parenting hack

Now that back-to-school days are upon us, my FB feed has been full of promoted articles about “life-hacks” or “parenting hacks” aimed at making our lives as parents easier. These inevitably involve things like how to more quickly cut your kid’s cheese into the shape of a flower, or how to pack apple slices without them turning brown.

Here’s an idea. Cut the cheese into a fucking square. Put the whole apple into the lunch bag without cutting it up.

You’re welcome.

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one

In 2009, my wife and I talked about having babies. Specifically, I informed my then-girlfriend, who was already the mother of three, that if she did not want to have more babies, that was it. It was a deal-breaker for me. “BABIES,” I said, “plural. Not BABY.”  I wanted, specifically, two babies.  Also, she had to want the babies, not just be willing to go through it for me. Because babies should be wanted, all of them, each of them. There is a big difference between wanting a baby and agreeing to have a baby because the person that you love wants one. She did not answer right away. She said she would think about it, and come back to me. And she did.  A day or so later, she said she was in. Whole-heartedly in.  Babies I wanted, and babies I would have.

And then, you know, life happened. For one reason or another, it wasn’t time to start trying to conceive until late in 2013. Then it took us nearly a year to get pregnant. So it wasn’t until six years after that original conversation that we had our first baby together.

By the time Bumby was born, the other kids were kind of… old. The next-youngest was 9, and the oldest was 14. Having another child when your next-youngest is 9 is very different from having another child when your next-youngest is 3.  To further complicate matters, the Big One was decidedly moody about the topic of adding a fourth child to our nest, and made those moods known throughout the entire experience of talking about a baby, getting pregnant with a baby, being pregnant with a baby, and having a baby. It was, frankly, rather miserable for my wife and me. Although Bumby and the Big One are fast friends now, it is far from clear that she in particular, or any of the older kids more generally, would welcome another addition with open arms.

Then there is my wife. She agreed to babies, this is true. She knows she agreed to babies. But she has reneged. She is happy with our family of six. She is not getting any younger, and although she loves our children fiercely, she also looks forward to our empty nest years (as do I!). She would like to have those empty nest years when she is still young enough to do fun empty nest things and does not have to take too many prescription medications. Before I ever got pregnant with Bumby, she made it clear. She wanted this one more child very much, but only this one more child.

So that leaves me.  I wanted babies. I have been quite clear on this, always. I did not want just one pregnancy, just one baby. But I agreed to stop after one, because I still feel just as I did in 2009, that each child should be wanted by its family. Knowing how the rest of the family felt, I almost hoped that being pregnant would not live up to my expectations. Maybe I would feel about it the way so many women do — it is acceptable as a means to an end, but not altogether a great experience in and of itself. I may even be miserable, or have complications. It is weird to almost hope for these things, but I wanted it to cure me so that I would not yearn to go through it again. So that I would be content with just one baby.  No such luck. I had an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy.  I was at home in my body for the first time since puberty. I felt beautiful. I marveled at the changes and adored having Bumby close to me and with me, always. I wasn’t even really uncomfortable until around 37 weeks, and slept well. Something about the pregnancy hormones agreed with me, and I was just happy the entire time. I can count on one hand the number of times I was angry or sad for the entire pregnancy. Then, I had an uncomplicated vaginal birth just one day past my due date.

After which, I met Bumby. I fell in love with him, hard and fast. Postpartum came with all the rawness and separation and plummeting hormones that it always does. Sometime in those early weeks, I became furious with my wife.  How could she, knowing how amazing it is to have a child, knowing how fast and fierce and primal the love is, how could she say I can’t do it again? When I agreed that maybe just one baby would be enough, I didn’t know what I was giving up. But she has been through this before. She knew what she was asking of me, and she asked it anyway.  How could she? She didn’t answer.

I cooled off, and my hormones balanced out.  I still wanted another child, but I stopped being mad at my wife for being done.  She could not make herself want another child any more than I could make myself not want another child.

My confidence as a parent grew, and I found I can actually manage four kids on my own, while my wife works or has a late dinner. I make decisions about the older kids that I previously would have deferred to my wife. I love them more, and have more patience with them.  Bumby started sleeping, and I started getting my life back. I went back to work part-time, and found a work/life balance that works for me.  Bumby started walking, and talking, and making jokes. I went from staring at him adoringly, to interacting with him. The love grew. I got my hair cut, without Bumby in my lap. I left Bumby with the sitter so I could go to the 5th grade science fair with his big brother. I started planning our spring garden, now that I have a fun toddler to plant it with, instead of a baby who won’t be set down long enough for me to plant even one tomato plant. I became me again. But now, me with Bumby.

And you know what?  I can’t imagine having another baby. I sometimes would like to have an afternoon of baby Bumby back, where we just nurse and nap and I eat strawberries in the sunshine while he stares at his own hand. My pregnancy and our first year as a family of six were the hardest and most wonderful months of my life, and I will remember them forever. But I don’t want to do them again, and I don’t want to do them with another baby.  I am done, with one.  I am sure that I will still have my moments of longing, but in the main I am, shockingly, at peace with this.

Before Bumby was born, we were a blended family. A family, yes, but there always seemed to be shifting alliances — me on the one side and my wife and the kids on the other, or the adults on one side, and the kids on the other.  Various divisions. Bumby has brought us all together. We have gone from a collection of people, to a whole family. One family. We are all brought together by loving this little guy more than we thought we ever could. We don’t need another baby, because we are complete now. I don’t need another baby, because I had the baby I was meant to have. Thanks, Bumbs.

letting go

If we believe that our children are our teachers, the lesson that my children are teaching me is one about letting go.

We are moving.  There is a house about three streets away from our current house, that has always been our “house.” You know what I mean. We walk by it and say, look at that house. It’s so great!  Wouldn’t it be fun to live there?  And then… it came on the market. It turns out it had actually been on the market for a year, then they re-listed it this January at a reduced price, which turned out to be one we could actually afford. It’s MUCH bigger than our current house, gets better light, has an office for me (a room of my own, so to speak) and a huge, amazing kitchen.  It happens to be near a parkway, which, if you’re not from around here, is kind of like a freeway but quieter because there are no trucks allowed, which keeps the price down into our range.  It also has a postage-stamp sized yard, which is actually totally fine with me. I love being outside, but not really so much lounging around my yard. More like hiking, and skiing, and going to the beach. I don’t do these things in my back yard anyway.

The new house is great.  But it’s not the house I brought my baby home to. It’s not the house I was pregnant in. It’s not the house where the kids have spent the last seven Christmases.  It’s not the house I moved into when I was finally ready to let go of the apartment that had sat vacant on 10th Avenue for months before I finally admitted that I really lived with my now-wife in the suburbs.  It’s not the house where our dog was a puppy or our big kids were preschoolers.  It’s not the house that has seen two kids off to their first day of kindergarten and two kids off to their last day of fifth grade.  It doesn’t have the nursery that we lovingly prepared for our whirlwind of a baby.

Leaving our house feels like leaving Bumby’s babyhood behind. He walks now, and points to things he wants, and says, “Mama” at me. He laughs when he farts. He does busy baby work, putting the dishtowel in the dumptruck and his shoe in the dog’s water bowl.  He’s already not that squalling lump of blobby babyness, all breastmilk poops and kittenlike cries.  In fact, I like him so much more now. He’s fun. He’s smart.  He enchants every stranger he meets.  He enchants me, on a daily basis.  But I’m sad that he’s no longer my Blobby, spending long afternoons with me skin-to-skin.

Moving feels like leaving the big kids’ childhood behind. We cleaned the house up last night to get it ready for its listing photos, and every room was a box of memories. Remember when the kids’ friends hit the wall we had just painted with a ping-pong paddle, and the kids made them scrub off the mark because they had worked so hard painting?  Remember when we forgot to open the flue when we were watching Jaws, and the fire department burst in to respond to the smoke alarm?  Remember when one of the kids fell while climbing the front window and had to get stitches?  Remember when I threw a whole gourd into the compost bin, and we went away for a week in the summer, and when we came home a gourd-plant was taking over our entire deck?

Now they are big, all of them. Even little Bumby feels big.  I know that the new house will be its own box of memories, but it’s so hard to let go. And yet, holding onto the house won’t keep Bumby a baby, and it won’t keep the kids small.  The big one will leave for college in 2 years, whether we move or not. The little guy will start middle school next year, whether we move or not.  Bumby will stop nursing and start nursery school, whether we move or not.  So we decided to move – forward.

eavesdropping

Last week, for the second time, someone unplugged the refrigerator in our garage, and the freezer completely thawed.  This is where I store my frozen breastmilk, so… yeah. I was not that happy.  It needed to be cleaned out anyway, since there was white wine in there leftover from our wedding THREE YEARS AGO, but still. Not how I would have spent my Sunday afternoon.

Boo was watching the Bumby for us while I cleaned the fridge and my wife cooked dinner.  “Want me to take him upstairs to play with his piano?” she asked.  Sure, sure. Whatever, Boo, thanks.

The monitor was downstairs though, so we could hear the Big One join her, followed by our other son. We could hear the piano toy, and giggles, and chatter. Soon, we couldn’t hear anything other than shrieks of laughter.  Every now and then, one voice would rise above the rest.  Bumby screaming and cracking up at something.  Boo shouting, “NO! He doesn’t need that lotion right now; what are you doing?!”  The big brother signing “Na na na na na na, nanananana BAT MAN!” And then laughter, laughter.  It went on and on.

I scrubbed out the freezer to the sound of my kids’ laughing. I have really never heard anything like it.  Finally my wife went up to see what was what.  Apparently, Bumby had pooped.  The big brother was entertaining him, while the girls changed him. They had a little trouble with the cloth diaper.

Boo came down a couple minutes later and handed him to me.  “You might wanna check that diaper,” she informed me matter-of-factly.  The diaper change took almost as long as cleaning the fridge, and it only seemed to be covering his left cheek.  “It’s okay, Boo.  I am pretty sure he only pees on the left side anyway.”  She smirked, and nodded, and then bounced off to do whatever twelve year old girls do in their rooms.

I have the most loved baby, and the nicest kids.

milestones

On Saturday, the big brother turned 10.  He’s in fifth grade, which is the last grade of elementary school in our school district. Since I moved in with the kids, one thing that has always been my responsibility (and one of my favorite things) is making their birthday cakes. Some years, they try to out-smart me by asking for super-elaborate designs, but I always come through.  This is one of the ways I show these kids how much I love them.  They can have whatever birthday cake they want, no matter what they come up with. This year he asked for two kinds of frosting, strawberry and vanilla. Not too complicated.

On Thursday, I made cupcakes for him to bring into school on Friday morning to celebrate his birthday. I try to make the cupcakes the same as the birthday cake.  Of course, we did not have the strawberry and vanilla frosting, so I had to run to the grocery story Friday morning after drop-off, and finish the cupcakes to get them to school before snack time at 10.  This is nothing compared to what I have done in previous years.  Once, I got stuck working late and had to bake the cupcakes at 2 am.  Once, I accidentally turned all of them a frightening shade of hot pink (it turns out you can’t really make things red with food coloring — they just get more and more pink).

Thursday night, Bumby’s new reflux medicine finally kicked in. For the first time in his life, he slept five and a half hours straight.  If you’re obsessed with baby sleep, you realize this is the clinical definition of sleeping through the night.  We did nothing differently — no different bedtime, or routine, or soothing method, or periods of crying.  He just wasn’t hurting anymore, so he slept.  I woke up Friday morning giddy with sleep. My little baby was finally sleeping the way a 7 1/2 month old baby should be sleeping.  He was so happy, and comfortable. Even when he did wake to eat, he didn’t scream and writhe around the way he used to. He just fussed, nursed, and went back to sleep.

My happy, well-rested little guy crawled around the kitchen and poured the dog’s water on the floor as I frosted the cupcakes. This is when it hit me. These were my last cupcakes. Big Brother was in fifth grade, and wouldn’t be allowed to bring cupcakes to school the next year. The guy who used to be the baby wasn’t a baby any more. Bumby won’t be at the elementary school for five years, so for five years, I don’t get to make the cupcakes.  Five years from now they probably won’t even be allowed cupcakes — they’ll have to bring in birthday carrot sticks or pretzels.  Making them at 2 am, turning the whole batch hot pink, and every other cupcake mishap was now water under the bridge.

Big Brother finished out his cupcake years on the same day that Bumby slept through the night.  Sometimes, the milestones feel good. Sometimes, they feel sad. Either way, they just keep coming.

work and babymoons

Holy cow. I normally don’t like blog posts that start out really apologetic for not posting more often, but seriously, it has been a long time.  Since my latest appearance, I have been doing two things (and only two things).  Working, and going on vacations. Specifically, babymoons.

First, working.

The type of work that I do (I am a lawyer) is basically a glorified hourly position. Sure, I am salaried, but there is a “minimum expectation” (code for “we can fire you if you don’t do this”) that I will bill (not work, bill) 2,000 hours a year. This means that if I am not actively doing client work, it doesn’t count.  So those hours that I spend sitting at my desk waiting for someone to give me something to do? Those don’t count.  Same with required client development, administrative tasks, and anything else that my boss tells a client we will do for them as a freebie in order to bring in more work.  Also, lunch, or those 10 minutes you talk to your mom in the middle of the day, or your co-worker’s birthday cupcake party, or a bathroom break. None of that counts.  If you are pretty efficient, you can bill 8 hours and work 9 or 10.  But some days, I come to work, don’t have much to do, and although I am here from 9:30 to 6:30, I walk out having billed only 5 or 6 hours.

So, what, you ask, is 2,000 hours on an annual basis (okay, you didn’t ask this, but I am telling you anyway, because I love the billable-hours rant)?  It’s 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, every day other than 10 federal holidays.  Gosh, I wonder why new moms struggle with this job. Anyway, that means that if I want to take a vacation, or am sick, or if i have one of those 5 or 6 hour days, I have to make up the time later.  I know, wah, wah, cry me a river, I make boatloads of money to work that much. But it’s a lot of pressure at the end of the year, when the end date for those 2,000 hours is approaching.  At my particular firm, that end date is October 31 (so that they have time to tally up the hours and pay bonuses out by the end of the calendar year).  Coming into September, I was about 125 hours behind, from aforementioned vacation days and slow periods.  I had basically given up on making it. It seemed kind of insurmountable, working an extra 60-70 hours each month on top of full time, but then I got staffed on a crazy-busy project and started working 17 or 18 hour days (plus an hour commute each way), and the 2,000 hours bogey was suddenly within sight.  Anyway, 8 weeks and some exhaustion-related braxton hicks contractions later, I hit my target hours.  The bottom line for me, hitting those 2,000 hours, is a pretty big bonus, that would make it so that I could, if I so chose, stay home with the baby for an additional 6 months without pay. So that was part of the driving force.  And also, I didn’t exactly have a choice about the 18 hour days, so it at least gave me a reason to do that.  At the end of the day on October 31, I had a grand total of 2,002 billable hours.  Hopefully, I didn’t mis-count my hours, because that is sort of uncomfortably close.  But I made it!  And then I took a nap.

Now, the babymoons.

In October, smack in the middle of billable-hour hell, we had planned to take a cruise with the kids.  My wife was adamantly anti-cruise for a very long time because she thought only old people went on them.  I lobbied for years, and finally, we had a long weekend with the kids, couldn’t think of what to do with them, and got a great deal.  And so, in honor of Christopher Columbus enslaving/exterminating native populations in the Bahamas, we took the long weekend and visited the Bahamas ourselves (although we did not enslave anyone or bring disease).  As I have sort of vaguely mentioned a few times, the kids are not that kicked up about the fact that we are having a baby (yes, still).  So we thought it would be fun to do something all together, one last hurrah for the family of five before we are a family of 6 and there is a long list of things we can’t do because of nap schedules and age restrictions and the like.  Of course, we did not phrase it like this to the kids, we just said, “Yay! We’re going on a cruise!”  The kids had a great time. The wife is a total convert.  I am, weirdly, a little freaked out by the whole experience.  Here are the pros and cons of the cruise, for me:

Pros:

1.  No cell phones or wi-fi.  This means I can’t work. At all.  It also means that the then-13 now-14 year old had a forced break from all social media. She was super-pissed about this at first, but for the 4 days we were gone, she was seriously so much happier than I have seen her in a long while.  Apparently that horrible feeling you aren’t cool enough in high school but get to leave at the door when you go home, you don’t so much get to leave at the door when you are literally getting numerical popularity rank updates on an ongoing basis in the form of Instagram likes.

2. No planning of what to do.  We just kind of showed up and had a vacation. We didn’t have to decide where to go to dinner, or what the schedule was, or anything. We just turned up, put on some sunscreen and had a vacation. After years of planning trips with kids, this was such a relief.

3. It was really fun. It was cheesy, yes, but fun. We were all just sort of relaxed and happy, bopping around doing fun activities and playing a LOT of shuffle-board, while totally unreachable by the outside world.  Did I mention no cell phones or wi-fi?

Cons:

1. The food buffets.  They are truly frightening.  I can’t say more because I don’t like to think about it.

2. The drinking.  I am a big drinker (seriously, I love to drink) and even I was a little horrified by the sight of the pool deck bar at 4 pm on the day we left Florida and headed out to sea.  On the other hand, all 3 kids can now do the Cupid Shuffle in the midst of a herd of wasted and uncoordinated adults, so I guess that’s something.

All in all, a great trip for everyone.  And 4 much-needed days of relaxation for me in the middle of billable hour hell.

The second babymoon, which was just for myself and the wife, was this past weekend.  The kids were with their dad for Veterans Day, so we took Friday through Monday and snuck off to the Turks and Caicos.  This is the view from our little balcony (and also the only picture on my phone — the rest are still on the real camera, so in 3 years when I get around to uploading them, someone can see them).

T&C

We did a lot of sleeping (both in bed and on the beach), a little exploring, and a lot of eating. And, ahem, “re-connecting,” shall we say.  It was so nice to actually spend time alone with my wife for the first time in weeks.  Also, let’s be honest, this will be the last time in a long time. We are entering the crazy-busy holiday season, and then we will have a new baby. It was nice to be reminded why I like her so much.  She’s so funny. And thoughtful.  And buys me ice cream whenever I want it.  If you are pregnant or your partner is pregnant, and you’re thinking you don’t need to take a babymoon, I respectfully urge you to change your mind.  Maybe you don’t need to in the strictest sense, but if you can swing it, it’s wonderful.  You don’t need to go someplace fancy.  I am honestly only about 90% certain our hotel did not have bed bugs, for example. But spending time with the person you have chosen to make this baby with, away from the to-do lists and chores and jobs and friends and kids, even if it’s just the Holiday Inn 2 towns away from where you live, is so nice.  And you can just pay off the credit card later, whatever.

And now, to keep you hooked on the saga that is my life, later this week I will tell you all about how and why I changed obstetricians at 29 weeks pregnant. And also, at some point, the nursery.  I know, the suspense is killing you.

“vacation” (or, things that are much more difficult while pregnant)

Well, internet, I wish I could say that I missed you in the week that I was camping in the woods upstate, but honestly, I love a good technology break every now and then.  This one was driven less by a lack of cell service (which is my favorite kind of technology break) and more by a lack of chargers.  I’ll take what I can get.

We had the kids for vacation this past week, and decided to camp.  We ended up in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.  You want to know what is not as fun pregnant as it is when you’re non-pregnant?  Camping.  Getting up in the night to pee is always a pain in the ass, but it’s actually much worse when you have to get up, put on boots in the dark, walk through the mud up a hill with a flashlight, and pee in a cement building with spiders in it. While not waking up the dog.  Also, you realize that your children are actually very active sleepers when you are trying to fall back asleep afterwards to the harmonious sounds two out of three of them flailing around like fish out of water in their sleeping bags.  Also also, hiking at 1,000 feet of elevation is noticeably more difficult when you are pregnant.

I was honestly surprised I struggled so much with all of it.  Everyone says the second trimester is the best of pregnancy, and I sort of expected to feel more like my non-pregnant self.  I do feel better, but I am definitely still pregnant. This camping trip was a big reminder of that.  I move slowly, I tire more easily, and I need to eat more often.  Things that I used to do easily were a chore, and things that used to be a chore were basically impossible. So yeah. Still pregnant over here.  And bending over repeatedly to put up a tent?  Not all that easy while pregnant.

All complaints aside, there were some good moments.  The kids had apparently never walked on active train tracks before, and found it super-exciting.  Also, when they asked if they could climb down a muddy cliff by hanging on to tree roots to go swimming in a natural pool at the base of a dam, in violation of both park rules and common sense, they were totally shocked when the answer was yes, and my psychic-or-something wife had actually packed all of our swimsuits in the day pack. My wife, the dog and I also swam in the pool, and we had all just changed back into our clothes (except the dog, who wears the same fur coat no matter what she’s doing) when a group of teenage boys came careening down the same muddy cliff to illegally swim in the same pool.  Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of all of this, because let’s be honest. Carrying around a fetus and a water bottle on the hike was enough of a struggle; I wasn’t about to also be carrying around my camera.

The kids are still sort of working through their feelings about the pregnancy, so when we dropped them off with their dad for the weekend and met up with our old friends at the beach, it was a relief to let my guard down, relax and just be happy about it again.  Also, sleeping in a bed was nice.  Still, the fatigue of the week really caught up with me yesterday, and I was basically unable to do anything but lie around whinging about nausea and vague abdominal pains which may or may not be this “round ligament pain” I have heard about.

Today, I am back in my beige cube in Manhattan, slogging through the workday.  It’s tough to say that it was a “good” vacation, which is what everyone asks you when you come back from a week away, given the emotional drama with the kids and the unexpected difficulties I had with the camping trip.  But I did have time for the blister caused by my work shoes to heal, and I did actually have a day to lie around whinging without any work to do, so I suppose in that sense, the week away from work was a success.

six weeks

So here I sit, at six weeks (and one day).  Mostly, I don’t “feel” pregnant. Mostly, I just feel like me, only a slightly more tired version of me.  My stomach is a little touchy, I guess.  But I don’t have the stabbing pain in the boobs or the gut-wrenching nausea or any other torture I was promised.  My mom said that for two of her pregnancies, she had barely any symptoms.  For me, she tossed her cookies daily.  I am hoping that I will fall into the former camp, rather than the latter, although I must admit, I feel a little excluded from all the whinging on the message boards.

The most noticeable thing is the absence of the anxiety I had for almost all of the ten months we were trying to get pregnant.  I know I am supposed to be all mood-swingy, but the last real mood swing I had was the day before I found out I was pregnant.  Now that I know, I feel so much more relaxed, it’s incredible. I barely know myself!  In a good way.

I am so relaxed that I actually purposely failed to make my doctor’s appointment for this week.  I am supposed to come in for weekly ultrasounds, I guess because if you conceive through a reproductive endocrinologist the consider you high-risk even if you aren’t.  After the first of these, where there was literally nothing to see because I was barely four weeks pregnant, and the second, where there was a small white dot but nothing more, I decided not to go back until I was fairly confident we would see a heartbeat.  Which means next week, when I am 6 weeks and 6 days.  It just seemed invasive, all those sound waves poking around in my uterus, you know?  Somebody is in there, busy trying to grow from the size of a blueberry to a raspberry, without a lot of disturbance.

In other news, today is Boo’s birthday, and last night I stayed up late making her a birthday cake and decorating cookies for her to take to school.  She is the least-demanding of our kids, which makes it a little harder to make her birthday special, because she doesn’t really want anything. She shares a birthday with another girl in her class, who dibs-ed (is that a word?) the cupcake thing, so after laughing over the idea of her bringing fruit in for the class, she was ready to shrug it off.  But I was not having any of it.  I put her initials and an 11 on the top of 25 chocolate chip cookies with green icing (her favorite color) and sent her on her way. It’s hard to imagine any 5th grader not wanting a cookie because they already had a cupcake, right?  I was impressed with myself for getting it all done, but slightly less impressed with myself when I woke up 6 1/2 hours later to go to work and wanted to cry because I was so tired.

Anyway, it’s hard to imagine that 11 years ago, my wife was heavily pregnant, sitting in the nursery in the early morning hours after her water broke, waiting for the contractions to get close enough together to justify going to the hospital.  It is slightly harder to imagine that in about 8 months, that will be me.

1621

So, Thanksgiving is racist. We can all agree on that.  In the past, I have refused to celebrate it, but then I discovered the only thing that accomplished was depriving my family of my presence and mashed potato-eating abilities (of course, I was a vegetarian at the time), and depriving me of an opportunity to pause and be grateful for 10 minutes before moving on to the next thing.  Since then, I have come to embrace it.  You know, sort of.

I would say one of the things that sucks the most in life is having to share the kids on the holidays, including Thanksgiving.  This one and the 4th of July are particularly difficult to stomach, since their “other parent” (i.e., not my wife, but the OTHER other parent) is not American.  So they don’t have family traditions, etc. over at that house.   Meanwhile, my wife and I are cooking a turkey for ourselves.  Or, getting blindingly drunk with our friends while watching fireworks, whatever. Some holidays are easier to manage than others.

Anyway, back to the point at hand, which is that we don’t have the kids for Thanksgiving this year.  Sad.  So, my wife wanted to celebrate by having a Thanksgiving-esque dinner at our house tonight, but only without a turkey, because (1) we didn’t want to steal the real-Thanksgiving thunder, and (2) the kids, frankly, do not want to have two Thanksgivings. They want one, on the actual day, and then okay, do something Thanksgiving-like with the other set of parents.  But you can really only handle so much turkey in one week.

So, my wife wanted to cook something that would have actually been eaten in 1621. Isn’t that ambitious?  She decided, after  some quick internet research, that this was either duck, quail, or venison.  Since the kids are anti-duck (don’t ask me why they’ve eaten duck when I haven’t even eaten duck, let’s just suffice it to say that they have, and they were not fans), and we thought quail could be hard to come by, that left us with venison.  Specifically, that left us with this venison stew:

stew

This is a wild mushroom and venison stew, created by Emeril, recipe/credits here.  Alright, we think. We head to Fairway to buy the requisite wild mushrooms, parsnips, venison, and other odd whathaveyous that the recipe calls for.  We do not come up with veal stock (WTF, is that a thing?) and we do not come up with venison.  At least, not enough venison.  We do come up with one package of venison chops (12 oz) and some buffalo meat. My wife decides the buffalo is “close enough” to venison, so we toss it in the cart and out we go.

When we get home, we notice this review, that the stew is fabulous, here are some tips, oh, and by the way, “[t]his is intermediate level cooking. If you are a beginner try another recipe.”  Um, what? You would think we would have been tipped off by the exotic ingredients, but we were looking it up on our phone on the way to the store, so, you know.  We weren’t.

Undaunted, I rolled up my sleeves to make this last night after the kids went to bed, because unlike the real Thanksgiving, our Thanksgiving-esque is on a school-and-work night. Which means it needs to be finished by sticking it in the oven to warm it up, not cooked from scratch immediately before eating.  That’s when we noticed that the prep time was 2 hours and 45 minutes.  Because of this, I opted to just dive right in and start cooking shit, rather than chopping up all the millions of vegetables ahead of time.  It went… okay? I guess?  I didn’t exactly “dice” the things that called for dicing, but a coarse chopping will do fine, right?

Somewhere around 11:30, when it was all finished, I checked my work email.  Unbeknownst to me, there was a bunch of work-crap happening between 10 and 11:30. Whoops. Thankfully, the other associate resolved it, otherwise I would have had the opportunity to START WORKING again at 11:30.  The law firm is a cruel and unusual place.

My point, really, is this.  Being a working parent is sometimes the most horrible, difficult, exhausting thing.  There is never enough time for anything, so you just cut out sleep, trying to add more hours into the day. After all the stew hullabaloo last night, we also had to get up to drop our car off for new tires at 7 am (we had a flat, so it couldn’t wait anymore).   After we dropped our car off for the tires this morning, my wife left for work and I got the two elementary-aged kids ready for school.  And THEN I realized I had no car to take them in.  So, we walked.  Even though it was too late for that, even thought it was freezing out, and it was a cello day, and we could only find one mitten for one of them.  We just dealt with it, and we laughed the whole way there, talking about squirrels and their nut-finding abilities, and a hawk that flew over my daughter’s head while she played on her friend’s trampoline, and balancing on the curb even though we had no time for that.

And I realize that this is the stuff that kids remember. Holidays, yes. But also how hard we try to make things special for them, and the crazy things we introduce them to, and how we live our life, taking what comes, fitting it all in, doing it all, even if we sometimes do it all poorly and half-assed and exhausted.  My kids will be flexible, they will take life as it comes and roll with the punches, they will just use buffalo instead and walk to school on a cello day.  This is Thanksgiving in our house, because this is life in our house.

 

talking about it won’t help

Our oldest daughter is 12, going on 13.  My relationship with her has always been the most challenging.  Maybe this is because she was the oldest, so she’s the only one of our three kids who really remembers life before I came along.  Maybe it’s because we have the least in common (I can’t believe she doesn’t like to read!).  Maybe it’s because she reminds me so much of myself at her age, and how hard middle school was — sometimes I think we never really recover from the trauma of middle school.  Whatever the reason, our relationship can sometimes be tough.  She thinks I pick on her, and that I am the STRICTEST PARENT EVER SO MUCH STRICTER THAN ALL HER FRIENDS WHY CAN’T SHE STAY UP UNTIL 11 DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR LIKE ALL THE NORMAL PEOPLE.  Etc.  You know, normal 12-going-on-13 stuff.

She told my wife, a few days ago, that she doesn’t want the new baby.  More specifically, she said she doesn’t want ME to have the “stupid thing.”  She has some difficulty in saying, or even hearing, the word baby, so she has kind of named the baby the “stupid thing.”  She seems to have formed pretty clear views on who’s fault it is that we’re having another baby (mine) and who has betrayed her by going along with this crazy scheme (my wife).  And, she stated, in a matter-of-fact way, the other kids don’t want the baby either.

Last night, my wife and I were standing in the front yard “discussing” the difficulty that comes with raising a 12 year old, who is about to go into the 8th grade.  We “discussed” the length of her shorts (too short!) and how it came about that she has an instagram account before she turned 13 (parental caving!), and how many hours per day she should be allowed to be on it (less than she is now!).  We talked about my relationship with her, and then, we talked about her feelings about the baby.  When my wife told me about the conversation they had, I got defensive.  “Well, good thing a 12 year old doesn’t get to decide what size our family should be,” I snapped.   You know, a really loving and compassionate reaction.

“We need to work through this with them,” she replied.  I am making her sound really mature and level-headed here, which is of course annoying, because I’m the one telling this story, so I am supposed to be the one who comes across in a better light.

“I know,” I sighed.  The kids are bound to have feelings about a new baby, and not all of them will be positive.  My friends assure me that once the baby gets here, the kids will love him or her.  I am not so sure.  I think it will swing between extremes – she will sometimes love the baby, she will sometimes resent the hell out of the baby.

Then, she came downstairs and informed us that her windows were open, and could we please stop talking about her, because it was upsetting her.

Oops.

We followed her into her room, where we discovered that she had changed out of the shorts that sparked the conversation.

“You didn’t have to change your shorts,” I said.  “I’m caving, you can wear the shorts.”

“I just really don’t think they’re too short!” she said.  “But it’s fine. Whatever.”

We ran through the things that we had been discussing, giving context to the shorts discussion, and the Instagram discussion.  “What else did you hear?” my wife finally asked.  “We need to talk about this, to make sure you understand what we were saying.”

“It doesn’t matter,” our daughter replied. “Talking about it won’t help.  You’re not going to change your mind.”

“It will help,” we urged.  “Just tell us.  Even if we don’t change our mind, maybe you don’t quite understand what we were saying.”

“You don’t necessarily know all the background behind everything,” I told her. “You may think you heard one thing, but really we were talking about something completely different.”

“Something is still bothering you.” My wife said, “Just talk to us about it.”

“No,” she said.  I wonder where she got her stubbornness from.  “It won’t help. You won’t change your mind; I know you won’t.  So I don’t want to say.”

This went on for some time, so I will spare you.  Finally, my wife said, “I think she is talking about the baby, but I don’t really know, because she won’t say.”

“Is it that you don’t want the baby?” I asked her.

“Stop saying that!” she said, “I don’t want to talk about that stupid thing!” and she ran out of the room.  So I guess, yeah, it was the baby.

In a way, she is right.  Talking about it won’t change our mind.

Later in the evening, we went to pick out all the things we will need for the next member of our family, who happens not to be the baby, but to be a 7 week-old puppy named Meg, who we are picking up this weekend.  For the first time in what felt like months, my tween-age daughter and I were laughing about things together.  We both wanted the pink collar, everyone else wanted the green one. “We have the same fashion sense,” I said.  “Come look at the baby kittens!” she said, dragging me across the store.

We joked about how much our cat, Bella, was going to HATE the new puppy at first.  “I think they’ll be friends, though, once they get used to each other,” my daughter said.  “Don’t you?”

“I do,” I said.  We moved on from collars to gates for the doorways.

“This is so fun,” she said.  “I just love picking out all this stuff.”

“You think this is fun,” my wife chimed in, “wait until we get to do it for the baby.  It’s even MORE fun.”  Our daughter didn’t respond, but she did smile, just a little.  So I guess maybe talking about it helped a little after all.