No Sleep Till San Fran

Jackson waving goodbye to our house, the day we left Brooklyn

Tomorrow we will have lived in the Bay Area for four months.  Looking back at how difficult our journey out here was, it is hard to believe we are all still standing.

On the flight out here back in June, my daughter screamed and threw things for about 90% of the flight, and my son melted down the last 20% of the flight.  So that meant we had at least one child screaming and crying 100% of the time we spent on our journey from New York to San Francisco.  It was so bad that the stewardess bought my husband and I bloody mary’s because she felt so bad for us. As I recall, I believe she said something like, “You need these.” At the time we couldn’t understand why they were acting so

 

terribly, but looking back on it, there were actually a few factors that contributed to their eventual, inevitable meltdowns.

We woke them at 5:30am for an 8:30am flight.  When we booked the flight, 8:30am seemed like a great idea: Less traffic getting to the airport in New York and less traffic getting home from the airport in San Francisco, thus minimizing the overall travel time for the kids.  But what we didn’t consider was that by waking our children well before their normal rising time, we were setting them up to be completely exhausted at exactly the time we needed them to be on their best behavior.

Then there was my daughter. She had come down with a fever the day before we left, and we thought she was getting sick, when in fact it turned out she was cutting two molars.

So there you have it: Lack of sleep + teething = nightmare baby.  Older brother then feeds on nightmare baby’s energy, and voila!  Two children screaming for 6 hours straight.

Twelve hours after we left New York, we arrived at our new “home” – a temporary rental that would serve as our two month landing pad.  After screaming and thrashing for hours on end, you would think the kids would have fallen asleep the moment we walked in the door.  But somehow all their previous fussing just fueled their energy, and they became what can only be described as…psychotic:  They were running around our new home like bees buzzing in a hive.  Non-stop motion, running to the living room, the kitchen, the deck, the bedrooms, and back again – arms and legs just flailing about uncontrollably, screaming and laughing like crazy people.  I had never seen anything like this before.  This was new territory.  How do I calm them down?  At this point it was after 8pm east coast time.  They should be falling over by now.  But they are still running!

After trying to calm them down as best as we could, we thought we would attempt to put them to bed at around 9pm east coast time, 6pm west coast time.  This seemed logical, but in the month of June, 6pm is about as bright as mid-day, so they were not having it.

Three hours of screaming and saying “I’m not tired”, or in my daughter’s case “WAAAAAHHHHHH!” later, at Midnight east coast time, they (finally!!!) fell asleep.

This nightmare day of travel had my husband and I asking ourselves, “What were we thinking moving out here?  Are we doing the right thing?  Is it too late to go back??”  And over the next week or two, as the kids got adjusted to the time change and this new strange world they were living in, we continued to ask these questions.  It was an incredibly challenging and emotionally exhausting time.

But four months later, things are much better.  The kids feel much more settled in our new home. They still scream, but at least now it’s within the confines of our house, and not on an overbooked cross-country flight.

And they sleep.  Which means I sleep.  And that makes everything better.

Where to Begin

I have been remiss in writing for the last several months, but for good reason.  In January we embarked on the very difficult task of putting our home on the market, and the craziness didn’t end until about a week ago, when we finally unpacked our last box.

Back in January we thought we were moving to New Jersey, and ten months later, after the dust settled, we found ourselves in California, after my husband was given an amazing opportunity to open a San Francisco office for his New York City based company.

The view from our deck

We have now been here since June, and I am embarrassed to say that I have not written anything about this experience thus far, largely because we haven’t stopped moving since then.  I feel like I am just now coming up for air, and can hopefully now start documenting this journey that we have embarked on.

Our journey really began two years ago, when we first started thinking about where we wanted to raise our family.  For more about this difficult decision, and how we ultimately decided to move our family out west, check out a blog article I wrote several months ago for Brooklyn or Beyond.

Since arriving here in June I have struggled with whether or not we made the right decision to move here.  The only thing keeping me from making this move in the first place was that it would put us so far from our families, and that has proven to be the hardest part of living out here.  This blog, and the entries that will follow is my attempt to determine if California is the perfect place for us, or if, perhaps, there is somewhere else for us that could be even better.  Miles From Perfect is also an attempt to document the fact that everyday I am reminded of how imperfect I am as a parent.  I want to attempt to bring humor and realism to parenthood and the challenges we face everyday, whether it’s regarding everyday living or finding a place to live.

Snow Day

Global Warming?  I don’t think so.  Yes, we’ve had a winter that has so far been dominated by 50 degree weather, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still get a blizzard, right?  Well, I’m pretty sure it does, actually.

Although I don’t really love winter, I do get excited for the first big winter snow storm, so Friday night was filled with childlike anticipation as I waited for what would surely be a beautiful, white covered Saturday morning.  And I woke up to find…

drumroll please…

about one inch of snow on the ground.

Sigh.

When I was growing up, playing in the snow was the best!  You would get all bundled up, grab your sled, and head to that crazy hill in the backyard of the house of the retired couple that was living in Florida for the winter.  By January, we had already had about 17 snowstorms.  And there was always a good 6-12 inches of wet, beautiful snow – perfect for making snow men, snow angels, and for, of course, sledding.

But that was the 80s.  Times were simpler.  Winters were colder.  Global warming was just this fabled, little talked about “theory”.

Fast forward to this past Saturday.  We finally get our snow.  But it amounts to about 2 inches: It’s dry, completely unusable, and black within about thirty minutes of hitting the ground, because I live in New York City, and let’s face it, the white will only stay pristine for as long as it takes for a dog to pee on it, or a taxi to run over it.  We decide to brave the pee and sludge-covered snow and bring our  3 year old son outside.  But playing outside after a snow fall is a little different here in New York.  Our 10 month old was napping during the time of said “outing”, so we couldn’t really go anywhere but right outside our building.  We still got Jack completely bundled up: snow pants, boots, the whole bit.  But we basically just walked down our front stoop to the little patio in front of our building.  Now, I use the word “patio” very generously here.  It is basically a 150 square foot concrete space where we put our garbage cans.  But covered in snow it looked lovely!

Regardless of the small playing space and the dry, pointless snow, my son had a blast!  He was throwing snow, eating snow, falling in the snow, and just having a great time.  Meanwhile, I was bound and determined to make a snowman out of these ridiculously lame snowflakes – and in the end here is what I came up with:

I’d like to blame this pathetic-looking mini-snowman on my son, but really, this was all me.  As you can see from the picture, there is a little piece of leftover Christmas tree next to him.  That was supposed to be one of his arms, but because the snow was so crumbly, I couldn’t get the branch in his little snowball body.  So there you have it:  A paraplegic snowman made not by a three year old, but yours truly.  I think we can all agree that it’s a work of art.

We may not have gotten a big snow storm, and we may live in a city and under life circumstances that often make it hard for us to really get out there and live it up in the snow, but we still had a great time. That snowman, on the other hand: He got squashed by my son about thirty seconds after I took those pictures.  My dreams of snowman making were crushed, and frankly, so was he, but my son thought it was hilarious.

The Waste Factor

According to babycenter.com, It will cost my husband and I one million dollars to raise our two children.  A Million.  Take that in for a second.  A million dollars??  I can’t even say it out loud – I actually choked on the words when I tried telling my husband that.

And when you look at the nice little pie chart Baby Center creates for you to break down the expenses, it has a piece of pie for childcare, healthcare, food, etc.  But there is one piece of the pie that is decidedly missing:  Waste.  Now, if you’ve read my previous blog entries you might be thinking of a different kind of waste here.  I don’t mean waste of the bodily fluid variety.  I mean things that children literally waste: food, clothing, furniture, etc., etc., etc.  If you add what I call the “waste factor” into your calculations for raising a child, you have to bump that number up by at least 25%.  So it will actually cost me $1.25 Million to raise my two children.  This 25% is a somewhat arbitrary, and completely non-scientific number.  But personally, I think it’s pretty much right on.

You might be asking yourself, “How could it possibly cost me an extra $250,000 to raise my children, just in their wastefulness?”  Ha!! I say.  Let’s think about it for a minute.  We’ll start with food.  Food is probably the number one culprit when it comes to the waste factor.  Food wasting starts as soon as they start eating solids, and continues well into their youth.  For example, when I feed my 10 month old daughter Cheerios, for every 10 Cheerios I give her, she probably gets 3 in her mouth.  The other seven end up on the floor, in her high chair, or often times in the space between her diaper and belly (leaving an adorable little Cheerio imprint on her tummy).  Now if you’re like me, you might try to salvage the ones that fall on the floor, or maybe even some clean looking ones that landed in her highchair.  But if you’re super anal about food hitting the floor and/or you have a dog that promptly tries to lick said Cheerios as soon as they hit the floor, then you’re definitely throwing those babies in the garbage.

Baby food is another major culprit.  As the above picture suggests, baby food often ends up just about everywhere but your child’s mouth.  It gets in the hair, the eyelashes, the ears, on the highchair, and on the floor.  And unless you’re really weird, you’re probably not trying to salvage that food.  Gone.  Wasted.  And if you’re little one is in a phase where they like to swat your hand away with every bite, because they’ve had that food before, and they’re starting to learn that there are other much tastier options you’re keeping from them, that food goes flying!!  Wasted.  And you probably then put the baby food in your fridge for a few days because it takes that long for them to get through a single jar.  And by day three it’s really not good anymore, so it goes in the garbage.  Wasted.

When they get older the waste continues.  About 3 out of every 5 times I give my son a glass of milk, it gets spilled clear across the table.   They say don’t cry over spilled milk, but I want to cry every time – that organic crap is expensive!!

Child obsessions are another source of wastefulness.  My 3 year old son is obsessed with sleeping with a tissue every night.  It started when he had a cold a few months ago and has persisted since.  So now every nap and every night we have to give him a new tissue to sleep with.  And you certainly can’t re-use a tissue from a previous bedtime, because he has torn it to shreds by then, and it is rendered completely unrecognizable – just a mass of little white confetti, strewn all over his room.

Clothing is another big culprit.  You know that little white onesie you loved so much, but you had to throw away because your daughter pooped through it so many times it started looking like a Dalmation’s behind?  Yeah, wasted.   Or those cute Gap Kids jeans you bought for your son that now just look like painter’s pants because he spilled so much finger paint on them at school?  Wasted.  Or the underpants that looked so adorable on him that got peed through so many times that they now smell like a port-a-potty, no matter how many times you wash them?  Wasted.

Do you know what you could do with $250,000???  You could buy a huge house in the midwest, travel around the world, send your kid to college…twice, live somewhere remote for a good ten years without having to work, and on, and on.  The point is, you could do so much with that money.  But you won’t.  Because you can’t.  Because you need that money to aid and abet your inevitable little wasters.  And, really, if I’m being honest with myself, the only thing I’d really want to do with that $250,000 would be travel around the world, and let’s face it, with two kids, I’m not doing that any time soon.

Young and Old

The following is meant to be both touching and funny.  Eliciting both laughter and tears in the same article is a difficult task, but I’m hoping I pulled it off.

Last week I had the great fortune of spending much of my holiday break with my grandparents.  They live in Florida and had not been up for Christmas since 1993, so seeing them over the holidays was a big deal.  My grandmother and grandfather are also 86 and 89, respectively, and therefore this was probably going to be the last trip they made up north for the holidays, if ever again.  One of the things that really struck me about spending so much time with them (alongside my two children) was how similar their needs and behaviors were to that of babies.  It is often said that those at the beginning and end of their lives share many similarities, and I would like to share some of them with you:

  • Both wear diapers.  Obvious to some, perhaps, but not to me until a week ago.
  • Both do not hear you when you call them for dinner.
  • Walking requires much assistance.
  • Both throw a fit if they don’t get their way.
  • Liquids are best drank through a straw and food best eaten in small bites, to avoid spilling or choking.
  • Both sleep.  A lot.
  • Getting them around (whether via stroller or wheelchair) requires much skill when going up and down stairs.
  • Both allow you to be apart of the “those requiring extra assistance” crowd, when boarding a plane.
  • Getting out the door and into/out of the car takes FOREVER.
  • Both rely on you for everything – from making them toast to pouring their orange juice.

The circle of life is very interesting, indeed.  We enter the world naked and unashamed of it, ready for the world to teach us all that it has to offer.  We rely on our caregivers – parents, nannies, or grandparents to care for us, protect us, and show us the ways of the world.  As we age and enter our 50s and 60s, we become part of the “sandwich generation”, and we suddenly become needed by both our children and our parents.  Our children certainly don’t have the same needs as they once did, but they still need us as a support system, for advice, direction, and guidance.  And suddenly our parents need us as well: those strong, seemingly invincible giants called “mom” and “dad” now need us to care for them, and can do virtually nothing to care for and guide us as they once did.   And then as we enter the final years of our lives, we enter them naked once again, though not in the literal sense.  Naked in our vulnerability.  Our inability to care for ourselves necessitates the disrobing of our pride, leaving us vulnerable and naked before our children, children who once looked up to us, and we hope they will not be ashamed of who we now are and what we have become.

I, for one, am not ashamed of my grandparents at all.  To me, they are not a burden, as they often tell me they fear.  On the contrary, they are wise and funny and beautiful people who have lived through so much, and whose memories of their youth are better than my memory of what I did yesterday.  I cherish every moment that I spend with them, and I can only hope that when I reach my final years, that my children and grandchildren will feel the same about me.

Four generations.  My grandmother, mother, daughter and I.

Peter Boyle Lives On…

The first year of life is one of great change and evolution, one in which your child’s appearance and abilities change dramatically from birth to their first birthday.  And during that first year, as strange as it may sound, my two children have at one time or another resembled the late Peter Boyle.  Now, if you don’t know who Peter Boyle is, he played the cantankerous (and in my opinion adorable) Frank Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond. I don’t know what it is, but when those little kiddos start sprouting teeth and their hair starts growing over their ears (while remaining decidedly sparse on the tops of their heads), that’s when they start to embody Young Frankenstein’s lovable monster.  You decide:

I mean, really.  Can you deny it??  I don’t think so.  And my daughter looks like him the most – that is the scary part.  Although I truly hope she does not continue to resemble Mr. Boyle when she is a grown woman, if she did, Halloween would certainly be an interesting time of year for her:

She would pretty decidedly win first place in any costume contest.  At least she’ll have that going for her.  Because the boys certainly won’t be calling, that’s for sure.

This is all very timely given that we are days away from Halloween and the above picture of my daughter was taken on October 20th, just 2 days after what would have been Peter Boyle’s 76th Birthday.  And today, 2 days before All Hallow’s Eve, we decided to engage in the time honored tradition of pumpkin carving.  Although my son doesn’t look like Frankenstein’s monster anymore, he is pretty darn cute (as is my husband) while gutting and cutting our Halloween pumpkin:

Comedy and Tragedy

When you are the parent of a two year old, you know that your life is always seconds away from either comedy or tragedy.  And although I am always cautiously optimistic that I will face the former, and not the latter, I am continuously realistic that each day will likely be peppered with both.

Now I use the word “tragedy” very loosely.  I don’t mean tragedy in the sense that my child gets hit by a car, breaks an arm, chokes on a grape, etc. on a daily basis.  But there is always some form of drama that fills a day in the life of a toddler and his mother.  The day started out pretty normal: We went to the local playground to meet up with a friend for a play date.  Just a few minutes after arriving, I look up to find my son and another boy struggling on the steps of the playground structure.  “No!!!” I hear my son yelling, as he’s pushing his butt into the boy behind him, who is trying to go up the stairs.  It seemed that the boy was trying to push his way past, and my son was not yet ready to ascend those four little stairs.  I start approaching the two to help them sort it out, when the boy’s nanny comes charging over, yelling at my son.  “No, you do not push him!!” she yells indignantly.  “It’s ok, honey”, she says as she turns to the boy in her care.  “Excuse me??” I said.  “I can handle my own son, thank you very much.”  She completely ignores me.  I walk away. Shocked.  Who does that??

It’s kind of an unwritten parenting rule that you don’t discipline someone else’s child, unless of course they’re causing irreparable physical harm to your child.  But even then the parent of the child you’re disciplining would have to be clearly absent from the situation.  And I was standing right there.  Do they not teach that social idiosyncrasy to those in the nannying world?  I was so angry.  I would never do that to someone else’s child.  The nerve!

We then went to lunch with our play date.  Dining out with your children is just tragedy waiting to happen.  I wasn’t planning on going out to eat, so I had literally nothing with me to entertain my seven month old.  So she’s sitting on my lap, grabbing at forks, knives, really anything that she can poke an eye out or maim herself with.  My son is spilling water on the floor, dropping crayons, getting off his chair, crawling under the table, banging his head while trying to emerge from under the table – you get the idea.  “Why did we do this again?” we said to each other.  I felt like stress was emanating from every pore of my body.  I was a woman on the brink.

Finally, we get home, and I breath a sigh of relief. Only 20 more minutes before I have both the kids napping.  I can hardly wait.  As my son follows me to his room to get dressed for bed he says earnestly, “Mommy, can we put Ella to sleep in your belly and go back to the beach?”  “What??” I say.  “What do you mean, honey?”  So he asks again, “Can we put Ella in your belly and go back to the beach?  You know, the beach with Daddy?”  I say, “What beach do you mean, Jack?”  “The beach in the picture”, he says, and he grabs my hand pulling me out into our hallway.  Hanging there is a photograph I took of Jack and my husband exactly a year ago, when we went to Fire Island.  I was four months pregnant with my daughter at the time.  I could not control my laughter.  “Oh, I love you so much”, I said.  And there you have it.  Tragedy followed by comedy.

Which if you think about it, it’s really so much better than the reverse.  I always prefer to have a comedy pot of gold to look forward to at the end of my rainbow of tragedy, rather than start the day out with the comedy, only knowing that you are just a crappy nanny away from the inevitable.

Of course my son didn’t nap that day, and proceeded to wake up my daughter with his incessant yelling.  And all that boiled down to mommy not getting any down time.  And that, at least in my opinion, was the biggest tragedy of all.

Model Children

Getting the family portrait taken is no easy task.  First you have to find outfits that match, but don’t match too much.  You don’t want to be that family who is wearing all white, posing with their fake cheesy smiles.  But if you try to think outside the box and wear, say, a pink shirt that picks up the same shade of pink in your daughter’s dress, while putting your husband in a grey shirt that picks up the grey in your daughter’s dress, while putting your son in a green shirt that picks up the green in your daughter’s dress, that is just really hard to pull off – and it is nearly impossible to find four different outfits for four different members of your family that all happen to go together without looking like they are too matchy-matchy.  That was exactly my dilemma at 11 o’clock the night before our photo shoot.  I wanted to pull all my hair out (which was not a good idea, because at 4 months postpartum I already had a major hair deficit).    How do I get my family to look cool, without looking like we were trying too hard?  Finally I opted for white for my husband and I, (I know, white is lame, but we were working with my limited postpartum wardrobe, so leave me alone!) and then navy blue for the kids.

But as soon as we entered the studio, I knew we had nothing to worry about.  Ana, my very talented friend and photographer, did such an amazing job that we could have been wearing burlap sacks and would have looked great. We felt like such models as we entered her downtown studio – one of those trendy all-white spaces in downtown Manhattan.  I felt so cool.  We got there knowing that we had a limited window of opportunity before both of our children became a)very hungry and b)very tired, but you never would have known once Ana started working with them.  She has such a great energy about her that makes children smile and laugh and just generally have a great time.  My son, who can at times be a very tough customer, was enthralled by Ana, shamelessly flirting with her actually, and loving every minute of his photo shoot.  My daughter, who was about 5 minutes away from a milk-hungry meltdown was all smiles for Ana.  In the end my children looked like Gap Kids models, and my husband and I didn’t look too shabby either.

That’s no surprise considering Ana Schechter is no stranger to working with child models.  She does a lot of editorial and advertising work in addition to the children’s portraiture work that she does for individual families.  She was a top notch professional throughout the entire experience, while also making it fun and light-hearted.  We hardly even realized we were having our pictures taken.  I recently got all my pictures back from Ana, and they are AMAZING!  I had a really hard time picking my favorites, but here are some of the ones I really loved.  You can see more of Ana’s work at anaphoto.net and on her blog at rootingfortinyvictories.com.  And if you want to check out more of our family’s beautiful photos, take a look at the blog article Ana wrote about us and our photo gallery.  Happy viewing!!



i smell like pee and vomit

i smell like pee and vomit,
no need to wonder why.
i have a toddler and a newborn,
why even dare to try

to take a shower or to clean
the smell and stench of rear.
when in an hour or a few
it will again appear.

i smell like pee and vomit,
the little one just wretched
the entire contents of my breast
upon me now i’m drenched.

i smell like pee and vomit,
oh yeah and also poop.
the littlest one goes ten times a day,
a lovely yellow soup.

a smell like buttered popcorn,
and of vinegar fills the air.
until i realize that my firstborn
added his fair share

of urine and of excrement,
oh such a lovely smell.
like living in a barn,
or perhaps like living hell.

with smelly pigs and cows and chickens,
that’s how i now must live.
among the wild animals
to whom the care i give.

And then there were two…

It is hard to believe that I am now the mother of two children.  How did that happen?  I mean, I know how it happened. I was the eager participant  in many a sex ed class throughout my formative years, after all.  But how did I get to be so OLD??

Life starts moving faster than a freight train after the age of 22.  It’s like mother nature’s way of saying, “Ha ha!  You’re an adult, so now I am going to make sure the road to wrinkles and unimaginable responsibility comes at you as fast as humanly possible!”  Somehow I blinked and went from 22 to 32 without knowing where in the hell those ten years went.  But I think it went something like this:

Graduated college, moved to California, met the love of my life, moved back East, got engaged, got married, bought an apartment, got a dog, got pregnant, had a baby, stopped working, started a business, got pregnant again, had another baby, and phew…I am tired.  Participating in the acceleration of my own life has been exhausting!

And I truly love being a mother, but boy, is it tiring.  Anyone who says it isn’t hard work is either lying or lazy or both.  My toddler son runs around like a maniac for 12 hours a day, and then when he finally goes to sleep, we are up with our newborn baby for another 3-4 hours after that.  By the time she goes to bed that leaves my husband and I with approximately thirty minutes of alone time before we go to sleep…or at least hope to sleep…for a few hours…until the newborn wakes us up with her incessant need to eat. Man, the nerve!  And even as I write this, it has taken me three shots at the computer before getting this article published, one of which involved typing with a baby on my lap, since there is always a little one needing my time and attention.

How people handle more than two kids is beyond me.  I would like to have a third someday, but quite honestly I’m not sure how I would do it.  What happens to that third kid, anyway?  Kid #1 is the firstborn, so of course they think that they rule the roost (which they kind of do) and consequently dominate all your time.  Kid #2 just sits around and  hopes someone will pay attention to him or her once Kid #1 stops monopolizing every last ounce of energy the parents have.  So where does that leave Kid #3?  S.O.L., that’s where.  That kid will be giving themselves a bottle at 3 days old and watching The View at 5 days old, just so that mama can have five minutes to eat a sandwich and go to the bathroom.

And what about those crazy families out in the midwest with 16 plus kids??  How do they do it, you ask?  They get a reality show, that’s how.  And they use the money to pay for someone else to raise their abnormally large brood.

For now, I am happy with two.  That is, until I forget the pain and agony of pregnancy and childbirth, and get the itch to have another.  And when you’re a mom that happens faster than you think, since all of your brain cells are dedicated to the care of someone else.  What’s my name again?