Almost losing my child (and my shit) at the library.

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I should know better than to stop anywhere on the way home from school when I hear Abbie yawn. When grown-ups are tired, we sleep. If we can’t sleep, we might get a tad cranky. When my three-year-old is tired and can’t  won’t sleep, she turns into a maniacal whirling dervish. But they wanted to go to the library, and what kind of mom says “no” to that? Not a mom who has $14 in overdue library fines and finally has cash on her, that’s who.

I reminded Abbie of our library rules:

  1. Inside voices
  2. No pulling random books off the shelves
  3. No running away from Mommy and hiding

She followed the first rule, and only the first rule, which ended up working against me since her ninja-like silence made it impossible to find her. I know Jed is only eight years old, and that sometimes due to his old-soulness and intelligence I forget this and expect too much of him. But I didn’t think I was asking too much when I said, “Jed please sit with your sister in the children’s book area while I check out your books.” Right? Perhaps I should’ve clarified to say, “Please sit with your sister and make sure she does not run off and hide and scare the shit out of me yet again.”

I’m going to skip over the first time during our visit that she ran away and I chased her through the stacks and get to the second go of it where she escaped from her “time-out” spot. Or rather disappeared into thin air. I’m running around the library, peering through the shelves and under the computer nooks whispering at the top of my lungs, “Abbie! This isn’t funny! Abbie! Answer Mommy!” Everyone is pretending to ignore me. Assholes.

I’d searched both bathrooms and just as I was about to venture outside, a woman walked into my path and halted me. “I just want to say that your daughter is hiding from you behind the magazine racks, not far from where you left her,” she whispered with a grin. “My kids are now 23 and 26. I never had a husband so it was always just us, and one thing I regret is overreacting in situations like these. But I remember these times and want to give you a hug.” And she embraced me. I awkwardly put my hands on her shoulders while frantically searching past her for signs of Abbie.

“Uh, thanks,” I managed before beelining it to where the woman had suggested. And there was Abbie. Behind the magazines with a devilish smile on her face. I wanted to hug her and kill her (of course not really) at the same time.

But let’s back up a minute to that woman. What. The. Fuck. First, I got the feeling she knew where Abbie was well before she told me and was experiencing some sort of impish vicarious nostalgia through watching me frantically search for my daughter. Then there was the unsolicited parenting advice to not overreact. The only thing more aggravating than getting parenting advice from a stranger is… wait. There’s nothing more aggravating. And then the hug. I’m not a hugger. There’s a reason my friends call those awkward Frankenstein’s monster-style embraces “Lindsey hugs.” I feel like tweeting #metoo from the rooftops. So. Violated.

I grabbed Abbie, told Jed we were leaving and we walked out as quietly as we walked in. As soon as we left, I told Abbie she would lose TV tonight as punishment. Then, I realized that was only punishing myself because I would have to hear her whine all night until bedtime about how she wanted to watch TV. So I took away her dessert instead. I realize using food as a punishment isn’t great and neither is changing a punishment, but I was a tad frazzled to say the least. I was lucky I called her by the right name. And then she screamed in the car the whole way home. And my son screamed at her for screaming. Did I mention my husband is out of town?*

So what’s the lesson here? Never go to the library? Never have kids? Don’t try to quit drinking until your kids are 18? I really don’t have an answer, I’m asking you.

*If you are a serial killer and reading this, my husband is in fact home. We are both experts in Krav Maga and have many, many guns.**

**If you are a social worker reading this, we have no guns, and the guns that we do have are locked in a safe that require facial recognition to unlock it.

Not a Happy Space Camper

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My son Jed is almost seven. He’s changing so much (growing, learning, all that great stuff). But perhaps one of the most exciting changes affecting our household right now is the evolution of our Family Movie Night selections. When you have a restricted social life (read: limited babysitter funds and an exhausting albeit adorable 2-year-old), Family Movie Night becomes the epicenter of your weekend plans.

After years of enduring “no people movies” (Jed would only watch animated ones for the longest time), every Halloween and Christmas special no matter the time of year, and the Pokemon catalog in its entirety, we are finally able to introduce him to the movies that we watched as kids: Flight of the Navigator, The Neverending Story, Cloak and Dagger, Goonies.

But my personal favorite is like the white whale of ’80s kid flicks: Space Camp. The 1986 “cosmic comedy adventure” has an all-star cast with Kate Capshaw, Tate Donovan, Joaquin Phoenix, Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, and Larry B. Scott. It’s never on TV, be it cable or a streaming site. I finally found a video rental store in Asheville (yes, those still exist) that carried it, but the last person who rented it never returned it. And when I found out that a new copy of it costs more than $62 on Amazon, I have to say I couldn’t blame them.

I thought I found the answer to my problems with a foreign copy — foreign to another country, not to us — for less than $10. The reviews were good, it seemed legit. I had won. I had beaten the system. It even came on a day that our Internet went out like it was meant to be. I pushed the disc into the player and waited in anticipation for it to load, and then this popped up:

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I felt like my inner 7-year-old had been vacuumed out into space. SO disappointed. I’m pretty sure Jed was over it and happy to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. Again.

I’m not giving up though. There’s got to be a way to get a copy of this without spending $60+, right? All of its 30th anniversary nostalgic cinematic counterparts are new and used for less than $10. What makes Space Camp so special? Well, I know why it’s special, but you know what I mean…

If you have any leads, please share! Also please share your favorite movies from childhood that you’re introducing to your children. We’d love some more to add to our list!

How to Pick Up a Babysitter

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Dave and I started dating in college, so I hadn’t been “out there” since before cell phones. Cell phones, people. I’ve had to bring my game out for friend dating, but what happens once you make friends is that you want to go out with them. Without kids.

If you don’t have parents in the area to watch your kids, or if you’ve decided the push/pull of passive-aggressiveness and guilt that comes with it isn’t worth it, you’ve got to find a babysitter.

Asking a friend for the name of their babysitter is like asking a serial killer where he keeps his victims. They’re not going to give that shit up without a fight — some things are too sacred. My mom still talks with contempt in her voice about how our neighbors stole our best babysitter from us, only to leave us with her less responsible sister, Julie, who would throw parties at our house while they were out. Julie would tell my sister and I we were playing hide and seek, and then never seek us. She bribed me with a giant stuffed Jokey Smurf. (I was four, and an easy target.)

So when my daughter’s preschool teacher introduced me to Sarah*, I didn’t waste any time. Here’s how I picked up my babysitter — and how you can, too — in 4 swift steps:

  1. Assess your surroundings. Where are you meeting her? I was meeting Sarah on the playground at my son’s elementary school where she works with the after school program. This tells me already that she has experience with kids. If I were meeting her in a bar, at 1am, I might be a tad more wary.
  2. Lay it all out there. This isn’t a potential new friend, so you don’t have to play it cool. Don’t be afraid to let her know how much you want her. But also let her know upfront what she’s in for. If she gets to your house to find out you have 3 dogs and she’s allergic to dogs, there goes your babysitter and your evening.
  3. Exchange contact info. Don’t put it off, saying, “Oh, I’m running late so I’ll get your number from X later.” Later will turn into never.
  4. Set a time to follow up. If you don’t have a specific date in mind for the first babysitting gig, tell her. That way she won’t wonder why she’s not hearing from you. If you do, go ahead and get it in both of your calendars. Really good babysitters are in super high demand — Abbie’s preschool teacher is booked with babysitting, dogsitting and housesitting jobs through the fall!

Now it’s up to you whether or not you want to talk money right away. For me, unless she says she charges $20 an hour for two kids, there’s not much she’s going to say that’s going to turn me off. We are REALLY in need of some nights out with and without friends, but DEFINITELY without kids. I’d rather lure her to the house first where there’s no turning back and then negotiate the rate. That being said, we also make sure to tip really well, especially the first few times, to make sure she knows how much we appreciate her and to gain her loyalty.

So we now have a great babysitter and I’m so excited I can’t stand it! It’s like how I felt when I found my first true friend after college, but the next level. I’m not sure what’s after this… I’m sure whatever it is will make me feel even older. Perhaps it will lead to a, “How I Found the Perfect Plastic Surgeon” post. But then you’d know I had work done, which of course I’d never do.

*I’ve changed the name of my sitter to protect her privacy and also to keep you from stealing her.

20 Thousand Questions: The Real Kids’ Travel Game

You’ve gotta love the curious minds of kindergartners. But the questions, my God, the fucking questions. Kids are so cute. They’re so precocious. Until you’re stuck in the car with one for 8 hours and sticking to your guns with your “I didn’t have an iPad when I was your age, I just looked out the window” crap.

Jed’s questions go from smart and philosophical:

  • What’s the goverment?
  • What does it mean to judge?

To strange and downright disturbing:

  • Do raccoons lose teeth and if they do, does the tooth fairy visit them?
  • Why is it illegal to dig up dead bodies?

It’s like having Carlton Blanchard (Wings) buckled up in your backseat:

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“Why do they call them handcuffs if you wear them on your wrists?”

“If the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, what do you suppose a doorknob would feel like?”

“If they were to carpet the state of Florida, how long would it take to vacuum it?”

“If dogs don’t sweat, then what are their armpits for???”

“Geez Louise, for the love of Mike, for Pete’s sake; Who are these people?

I’ve tried the “answering his question with a question” tactic when I don’t know how else to respond: “I don’t know Jed, do you think the tooth fairy visits raccoons?”

But some things you can’t leave to chance.

Me: “Digging up dead bodies is wrong, Jed. It’s just wrong.”

Jed: “But why?”

Me: “It just is. Doesn’t it just seem wrong to you?”

Jed: “Um, well –”

Me: “Yes! The answer is ‘yes!'”

What are some of the most shocking questions your kids have asked you? Have you been stumped or simply stunned?

Our ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Paci Policy and Slacking on Child No. 2

For the first six months of my first child’s life, if he dropped a pacifier, I wouldn’t put it back in his mouth without washing it in hot water with soap or sterilizing it in the microwave in one of those plastic doohickies that came with the paci pack.

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My friend Ashley saw me do this once and had to stifle her laughter. Her daughter was almost a year older than my son and had been there, done that. She had crossed the germ threshold, and little did I know, I was about a month away from doing the same.

With the first child, and especially in the first few months, you do everything They tell you to do — They being doctors, family, friends, the people who write package directions, and of course, The Internet. It’s like the first few weeks of your first semester at college. You don’t know your professors well enough to know what you can and can’t get away with, so you actually do all of the assigned work until you have the ins and outs of each class figured out. But once you gain confidence and find your rhythm as a new student — or in this case a new mom — you can figure out which shortcuts, tips and tricks you’re comfortable using. They become a second-hand source and you begin to go with your gut.

It’s amazing how slippery a slope can become once it’s covered with your guts. One minute you’re washing  a pacifier 14 times a day, and the next you’re cheering inwardly when the same pacifier lands “right side up” on the sidewalk before popping it back into baby’s mouth, hoping no one is watching but not really caring either way.

At home, pacifiers pop in and out of our lives like bubbles. One minute, there’s four or five floating around and then — poof! — they’re gone. And right when I give up and go out and buy more, the old ones resurface. But sometimes they reappear in a most unsettling place: baby’s mouth. I will put Abbie in the gated play area while I’m making breakfast, and when I come back to pick her up and put her in her high chair, she’s sporting a yellow pacifier with a graphic of a hipster giraffe wearing nerdy glasses that I haven’t seen in weeks. Was it under the couch covered in lint? Hidden in the bottom of the toy bin amid stray dog hairs and lovey fuzz? I don’t want to know and thankfully Abbie can’t tell me. We have an understanding that way. The fact is, it’s been in her mouth for at least three minutes and the damage has been done.

With child number two, I haven’t relaxed into a total state of apathy. I do bathe, feed, and clothe her, and even wash her pacifiers on a regular basis. When I’m not sure if something is chocolate or poop, I still smell it rather than lick it. Although I do feel that Abbie has missed out on a few things being the youngest. With Jed, my first, I documented everything. I kept a private blog for close friends and family updating them on his milestones and favorite things. I thought everyone slacked on their second child until I was looking through a box my parents gave me after a recent move that included my baby book. I am a second child and my mom recorded everything. This “word about me from Mom” part was the sweetest. I don’t think anyone has said such nice things about me since:

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Here’s a few words about Abbie from her mom at 14 months:

She adores her big brother and loves blowing kisses, even to the baby on the Huggies box. Her favorite toys are her dolls (her “babies”), cars, books, and anything that plays music. The girl LOVES to dance. If there’s a melody in an insurance commercial, she’s dancing to it. She doesn’t like fruit, but loves meat, veggies, and enjoyed her first mac-n-cheese so much that she sang and clapped between bites. She babbles like nobody’s business and has “Abbie speak” for Jed, doggies, and pointing and asking what things are. And every now and then (but never when I want to show her off) she says “hi” and “bye.” Jed says he doesn’t need any of his own toys in the playroom because she is his favorite toy:) He lives to make her laugh.

So when Abbie gets older and she gets her box of things from me, I can print out a copy of this post to go with all of her straight A report cards, awards, chastity belt, and such.

The ‘Charlie and Lola’ Dinner for Picky Eaters

My son and I both love the Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child. He giggles at the silly things that Lola does, while I love the mixed media illustrations (and the excuse to use my bad British accent when reading aloud).

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The one that gets reread the most in our house — because it’s the only one we own — is I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato. As you could guess, it’s about being a picky eater, something most every parent faces. (If you’re a parent and you don’t have this problem, keep it to yourself or everyone else will secretly loathe you. No one wants to hear about how your kid prefers edamame to ice cream.)

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In the book, Lola’s older brother Charlie cleverly tricks her into eating the foods she hates most: “Oh this isn’t mashed potato. People often think that but no, this is cloud fluff from the pointiest peak of Mount Fuji.”

When we first started reading this book, Jed wasn’t eating half of the foods on Lola’s No Fly List. That’s when I suggested that we have a “Charlie and Lola dinner” one night.

Clockwise from top left: Orange twiglets from Jupiter, moonsquirters,  ocean nibbles from the supermarket under the sea, cloud fluff, and green drops from Greenland (middle).
Clockwise from top left: Orange twiglets from Jupiter, moonsquirters, ocean nibbles from the supermarket under the sea, cloud fluff, and green drops from Greenland (middle).

It was a total hit. For the first time ever, Jed ate all of his moonsquirters, orange twiglets, green drops, and cloud fluff (ocean nibbles are an easy sell in our house, but for the record he ate all of those, too).

There’s no recipe to share for this one — it’s just that easy.

Have you tricked your picky eater into trying (and even liking) new foods? Please share!

Here’s Why I Don’t Post About My Kids on Facebook

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http://www.reasonsmysoniscrying.com/

My son does and says a lot of cute/funny/adorable stuff. Like every other parent, I think my own children are the smartest, most wonderful people on the planet. But the child in this photo, crying because “his sushi is too cold,” is not my child. While hilarious, this picture captures this boy’s less-than-stellar side. Do we post pictures of ourselves at our worst on our Facebook pages? No. Of course not. Our Facebook selves are our best selves. The best moments of our relationships. The most flattering selfies and TBTs. The pictures of us with our girlfriends, cocktails in hand, mid-laugh with our faces tilted at the perfect non-double chin angle. So why do we think it’s okay to post the most embarrassing photos of our children for all to see?

Kids (even the cutest babies with the cutest tushies) grow up into real live people of all different temperaments with all sorts of likes and dislikes. And some of these people are going to be very private people who don’t want their life documented online. They might not even want their own Facebook pages (gasp!). But if we, as parents, have already published every tantrum, bath, and costumed holiday, it’s a little too late for that. It’s already out there online for all to see. And once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. We’ve taken that choice away from them.

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At first glance, this doesn’t look like a photo of me at all. But see if you can spot me (…one of these things is not like the other…). There’s a very funny story behind why I look like a demented protestor in this pic, which my friend posted in her wedding album on Facebook. Which got more comments than any other pic out of the hundreds from the day. And I’m okay with it. In fact, I think it’s hilarious. But that’s me.

As someone who grew up with the dawn of the Internet, I had the luxury of choosing how much of myself I would share online. Sure, there’s been the occasional unflattering pic posted by friends (see above), but I take it with grace and the good-natured ribbing in which it was intended. I can laugh at myself as easily as I laugh at others. That’s just me. That might not be Jed or Abbie. I just don’t know yet, and I think they deserve to have the same choices as I did.

So as much as I want to share the picture of Jed dancing in his knight helmet, undies and nothing else (I call it his birthday suit of armor) — as much as I want to show you the discipline report he got from school and tell you what he did to get it — I resist. I know it will make you laugh, because it sure made me laugh. I know you will “like” it and that will make me feel good. But how will Jed feel?

I’m not judging parents who post pics of their kids on Facebook or even dedicate entire blogs to their children. That is their choice, and I totally understand. That’s them.

This is me.

Jed’s Bug Birthday Party

We celebrated Jed’s birthday at our house just a little over a month ago and I’m finally getting around to sharing all of my crafty Pinteresting party planning. (Better late than never, right?)

We let him choose the theme. It took him about half a second to decide on bugs. For anyone planning a boys’ birthday party, here’s a little insect inspiration.

the invitations

Last year, I made the mistake of e-vites. Great in theory and for the budget, but turned out a few of the moms from Jed’s class never check their email and totally missed out. So this year, we hand-delivered straight to the cubbies — unless they never pick their kids up from school, I figured this was failsafe. Found these on Etsy from Olive & Star Paper Designs. They were wonderful to work with and did a super quick turnaround:

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the food

With a 3-5pm party time, I didn’t have to worry about a full-on meal and instead went with filling, healthy (bug) bites. We went all out with bug-themed snacks and an a-MAZE-ing cake from DOUGH, my favorite client and bakery in Asheville.

This pic doesn't really fo justice to the magnitude and deliciousness of this cake. Pastry Chef Ali Caulfield crafted a beetle coming out of the "dirt" just for Jed... his favorite bug:)
This pic doesn’t really do justice to the magnitude and deliciousness of this cake. Pastry Chef Ali Caulfield crafted a beetle coming out of the “dirt” just for Jed… his favorite bug:)
Caterpillars made from grapes with white frosting and mini-chocolate chips for eyes, put together on toothpicks.
Caterpillars made from grapes with white frosting and mini-chocolate chips for eyes, put together on toothpicks.
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P “Bee” and J: mini sandwiches in the shape of bugs, using bug cookie cutters.
Adult refreshments out back:)
Adult refreshments out back:)

the entertainment

If I could go back in time and teach myself balloon art rather than babysit, I would. In Asheville, a super smart kid who goes by Mr. Twister, has it made. He’s adorable, great with the kids and super talented. He made bug balloons for all of our guests including this dragonfly for me:) He even learned two new balloon bugs just for Jed’s party.

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We also had a bug scavenger hunt. I bought mini-magnifying glasses and a bag o’ bugs online from Amazon and hid 144 bugs all over the house. I gave extra “points” for anyone who found and got rid of any real bugs;)

decorations

I didn’t do too much in the way of decorating. I used some burlap fabric I had leftover from a Baby Q that I hosted last year, which I used for the table cover and made this very nifty Very Hungry Caterpillar out of balloons. I figured with other bug balloons bouncing about and bugs scattered all over the house, that was enough.

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And being close to Halloween, I was able to take advantage of a bunch of spider stuff out there, like for napkins and plates and our spider pinata. The pinata was probably overkill — had plenty to fill the two hours without it– but I thought I was self-editing when I held back on the two bug crafts I had planned. No one can say there wasn’t enough to do! In addition to the pinata candy (organic and low on sugar from this dentist’s daughter) and scavenger hunt bugs, kids brought home favor bags with Spiderman bubbles, glow-in-the-dark bug stickers and bug tattoos.

With disposable yet recyclable plates and a very helpful mother-in-law, clean-up was a breeze!

And, most importantly, everyone including parents seems to have a good time.

Mustache Mirror Math

When you’ve gained 30 pounds in 18 months, gone from a size 6 to a size 12, and 2 people have mistaken your belly for being babyful, it adds up to 1 thing:

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“There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.” ~ Tennessee Williams

Or you strategically stick a mustache on your mirror. I think Tennessee would agree.

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In other news, Jed can fit 19 magnifying glasses in his pants, which has to be some sort of world record. “Now I can solve lots of mysteries today,” he says.

And yes, Mom. I need to clean my mirror.

The Red Balloon

Is it just me or does this preschool project scream “drug mule in training”?

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