Sunday, March 29, 2009

ISO Research

Like many parents, I find answering questions about death totally unnerving.
So when we passed by the graveyard on our way home from a grocery store run today, I gritted my teeth for more four-year-old questions.
I didn't have to wait long.
"Mom," said Elizabeth, "After you die, your body goes into the ground and your body goes to Heaven?"
"Yes," I replied. "It's like wearing your heavy winter coat on a beautiful spring day like today. You'd be really hot, right? You'd want to take it off. When your spirit goes to Heaven, you leave your body behind like that old winter coat."
Silence from the backseat.
"But mom," said E., "are you old or young when you get to Heaven?"
I pondered that moment, picturing myself in my 1989 hairdo, a white robe and angel wings.
"I didn't know the answer to that one," I said. "Few people report back once they get to Heaven," I said.
"Well," said Elizabeth with a giggle in her voice, "I guess you can't find that information on the Internet!"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Man v. Food

Adam Richman eats crazy foods in crazy amounts for a living on the Travel Channel's televised series, "Man v. Food."
My husband, a culinary daredevil, watched entranced earlier this month as the cable host attempted to eat a seven-pound burrio without throwing up. Mr. Richman has also been known to suck down a dozen milkshakes, several piles of pancakes, layers of crabs peppered in insanely hot spices, etc. In addition to enjoying severe indigetion, the chief reward appears to be earning his name atop a hand-scrawled list at the local joint in which served the meal. (Not to mention a handsome paycheck from the Travel Channel.)
But I have task that will make those meals look like kiddie lunchbox fare: Adam Richman, I challenge you to try--just try--to swallow two prenal vitamin pills without vomiting.
To the unindoctrinated, this might sound easy.
However, as someone who has endured--and uncermoneiously "rerouted"--several versions of prenatal pills, I assure it is an assignment not to be taken lightly.
Before we begin, we must treat Mr. Richman to some local color--and that color in the first several months of pregnancy is, of course, green.
We'll serve him eight to ten vodka shots per day for four weeks prior to the challenge so as to simulate the nausea that afflicts those who consume prenatal pills on a regular basis.
Just before downing the pills, he'll then spin himself in circles for upwards of 15 minutes and/or ride a Tilt-a-Whirl to level the playing field further.
Next, our fair host will eat some bad shellfish topped with overly sweet Rocky Road ice cream.
Finally, we'll ask him to swallow the pills.
Despite advances in modern medicine, I regret to inform our contestant that the majority of prenatal pills are the size of Mini Cooper cars.
It must also be noted they smell like poop and are the consistency of chalk.
If our host doesn't choke on the mere size or smell of the pill, he'll find it will lodge at the back of his throat like an errant chicken bone.
No amount of water of milk will be able to wash away its presence.
Then, it is time for the DHA supplement, which apparently aids brain development in fetusus but causes most pregnant women to pray for an out-of-body experience.
Unfortunately, the pill is packaged in a floating, round disc and is oily.
This, is combination with the gigantic first pill, causes problems for those with even legendary iron stomachs.
We are not unkind, however. We will promise to stage the challenge in a bathroom laid with cool tile flooring, which we are sure Mr. Richman will enjoy pressing his forhead against following his consumption of said pills.
Of course, we will open keep the toilet lid open at all times.
Should Mr. Richman perform admirably--and we do hope he'll master this mission--we will treat him to plastic surgery that will include implanting an eight-pound bowling ball into his gut.
Mr. Richman, let me know when you're ready for the challenge--I'll be happy to share my supply of prenatal pills with you.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Good Enough Parent

When Mrs. C., one of our favorite preschool teachers, learned we were adding a third child to our family, she congratulated my husband and I with hugs. Then, she made an observation that made me do a double take.
“Three children is the perfect number of children,“ she said, you won’t have any room for perfection.”
As a highly regarded 16-year veteran of our school’s staff and the mother of five successful children, Mrs. C. seems to perceive the notion as highly problematic for everyone. Striving to be the best you can be is the right path, she argues, but perfection does not allow the natural failings that builds our negotiating and coping skills--keys to true lifelong success and happiness.
How I wish I’d had this sage wisdom when my twins were born.
At the time, I approached parenting with the philosophy that the harder you tried, the better things would turn out. Such an outlook served me well professionally but I learned quickly it was downright silly when it came to rearing babies and managing what evolved into a busy family life.
No matter how perfect I tried to be, I could not force my charges to conform. Oh, I tried--I even called in reinforcements--but in the end, I ended up exhausted and defeated--with unhappy babies.
Five years into my parenting experience, I know better. Thanks to trial-and-error, I’ve learned that being a Good Enough Parent is much more fulfilling--and much more fun--than being a Perfect Parent.
Here’s what I’ve learned in brief.

1. Sleep when the babies (and toddlers) sleep. If you’re exhausted, you’re no good to anyone.

2. Try breastfeeding, ask for help from a lactation consultant if you struggle, but don’t feel ashamed or even bummed out if it doesn’t work out with twins. Plenty of formula-fed people grow up to do amazing things.

3. Keep everyone on the same schedule. To do otherwise is to sacrifice your own sleep and, thus, your well-being. Again, you can’t help others if you are a mess.

4. Find a sleep book you like to offer strategies and stick to it for three months. Without a routine, your wakeful nights could continue for years.

5. Call all those people who offered to help you before the babies were born and give them specific tasks you’d like them to help you with, ie. “ironing,” or “cleaning out the fridge.” Don’t worry, in a few years you’ll be in the position to give back.

6. If you run out of people to call and still need aid, raid the savings to hire good help. Low-interest college loans are readily available in the future but you’ll never forgive yourself if you fail to enjoy your babies and young children due to complete exhaustion.

7. Fast food is no longer a sin and downright imperative if you want to eat more than PB&J during your first two (or three) years of twin parenthood. Try the Dinner Station which assembles homemade frozen entrees for you, the prepared aisle of the grocery store, or chains like Baja Fresh which go beyond burgers and fries.

8. Give up the spotless house--your kids won’t remember it anyhow. Instead, give yourself two twenty-minute windows of “house homework” per day. Work on hygiene--the bathrooms, the kitchen, the laundry. (If your mother-in-law is coming, spray some Lysol in the air just prior for that just-cleaned scent.)

9. Take the children out of the house once per day, even if you’re just going around the block in the buggy.

10. Call one girlfriend from your previous life every couple of days even if you can only talk for eight minutes. If you neglect them, you won’t have anyone to go to coffee with when the kids start preschool.

11. Make new momma friends at the public library, the park and the swimming pool. These women know exactly where you are in life and can offer strategies on how to make more of your mothering experience.

12. Invite your husband to join you in the bedroom for more than “Jeopardy.” He won’t mind your new cooking and housekeeping techniques if “dessert” is served regularly.

13. Find a reliable grown-up babysitter and teach her to put your kids to bed. This will free up your evenings throughout elementary school while ensuring your children get the rest they need.

14. Find three inexpensive tween babysitters who live nearby and can jog over at a moment’s notice to keep your kids busy while you take down the Christmas decorations, clean out the garage, bake a truffle. These girls will soon move on to boyfriends and play practice, so invest in several people.

15. Find a discipline strategy that is reasonable for both you and your spouse. Aim for consistency.

16. Remember that even if you have a bad afternoon--or day--you can start over the following day. Remind yourself that kids don’t remember much before the age of five.

17. Don’t stress over potty training. Few teenagers go to college in Pampers.

18. Don’t stress over pacifiers. Your twins might end up with horizontal teeth, but they’ll fall out eventually.

19. Do check out what appear to be developmental delays. Your pediatrician, day care provider and schoolteachers will be able to guide you to service providers who can offer more detailed assessments. Tackle any issues with super-human strength.

20. Take lots of photographs and keep a journal or calendar to load up with memories. The days--and years--blur together quickly.

21. Carve out family time and family rituals--even small things like lunchbox notes build lifelong relationships.

22. Make birthdays a huge deal. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this and your kids will long remember being cherished above all else.

23. Trust your instincts. You’re usually right.

24. Take your birth control pills unless you’re absolutely, positively ready to add another family member to your clan.

25. Savor the good times, learn from the bad and know that life only happens once.