Boy, Is That Tiger a Bitch!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 21st, 2012 by Kim

Last week I talked about the book “Bringing up Bebe,” in which an American mom talks about how French moms view parenting. Now I’d like to go to the other side of the globe and review “Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother.” For those of you unfamiliar with the book, it’s the story of a very successful mom of two daughters who is raising them “the Chinese way.” In short, this means she demands perfection in every aspect of their lives, and when she doesn’t get it she acts like a spoiled brat.

I give the author, Amy Chua, some credit for putting all her ugliness out there for the world to see. It can’t be easy being one of the most hated moms in America and she certainly put up with her share of flack. Then again, that flack has also helped her sell some books. It’s probably a lot easier to deal with being called a horrible mom/person while you’re watching your book climb up the New York Times bestseller list. I’d be willing to put up with some name-calling if my blog would take off. But I digress…

Everyone hates this mom except her older daughter and her husband. Her younger daughter, on the other hand, likens her to Lord Voldemort. I’ve read all the Harry Potter books and I think that even Voldemort has a tad more humanity than Amy Chua. To illustrate: When her kids presented her with handmade cards on her birthday, she angrily told them to take them back as the gifts were unworthy. She berated her younger daughter in public. She mocked her, ruined the card and then threw it back at her, demanding something better. She repeated the process on the older daughter, lamenting that she hadn’t written her a poem. The girls, by the way, were seven and four. I couldn’t get past this. Forget the fact that she made the kids practice the piano and violin at the expense of sleep, meals and friends. Forget that forced them to practice while on vacation before they could go out and see any sights. Forget that she didn’t allow them to have playdates and sleepovers. It all hinged on those fucking cards; I couldn’t forgive her. She, on the other hand, seemed very proud of this fact as she dedicated a whole chapter to this scene, aptly named “The Birthday Card.”

That’s the best you can do for my birthday! Avada Kedavra!!!

I also felt that the theme of the book was misleading. According to the cover, the book “was supposed to be a story about how Chinese parents are better at raising their kids than western parents. But instead, it’s a story about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen year old.” The book did not deliver. As a matter of fact, the author used her 229 pages to brag about her family’s accomplishments: how smart, clever and talented they all are; how well-travelled and culturally superior they are to most Americans; how much praise she receives from everyone around her for her parenting skills. There was merely a glimpse of her daughter “humbling” her: they were away on vacation in Russia and as the author was verbally assaulting her younger daughter for not eating caviar, the girl finally rebelled and stormed away. From that point on she refused to play the violin, on her mother’s terms. Big deal. Instead, she decided to pursue her own passion: tennis. Did she suck? Of course not! She exhibited exceptional talent, most likely because she was committed and practiced diligently, like any good Chinese daughter would do. Amy, remind me again how this Chinese parenting thing failed you? When exactly did the book change from being one that was “supposed to show” superiority in Chinese parenting but went another direction? Please. I wish she’d been more up front about the tenor of the book. We’d still buy it; we’d still hate her but for different reasons (i.e. her nasty demeanor, as opposed to being a pretentious twit).

I will admit that she makes one think twice about the benefits of raising kids the Chinese way. How many serial killers, psychopaths and losers are Chinese? Not many. Remeber Long Duc Dong?  He might have been a nerd and a pervert but he was going places.  Many people of Chinese descent are accomplished.  They are scientists, doctors, musicians, engineers – often very successful because their parents have pushed them to excel, and they in return love and respect their parents, taking care of them as they grow old. Can we Americans say the same?

What’s a happenin’ hot stuff?

While acknowledging that all parents want what’s best for their kids, the author differentiates Chinese parents from western ones by how they define “best.” Western parents want their kids to be happy, have self-esteem and pursue their true passions. Chinese parents, on the other hand, want to prepare their kids for the future by arming them with skills and confidence.

This got me thinking. As a kid I dabbled in a few things:  art lessons, ballet, softball, all of which i gave up when it got “too hard.”  I even tried playing the flute but lasted as long as you can say “Pied Piper.” I blew a few times, made no music and pretty much gave up. Good thing I didn’t try for a career in the porno industry.   In school I studied occassionally but was happy to skate by on decent grades rather than really apply myself and shoot for the moon.  This continued into adulthood as my work ethic always sort of sucked too.  I liked working, but I also liked bullshiting with my co-workers, taking long lunches and occasionally calling in sick, even when well.

I was raised, as most of my American counterparts, to believe that life should be fun and if practicing or studying didn’t make me happy, i gave it up.  Admittedly I pushed that philosophy to the max, but I didn’t turn out so bad.  I did get myself through law school, traveled around the globe, and ran a marathon despite my hatred of the sport.  But could I have been more?  I wonder what my life would have been like had I been raised the chinese way.   Would I now be a famous prosecutor, responsible for putting Casey Anthony behind bars? I know she was found not-guilty but I bet if Chinese Kim had been the prosecutor the outcome would have been different.  Ditto for OJ. Would I be a concert flutist? Or a major porn star? Perhaps I would have my artwork on displaly at the Guggenheim. Who knows.

You wouldn’t be laughing if Chinese Kim had been on the case!

My sons are too young to be pushed; they are only 5 and 2 and I don’t yet have them in any organized activities. This is partly because we’ve been unsettled now for almost a year but also in part because I want them to be kids and play for as long as possible, with no responsibilities; nowhere to be on a Saturday morning except home in their PJs making pancakes and watching cartoons. I imagine once my kids start trying out the various and sundry activities available to them, I will give them a pass once they get bored.  I can’t picture myself pushing my son to practice guitar for six or more hours a day. Not only does it sound like a colossal waste of time, it seems dreadfully boring and painful, for both of us. Imagine listening to a budding musician practice for six hours a day? Not without ear plugs!

After reading Amy Chua’s book, however, I realized that I want my sons to experience success.  I want them to find their bliss and develop   expertise at something they love.   I don’t want them to give up easily like I did with the flute.  I don’t want them to be entitled little assholes, thinking the world owes them everything because they’re special (which they’re not, by the way). They should know that to be great they need to work for it. I might not agree with the author’s methods but her kids are wildly talented and successful. There is something to be said for commitment and pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones.

At the end of the day I can safely say that Amy Chua will not be my new guru. She did, however, make me reconsider my role as parent and hopefully I will be able to devise more of a happy medium: part Chinese; part American. You know, sort of like those chicken fingers they serve in Chinese restaurants.

we all know they’re not authentic but we love ‘em anyway!

Stay tuned next week as I review my final potential guru: Jane Nelson. She advocates firm but kind. I’m still working on crazy but medicated.


Letting Down Bebe?

Posted in self-care, Uncategorized on June 14th, 2012 by Kim

In my last entry I promised you a review of my recent parenting reads.  Here they are in no particular order:

  • “Bringing up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman
  • “BattleHymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua
  • “Positive Discipline” by Jane Nelson

Let’s start with “Bringing up Bebe.”  If you aren’t familiar with this book, the author is an American living in France who has discovered why French moms (or more specifically, Parisian moms) have a laid back, easy-breezy attitude toward parenting.   I wasn’t sure about taking parenting advice from a woman who gave her husband a threesome for his fortieth birthday but what the heck (by the way, read her article on that subject; it’s rather hilarious).

The book is a good read and I recommend it if you’re interested in seeing how the Parisians raise their young.  While I certainly didn’t take everything to heart, I did enjoy reading how those skinny French bitches put themselves first, always.   They take care of themselves:  physically, emotionally and sexually (as in, they still have sex and seem to enjoy it).  Some of their parenting philosophies definitely resonated with me.   First, they use free play to stimulate their young ones, as opposed to flashcards, listening to Mozart or taking as many classes as a toddler’s schedule will allow.  This made me smile as I am loathe to partake in any class that makes me sing “The Wheels on the Bus.”  Also, I like the notion of letting our kids explore their world with a little more freedom and independence.  How much harm can a kid do in a big grassy field?

Second, they draw a clear distinction between child activities and adult activities, and rarely do they coincide.  I love my kids but, as controversial as this might sound, I have little interest in playing with them.  I do not enjoy following their every move at the playground as I’d much prefer to read a book or chat with a friend than to squeeze my adult-size ass down a kiddie slide.  I am not craftsy nor am I chock full of kid-friendly activities to do on a rainy day.  I admit I do like to color and draw; I have been known to make a fabulous pyramid and sphinx out of legos, and I really enjoy setting up the Thomas train tracks.  Seriously.  I sort of have a problem.

a proud mama moment...pathetic

At the end of the day, however, I refuse to be the pink Power Ranger or play Mommy cheetah/baby cheetah or any game that I find treacherously boring.  I’ve tried.  I’ve said “ok, but just for five minutes,” at which time I set the timer and barely last thirty seconds before I’m staring longingly at said timer.  Go off already!  I just can’t do it so I stopped completely.  Now when my five-year old asks me to play I say “sorry, that’s why I gave you a brother.”  When my husband comes home from work, he won’t say no because he’s been away from the kids all day and wants to give them some attention.  I see him sitting there on the couch, holding the red Power Ranger, pretending to shoot some invisible bad guy.  I laugh and think “better you than me sucker!”

If we were French parents, society would expect us to say “no” to child’s play.  Even my husband would probably be given a free pass, so the kids would be left to play on their own while he and I enjoyed a glass of Beaujolais together. The problem I have, however, is that the French moms never seem to do anything with their kids.  From the author’s perspective, it seems they are too focused on being skinny, sexy and put together.  Their kids don’t come first, but they don’t even appear to come second or third.  One mom made her kids quit their tennis lessons because driving them back and forth was too “constraining” for her.  I don’t recall once reading in the book that a French mom snuggled with her baby or had fun with her kids.  Maybe “having fun” is just too American?

There were a few other things that made me wince:  All of the kids go to daycare, whether the moms work full-time, part-time, or not at all.  There are no playgroups or mommy and me classes because every middle-class kid is in daycare.  The author attributes this to the fact that every French mom wants to return to work and the French daycare, subsidized by the socialist government, is fabulous.  I think it’s wonderful that moms in France have options but it sort of bums me out that an entire culture has given up on taking care of their own kids.  No mom wants to be home.   As a stay-at-home mom I understand completely – the work is grueling and the pay sucks – but what does did this say about how French society views motherhood?  French moms rarely breastfeed after a month or two and I doubt you’d see one wearing a baby in a sling as it would surely ruin her outfit.  They don’t seem to practice anything we call attachment parenting, which, whether you agree with it or not, is certainly not something to be condemned by an entire country.   While Americans might certainly be too child-centric, are the French too me-centric?

A final point of contention:  French kids go to summer camp for eight days, starting at age four.  You read that correctly:  age four.  Never in a million years would I send my four year old off to camp by himself.  It’s not because I’m afraid he’d get molested or harmed in someway; I just think four is too young to be away, with strangers, for such a long period of time.   Even the author had a hard time with this one.

I’ve always fancied myself as worldly and felt certain I could hang with my European counterparts, no problem.  After all, I enjoy eating dinner late, am a socialist at heart, and wear black almost daily.  As such, I expected to read this book and become a convert.  In the end, however, the laissez-faire style of French parenting was a bit too much, even for me.  The French moms definitely seem more laid back and relaxed about parenting, but it’s probably because someone else is raising their kids while they have sex, get their hair done and go shopping.  Also, I got a bit tired of reading how the author could always spot the American moms as they were typically wearing sweatpants, interacting with their children, and, horror upon horrors, greeting her in a warm, friendly way.  Is that so wrong?

I guess at the end of the day I’d rather be known as a friendly, involved mom as opposed to a cold bitch with a great wardrobe and a killer body.  And as for the sweatpants, leave us the fuck alone already.  Yeah, we’re American moms and we wear sweatpants…and sneakers.  Get over it.

my mom wears what?

Next entry: Battle Hymn of the Bitch on Wheels


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Am I a Boob or What?

Posted in Motherhood sucks, Uncategorized on June 8th, 2012 by Kim

After Monday’s entry about my monstrous day, I received a few emails and texts from friends:  Was everything ok?  Was I losing it, again? (Thank you, by the way, for your concern.) I want to assure my handful of readers that I am fine…I’m almost always fine.  Perhaps my prior entry needs some explanation:

Remember that Time magazine cover a few weeks back;  the one with the hot mom breast-feeding her three year old, casting a “go ahead, mock me…I dare you” sort of stare?  Well I’m a lot like her.  Ok, so I’m a little heavier, a lot older, shorter, brunette, and while breastfeeding my 2 ½ year old my boob looks more like an empty pastry bag than a delicious short stack, but other than those differences we are the same.  We are moms who breastfeed our toddlers at an age that makes most other people shudder.

let's see what those boobs look like when you're 44...bitch.

This is not something I readily admit.  I am not necessarily ashamed or proud of the fact that I still nurse my two and a half year old a couple of times a day.  It’s just something we do.   I weaned my older son before he turned two but with the baby I know he’s may last child and we’ve been so unsettled this year, moving cross country, living in several temporary homes, buying our first house, etc. that I just wanted him to have that one thing (ok, two things) that he can count on.  I’ve stopped telling friends because the reaction I get is rarely positive.  I’ve been commanded to stop and told it’s time for an intervention.  I get asked “are you still nursing?” with a tone that implies “please say no!”  Even my husband would like this takeover of my breasts to be done already.  I’m not sure how I feel about it but I know I’m terribly frightened of what my breasts will look like when all the milk has dried up.  Yikes!

Truth be told, I still love breastfeeding my little man.  I’m a big proponent of breastfeeding and many other things that fit under the umbrella known as “attachment parenting.”  I know this might sound surprising as I seem more of a “get my kids the FUCK away” from me kind of mama, and truthfully that’s how I feel most days, but when it comes to certain fundamentals, my inner hippie has emerged.  Both boys were born naturally (i.e. without drugs, not just through the vagina tunnel):  Cole at a birth center; Gage at home.  Yes, it was planned.  My boys are anteaters (i.e. uncircumcised); I used cloth diapers, wore them in slings, made my own organic baby food, and never let them cry it out.  Sounds like the chapters of the Dr. Sears’ Baby Book, right?

Do i look like a hippie to you?

Despite my commitment to this type of parenting, I did not become a martyr for the cause.   I did not adopt this practice because I thought it was the right way to parent.  I just felt it was right for me.  Interestingly enough, however, when you do certain things with your baby (i.e. breastfeed him in public, wear him in a sling, etc.), you get labeled.  You are an earthy/crunchy, hippie-dippy mama.   Although I am definitely left of center, I am certainly no hippie.  I eat meat, shop at Target, and love my non-organic, non-local wine.  Nonetheless, the label was firmly attached.  Moms who knew me often assumed I was a vegetarian, pointing out the veggie burger option at the playgroup barbeque.  They went so far as to apologize to me personally for driving big SUVs (“we really need that third seat!”…as if I give a shit).  I believe I saw several of them checking out my underarms for excessive hair.  Let me assure you that if they found hair there, it was not because I was making a statement against shaving; it was merely the fact that I hadn’t showered in days and my hair grows like a weed.  It’s tough being of Italian heritage in Southern California!

I did not judge, nor begrudge, other moms who parented differently.  I will, however, admit that I felt pangs of jealousy when they talked about how their babies were sleeping peacefully after a few nights of sleep-training, or how they still worked out at the gym and had dates with their husbands.   I, on the other hand, walked around in a sleep-deprived coma for the first year of life. As for sitters and the gym, it just didn’t feel worth the effort.  I remember joining the Y, where they had free childcare and a great yoga class.  I left my son in the hands of a cute but ridiculously young-looking babysitter who had been charged with watching over an army of snot-ridden toddlers.  I felt slightly guilty as I snuck away, but I had to try, right?  Inevitably about 20 minutes into class I would see that teenager walking toward the door in her Y polo shirt.  I knew she was coming for me.  My baby had been crying since I left; they couldn’t calm him down.  Could I come and get him?  Ugh… Everyone told me to stick with it but it was really hard to relax and be all zen, knowing that my baby was screaming for me.  Ok, he wasn’t really a baby…I believe he was almost two but that didn’t make it any easier for me.  I know many moms who dropped their babies off the first day they were allowed:  age six weeks.  I just couldn’t do it.  Do I wish I had done it differently?  I’m not sure.  The sacrifice felt worth it since babyhood is such a short period of time and I have my whole life to sleep, do yoga, and have dates.

The problem is that I went and had another baby thus prolonging this period of deprivation for longer than ever imagined.   So here I am, five and a half years later, and life is starting to feel like Mommy prison.  Things have gotten better, I admit.  I do use babysitters fairly often and have actually had several full nights of sleep.  But at the end of the day, I am having a hard time putting my needs ahead of theirs, and, as you can probably tell if you’ve been reading this blog, they often drive me bat-shit.  I yell; I scream; I rant; I’ve even spanked a couple of times.  Hell, I’ve done and said things I never would have thought possible.  Who’s kidding who?  I’m no “attachment parent” anymore.  I’ve become a crazy person, looking like white trash as I swear at my kids, while dragging them kicking and screaming out of Target.  Dr. Sears would never write a book advocating my current parenting practices.  I feel fairly certain that Dr. Sears would instead write me a nice script of anti-anxiety meds and tell me to drop the charade.

So now I’m in search of a new guru.  Stay tuned as I’ll review the books I’ve read, and discuss their impact on my parenting, in my next entry.   Yes I still read…something I do while breastfeeding.  So there.


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Return of Monster Mommy

Posted in self-care on June 4th, 2012 by Kim

I had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.  It contained a lovely balance of family-time, me-time and adult-time.   When I woke up on Tuesday morning I felt refreshed and renewed.  My vessel was full and, surprise, surprise, I enjoyed being a mom.  I spent the next couple of days ogling over my children, marveling at how quickly they’re growing and feeling pride in their intelligence and good looks.  I felt uninspired to write here because I just felt so damn satisfied.

I should have known it wouldn’t last.

What this week has shown me is that I am only a good mom when I’m at the top of my game.  God forbid, however, I am tired from lack of sleep, or suffering from a Zyrtec hangover, or have PMS, or am stressed beyond repair, or just feeling like plain old shit.  God help the rest of you if there’s any combination of the aforementioned ailments.  That’s what happened the other day.

My allergies have been hell so I took a Zyrtec the night before.  Have you ever tried this medicine?  It’s absolutely wonderful for ridding your body of allergy symptoms but for me the hangover was worse than drinking a fifth of tequila.  I even took the pill before bed, assuming any side effects would be long gone after a good night’s sleep.  The problem is that I didn’t have a good night’s sleep, and hadn’t had one in a few nights (thanks to the pesky allergies and being periodically kicked throughout the night by a restless two year old).  So I woke up in the morning feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.  On a positive note, I wasn’t sneezing.  Being so exhausted changed me as a parent.  I started off cranky, praying that coffee would help, but after three cups I was now cranky and jittery.  I had absolutely no tolerance for my children.  Their fights became insufferable; their demands for food and drink felt like bondage.  I kept telling them to go off to college already.  The worse I felt, the more their behavior deteriorated.  I couldn’t do it.  I didn’t want to do it, but what choice did I have?

If I had a real job, you know, one that paid and required you to get out of your pajamas, I could call in sick when I felt bad.  I might even treat myself to an occasional “mental health day.”  On grouchy days I could check out; ignore my co-workers and pretend to be entrenched in work.  I could skip lunch and go for a long walk or do something for myself.   When you’re a stay-at-home Mom, however, there are no sick days.  There are no coffee breaks, no checking out.  You have to be ON all day, every day.  It’s like I’m acting in a Broadway production of my very lame life, over and over and over again, and the reviews are not rave.

I don’t say this to complain.  As a matter of fact it’s highlighting for me the importance that I need to come first, as difficult as that sounds.  I started this journey a couple of months ago as I really want to enjoy my time with my kids when they’re young, and truth be told, I wasn’t enjoying it.  I’m realizing that for me, this is only possible when I have true balance in my life.  That means taking care of myself, getting sitters, reaching out to friends, taking real breaks, getting out of “kid-world” and spending time with grown-ups.  When I was down and out, I should have called my in-laws and dropped them off for a couple of hours so I could take a nap.  I should have begged a friend to help me out.  I should have done something to address the fact that I felt like a zombie but once again I sucked it up, thinking I was being some sort of martyr.  Who suffered?  My kids.  Instead of the fun, kind mom they’d gotten used to over the past few days, they were faced with monster mommy, whose face is scary and demeanor is positively frightening.

not my best day...

I hereby renew my pledge to put myself first, at least some of the time, as I begin to truly understand why this is so important.  I will continue to strive for balance in my life, everyday if possible.  I will not be afraid to ask for help, even though sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world to do.  I will not be a martyr.  My kids might not like it at first, but when monster mommy has been permanently banished, I’m quite certain they’ll thank me.


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In Search of Parent-Friendly Places

Posted in Having fun, Uncategorized on May 29th, 2012 by Kim

It rained the other day and after several days of rain and staying in the house I could no longer stand the sight of my children….and the feeling was mutual. So I decided to take my kids to one of those indoor play places. These places are particularly useful here in New England where the weather is often horrendous. I sometimes wonder why there aren’t more of them because what else are parents doing when it’s 100 and humid or raining or freezing or snowing?  Then again, what the hell did I do as a kid in the bad weather? I sucked it up and played at home or endured the bad weather, right? I really don’t remember. I just know that for my kids, staying home for more than one day is not an option, at least not without copious amounts of complaining and television viewing.

Back to the indoor play place. As I said, I marvel at the fact that there are so few choices here in Rhode Island. I also marvel at how poorly these places are run. I am not digging the management or complaining about the options for my kids. Instead, I am complaining, very loudly, about how dreadfully boring these places are for moms.

First and foremost, these places are every lawyer’s wet dream. Throw a bunch of kids into a room ripe with overstimulation; add a ton of toys and things to climb upon and I smell a lawsuit! As a result, these places have more rules than Singapore. Parents and/or guardians must keep an eye on their children at all times. As a matter of fact, in one place I’m supposed to remain within arm’s reach of them. Have you ever tried being within arm’s reach of two children at the same time? Unless they are Siamese twins, this is impossible. So I stand there like a sentry on guard, watching my children have the time of their lives while I count dust motes floating in the air.

Second, everything is all about the kids. The place I visited last week did not allow outside food and drink. They did, however, provide snacks for a fee. Take a look at the menu. Is there anything on there that is even remotely appetizing to a person over the age of 12? I think not.

What kind of mom wants a ring pop?

Finally, assuming my children are safe and having fun, there is still NOTHING there for adults to do. Oh sure, they throw around some magazines for you to review. The selection, however, is typically worse than a doctor’s office as I found myself last week reading about how to keep kids from getting sick this winter and speculation that Brangelina was finally getting married. When I’m foolish enough to brave these places without a friend, I start praying to meet another friendless mom who will chat with me. Otherwise, I’m in for the longest two hours of my life.  (by the way….thank you Millicent).

It’s unfortunate because in San Diego (where I used to live), the indoor play places were fantastic. I never quite understood why since the weather there is almost always perfect for outdoor play but for some reason they got it right. There are even a few restaurants/bars that have playrooms for the kids. The food sort of sucked but what did I care? I was drinking a beer and hanging with my hubby while my kids happily played in a contained area. Damn I miss that place!

Rhode Island: show me what you got! You can do it! Forget about the damn kids and think of the moms for once! Here is my wish list for making these indoor play places more parent-friendly:

• Please hire people who are capable of watching my kids and enforcing your rules. I don’t know your stupid rules. Am I supposed to guess that only one kid can go on the jumpie at a time? It seems foolish since they are ensconced in rubber and air.  I personally can’t think of a safer place for a kid and am therefore feeling nonchalant, yet you seem annoyed at me because I’m not making my kid wait an unreasonable amount of time for his turn. Take me out of the equation and have someone else watch out for my kids’ safety. I’ll pay extra. Besides, if my kid breaks his arm there, I’m suing you either way (just kidding )

• If I can’t bring in my own food and drink, kindly give me the option of purchasing some coffee and a baked good. If you’re not up for installing a coffee bar, for god’s sakes splurge on a keurig and buy some Entemann’s.

• Have something other than reading dated magazines for mom to do. You could set up some desks and offer free wireless internet so moms can bring their laptops and work, shop online or watch movies on netflix. Better yet, bring in a masseuse for a chair massage, or offer manis and pedis. You might even host a yoga class or parenting seminar. Stop complaining about the cost: people will pay!

• Have a TV. No, not to broadcast cartoons! It’s not all about the kids you know! Show something most of us can at least tolerate: Ellen, the Food Network, Project Runway. Even better: show a movie. How hard can this be? I’m not asking to watch “True Blood” (though it would be nice) but something with minor entertainment value would sure make my visit more enjoyable. Even Regis and Kelly would be better than those dust motes.

That should get us started. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. Anyone with some entrepreneurial spirit could really get something great going. Let me know if you’re up for the challenge. In the meantime, I really need to find something else to do on a rainy day!



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Please Be With You

Posted in Can you believe this?, Uncategorized on May 22nd, 2012 by Kim

Do you take your kids to church?  Did you go to church growing up?  I grew up Catholic but that didn’t mean we went to church.   We were those “holiday Catholics,” also known as CEOs, who went only on Christmas and Easter.  Regardless, religion played a large role in my upbringing. My grandfather was a Eucharistic minister and Grand Puba of the Knight’s of Columbus.  I received my first communion, was confirmed with the name “Rebecca” (oblivious to the fact that Rebecca is a traditionally a Jewish name – should have been a sign) and my first marriage was conducted by a Catholic priest.  I never intentionally ate meat on a Friday during lent, though I was known to forget occasionally…but only with chicken, I swear!

At some point, however, the Catholic Church and I had an amicable break-up:  they no longer wanted me (courtesy of the fact that I got divorced and had broken every commandment.  Hey, don’t judge me; you probably have too.  Read the fine print!) and I no longer wanted them (after prosecuting child sexual abuse for a number of years, that priest-alter boy scandal left a bad taste in my mouth…no pun intended).  So I chose a more accepting religion: Unitarian Universalism.  For those of you unfamiliar with the religion, it’s the type of church where we sing Kumbaya, wear rainbow pins and idolize Martin Luther King, Jr.   Our children are “dedicated” as opposed to christened and we never take communion, unless you count the mini-bagels at the coffee hour after the service.  There is no dogma or creed; there are no commandments to break.   Instead, UUs, as we affectionately call ourselves, honor things like the democratic process and mother earth.  It’s a place where divorced people aren’t shunned and the ministers are allowed to marry, even someone of the same sex should they so choose.  It’s definitely not for everyone.

UUFSD Ampitheater

Our old church in San Diego - UUFSD. Can you say "kid-friendly?"

Aside from acceptance of all adults, the religion is also extremely kid-friendly; so much so that no one minds if your kid blurts out an answer to a rhetorical question or playfully runs up and down the aisles.   UUs don’t get mad.  Instead you can practically hear a collective “how adorable!” being ushered throughout the congregation.  The Catholic Church, on the other, is a bit more formal than my kids are accustomed.  So I was interested to see how Cole, my 5 year old, would react to a catholic ceremony when I took him to his friend Allie’s first communion.  On the way to the church I tried explaining the ceremony to Cole.  Big mistake.  First of all, I was never a devotee and barely remember my bible lessons so I was not the best person to explain the whole blood/body of Christ thing.  Second of all, have you ever tried explaining to a five year old that people eat the blood and body of Christ?  No simple task. It went something like this:

Me:  Communion is a way to honor Jesus Christ by drinking his blood and eating his body.

Him:  What???

Me:  Well, not really.  You drink wine and eat bread.

Him:  Mommy, you shouldn’t say that.

Me:  Say what?

Him:  Jesus Christ.  It’s a bad word.

Me:  No it’s not honey.  Jesus is the son of God.  Remember we talked about this at Christmas and Easter?

Him: Yeah… Am I going to have to drink blood?  Will Allie drink blood?

Me:  No, it’s not real blood.  I told you – it’s wine to symbolize the blood.

Him:  Allie gets to drink wine?  How come I can’t drink wine?

Me: Well, she won’t drink wine; she’ll just eat the bread, which is more like a cracker.

Him:  Then why did you say she’d drink blood…I mean wine?

Me:  Because I’m a fucking idiot, ok?  Does that make you happy?  (ok, that’s not what I said…but it’s what I wanted to say.)

Him:  Do I get to eat the bread?

Me:  No.

Him:  Why not?

Me:  Because we’re not Catholic and you’re too young.

Him:  Grrrr…

Next we arrived at the Church.   He was in awe of its size and the beauty of the stained glass windows.  This church had many of them, as well as a fresco of angels in the ceiling.  He asked me who was in each window and if I saw a woman I said “Mary” and if I saw a baby or a man I said “Jesus” even though I had no clue who was pictured.  Thus began the non-stop dialogue:

Mommy, people keep disappearing! (referring to the fact that people would go to the pulpit and then leave).  Are there ghosts in church?  Look!  There goes another one!

Where are the kids?  Where’s the bread?  Where’s Ethan? (Allie’s older brother).  Watch out Mommy, I think those angels might poop on us!  Here comes Allie.  Hey, why is she wearing a wedding dress?  Can I see Ethan yet?  You look pretty Mommy.  I’m touching your boob!   Where are those crackers? I’m hungry!  This is sooooooo boring.  Look, someone else disappeared.  Mommy, I’m shooting the singer…pow, pow (with imaginary gun pointing toward the organist in the loft).  My penis hurts.  Are you praying?  Why not?  What’s everyone saying?  When will they eat the bread?  Can I eat the bread?

I explained to him that it was for the kids he saw earlier, the ones wearing white:

Him:  But I have a white shirt?  I should have worn my white shirt so I could have communion!

Me: You’re not old enough and you’re not Catholic so you still wouldn’t have been able to have communion.

Him:  I want to be Catholic.

Me:  If you’re catholic you have to come to a church like this every Sunday.

Him:  Never mind.

Queue organ music:

Him:  Ooh, mommy…this looks like it’s about to get scary.

Me:  I don’t think so honey.

Him:  I do.  I bet someone else will disappear!

And so on…it truly did not stop until we got up and walked out the door.  I was slightly horrified and embarrassed as I thought my son was a loud, entitled, non-catholic, pain in the ass.  A wonderful thing happened, however, during the exchange of peace.  I turned around to shake the hands of the people who heard and saw it all.  Cole also shook their hands and said “Please be with you.”  I held my breath waiting to get dirty looks or a snide comment about that fact that I should have put him in the crying room (do they still call it that?).  Instead, people commented on how adorable and well-behaved my son had been.  I was shocked.  Really?  Why couldn’t I see this?  I was so concerned that he wasn’t sitting still, was talking too much, was saying and doing inappropriate things.  Let’s face it; the kid shot the organist, touched my breast and got the peace sentiment wrong, to say the least.  Did I set my expectations too high?  I didn’t think so.

The bottom line:  church is D-U-L-L.  Expecting our kids to sit still and pay attention for an hour-long service is madness.   That’s why the UUs send their kids off to religious education classes halfway through.   This was just another reminder for me that kids are kids and should be treated accordingly.  We can’t expect them to act like adults (this adult, by the way, had to restrain herself from taking out her iphone so she could play a game or check email…not a model of good church behavior).  Instead we should celebrate their fresh view on life and vibrant sense of humor.  This is often easier said than done, especially when the rest of the world is watching.  In the meantime, let’s be grateful that there are people out there who won’t give you a rash of shit because your child misbehaves.  The rest of them?  Well, they can just go to hell.  That’s where I’ll be after all.




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Tired Song Keeps Playing on a Tired Radio…

Posted in Having fun on May 18th, 2012 by Kim

A few weeks ago I took a pledge to have more fun.  Listening to music was part of that pledge so I switched my default from NPR to some pop music station.  At first it was fun getting reacquainted with the latest pop tunes.  They’re catchy, and this girl can still get her groove on, even while she’s driving.  Very quickly, however, I remembered why I turned to NPR in the first place.  Every station plays the most popular ten songs, over and over again and those songs get tired, very quickly.  My boys, on the other hand, can’t get enough of those ten songs.  And thus begins our dilemma.

A typical car ride goes something like this:  I put on the radio and there’s Katy Perry.  Happy boys!  The five year old sings away about the one that got away and the two year old is content.  The song ends and “Fix You” by Cold Play is cued.  This is one of my favorite songs of all time but I know it won’t make them happy.  Sure enough:  “Bo-ring!  I want something else!” screams the five year old.  I try to explain how much I like the song but realize it’s not worth the fight so I sadly scan and hear the five year old say ‘no” to every station until we find what he likes.  This time it’s “Turn me on.”  “Yes!  This one!”  he squeals with delight. The five year old is happy; the two year old…not so much.  He really only likes Katy Perry, which I believe is based on watching that video on youtube where she sings with Elmo about him being hot and cold and her boobies are hanging out.  Not that i have a problem with that; they are just boobs after all.  Anyway, he’s in love and no one else will do.  “Nooooo!” he screams, but I can’t change it or the five year old will get upset so I leave it on and deal with the screaming.  Meanwhile I hear the five year old singing:  “make me come alive come on and turn me on…I just want you to father my young…” and other inappropriate lyrics.

What's all the fuss?

Finally it ends and on comes a song I love from the 80s. Once again:  “this song rots!”  Do I fight or do I scan and pray for “Moves Like Jagger” – something we all enjoy?  So I scan until the five year old gives his assent.  As each familiar pop song plays, my five year declares: “Mommy!  I know this song!” He does this with each and every song he’s ever heard in his short lifetime…and he repeats this every single time he hears that song.  The two year old has even begun to chime in:  “Know this song!”  The fights continue to change the station and find Lady Gaga or LMFAO.  Now I’m not scanning to get away from those tired ten songs, I’m actually searching for them.  Finally I get annoyed and just leave the radio on a pop station.  “This is it!  I’m done!”  Now I’m yelling at them…and this was supposed to be fun.  Am I the only one experiencing this or do all of you out there feel like your kids are a big fat pain in the ass?

The tyrannical behavior of my children to control the radio is more than I can bear.  The car used to be the place where I enjoyed a few moments of peace each day.  I could listen to some genteel discussion about the plight of the northern long-eared bat or an analysis of health care reform while my kids sat in the back, relatively quiet and happy.  Now it has become yet another form of torture for me as I aim to make them happy but realize it’s impossible.  You know what?  I’m done.  Terry, I’m back!!!


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No Balls Allowed

Posted in Marriage, Uncategorized on May 13th, 2012 by Kim

Happy Mother’s Day! This year Mother’s Day happens to coincide with my wedding anniversary. This was very poor planning on my part as I once again get screwed on the gifts (my birthday is also near Christmas), but when we picked this date seven years ago I wasn’t even sure I wanted kids so coinciding with Mother’s Day was not a concern. Silly me.

Anyway, I though I’d share my wedding story with you today, rather than write some sappy story about how great it is to be a mom. Don’t worry; there is NOTHING sappy about my wedding day. Read on:

As you may know, marrying Chris would not be my first time down the aisle. That, coupled with the fact that all our friends and family were 3,000 miles away, led to our decision to elope. Since I can’t keep a secret to save my life, we didn’t actually “elope” because we told everyone what we were doing. We did, however, jaunt off to Hawaii by ourselves to get married on the beach. I wanted a simple affair, just the two of us on the island of Kauai. I spent more money on my new bathing suit then I did on my wedding dress ($20 at Macy’s). The only missing detail was who would marry us?

After googling “weddings Kauai,” we found a would-be officiant here on this site: Captain Howie was prominently featured as the man of the hour. He looked a bit like a monk with long hair, a beard and a parrot on his shoulder. That coupled with the name of his site (“Above Heaven’s Gate”) admittedly caused some concern that we’d never return from Hawaii and I would become his twelfth wife. But we were drawn to his seemingly gentle nature and the folksy manner in which he performed his ceremonies: simple, on the beach, with no pretention. His photos seemed a bit cheesy, I will admit, but we weren’t that concerned about the photos; we really just wanted a meaningful ceremony by someone fun and cool. We had a phone consultation with Howie’s wife Deva; she seemed warm and friendly and extremely accommodating. We learned that they no longer did weddings in Kauai, only Oahu, but we really liked them so we changed our plans and a booked a date: Friday, May 13th. We met on a Friday the 13th so we figured it was an auspicious day and why mess with a good thing.

We arrived in Hawaii a few days before our wedding. Captain Howie asked to meet us the day before the ceremony. We assumed this was so he could get to know us and plan the ceremony. We were wrong. We arrived at his self-proclaimed hobbit house and were greeted not by the gentle monk-looking man with a beard and long hair but a freak of nature with a completely shaved head, but for a rat tail. Warning sign #1. He zeroed in on me and acted as though Chris didn’t exist. Warning sign #2. He showed us his hobbit house and “Pukalani falls” which was a small, staged waterfall in his backyard (for which he charged extra by the way, if you chose this locale over the beach). Then he led us inside to select a photo package. He showed us sample photos of a bride looking longingly down at her new husband who was on bended knee, and a close-up of the couple’s hands, crossed to showcase the wedding rings. This type of photography might have been cool in 1971 but in 2005 it had no place. But as I said, we didn’t care about the photos so we picked the most modest package and soldiered on. He talked me into buying a crown of flowers for my head and having my hair and make-up done beforehand, telling me how beautiful I’d look as he leered at me with his crazy eyebrows. I left feeling confused and a bit deflated: was I getting married or was I about to star in some bizarre production of Mama Mia?

The Hobbit House. Big freaking deal.

On the ride back to our hotel we debated cancelling the whole affair and finding someone else, but we really wanted to get married on Friday the 13th so we kept our plans. When we arrived early on our “wedding day,” Howie’s wife told us the make-up artist would be late and that we should go hang at Subway for an hour or so. God forbid she invite us to enjoy the hobbit house or offer us a glass of water. No dice. This was not exactly the warm, fuzzy partner I spoke to on the phone. Warning sign #3. We went for a ride and came back to meet my make-up artist who was clearly used to making up drag queens.  Truth be told, he was the nicest person in the place and I harbor no ill-will towards him. I just wish he hadn’t made me up to look like a Hawaiian Rue Paul.

Jane, have you seen Cheetah?

After a 90 minute hair and make-up session, I donned my $20 dress and my $100 flower wreath, and exited the changing room. I was greeted by Howie, who was wearing a golf shirt and a sarong. His freakish bald head was gleaming in the sun and something in my gut told me that he was wearing nothing under that sarong. Warning sign #4. He was anxious to get going on the photos. Again he greeted me in a friendly though leacherous way and acted as though Chris were invisible. We started at the falls; meanwhile at the hobbit house his wife and their two employees were busy working in the background. Ah, such romance!

Off to the Senior Prom!

We finally moved on to the beach; the only place we’d really wanted to be. The grueling photo session continued and at one point he asked us to sit in the sand for a more relaxed view. As we got down, so did he, and that’s when the unthinkable happened. His sarong fell and I get a view of the crown jewels. There were no tighty-whiteys to obscure the view; just a lovely shot of two saggy balls hanging in the breeze. This is not something I wanted to see on my wedding day, not even if they belonged to my soon-to-be husband. I felt angry, betrayed, shocked, grossed-out. Most of all I felt panic. How would I look this man in the face during the ceremony? I just wanted to get this over and done with.

Did you see what I just saw???

We finally finished our photo shoot after over an hour of posing. He went off to bring his camera home while we waited alone on the beach. I am not a romantic but the thought of this guy marrying us was starting to make me physically ill. So Chris and I married each other alone on the beach. We exchanged rings, kissed, did it all. Our ceremony was even blessed by a mangy dog who decided to rub up against us while we waited for Howie. This really felt like the cherry on top of our shit-sundae because the dog was beyond mangy: filthy dirty, open sores, foaming at the mouth. Again, exactly what a bride wants on her wedding day.

After more than twenty minutes he finally returned (his house, by the way, was across the street; a two minute walk). Rather than rush to us he stopped to talk to a neighbor, I believe she was the owner of the mangy dog. Could this guy be more of an asshole? He finally approached us and was about to start when he realized he didn’t know one thing about us. He barely knew Chris’s name. We started to tell him about our spiritual philosophy, for lack of a better word, when he cut us off and said “yeah, yeah, you’re spiritual but not religious. I got it.” In answer to my question: yes. This guy could be more of an asshole. The ceremony was fine; it lasted about five minutes. We were married. We went back to his house to sign the marriage certificate. I thought to myself: this is where they’ll get friendly! They’ll pop open some champagne and congratulate us! But sadly no one at the hobbit house gave a rat’s ass about us or our wedding. They kept their heads down and continued with their work. Even Howie neglected to congratulate us. All he cared about were his ridiculous photos. He sent us on our way, another newly married couple who could come by anytime to view our photos. No thanks.

Where was the fun, friendly Captain Howie we’d read about on all those testimonials on his website? Where was the romance, the caring, the support from his lovely wife Deva? They were nothing of the sort. Why am I surprised by this when there were so many warning signs? To put my feelings in as few words as possible: they sucked. Fortunately we stayed at an incredible hotel: the Kahala Mandarin, and they treated us like royalty, saving our wedding day. On our way to dinner a waitress took this photo. It cost us nothing and ended up being the only photo taken on our wedding day that we liked.

At least we got one good photo!

Captain Howie: I sit here on my wedding anniversary and recall the most unromantic, cheesy, inappropriate wedding ever to take place. Fuck you for ruining my wedding. I hope you read this, as well as some potential clients, though I seriously doubt you’d remember us since our presence barely even registered in your life.

If anyone out there has ever had a similar experience with Captain Howie, please comment here. I’d love to hear about it!

One further note: Don’t feel bad for me that my wedding was ruined. We had a wonderful time in Hawaii and now laugh heartily when we think of the experience. We are definitely going to renew our vows in three years for our 10th anniversary and throw a big bash. It will be a casual affair; wear what you want, but underwear is an absolute must.



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The Tic

Posted in Motherhood sucks on May 5th, 2012 by Kim

Warning: if you are looking for a blog about how wonderfully a mom copes with her child’s disorder, you are in the wrong place.

My five year old has a tic. He looks up at the ceiling, closes his eyes, then lowers his head while he squeezes his eyes shut. He looks like he’s trying to hold back a whopper of a sneeze. This movement is sometimes preceded by a loud grunt or throat/nose clearing. Its frequency vacillates. Apparently he does not exhibit this tic at all in school (or so says his teacher), but around me it’s on a cycle of two minutes or less. Yesterday, a particularly bad day for all of us, it occurred every 30 seconds. This tic is very bizarre and I fear that it’s a precursor to Tourette’s Syndrome.

I’m not the type of Mom who will seamlessly handle a child with a disability. I have friends dealing with a host of issues: Attention Deficit Disorder (i.e. school is BO-RING!), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (i.e. school is SO boring…get me out of here!), Selective Mutism (I’m NOT talking to YOU!), even Oppositional Defiant Disorder (I’m a real fucking brat…good luck). I feel for these moms, especially when I hear their extreme stories of hour-long tantrums and emotional meltdowns; endless behavior modification, therapy appointments and medication woes. Wow, I think my life is tough!

I love my boys and would do anything to make their lives comfortable and happy; even if admittedly I hate the whole process. Tourette’s, however, is a whole other ball of wax. I remember that episode of Ally McBeal. People with Tourette’s are known to scream obscenities: “Bitch, Whore, Slut!” They do weird things like shout and bark uncontrollably. I read about it online. There is no medication to cure the tics associated with Tourette’s; no behavior modification. There is no treatment at all; you’re just stuck learning to cope with this peculiarity while trying to shield your child from being ridiculed by his peers and praying it goes away before college.

I don’t mean to be insensitive to those families who are dealing with this disorder. To the contrary, I hold these moms in the highest regard and revere their strength. I am acknowledging, however, that patience and maturity are not my fortes. Having “healthy” kids is hard enough. My behavior thus far indicates that I won’t be a good mom of a not-so-healthy kid. Every time Cole snuffles or blinks, I cringe inside. Sometimes I yell at him and tell him to stop or kids will make fun of him. Yesterday I threw a box of Kleenex into his lap and demanded that he blow his nose or I’d do it for him, knowing full well that his noises have nothing to do with needing a tissue. What kind of monster says this shit to a five year old who is clearly having coping issues?

Another fear of mine is that I will laugh at him. I know myself; I’m already the type of parent who stifles a giggle when my kid trips and falls (assuming he’s not hurt…too badly). How will I cope if my kid suddenly starts barking at the supermarket cashier? Just thinking about it makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time.

Our family is admittedly under a lot of stress right now. We relocated to RI from San Diego in October and the adjustment for Cole was tough. He left behind some great friends and a school he loved; not to mention our frequent trips to Sea World and the country’s best zoo. We started our time here in a temporary rental until we could buy a house and settle down. That time has come so in a few weeks we are moving again. Unfortunately the whole buying a house thing has been a HUGE source of stress for Mommy and Daddy (lesson #1 in home buying: never purchase a house from a couple getting divorced; lesson #2 in home buying: never purchase a house with a pool). I’m sure Cole is feeling some of this, along with his own stress of leaving behind yet more friends and another school he loves. I’m fairly certain this is the cause of his tic.

But what if it’s something more? Worse, what if it’s not? I’m either the mom of a kid with a serious but untreatable disorder OR I’m stressing my kid out so badly that he presently looks like a deranged bobble-head doll. Neither answer thrills me, but both make it clear that this family needs life-altering change. Of course I will have him evaluated before I change anything but I think this is yet another sign that I need to chill the fuck out.

No worries Mom, it's just a tic

For over a month now I’ve been writing here about my quest to enjoy motherhood. I’ve made some changes in the way I parent, mostly by taking control. I’ve also pledged to take better care of myself, but let’s face it: I’m trying to move and buy a house and raise two kids; self-care just isn’t a priority. I’m talking the talk, but the walk? Not happening…

Today while I watched my son’s tic being activated with record frequency, I realized that those other blogs were right: self-care is NOT optional. Life is particularly stressful right now but unfortunately life with kids is always stressful so I need to get my shit together. If my son has a serious disorder, he can’t have some crazy, stressed-out mom who can’t cope. He needs someone strong who will fight for him at every turn. If it’s not a disorder and just a sign of his own stress, then I need to be his rock and teach him how to manage that stress. So I get it now. Self-care isn’t about me; it’s about them. I guess that’s what it takes to light a fire under my ass. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do. I don’t have a grand plan yet though I have some ideas. I’ll be back in a few days to let you know. In the meantime, maybe I should try sniffing essential oils. What do you think???


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Table for Four Please

Posted in Food, Having fun on April 27th, 2012 by Kim

I remember sitting in a restaurant with my husband Chris, long before we had kids. At the table next to us sat a family of six: Mom, Dad and their four kids, ranging in ages from five to twelve, or so I guessed. They all sat, quietly enjoying their lunch, chatting back and forth with one another. Chris and I turned to the couple and asked “What’s your secret? Your kids are so well-behaved.” They sort of shrugged their shoulders and said their kids always behaved this well. I told Chris that if we have kids they’ll be equally disciplined, unlike those animals our friends have sired. Ah, such a foolish and naïve statement made by one who had yet to bear fruit…

Looking back I wonder if perhaps those kids were lobotomized because I’ve yet to see children so well-behaved in a restaurant, unless of course they have something electronic entertaining them. Or maybe those kids, like Lady Gaga, were born that way. The parents seemed to be sweet, quiet people, probably from the Midwest where values are more homegrown. These parents didn’t look like they’d ever caused anyone an ounce of trouble and the kids were following in their footsteps. If this was the secret, Chris and I were screwed. We are not laid back, sweet, trouble-free people. As I’ve mentioned here before, I come from a line of Italian women, which explains a lot if you’ve ever seen “The Sopranos.” My husband is of German descent– can you say intense? We met in a bar in Boston after way too many martinis; I as a newly divorced thirty-something lawyer and he as a 29 year old who was “in between careers.” He formerly worked as a bouncer on Landsdowne Street, where he’d been threatened at gunpoint, more than once. He was known to smoke cigarettes, drink Jack and Coke and wear faux leather pants. I was known to be buying bagels and coffee on a Sunday morning, still wearing the previous night’s high heels. We are not the type of people who breed and create sweet, innocent, laid-back off-spring. But we could hope, right?

When my first son Cole was born he was quite the chill baby – surprise! We brought him everywhere. As an infant he would sleep in his little bucket while we wined and dined, and our waiter ooh’d and aaah’d over his cuteness. Right after Cole turned one, I turned forty so my husband planned a vacation in Sonoma to celebrate. Cole accompanied us to wineries, fancy dinners, and even a loud bar in San Francisco where he slept in the ergo on my chest while I drank a scorpion bowl. We smugly attributed this to our parenting style: bring your kids everywhere and they will adapt! We scoffed at people who told as that having kids would change our lives. Not OUR lives. We must be doing it right.

Baby's sleeping. Let's hit the bars!

Then we had Gage. He blew our world apart and showed us what life with a baby is really like. Although we were still able to do our bucket trick when he was an infant, life quickly deteriorated as he got older. Going anywhere with him has always been a challenge to say the least. And although Cole was once as laid back as Bob Marley, he’s now got some fire in his belly thanks to his brother. Together they are like dynamite: explosive.

Every restaurant outing is a fucking nightmare. Take one night in February for example:  We went to a local restaurant/watering hole called Simply Simons. It’s the type of neighborhood joint where the fish and chips are salty and the clientele is saltier; where the wine list is short and the waitresses are even shorter (thank you osteoporosis!). It’s the type of place I desperately missed when I lived in Southern California. Not having had more than a ten minute conversation with my husband in two weeks, we were determined to have a nice night. Having no sitter on hand, we opted to bring the boys but decided to also bring an arsenal of entertainment: portable DVD player, iphones (to play Angry Birds or watch something on Netflix. You know, in case the DVD selection got boring), crayons and coloring books, trains, cars, snacks (yes snacks in a restaurant, in case the food didn’t arrive fast enough – I know, I know). These kids lacked nothing. We even sat near the jukebox so they could play with the buttons.

How was it you ask? It SUCKED. Gage stood up in his chair and began howling like a werewolf who just turned at the full moon. He wouldn’t stop. So we turned on a movie but he kept pushing the buttons on the DVD player and turning it off so now Cole’s whining and complaining, so Chris gave him his iphone so he could watch something on Netflix. This worked for a few minutes until he encountered the dreaded “buffer” (kids have no patience for buffering, have you noticed?). Gage sees his brother with a phone and wants one too so I offered up mine but he gets frustrated every 45 seconds because he’s really too young to refrain from pushing the buttons and eventually turning it off (didn’t we get that from the DVD player fiasco?). My husband and I ate and drank at record speed, so quickly that I didn’t even notice I’d had three glasses of wine. My husband too had several Jack and cokes; the booze coupled with the kids’ meals, the appetizers and our dinners all combined for a whopper of a bill, which at this place I would think impossible. When we finally got to the car I fell into my seat and said “Are you kidding me! We just spent $85 to eat in hell???”

Why do we bother? I’m not sure I know the answer to this question. In part it’s because I like to go out to eat. Sometimes I don’t feel like planning, cooking and cleaning up after yet another meal. It’s a lot of work you know! It’s also partly because I think my kids should learn how to behave in a restaurant so the more we go the more rote this will become, right? Wrong…so very, very wrong, as we have proven. It’s time to either change the status quo or give up on going out to dinner. My husband is fine with the latter; easy for him to say when I do all of the cooking. So we’ll change our strategy instead.

I decided to once again try the minimalist approach. It’s so far been successful with the toys and the food so I thought maybe it will work in a restaurant. Maybe, just maybe, all that crap we bring with us has the same overstimulation effect it has at home. I didn’t start out that way; I used to only bring a few toys with me, but they weren’t enough so I started bringing more and more; next thing you know we’re at Simply Simon’s with a useless DVD player, two whiny kids and two drunk parents. Let’s start from scratch and bring NOTHING.

Next trick: bribery. I told my five year old that if he behaved in the restaurant AND helped teach his brother how to behave, I would give him a sticker. Five stickers = one Power Ranger (please don’t point out my hypocrisy here…I’m aware and am ignoring it, thank you very much).  He was thrilled. Before we arrived at the restaurant we reviewed our plan. I asked him what “behave in a restaurant” means and he told me “sit quietly and don’t have any fun.” I’m impressed that he was willing to forgo fun for a mere sticker but I made sure to tell him he was allowed to have fun; he just wasn’t allowed to throw food, get up from the table, yell, stand up in his chair, scream, fight with his brother or harass fellow diners. I’m not sure what that leaves other than eating but we’d see.

I held my breath and walked into the restaurant with nothing but my wallet, car keys and cell phone (which I kept hidden – sorry kids, no Angry Birds today). I use the term “restaurant” loosely because it’s really more of an ice cream parlor. Those of you from Rhode Island know it well: Newport Creamery. It might seem wimpy to start here as it’s one of the most kid-friendly places on the planet but I certainly wasn’t going to experiment somewhere fancy, especially being completely unarmed. We sat down and ordered our food. I tried to be relaxed and not feel like we had to order our food immediately, then scoff it down without swallowing. The waitress brought over crayons and I sneered at them as they typically provided zero entertainment value for my kids, other than something to throw at one another.

Then something miraculous happened. Cole started to color. He focused all of his attention on his placemat, which featured an alien eating an ice cream cone. He colored that placemat like it was the Sistine Chapel.  Gage, seeing his older brother so engrossed, was content to race his one, lonely car up and down the salt shaker (he doesn’t go anywhere without Lightning McQueen). He even tried coloring like his brother. I don’t know if it was the sticker incentive, or the lack of anything else to do, or my “I’m not taking anymore of your shit” demeanor but whatever it was, it worked! We enjoyed lunch in a restaurant! I couldn’t believe it.

is that my son, coloring in a restaurant???

We’ve since gone out to eat several times and it’s not always seamless, though I will say that Cole quickly earned his five stickers. There are good times and there are bad times; better when there’s not a full moon. I’m starting to realize that that’s the best you can hope for when you have kids, unless you’re willing to give them Benadryl before every outing. Despite the name of my blog, I’m really not one for abusing controlled substances so I guess holding on to those good times and riding out the bad ones is the only way to go.   I do know one thing:  I will not give up going to restaurants, no matter how miserable it may be at times.  I refuse to give up everything I enjoy and permanently enter the world of kids.  That’s one place I’ll never survive.

who knew they liked ice cream?


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