Thursday, April 24, 2014

Parenting Through Cynicism

This post is dedicated to my children. Whom I love, though Loyal Readers of this blog may have the opposite impression. And one day, if they (my children) read through this blog, perhaps they will feel insulted. But then they will have their own kids and say Ohhhh, now I get it.

Because that's the thing. It's an unwritten rule (I think - hope?) among people who make fun of parenting on blogs that there's a single, underlying, unwavering truth: We love our kids to pieces. Like, so much it hurts and makes us a bit teary. But see, we don't need to blog about that. Everyone knows that. And since I live to entertain, it is much funnier to write about how you walked past the bathtub the other night and the following words came out of your mouth: "Do not put your foot in your brother's penis." (Just like that, the words rolled right off, without even thinking, like it ain't no thang.) Instead of "Gazing at my sleeping angels this morning. Nothing sweeter than these precious little faces! And, is that snot or saliva in her hair?" (See, I can't even through a pretend beautiful thought without snarking it up.)

So we write about the omg, exasperating, frustrating, when-is-it-bedtime, I can't believe I/they just did/said that moments, because parenting is often exasperating and frustrating and full of waiting for bedtime. (In the great words of the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey - before she died of influenza - haha, did you think I spoiled something? I haven't even caught up on the latest season yet! I'm just playin' wicha - anyway, she said "One forgets about parenthood. The on-and-on-ness of it." Oh yes.)

But there are some Important Things I've learned about parenting through cynicism. And this post seems especially relevant now, having just come off a (lengthy, oh-so-lengthy) Pesach break. Where there was lots of eye rolling and "is it bedtime (mine) yet?" and "I'm running away and never coming baaaaaack!!!!!" moments, but also lots of genuinely enjoyable, fun, beautiful, amazing moments. Like Nadav doing the mah nishtanah ("But Ima," he whispers before he starts, "I need to stand on a chair!") and our chol hamoed tiyulim, hiking through aquaducts and climbing on ruins and beautiful views and lots of ice cream and realizing during car ride conversations that - yay! - our kids have a really awesome sense of humor and are fun to be around, when they are not pelting each other with potato chips and carefully noting every unfairness that is hurtled in their direction. (Seriously, the Unfairness Log could wrap the earth seven times).

So here are some of the Important Things I've learned:

1. Know when to turn it off. A healthy dose of cynicism is crucial for helping you get through the day, but knowing when to turn it off is equally as important. When I was tiyuling with the goons, I wasn't thinking, "Wow thank God they are not fighting." I was honestly and totally enjoying myself, enjoying them. For who they are, not what they were or weren't doing.

2. Only be cynical about your own kids. An obvious one. In the same way that you can make fun of your family members but God help the stranger that tries to, don't be cynical about other people's kids and their lack of parenting skills.

3. Listen to the stupid stories. I really try (and sometimes it's hard, man, so hard) not to roll my eyes at some seemingly insignificant story from school or a guess-what-happened-in-my-TV-show-last-night! Because of this powerful quote (and no, not "Wait for the Ben & Jerry's to soften a little. It will make it much easier to scoop into a bowl or directly into your mouth.") This one, which I found out thanks to Google, originates from Catherine Wallace: “Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” (Italics are mine.) So true.

4. Don't be a killjoy. Yes, when they are telling really obvious, unfunny jokes or singing through their entire Pesach repertoire (and there are MANY, many Pesach songs), I am tempted to indulge a big, yelly PLEASE STOP!!!!! (that's the polite version). But then I think, so what? They are enjoying themselves, having fun, being silly. Unless it's destructive or at a headache-inducing noise level, kids gonna do lots of things that will amuse themselves and will most likely bother me. But that's okay. They are kids, for crying out loud (yes, something else they excel at). Let them be silly and amusing and annoying. I'll deal.

So that's some of the behind-the-snark here at ABA.

In other news, an amusing Pesach moment:

Nadav, looking horrified at the idea of "matzah pizza," tries to negotiate for real pizza. "Just a small one," he bargains. When that was met with a definitive no, he tried a tactic that had worked so well the week before Pesach: "But I will eat it outside! On the mirpeset!" He was confused and angry and saddened when I refused that, too. In the end, he settled for scrambled eggs. Again. I gave him poofahs for creativity, but that did not mollify him. Oh well. Now he's back to big pizza that we can even eat inside, so all is well.

Also!!! He totally gets ruins now! "פעם זה היה בית. עכשיו זה נשבר/Once this was a house. Now it is broken." Yep, that's about right.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Cheating Post

As some of you may know, I also blog over at Jewish Values Online. Normally, the posts are a mix of semi-serious and snark. However, this week's blog post was something that I think my snark-only ABA readers would enjoy. So, here is the link, if you haven't read it yet.

If you have, I apologize for posting a new post here that's really just an old post from somewhere else.

Is it naptime yet?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I've Done So Much for Pesach Already!

Read it and weep, ladies. And then save those buckets of tears cuz I'm coming over with celery. (That was trash-talk, Pesach style).

What I've Done So Far:

Thought: Hmmm, Pesach is coming.

Confirmed our Seder guests. (Two of Ariella's favorite aunts - Aunt Gitte and Aunt Talia, plus Uncle Jonathan, who Ariella will begrudgingly allow to come because Aunt Talia doesn't like leaving him alone for the holidays).

Imagined Pesach preparations. In my mind's eye, I saw myself cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming the toy boxes and buying the food. Perfect.

Opened my old Pesach lists. Note: This was not as easy as it sounds! My files were still on my old cmputer, necessitating me to:
1. Find the old computer
2. Find the power cord that matches the old computer
3. Turn on the old computer
4. Realize this is actually the old old computer which does not have my files on it
5. Find the newer old computer (NOC)
6. Find the power cord that matches NOC
7. Turn on NOC
8. Panic because NOC immediately switches to a blank, black screen, with only a non-blinking white cursor line in the upper lefthand corner.
9. Immediately text and then follow up with an urgent call to Donny to solve my problem.
10. Harumph that his only advice is "I dunno, wait a little bit, maybe it needs to charge first for a while."
11. Feel grumbly and enter DPM (deep panic mode) when I envision to make a Pesach sans list.
12. Feel sheepish when it turns out Donny was right. After about a half hour of being plugged it, NOC opened smoothly.
13. Found the files and uploaded them to SkyDrive.
14. Returned to regular "new" computer and printed Shopping List.
15. Perused my master Pesach list of our "haves and have-notes" and breathed a sigh of relief that after 14 years of making Pesach and spending thousands of dollars/shekel, the biggest thing we need this year is another milk bag container.

Pictured cooking the food. The mind's eye is an efficient and productive place.

Tomorrow: We (Read: I) actually buy some food. Mainly to satisfy Nadav's Four Questions: When will you buy things for Pesach, Ima? (Repeat three more times).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Funny Thing(s) Happened on the Way To Doing Homework

Almost every day, my children have homework. So you'd think it would come as no surprise when they return home from school with, you know, homework. You'd think they would be used to it. And yet. Every single time, homework is accompanied by severe bouts of moaning and kvetching, as if they walked into school completely unsuspecting, innocent children, and out of nowhere, HOMEWORK was hurled at them. So each day Doing Homework requires dramatics reminiscent of a prisoner on death row. Or of bath night.

Here's how the homework routine goes:

1. Complain
2. Negotiate for pre-homework TV time
3. Cry
4. Check email on way to getting pencil
5. Pencil is dull. Sharpen pencil.
6. Notice cows have returned to the hills across from our house
7. Go outside to moo at cows
8. Lie on floor
9. Use the bathroom
10. Check Webtop (class website)
11. Complain, louder
12. Cry, with tears
13. Lie in bed
14. Lie on couch
15. Ask for a pre-homework treat
16. Eat treat
17. Ask for a during-homework treat
18. Wash hands because treat made hands sticky/crumby/chocolatey
19. Whine
20. Moan, dramatically
21. Ask what's for dinner
22. Ask when we are having [insert favorite food] for dinner
23. Take out more pencils
24. Drop pencils on floor, breaking tips
25. Sharpen new pencil
26. Notice scratch on the wall
27. Become engrossed in toy/lint/piece of dirt
28. Wail about the unfairness of life in general, and homework assignments in particular
29. Sigh that Nadav is SO LUCKY that he doesn't have homework; ignore Mommy's repeated reminders that when you were 3.5, you also didn't have homework, and when Nadav is in school, he will
30. Sigh and finally take out books
31. Do homework

Note: The time it takes to do #1-30 is about 40,000x the amount of time it takes to do #31.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Thing is a-Coming

Fellow moms (and yes, I am addressing this post to the moms, because this is my blog and I'll stereotype if I want to), next Shabbat is one of Those weeks. You know the ones I'm talking about. It's one of the Get Your Kids to Shul on Time Definitely Not Too Late But Also Not Too Early for [a Thing.]

There are generally 4 categories of "a Thing":

1. Shofar blowing on Rosh Hashana

2. Listening to Parshat Zachor 

3. Kol Hanearim. While you've got wiggle room if you want to make it for hakafot (there are seven of the dang things, after all), you've got to time your shul-going just right to make it for all-the-kids-under-the-tallit-sniff-sniff kol hanearim. Which is after ... hakafah #7? (Why do I never remember?????) And woe unto you if you get to shul and hear, "Ad kan hakafah gimmel! Gimmel!" You've got a long way to go, baby. (And Daddy's shoulders can only handle about half a hakafah these days.)

3. Miscellaneous - including but not limited to: Hearing your son do A'anim Zemirot, (especially when the shul does it in the middle of davening and not at the end, very tricky) and candy throwing for bar mitzvah/Shabbat Chatan (especially when you are the ones BRINGING the candy and you start walking down the train tracks on Emek Refaim to get to Uncle Jonathan's shul and you realize 10 minutes in that you are walking the WRONG WAY down the tracks, and when you announce that fact in a shrieky sort of way, your daughter says, mildly, "Yeah, I thought we were, but I figured you knew what you were doing." I mean, sheesh, after 10.5 years of parenting, shouldn't she know by now that Mommy never knows what she's doing? Especially if it involves hairdos, conjugating numbers and directions?)

Anyway, the point is, you have to get to shul, and you certainly don't want to miss the Thing, but if you get there too early, you run the risk of blowing through all of your candy/toy cars/crackers/arm muscles during the Boring Pre-Thing Things (aka "prayer") and then during the actual Thing you have a kvetchy, bored, suddenly very LOUD child on your hands. And you wonder, once again, why no one has invented Shabbat-friendly Mind-Texting so your husband can alert you from shul. (You've got Mind Mail! "Almost at end of layning. Come now.") Or maybe a shul crier. (No, not my 3 year old). You know, someone who stands on the rooftop announcing loudly what they're up to inside.

Just this past week, Nadav and I tried to go to shul for his favorite part: the end. My heart sank as I walked in and through the looking glass saw everyone inside seated. Because you know what seated means. Seated means speech, which means it is a good - I mean bad - chunk of time before shul is over.

Anyway. So as for me, well, I'm just gearing up for this week's Thing. My bags are packed, my arms are ripped. Wish me luck and the magic of perfect timing. And if you are working on Mind Mail - hurry the heck up!!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It's Award Time!

The blog that brought you "Lowering Your Standards Every Day" now brings you ...

A Parenting Award!

Qualifications: You must have a child.

To win: Is your child alive? Fed? (Clean is optional but definitely not required).


The award is chocolate or candy (for you), directly from my Secret Candy Hiding Stash. (Where is that hiding place? I can't tell you but let's just say Mommy isn't reaching for the cleaning spray five times a day.) Come by any time to claim your prize.

No need to bring alive, non-hungry (despite what they claim) child for proof. I believe you.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Trouble With Tongues

With thanks to Rachel, who reminded me that this insane little episode in our lives would make a great blog post.

So you know how preschoolers are generally an easygoing, laid back crowd? With their "Sure, Mom, no problem. Whatever makes it easier for you" attitude?

Some things you may hear from the 3 or 4-year-old set:

"Oh we are out of my favorite cereal? No worries. I'll eat something else."
"I'll wear that. Of course."
"He can go first this time."
"You're right. It IS too dark and too cold to go to the park now. Perhaps another time?"
"Thank you."
"You're right I DO have to pee."
"I understand. I can't have that toy right now/eat cake for dinner/fly to America tonight/will a persimmon to appear in the fridge, using the formidable powers of my mind."
"Here - have some time with my toy. Sharing is awesome."
"Let me give you some privacy in there. I can wait."

Or, as we used to say back in the '90s: NOT!

But as crazy as your preschooler is, your bilingual preschooler is EVEN crazier! And I'm not talking about mangled sentences like, "Ani rotzeh show you mashehu cool." Or confusing "rhymes" with "translations." (No, "blue" and "kachol" do NOT rhyme.)

So last night, we had hot dogs for dinner. Nadav excitedly ran to the table when I announced "hot dogs are ready!" but then glanced disgustedly down at this plate. He was not, he announced, going to eat this plebian "naknikiah." He was promised HOT DOGS. I tried, in many various forms, to explain that a "naknikiah" is a "hot dog" in Hebrew. They mean THE SAME. They are THE SAME THING. No, he insisted. Mommy is holding out on delectable hot dogs -- how fun do they sound???? It is probably the most delicious thing ever! -- and trying to appease me with this sad, limp little "naknikiah."

Well, he did the only reasonable thing left to do: Ate the hot dog, realized how much he loved it and sent his compliments to the chef.

No, fool! As if! Are you even paying attention? He OF COURSE threw himself down on the floor with such force I was afraid there was going to be a Nadav-shaped hole in our floor and wailed. WAILED I tell you. Tears, streaming. The kind we save for "Mommy and Daddy are going out for a little here is an unsuspecting teenager to take care of you" or someone washing netilat yadayim before him. I offered him different dinner options (cereal, natch)  but he was not to be swayed. He was going to have HOT DOGS or die trying.

Finally, Ariella was able to calm him, using the age-old trick of offering him something completely random and irrelevant ("Do you want to rest in Ariella's bed?"). This shocked him, mid-wail, effectively taking the "outing" of his "shouting," leaving us only with the "sh."

He then agreed to eat cereal for dinner.

I was never more grateful than I was at that moment that "cornflakes," in Hebrew, is "cornflakes."