Monthly Archives: August 2009

Slow down, you move too fast

Once, in the days when my hair was less brittle and gravity had not had it’s way with my bosoms, I liked to think of myself as a cook.  I made homemade tomato sauce and baked bread and did equally astonishing feats of turning raw materials into identifiable meals.  I still bought plenty of sliced bread, of course, as cooking was more a cross between a science experiment and performance art than it was a way of life.  As a newly-minted adult, I liked the self-reliance I put on display every time I conquered phyllo dough or showed up at a pot-luck with a homemade bowtie pasta salad, rather than something sporting a grocery store price sticker.

Cooking trumped baking because I liked the creativity of wandering into my kitchen and thinking, “Hmmm.  What do I have and what can I do with it?”  Baking was too precise for my taste, too paint-by-number.  I liked to think of myself as a food artist of sorts.  Long before it was popular to blog about Julia Child, I spent many a long hour alone with my Moosewood Cookbook, playing with recipes.

By child number three, that conceit was knocked right out of me.  I was still throwing together dinners, but most days it was about minimizing my time in the kitchen.  I just didn’t have the time to putter about the kitchen, skinning garlic and whatnot.

A lot of meals come pre-done, you know.  I tell you this in case you haven’t been in a grocery store in the last seven decades.

I was “mom cooking,” as a relative described it, which consisted of a lot of opening various jars of this and cans of that.  The problem is that when you buy something in a can, they slip in a lot of things I don’t really want my family eating, like extra salt, sugar, partially hydrogenated something or another, sundry chemicals with complicated names that I vaguely suspect are not actual food items, and the ever-popular bisphenol-A.

So, I have been finding myself more frequently making stuff from scratch.  Baking muffins and that sort of thing.  But, I was getting resentful of the time it takes, because baking muffins from scratch is a whole hell of a lot more time consuming than buying them at Starbucks.

Where I cannot control the ingredients.

I decided the change that I needed was not to buy more or different ready made foods.  What I needed was a change in my attitude.  I needed to remember that food preparation can be an organic part of my day, not something to be alternately shown off or rushed through.  Just a pleasant part of my day.  Bread can be set out to rise after lunch, punched down after Zachary’s karate, re-kneaded in the early evening, and put in to bake during dinner.  And we will have fresh, sugar-free bread for lunches the couple of days.

I realize that I have this luxury because I am not working out of my home.  Even if I were, there would still be some things I could do to reduce our reliance on processed foods, but time moves at a different pace for me, even when I am writing, because I am at home.  So, I can start things the night before that turn into dinner 22 hours later.

Anyone who breaks into our house in the middle of the night is likely to find beans soaking in a bowl on the counter.

Don’t get me wrong – I know the time involved in this is coming from somewhere, and since I already don’t watch TV, it’s coming from time with my kids.  Yes, they’ll help me roll out tortillas, but let’s be honest, no three-year-old cares to spend two hours a day cooking and no five-year-old ought to be chopping onions.  I am hoping the baby gets better at deseeding tomatoes, because she made a mess of the last batch.

My progeny play about and fight and do art and otherwise entertain themselves while I spread food preparation out through the day.  I believe this is good.  They are forming their relationship with food, and I want them to know that food does not come individually wrapped in plastic with microwave instructions.  Since my change of attitude, Zachary has learned why it is that the Hebrews ended up with matzah because they didn’t let the bread rise.  The Exodus story suddenly made sense as he took his first peak at our rising dough.

We are not purists.  While our produce has been about 95% local all spring and summer, we are not locavores.  Winter will test our mettle, even here in California.  While I am working to reduce our meat intake, as the obscene amount of resources required to produce meat makes me feel dirty, we still are having some sort of flesh two nights a week.  I just try to make sure none is wasted and it is all raised as sustainably as possible.  While I like the idea of approaching food slowly, we’re still buying our pasta pre-made.  Come to mention it, since my tomato plants fell victim to the blight, we are also buying our sauce pre-made.  And, while I myself am more or less a Real Foodie, my husband will never get off the sauce.

But, I am making changes.* We are getting a waffle iron so that Zachary’s addiction Kashi waffles can be broken.  I feel torn about the non-stick surface, but life cannot be perfect, and I figure whatever machinery the Kashi folks use to make their waffles has its own issues.  There are other purchases I would like – a non-plastic container that keeps bread fresh and another for freezing loaves, jars for preserving beans – but they will have to wait.  Right now, I need to get myself a dutch oven.

It’s time for Benjamin to learn that baked beans actually get baked in an oven.

* Any suggestions on which types of dutch ovens, jars, or waffle makers to buy are much appreciated, here.

Stranger in a strange land

I moved to Los Angeles last spring, just at the end of my first trimester with my third child.  I was relieved to find an obstetrician I liked, but I was a little taken aback when I discovered where I was expected to deliver this child.

I was going to give birth in a hospital named after Ronald Reagan.

I was aghast.  Ronald Reagan, of all people.

“You know, a lot of people here revere him,” an acquaintance gently informed me.  Seriously?  All I could think of whenever Reagan’s name came up was the hoards of mentally ill people he condemned to a life on the streets when he kicked them out of hospitals.  But, apparently, growing up in California gives one a different perspective, one I couldn’t ever hope to understand.

I was acutely aware of being a stranger in a strange land.

The last year and a half has only underscored that fact.  I feel awkward much of the time, a woman out of her culture.  The billboards, the earthquakes, the designer sunglasses, and the pedicures all leave me slightly shaken at the end of a long day.  It is all so strange, even now.  Not better, not worse, but very, very different than Massachusetts, where I grew up, or Philadelphia, my last hometown.

Never have I felt more out of place in Los Angeles than this past week.  I emerged from my house Wednesday morning, expecting to see people gathered on street corners, huddled together in mourning for Senator Kennedy.  Yet, despite the news coverage, no one seemed particularly bothered.

I brought my son to camp, and people seemed to be going about their daily business.  No one was weeping, children weren’t waving little American flags, women weren’t tearing their clothes.

I mourn Senator Kennedy.  Yes, he made a mistake in his youth, a tragic mistake.  But he devoted his life to serving the people of Massachusetts and the people of the United States.  Yes, he was a rich, privileged man, but so was George W., and Senator Kennedy cared a hell of a lot more about the common man than did our esteemed former President.  Yes, he let a woman die due to drunkenness or negligence or a concussion.  But he spent his life expiating that sin, unlike –say, George W. – who killed a lot more people with his pointless war.  And Senator Kennedy tried to make the world a better place.

Bottom line.  Ted Kennedy tried to make the world a better place.  If that’s all they can say about me on my gravestone, it’ll be more than enough.

To those who are mystified why we are so sad, so bereft at the loss of this man, it must seem as mystifying as the adulation of Ronald Reagan is to me.  But I know there are some of you out there reading who understand.

Because I went to bed instead of writing a post

I’ve been wanting to write a post, but it didn’t get done.  It will be coming soon.  For now, may I just say that I feel a great sadness at the passing of Senator Kennedy?  You can take the girl out of Massachusetts, but you can’t take the Massachusetts liberal out of the girl.


Zachary has developed a fear of television.  Ever since the afternoon we stopped by our neighbors’ house and their five-year-old was watching Hannah Montana, in which some magician scared the living crap out of my son, he has been terrified of TVs.

This might sound like a great phobia for one’s child to have.  After all, how better to reduce the screen time than to have a kid who shudders with fear at the mere sight of a flat screen?  However, there are two exceptions to Zach’s telephobia: his home TV and the one at Grandma’s house.  He has come to the conclusion that those televisions are to be trusted, as the adults have carefully pre-screened whatever we Tivo for him.

If his terror of televisions does nothing to reduce his passion for the tube at home, it has rendered his a ball of nerves the rest of the time.  Until you have lived with a five-year-old who quakes in his Keens every time he sees a television, you just cannot possibly realize how ubiquitous they are.  Not only are they found in Denny’s and Target, but they slip a little security monitor up onto the wall at Whole Foods, as well.  It is rough convincing the poor child that it is just a video of the front door and nothing frightening is likely to pop up, unless some dude gets hopped up on gluten and robs the joint.  We had a close call at the bike shop when we went to replace the stroller tire, but the guys there patiently explained that their set could not possibly suddenly display scenes of blood and gore, as it was completely busted.

Mind you, his brother is not much better.  Just last week, I took Benjamin hiking, which in L.A. seems to involve panting up dusty hillsides, trudging from one patch of shade to another through the scorching sun, all the while keeping an eye out for poisonous snakes and mountain lions.  Benjamin was all psyched up, hoping to see some animals, having announced to me that morning, “If I see any scary animals, I’ll shout ‘Go away, Sam!’”

No, I do not know why the animals were all to be named Sam.

As we hiked, I was a bit on edge, having a strong antipathy towards slithery animals with fangs, but it was completely silent as we made our sweaty way through the hillside.  That is, until a three-inch lizard came darting across the path, making us both jump.  Ben screamed in terror, refused to take another step forward, and looked around anxiously all the way to the bottom, where he spent twenty minutes sitting at a picnic table, happily watching a mole climb in an out of a hole.

For the rest of the day, he would periodically furrow his brow and say, “That hiking was not good.  I don’t like the lizards.  Why the gorillas far, far away?”

OK, so hiking and television are out.  That’s OK, because fortunately, there is still Disneyland.  With a little research, we are able to plan the perfect day trip, assiduously avoiding Snow White but enjoying the pleasures of that silly boat that goes into the mouth of the whale.  We had such a day together on Sunday, even managing to bring the baby along, although she did sleep through all of A Bug’s Land. We have season passes, so I plan on going back again with the boys in a few weeks.

“You know,” I told my husband on the ride home, “I think when I take the boys in two weeks, we’ll keep just to Adventureland and Frontierland, since we didn’t get to those today.”

“Sounds good,” he whispered, trying not to wake the snoring three-year-old and silent baby in the middle row.

“And maybe I can actually convince them to go to The Pirates of the Caribbean.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” he replied.  “They’re kind of fearful right now.”

“Oh, I think it’ll be OK,” I responded.  “I’m pretty sure there aren’t any televisions or lizards.

In my mind

Every now and then, by happenstance, I come across a song or a smell that reminds me of an emotion I once had but that I have long since forgotten I am capable of feeling.  A taste or a color that brings forward with startling clarity the me I once was, before I became whatever facsimile of an identity I am right now.

Jen posted this on Facebook, and I cried as I watched it.  Because somewhere inside of someone’s wife and several people’s mother, I have to believe there is still the girl I was back when I would go to concerts and flirt with people I didn’t know or care to know and climb ladders with a wrench in hand to tighten a lighting instrument just because I wanted to face down my fear of heights.  Back when my best friend and I would listen to JT while we gossiped and polished our waitressing sneakers.

I love my family, and I love being there for them.  But sometimes I go to Carolina in my mind.

Yes he is the muffin man

Having made yet another batch of muffins, only to have them rejected because there are drops of apricot preserves instead of raspberry, I was about ready to throw in the towel.  Not into the muffins, of course, although towels are about the only thing I have not yet tried to bake into muffins.

Zachary, you may recall, is a picky eater.  I use the term “picky” rather loosely, as it implies that he sometimes does pick something.  Most of the time, frankly, he seems to survive on air and carbohydrates.  Hence the muffins.  A clever mother can sneak a surprising amount of stuff into a muffin, disguised as yet another round of carbs.

This kid would give Dr. Atkins heart palpitations, assuming the good doctor’s steady diet of red meat and eggs hasn’t already done his ticker in.

The problem is that there’s something wrong with every muffin recipe I can find.  When muffins are the main source of one’s child’s caloric intake, one tries to make them as healthful as possible.  I want a recipe with no sugar, lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low saturated fats.

Zachary can detect any grated fruits and veggies, which was his reason for rejecting last week’s muffins, so I puree them, but that throws off the consistency.  For years I have been finding recipes and then tinkering with them, never fully satisfied with the results.  And it grows more complicated as I try to steer away from canned goods, due to my reluctance to feed my kids Bisphenol-A.   (If there’s a Bisphenol-B, I’m pretty sure I want to avoid that one, too.)  Not that I can put canned pumpkin in the muffins anyway, given Lilah’s squash-induced hives, which also rule out zucchini.

It becomes a problem worthy of Socrates after awhile.

And then it occurred to me: I have been making a batch of muffins every week for four-and-a-half years.  I am a reasonably intelligent woman.  I’ll bet that, with some trial and error, I could design my own pureed vegetable, honey sweetened, BPA-free, squashless, olive-oil moistened, whole grain muffins.  With no nuts.  Or raisins.  Or apricot preserves.

Hell, I’ll bet with some practice I could figure out how to get protein in there while still adhering to the school’s no-nut policy.  Especially since my kid is one of the children that policy is designed to protect.  But it’ll have to be beans, since I am trying to cut back on our processed soy and meat intake.  And because beef would be kind of weird in carrot-bran muffins…

I will be posting from time to time, letting you know our progress.  It may be deadly dull, and for that I apologize, but it may also yield some lovely recipes.  Feel free to contribute with ideas and suggestions.

We’re going to be going through a lot of honey around here.  In glass containers, of course.


Recipe one:

1 cup white flour

¼ cup whole wheat flour

1 cup oatmeal, run through food processor

tablespoon baking powder

teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

2 carrots, pureed

1 peach pureed, with skin

½ cup honey

½ cup olive oil

1 cup milk

2 egg

At the last minute, Zachary asked me to put dollops of raspberry jam in, whereupon I extracted a promise from him that he would actually EAT the muffins if I put jam in.  Usually, such fancy-pants tinkering renders them unacceptable.

The muffins were pretty good but too moist, which he doesn’t mind too much but dissatisfies me. I need to realign the wet/dry balance.  Next time, I think less milk, as the pureed peach is very moist.  And perhaps a teaspoon of baking soda so they aren’t so dense.

Damned if he didn’t say he couldn’t eat them because of the fucking jam.  Next time, no godforsaken jam.

In real life

Zachary’s newest obsession is figuring out whether or not things happened in real life.  I suppose I could get into an existential discussion with him, pondering the definition of “real life,” but I suspect the kid is just trying to sort through which boogeymen he ought to worry about climbing in his bedroom window.

“Mommy,” he began on the way to camp last week.  “You know there are such things as pirates in real life.”  I wanted to reassure him that, no, there are no pirates.  However, the only currency I have with my kids is that they know I always tell them the truth.

“Yes, there are a few,” I told him.  “But not here.”  This last part is my standard refrain whenever he worries about coyotes, tornadoes, or plagues of locusts.

“Yes, they aren’t here.  They are mostly by the ocean.  And they only bother you if you bother them.”  Apparently, he has confused pirates and wasps.

Hazarding a guess as to the origins of this conversation, I brought up David Shannon’s How I Became a Pirate. “And that little boy shouldn’t have talked to them, should he have?”

“Yes,” he responded, blowing off my point.  “But, grandpa explained that the pirates now are mostly just trying to steal things.”

OK, now we are at the root of the issue.  You see, when we were in D.C., four months ago, there was a picture in the paper of some pirates who had been apprehended.  And Grandpa, taking the whole truthfulness thing a bit far, explained the entire story to Zachary.  And that little tidbit has been percolating for four months as he mulled over the possible threat to his well-being from modern-day pirates.

Note to Grandpa: the next time he asks you about an item in the newspaper, no matter the actual topic, the only acceptable answer is, “It’s a story about four cuddly kittens.”

My recession baby

Everyone knows that parents of kids with summer and early fall birthdays face a dilemma the year their kids turn five.  Hold or send?  Send or hold?  Some kids are physically mature enough but socially immature.  Others have the social thing down but can’t handle the academics.  And still other five-year-olds are reading on a tenth grade level and teaching an SAT prep class but won’t be able to keep up at recess.  Such are the drawbacks of the late summer/early fall birthday.  However, there is another deeper, more heart-wrenching challenge these kids face.

The birthday party.

Will anyone come to the party if it’s in the middle of the summer?  Who do you invite to a birthday party when the new school year has just begun – the old class, the new class, or all 45 of them?  And can the child enjoy himself at a party with a group that hasn’t been playing together for two months, or will he get completely overwhelmed by a group dynamic that has grown unfamiliar?

You people whose kids were conveniently born in March and April have no idea how easy you have it.  By spring, even if you are in the “Invite the Whole Class” camp, you can keep the numbers reasonable by just inviting the current class plus kids from past classes with whom your child has remained friends.  Those of us facing JulythroughSeptember birthdays still have to include the last year’s class, and, since the new preschool class has just begun, we also need to include the whole new class.

This is how we ended up having Benjamin’s third birthday party at one of those kiddie gym places where there is plenty of room, plus a staff that flies the kids around on zip wires and leads them in a rousing game of throw-balls-at-the-adults.  We simply could not fit twenty kids plus their adults at our house unless everyone took turns sitting on the roof.

But, HOLY SHIT are those places expensive here in Los Angeles. Perhaps you have been to one in your hometown of Boise or Baltimore or Brighton.  Lemme tell you something: those places cost twice as much in L.A.

Like every fucking thing else.

We spent three times on Benjamin’s birthday party what I think the outer limit of a kid’s birthday party ought to be.  And we felt suckered into it, because we did not want to exclude children.  We find the practice of inviting some three-year-olds but not others can really bruise feelings, so we invited both last year’s class and the brand-new-one.  We just couldn’t see a way out of inviting thirty-three kids, which meant we ended up spending (cough, cough) on that damned party.

Imagine our relief when Zachary told us that for his fifth birthday, he wanted a party in the backyard with six friends.  And that he wanted to do recycled art.  And he wanted Daddy to make the cupcakes.

“You can have one fancy thing,” I told him.

His eyes got wide, almost afraid to ask.  “Can I have Pin the Tail on the Donkey?”  Yes, child, you can indeed have Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

We decided to do the party in the middle of August, even though his birthday is not for a few weeks.  It was a little hard deciding how many to invite, because we had no idea how many would come, but on Sunday, we had six guests plus our three kids.  Some parents dropped off, but most stayed.  We hired the thirteen-year-old from up the street to run the art table.  We had been saving toilet paper rolls, boxes, and egg cartons for months, and Zach had helped cut out hundreds of magazine pictures for collages, to be done on the backs of those cardboard rectangles that the cleaner uses to fold my husband’s shirts.

Grandma and Grandpa flew in for the event, as the birthday boy had called in March just to invite them.  That’s my kid – always planning ahead.

It was probably the cheapest birthday party in West L.A. this entire summer, even though we splurged and bought a piñata that we filled with Hot Wheels and Hershey Kisses.  It was also just the party that Zach wanted.  Small, calm, and topped off with a suspenseful game of Pass the Parcel.

It was one of those rare days I get to feel like I am doing it right.DSC05403


I do not drink alcohol when I am pregnant or breastfeeding.  Now, keep in mind that I have been trying to conceive, pregnant, or breastfeeding since 2003, with only a few months off here or there.  It seems that as soon as I regain custody of my tatas from one child, I relinquish rights to my womb to another.

What all this means is that – when I finally do wean Lilah – I am going to be a mighty cheap date.

I miss drinking.  I do.  Not in the I-need-a-drink-before-I-begin-ripping-of-my-fingernails-and-howling-at-the-moon kind of way.  More in the wouldn’t-a-glass-of-wine-every-now-and-then-be-lovely kind of way.  I was just never that heavy a drinker before, although I had my mid-twenties like everyone else.  By the time I was trying to get pregnant, I was largely over hard liquor.  I just didn’t need that nasty, bile-filled kind of feeling in my belly.

Beer?  I am just going to say it, even though it means Anheuser-Busch will probably pull my sponsorship.  Beer tastes disgusting.  I cannot believe anyone likes it.  I am to this day convinced it is an Emperor-has-new-clothes type of phenomenon, with people just faking a desire to drink that swill in order to impress others, who in turn are afraid to admit their uncool antipathy towards sharp, carbonated liquid that smells like piss.

But I like wine. Red wine, to be precise.  Shiraz.  Merlot.  Brunello.  I am no sommelier (that’s, like, a wine expert), but I know what I like.  Remember that my father did write the definitive book on building one’s own wine cellar.  I may think he’s an ass, but I obviously inherited something from him other than the dashing good looks and the propensity to over-think things.

When Lilah weans, I will clean out those dusty glasses that hang out on the top shelf of my cabinet and sometimes pour myself a small glass of wine while I make dinner.  Actually, it will be a big glass because I like the way the large glasses breathe, but there won’t be much wine in it.  I am taking care of three kids.  I am cooking.  I’m not an idiot.  But, I don’t think a few sips of wine when I am not driving anywhere will hurt anyone.

Nor do I think an occasional glass of wine at dinner sets a bad example.  To the contrary – I worry that my kids don’t get enough of an example of a responsible way to handle alcohol.  I am relieved my father-in-law does sometimes have a drink around the kids, so they can see that adults have a first glass now and then without needing to have a second glass.

Everything in moderation, folks.  Everything in moderation.  Show your kids that alcohol can be used responsibly – I’m all for that.  Enjoy an adult beverage, because, shit, you’re an adult.

Should you get behind the wheel of a car after drinking?  Hell, no.  We make a show of one adult asking the other, “Will you drive home?” before even ordering a drink.  Should you get sloshed in front of your kids?  Absolutely not, and if you are, then I think perhaps seeking some help is in order.  In fact, I sort of think that getting piss drunk and waking up with someone else’s panties on ought to be behavior reserved for weekends away from the children.  A drunk adult would be useless during a middle-of-the-night fire, and parents have to think about the safety of their kids.

I am thrilled that the blogosphere has given those who need it a safe place to admit they need help.  I am also angry that the Mommy Bloggers are being attacked for writing about drinking.  There is no shame in wanting a drink now and again.  There is nothing wrong with referencing alcohol in one’s writing as a way of bemoaning the stress of parenting and the wish that perhaps we were young and hip again.  Because we’re not.  We’re old farts with little screaming people to take care of.  And sometimes, we’re allowed to go out with our girlfriends for a drink.

Or, in my case, a quarter of a drink, since any more than that and I’m likely to start swinging from the light fixtures.

Stop and squeeze the fingers

Zachary is in camp every morning, living it up with his peeps as they tie-dye shirts and holler “What time is it Mr. Fox?”  It starts so early that I leave the other two kids – still pajamaed and just sitting down to breakfast – with our au pair while I drive my eldest to UCLA’s campus.  He chatters in the car.  Pretty much incessantly.  About so much shit that, later in the day, I will find myself trying to multi-task: drive, carry on a conversation, and think about something I actually give a crap about at the same time.

Much as I hate to admit this in public, a good chunk of the time I just don’t care about what my kids have to tell me.  I know I am supposed to be enamored of every word that comes out of their mouths, provided it isn’t obnoxious, but good lord, my kids never shut up.

Zachary’s earnest chatter is charming, and first thing in the day I usually am interested in a good deal more of what he has to tell me than I am by evening time.  We have some serious conversations about why one shouldn’t put things in one’s ears and the way that Winnie the Witch got caught in a traffic jam because there were no stop lights in a book that his friend, James, owned back when we lived in England a year and a half ago.

He gets out of the van, still talking, as we arrive at camp, and I am relaxed as I take his hand in mine.  I am not feeling anything urgent, which sounds strange except for the fact that usually I am.  Usually I am hurrying or tense or frustrated or something intense.  So, the absence of that kind of stress is worthy noting as I walk my son to his camp group, easily carrying on a conversation with him.  I am not trying to mediate between warring parties or skin carrots or figure out how to fit their haircuts plus Benjamin’s requisite three-times-a-week swimming into our schedule.  I am just chatting with my kid as I walk him to camp.

Sometimes, I squeeze his hand.  A series quick squeezes, returned in the exact same pattern.  We’ve never talked about this game we play while holding hands – a call and response that amuses us both for our very refusal to acknowledge it.  Lately, Benjamin and I have begun this game, too, but neither boy knows that I do it with his brother.

Zachary is so easy to drop at camp or school.  There is no clinging, no crying.  He just sits down to the activity, eager to get going, after giving me a sweet little kiss.  I take comfort in this, hoping it is a sign that he is secure and I haven’t fucked him up too much yet by being a rolling ball of anxiety tied up with a bow of impatience.

Then I go home, trying to quietly sneak my purse in the door so I can go running before I need to take on one or both of the other children.  Already, I am testy if one of the kids sees me, screwing up the schedule because now they want my attention.

By 9:30, I am ready to take on the younger kids.  Some days, I have both, but I have arranged our au pair’s schedule so that Benjamin and I can have several mornings a week just for the two of us.  We go here or there – the science museum, a playdate at the beach.  As we get out of the car, we play a little game.  I squeeze his hand, a few quick times.  And he returns the pattern, giggling a little.  Neither boy knows I play this game with the other one, too.  If they find out, I’ll know you told them.

Ben is so enthusiastic about everything, even his anger.  Our mornings together are delightful as we jump in waves.  Yet, I find myself getting impatient as the morning wears towards lunchtime.  Three-year-olds, they repeat themselves a lot.  They ask the same question 79 times, just to see if the answer is going to be the same each time.  While it’s adorable to hear about the “big, BIG puppet” time and again, it’s less amusing to have to respond to “Mommy, why we got two Diego cups?” every twelve minutes for three days running.

And he gets bored so goddamned easily.  Now, don’t get me wrong, he’s actually quite self-sufficient about amusing himself.  But, unfortunately, what he calls “entertainment” is usually classified as “destruction of property” or “self-mutilation” by everyone else.  He needs to be doing something all the time, and if not provided with an activity that he likes but that the adults deem acceptable, he jumps off of things or dumps out things or breaks things.

Not to mention that he fucking whines all the time.

Which is all to say that only a portion of our special mornings together is actually any fun for me.  I want to be having these delightful adventures, filling his bottomless cup with the affection he never tires of.  Our trip to the puppet show was like that.  But, then, the next day, he is bursting into tears at every provocation and complaining all the time and I am testy and I wonder why the hell we are doing this.

I want so badly to believe that he needs to behave like this, to let off the steam in the time we are alone together.  I want to think that our time together is helping him in ways I just haven’t seen yet.  I want to convince myself I am helping them grow up happy and secure.

In truth, there is no fucking way to know whether we are good parents or bad parents.  We all lack perspective on what we do with our kids.  Are we yelling too much?  Being too lax?  Inconsistent?

And how much is too much?

So, I do what I can do, and I hope they will remember the wave-jumping and the patient conversations, not the frustration at 6:45 when I yell at them to stop interrupting me for a minute so I can get a sentence out because really, did you need to tell me right at this moment that earthquakes are strong?  At 8:15 A.M., I honor how, to them, the things they have to tell me are important.  When I am doing the dinner dishes and they are leaping off of furniture and the au pair is trying to catch them to brush their teeth, I snap and it must cut them to the quick.

By the time this goes to post, it’ll be another day, and there will be a whole new batch of patience waiting somewhere inside me.  But as I write this, late at night, I am numb.   And I’ll tell you something I find both frightening and shameful:

I’m so busy getting to the next part of the day, so busy making sure my kids are enjoying themselves, that I am having very little fun with them myself.  I just hope like hell that perhaps they don’t notice.