Tag Archives: parenting

Three’s Company

**I am a regular contributor to the It Builds Character parenting site. (Yeah, I know – they let me write about parenting! Whaa?)  Anyway, this was one of mine originally published there in March 2011.  I thought it might be worthy of share on (Love) Notes because I feel too lazy to write something new today . **

When I had my first baby 6 years ago, everything, including the baby, was perfect. I got pregnant about six seconds after going off birth control, and the baby held off entering this world until I could graduate from business school the day earlier. He slept a lot and ate a lot. I sat around my house watching Oprah and Dr. Phil and everything else on daytime TV wondering, “What is everyone complaining about? Babies are easy!” When he was awake, my kid was always smiling and he was cute too. He didn’t have any health issues, allergy issues, sleep issues – nothing. My husband I brought him out to dinner with friends, baseball games, the grocery store, and he just sat there content the whole time. He was so good, there was an uneasy part of me that thought maybe he was the second coming of Christ, which would mean my husband wasn’t his biological father, and that could make things awkward if anyone ever found out. I eventually decided that since no wise men came to the hospital when he was born, I probably wasn’t the mother of God, but then again, maybe they just got lost – that place was really confusing.

The point is, having a baby didn’t really change our lives at all. We were well rested and had no reason to fight because our baby was perfect and so were our lives.

So when my son was 18 months old, I was all about having Number Two because kids were so easy and all those other parents were kind of whiners. Maybe they just weren’t doing everything right like I was – even though what I was doing I just made up everyday and my kid turned out totally perfect and above-average, which kind of proved that I just have a really natural penchant for child-rearing and really great genes. Man, was my son lucky I was so full of Awesome.

But when it was time for Number Two, things didn’t go exactly like Number One. Getting pregnant? Not so easy this time. And I don’t tolerate failure well, so I was naturally a joy to live with from the time I didn’t get pregnant immediately to the almost year later it took to conceive. I am kind of surprised my husband ever consented to sex after that again, because I regularly screeched things like, “We need to have sex precisely between 8:03pm and 8:11pm today or else I won’t get pregnant for yet another month!” and “I hope you have been following Section 3.1.2 of the Conception Rule Book I authored which states no alcohol, loose underwear and no masturbation. Be showered, shaved and ready to perform when I beckon. Failure is not an option.” So, needless to say, our sex life was truly awe-inspiring – not in a good way.

Eventually he finally did it right and I finally got pregnant with Number Two, who would surely turn out to be as perfect as Number One. Because after all, past performance is the best predictor of future performance, right? Number Two was born two days after Number One’s third birthday. I didn’t really prepare all that much because babies were easy and he could wear all his brother’s old clothes and he would like all the same stuff as Number One and this would be even simpler than Number One, so what was the point? My in-laws came into town a couple of weeks after the baby was born and we decided now would be a great time for my father-in-law and husband to renovate the family room by themselves. Because kids were easy, so I wouldn’t really need much help and who needs a family room in tact anyway?

Weeell, so Number Two wasn’t a clone of Number One. He cried a little more. He was gassy. After a few weeks, he began to projectile vomit. And then suddenly Perfect Number One was whiny and withdrawn and seemed to want constant attention as if that was what he was used to before this baby was born. Oh wait….right. And then on top of that, I was the lucky winner of a little bout of postpartum depression, so one of my favorite activities was sitting in my room crying for no reason. Nice. Within no time at all our perfect family of three became a sad, dysfunctional family of four. It turned out Number Two had a rare condition that required surgery to fix and without going into all the gory details, Year One of having two kids sucked. Really sucked hard.

And, I had to deal with the realization that I actually wasn’t the best parent ever, because Number One and Number Two were hard to deal with individually, and collectively. They drove my husband and I insane more than a few times and Wally and the Beav never did that to June and Ward. Perhaps we all weren’t as perfect as I had imagined. We had all we could handle with two kids and two full-time jobs and keeping our marriage out of the Alec Baldwin/Kim Basinger range, so we decided we were all finished with kids. After surviving that first year, it looked like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Our sons were healthy and happy and we were sleeping again. We were done. Thank God.

That was until about 15 months ago when I miraculously got pregnant again. Maybe I was to be the virgin mother of God after all. I mean, the odds of me getting pregnant were about equal to the odds of Oprah and Gayle breaking up – which has miracle written all over it. I’m still confused how you can try for a year and have no luck and then when you are doing your best not to, you get pregnant. I guess stuff happens. Well, to us at least.

I wasn’t thrilled. I was scared. We just barely made it through two – how on earth was I going to make it through another? This time my depression started immediately upon the discovery of pregnancy of Number Three. We had to move from the city to the suburbs. We had to get rid of the sedan and find a car that could fit three car seats. We had to become just like “real” parents and real adults that shuttle a bunch of kids around all weekend long. We had to change everything. And I wasn’t happy about it. I had gone from The Best Mother of All Time just six short years before to The Worst Mother of All Time Because I’m Really Super Not Excited About Another Baby.

And then we found out Number Three was a girl. Everyone delighted in exclaiming “You got your girl!” like I was going to keep having kids until I had a girl. I knew boys. I like boys. What on earth was I going to do with a girl? I spent most of the pregnancy disturbed and in denial as we sold our house, moved to the suburbs and turned into the nuclear family cliché. I thought I outsmarted the suburban gods by saying no to the minivan, but then I realized my gas guzzling, insanely huge SUV I had to buy to fit my entire litter was about as original as any Nickelback song you can think of. I would have saved some face buying the minivan.

But then a funny thing happened. Number Three was born and the world didn’t crumble. My life didn’t end. In fact, it got richer. I was in love with my daughter the second I held her. I can’t believe I spent so much time pissed off I was pregnant when I look at those three kids playing together. Having three kids is actually better than having two. Number One and Number Two keep each other busy and they are turning out to be insanely great big brothers and Number Three is not only the cutest kid in the universe, but she started sleeping through the night at three weeks. It makes me think – “Hey, this is easy!! What is everyone complaining about? Maybe we should have a couple more!?”

I think I just heard my husband smash his head into the counter and then chug his glass of wine.

Is that a no?

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Adventures in Babysitting, the Finale

If you are just joining me, start here.  For the other three of you following the story and want to know what happens when Love insists on choosing a daycare run by a woman who shares none of her interests or philosophies in life, here goes:

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and a 10 page signed contract, Miss Amalia decides that we are a good enough family to admit into her daycare and even agrees to take our son at 10 weeks, instead of 6 months, with a little extra charge.  I liked Miss Amalia and her sister, who ran the daycare, but Miss Amalia and I had very different M.O.s.  Miss Amalia loved rules. LOVED rules. I, on the other hand, love to ignore rules, especially when they appear to be arbitrary, which many of Miss Amalia’s were. So when I would visit before my son started I would kind of laugh to myself about how amusing it was the way she clung to her random rules. You know, no shoes in the house. No coming more than 15 minutes early or later than she expected you. No calling during nap time. No breaking any of her 600 breast milk handling rules (thank GOD I didn’t have to deal with that). The list went on and on.  And on.  And on.

So my son is born in June and he turns out to be the easiest, most even-tempered and laid back baby ever born.  God only gives you what you can handle, and that is when I realized that God thinks I’m a total loser, because honestly, the kid never cried, he drank his formula without complaint, he had no gas, he slept all the time, he nailed all his weight and height checks at the doctor. He didn’t even cry when he got his immunizations. I had no idea what motherhood was going to be like, but after the first few weeks with my little guy I was wondering what so many new moms were complaining about.  Everyone was always talking about how hard it was and how they never got to sleep or shower or catch their breath.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  Taking care of an infant was so easy.

When I was on maternity leave, I probably read 100 books and even started watching Dr. Phil (a moustached man who is not a police officer, leaving only one other possibility) just to fill the time.  Seriously.  I was tethered to the house because my baby was always sleeping.  There was nothing for me to do except make a few bottles and change a few diapers every few hours.  And Oprah was in re-runs, so I turned to Dr.Phil. I was totally intrigued desperate.  My son would wake up, eat, be cute for 30 minutes, sleep for a couple of hours and then do it all over again. At  7 weeks he slept through the night.

These facts clearly prove that I must have been the best damn mother in the universe. I had the perfect baby, so that must have meant that every decision I had made had been the right one. If I wasn’t doing everything exactly right then how could my baby be so awesome? You’re stumped. I can tell.  All those moms whose kids cried a lot or didn’t sleep or had acid reflux – it was probably because they weren’t doing it right. I started fancying myself as an authority.  I thought maybe I should write a book about being a perfect parent and I would prove to the world that formula fed babies and their working mothers weren’t all that bad. Scratch that. Formula fed babies and their working mothers were superior! I was a perfect parent*, as evidenced by my perfect child.

(*I think I actually may have believed in my post-partum stupor that my parenting had something to do with my son’s temperament, until I was graced with my second son. The one that feels me up in Target. I now have no such illusions.)

Okay, so now that you know that I am a perfect mother and I have a perfect baby who is about to go to a perfect daycare, you might understand my surprise when my baby went to daycare and Miss Amalia reported that he cried all day.  Ummm? My baby? Impossible. My child does not cry.  “No, he does. All day.” deadpanned Miss Amalia.  “Well, I don’t understand. Are you feeding him? Is he dry?  He never cries with us. Never!”  I was wondering whether she was trying to shake me down for more money. I honestly could not believe what I was hearing.  And yet everyday when I came to pick him up (and he seemed to be docile and happy as ever then), she would claim he spent most of the day crying and fussing.

Not to worry, though.  Miss Amalia knew why.  She suspected that perhaps we let him sleep whenever he wanted to. Yes, we did.  She suspected that sometimes he fell asleep in our arms or in a swing but not in a crib. Well, yes. Sometimes.  She suspected we didn’t have him on a strict schedule. No. At two months old we did not.  “Well”, she said, “you’re going to have to get him on my schedule or this isn’t going to work.”  Your schedule? Um? What the hell are we paying you $375 a week for? I’m not giving up all things fun in this world to pay you just so that you get to be the boss of me, thankyouverymuch.

But I didn’t say that. I asked for the schedule.  Here is a great example of BD and I saying “Sure, Miss Amalia. Give us a copy of your schedule and we’ll make sure we keep to it on the weekends.” (wink, wink, roll eyes, giggles).  She gave us the schedule and I’m pretty sure we used it to pick up the dog’s poop on the way home.  Our kid was younger than 3/4 of the food in my pantry. What did he know about schedules? If he needs to sleep, let him. When he wants to eat, we’ll feed him.  We’re his parents for God’s sake. What does this single woman in her thirties without children know about taking care of children? (Actually – not such a good question to ask yourself when you hired her to do just that). Her unyielding anal retentiveness was really cramping my style and pissing me off.

So a month goes by and he has about 4 bad days and 1 good day a week. After his first four weeks there, Miss Amalia tells us that we need to have an “evaluation” meeting at Starbucks.  We thought this was another one of her random administration rule-y things and we begrudgingly went to our meeting, but were eager to hear about our perfect son’s progress.

She got straight to the point. Our son won’t go to sleep unless she is holding his hand. He fusses and cries a lot and she has other kids to watch, so it’s very distracting.  Perhaps it wasn’t a good match.  Perhaps he’d be happy somewhere else. Perhaps we would all be happy somewhere else.  It just wasn’t working out.  Maybe we’d all made a mistake.  Somewhere in the background the sound of a needle scratches a record.  Oh no she did ent. I saw her lips moving, but I couldn’t really make out the words.  We were getting kicked out of day care.  Oh, helllls no!  After my brief blackout as she was kicking our infant out of the only daycare in Chicago I could find for him, the fighting spirit came back into my body and I begged her not to kick us out. We had nowhere to go, and plus, it made no sense that this baby that was so calm and perfect with us could be such a pain in the ass for her.  I mean, if our kid couldn’t meet her standards, then nobody’s could.  We just couldn’t comprehend the situation we were in, but we promised we would do anything, anything to stay in.

She wasn’t a monster. She only made us beg for 15 minutes until said she would give us another four weeks to either clean up our 3 month old’s behavior or find a new daycare.  Aw, fuck.  I mean, was I supposed to take away his car keys? How do you “fix” a 3 month old who is on probation at daycare and yet an easy, laid back angel at home?

Miss Amalia said she’d work with us. She told us she suspected we weren’t following her schedule. She suspected we were still letting him sleep whenever and wherever and often in our arms. We kind of demurred, but it was probably clear to her that we weren’t doing anything she told us to do.  We sheepishly asked for another copy of the schedule.  We thought it was completely absurd voodoo to have to a kid this small on her strict schedule, but we had no choice. We had to feed him, sleep him, play with him, change him and practice sign language with him, all on this schedule she had.  He had to take all naps in his crib, alone and he couldn’t already be asleep when we put him in there.  No more falling asleep on daddy’s chest, or in the swing or a free bottle here or there.  Obviously, there was no way this was going to work, but we had no other choice, so we decided to do it her way. I really wanted to be right that she was wrong – that the schedule was meaningless — because after all, in just three months I was already a perfect mother with all the answers. So we watched the clock and followed her schedule over the weekend, no exceptions.  Except the yoga part. We weren’t sure how a 3 month old gets the most out of his yoga session, so we substituted Baby Mozart.

On Monday she said he had a good day. “You followed the schedule, didn’t you?” Um. (eyes downward) Yes. On Tuesday another good day. And Wednesday. And Thursday. And Friday.  It had to be a coincidence.  Maybe he had a sense that he was on probation and was on his best behavior. But the next weekend we stuck to the schedule again. And suddenly Miss Amalia is reporting that our kid seems to be so happy and she has never seen him so calm.  Really?  Finally the son we’d always known was showing up at daycare. But only after we went against everything we wanted to do and put him on a schedule. On her schedule. I could tell Miss Amalia was gloating. Because she knew she was right and that we were just punk new parents.  She scared us straight, and she knew it.

Miss Amalia – 1, Love Family – 0. Well played, Miss Amalia, well played.

Eventually our son worked his way off the probation list and we stuck with Miss Amalia for a year. It wasn’t without days that I wanted to punch her in the face because she was so sure she knew everything (and unfortunately, most times she was right).  When she decided she was so awesome that daycare was going to cost $400/week even with 7 other kids there, we gave up.  We couldn’t afford it and she told us she was quite sure that other people could.  We had to move somewhere we could find affordable daycare.  We had to change everything.

So thanks to Miss Amalia, we sold our condo at the height of the real estate bubble and bought a single family in a great neighborhood.  I had to look for new daycare and discovered my Mom Crush in the process and another parent at Miss Amalia’s gave us the lead on the new daycare we found that was almost half of what Miss Amalia was demanding. And we’re still with that daycare. She didn’t make us sign a contract, or tell me how to mother, or make me feel guilty I’ve never seen the inside of Whole Foods. I’m pretty sure she has never done yoga and when the kids get dirty, she washes their clothes, instead of sending them home in a plastic bag. And she loves our kids and they love her. And none of it would have been possible without all Miss Amalia’s rules.  And Starbucks.

So thank you, Starbucks and Miss Amalia — for everything.

Adventures in Babysitting, Part III

(I’m incapable of making a long story short. You’ll need to start here for the first part of the story).

Thankfully, Amalia didn’t make us wait too long.  She called two days later and told me that we passed the first round and she would like to schedule time for me to come over to her home to see the daycare and watch her and her sister in action with the kids.  Score! We had successfully come off as the type of parents good enough for Miss Amalia.  I still wasn’t sure how I would break it to her that we needed somebody when the baby was 10 weeks and I wasn’t breastfeeding, but I figured that I’d ingratiate myself to the point that she wouldn’t be able to say no.

I couldn’t wait for my visit. It was like being invited into a Mormon temple without being Mormon, or to Oprah’s show without being Josh Groban.  By the way she had described her daycare, I was expecting to see brilliant, magical 1 and 2 year olds who could totally go from downward dog into Warrior III without missing a beat. They’d probably be signing questions to Miss Amalia about “Goodnight Gorilla”, like why the zookeeper’s wife had to put all the animals back when it was clearly her husband’s responsibility. I taught myself how to sign “yes” and “no” and “I completely agree. I would’ve kicked him to the curb” just in case that question did come up.  I imagined children that did not cry except for when they wanted more homemade organic pureed beets.  These kids probably didn’t poop either. No, that didn’t seem like behavior becoming of a toddler at Miss Amalia’s daycare. I wondered if a child that sprung from my loins could possibly measure up in Miss. Amalia’s world. (Wait. Do women have loins, or is it just men?)

Being around people I don’t know having awkward conversations is extremely draining for me, so I had prepared for my 45 minute visit as if I were training for a triathlon.  I drank plenty of fluids, got a lot of sleep, practiced answers to questions I thought she might ask, like “which do you prefer the most: the farmer’s market on Randolph  or Whole Foods?” or “describe your daily meditation sequence” both of which I formulated an answer to using the Internet. I had a big carb -filled dinner the night before, just so I wouldn’t pass out from exhaustion, or irritation or judginess.

On the big day, I walked over there with butterflies in my stomach. I was still being judged. And I didn’t really know anything about kids or taking care of them, so I told myself I wouldn’t touch any of the kids.  Just in case I accidentally killed one of them.

It was a warm day and I happened to be wearing sandals.  I found out when Miss Amalia answered the door that shoes were supposed to be left in the hall. No shoes were permitted at any time within the confines of her home. But now I had this awkwardness of having bare feet, which I think is much more gross than wearing the sandals. I think Miss Amalia and I agreed on this.  She brought me some socks before I could step over the threshold into the magical home daycare. If you’ve ever read “Grasshopper Along the Road” (which, if you haven’t, you must) Miss Amalia was exactly like the mosquito that obsessively chants “rules are rules!” and cannot fathom exceptions to any arbitrary rule he makes up.  I’m not a big rules person if the rules are arbitrary.  But again, maybe this is how all daycares were? What did I know?  I put on the socks and apologized for not knowing the rule.

The magical home daycare looked a lot like a regular condo with a lot of toys in it. But they were arranged just so for feng shui purposes, I was told.  The kids were adorable.  And from what I could tell, they cried and they pooped, which I was really surprised about.  Even more surprising was that at least one kid thought I was awesome. I think.  One little 18 month old ran up and hugged me as soon as I got in the door. And he didn’t die right after. He spent most of the visit in my lap. Miss Amalia was astounded. She claimed he only acts that way around her and his mother. Really? Nice. Maybe I would be a good mom after all. And I was so relieved that Miss Amalia didn’t have a rule about kids not being able to cry or poop without being dismissed. And that I didn’t kill any babies.

It was a fun visit. Really. Her sister was a lot less hard-core and rules-based than she was and it kind of made it a little less weird to talk to her. I told them some of my more tame stories that made them laugh, which is really about the only talent I have that usually doesn’t fail me. The kids were bright and lovely and having fun and actually, they really could sign. Which was news to me. I thought all that stuff was bogus, like I did about dogs really staying down in down-stays (which they totally do if you spend thousands training them). And Amalia and her sister took pictures of the kids all the time and then would email them to the parents during the day, which is the next best thing to the live camera feed I got from my doggie daycare. I’m probably making some people uncomfortable with the parallels between my dog and my kids.  I’ll stop, but in my experience, toddlers and dogs aren’t that different.

So I left after my allotted 45 minutes feeling like it was the best place ever and our going there was probably a done deal.  Just as I was walking out, they mentioned that another couple vying for my son’s place was coming the next day. Damn. Maybe I should have brought chocolates or some energy drink or something. Damn.         Damn. Damn. Damn. Fuck. I told them I thought they were spectacular and that my son would be lucky to be taken care of by such good people.  And I meant it. I mean, there were no other alternatives, so they really stacked up nicely compared to leaving him by himself all day.

I went home and ate a tub of Cherry Garcia.  Luckily that isn’t called bingeing when you’re pregnant. I think it’s just called normal. I mean, if you can’t drink your worries away, what other alternatives are there?

I called Miss Amalia the next day to ask about where we were on the list and when she could tell me if we were in or out. She said she was going to hold off on a decision until she met the baby. Who wasn’t going to be born for another 6 weeks. If she said no, then what was I supposed to do?  That’s when I kind of went ballistic.

Love: “Umm…that isn’t going to work.”

Amalia: “Pardon?”

Love: “You can’t just decide a week before whether a family is coming or not! I have a baby that needs to be in a great daycare and I have to know now whether he is in or out at your place so I can make other arrangements if it’s not working out!”

Amalia: “Well, to tell the truth, you are first on our list, but he wouldn’t be here for another six months, and a lot can happen between now and then.”

Love: “What if he came in 3 months? I need you in August, not December.”

Amalia: (silence) “I don’t take children younger than 6 months.”

Love: “Because you can’t or you won’t?”

Amalia: “Well, it is very young to be separated from the mother.”

Love: “I have to go back to school! I can’t change the date that school starts. I trust you. I trust you more than I trust me to be honest. Please make an exception.”

Amalia: “I might have to charge more for a baby that young…”

Love: “Listen, we don’t have a lot of money, but we’re willing to pay you whatever you want if you’ll take him in August.”

Amalia: “I would have to talk to my sister.”

Love: “I need that spot in your daycare. I know very little about taking care of a baby but I know a lot about being in school, which is where I need to be in August. I have no other options. I’m literally begging you. But if you can’t tell me by the end of this week whether we’re in or not, I’ve got to do something else.”

Amalia: “I like you.”

Love: “I like you too.” (I think we’re supposed to kiss here, but the phone made it hard.)

Amalia: “I feel bad for you. You really don’t know much about being a parent.”

Love: “No. I know about being a parent. That is what this conversation is about. I need a good caregiver for my baby and you’re it. If you meant I don’t know much about child care, then you’re right on there. That is no secret. Oh and while we’re on the subject I forgot to tell you I won’t be breastfeeding.”

Amalia: (gasps) “What? Why?”

Love: “I can’t. Physically impossible.” ( Psychologically impossible would be more true. Honest mistake. )

Amalia: “I’ll talk to my sister.”

Love: “Tell her to say yes. We’ll be the best family you have. I swear.”

Amalia: “Okay.  This is a lot of information to take in.” (she is wondering who the hell she is dealing with)

So we ended it there. I was sure that was it for us and Miss Amalia. We’d have to hire a nanny if this didn’t work out, and then selling our kidneys wouldn’t cover it. BD would probably have to go out and turn tricks while I did the night shift at Dunkin’ Donuts. I ate another gallon of Cherry Garcia.

After an excruciating couple of days, Amalia called me back. We were in.

I won! I won! She tacked on another $25 a week, but it seemed like a small price to pay to the daycare gods. I celebrated for a month straight. I went over and visited Miss Amalia’s place up until I gave birth and then brought over my son when he was about 6 weeks. I still thought she was over the top about most stuff, but I was in no position to complain. This was what I wanted, right?

Sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for. (Sorry, Part IV is a must, but I haven’t written it yet. Forthcoming.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Part IV

Adventures in Babysitting, Part I

I was due with my first baby in mid-June, just about the time I graduated from MBA school and about 10 weeks before I started my PhD program, a time frame which turned out to be perfectly suited for maternity leave.  I planned to find childcare during that time and I figured it would be like finding a doctor – you go on a website somewhere that lists all the doctors within a certain radius, you check their qualifications and then you pick one based on who has the best decorated waiting room and hope like hell they are in-network.

We lived just a mile outside of downtown Chicago, just down the street from Oprah, and I was pretty sure there had to be like 66 million daycares and each of them were pining for the chance to take care of my infant.  So then one day when I’m about 7 months along, I was in a deli minding my own business, eating my farm raised, low mercury salmon and asparagus sandwich and reading a Harvard Business Review case for class and two ladies on their lunch break sat down next to me.  They were talking about office gossip, which was way more interesting than my reading, so I was listening in. And they probably noticed I was pregnant and listening to them so suddenly they began talking about how annoying another woman was at work because all she did was freak out everyday about how there were no slots for infants in any daycare centers anywhere in Chicago and she was only 3 months pregnant and what a dumb ass for not realizing this before she got preggers. Hmmm.  I looked down at my belly and winced as two things happened concurrently: my fetus/son gave me a swift kick to my kidney, and I had an epiphany. I’m fucked.

The search for a daycare commenced immediately.  I went to Google to find the website that listed all of the daycare centers/ family daycares / nannys / nanny-shares within a 1 mile radius of my house.  We only had one car and I would have it most of the time at school.  BD would have to be able to walk from work, to daycare, to home with the baby.  I thought maybe 1 mile might be too large a radius, but we could start there and then figure out how to narrow down our choices.

I opened up Google. Now to find the website…..this nice, informational website….I’m sure it’s here somewhere….Hmm…wait, where is the website?….Nope, not it….Not this…..(My kid kicks my bladder at the same moment as if to say “you’re doing a helluva job so far, Mom) um, no. nonononononononono. NO…..

There. is. no. magical-daycare-finding website.

I am alone in the vast urban and Internet wilderness. Google has forsaken me. I had to sift through a tangle of daycare websites and dead ends and phone numbers. The whole finding-childcare-for-your-perfect-beautiful-newborn-that-you-can-afford-without-selling-your-kidney-and-is-located-somewhere-in-the-state-of-Illinois journey was kind of like the Trail of Tears for new parents.  At least finding the big daycare center chains was easy. They were nowhere near my condo, but I called anyway.  They had nine month waiting lists for infants.  Okay…I’m not great at math, but I think that means that on the day of conception you sure as hell better reserve your spot at Kindercare. Now I finally realized why God sent an angel to tell me of my children’s conceptions – so they could get a spot in daycare on time.  It would have been nice if he had mentioned that as well.

Well, this is bad news. I need infant care starting five and half months from now, and apparently this is really late notice for the whole childcare world.  I mean, I haven’t even met this kid I’m going to have. I know nothing about being a parent or about babies or about my specific baby or what I’m going to feel like in five months and I have to find a perfect childcare situation now, or I can’t go back to school. I’m not going to get my PhD. I’ll have to be a stay at home mother. One thing I knew for sure was that being at stay at home mother was out of the question, because I already loved my unborn child. I would not subject him to the psycho mother he would come to know if he were in my care 24-7.  So I re-doubled my efforts and kept coming up short.

I grew up in a home daycare. And I loved it. It was like having a second family, and we didn’t have any family nearby, so it was awesome. I guess I wanted something similar for my son, so I was partial to the idea of having my baby go to a home daycare nearby. But searching for home daycares on Google is futile and I was really starting to lose hope that the baby I was about to have wouldn’t be some kind of juvenile delinquent due to my poor parenting (non)decisions made while he was still in the womb.  So I went to the Starbucks in the building next door. It was an odd choice because I don’t drink coffee, but I felt like I needed something warm in my belly for the next few hours I planned to spend curled up in bed crying and worrying about what a bad mother I already was. And Starbucks kind of seemed like a church to so many yuppies, I thought maybe they sprinkled you with calming fairy dust when you went in and I might find some peace there.

No visible fairy dust, but as I waited patiently for my Caramel Apple Cider, I wandered over to the little bulletin board they have by where you pick up your drinks.  There was a lime green flyer right in the middle of it. My stomach did a flip and my knees kind of buckled and my brain said, “You are fucking kidding me, GOD!” (Yes, I have ongoing conversations with God in my head like “Oh God! You’re so unpredictable sometimes!”  or “God, why did encourage me to have the third glass of wine? I feel like ass this morning. You should have stopped me!”).

There on the board was a flyer for a new home daycare starting up in the condo building next to mine. I know, right?  Seriously.  I grabbed the flyer and ran home. I forgot my Caramel Apple Cider.  I was panting when I called BD.

Love: “I found a daycare for our baby!”

BD: “Cool.”

Love: “It’s in the building next door! And they do yoga! And its all organic food! Oh my GOD!”

BD: “You don’t even do yoga or know anything about organic food.”

Love: “What? Um. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that my prayers have been answered. I must call her immediately. She is The One.”

BD: “Go for it.”

I got off the phone with my heart beating fast and I immediately dialed Miss Amalia’s Place.  No answer, but the long-winded, rambling, breathless message I left went a little like this:

Hello! My name is Love and I have a baby. No, I mean I’m pregnant with a baby that I will have in a few months and I need a daycare in August and I just love home daycares and I saw your flyer at Starbucks and I took it but I will definitely bring it back but I was wondering whether you had a spot for a newborn and I’m sure he is going to be a really good kid because I didn’t cry a lot when I was a kid, but I guess we won’t know till he gets here  — heh, heh — but anyway I really think we should talk and I just love that I’m in the building next door so we’re neighbors and what great timing that I found your flyer and I will bring it back because I forgot to pick up my caramel apple cider anyway, so I’ll put it back but I really think we should talk and my baby should go to your daycare and please call me back.

I hung up and thought, “Seriously? What was that? You idiot. You sound crazy. Maybe you should call back again and explain that you aren’t crazy. Or would that be crazier? ” I hung my head.  But then I brightened knowing that stalking people who need to be in my life is one of my most valuable talents and Miss Amalia’s Place just moved up to the top spot on that list.

I waited five minutes with my hand clutching the phone receiver. No call back. Ten minutes. No call. Maybe I should call again? Just to say I’m not crazy? Fifteen minutes — the phone rings. It’s her!! The woman sent by God to take care of my unborn child, as soon as he gets born.

Love: “Hello?!”

M.A.: “Hi. This is Miss Amalia. You called about needing daycare in August for an infant?” (slight Korean accent)

Love: “Yes! Yes! Where do I sign up?”

M.A: “Ha ha. You are funny. It’s not that easy.  I will  interview you to see whether you’re the family I want to take.”

Love: “You’re going to interview us?”

M.A: “Yes. There is no other way. Can you and your husband come interview with me in a couple of days at 6pm @ Starbucks? You’ll both need to be present.  I have a long waiting list, but I will choose who gets the spot based on my interviews.”

Love: “Oh. I didn’t know this is how it worked. Here I thought I should interview you.”

M.A: “You should. Part of my decision will be based on the questions you ask me.”

Love: “Um. My son isn’t even born yet, and we’re new parents, so I’m not really sure what we’ll have to say.”

M.A: “I find my relationship with the parents is as important as with the child. This is the way I do things. If you’re uncomfortable with the process —”

Love: “No! No! Heh, heh. No! We’ll definitely be there. With good questions.”

M.A: “Great. Don’t be late.”

Love: “Right.”

Okay, so the world had changed from the time I went to daycare. Up to that point, I had spent my whole life competing to get in the best schools, in the best programs, hired by the best companies for the most exclusive jobs and I always won the things I set out to get. Because I loved those games and I was really good at them. No matter that I usually ended up not really wanting all the things I’d won, but who doesn’t like winning games? I wasn’t going to let a home daycare lady be the first to reject me or my unborn child. I wasn’t losing this game. She was our only hope and clearly God led me to Starbucks and this whole thing was meant to be.

We were going to be the family she chose. Period. Now I just had to figure out how to morph us into the “right” family for our interview.  I quickly opened my browser and searched for “yoga” and “organic food”.

Part II

Please Don’t Be Mad at Me, Blog.

Dear (Love) Notes to Self Blog,

I apologize for being away so long. I have promised you many of my life stories and I will absolutely deliver, but you see, I have finally admitted a long standing addiction to the internet and I’ve been trying to quit.  (No. Not cold turkey. That’s all kinds of crazy…) But writing you, dear Blog, requires time on the Internet, which I now realize has stolen so much time out of my life.

When I’m not on the Internet, I’m free to spend quality time with my children, cook healthy, delicious meals for them, clean my house, and massage my husband’s feet.  It also gives me the opportunity to focus on my career and exercise and volunteer —

What’s that, you say?

Well, no, not exactly. I haven’t actually done any of these things yet. But I totally plan —

Well, no. Most of these things I have no interest in.  Except the kids part and the volunteering, but I am entitled to dreams of being a better person,  right? Anyway, as I was saying —

Gah! Stop interrupting me! If you must know, YES. I have been on the Internet. But only to catch up on Grey’s Anatomy because it’s on during the Office and 30 Rock. I am not responsible for network TV shenanigans. I am a victim. We all are. Network TV is wrong in a million different ways – TV execs just want to torture us the rest of the week by putting all the good shows on Thursday. But I’m trying to cope as best I can and watching them later on abc.com.

And watching You Tube clips with spoofs of “All The Single Ladies” with my kids is completely justified. Yes, even the fat guy. They need to be exposed to freak shows early so I can tell them its okay to laugh at a fat man dancing  in a leotard on the internet, but in real life they need to run away. Really fast. It’s called QT.

And Facebook!? I haven’t updated my status in TWO whole days! TWO! So I’m making progress.  That I posted my face morphing into Katherine Heigl’s last night doesn’t even count because it isn’t a status. It’s an update or something. It doesn’t even count. And plus, if MyHeritage.com says I’m an 87% match to Izzy, I’m not just going to let that go.  I mean, compliments like that don’t come along everyday. What? No. Okay. No human has ever said I look like her, but computers are smarter than humans and the computer says so so leave me the fuck alone on that one, kay?

Sure, I read other blogs. They’re good! Some make me laugh so hard I cry. Especially this one, which I guess isn’t a traditional blog, but is a site I never tire of.  AHHAHAHAHA. Oh, oh, oh, let me catch my breath…the tears are still rolling down my — God, you are such a jealous little blog.  Get over yourself. I could probably name a lot of other blogs that are awesome – you will find many of them on your right side bar.  No, no. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. I’m just saying, you’re in really good company. And it isn’t my fault you don’t win awards because even if you got nominated – no offense – you wouldn’t win, because I don’t spend enough time making blogger friends and plus I wouldn’t even vote for us because — No! Don’t cry! What I meant was, I would vote for us, but then I’d probably vote for some other ones like 5 times, and – I’m not helping myself here.  The thing is, I’m not even supposed to read other blogs anymore because I have an addiction and I do not have a Dr. Drew and blogging celebrities to sober up with. So I have to do this on my own, and I’m going for low internet dosages. And I swear I’ll ignore my Google Reader at least 1 out of 8 times today. Can we be friends again? Please?!

Wow! You’re pulling out all the stops now, aren’t you?! I tell you something honestly and then you throw it in my face?  I mean, well, so yes. A little.  I do have another blog, but you know she is just a friend. I had her before I even conceived you!! I write about my kids there. It’s totally innocent! And they’ve done a lot of stuff lately that I had to write down, because that blog is my little family’s history and I’m the historian. And if they have a huge gaping hole in October 2009, they’re going to think I was living a double life and had a family somewhere else or something, so yeah, I guess I spent some time there too, but you know how much I love you! That blog is like a sister to me.  You’re the love of my life. Really. Don’t be mad. Seriously. I love you! C’mon, don’t be like this.

I’m in recovery! Don’t I deserve just a little compassion, considering the hours I’ve blown writing entries on you? Not to mention the emotional exhaustion and the atrophying of all muscles not directly involved in thinking or typing? I used to be buff as hell and strong enough to lift two gallons of milk at the same time.  Now I’ve gotten all crookedy and bendy and hunched over writing on my small, unergonomic MacBook.  I’ve sacrificed for you!! When is it time for ME?

OH NO YOU DID ENT! Of course I made time for Oprah. I mean, for fuck’s sake, she had Mike Tyson on crying the whole hour and then there was the whole incest update that I didn’t really want to watch, but I mean, how can you not look? Oh, and that Oprah’s favorite families episode? So good. Except for the Osmond’s part, but I fast forwarded through all that.  Oprah is therapy. Not entertainment. Why am I even justifying this to you? We’ve been over this before. Oprah is off limits.

Oh, so now you’re ignoring me? Fine. Fine. Well, it might interest you to know that I’m going out to lunch with Kirsten tomorrow.  Our first date in two years. And I got off the Yaz. My doctor put me on another one and it’s too soon to tell if my husband and I will be having sex this week, but I’m not as hungry all the time so I may not be nicknamed “Porky” by December.  And my Big Boobed Sister just had a birthday. So she is getting older and boob saggage has to be just around the corner, right? (Happy birthday, sis!) Oh, and today I’m going to a “bead party” today to save Ugandan women at the house of my ex-best friend that kicked me out of her wedding. Well, yes. I said yes because it’s for Ugandan women and everybody knows I’m a bleeding heart liberal and you know I can never say no to any charity that benefits women or children. Even if it means I have to buy beaded jewelry and that I have gone to her house twice in the last six months, breaking my once-every-year rule.

Okay, okay? So are you going to be here when I get back? I promise I’ll be back soon. Its just…when my kids pretend to be the mom and they make me be the kid, they want to play on the computer and say “in five minutes I’ll come play with you. Mommy has work to do!” and it makes me feel guilty. So then I try to to get them back and make them feel guilty and just start chanting “MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY!” until their ears bleed and then we stop playing because it isn’t that fun and we don’t like each other. So I have some work to do.

So when they go to bed, I’ll come back and snuggle with you. If I’m not having sex with their dad.

Love you always,

Love


If you were to tell me that I’m a mother of two, I wouldn’t believe you

I wouldn’t. And yet, the facts show that I am indeed a mother of two. I even have a muffin top that I swear at every day to remind me of this fact, and yet…

Moms are supposed to be responsible, mature and organized.  I am none of these.

Moms are supposed to know how to cook, make scrapbook thingies and keep their kids’ faces clean. Umm…no on all three counts at my house.

Moms don’t let their kids watch too much TV, listen to inappropriate music or play outside by themselves. My kids have seen every episode of Scooby-Doo ever created, can sing every word to both Kanye’s and The Killers latest albums and I’ve had my 2 year old returned to me no less than three times by a mother who does supervise her children.  (I should note that I wouldn’t have let the two year old out by himself on purpose, but he escapes a lot while I’m checking Facebook or watching Oprah. It’s a conundrum.)

Moms with careers are always talking about feeling guilty that their kids are at daycare. I rejoice because I know I am doing them a favor by working. Their daycare is 100% more safe, fun and educational than their time at home with me.

Moms aren’t supposed to bring their kids to McDonalds more than 4 times a year. They are supposed to feed them homemade, organic foods and shop for earth conscious toys.  The bulk of my children’s toys came out of Happy Meals, which I purchase an average of twice a week for them. I am madly in love with the McDonalds #2 meal and whatever addictive drug they put in the Diet Coke, so I feel a compulsion to go there whenever I’m feeling elated or anxious or happy or sad or lazy. Which covers most days. So the fact we only go twice a week kind of makes me a martyr for my children’s health.

Moms know which way they are supposed to go in the school parking lot and whether their kids are legally required to get vision tests before kindergarten and they dress their kids cutely and/or appropriately for school.  Can I just tell you – my five year old picks out his own clothes, which I buy in bulk from eBay because stores confuse me, so nothing generally matches and there are always a few things in there that I wouldn’t have paid for any day of the week, like the oversized dork dark purple T-shirt with this sci-fi D&D dragon on it in neon colors. Its something Napoleon Dynamite would have salivated over, and would get my son justifiably jacked by a posse of 8 year olds for wearing if he were eight, but at five he adores it and insists on wearing it with red and black wind pants. Which don’t match. At all.

I try not to photograph my children when they look like this to save them a little money in future therapy sessions and so I can look back when I’m old and make up stories about what a good mother I was, but I’m sure the other mothers at school are thinking “WTH is the matter with that kid’s mother?” (not WTF, because I’m convinced I’m the only mother whose thought bubbles must always include an F-bomb).  I know I would be thinking that about me if I were them.  But as you know, I’m a lover, not a fighter.  So as long as he has clothes on of any kind and we’re out the door on time to give me the extra 20 minutes I require to navigate the school’s fucking traffic pattern and catch my train, I’m not going to complain.

Moms are also supposed to edit their thoughts around their children. If a four year old asks, “Mom, what is a terrorist?” because he is listening a little too closely to NPR, a good mom says “Oh, honey. Don’t worry about that. Lets go to the farmers market and get some delicious organic beets!”  I go into a 20 minute lecture about who terrorists are, which depending on your religion and politics, could be just about anybody and cite examples from September 11, which of course, he wasn’t even alive for.  I’m sure my 5 year old knows more about war, prisons, and the criminal justice system than any kid his age. If he asks an intelligent question, I give him a totally age inappropriate, (hopefully) intelligent answer, like we’re in a masters political science program together. The other day while he and the neighbor kids were playing cops and robbers, I hear my son protest as he’s being brought to the jail in the backyard:  “COPS don’t decide if robbers go to jail! The JUDGE decides that! And probably the robber’s lawyer will say hes not guilty so it could take forever to figure out if he is going to jail!  I can get out on bail you know!” That almost got him beaten up, but it made my day. Someone in my house listens to me.

I’m just nothing like a person who fits my description of an appropriate mom.  I’m not like my mom and I get the feeling I’m very little like the other moms I regularly crash into every morning in the school parking lot.  Even blogging moms – they have mouths as dirty as mine – but I get lost in all the talk over prescription drug abuse. I have no idea what Xanax or Vicodin or Percocet are — but I hear about them all the time.  From what I gather, they must be sweet. But I’m a weird mom, so I don’t even have an prescription drug addiction worth noting.

So I come up short a lot. And I find myself gasping sometimes when I tell myself, “Love, these kids have only one mother. And that is you. That’s pretty wack.” To which I answer, “I know, RIGHT?” to which I then reply, “Poor kids”.  And then I say a prayer for them and start writing a new blog to try and forget the sorrow I feel for them that they didn’t get one of the totally normal moms.

On the other hand, the kids do have a few things going for them because of the mom they have:

1) If there is ever a b-boy competition in kindergarten, all of the hours my son spends watching ABDC on TiVo and having me rate his performance (pa-fo-mince) with spot-on impressions of Mario Lopez, Lil’ Mama, Shane Sparks and J.C. Chasez, will pay off and he will totally win. (“YO! That was so DOPE! Can I get a slow mo on dat?!”)

2) When the plague comes around again, my kids will survive — and thrive– because there isn’t a germ they haven’t picked up in daycare, or school,  or from a 4 day old discarded half-eaten cheeseburger that they finished off after finding it on the ground in the park.  Seriously, bubonic plague — bring it on.

3) I posted an excruciatingly long video on YouTube for my family blog of my toddler son “playing” the guitar and singing his own made up songs which inexplicably has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and which advertisers now want to pay us for.  So I know how to pimp out my kids so that they can go to college.

4) Each of my sons will be happily married. I find it hard to believe that they could marry anybody who, when compared to their mom,  will not blow them away with her mad skills in any culinary, cleaning, or child care domain. I think I’ve set the bar low enough that if she knows how to make any meal from ingredients that do not come directly from a box, they’ll commit the rest of their lives to worship her.  And the best marriages are those wherein the men are easily satisfied and worship their wives.

5) They’ll never doubt how much they are loved.  One thing I do excel at is telling them how much I adore them, how incredibly special they are and showering them with hugs and kisses.  I do that well. Because I can’t help it. And because they’re awesome  — even if they are single-handedly responsible for this goddamn muffin top.

My two year old just felt me up

Yeah…..Yeah. Repeatedly, and with a giddiness mine eyes have not seen since Oprah visited TomKat’s Telluride prison mansion.  And I’ll admit to you that this isn’t the first time he has done this.  This child loves to try and put cars, Legos, pieces of ham sandwich and anything else he can get his sticky hands on down my shirt, preferably in my bra. This isn’t that tough a task because there is generally a gaping — well…gap — between my boob and my bra, a perfect nook for my 2 year old to store his foodstuffs in.

When he isn’t grabbing my neckline and plunging toys into my bra, he is trying to grope my boobs while delightfully singing “BOO-BIES! BOO-BIES!” just like the drunk obnoxious frat boy I pray everyday he will not become.  On one hand I’m glad someone celebrates my little peanuts, but on the other, much larger hand, (though my hands aren’t as lopsided as my chest) I’m not sure it should be my baby boy.  If you gave him the choice between playing with cars, or markers, or even electrical sockets (his other white meat), he would still prefer fondling his mother. He uses my boobs like his personal little stress balls. Hmm. Maybe not such a good metaphor.

BD is no help. He thinks I brought this on myself by laughing at the boy the first time this happened and telling him they were called boobies in the first place. I should have called them something else like “chicken” so that when he was feeling me up and singing about it, people would just think he likes chicken and has no idea what the hell he is doing with his hands – like maybe he has a palsy or something and they’d feel compassion for us. But oh no! Shoppers rush by hurriedly as he tries to grope me from his seat in the Target cart singing about boobies.  And the more I tell him to stop or move his hands away, the louder and more insistent he becomes. “MOMMY! I want BOO-BIES! I want IT!”

I know they are only bracing themselves for the logical next step – they fear that at any moment I might yank up my shirt, pull out my right boob and feed this child. The horror they feel at that moment is palpable – or maybe I’m confusing my own horror with theirs. I just want to reassure them that he is simply trying to feel me up for the sport of it, not for the food and NO – they are not about to get flashed and made to watch this child with teeth slurp milk from my boobs in the freezer section – but I’m not sure that telling them he gropes me just for the fun of it is that reassuring either.

Am I raising a total perv? Is it normal for young boys to feel their moms up on a regular basis? I would think kids who use boobs as a viable food source have a good reason to pay special attention to them, but my son just likes boobs for the way they feel and probably because he knows it embarrasses the hell out of me and probably because boys just like boobs at every age.  My oldest went through this stage pretty quickly – I don’t remember us having physical altercations in Target because he wanted to rip my shirt off and squeeze my boobs.  But this youngest one – I’m going to have to buy a Taser for our trips to Target to teach him an early lesson about sexual assault being a very bad decision. “No means no! Dig it, dude?!  And while we’re on this subject, I’d advise you to ignore any impulse you may ever have in your life to grow a mustache.”

This too shall pass, right? RIGHT?! Please GOD, deliver me – here he comes again…