s still there.

And of course the stakes are higher this time. We have children. I worry about what life would be like for me and the girls if something were to happen to Josh (again—not going to dwell on that right now). On a broader level, I worry and wonder about what my girls’ relationship to Israel will be like, especially if the violence and instability continues. I hope they will have a connection to Israel that I don’t, one that I wish I did, and one that may yet develop. Josh and I will do what we can to encourage it, but safety will always be our first concern. I wish safety didn’t have to be the first thing I worry about when I think about Israel, but right now it is. Even in this time of relative calm, it is.

As I wait for Josh to come home, I’m saying a prayer each night that he has a good trip, and a safe trip. And as I watch my daughter chew on a wooden dreidel, I wish, and hope, and pray that Israel will find peace.

Jun 13 2011

Being Away From My Kids Was Awesome, Until it Sucked

By at 1:30 pm

On my last trip to New York, I flew to Toronto for some Big Bang Theory publicity for one day of our trip. I left our hotel in Manhattan at 5:30 am after nursing our almost 3 year old one last time, and I returned at 10 pm that night.

It was very hard being away from him and his older brother that long; I don’t know if I have ever been away from them for that long, ever. I started to cry as the plane took off; feeling the string that connected us was being stretched maybe a little bit too far.

That being said, here are the awesome things about that day:

1) Walking to get a bagel across 44th street without a 35 pound toddler strapped to my back and a 5 1/2 year old tugging at my arm is infinitely better than walking to get a bagel with a 35 pound toddler strapped to my back and a 5 1/2 year old tugging at my arm.

2) I can get orange juice with as much pulp as I want when I am alone. No one will scrunch up his tiny face like he just ate a lemon, spitting out pulp along the sidewalk in disgust as I contemplate telling him about my grandparents’ childhoods in Eastern Europe where orange juice in a carton with too much pulp was the last thing they were worried about.

3) I do not need to carry a handkerchief because there is no one’s nose or grimy sticky hands to be wiped.

4) People recognize me far more when I am alone, since when people see kids, they usually look at them.

5) I can actually hold a complete conversation with a start, middle, and ending without being interrupted with requests to go potty, or to look at the cute dog, or look at the policeman, or, “Look at the gum stuck to my shoe, mama!”

As I experienced each of these revelations, I rejoiced for the possibility of someday (soon perhaps!?) reclaiming the person I was before I became “the woman who is a mother.” I also got surges of panic: what if? What if I never want to go back to that hotel? What if the lures of not being tied down overtake me and I become that woman who left her family to pretend she is single again? What if it’s not enough anymore to be a mother all day all the time with no breaks and no end in sight? What if?

Yeah, pretty scary stuff.

When my feet hit the carpeted hallway of our hotel at 10 that night, after a day of publicity and meetings and Toronto seen only from the window of a town car, I started crying. The clash of my worlds felt overwhelming. How could I miss those boys so much and also not miss them so much? I nursed my sweet Fred into the darkness and instantly returned to the life most prominently assigned to me now. It was as if–poof!–Cinderella became her old self again after a night at the ball with the Prince. Back to tired overwhelmed underappreciated mama.

Someday I will have more freedom, and someday I will see what it’s like to be the me I was before I became the me I am now. For now, it’s hard. And I don’t always understand the conflict or what to do with it. So I sit with it. I forgive myself for feeling longing for that other existence, and I remember that there is only one life we get to live this time around. I am blessed to have two sons whose little souls are so pure and who bring me so much joy, and their love will see me through my struggle and my conflict. It has to. Because there is no other way.

May 23 2011

Nursing Abroad…On The Bathroom Floor

By at 9:31 am

Did you know there was a kosher McDonald's in Argentina?

When our son Aiven was 15 weeks old, my husband Alex and I took him to Buenos Aires, to meet Alex’s family. I needed to pump plenty of breast milk to keep Aiven happy in taxis and restaurants, but towards the end of the 10-day trip, my pump decided it needed a vacation too.

My breasts could not afford such luxury, and I was forced to nurse more often to compensate for my slacker pump.

Our trip was blessed with excellent weather, but inevitably there came a rainy day.  We decided to go to a famous shopping center. This mall is huge and well known for both its Art Deco interior and kosher McDonald’s.

At lunchtime we went to the food court and Aiven decided he wanted to eat too. With no bottled milk left, I tried nursing him in a booth. He could not get comfortable, nor could I, and his hungry wails pierced the cacophony of the food court.

Of course my husband was nowhere to be found (he was on a mission to seek and devour a vegan meal) so I left the stroller with his aunt and tried to explain in broken Spanish that I was leaving to find a place to nurse. (Alex tells me that what I actually said was “I’m looking milk.”) I made a mad dash to find a quiet comfy corner in this cavernous mall to feed my ravenous son.

Well, I found a place alright, but I wouldn’t exactly call it comfy. I texted Alex and his aunt to come meet me and help me get up:

Yes, that would be me on the floor of the handicapped bathroom.

I had my hands on the floor, so Alex wouldn’t let me touch Aiven. When he was done nursing, Alex lifted him off of me. I washed my hands and arms as best as I could. I don’t think there was any soap or paper towels. YUCK! Alex wanted to dip me in a vat of bleach to disinfect me. Thankfully I remembered my hand sanitizer and gooped it all over me. I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel and shower.

Although I’ve shamelessly nursed Aiven in a plethora of public places, I must say that this was hands down (pun intended) the most interesting and gross experience I ever had nursing my baby boy.

What about you? I would love to hear your stories!

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