Hanukkah Christmas is upon us. Or me. I’m under two Hanukkah blankets, in my Christmas jammies, drinking coffee from a Hanukkah mug, by the Christmas tree, with Hanukkah gnomes over my right shoulder, a menorah over my left and that elf that I love to hate staring at me from across the room.
It was a glorious week home alone. Captain asked me,
“Did you put music on and dance around?”
“Did you install cameras?” Because I did. And I was. R&B Christmas played while I finished my Hanukkah shopping.
I’ve reached a precipice. My 30-year-old strategy for shopping for Hanukkah tchotchkes is end of life.
Growing up, Hanukkah themed items were hard/impossible to come by. If one was lucky enough to find anything, snatch it up.
I’ve been snatching it up and snatching it up and snatching it up. This year I bought two more cartons to store it all in.
No one would ever walk into Home Goods and think,
‘I’m going to buy ALL the Christmas things.’
That would require buying the whole store.
Home Goods has a small table of Hanukkah items. And it’s deceiving, because it includes any number of random blue items that don’t have anything Jewish about them.
It’s easy to just keep buying ALL the Hanukkah things. BUT it’s finally starting to add up. Note previous addition of storage cartons. It’s time to be selective.
The problem with Home Goods is that they sometimes have the most random Hanukkah items and if you don’t snatch them up, you may never see them again.
Two years ago, I left Home Goods without buying my precious Hanukkah gnomes, only to rush back an hour later and claim them. Gnome post, 2020.
Now they are a beloved part of our family for five weeks out of the year. Harry, Gimel and Snow.
This week, I stood at the Home Goods Hanukkah table, surrounded by Christmas gnomes, without a Hanukkah one in sight. I dismissed the numerous Hanukkah hand towels, placemats, and random blue balls. My eyes caught on a pair of dreidels. I picked them up. Salt and pepper shakers! Into my cart they went,
The middle-aged cashier picked them up and remarked,
“Oooh salt and pepper shakers. I thought they were dreidels.”
Dreidel salt and pepper shakers, I’m tempted to add. She continued,
“There’s some song about dreidels… I learned it in school.”
“I can’t remember it.”
Here I’ve been, living my life, thinking it’s the one Hanukkah song everyone knows.
That makes it sound like a speedy, whirlwind of a time. It may have been a whirlwind of bodily fluids, but it was more of a meandering pace.
Over a week ago, RB got sick in the car. It had been a long ride: thirty minutes to the trampoline park in Plymouth.
I thought, ‘maybe car sick?’ Although she’s never been carsick in her life.
We leave BB to jump her heart out and I drive thirty minutes straight back home. I put RB in the tub and down for a nap. An hour later she throws up in the crib, wipes her face with her lovey, rolls over and goes back to sleep.
NEXT LEVEL GROSS. But considering I was already going to have to wash everything, why rush in there if she wasn’t asking for me?
An hour later she’s awake and I’ve got her back in the tub. She’s dry heaving in the tub. I get her in front of the TV with towels covering every surface around her.
She refuses any sort of vomit receptacle and will only let it come out wherever it may.
By bedtime she’s done throwing up and sleeps straight through the night. The next day she is her happy, energetic self. Everyone else in the family feels fine.
Seems like it might be a fluke. The next day RB is worse again. Her dinner from the night before returns. She spends the rest of the day in front of the TV and never throws up again.
That night Captain and I eat a hearty dinner. A couple hours later it is clear that that was a mistake. We spend the night separately. Each of us with our own toilet.
Twenty-four hours later we’re on the mend. Forty-eight hours later we’re at a party drinking beers, eating tacos and realizing maybe we’re not as well as we had hoped.
We return home and I ask BB, as I’ve been asking for a week,
“How are you feeling?”
Two hours later, not so good. BB spent the rest of the weekend cradling a trash can. Monday morning she felt all better. I kept her home from school just in case. Tuesday morning I sent her on her way.
Hours later the nurse calls. BB was sick at school. I am beyond sorry about that, to her and to anyone nearby.
Wednesday, yesterday, she spent the day a free woman. No school, no vomit and no mom.
There are real perks to Captain working from home.
Today is the first day everything seems to be back to normal. RB declares,
There appears to be a max number of words I’m able to write a week. My current writing course requires 1,000-1,500 words, 3-5 pages double spaced, per week.
My blog posts average 500-600 words every two weeks ish. To say I’m struggling to do both, for a total of 2,000 words per week, more than my total previous word count for the entire month, is generous.
I’m not struggling to do it. I’m not getting it done. I would love to get it done. Just not sure which other thing to not get done.
I already stopped keeping up with the laundry and I was already doing the bare minimum food wise, so there’s no time to be saved there, unless we just live on Halloween candy for a couple weeks. That should get rid of it.
This past weekend I could’ve been writing, but I was following a shirtless Captain around.
We went to our first adult-only, Halloween party since we had kids. That’s six years of dressing up in family-friendly outfits.
So maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised that the minute we got the invite this past summer, Captain went the no clothes route.
He had his heart set on being a hairband rocker. We were going for generic 80’s rockstars. We got mistaken for Tommy and Pamela. I did NOT stuff my dress. The only way I could’ve had a smaller chest was if I had no chest, but the size of my hair made up for it.
What I didn’t realize through all the months of costume planning our trophy-winning ensemble, was that the party was outside.
That’s right. I have a trophy in my kitchen. It has made me happier than I ever thought a jack-o-lantern trophy could.
We drove the half mile to the party. It was 50 degrees and dropping and Captain was determined to make a topless entry.
He didn’t shave his arms and apply temporary tattoos for nothing.
As we walk up the driveway, music and party sounds are unmistakable.
Captain turns to me,
“Is this party outside?!?”
“Nooooo. Couldn’t be.”
It could. It was. Captain stayed committed, stayed by the fire and pounded beers.
I attribute our trophy to his cold-blooded rockstar status.
We showed up with a case of Budweiser because I was committed to drinking in character, even if the taste of that first beer was tough.
Nobody believed we were really drinking Bud. Multiple times I was accused of pouring something else in the can. Forced to choose, I’d much rather drink a Bud than a hard seltzer.
A minion pointed out that if we really wanted to be in character we would’ve finished the Bud and switched to whiskey ages ago. But I’m not sure that applies to wannabe rockstars in their forties.
We went to bed as rockstars and woke up as hung-over parents home alone. I can’t say enough good things about being home alone after a party.
Two days later, on Halloween morning, 3-year-old RB, who’s been planning her mermaid costume as long as we’ve been planning our hairband duo, decided a crown was not going to suffice. She NEEDED mermaid hair.
And if that “NEEDED” didn’t sound like a throw-down tantrum on the kitchen floor, it was. I showed her my hairband wig. She looked at me like I’d lost my mind and shouted,
“It needs green and pink and rainbow colors!!”
She went down for her nap screaming about mermaid hair, but she slept and I created a masterpiece. I delivered the rockstar turned rainbow, mermaid hair to her and she sighed,
“It’s so beautiful!”
If there’s a trophy for parenting through a crisis, I’d like to be considered.
BB’s school photo came home in an envelope inscribed with: “Every school picture tells a story.“
I’m not taking artistic license. The “tells a story” part was highlighted.
That sounds like a diplomatic disclaimer to me. I.e. if your kid’s photo came out odd, it’s the memory that counts.
Then I saw this post on one of our town’s social media pages:
“… I am jealous of my friends from the surrounding towns. Their kids photos seem to be taken with more care. Their kids are making good w expressions. They have great backgrounds and it appears they have slight fan moving hair. I’m not sure why our expensive town has such low expectations and chooses a vendor with limited output. Every year they seem to get worse.”
I watched baffled as everyone seemed to get on board.
Great backgrounds? You want lasers? I’ve got 1989 and 1990 for you. You want a photo with a floating head? See 1987. Hand on cheek? 1994.
School photos aren’t getting worse every year. They’ve always been terrible. The vendor knows this or they wouldn’t be pushing the “story” side of the photo.
If you’re really serious about getting good photos, you go independent. Then you can have gems like these:
Maybe I should get off my soap box, because BB’s photo came out ok. But rainbow cheetah print isn’t always going to be in fashion. If it even is now? She had her heart set on this outfit, high pony included.
I agreed precisely because it’s NOT going to age well and someday when she does a blog post with a collage of her school photos, this will be a winner. Although she really could have used a fan to get that one piece of hair back.
My eye situation became untenable. I went to the dermatologist. I don’t take going to the doctor lightly; we have a high deductible plan.
The problem started in July. The skin around my eyes was super itchy, red and puffy. It was right before my regularly scheduled physical.
No more summer physicals for me. It’s impossible to get good blood work when I’ve switched to a temporary diet of cheese burgers, beer and s’mores.
My doctor examined my eyes. She recommended eczema cream and vaseline.
I spent the summer looking like a shiny clown having an allergic reaction, my face smeared in white mineral sunscreen and vaseline.
I had high hopes for September, but alas salads, blueberries, and no facial products did not seem to change a thing. The redness and itchiness made me dream of pandemic isolation.
Friday I call the dermatologist. I’m going to be very angry if I pay $300 for a doctor to recommend vaseline.
“We have an appointment for this Tuesday.”
“It’s that or we’re looking at December.”
“I’ll take Tuesday!”
The doctor looks at my eyes,
Yes. My months of google research has led me to this diagnosis as well.
“Fifty precent of the time we’ll never figure out what the allergy is to.”
“I didn’t start using anything new.”
“You don’t have to. You can suddenly develop a sensitivity. It could even be to something in the air.”
“Never scratch it. You’ll make it worse. Really never scratch it.”
I spent my summer scratching it.
I’m watching my $300 float out the window.
“I’m going to give you this non-steroid prescription but insurance companies don’t like it because it’s too expensive. If the pharmacy tries to tell you it’s $400, don’t buy it. I can prescribe you hydrocortisone.”
I head to CVS. They tell me,
“You know this is $200? You insurance requires pre-approval.”
I try the hydrocortisone while I wait to hear from my insurance. My skin gets worse. I’m ready to pay $200.
My insurance denies me. I tell my doctor I’ll pay out of pocket. They email me a coupon making the prescription $80.
What is going on? Our insurance/medical system is a racket.
BEST $80 I’ve spent. My eyes are almost all better.
The doctor tells me,
“Lukewarm showers. Nothing on your face. No soap. Limit contacts. No makeup unless you have an important meeting.”
Otherwise known as going out with my friends?
I relay the new rules to Captain.
“I’m not supposed to put anything on my face.”
“Does that mean no blankety?”
“Blankety? Isn’t that what you call your security blanket?”
“The doctor did not say anything about my security blanket.”
Why would he? He said “nothing on my face” which encompasses all possibilities.
I remind Captain,
“I don’t rub Blankety on my eyes.”
As if the lower half of my face is so far away.
Captain is NOT getting rid of Blankety that easily.
First thing in the morning is my favorite time of day.
I pad out to the kitchen. I get first dibs on the huge, fresh, coffee pot. As I should, considering past Jessica was kind enough to make it for future Jessica.
The only thing I like almost as much as drinking coffee, is writing about drinking coffee or reading about someone else making and drinking coffee. Maybe this is the novel I was born to write: COFFEE.
I take several gulps and top it up before I settle in to my snuggy corner on the couch. If you’re wondering what this might look like, BB recreated it:
I’m warmed by the thought of my dear family: Captain, BB and RB, all still peacefully asleep or imprisoned in a crib. Their existence all the sweeter because of their absence.
No family member should be seen before 7am. If so, something has gone very wrong and it is unclear who it will end worse for.
In an ideal world, I use this time to write. Otherwise I use this time to drink my coffee. Stare out the window. Check the weather. Email. Text. Browse the news. Review the calendar. Refill my coffee. Will RB to go back to sleep.
I survey my work. The home reorg is well underway. Every day that both kids are at school I’ve been on a tear: donating, storing, returning, consolidating.
RB undoes some of my work. I can count on her to move things back to their original spot, but for the most part I’m winning.
BB has fourteen UNOPENED presents from her birthday almost three months ago. They are in plain sight, unwrapped, but unplayed with.
If they’re still brand-new in December they’re at risk for getting wrapped up again.
I may or may not get around steaming off the wallpaper in BB’s art room, formerly known as the dining room.
When the previous owners’ realtor recommended they remove the dining-room wallpaper, they balked and said they had removed enough already.
I should be thankful the whole house didn’t look like the dining room. A more spiffed up house might’ve invited better offers than ours and then who knows where I’d be now.
I’d be in a home that was featured on the Hoarders reality show if Captain had had his way. Although that house DID come with a school bus in the yard.
So here I am. The giant well-loved Little Tikes slide from 1982 is no longer in my living room. It is waiting in our garage to return to Worcester.
Captain is on board with my clearing out and oblivious to it.
I have a giant, stuffed panda from my childhood. It lived in Worcester until we moved here. All of a sudden we had room for her. She drove down in Captain’s car:
She lived in BB’s room until two weeks ago. I ask BB,
“Do you want the panda in your room?”
“I need her because I stand on her head to reach my books.”
“What if you had a stool there instead?”
I moved the panda to the rocking chair in my bedroom. Both waiting for their return to Worcester.
After several days of sleeping in the same room as the panda, I review with Captain everything I’ve accumulated. I mention the giant stuffie. He asks,
“Where is it?”
This is what I mean by oblivious. The panda has been watching us sleep. Captain has been putting on his underwear right in front of it and it registered zero.
I point to the rocking chair. He exclaims,
“You can’t send Pandy back!”
“Pandy and I drove here together.”
MY giant stuffed panda, who I’ve had for 30 years and feel ready to part with, spent one quality car ride with Captain and now they’re best buds.
She never even had a name before.
The question is does Pandy also need her rocking chair? Send help.
Two years ago, mid-pandemic, mid-new baby, this seemed so out of reach I didn’t even dare daydream about it.
Now Captain is required to go to the office three days a month, but somehow he’s only doing two days this month. BB started first grade today and RB starts preschool tomorrow!
Tomorrow is the perfect storm. I will be home alone and it won’t happen again for another month.
It feels like one of those celestial events that the news mentions: THIS WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN IN OUR LIFETIMES. Or for several years. Or it’ll happen every 30 days give or take a recalcitrant employee.
The stars have aligned in my favor. I would usually go to zumba Wednesday morning, but part of me feels like I should just stay home and marvel at my aloneness.
I’ve been on a tear reorganizing the house. RB, the most OCD organized two-year-old I’ve ever met, surveys what I’ve done to the playroom/livingroom. She demands,
“Who put the toys away?”
She walks off.
That was easy.
“She seems easy going” says no one who knows RB. But so said her future preschool teacher.
I wasn’t about to throw RB under the bus. I’ll see how long it takes her teacher to change her assumption.
RB is outgoing, has a disarming smile and a flirtatious shoulder shrug, which could lead anyone to think she goes with the flow. SHE DOES NOT.
And if you’re thinking flirtatious is not an adjective to be applied to a 2.11 year old, maybe it’s charm or personality, but whatever it is, it is enough for me to understand how some people are born con artists.
Her adorableness may be keeping her alive as her OCD challenges my ability to not scream right along with her.
Over the summer, she insisted that her beach towel be spread out on the sand for her. I obliged. If there was one corner folded over, she screamed,
“It’s not right!”
When BB left her dress-up shoes on the front mat with the regular shoes, RB yelled,
“This is not good!”
When there was seaweed stuck to the wheel of my beach cart that I didn’t even notice. Who would? RB badgers me,
“It’s okay for the wheel to be dirty.”
She looks doubtful. I ask a fellow adult for backup,
“Are you worried about the seaweed on the wheel of my beach cart?” Wink. Wink.
“Not at all!!!”
RB sways. She seems unconvinced. I ask her,
“Do you want to go play with the kids?”
If I can get RB in weather appropriate clothing tomorrow, that will be a win. We’ve been landlocked for over a week and RB is still insisting on wearing her bathing suit every morning.
I walk in her room and I’m greeted with,
“Is it a beach day?!”
Today she agreed to wear clothing, but added flippers:
A few weeks ago I gave BB the internet’s worth of sneaker options. She zeroed in on the rainbow animal prints. She drew a picture of herself and declared,
I had my misgivings and did some online sleuthing. I delivered the potential death blow to this shoe choice,
“I think those might be leopard spots.”
“Oh. That’s ok!”
This morning BB channelled her cheetah power all the same.
What the heck is up with removable bathing suit padding?!? I have no idea if I stand with the majority on this or not, but I can’t abide it.
I always want padding. I never want to remove it. I don’t want my nipples poking through. Maybe this is a middle-age issue.
For years I refused to buy any suits with removable padding. Fixed padding made for a successful summer.
I’m down to my final week at the beach. I have lived in my bathing suit for two months and this year I succumbed to style over function. Both of my 2022 bikinis have removable padding. And boy is it removable.
It mushes, it bends, it inverts, it ALWAYS comes out in the wash. I ALWAYS spend a lifetime figuring out which side is which and reinserting. Then removing and reinserting on the other side. Then vowing to never wash my bathing suit again.
If I spend five minutes juggling nipple pads, several times a week, then that adds up to two hours of summer WASTED.
TWO HOURS. So many other things I’d rather do: read, drink, chat, swim, reapply sunscreen, reapply sunscreen on my kids.
Never mind. Reapplying sunscreen on my kids may be worse than reinserting bathing-suit padding.
It would be fine if they didn’t act like I’m KILLING them every time.
When do they successfully apply their own lotion? And while we’re talking self-care: when do they cut their own nails? Or even just go to the bathroom without an attendant?
After going potty, RB came wandering through the house asking me to rip her off a piece of toilet paper. There was a full roll of paper within arms reach, but she decided she’d come look for me to get it for her.
At which point the purpose of the toilet paper is called into question. Do you really need to wipe if you’ve air dried or dripped off through the house?
I’d rather stand in as toilet-paper valet than reinsert bathing-suit padding.
Obviously I like the finished product or I wouldn’t have kept the bathing suits and I wouldn’t have worn them all summer. Tell me if I’m missing something, besides a thin, asymmetrical, padded triangle.
I want to write more than a biweekly blog post. I’ve thought or said something similar since I graduated college.
Putting my desire down in writing may be helpful. Or it may not. If I can procrastinate for 20 years, anything is possible.
Yes I have valid demands on my time. Refer to children mentioned in previous posts.
Somehow I find enough time to do post-grad level research on how to treat whatever the heck allergic reaction is happening around my eyes.
There’s time to search and give up on what jeans I want to be wearing. There’s always time for a news doom scroll. And if in doubt, I just refresh social media, the weather, my photos, my calendar, my email, my period app.
Sounds like a phone issue. I’ve tried disconnecting from my phone. I’ve hidden it away in a kitchen cabinet. Which was more helpful than I thought it would be, considering I knew where it was.
It’s also an internet issue, because I LOVE to write on my computer, but it’s very easy to switch from google docs to TripAdvisor.
So no phone and no internet, then no excuses? Nope. Cause then I resort to the very last thing in the world I want to do: cleaning.
It starts to sound like I don’t want to write if I’d rather scour toilets. Writing is harder than scrubbing, scrolling or basic minding of RB so she stays alive.
I’ll be handing that over soon. Partially. My baby is starting school this fall! Three days a week. My excuses keep dwindling.
Three days a week will go quick. I could write or I could go grocery shopping BY MYSELF. I already have a feeling which one it’ll be.
I’m going to sign up for some generative writing classes. It may be helpful to be held accountable. By them and maybe you.
I could write more about this or I could go to the beach…
Some foods speak to me. In the summer it’s s’mores. It may be because I was deprived for the first ten years of my life. I was told it was longer than that. Either way, we found each other and it’s been 30 ish years of true love.
As a kid, our Cape neighbors invited me over for dinner. Or I invited myself, but somehow I was there. They asked me if I wanted s’mores. I’d never even HEARD of s’mores.
It was a split second decision. Do I claim I know what it’s all about or admit the truth? I eyeball the accoutrement. This doesn’t look like a fake it til you make it situation. I relent,
“I’ve never had them.”
The kids swarm around me,
“YOU’VE NEVER HAD S’MORES?!?!?!?!?”
“You’re going to LOVE them!”
I’m not even sure if I’d ever roasted marshmallows before. Maybe I had and on their own they were unremarkable.
I don’t remember the exact ratio of marshmallows to chocolate to graham cracker that I had, but it was FANTASTIC!
I rushed home to inform my family of the food group they’d been missing.
“They’re called s’mores!!!”
“Never liked them.”
I overcame my family’s failing and have eaten them ever since.
I’ll make them over a fire, the grill, the stovetop, a hand-held lighter and in a desperate pinch I’ve tried the microwave, which is by far the poorest option.
Imagine my joy when a few book clubs ago the host put out a spread including s’mores. My least favorite part of the process is fishing all the ingredients out of the cupboard. She’d done the dirty work for us.
I settled in for some roasting. All of sudden everyone is screaming and yelling at me,
“They’re burning! Your marshmallows are burning!”
I’m confused. Of course they’re burning. That’s how it’s done.
Everyone is appalled. They’re appalled I’m obliterating my marshmallows and I’m appalled this is a thing. I had no idea I was in the minority of s’mores makers.
Then I was at a party and the adults handed out s’mores to the kids. How does this end well?
BB is a lot of different things, but careful and clean are not two of them. She and s’mores will end in a house fire or with marshmallow in her hair.
I step back. I’m the last person who should come between her and this experience.
They hand her one marshmallow and a couple squares of chocolate. It dawns on me that my ratios are not the only way to do it either.
I prefer 6 squares of Hershey’s milk chocolate. I tried dark chocolate once. It’s a no go. And I like 3 marshmallows. It sounds like a lot and it IS messy, but extra delicious.
If I’m going to go to the trouble of digging all that stuff out of the pantry, might as well make the most of it.
BB had success and loves them too. She did not want to burn her marshmallows. I’ll give her the freedom to live with that for now. It’s probably safer.
And this answers the life question I’ve been pondering:
“Do I have enough to say about s’mores to fill a whole blog post?”
I’m officially 40! My Cape Cod and Alaska celebrations are in the rearview and middle age is stretching out ahead of me.
Wikipedia defines middle age as 45 – 65, so maybe I can delude myself for another few years.
All of a sudden I’m thinking about menopause, but wikipedia also mentions that I will now be beginning my cognitive decline, so maybe I’ll forget about it.
I’ve always had irritable mood swings with my period. I’m happy to warn Captain about them ahead of time, but beware the person who asks about it mid-PMS.
As much as my irritableness is unjustified, it is very hard to come to terms with that in the moment. That is what alarms me about menopause. How much of an emotional roller coaster will I be on and how long will it be until I feel like myself?
I understand that I might have another eight years before I need to worry about this, but it makes me even more nervous that no one is talking about it.
I feel like I was blindsided when I had my first baby and I don’t intend to be blindsided again if I can help it.
I’ve taken to crowdsourcing the topic at the beach. I’ve heard some interesting takes on it, including some people with no irritableness. Must be nice.
I jut my finger into Captain,
“What’s coming for him?”
Several beach buddies pipe up:
Nothing or maybe nothing with a belly. Grrrumph.
The talk turns to how popular botox has become. If I had some extra money to throw around, the first thing I’d do is get some hair lasered. Maybe that’s next year’s birthday present.
As I contemplate my inevitable decline, I wake up with my right eye swollen shut. A stye one day before my birthday. One day before I’m trying to look forty and fabulous at a fancy dinner. I’m beside myself.
Every spare moment I had was spent hanging over the sink with a warm washcloth pressed against my eyeball. And every spare thought willing it to go away.
Sunglasses and a tiara did wonders to disguise it at the beach.
By dinner time it was much better and makeup took care of the rest. I’ve never been happier to return to my status quo.
Bring it on middle age. I’ll take what I’ve got, minus the mood swings, stye and chin hair.
My babies are growing up! Aside from the one I was lucky enough to have a choice about.
BB finished kindergarten and after MONTHS of weaning RB is officially done breastfeeding.
Back in December we were down to nursing 1-2 times a day. In Disney it ramped back up. Anything to stop a tantrum.
After Disney we got down to once a day. Then the couple months before Alaska, it was a strange situation of latch for a few seconds, pop off and go to sleep happy versus no latch and sob brokenheartedly for a LONG time. I opted for the 5 second latch.
At home she was insistent,
“After we snuggle a little bit.”
Then we went to Alaska. I planned to avoid a repeat of Disney. I didn’t offer and RB NEVER asked.
We returned home and she still didn’t ask. A couple weeks went by. I thought that was that. Then one day we were snuggling, she patted my shirt and chest,
“I want some.”
“No, they’re all gone.”
“Yummy in my tummy!”
“I WANT MOMMY MILKIES!!!”
“No, your choice is to snuggle or go in your crib.”
“I don’t want choices. I’m getting my water.”
I can still hand express a few drops. I’m not sure what I’m trying to prove. I’m happy she’s done even if it has left my breasts shells of their former selves.
As I’m getting ready in the morning, BB lets herself into my bathroom to poop,
“Why are your mommy milkies hanging down?”
Why does privacy mean nothing?
So we’re rolling this into summer and potty training for RB. And by potty training I mean if she figures it out at the beach while she’s peeing on herself, great.
She’s been sitting on the toilet for months now. RB’s life goals are whatever BB is doing.
She wants nothing to do with the little potty and she wants nothing to do with a step stool, despite falling into the toilet several times.
She’s cut off from toilet paper until she actually pees in the toilet. This is an ongoing discussion.
RB is weaned, maybe potty training and staying in a crib forever. BB is a rising first grader who just got her ears pierced for her 6th birthday.
We agreed that if she’s old enough to get her ears pierced, she’s old enough to wipe her own butt. Even if she’s in my bathroom.
We’re home! We traveled around Alaska for 2 weeks, changing towns every couple days. We vacationed by plane, train, bus, boat, bike, zipline, raft, tram, hike, helicopter, dog sled, truck, van and some of us in a backpack carrier.
It was a dream come true. In part thanks to RB’s brand-new iPad. I understand people traveled with children before there were personal devices, but thanks to the iPad, I never felt compelled to dose her with my stash of drowsy drugs.
It all felt a little miraculous. RB is a notorious screamer, clinger, avoider of dogs. One of my biggest pre-trip fears was that she would ruin our dog-sled ride. I bought all the dog-sled books. I thought about buying the helicopter books too, but she likes her vehicles.
There were smiles on the helicopter. No desire to pet the dogs, but no complaining. Then she sat on the very front of the dog sled, snow slamming into her face and not a peep.
I swear she wasn’t drugged.
Also BB and I were on a different dog sled than her, so either way we were guaranteed a good time.
I planned a bunch of “summer activities.” Hikes that in the summer would not require snow gear. May is considered the shoulder season for summer tourism in Alaska. I knew that, but didn’t understand that that meant a week before we arrived in Denali National Park they still had 7 feet of snow.
Now if you say the word “hike,” RB responds,
It didn’t stop us, just slowed Captain down. That and 33 pounds of toddler on his back.
The rafting trip was touted as a ride gentle enough for babies and 100 year olds. It was. There was very little white water and when there was white water, RB shouted,
“Again! Again!” Then both kids went back to general complaining. BB wanted to stand like RB, refusing to admit that her center of gravity was way higher and that falling overboard into the 40 degree water was a surefire way to ruin my trip.
Next time we need class III rapids or an iPad on the raft.
After the iPad, my second most favorite trip purchase was Cosco’s Scenera NEXT 7 pound, $60 carseat. I’m not being paid anything for this post and I paid full price for the car seat. Although if anyone is tempted to pay me, I’d be happy to dedicate a whole post to the Scenera.
It fits on top of a rolling carry-on suitcase. At first we tied it down with a bungee cord, but it actually just stays there with nothing.
You might be thinking, ‘Jess, did you really need a carseat?’
Aside from one week with a rental truck, we didn’t really need one. BUT I cannot say enough good things about having a 5-point harness.
BB is the type of kid who at 18 months wouldn’t get out of her toddler bed until an adult came in the room and told her she could.
RB is the type of kid who will be in a crib until further notice. The 5-point harness was made for her.
We used the car seat EVERYWHERE. She slept in it and I carried her in it into restaurants, hotels, national parks. It probably made her less safe on the train, but it made me more sane, so it’s a delicate balance.
It contained her, but it made her feet reach the airplane seat in front of her during our red-eye flight home. Yes I booked a red-eye. No I’m not totally insane. We saved a lot of money on those tickets. Hopefully enough money to book another red-eye someday.
At 1:00am, RB was happy, awake, watching her iPad and operating the in-seat airplane entertainment screen with her bare feet. Much to the detriment of the man in front of her.
So as far as I can tell, that’s the only downside of a carseat on a plane.
As we slogged through airport security, the suitcase with the girls’ stuff was flagged. TSA demands,
“Is there a machine in here?”
“Oh. There’s a baby music player.”
“All machines need to come out. We told you that.”
Maybe there needs to be some fine print about what qualifies as a machine.
Going back through security to return home, the “machine” did not come out and wasn’t flagged for extra screening. Although our to-go salad was. Maybe there was a questionable amount of salad dressing.
Last but not least I need to give a huge shout-out to vanilla ice cream.
iPad, carseat and vanilla ice cream. They saw us through. BB managed a somewhat varied diet of everything you can imagine on a kid’s menu. RB existed on ice cream, some fries, some chips, some crackers, some granola bars, some cookies, a fair amount of juice, but mainly vanilla ice cream.
And we never saw nighttime. The sun set around midnight and rose around 3am. Our rooms were dark enough and we were tired enough it didn’t stop us from sleeping, but any sense of what time it was was lost.
That feeling that it might be dinner time or bedtime didn’t hit us until 9pm. Then it was way too late to care about anything besides getting everyone in bed or their crib. The travel crib is the fourth MVP of the trip.
Last night BB asked me,
“Why didn’t we floss in Alaska?”
“We’re lucky we brushed our teeth.”
At 10pm, on the evening of our return, I sat in Seattle’s airport playroom, entrenched in the smell of old feet. I studied a sign instructing children to remove their shoes. BIG MISTAKE.
On our way TO Alaska we spent 3 hours in Minneapolis’ airport playground. It’s a winner. It’s well-ventilated, has big play structures and everyone is encouraged to keep their shoes on.
As my children ran around like lunatics, crashing into several other Boston bound lunatics, I overheard the parents discussing what drugs to give them on the plane. Foot smell aside, contentment washed over me. What a fabulous trip it was and great to be headed home with like-minded people.
My moment of truth is almost here. We leave for Alaska in 4 days and I’ve been trying to come to peace with the packing for months now.
I traveled around the world carry-on only. I’m very happy to wear the same shirt everyday until the weather changes or it wears out. Yes I washed it. Things can dry overnight, or when it was hot enough, things dried right on my body.
Turns out when I returned home a couple years later, I didn’t smell great, but that was news to me.
Now we’re headed to Alaska and in addition to our carry-on allotment we have a giant checked bag and a carseat.
I’ve been whittling away at our packing. BB was desperate to take a skort. I nixed that. That’s two items of clothing functioning as one and it might not even be warm enough to wear it.
Then there are the non-negotiable items: the giant, crib-music player that RB turns on multiple times a night. It’s a necessity. Anything related to sleep takes top priority. But it gives me the heebie jeebies. I’m devoting suitcase space to a 3d lullaby machine, that could’ve been used for a gazillion skorts or just less stuff.
BB has 2 security bunnies and her large fleece security blanket. Who gets attached to a large fleece blanket? Another non-travel friendly, sleep necessity.
We’re moving towns every few nights, so the less we have, the easier it’ll be. In theory.
Our biggest item is the travel crib. I’ve gone in circles about this. A few of the places I really want to stay don’t provide cribs. So there were several options: stay somewhere else, RB sleeps in a bed or on the floor or take a crib.
If we’re doing this, I’m staying at my top places. I contemplate a free-range RB and a sun setting at 11pm. It sounds disastrous.
They sell black-out shades that cover an entire pack ‘n play, like you’d cover a bird in a cage. GOODNIGHT!
I’m sold. The travel crib fits in our biggest roller, with room for snacks.
I got the last room at one of my top picks, a place that hangs out over Seward Harbour. The woman who runs the place and I are on a texting basis. That’s how small some of these places are I guess?
“I only have a second floor room, but I don’t like to put kids up there.”
“I was sitting in my office and I saw feet dangling. A kid was hanging off of the balcony and when I went up there, the parents kind of just shrugged and said they knew.”
I assure her my children will not be hanging off of the balcony. THIS IS WHY I NEED A CRIB.
Years ago I met families backpacking with their kids and that’s always been my dream. Someday I thought, maybe I’d have a family I could do that with.
Now I have my family and we’re taking six backpacks, three rolling carry-ons, one large checked roller, one car seat and one umbrella stroller.
I started writing this several days ago, before the leak, before confirmation that our abortion rights are indeed going down the drain.
I’m rageful and heartbroken, but I don’t have a blog post for that, so I’m moving forward about my choppers.
Teeth. Can’t live without them. Or you can for awhile, just ask my dead grandfather.
My dentist has me coming in for a cleaning every three months in an attempt to keep me away from the periodontist.
I don’t know how the state of my mouth compares to other middle-aged people. It feels like it might be worse than average.
I made it through childhood without any cavities, just a massive amount of orthodontia and one oral cyst.
After college I hit the road and when I returned to the country I had cavities. I added a few more since then. My front tooth chipped and everyone offers to do something about it, but I’m not interested.
My main issue seems to be gum disease. I brush twice a day. I floss. I use mouthwash. I say a prayer to the tooth fairy.
My hygienist shakes her head,
“I don’t understand. You’re doing a good job keeping them clean.”
“Do you drink coffee?”
No one is coming for my coffee.
“Yes.” I say with a tone that implies this is the end of the conversation.
“How many cups?”
Does the number really make a difference to my teeth?
“Two or three.”
“Over the course of the day?”
“No, in the morning.”
“You might want to try an electric toothbrush.”
I might. I might not. Captain hears the same thing. We get ourselves electric toothbrushes for Christmas.
Among the electric toothbrush’s many capabilities, it times how long you brush for. The gold standard being two minutes.
So here I am, almost 40 years old and if you had asked me six months ago if I brushed for two minutes, I would’ve said.
I used my electric toothbrush for the first time and it is now safe to say I have NEVER brushed for two minutes until this past December.
Two minutes is a LONG time.
I have time to contemplate my whole life and that only takes the first minute.
The other thing my electric toothbrush has going for her, is that she has a wide range of emotions.
She smiles at me when I turn her on. She frowns if I turn her off before a minute. She gives my a half-hearted smile if I make it into the second minute. She smiles if I make it the full two minutes and if I consistently make it the full two minutes several days in a row, she gives me star eyes.
The pull of the star eyes is strong. I want my toothbrush’s approval. I want it so badly that when I’m sick of brushing and refuse to make it to the two minute mark, I’ll let her run on the side of the sink.
I’m not starting or ending my day on anything less than star eyes.
A couple months ago she prompted me to change the brush head.
That’s not a cheap proposition and she’s got a lot of nerve asking me to do it after 3 months of not brushing for two minutes.
She reminds me again. And again. She hasn’t reminded me in awhile. Maybe she’s given up.
I’m heading in for a cleaning next week. I’m sure they’ll have something to say about a tooth I broke a couple months ago. It’s not painful, so it didn’t feel urgent. I hope my dentist agrees. Or at least takes into consideration how happy my toothbrush is with me.
The good news about our deck stairs being unfinished is that there’s a baby gate blocking them at the top. It has turned our deck into a giant, outdoor playpen.
The kids went out. I locked the screen door and I’m enjoying my coffee in peace. That’s how school vacation week is going.
It started with our Passover seder. Considering 2.5-year-old RB refuses to sit through a regular family dinner, I knew we were doomed.
She sat for longer than I expected, however long it took her to drink the prescribed 4 glasses of grape juice.
At which point she slipped out of her chair. She was quiet, happy and BB didn’t make any moves to follow her. We continued to read from our picture book Haggadah, which somehow still manages to feel like it’s really long.
RB let herself out onto the deck and was doing who knows what. She reappeared, pressing her face against the screen door, shouting,
“Happy Passover guys!”
BB found the afikomen, while RB read a book and said,
“Where’s the komen?”
I gave BB a five dollar bill and gave two ones to RB. BB was crestfallen. I offered to trade her three one dollar bills for her five and she couldn’t have been happier.
Having saved two dollars, Passover was officially a success and we rolled right into Easter. RB again had zero interest in hunting for hidden things.
BB was hyper focused on finding all the eggs, but had little interest in the candy inside. RB sat in the pile of eggs BB brought her and mainlined jelly beans. They may make a good pair after all.
Now one child is napping and the other one is washing my car, or the bottom half of it.
I call the Alaska railroad. I’m hoping to upgrade our train tickets to Denali. There are two service levels: goldstar and adventure class. Adventure class was all that was available when I booked, but a couple goldstar tickets appeared yesterday.
The woman on the phone reminds me that the seats are not interchangeable. If BB is in goldstar, she can visit adventure class, but if RB is in adventure class she can’t go to goldstar.
The woman asks,
“So who are the two staying in adventure class?”
I pause long enough that she feels compelled to add,
“You can’t leave the two kids there by themselves.”
Well good to know I wasn’t the only one considering that.
Captain is facing a new requirement of 3 days a month in the office. If he’s to be believed, it may be the end of him. I’m not convinced.
The idea that there may be a time in the future when I’m home alone, feels so improbable that I can’t write any more about it.
Vacation week also seemed like a good time to test out RB’s new ipad. It was a success. She entered zombie mode.
There is hope for our trip and anyone else stuck in adventure class with my kids.
I’m enjoying our new Market Basket. If you don’t have one in your town, you could consider driving to ours. That seems to be what everyone else is doing.
I have never given my grocery-shopping strategy so much thought. I’ve never even used the words “grocery-shopping strategy” before.
The left side of the store has produce, bread, frozen foods. The right side of the store has all the refrigerated items: milk, butter, eggs, yogurt, smoked herring, hot dogs. The necessities.
So from a stacking-the-cart strategy, it would make sense to start on the right with the gallons of milk and end with the produce and bread. Although good luck with the eggs.
But there’s no moving quick in that store, so that would mean by the time I got home, my milk would be on its way to room temperature.
Starting from the left keeps the milk cold, but then I’m left rearranging the bread the whole time so it doesn’t get crushed. It can’t go in the baby seat because RB is taking up prime shopping-cart real estate.
And starting on the left means circling back for ice cream. I guess I could circle back for bread and ice cream.
The store seems designed to make people start from both sides. Is that better for traffic flow? I can’t tell. It’s constant dodge-a-cart out there.
It doesn’t help that RB’s new favorite question is,
“What are you doing?”
We’re in the car. She asks,
“What are you doing?”
“I’m driving to the grocery store.”
Two seconds later,
“What are you doing?”
Two seconds later,
“What are you doing?”
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?”
“I’m right here.”
Great. So you can imagine how helpful this line of questioning is in the store. I turn down the bread aisle,
“What are you doing?”
“Getting bread.” I get the bread.
“What are you doing?”
“Putting the bread in the cart.”
Bread falls over, risking being crushed by the frozen pizza. I try to rearrange,
“Why are you doing that?”
I don’t know. I just don’t know. Is there a better way? Please feel free to tell me your Market Basket strategies.
I head for the number one check-out lane. It is a phenomenal lane. It’s open on one side so there’s no risk of RB grabbing several candy bars and a People magazine while she’s waiting.
The new brand of beef jerky I’ve been enjoying for the last few weeks slides down the conveyor belt. The bagger asks,
“What kind of dog do you have?”
“I don’t have any dogs. I thought those were for people.”
It’s one of those brief moments that lasts forever and I’m able to question all my life choices:
‘The beef jerky is organic, so I had assumed that that puts it in the realm of people food, but in retrospect I’m sure there’s a big market for organic dog food.’
‘I’ve eaten dog and dog food before, so not the end of the world.’
‘The smell DID remind me of dog treats.’
‘But they were in the people-food aisle, not the dog-food aisle.’
I smile at the bagger and remark,
“Well either way, they’re delicious!”
Having reconvinced myself that they’re people food, I march myself home and relay the story to Captain,
I’m hoarding coffee, chocolate covered popcorn and potassium iodide. Only one of those may be useful during a nuclear winter.
So while I understand more COVID variants are on the way, my news consumption has veered toward the war.
Captain on the other hand, has been able to remain on high alert for multiple disaster scenarios.
He’s by far the most cautious member of our family. And I continue to underestimate that. I booked zip lining in Denali without even thinking he might not be up for it. After a decent campaign on my part, he’s a cautious yes.
Of the four of us, Captain has managed to stay home the most. His occasional trip to Home Depot is enough to make him swear it off for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile RB has been back in the YMCA playroom for a year now, with a runny nose every other week to prove it.
Captain went from staying home to hanging out with 100,000 of his closest friends at Disney World.
We waited in our fair share of lines and if you’re going to wait in line, Disney World is the place to do it. There’s plenty to see and if you ask BB, TOUCH! As we meandered through line after line, BB touched, caressed, tapped, rubbed, patted EVERY possible surface.
Captain looked like one of those cartoon characters whose face is getting redder and redder until smoke comes out of his ears.
He asked BB, he implored BB, he explained, he scolded, he stared, he shook his head, he brooded. To no avail. It seemed her goal was to leave no surface untouched.
Meanwhile this is the same kid who will not touch ANYTHING that has been on her sister’s plate. BB could be desperate for more chocolate. If the only chocolate left is on RB’s plate, BB will abstain. Even if RB never put a finger on it, once it’s on her plate BB deems it too foul to even contemplate.
As Captain tries to grapple with his world of limited-germ exposure imploding, I glance at BB. She’s running her slightly open mouth along a hand rail.
If we leave Disney World without COVID, it won’t be for a lack of trying to get it.
Or maybe we’d already had it? We hadn’t been testing every runny nose we got. So I thought, who knows? A month later I confirmed that we did NOT have it before.
First Captain was congested. He asked,
“Should I take a test?”
He decided not to. I didn’t push for it. See aforementioned most cautious family member.
Then I was congested and RB was congested. Still no test taking. I was leading my normal life: exercising, corralling children. Then boom, I couldn’t smell my coffee. COVID test was positive.
I lost my taste and smell for a week. That sucked a lot more than I thought it would.
Moral of the story is, if you’re tempted to lick the high-touch surfaces of Disney World. Go for it.
Now we’re “boosted” again and I’m free to direct all thoughts of impending doom into building a nuclear fall-out shelter. Hence all the chocolate covered popcorn.
Did you know you’re breathing wrong? Or at least 70% of you are. I had NO idea.
I finally got around to reading Breath by James Nestor. It’s been top of the stack since November, which is a tough time for any book to move up to the “currently reading” status.
I have strong feelings about many things and it’s not unheard of for me to read something, have strong feelings about it and then a few months later I have a hard time telling you the name of the book.
I could be wrong, but this one will be hard to forget. I’ve talked about it so much BB is walking around reminding me to close my mouth.
I even taped my mouth shut to sleep the other night. Effective in making me breathe through my nose, ineffective in that one of my security blanket’s most important qualities is how she feels on my lips.
BB asked me to close her mouth when I check on her at night. That’s what some Native American parents used to do for their babies.
I’m not going to do this topic justice. I’d recommend reading the book if you wonder what the heck the difference is.
The amount of health benefits associated with nose breathing versus mouth breathing is almost enough to make me tape my mouth shut during the day. Almost.
This week I attempted zumba with my mouth shut. I thought maybe I’ve done it with my mouth shut before and I didn’t realize it? OH NO.
I don’t know if I’ve ever exercised with my mouth shut. It was HARD. But also amazing. I had substantially increased stamina over just last week.
I was sitting in the library last weekend. I had just started reading the Breath book. A woman exclaimed,
“I LOVE that book! It changed my life! It’s amazing.”
‘Whoa. She’s coming on strong. This is what I get for reading in the children’s section where people can talk at whatever volume they want.’
I question her,
“YES! It’s all about nose breathing.”
Well I hope I see that woman again and we can exclaim together, while breathing through our noses.
I’m not trying to have any more kids, but it often feels like it would be nice to have another point of reference. Where does each random behavior my kids exhibit fall on the spectrum of what’s “normal” for a 5 or 2 year-old?
My gut instinct is that BB is on the extreme messy end, but what do I know? She’s the only 5 year-old I’m living with.
At the beginning of the pandemic I turned our dining room into BB’s art room. BB is incapable of cleaning it on her own. Sometimes we do it together. Sometimes I do it by myself. Sometimes I see Captain in there muttering under his breath.
One evening I came downstairs and Captain was staring into the abyss of layers and layers of paper, glue, scissors, crayons, paint, pipe cleaners, markers, jewels, stickers, foam, feathers, and felt pom poms spread across the expanse of the table and floor.
As I write this, it occurred to me, maybe it’s my fault for giving her so many mediums.
I press into Captain’s side. He says,
“How does this end?”
“You mean what is going to become of BB?”
“I think she’s going to be one of those people who ends up with rotting food in her bedroom and she won’t care.”
He looks at me in horror. I have missed my opportunity to make us feel better.
I don’t let the kids take food upstairs, so this future is not imminent.
BB simultaneously knows her surroundings are a mess and doesn’t care. One morning she woke up inspired. She rushed to her art room and sketched a picture of her bedroom, complete with a dresser full of half-open drawers and clothes falling out every which way.
She’s observant. She knows things are a mess.
When BB eats anything, 20% ends up on the table and floor. That’s if we remind her to hold over her plate. Without any reminders the situation deteriorates. And while she’ll acknowledge a grape, tortellini or whole cookie on the floor, the chances of her picking it up are zero.
My gut instinct tells me she’s messier than the average bear. School reassured me that that’s correct.
BB came home and told me,
“I got in trouble at lunch today.”
BB is nothing if not an extreme rule follower. Minimal baby proofing required because she just wouldn’t do what she wasn’t supposed to do. So I couldn’t begin to guess what happened at lunch. BB explains,
“I made a mess with my lunch.”
“No! But the teacher didn’t believe that it was by accident.”
And there is the proof. BB is so messy that other people can’t fathom it’s her normal state of being.
Two years ago I questioned if I could parent my way out of the mess, then RB came along and is at the opposite end of the spectrum. BB couldn’t be messier and RB couldn’t be neater. BUT that is not a clear positive. RB, in my opinion, may have severe OCD.
RB NEEDS to put things in their spot. Her lovie has had a specific spot since she was 11 months old. If she takes a book off the shelf, it goes back in the exact same spot, between the same two books.
When BB gets home from school, she strips and leaves a trail of laundry from the front door, through the kitchen into the living room. RB follows on her heels, picking everything up and muttering,
“Put away, put away.”
I will tell RB to go play and instead she’ll be under the kitchen table with the dust pan sweeping up half of BB’s snack.
If I leave something somewhere it doesn’t belong. I have a pint-size person at my feet telling me,
“Put it away!”
If I put her water bottle anywhere but in its “spot,” I’m going to hear about it.
When I pick RB up at the YMCA playroom, she’s compelled to clean up before she leaves.
Going to a playground with her is really just a trash pick-up mission.
So as impossible as it is for RB to leave a mess, I now feel how futile it is to hope for BB’s underwear to not end up on my kitchen table.
BB is desperate to share a room with RB. It has the whiff of a social experiment and I’m inclined to give it a go. But not until RB is done with her crib.
RB loves her “cribby,” as much as I love having her contained. She likes to sleep all smushed up at one end. So considering that, she’ll fit in it for another three years.
How does this all end? Will our home somehow average out and end up in the middle of the messiness spectrum?
I’m at the point where I wonder if maybe BB’s M.O. leads to a more enjoyable, go with the flow lifestyle, with or without underwear.