Living with Zombies

I am among the hordes of television viewers anxiously awaiting the new season of AMC’s The Walking Dead to start. There’s just something about seeing a diverse group of people figure out how to defeat constant attacks by zombies, constant threats by fellow humans, and constant shortages of food (and formula) all while remembering to hold onto their humanity. Oh, and Michonne’s sword skills and Daryl’s improbable hairstyle don’t hurt either.

But in the meantime, if you have children, you really are getting your daily fix of zombie ruled worlds. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself if these zombie traits sound at all familiar:

1. Zombies won’t listen to reason. In fact, they really don’t listen to you at all.

2. Zombies are constantly hungry yet never want to eat what you wish they would.

3. Zombies are very clingy and never want to leave you alone. Whether you’re in the bathroom, laundry room or needing to pick up food at the grocery store, they’re always trying to stay close and make you rush faster through your day than you want to. Sometimes you just want to get away.

4. Their clinginess can be explained by the fact that zombies depend on you for their survival. Sure, they need to feed on your body to survive, but what breastfeeding mom can’t relate to feeling like her body is sometimes just a buffet?

5. Because of zombies, you are exhausted, hungry, un-showered and you haven’t had a pedicure in ages.

6. The arrival of zombies is a life-changing event. They make you immediately learn a lot about your strengths and weaknesses and they also help you understand the value of being very, very quick.

7. But in the end, no matter how difficult zombies can be, they’re worth it. Well, at least for viewers of The Walking Dead.

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The Importance of Lying About Food

When I was a kid, I was a little shit. Not all the time, of course. Maybe not even for a majority of the time. But for the times I remember, and I remember them well because they’re often the times my family remembers well enough to talk about years and years later, I was definitely a little shit.

A perfect example of my childhood jerkiness was my preference for baked chicken. Why, that’s not so horrible, you may be thinking. No, it’s not. And it’s not even horrible that I truly loved the baked chicken my parent’s friend Marcie made when we went to her family’s house for dinner. The horribleness was when I insisted that I ONLY would eat Marcie’s baked chicken, not my mother’s. Still, not so out of the norm, right? Except for the fact that Marcie’s baked chicken WAS my mother’s baked chicken straight from HER recipe box. It tasted exactly the same with all the same ingredients and yet there I would sit at our dining room table, cross my arms and proclaim that my mother’s baked chicken wasn’t as good as Marcie’s, which again, WAS my mother’s, and therefore I would not be eating it. Yep, I was a little shit.

Somehow, instead of throwing that baked chicken on my head, my parents instead decided on a different tack. My mother would come out of the kitchen with the baked chicken and declare that we were having “Marcie’s baked chicken” for dinner. We, the Gordons, would pretend to be the Goelmans. My sister, Debi, would pretend she was Marcie’s daughter, Debbie (yes, they were both Jewish daughters named in the 1970’s, how’d you guess?). And I would be mollified enough to eat Marcie’s baked chicken. Which was really my mother’s, twice over.

I cringe thinking back on what my parents went through to get me to eat a healthy homemade dish, but I realize it’s not so very different with what I go through with my own children. For instance, my son doesn’t eat many vegetables. Never has and despite my following many instructions of many “How to Get Your Child to Eat Vegetables!” blog posts, it just didn’t happen. But one time we were at a party with him and those mini quiches from Costco, baked in the oven, were served. Because my son couldn’t say ‘quiche’ I told him they were ‘egg pies’ and to come try one. My husband blew on one and gingerly put it to our son’s lips as our son made a face. Until he took a bite. And his eyes opened wide with the realization that such manna from heaven existed. And he also must have come to the conclusion that he must eat all that manna at once because he downed those little suckers like nobody’s business. I couldn’t even look the hostess in the eyes when I saw how little she had left after his rampage. But he was full and happy and when you have a picky eater any new food they will digest is a time to feel good.

Later that week I decided to be the genius mother I was always meant to be and made a regular size quiche with bits of broccoli sprinkled throughout. I told my son we were having egg pie and his face immediately brightened until he rushed to the kitchen table. Where he did not see his precious mini quiches but instead an apparently gross and offensive looking big thing that he wanted nothing to do with, ever.

As dismayed as I was over my failed attempt at taking over Goop’s empire through my one quiche attempt, it didn’t compare to my husband’s dismay when he came home that night with a huge box of frozen mini quiches from Costco.

“These were the last ones in their freezer,” he said, and he and I knew what all Costco shoppers know to be true. Costco giveth and Costco taketh away. It perhaps was for the best as frozen mini quiches are not the healthiest of all food, but I knew it would be difficult to ration the quiches over time.

I gave my son about four of them with other food the next day for lunch. He quickly devoured them and refused to eat anything else on his plate. “Pie?” he asked hopefully. “More pie?” I swear, if he had only seen Oliver Twist he would have added in a “Please, Sir?”

“No more for today,” I said, resolving to stand firm. It was pretty difficult as the rest of the day was filled with pleadings for more pie. But we got through to the next day when he asked for pie for breakfast. I explained he could only have four for the whole day and he replied “Pie now. Pleeeeeeease, Mommy. Pie now!” Another four were made and eaten quickly.

It went on like that for a while as the supply dwindled. One morning he caught me before I had prepared his breakfast, begging for pie. I heated four up in the microwave but realized they were too hot to eat. As any parent knows, when your kid sees something they want to eat, they want to eat it NOW. I told him to go to his seat and began to break the mini quiches apart into a bowl to help cool them off. When I set it down before him he looked disappointed.

“It’s the pie,” I assured him. “It’s broken up but it tastes the same.”

With some hesitation, he picked up his fork and took a taste. Luckily he agreed that the taste of a broken quiche was the same as a whole one. Watching him eat, I had a thought. A thought that made me think I just might still be in the running for genius mom of the year.

While my son napped, I made another broccoli quiche and broke up some pieces into a bowl while hiding the rest in the fridge. A little while later he woke up and I asked if he wanted some pie for a snack. His eyes lit up and he raced to his kitchen table seat. I placed the bowl before him. He looked at it suspiciously.

“Little pie?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied with as straight a face as I could muster. “Just broken up.”

He took a small bite and made a face. I sighed, annoyed to be stuck with eating another whole quiche by myself. But then he lifted his fork and took another. And another until the bowl was mostly empty.

“Yummy?” I asked. He smiled, nodded his head and went off to play. I did a very embarrassing dance in the kitchen.

So yes, I lied. But my son ate a healthy quiche and broccoli so I’m pretty sure it evens out.

Guest Post by Toni Hammer! “Dads: You Are Needed.”

I’m very excited to share the first guest post on this blog by the incredibly talented writer and blogger, Toni Hammer! Toni has a very funny facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/tonihammerwriter), a super active twitter account (@realtonihammer) and a blog that makes you laugh, tear up and nod your head in agreement (http://tonihammer.com).   She has been published numerous times on the ScaryMommy.com website.

Without further ado, here is Toni’s post:

We all know that being a mom is hard. Everyone from your own mom to the grocery store clerk will tell you that it’s hard. The hormones are making the new mom crazy. The lack of sleep is making her crazy. If she’s breastfeeding, that is most definitely making her crazy. It’s hard.

But it’s also hard for new dads.

I won’t say it’s just as hard, but it’s hard in different ways.

If the parents have chosen to breastfeed the baby, the new dad can’t do anything to help in that area other than maybe nudge his wife awake when the baby is crying at 2 a.m. He probably feels helpless.

Some new babies can only be soothed by their moms because they’ve been carried around by her for the past 40 weeks. The new dad tries everything he can to calm his newborn only to have the mom take the baby into her arms which instantly calms him or her. The new dad probably feels useless.

In a majority of households, the dad heads back to work before the mom’s maternity leave ends. He leaves the house, seemingly abandoning his partner and new son or daughter at home by themselves knowing he won’t see them all day. He probably feels guilty.

Dads, I don’t know from firsthand experience, but I can’t imagine how difficult this transition is for you. Suddenly you’ve lost your wife to this crying, drooling mess who doesn’t appear to love you or even like you sometimes. You may feel helpless, useless, guilty and a myriad of other negative emotions.

Let me tell you something: you’re doing a great job.

The problem is that your partner may just be too sleep deprived and exhausted to tell you. It’s not you; it’s her. She’s a new mom and in those first few weeks it is an all-consuming job. Chances are her brain is just so fried that she doesn’t remember to tell you how much she appreciates you.

So I’ll tell you.

You are not helpless. New moms appreciate the fact that you’re trying. Of course you can’t breastfeed the baby, but I’m sure your partner loves that you want to help in any way you can. She appreciates the fact that you get her some water when she’s trapped on the couch beneath the baby known as Milk Breath. She is grateful that you bring her the nursing pillow when she forgets it and her woman parts are too sore for her to get up and retrieve it herself. She loves the fact that you ask her what TV show she wants to watch at night even though you know she’s just going to fall asleep before the opening credits.

You have no reason to feel guilty for going back to work. Your partner is so thankful that you are going out into the world to hunt and gather the money that allows for you both to raise this child. She falls more in love with you when you call her on your lunch break to say that you miss her and the baby. She is thrilled when you ask her to send you pictures of your new bundle of joy. She feels immense gratitude that you are sacrificing your time and energy in order to better the lives of your now larger family.

And, my dear dads, you are from useless. You are her rock. Her support. It’s the two of you against this whole new world and she needs you. She needs you to fight for her sanity. She needs you to watch her emotions and make sure she’s not going down the postpartum depression path. She needs you to tell her she’s doing a great job. She needs to know you think she’s amazing for all the hard work she’s putting into this new relationship with the baby. She needs to know you think she is inspiring and beautiful. You are not useless. You are her strength and she needs you.

I know this transition is hard for you, beloved dads. Please know that your partners love you and appreciate you and need you more than they will ever be able to properly express. Be strong. Be loving. Be proud of the hard work you’re doing. And try to get some sleep yourself.

Hearing she was loved, without the words

My daughter’s first memory of knowing her brother is a good one.

“I got ice cream when I came to see you in the hospital,” she would recall.
“And you saw your brother for the first time, too.”
“Yeah, he was so small. I liked the ice cream.”

The next few weeks weren’t as good although ice cream was probably consumed again. My husband had gotten a job in Newark, so a week after my son was born we moved from our home in Connecticut to a house rental in a New Jersey suburb. My daughter, who turned three soon after the move, had a difficult time adjusting.

Once on a walk around the neighborhood, she stopped at a street corner. I hadn’t seen her smile much since the move and that day was no different. She looked around at our neighbors’ houses and asked in a small voice, “Mommy, where are all my friends?”

“You’ll make new friends here,” I assured her. “And you have your brother now,” I added and pointed to him, sleeping in the stroller. She looked at him for a moment and shrugged. This tiny sleeping baby was small consolation for her prior life of easy walks to numerous friends’ homes and familiar parks and playgrounds.

Once she began summer camp with its easy routine and began to make new friends, our daughter showed signs of being the happy child we had known before. Her attitude towards her brother however remained more or less the same – mostly unaffected by his presence until he had my attention at the exact moment she decided she needed it as well.

My daughter’s days soon became wrapped up in dress-up clothes and swim days and asking for more playdates. She didn’t notice the way her brother’s eyes would light up when she entered a room and followed her movements. She barely registered the wheels moving behind her when he got into a baby walker and tried to catch up to wherever she was heading in the house.

It wasn’t until he was able to crawl and move around on his own that she started to be truly interested in what it meant to have a brother. It was nice for a while.
My daughter would help me push his stroller along the hallways to her pre-school class and announce to anyone standing outside the classroom door that he was her little brother. She would say with pride that her brother was so cute and her friends would peer over at him and agree with oohs and aahs. She would cup his grateful face in her hands and tell her brother she’d miss him before running off into the room to greet her teachers.

A few months later my son would start to walk. I overheard my daughter once telling him to walk to her. She told him to pretend she was his mommy and to come walk and give her a big hug. I didn’t see him make the journey but a few moments later I heard her whoop with pride and say “Good job, my little Teddy bear!”

Too soon it seemed she no longer was happy when he came to her. She often rushed to find me, with fresh tears on her face, and list her grievances. Her brother had grabbed at her toys, pushed her too roughly, pulled her hair and tried to sit next to her when all she wanted was to play by herself.

I would talk to him about playing gently with his sister and ask him to give her a hug. She would demand he say he was sorry. But I couldn’t ask him to say that because, well, he couldn’t say it.

An evaluation confirmed what myself and my husband already knew, that our son had a serious speech delay which required immediate attention. Multiple hearing tests ruled out any auditory problems so he began to meet with speech therapists during the week at our home.

Slowly, and with many regressions, his speech began to improve over time. He started to say ‘Dada’ and ‘Mama’ with more confidence and ease. Unsurprisingly, ‘no’ became a favorite word.

“Why won’t he say my name?” my daughter asked with hurt in her voice.

I tried to explain using the language of the speech therapist. “There are so many different sounds in your name, Darcy. There’s ‘duh,’ ‘ah,’ r,’ ‘ce,’ and ‘ee.’ It’s very hard for him to make any of those sounds right now and then once he can, he has to figure out how to put the sounds together. He knows your name and he knows the sounds, there’s just a signal missing between what he knows and what he can do with his voice. He’ll be able to say it one day.”

“I wish I had an easier name,” she replied, still sad.

I would have to remind her many times why he couldn’t say certain things to her and eventually that included why he couldn’t say he loved her.

Almost any altercation over a mutually desired toy or need for a parent’s attention would end with my daughter folding her arms and declaring that her brother didn’t love her.

“Of course he does,” I said. “Teddy, do you love Darcy, eh or no?” As soon as I asked the question, I knew I should have phrased it differently.

While my son struggled to master speech, his sense of humor was almost too well developed.

He looked at her and then looked at me with a mischievous grin. “No,” he said and giggled. It was the same giggle he gave during his comprehension evaluation when the therapist laid out three picture cards in front of him and asked him to point to the card with the car. He looked directly at the card car, looked at her, gave his mischievous grin and pointed to the card with a cow before giggling.

“See!” his sister shouted and began to sob.
“Teddy!” I said. “Oh, you know that he’s just teasing.”
“No, he isn’t,” she insisted. “He doesn’t love me. He won’t even say it.”

I tried to tell her of all the ways he loved her. How he would always wake up first in the morning but not want to eat breakfast until she came downstairs. How sad he was when she’d have a playdate and she and a friend would hide out in her room without him. How he would come and give her a toy whenever she was upset with me or her father.

But she wouldn’t be consoled unless she somehow heard it from him. “And he still can’t say my name,” she added.

I stopped trying to get my son to tell his sister he loved her through the words he could say. We continued to work on his speech and at times there were true breakthroughs. His list of vocabulary and sounds grew and he started to be able to put two words together at once.

One afternoon when he was around two and a half I told him it was time to pick up his sister from kindergarten. He ran to get a photo of her in a frame and brought it over to me excitedly.

“Dar,” I said. “Dar-ssss-eeee.” I finished by pulling his cheeks to the sides to mimic the ‘eeee’ sound.

He looked at me and smiled, but did not try to say the sounds back.

We walked over to the school and waited outside the doors until the teachers opened them and the students spotted their caregivers. My daughter happily pointed to us and began to walk over when a friend rushed up to her and asked if she wanted to play on the playground together.

“Can I, Mom?” she asked, already following her friend.

My son ran after her and when he caught up he put his arms around her waist.

“My,” he said, his sound for the word ‘mine.’ He looked angrily at her friend. “No, my,” he told her.

In one of those fleeting moments of true maturity that you begin to see in five year-olds, my daughter hugged him back gently and told him, “You’re mine too. It’s okay, Teddy, we’ll all play together.”

Part of the time on the playground they did play together. Part of the time she left him spinning the ship wheel while she ran around with her friend. But she would often look back at him and call out his name. He always smiled back at her, content with the moments of attention.

On our walk back home my son walked a little ahead of us, pausing every now and then to see that we were right behind. I decided to broach the subject once again with my daughter.

“I think Teddy loves you,” I said.

Without skipping a beat my daughter rolled her eyes. “I know that, Mom,” she said, in a voice any teenager would be proud of. Still, I loved hearing her say it all the same.

I wrote this piece about a time in my children’s lives that has since changed. My son still works on his speech but has made tremendous progress. He can say his name, his sister’s name, “play now please,” “more cookies, Mommy,” and many other words & phrases 🙂

Dr. Jekyll & Little Miss Hyde

There are two children that a mother knows.
One is talked about at a parent-teacher conference.  She is called “sweet,” “mature,” “caring,” and “aware” by her teacher.  She is “a pleasure to have in class.”
This child is welcomed on playdates.  Her mother is told by the moms who hosted her that the child is “so easy,” “polite and sweet.”
During doctor visits this child sits calmly, only getting agitated at the thought or sight of needles.  When the doctor looks her over she laughs at the touch and knows to be still when her ears and mouth are checked.  The doctor says she is a model patient.
The mother knows of another child.  This child does not know a time of day that is not appropriate for testing any and all boundaries.  She listens but then does the opposite and says she never heard you.  She screeches for help to put on her socks, something she has been able to do for the past three years.  This child does not know how to share or clean up or how to have a bath without splashing water outside of the tub.  This child’s natural state is pouting.  These two children were born on the same day, from the same mother, and reside in the same adorable body with the same brown eyes and the same soft hair.
The child outside of the home that the world sees is the child her mother has raised her to be.  She listens, is respectful, is aware, is kind, is smart.

The child inside the home collapses from the weight of the daily expectations put upon her.  The child inside the home knows she is unconditionally loved and cared for.  So it is there she unleashes the need to react and engage and test without fear or rejection.  This child inside the home explores her boundaries often with consequence of lost toys or time outs, but never with love lessened.
And sometimes these two children meet and figure out they can co-exist.

The mother waits for these moments, sometimes patiently and often times not so patiently.

For the child knows of two mothers as well.

In Defense of Goody Bags

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Lately I’ve been hearing some grumblings about birthday party goody bags and how it would be great to do without them. These grumblings are more than understandable. With birthday parties these days already expensive enough, the idea of saving money by not buying cheap, breakable, and sugary items that few parents appreciate and most kids forget about thirty minutes after the party, why wouldn’t it be great to forgo this tradition altogether?

But as I carefully assemble party bags full of cheap, plastic and sugary items for my own son’s upcoming birthday, I wonder why I don’t really consider forgoing them myself.

Here are some reasons I thought of why party bags can be a-okay:

1. Sometimes, not always, not even often, but sometimes these gifts are pretty awesome. Like the kites that maybe only work for one afternoon before breaking but that’s one afternoon of entertainment that you didn’t have to pay for. Or the homemade pillow sheets made at a friend’s sleepover party that my daughter with likely treasure forever. Or the mini gumball machine that is just insanely cute. Or that small pad of white paper with the small box of small crayons that got your kids through waiting at a restaurant for the food to arrive.

2. Then of course, are the not so freaking awesome gifts. Like the sugary candies and small bottle of bubbles that never seem to blow many bubbles and the stickers that are put onto paper or clothes or furniture and are soon no longer of any use. So what’s so great about these? Well, for one thing, kids are like regular people in the way they love free stuff. Think about when you were at college and you signed up for a new credit card during orientation days simply because they gave out free pens. You know you did. Kids get a bag of free stuff and aren’t even risking their future credit scores with it. It’s fun to get free stuff, even crap free stuff. It just is.

3. Birthday parties are fun. But also tiring. At the end of them many kids are exhausted and they’re not thinking rationally about how it’d be better for them to leave after an hour and a half of fun to recharge their bodies but instead want to stay and run around the gym just five more times. So you tell them they won’t get their goody bag until they put on their shoes and thank the birthday kid for having them and get out that door into your car. These bags are strategy for leaving people. Necessary evils, sure, but necessary.

4. In a way, giving out goody bags at some parties is even helpful for those parents who have decided enough’s enough and make the decision to not have any for their kid’s party. It’ll be difficult for your child at first as the birthday party may get confusing and seem incomplete. What is happening here they whine as they leave empty handed. But this provides an excellent time to teach them about appreciating the experience of the party for what it is. A chance to celebrate their friend’s birthday and have fun and sometimes that’s enough and that’s okay.

Guest Post: How to Become Your Child’s Favorite

Please check out my guest post on Toni Hammer’s awesome blog!

toni hammer

Hey everyone! Today I’m super stoked to have a guest post for you today by the hilarious Ariel Bernstein!

When you’re a mom and you have a new baby, you’re likely it’s favorite person in the whole world.  You give them food, keep them clean, and have the voice they’ve heard the most for the past nine or so months.  They might cry when others hold them or only fall asleep in your arms.  You love them and know you are loved right back.

Being their favorite person can last for a while, maybe even a whole lifetime.  Or maybe you have a child who wakes up from every nap and asks for their Dada, even though every freakin’ weekday you explain that Dada is at work, where he always is during the day, and it’s just you.  And your son looks at you, disappointed but resigned, and you know…

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