Thursday, April 28, 2016

Five Things Your Mom Does Not Want for Mother's Day

Mother's Day gift ideas
Don't even think about giving me an electric can opener for Mother's Day.
Mother's Day is a week from Sunday.  Theoretically this means that Moms are supposed to enjoy a day free of the things that annoy them, such as their children and household chores, but in my experience it really ends up being a day spent dragging the kids from one Mothers Day brunch to the next and eventually ends with someone throwing a giant tantrum.  Oftentimes, that someone is me.  Thankfully, my husband usually makes up for this travesty of a holiday by giving really good gifts.  I must be lucky, beceause I've heard some horror stories about what spouses do (and do not) give their wives to honor the work Moms do all year long.  In order to help out some of these more clueless mean, I've put together a concise list of Five Things Your Wife Does NOT Want for Mother's Day

1. Parenting books.  I don't know if giving a Mother a parenting book is meant to be helpful or a thinly-veiled criticism of her parenting, but whatever the case, the last thing I want for Mother's Day is a reading assignment.  I'm sure that The Whole Brain Child is a really fascinating and helpful tome, but I'd like to spend just one day of my life pretending that I don't actually have any children.

2. Sexy lingerie.  This is not your anniversary or your husband's birthday, so you have no obligation to perform what passes for kinky sex acts when one has been married for almost ten years.  I realize that sex is what made this a relevant holiday in the first place, but that does not mean I'm interested in reliving what's responsible for my being tired, grumpy, and old before my time.  I want to put on my ugly Mom pjs without feeling guilty for not being a sex goddess.  Also, I may walk around in a clarifying face mask that makes me resemble Hannibal Lector, and you cannot say anything because this is my holiday.

3. Kitchen appliances.  Unless the kitchen appliances also come with a new kitchen in a giant house that you have purchased for me, the last thing I want is yet another thing I have to clean or, worse, cook with.  I don't care if you purchase the world's most expensive Vitamix, unless it is self-cleaning the only thing I'll be blending in that thing is your head.

4. Workout clothes.  Any husband who thinks it's appropriate to purchase his wife workout clothing is about to become an ex-husband.  I don't care if your wife is a goddamn marathon runner, buying a woman clothing that is to be used only for working out implicitly says that you think there is something wrong with her current state of fitness.  If you dare to give your wife a set of kettel balls, she has universal permission from the female half of the species to beat you to death with them.

5. Something for your kids.  Do not ever, under any circumstances, give a Mother something for her children on Mother's Day if you would like to have sex or even normal human interaction with her ever again.  Mothers spend every single second of almost every day having to share shit with their children - the bathroom, their breakfast, even their sleep cycle - so for one day a year give Mom something that's just for her.  It doesn't have to be expensive, in fact, it can even be handmade or a bouquet of flowers from your garden, but it must be something just for her that she can enjoy without little people grabbing it from her.  Honor thy mother simply by giving her the gift of allowing her to pee alone. 

If you're looking for some real Mother's Day gift ideas, I'll have my Mother's Day Gift Guide 2016 up on Monday morning, full of stuff so good your Mom won't have to fake her enthusiasm when she unwraps your gift. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Don't Pass-Over these Macaroons

vegan passover macaroons
Who doesn't love a good macaroon?
Passover starts tonight at sundown.  If you're unfamiliar with this particular Jewish holiday it's a super fun event that involves staying seated around a table for several hours and reading a lot of Hebrew text about plagues and slaughter and escaping across the desert carrying bread.

Obviously a totally appropriate event for young children who are scared easily and can't sit still.

The good news is that there is wine, lots and lots of wine.  The bad news is that most of the traditional Passover food stuffs are things that my children do not eat.  Then again, the only foods my children currently like to eat are cheese and plain pasta, so it's not as though they are particularly discriminatory against Pesach.

Dessert, of course, is another matter entirely.  I'm constantly amazed at how my children are repulsed by vegetables and proteins, but hand them an artificially colored, disgustingly sweet cookie with a weird flavor and they think it's the best thing in the world.  Which just goes to show that children are as crazy as I've been saying.

Since I know that my kids' dinner tonight will most likely consist of what the rest of us refer to as the "dessert course", I figured it was time to find a healthier version of a traditional Passover cookie.  Usually I prefer to "make" my holiday cookies by calling in an order at my favorite kosher bakery, but this year I was inspired by my friend, Elizabeth, of Vegan.Mama.

vegan passover macaroon recipe
We have four kids between us, and could only get one to sit with us.  
Elizabeth creates amazing vegan goodies while also being a full time Mom to two little girls.  Oh, and just in case you had the mistaken idea that Elizabeth has someone else watch her kids while she whips up spectacular vegan baked goods, let me tell you that she actually has her daughters help her in the kitchen.  The fact that she has remained sane is basically a Passover miracle.

These vegan macaroons are seriously delicious and healthy-ish.  Unlike traditional macaroons that contain eggs and white sugar or condensed milk, this version is vegan and sweetened with organic maple syrup.

vegan passover macaroons

Passover Vegan Macaroons
(adapted from The Minimalist Baker)
3 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tblsp. organic maple syrup
1/2 Tblsp. melted coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Blend coconut in a food processor until creamy.  It should almost be coconut butter, but not quite.

Add maple syrup and vanilla and blend until just incorporated.

Scoop mixture with a cookie scoop, making sure to pack the dough firmly.  Place on baking sheet.  You should end up with about 15 cookies.

Brush the tops with melted coconut oil, and bake for 8-10 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are golden brown.

Optional step: if you want to be all fancy like my friend Elizabeth, drizzle your cooled macaroons with some melted chocolate (Enjoy Life is a great vegan brand).

I'm sure my cookies won't turn out even half as beautifully as Elizabeth's (especially with all the "help" I had making them) but at least I know my kids won't be eating macaroons full of junk.  And coconut is totally a superfood... right?

Happy Passover to all those celebrating!  May your seder be short, your children well behaved, and the kosher wine delicious.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

This is Your Bedroom on Kids

kid friendly master bedroom
Am I hiding from my kids, or from the state of my bedroom??
Remember back in your pre-parenthood days when your bedroom was a romantic sanctuary filled with scented candles, expensive bedding, and mood lighting?

Yeah, me neither.

It seems like once you become a parent, your bedroom turns into the house dump.  The peaceful, dreamy room that used to be ground zero for "quality time" with your spouse becomes a hub of activity, and I'm not talking about the sexual kind.

If the state of your master bedroom can be described by the following, it's very possible that you are officially someone's parent.

Unmade bed.  I honestly can't remember the last time I made my bed.  Not because I don't like having a beautifully-styled bed, but rather because by the time I actually get a minute to make the bed, it's time to get back in it to sleep.

The only battery-operated item in your nightstand is a Super Hero toy.  In the old days you might have owned an expensive vibrator for which you had a pet name.  Once your kids are able to walk and open your drawers, your little (or big) vibrating friend has to be relegated to a shelf high in your closet where it's sure to gather dust, along with all that sexy lingerie you last wore on your honeymoon.

Lift-the-Flap Books.  I love a good novel, but you'd never be able to tell that based on the reading material currently taking up real estate on my bedside table.  There is no classic literature waiting to be finished, just several tomes of Where's Spot, and a cheap paperback that I started sometime before I gave birth.  In 2013.

The piles of clothes.  In theory it seems very easy to throw dirty clothes into the hamper at the end of the night, but in practice, not so much.  When you're so exhausted that you can barely keep your eyes open at the end of the day, the walk from the bed to the hamper seems longer than a jaunt across the Golden Gate Bridge.  There is also, inevitably, a pile of clean clothing on the chair that you really did plan to use as a meditation area back in the days before you had children and began to fall asleep while attempting to "follow your breath".

Empty glasses.  The reason there are never any clean glasses in the kitchen is because the entirety of your glassware is dirty and taking up space on every available surface of your bedroom.  Science experiments are happening in some of these glasses, and you always intend to take them to the kitchen the next time you head that way, but you never have any hands available because you are always carrying a child (or two), four stuffed animals, and six toys.

Rogue LEGOs.  How do they find their way into your bedroom??? This is the age-old question that all parents face, particularly in the middle of the night, when you step on a very sharp pirate-shaped LEGO while running to rescue a child from a night terror or the stomach flu.

Chargers.  In a misguided effort to keep your children from running off with the cords for all of your devices, you have ended up with a giant tangle of headsets and cords and possibly a yoyo.  You have no idea which charger goes with which device, and you will never have the time to untangle all of the cords, so you may as well just resign yourself to having to charge your phone/computer/Kindle/iPad in your car.

Paperwork.  You always have good intentions of having important discussions with your spouse after your kids go to bed.  To this end, you bring school paperwork, tax forms, or bank statements into your bedroom, but you're so exhausted at the end of the day the only thing you have the energy to discuss with your spouse is whether to watch Hulu or Netflix.  That important paperwork will be lost and forgotten until such a time when you are late and desperately need the signed paperwork which will be nowhere to be found. 

Crap.  I haven't nursed a child for over a year, but for some reason I still have a jar of nipple cream on my bedside table that's missing a top and is covered in dust.  I also have an expired bottle of Colic Calm, a Swaddle Me wrap, and teething toy.  Just a quick reminder that my youngest child is almost two, is large enough to wear the swaddle as a diaper, and has all of her teeth.  I should have the energy to throw this crap away sometime in the next decade. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go unearth my laptop from underneath that pile of clothing so can head over to Pinterest and pin 400 images of perfect, beautiful, no-crap-in-sight bedrooms that I have no hope of every achieving.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Your Mother is Crazy

crazy moms of los angeles
Well, at least I'm not the craziest Mother in town.
Now that I’ve been a parent for almost three and a half years (!), I can tell you without hesitation that there are some batsh*t crazy people out there who are raising children.  I’ve written about this before in the context of our preschool search, but now that I have school-age children and we're exposed to a multitude of other kids and their caregivers, my eyes have been opened to the fact that people are nuts.

Herewith, the five types of cuckoo parents I’ve met lately:

The “in denial that I had a boy” Mother.  Fact: boys stand up to pee.  Yes, they are messy and it boggles the collective female mind how they can never seem to avoid leaving a puddle, but boys are designed to pee standing up.  I’ve personally always dreamed of being able to spell my name in the snow in urine, but apparently I’m unique in this, because lately I have met two Mothers who refuse to let their sons stand up to urinate.  That’s right, folks, I guess these women are starting the emasculation earlier rather than later, but eventually these boys are going to go to school and realize that they are complete and total weirdos because they use a stall instead of a urinal.  Might as well put the therapist on speed dial now, ladies, because your son is going to need some professional help in the not-so-distant future.

The “my kid only wears designer clothes” Mother.  Welcome to Los Angeles, where people spend $150 on a t-shirt for a child!  I was chatting with one of these women the other day, and somehow it came up that I purchase most of my son’s clothes at the second hand shop.  The look of complete and utter revulsion I received from my fellow Mother actually stunned me a little bit.  She said that she would never purchase anything for her kid that wasn’t fashion forward and new, to which I pointed out that last time I checked I wasn’t dressing Noah in acid-washed jeans and a Starter jacket, but the woman now refuses to sit next to me at soccer class.  Look, kids are dirty.  They often use their clothing as napkins, and they enjoy drawing on themselves with chalk and crayons and permanent marker.  Spray and Wash can only do so much.  If you’re planning to give your child a complex by constantly yelling at her to keep her designer duds clean, you’re a freak.

The “my kid is just expressing himself” parent.  I’m so happy for you that your kid is confident enough to be outgoing and show his feelings, but I don’t personally consider “expressing oneself” to constitute repeatedly biting my son to the point of drawing blood.  Get your toddler in check, bitch.

The "no sense of humor" Mother.  Parenting is tough and there are times when one has to make really big decisions that have the potential to hugely impact the life of one’s child(ren).  I’ve personally found that the only way to survive parenthood is through humor and liberal use of alcoholic beverages.  Unfortunately, there are quite a few parents out there who do not subscribe to this parenting methodology.  I am going to make inappropriate jokes about how much my kids drive me insane and that I’ve contemplated locking them in the basement once or twice, so if you’re not cool with that, then I suggest you seek out a prescription for Xanax and loosen the f*ck up.

The full time help Mother who doesn’t understand why you look like shit.  First of all, let me say that I am jealous of stay-at-home Moms who have full time help.  I would absolutely kill to have someone come to my house seven days a week to take care of my child and do the dishes and make the beds and clean the baseboards.  I do not have this option, however, because I pursued a dead end career and have nothing except some bad comedy footage to show for it.  That being said, if you are lucky enough to have a rich husband or a trust fund that pays for said childcare, please do not ask me why I have skunk roots and an outdated wardrobe and then say, “well I have kids too!” when I attribute it to having to take care of a small child.  There is a big difference between taking care of a child 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and having someone else do that while you shop or go to the salon or have lunch with your lady friends.  I look like crap because I haven’t showered in three days, and I suggest you not get too close in case I smell.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Life is Not Perfect

the perfect life for Moms
Perfect just the way they are.
There are days when parenting gets the better of me.  Days when no matter how much I try to breathe, how many minutes I meditate, or how gentle I am with myself, I don't think I can do it anymore.

I have those days more than I care to admit.

It's not that I don't want to be a good mother - I want nothing more than to always be loving and present for my children - but sometimes life gets in the way.  Sometimes the exhaustion, the tantrums, and the work deadlines pile up, and I find myself snapping at my family.  I don't mean to do it, but the frustration builds and I reach the end of my rope, and I dream of running off to a deserted Island and leaving my offspring in the sort-of-capable hands of my Husband. 

I'm constantly struggling with the notion that I should be able to do it all.  I know I've discussed this before, but lately, rather than relating to my work, it's relating to my home.  I desperately want to do everything - take care of my kids, write quality pieces, be a good partner - but there simply aren't enough hours in the day to do all of those things well and to keep up with the dishes and the laundry and the piles of crap that seem to cover every surface of my home.  I count myself lucky, because I have someone who comes once a  week to clean, but there's still so much stuff that needs to be done at the end of the day.  There are toys to pick up, a dishwasher to load and unload, stained t-shirts that need soaking, filthy couch slipcovers that desperately need to be laundered...the list goes on and on.  Often, as I'm picking up MagnaTiles and Memory Games after a long day with the kids, I get discouraged.  I get discouraged that my house looks like a trainwreck and that I forgot to brush my teeth that morning.  I beat myself up for not having the time or, really, the energy to do all the projects I've been wanting to get done around the ol' homestead.

In the long run, these things don't matter.  My kids won't remember that I never had a chance to frame and hang their preschool artwork, or that the buffet in our dining room was always covered with unopened mail instead of a perfectly curated collection of candles and tchotchkes.  But I care.  I care that my house doesn't look Pinterest worthy.  I care that my couches look more "crack house" than Cottage LivingI care that no matter how much I Kon Mari, more crap that does not inspire joy seems to creep into my home weekly.  For every bag that I purge, another two bags full of noisy toys and cheap party favors takes its place.

So, I'm trying to let go of my desire for things to be perfect.  Because the truth of life, especially when it involves children, is that life is IM-perfect.  Life is messy and dirty and, in real life, not Pinterest life, everything is out of place.  Instead of looking at the pile of MagnaTiles and seeing the mess, I want to see the joy that the Muffin Man found in building a house for his stuffed elephant.  Or how nice it was to see my kids playing Don't Break the Ice without fighting.  Because the truth is, I'm lucky to have two healthy, happy kids who make messes and throw tantrums and smear yogurt all over the house.  There was a time in my life when I worried that I wouldn't get to have the opportunity to be a parent, and now that I've been blessed, it's high time that I stop bitching at my kids for being kids.

I know it's not always going to be easy to change my grouchy, perfectionist tendencies - specifically when I'm scrubbing marker off of the dining room walls - but I owe it to my kids, and myself, to be less concerned with how it all looks, and more concerned with how I'm relating to them.  I know my kids won't remember our stained living room rug or our messy bathroom, but they'll definitely remember me yelling at them, and that's not the way I want to go down in history.

Besides, being grouchy all the time isn't doing any favors for my frown lines, and I still haven't saved up enough for Botox. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Preschool Panic: Kindergarten Edition

finding a kindergarten in LA

There is such a thing as Adult Peer Pressure.  Do you want to know how I know this?  Because tonight I am going on my first kindergarten tour, and it's entirely due to the fact that all of my Mom friends are doing it too.

As my Mother used to say, "if everyone else was jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you follow?"  The answer is a resounding yes, if it meant that my kid had a better chance of getting into a decent grade school.

Now, I know what you're thinking: isn't your kid only three, and didn't he just get into preschool?

Why, yes, both of those facts are true.  But since we didn't gain acceptance to any of the institutes of lower learning that also offer upper school programs (i.e. K-6 or K-8), I have to go through the exact same thing I just went through all over again.  Though hopefully without all the rejection this time around.

I initially had grand plans of spending the next two years enjoying the glamorous preschool life of volunteering to plant vegetable gardens and making cookies for various holiday celebrations.  But it turns out that once you get a spot at one of these local institutes of lower learning, you can't just sit on the sidelines drinking wine and patting yourself on the back for providing your kid with the foundation of a top notch education.  Oh no, you have to jump right back into the fray and start touring kindergartens!  God forbid a day or a month or a year should go by wherein you're not having anxiety attacks related to school admissions. 

If I thought the preschool tours were overwhelming, those had nothing on this elementary school mishigas.  Between the charter schools, the public school (yes, SCHOOL, singular, as in there's only one that's decent), the private schools, and the magnet schools, there are too many to count.  No wonder I need to start touring now; it's going to take me two years just to find the time to look at all these places.

So, tonight, I'll be in a room full of other anxious and desperate parents sipping lukewarm Two Buck Chuck out of plastic party cups.  I'll listen to the Headmaster's spiel, maybe hear some glowing reviews from current parents, and then head out on a tour of the facilities lead by a precocious eight year old.  I'll scope out the other prospective parents to see how many of them seem batshit crazy, introduce myself to the hot young science teacher, and then try to envision the Muffin Man walking the halls of this particular scholarly institute. 

Considering that my kid is currently unable to put his shoes on by himself or sit still for longer than five minutes at a time, it's going to be a little challenging to make an educated decision about which school will be the right one for him in two years, but whatever.  At this point I'm just trying to look at these tours as an opportunity to spend some time away from my children in the evening.  And Lord knows I'll never turn down a free glass of wine, even it is lukewarm and terrible. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Six (good) Reasons to Have Your Kids Close in Age

why it's a good idea to have your kids close together
That sibling love, though.
I never thought I would say this, but I'm really glad that I had my kids so close together.  Oh sure, it's slightly embarrassing when people on the street make comments about the fact that I have Irish Twins, but other than the discomfort of strangers remarking on my sex life, having kids 18 months apart has worked out for the best. 

In the beginning, it almost broke me (even more than the tailbone did), primarily because I really struggled with trying to balance caring for a newborn with giving my toddler enough attention coupled with grinding exhaustion and a newbie freelance career.  Now that we're almost two years out I can say without reservation that had it not happened the way it did, we never would have had a second child. 

Can you imagine a world without Rose?  That just wouldn't be a world I'd want to live in.

The further you get from the baby years, the harder it is to imagine going back there.  By the time your first child reaches the age of three or four, you're so far from the world of having a newborn that you've probably forgotten what it's like.  You've adjusted to life with a little kid and, while often exhausting and infuriating, it's your present.  To turn around and walk backwards and start all over, while simultaneously trying to navigate the uncharted territory of raising a preschooler?  No. Thank. You.

Starting Over.  It takes a long time after you have a baby to return to some semblance of your "normal" self - much longer than you think it will - and once you do get your life back, the idea of putting it all on hold again to have another baby seems daunting.  For me, this specifically applies to work, but for others it may mean the physical changes, or even the lifestyle changes associated with introducing a new offspring into the mix.  When you have your kids one right after the other, you're able to reduce the baby break into one extend 18 month span of your life, which means you only have to gear work back up once, instead of twice.  

Stuff.  Do you know how much gear babies need?  A lot.  Which seems ridiculous since the largest baby I've met topped out at a whopping 9lbs.  Preschoolers also need a lot of stuff, though instead of theirs taking the form of bouncy chairs and swings, it tends to fall into the toy category and consist mainly of things you will step on in the middle of the night.  When your kids are close in age, they use the same kind of stuff around the same time, which means you only have to clutter your house with crap for one age-range instead of two different ones. 

Diapers.  Despite my best efforts, my house has smelled like dirty diapers for almost four years straight.  This is not a scent that Diptique offers in their candle line for a very good reason: it's repulsive.  You can spray the sh*t out of your house, use a scent diffuser, throw poopy diapers outside right away, but the stench still lingers.  During the initial stages of potty training, when you're running your kid to the bathroom every 2.5 minutes, you may think that diapers are a lot more convenient, but I promise that having kids who use the toilet is sooooo much better.  Once you've kissed those Pampers goodbye forever, there is no way you'll want to start all over again with wiping poop off of a tiny ass. 

Independence.  Honestly, this is a double-edged sword, because once your kids are toddlers they can be total assholes and fight you tooth and nail on everything, but ultimately it's really nice not to have a kid strapped to you in an Ergo at all hours of the day.  Having a kid who can walk, feed herself, and get whatever toy she wants without assistance is liberating. 

Words.  When the Muffin Man was first born, we spent ridiculous amounts of time searching Dr. Google trying to find out what his different cries meant.  When your kid can't tell you what he wants or needs, it's endlessly frustrating.  Once you can communicate with your kids - meaning they understand what you're saying and can answer you back - it's life changing.  No more annoying guessing games wherein you hold up every toy in the house and your baby just screams and you end up having to call your therapist to vent your frustration. 

Siblings.  As an only child, and never having experienced the joys of a sibling relationship, I kind of assumed that we would only have one kid.  Had I been more responsible with birth control and less irresponsible with my consumption of red wine, I certainly would never have gotten pregnant so close on the heels of the Muffin Man's birth.  Ultimately, I'm glad that my kids have each other.  I just hope that they grow out of their current phase of showing their love by trying to choke each other.