Friday, December 23, 2011

A Toddler Christmas- on the Huffington Post

My four-year-old daughter, Elana, is beginning to understand giving and, more importantly to her, receiving. December is a magical month for her, filled with Hanukkah, Christmas, parties and presents. It's a time when Daddy doesn't go to work, and we visit grandparents. Since we live in San Francisco and they live on the east coast, it's also the one time of year we see snow.

I vividly remember the Christmas I was Elana's age. My brother Sam and I lived with our mom in a duplex in a small, depressed, rural Oregon town. Our parents had been somewhat bitterly divorced for a few years, and my mom, who had just earned her certificate at a local college, was a first-year teacher in a very deprived Native American town nearby. Our savings account was empty, and my mom was struggling to get off welfare. My brother and I knew that we had less money than our friends at preschool, and we prepared ourselves not to see much under the tree on Christmas morning.

Read the rest here: A Toddler Christmas

Monday, December 19, 2011

Maybe Dora Does Teach Spanish Afterall

A few months ago I wrote a post about how Dora the Explorer  may not teach Spanish, but she sure is a great babysitter (also titled Why It's Really Not So Terrible To Let Your Toddler Watch TV).

Well, it turns out I was wrong.  While I still firmly believe that a little television here and there is not causing harm to my children (and I endorse it as an important parental sanity-saver), I may have prematurely judge Dora's teaching abilities- maybe the pint-sized explorer does teach our children a little Espanol.   

Last month my older daughter was home sick, the kind that left her lethargic and really sweet, and she spent the weekend lying on the couch watching Nick Jr. (ok, we read books too).  After the fourth continuous episode packed with Dora, Boots, Backpack, and Map, she excused herself to the bathroom and requested some alone time.  As she was sitting on the toilet trying to poop, I heard her talking to herself, “Abre, por favor! Abre!” 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sleep is the New Sex

Sorry for not including an image in this post. I doubt my husband would be game for posing.

First of all, I would like to apologize for the lack of new material here on Married With Toddlers.  Even though I have been busy writing for other outlets, I still plan to blog regularly on this platform.
Currently I am writing an article on livening up a couple’s sex life after the “miracle of birth”.  While researching facts for the piece I came across some interesting statistics that I thought many of you would appreciate. 
Research conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago:
  • The average married couple (with or without children) has sex a little over once a week (68.5 times a year).   
  •  Couples who have sex less than 10/year are considered to be in a “no sex/low sex” relationship.  About 20% of couples report being in this category.
According to Dr. Barry McCarthy:
  •  Couples that are happy with sex life rate sex as only 15% of their overall martial happiness.   
  •  Couples where at least one partner is sexually unsatisfied report sex life to make up 85% of their overall marital happiness. 
A survey of 500 women by Prima Magazine found:
  • The average childless couple has sex 10/month.
  • The average pregnant couple has sex 5/month.
  • The average couple has sex 4/month after the baby is born.
Depressed yet?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Winkie or Fandango- How to Talk to Your Toddler about Sex

A month or so ago I promised you all an article about talking to kids about their private parts.  It was finally published on Babble: Winkie, Zizette, or Fandango.

I wanted to especially thank all of my friends and readers that shared their special terms for the girl and boy parts... ok, ok, I'll say it, for the vagina and penis.

Friday, December 2, 2011

From a Singleton to a Duo: Preparing for a Second Baby

(This article was first published in the Dec/Jan edition of the Golden Gate Mother's Group Magazine.)
Photo Courtesy of Karin Ascencio.
You have peed on over a dozen sticks and each one continues to give the same result...another
baby is brewing in your belly. While you are ecstatic at the thought of once again holding a
newborn, other emotions complicate this joyous time. How in the world are you ever going to
juggle two, when finding time to bathe with only one child has proven nearly impossible? In
addition, how will your firstborn react to a new creature invading his space and taking away his
precious mommy time? Will you even be able to find more room in an already overfilled heart?
Along with new joys, your second pregnancy brings a new set of fears and worries. You may no
longer be scared about caring for an infant, but what about the infant/toddler combination? The
good news is that you are not alone; these are fears that every second-time mom faces. While
nothing can fully prepare you for the addition of another baby in your life, there are steps you
can take to make the transition easier on you and your family.

Change Your Mindset
  •  There is no need to be a super-mommy. Sure, the mom next door is raising four children under the age of five without any help, and she prepares delicious and nutritious nightly homemade meals from scratch that even her toddlers eat, but that may never be you. Children survive just fine on frozen pizzas and babysitters. Embrace whatever comforts you can afford, including Dora the Explorer and Thomas the Tank Engine.
  • It is okay for your older child to go to preschool in her pajamas. Sure, some of the other
    mothers may snicker, but far more will find you brave in your decision to fight one less
    morning battle.
  • Find time to indulge yourself. Children do not need mommy martyrs that sacrifice all semblance of self for their little ones. Even though the past two years of your life have revolved entirely around your firstborn, start penciling in some “me” time.
Prepare Your Life
  • Find help. In the first few weeks after childbirth, you will most likely have difficulty caring for both children by yourself. Whether you deliver vaginally or by c-section, healing time is always needed, as are plenty of naps. Schedule family members and friends to help you transition during the first month.
  • Discuss expectations. Before the new baby arrives, sit down with your partner and discuss the roles each of you will need to play after the birth. Negotiate household chores and the care of the older child.
  • Rework your budget. Additional children require more than just extra time and love; they also need supplies--diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, clothing, and the list goes on and on. Be prepared for the financial adjustments as well.
  • Make a hospital plan. This time around, your labor and delivery plan does not focus on ice chips and remembering the CD player. Instead, you now have to worry about who is going to watch the firstborn once your contractions hit the four minute mark. After the birth, who is going to bring her to see her new little sibling? Will she attend preschool that day? Will your husband/partner spend the night with you in the hospital, or go home to the toddler? The arrangements get trickier the second time around.
Not only do you need to prepare yourself, but you also need to take some time to prepare Child
#1 for the blessing that is Child #2. Bonnie Romanov, a parent educator at San Francisco’s
Parents Place, offers these tips for helping your firstborn adjust to the new bundle of joy.
  • There are a plethora of children’s books on the subject of new siblings. Many highlight the mixed emotions children feel when a new baby arrives. Check out a few from your local library and spend time reading and discussing these with your little one. 
  • Have your older child help you with the preparations for the new baby. Although toddlers are of little help with organization, together you can shuffle through the bags of newborn clothing and go shopping for new burp cloths and onesies.
  • Use pictures to illustrate how babies grow and pretend play with dolls to demonstrate how to care for a baby. 
  • Avoid other big changes in the months leading up to and after the birth. Of course some changes are necessary but, if you can, save the move to a new preschool or the introduction to potty training for a different time. 
  • Peruse Siblings Without Rivalry, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. While most of the book pertains to older siblings, they also offer pertinent advice for toddlers and newborns.  

Once the baby comes home, Romanov also suggests the following: 
  • Be prepared with a gift that the younger sibling can “give” to the older. In addition, when others visit with gifts for the newborn, encourage them to bring along a little something for the older child as well.
  •  When your older child visits you and the baby for the first time, have someone else hold the baby so that you can shower the older child with hugs and kisses, letting her know that she is also important.
  • Be patient with your older child. It may take a few days, or weeks, for her to warm up to the new creature stealing all of her hard-earned attention. 
  • Respect the older child’s emotions, whether they are love, anger or confusion. All of these feelings are normal and important for children to experience.
  • Expect some regression. It is normal for the older child to start waking at night, having potty accidents or not wanting to attend preschool.
  • Find quality, one-on-one time to spend with the older child. Acknowledge that she is able to paint with you, read with you and play at the park, all because she is a big girl.
Finally, make time for both you and your other relationships--the ones that don’t involve a sippy cup. Each additional child puts additional stress and strain on a marriage, so it is important to find time as a couple away from the pint-sized dictators running your home. While consistent date nights are a great way to keep the focus on each other, with a newborn, this proves more difficult. However, you can always find time for a date night-in. Order takeout and spend an evening without smartphones, computers or TV. In addition, create a “welcome-home” ritual in which the two of you greet each other with a hug and kiss. Thirty seconds of physical connection can be a crucial ingredient to many marriages.

Books for Kids

These books may help your older child cope and express her concerns over the pending arrival.

Lisa’s Baby Sister (Gaspard and Lisa Books), by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben. Lisa’s mother has been pregnant for a long time, and Lisa is tired of it. However, she is not exactly excited for the arrival of her new baby sister, either. In this charming story, Lisa experiences the common emotions many children feel during this time.

A New Baby at Koko Bear’s House, by Vicki Lansky. This is a simple story with very simple illustrations about a bear getting a new sibling. The bottom of each page offers tips for parents to make the transition smoother.

The New Baby, by Mercer Mayer. There is a new baby in Little Critter’s home and she is a problem. He can’t play with her and she cries quite a bit. By the end of the story, Little Critter discovers what he is able to do with her and how to be a good brother.

What Baby Needs (Sears Children Library), by William and Martha Sears, Christie Watts Kelly and Renee Andriani. With cute, colorful illustrations, this book introduces children to what a baby really needs. The book also includes tips and advice for parents, in accordance with Dr. Sear’s attachment parenting philosophy, and “What about Me?” sidebars that let the child know that her needs are important, too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Eryn Kurin: Things I Did Not Truly Appreciate Until I Had Kids

Eryn, the illustrating mommy genius, is at it again.  In her latest cartoon, Eryn expertly captures what it really means to "shower alone".

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What I am Thankful for

This morning both girls woke before the sunrise ready to eat/play/read/color.  I, on the other hand, was not ready to do any of the above.  Being the clever and resourceful parent I am, I employed the use of two very trusty helpers, Max and Ruby.  Unfortunately, the show only lasted 22 minutes and 34 seconds, so 22 minutes and 35 seconds later I was forced to open my eyes, roll out of bed, toast some waffles, and begin the day.

After breakfast the girls played well together until Maisy, my adorable and terrible two-year-old, decided that she must, right then, have the exact royal blue, plastic gem sticker that Elana was pretending possessed magical fairy powers.  When "Give it to me!" didn't work, Maisy marched up to her big sister pinching Elana's arm and scowling.

While Maisy was spending a few minutes alone in her room (thinking about her actions?), Elana rolled around the kitchen floor wailing, "Let's give Maisy away!  I don't want her anymore!" Imagine my surprise when four-and-a-half hours later I picked Elana up from preschool and she proudly presented me with her latest art work:
Oh, the fickle little minds of toddlers.

So began my own annual (well, this will be the second annual) tradition of reflecting on the top ten things, parenting related, that I am most thankful for in the past year. 
  1. Nick Jr made the brilliant decision to push all commercials to the end of each show.  Now, instead of needing to sit next to my children during each Dora episode, I can go about my own business, only to return 23 minutes later.
  2. The legacy of Steve Jobs.  Without his vision how would I ever be able to fly cross-country with toddlers.  See Thank You Steve Jobs: A Mother's Tribute.
  3. Barilla Plus: pasta with protein.  I will readily admit to just about anyone that I am a lazy cook.  My skills in the kitchen are minimal at best and I cater to my children's picky pallets.  However, when I boil a box of Penne Plus, protein (a tricky food group) is eagerly consumed by both fussy foodies.
  4. Juice boxes that are 50% juice/50% water.  In the past year Maisy has decided that she would favor a liquid diet.  If she had her druthers, breakfast, lunch, and dinner would be sipped through a straw- preferably purple.
  5. That my youngest is too old to be a lap-child.  Flying alone with two kids under four, one of which squirmed relentlessly on my lap, was painful.  I feel blessed to now be able to book all three seats of an airplane row and actually reclaim my legroom.
  6. Stanley steamer was able to clean the rotten milk stain from my car upholstery and rid car of the stale urine smell. This one is self explanatory. 
  7. My first born is finally old enough for drop-off playdates and birthday parties.  Why didn't anyone tell me how awesome this would be? 
  8. The hours between 8 pm and 7 am.  Yes, I was thankful for this last year too.  But, when something is this valuable, it deserves to be repeated.
  9. Toddler clocks.  Who knew that such a small and simple gadget could bring a parent so much peace?  After only a few nights of training, Maisy knows to wait for the green glow of her clock
  10. Elana is now through with her princess obsession- has graduated to all things fairy.  It's true.  We now longer live in the Disney aisle of Target.  We are now privileged enough to be able to read all one-hundred-and-eight Rainbow Magic Fairy books.  (There may be over a hundred books, but there is only one plot.) 
What are you thankful for?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bubble Wrapped Babies- Huff Post Parents

Today my Bubble Wrapped Babies piece was published on the Huffington Post.  So far I am digging the comments, which are mostly reasonable.  However, I fully expect some over-anxious vigilante to remark that I am putting hundreds of young babes in danger by advocating free access to electrical outlets and hot stoves.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lies We Tell Our Children

I am a liar.  I lie daily to my children, if not two or three times a day.  Some of these lies are mere bluffs. Imagine my lovely four-year-old refusing to brush her teeth before bed.  Frustrated, I tell her that if she isn't polishing her pearly whites by the time I count to three, she's in time out.  In actuality, there is no way I am going to prolong the bedtime routine another five-minutes while I drag her kicking and screaming to her room.  However this one little lie accomplishes my main objective; its a quicker path to me sitting in front of the TV watching Bravo.
Photo courtesy of Karin Ascencio.
My lies vary in great degree.  There are small lies like "Sure I'll buy you that princess ballgown for your birthday!".  In reality I am just attempting to make it through Target without a collasal breakdown and her birthday is over five months away, so the possibility that she will remember this request come April is nil to none. 

There are also big lies, such as, "Neko (our cat) went to live on a farm."  We all know what the farm metaphor really stands for, but at the time I wasn't prepared to tell my three-year-old about the harsh realities of pets and death. 

As parents we lie for various reasons.  Many of them are for the benefit of our children, but in all truthfulness, the majority are for our own sake.  Here are just a few:
  1. To save time.  On a typical weekday morning I am in a rush to wrangle two kids into their carseats and make it to preschool by 8:45.  In the process one asks, "Can we watch Team Umizumi this afternoon?" Instead of explaining that there will be no time, what with the myriad of errands I need to accomplish, including toting both girls to the doctor's office for their annual flue shots, I simple respond, "We'll see." The child, satisfied with the response, climbs into the car.
  2. We lie because sometimes we don't know all the answers.  "Mommy, why is that flower blue?"  Having no clue, and knowing that admitting this will get me nowhere with a toddler, I respond, "So that it can combine with the red flowers to make purple ones."
  3. We lie because it is often easier than telling the truth.  "If you don't eat your vegetables, you won't grow big and strong."  To be honest, I've known plenty of children who refused all things green or orange and lived to be healthy adults.  However, explaining nutritional health, the national obesity epidemic, and the value of consuming one's daily vitamins is futile with the four-and-under crowd. 
  4. We lie to be nice.  "I made you a beautiful picture of a butterfly.  Do you like it?"  Umm... what butterfly?  All I see is a pink scribble next to a green one.  "I love it!"
  5. We lie to keep their innocence.  That is what Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy really are- lies we perpetuate to keep our children innocent, young, and believing in magic.  
  6. We lie to protect ourselves.  For parents, simple lies to avoid the subject of death, flow from our mouths like cheap wine-in-a-box.  When seeing a dead pigeon on the sidewalk, I have effortlessly fibbed, "Oh Honey, he is just sleeping."  While I do want to protect my girls from sorrow, I know that the larger part of me is lying to guard my own uncomfortableness with mortality.
I am not advocating dishonest parenting- I know fully well that these are just excuses for my behavior.  I've read the articles that explain how children learn to lie from their parents, and I hope to raise my own girls to be honest and trustworthy.  However, I am still not sure if I am ready to give up my white lies; I just foresee too many extended conversations delaying getting out the door for school, not to mention dinnertime and bedtime.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Babble Piece

Lately I have been writing a lot of stories for other sites, so even though there is fewer new material on Married With Toddlers, I will be sure to post links to my latest articles.

My latest Babble.com piece, The Humble Brag, is derived from an earlier blog post on the parental humble brag.  Some of the brags have been modified, and some are brand new, so be sure to check it out!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Non-Perfect Parent

This is the  first few paragraphs to my latest Huffington Post Parents article.  It is completely new material, so you need to click on the link at the bottom to read the rest. 

I'm a really good mom, but I'm far from perfect.

I've been known to buy myself twenty minutes of peace with a cheap Disney princess toy from Target. Both of my girls can readily identify the theme music from at least a half dozen cartoons and even the two-year-old knows how to enter my password to unlock the iPad. Sometimes, when a day has been particularly challenging, I may even bribe them to stop whining with extra Sprout programming.

I can also be inconsistent with discipline. While I try be unwavering in my rules, I would be lying if I didn't admit to occasionally surrendering to my toddler's tantrums. What's worse is that I sometimes lose my patience and yell "Stop It!" I've locked myself in my bedroom with both girls wailing on the other side of the door while I had my own mini-mommy meltdown. 

Read the rest.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Huff Post Parents Piece #4

The Sexualized 4-Year-Old?

I'm not quite sure if the Huff Post readers are totally understanding my relax-it's-all-going-to-work-out tone that I try to impart with each post.  However, I am still typing away, and they keep publishing the work, so maybe somebody does get it... 

With this post I wasn't suggesting that young girls are not sexualized, but that it isn't anything new.  Maybe we don't need to be so wary of every new doll that is introduced and every new clothing fad.  (Notice I said "don't need to be so wary", not "we don't need to consider it at all".  There is a big difference.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Weenie, Pee Pee, Hot Dog? What do you call it?


This week on Up All Night, Reagan and Chris lovingly avoided referred to their daughter’s private parts.  Reagan's mother, a psychiatrist and published author on parenting, was horrified, telling Reagan that she must take the time to carefully christen her daughter's genitals- a name that inspires whimsy and pride- like she had done when baptising Raegan's vagina "Bobo".    
The episode inspired me to write an article for Babble about private parts- what we call them, how we talk to our kids about them, why we try to evade said talks.  The first step in my research was to ask my friends and family what terms they used to refer to "down there".  Thanks to my awesome friends,my Inbox was immediately flooded with words like "bits" and "winkie".
Even though the article is still a month or more away, I thought that I would share some of the nicknames now.  If you care to add yours, I would love the additional data!
Girls’ Front
Boys’ Front
Back
Petunia
Pajarito (little bird)
Tushie
Coochi
The Guys
Tush
Jay Jay
Weiner
Bootie
Fandango
Bits
Bum
Vee Vee
Pee Pee
Bum Bum
PoPo
Hot Dog
Bummy
Vagina/vulva
Penis
Bottom
Zizette (French)
Zizi (French)
Fesses
Girl Parts
Boy Parts
Fanny
Fanny (it’s an Australian thing)
Penis and the No No Berries

Kootchie
Ochinchin (Japanese)

Fu Fu
Winkie



Thursday, November 3, 2011

Baby Talk

Today my latest Huffington Post blog was published on baby speech development, Baby Talk.  It is the third piece I have written for Huff Post Parents, and while I am very excited about all the exposure I am receiving, I am still adapting to reading all my negative comments.  Eh, 'tis the life of a blogger, right? 

Anyone out there have advice for thickening my skin when numerous readers call me a "bad mother"?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cartoon #3- By Eryn Kurin

Eryn is at it again, beautifully illustrating how a mother can simultaneously love her family, her children, her partner, and yet still....

Below are seven insightful glimpses into the inner thoughts of the everymom.






Thursday, October 27, 2011

Toddler Bribery

I am a huge fan of toddler bribery, or as the parenting experts like to call it, "rewards" .  I readily use this tactic to coerce my two daughters to do most anything that they refuse.  And, even though I now have a growing cluster of concerned readers who think that I am a "bad" mother, I will admit to, and even endorse, this parenting tactic.

In the past week I have bribed my two girls to:
  1. Sleep in until 7 am.
  2. Go to swim lessons without complaint.
  3. Finish their dinner.
  4. Eat their veggies.
  5. Try a new food.
  6. Brush their hair. 
  7. Brush their teeth. 
  8. Not throw an exorcism every time I announce that we need to leave for school.
  9. Poop in the potty.
Before you begin to judge me and assume that I am spoiling my children with lavish sweets and toys, many of the carrots I dangle in front of their sweet blue eyes are small, negligible in many eyes.  Let's look at this list again, along with the bait that was offered.


Activity
Bribe
Sleep until 7 am.

Two weeks ago, Elana became stuck in a pattern of waking somewhere between 6:05 and 6:07 am. Since my eyes will not open before 7 o’clock, I suggested that if Elana could stay in her room until the reasonable hour for the next two mornings, she could have the tiny porcelain fairy doll she had been eyeing at the local gift store. 

Go to swim lessons without complaint.

Even though Elana loves to swim, and usually eagerly awaits swim lessons, there are days that she tries to wriggle out of going.  With a simple promise of a trip to the ice cream store adjacent to the swimming pool after class, Elana abandons all protests and skips off to her room to find the perfect pink swimsuit to match her pink goggles.

Finish their dinner.

While I do not champion the clean plate club, I do want to teach my children to stay at the dinner table until they are done eating.  Maisy is a grazer and would prefer to eat a bite of chicken, run and play with her stuffed cat for ten minutes, then come back for seconds.   When the jitters overtake my toddlers, I entice them by reading books while they dine.  The stories stop if they stand up from the table.
(And, yes, I know that there are more appropriate ways to do accomplish this, like actually eating with the children, but for now, this doesn’t work with our schedules.)

Eat their veggies.
This one is rather logical, no dessert unless you eat your vegetables.  Maisy doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth, so she will often forego the Oreo cookie.

Try a new food.

Elana is a full-fledged member of the Picky Eater Club and prefers her food bland and beige.  Attempts at encouraging her to try new foods often backfire, but if I offer her a few coins she usually relents.  Last week I suggested that I would give her one quarter if she tried asparagus; being the she keen negotiator she is Elana opted instead for five pennies.

Brush their hair.

Occasionally I offer the girls two chocolate chips if they will sit down and allow me to untangle their fine toddler hair.  Maisy isn’t impressed by proposal, and hence I have chopped most of her hair off in a do that can only be described as “Mission Hipster”.

Brush their teeth.
Obviously, I am not about to offer them chocolate chips after they brush their teeth, I’m not a monster, but if this task isn’t accomplished in a timely manner, I take away one of their three bedtime stories.

Not throw an exorcism every time I announce that we need to leave for school.
Elana would prefer to spend every minute, of every day, within an arm’s reach of me.  This week, her clinginess began every morning at 8:15.  Frustrated, I made this deal, if she can manage one week without these terrible drop-off tantrums, the two of us would go on a special mommy-daughter outing.
 
 Poop in the potty.

Although Maisy has been pee-pee potty trained for the past three months, she still refuses to poop anywhere near a bathroom.  Whenever the urge arises, Maisy asks for a pull-up and some alone time with her play kitchen.  So far, I have yet to stumble upon the right bribe to entice her to use the potty.  I may need to pull out the big guns, but I’m not sure how my husband will feel about a new puppy.

Luckily for me, experts do not consider this an inapproprate tactic, they just use fancier language like "positive incentives".  According to parenting.com, there are proper and improper ways to bribe a toddler. 
  1. Reward for good behavior, not bad.   Basically, just rephrase everything in a positive statement.  Instead of promising an ice cream cone for not hitting a sibling, promise them the treat for keeping their hands to themselves.
  2. Young toddlers need instant gratification.  Payments later for services rendered now do not fly with the two-year-old crowd. 
  3. Bribe children before the misbehavior starts.  Yesterday I packed up both girls for a little Trader Joe's action.  Before we even left the house, I promised them a small treat if they behaved while shopping.  This worked wonders with the four year old, but Maisy (2.5 years old) threw her first fit as soon as we stepped inside the door and found that there weren't any "Customer-in-training" mini shopping carts left (see #2).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cartoon #2- By Eryn Kurin

I absolutely adore Eryn's latest cartoon.  It's true, sometimes the bathroom is the only place a mother can find some desperately needed alone time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How Does She Do it All? 10 Tips for the Hectic Mother

I know what many of you are thinking: How does she raise two young daughters, maintain a career as a struggling freelance writer, and still find the time to throw her hair into a ponytail, jump into an old pair of faded yoga pants, and feed her family nutritionally balance prepared meals from Whole Foods day after day?
Photo courtesy of Karin Ascencio
My life may seem glamorous with its endless routine of carpool, playdates, and half-asleep coffee breaks at the neighborhood latte joint, but to be able to maintain the outward appearence of order I have developed a few shortcuts.   And, in an effort of camaraderie, I have decided to share the secrets that keep my life from unraveling. 

I did search the experts for "time saving tips for busy parents", but I found  their advice to be unpractical and combersome.  One site advised to "Never come home angry."  Well sure, that is a fine goal, but if we can't come home angry, some of us would never get there.
 
My tips, on the other hand, are practical suggestions to save twenty seconds here, a minute there, and a massive headache later.  These are the hidden methods to my madness:
  1. Sleep in your yoga pants.  Not only does this save time dressing in the morning, but it can cut down the laundry loads quite a bit.  
  2. Utilize those babywipes for more than your babe's tush!  Instead of washing your face in the morning, I use baby wipes to clean the sleep from my eyes.  Don't be so appalled, I do buy the chlorine free ones, after all.
  3. Never prepare an unnecessary meal.  When my husband has one of his many dinner meetings, instead of making my own evening meal, I eat the leftovers from Maisy and Elana's plates.  Yum... carrot sticks and uninspired chicken on Disney Princess plates.
  4. Embrace TV.  I know, I know, admitting this may actually send Children's Protective Services to my house for a home-visit, but it's true, we do.  Maisy and Elana love Dora, Max and Ruby, Olivia, and a good half-dozen other annoying cartoon characters.  Seriously, do you know how many task I can get done during one 30-minute Sprout program?  Clean the dishes, put away the laundry, have a quickie in the bedroom with my husband...
  5. Cut your daughter's hair.  On principle I keep the hair on my two young daughters' heads well trimmed.  I have yet to meet the parent of a girl that doesn't suffer from the tiresome tangle battles.  Neither of my daughters readily allow me to brush their hair, nor do they have the ability to do this themselves.  So, in my effort to avoid chasing them around the house, wrestling them to the ground and holding them in place with my thighs while I attempt to detangle their rat nests, I simply keep their hair no longer than chin length.
  6. Pretend you don't notice.  Some days my husband will arrive home from work shocked at the state of a room.  "What happened?" he exclaims, the anxiety spilling from his ears.  "Gee, I just took out the garbage and when I came back..." I answer, where in reality I have carefully stayed clear of the two girls who were ever so diligently painting the bathroom with a tube of toothpaste.  Sure, the clean up will be bothersome, but it took them a solid 25 minutes of cooperative play to make this mess!
  7. Pajama Day!  Is it really so horrible for your preschooler to show up to school in last night's pajamas?  I'm sure his teachers have seen it before.  With my two-year-old, the morning tasks are some of the hardest to get accomplished, so I often bring an outfit for Maisy to change into once she gets to school.  She doesn't seem to mind dressing in front of her classmates and their parents.
  8. Socks?  What socks?  Fortunately we live in the moderate Bay Area climate, where the temperature rarely drops below 48 degrees.  Because of this, and Crocs made for toddlers, my girls almost never wear socks.  They each own less than ten pairs and only don them when we visit my parents in Oregon, at Christmas time, if it snows.  By foregoing this extra layer of footwear, I save approximately thirty seconds each morning, in addition to a good ten minutes on laundry day matching pairs of tiny toddler socks.
  9. Skip the extra-extracurricular activities.  My children are allowed one, two at most, lessons a week.  In my opinion, their swimming classes are mandatory, but if we don't make it out of the house for their 9 am Saturday morning ballet lesson, we all kind of benefit.
  10. Stop picking up the toys.  Whenever the clutter in childrens' bedrooms begins to trigger my panic attacks, I close their doors and remember the mantra of the iconic Phyllis Diller: "Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing." 
Now that I've shared mine, tell us, what are your time saving secrets to an easier day?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cartoon #1, by Eryn Kurin

My friend and fellow mother of toddlers, Eryn Kurin accurately illustrates life dictated by young children.  Here is one of her latest masterpieces making us all wonder why we ever procreated in the first place. 


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pregnancy or Prozac- The Comments


On September 30th my very first paid parenting article was published by Babble (and then posted on The Huffington Post!!!! Still extremely shocked and excited!).  However, I also received my very first parenting heckles of, "Some people have no right raising children." (If you haven't read it click here: Pregnancy or Prozac? Why I choose both.)

When Babble advertised my essay on their Facebook page, numerous mothers wrote thanking me for being brave enough to share my story.  Some said that I inspired them to discuss their depression with a doctors, and others found solace knowing that they were not the only ones.  Still, others found it necessary to judge me and my decision.   

I wrote the piece to simply share my experience.  I was not advocating medication for pregnant women, or for women in general.  I had a story to tell and a lesson to be learned.  My ordeal was excruciating and I hoped to find some positive through all the despair.  If reading my article helped spark conversations about ante-natal depression, whether positive or not, I have accomplished my intentions.

That said, I would like to take the opportunity to respond to a few of the particularly eloquent comments (please excuse the profanities). 
  • Comment: "My 3rd son has eye problems from TAKING them during pregnancy..we're gonna have to see a neuro-ophthalmologist because he can't see any more than an inch from anything..I wish I never went ont hem."
    • Eye problems from antidepressants?  Makes complete sense!  I'm sure that the fact that both you and the baby's father wear glasses and that genetic eye disorders run in your family has nothing to do with it! 
  • Comment: "i dont think they are safe. theres vitamins u can take that kinda help with depression."
    • Really?  Vitamins?  Do they come in gummy form, because I will only take vitamins that are shaped like cartoon characters. 
  • Comment:  "Yeah well she's a fuckin dopefiend then smh if u r that fucking selfish u have no business with motherhood. Period. Its just not for u."
    • I totally agree, some people just should not have children.  I suggest you get your tubes tied immediately.
  • Comment: "How many class action lawsuit commercials have we seen where they ask " is you baby fcked up from anti depressants while pregnant? " why the HELL would u risk it ? Some peoples children I swear."
    • Have you or a loved one been manipulated by a snazzy looking lawyer sporting a Ron Swanson mustache?  If so, there is help.  Call 1-800-STOP WATCHING SO MUCH TV for more information.
  • Comment: "If u are seriously ill ... don't have kids. WtF"
    • Seriously, WTF?  I am going to start a petition to ask Congress to legally prevent all women suffering from heart disease, lupus, diabetes, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, and those that are generally considered unattractive from bearing children.  Who's with me?
  • Comment: "No they (SSRI's) aren't safe-theyMake Your body forget what to do-ISN'T THAT WHAT AUTISM IS???"
    •  Well, no actually.  That isn't autism at all.
  • Comment:  "Hell No!!! unsafe,causes birth defects. I say suck it up and take no pills! Its just hormones anyways. If your a big girl to be getting pregnant, then your a big girl to deal with lifes emotions without pills,your depressed, not the baby!!!!"
    • Hmm, let me meditate on this one... just hormones so no need for pills... maybe I should try upping my testosterone levels (after all, I do live in San Francisco where one can purchase gender altering drugs at the corner pharmacy).   Also, you are so true, I am a big girl.  Yesterday I went both pee pee and poop on the potty.  No more diapers for Ducky! 
  • Comment: "No drugs are ever safe during pregnancy, thats just as bad as alcohol."  
    • Well, I did retire my crack pipe for most of those 9-months, if it makes you feel better. 
If I had Maisy's pregnancy to do over again, the only thing that I would change would be to never have stopped my medication in the first place, but alas you know what they say about hindsight. While there are no definitive studies regarding taking antidepressants during pregnancy, there is overwhelming evidence that ante-natal depression can lead to preterm labor, low birth weight, and most importantly- women who are depressed during pregnancy have grave difficulty caring for themselves and their unborn babes (as was my experience). 

Thanks to the difficult choices my family and I had to make, we have two beautiful, healthy, intelligent daughters who are being raised by loving, healthy, and safe parents.  If this is the face of depression...
 then I will take a double dose and an extra large side order of crazy.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thank You Steve Jobs: A Mother's Tribute

Unless you are living under a rock in Dora's Magic Fairyland, you know that on Wednesday the world lost a true visionary, an inspiring genius that enriched our lives in more ways than we can recall.  Sure, he helped advance the digital age, brought computers to the masses, made it possible to be connected in remote African villages, and is offhandedly referred to as the Thomas Jefferson of our generation, but maybe the person he helped the most is the mother.

It was only since Mr. Jobs' passing that I began to realize how much of my childrens' daily lives are influenced by his innovation. There are so many computers in my home that I seriously wonder how mothers kept sane in the days before Apple?  Without my iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iTunes, and MacBook Pro, the already arduous task of child rearing would be nearly impossible.  Luckily for us, we never had to parent in a world without i's. 

Here are six ways that Steve Jobs effected my daily life:
  • The MacBook Pro- Not only do I carefully cart this silver laptop with me to the coffee shop four days a week, but it has proved invaluable during long car rides.  Pop in a DVD of Charlie and Lola, and my children will patiently wait for us to arrive at our destination, only interrupting to request snacks and drinks.  
  • The iPhone- Without an iPhone my husband and I would never take our children out to dinner.  Coloring books and crayons only buy us ten minutes, tops, but the applications on my phone can grant us hours of relaxing restaurant meals. 
  • The iPad- We recently potty trained our youngest daughter.  It was during this undertaking that I was introduced to a new function of the interactive tablet.  Following the advice of a friend, I downloaded a good half-dozen Oceanhouse Media "Read to Me" Books for Maisy to enjoy while she attempts to poop on the potty.  She will happily spend thirty minutes sitting on her little plastic Baby Bjorn chair while a Mercer Mayer book is read to her (and I can be in the kitchen making dinner!).
  • iTunes- With our first born, we waited until she was four-years-old to pitch the pacifier.  Fortunately we were able to exchange the binky for audio books.  I purchased a handful of fairy tales from iTunes, onto an old iPod, and played them for her with our iHome stereo system while she drifted to sleep.  The transition proved easier than I expected, thanks to her love of any story with a princess character.
  • Apple TV- Rainy days have become less dreary with Apple TV.  When its too wet to go to the park, I can rent and play an episode of Rugrats for my own rugrats without leaving my home!  
  • Pixar- Because of Mr. Jobs, at least once a year there is an animated movie that I am eager to take my children to.  Woody, Buzz, Nemo, WALL-E wiggled their way into the hearts of parents as much as they did the kids.
Even though I have never met Steve Jobs, I like to think that he in part inspired the character of Woody.  "Now Woody, he's been my pal for as long as I can remember. He's brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special, is he'll never give up on you... ever. He'll be there for you, no matter what." (Toy Story 3)
    So, I would like to personally thank Steve Jobs for making my job as a mother much more tranquil and stress-free (as long as I remember to keep my various Apple products charged).

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    Are Toddlers Psychopaths?

    What's the difference between a toddler and a psychopath?  Apparently, not too much.

    In 1980 Robert Hare, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia,  developed a 16 point checklist for determining a psychopath.  While you are reading these, I challenge you to reflect on your own toddler's behavior.
    1. Superficial charm & average intelligence.   Toddlers do display some charm, but let's be honest, it is superficial at best.  Maisy's insistence on repeatedly playing "Boo, I scare you!" is her attempt to charm her parents out of bed.  We pretend to be amused, but it as insincere as her fake "boo".  As for her intelligence, let's just say that she can't count to ten without repeating the number "eight" three or four times.
    2. Lack of psychosis.  I've checked, and no psychologist will diagnose my children with a severe mental disorder, no matter how hard I insist.
    3. Lack of anxiety.  OK, maybe some toddlers actually have anxiety.  However,  I am not willing to concede that many cases are not just manipulation.  When the bribe of a Sleeping Beauty gown  convinced my then three-year-old daughter to sleep through the night, my sympathy for her "sleep anxiety" greatly fell her the eager smile she returned after my offer. 
    4. Unreliability.  Will Maisy get dressed without a colossal freak-show today?  Will Elana head to preschool without a tantrum?  We never know... it seems to be up to the fate of the northern winds.
    5. Dishonesty & insincerity.  Both of my children lie completely void of any regret or responsibility.  I might ask, "Did you finish your veggies?" and they will nod their heads while hiding the carrot sticks under the table.  "Elana did you hit your sister?" and she will answer "No, Maisy ran into the wall."
    6. Lack of remorse and guilt.  A few weeks ago the girls are playing quietly with their Barbies.  Suddenly I heard Elana scream and Maisy ran out of the room and joyfully exclaimed, "I hit Elana with Rapunzel!" 
    7. Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior (meaning they commit crimes for no apparent reason).  During the throws of toddlerhood, both of my children have run to me with brilliant smiles on their faces, arm stretched to embrace my legs for a tight hug, and as soon as they melt my heart, they bit into the flesh of my thighs leaving dental imprints and bruises for no apparent reason.  This is the definition of antisocial.
    8. Poor judgment and inability to learn from experience.  No matter how many times I have told Maisy that she cannot fit into the newborn size t-shirt I have demoted to the babydoll dress-up box, Maisy still insists forcing it over her large head then throwing a total demonic fit when it gets stuck over her nose.
    9. Narcissism and an inability to love.  Although I do believe that toddlers do love, I have failed to meet a two-year-old that isn't selfish and self-centered.  Maisy firmly believes that my life stops while she is at preschool. 
    10. Poverty of affect.  Does your toddler have a job? 
    11. Gross lack of insight.  A toddler is incapable of having insight.  No two-year-old can gain a deep understanding of a person or situation.  They see exactly what lies on the surface, and no further.
    12. Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations.  This is a typical scene when Elana is the first to greet Maisy when she wakes: "Good morning, Maisy!" and Maisy responds: "WAHHHHH!!!! I don't like you! Go away!"
    13. Fantastic & uninviting behavior with drink & sometimes without.  Even without a few glasses of wine, toddlers exhibit uninviting behavior- throwing food, hitting, screaming, tantrums, need I go on?
    14. Empty suicidal threats.  Well, that would be quite alarming for a toddler to voice these bluffs.  That said, Elana has insinuated that she is going to  run away and live with Grandma Sharon if she has to wash her hair.
    15. Immature sex life.  Thank god for this one!
    16. Failure to plan ahead.  With my older daughter I have begun trying to instill a bit of forethought into her actions.  I might offer her an Oreo cookie now, or we can go to the ice cream shop after dinner.  Even though ice cream is her favorite treat, rarely does she think beyond her immediate wants and opt for to wait.
    In conclusion, it seems that a psychopath is really a person who has never grown out of his toddler stage.  I am crossing my fingers that by age five, my girls only display two or three of these characteristics (including the immature sex life).

    Friday, September 30, 2011

    Pregnant on Meds

    My second pregnancy was traumatic enough for my OB to ask me at my 6-week postpartum check-up, "So, what are we going to do to make sure you never get pregnant again?"  I wasn't in the least bit offended, I understood perfectly. 

    I wrote this essay about pregnancy and depression for Babble.  Check it out here: Pregnant on Meds.

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Other People's Children

    Imagine that you are having a quick lunch at a local eatery before picking up your children from preschool.  The emerging toddler at the neighboring table is practicing his high pitched screams.  His mom looks up with a smile and a shrug as if to say- isn't he cute?

    Well, no, not really.

    Next, imagine that you are at the park sitting in the sand with your children.  Some child you've never seen before saddles up to you and wants to demonstrate her amazing jumping abilities.  At first you smile politely and give an obligatory compliment, hoping she'll either leave or start playing with your children, but she stays... next to you... and keeps talking.  You look around sheepishly for a parent/caregiver and when you spot one that seems to know the child, she gives you a grateful thank-you nod and now you are stuck with three children commanding your attention for the next thirty minutes. 
    Photo courtesy of Karin Asencio.
    It's not that I don't like children.  I love children, especially children that I know.  However, since I have birthed my own screeching babes, other people's children have become far less cute.  I'm not talking about the children of my friends', I am actually quite fond of these kids.  Yet, the strange toddler running in circles on the sidewalk no longer makes me smile.  (Is it bad that I sometimes want to trip them?)

    Maybe my problem does not lie in the child, but the parent that thinks everyone else is delighted to hear her little monkey babble and watch him crawl on the dirty cafe floor.   Yesterday, while trying to get a quick salad and work on an article, I was interrupted by a mother of a toddler while eating a nice child-free salad.  She was talking to her 18-month old in a loud, sing-songy voice.  "No, no Colby, we don't throw grapes.  You like that bread, huh?  It's good.  Do you want to sing?  Ok.  The itsy bitsy spider...  I said no, no.  Let's not throw forks!" And on, and on she went.  At this moment, I slightly hated her (probably because I was using the exact same voice two years ago).

    None of these scenarios depict a child misbehaving.  Those kids, the ones in the midst of a sadistic tantrum or refusing to share her sand toys, do not phase me in the least.  I get them.  This is fine, normal, and expected.  Best of all, during these times, no parent is looking at me to provide admiration to the offending offspring.  In these situations the mothers are usually embarrassed and doing their best to calm the demonic child or pretend that they are with someone else.

    I also don't believe in disciplining other people's children.  In most circumstances there is little I could say or do that would have any impact on the child's behavior.  Most likely I will just piss off the parent.  In addition, I probably do not know enough about the situation to properly intervene.  Maybe the child has Asperger's?  Maybe she is going through a difficult transition at home and is acting out in other settings?  I really try not to judge, especially the difficult behavior.  And, God only knows, that my children have provided their fair share of inappropriate public behavior.

    So parents, let's just all agree on one thing; yes, of course our children are adorable, special, talented, gifted, and oh so brilliant.   However, this is mostly in the eyes of their own parents.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Sleeping with the Enemy


    Last weekend my husband and I embarked upon our first camping trip with our little ones.  I may be using the term "camping" loosely as we were sleeping in a cabin, on beds with plastic mattresses, all food was served in a mess hall, and there was a pool on location. But for us, we were roughing it.  As parents of a toddler and a preschooler, the roughest part was sleeping together in a small, one-room cabin.

    Our usual travel routine is to put Maisy to bed in a secure, dark space as far away from our bed as possible.  We always bring the pak-n-play, even when the hotel provides cribs, since it fits much better inside the small hotel room closets.   We also tote along an extra bag filled with Maisy's favorite blankets and her five best stuffies (in a desperate attempt of getting a peaceful night's sleep).  Sometimes it works, sometimes we wake up at 5:30.

    Since our cabin was a 12 foot by 18 foot rectangular box, with no closets or secluded areas, Maisy's pak-n-play was placed next to the double bed Ted and I were sharing.  To complicate matters, Maisy was sick with a slight fever and sore throat.  Needless to say, by 11 o'clock on the first night, Maisy had abandoned her crib and was sleeping fitfully next to me.  Any attempts to transfer her back to the pak-n-play were met with loud and unyielding refusals.

    At midnight, after repeatedly removing Maisy's limbs from my face, I kicked Ted out of the bed and sent him to sleep on the empty bed of the bunk beds.  Finally, without the heat of being sandwiched between two humans with propensities to cuddle, and without two people breathing heavily on my face, I was able to fall asleep.  That night Maisy woke every hour to remind us all that her throat still hurt.


    The next night we didn't bother to attempt putting Maisy to bed in her crib.  Ted was again allocated to the bottom bunk, Elana to the top, and Maisy slept with me (read: on me).  This is how the night went:

    10:30- "Owie!  Owie!  It hurts!"  Maisy points sharply at her throat.  After refusing any form of pain medication (I've brought grape, bubblegum, and orange flavored Tylenol and Motrin in both liquid and melt-away form), Maisy agrees to go back to sleep.

    12:00- "Pick me up."  I gently rub her back.

    12:30- "(Whine).... Sing me a song."  Softly, and hazily, I sing You are my Sunshine.

    2:00- "Take my socks off!"  I take her socks off.  "No, put them back on!"  I put them back on.  "Wahhhhh!  My socks are squishy!"  Maisy then falls back asleep in mid-scream.

    3:30- "I want to wake up!  It's wake-up time!!!"  Surprisingly, Maisy is easily convinced that it is not actually time to get up.

    4:45- "Mommyyyyyyyyy!!!  Wake-up!!!!"  After soothing her for 15 minutes, she drifts back to sleep.

    5:30- "Wahhh! Owie! Wake-up time!  Pick me up!" At this point I start bribing her and promise her a new stuffed animal is she goes back to sleep.  After a bit of cajoling, she relents.

    6:30- Maisy wakes up the entire cabin, and quite possibly the neighbors. Not only does she need us to all be awake, we must also be holding her while standing.  At this early hour I question my decision to have children.

    Dr. Sears touts that there are proven, scientific benefits of co-sleeping.  But after these two restless nights, I vow to never again let that little terror anywhere near my pillow.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Only Child Syndrome- Fact or Fiction?

    Photo courtesy of Amanda Dixon Leung.
    I had always intended to have two, if not three, children.   The thought of raising a self-centered, overly indulged, only child repulsed me.  I wanted siblings, ones who played together and formed tactical alliances against the parents.  And, that is just what my husband and I accomplished.

    However, it seems that I may have prematurely judged the only-child. 

    For centuries only children have been perceived as weird, lonely, unhappy, and as a "disease in itself" (according to researcher and leading child expert of his day, G. Stanley Hall).  Research he conducted in the late 19th century asserted that only children were "peculiar", more unruly, and less teachable than children from large families.  He found these children to be odd and in danger of being permanent outcasts. 

    This stereotype has held fast through the decades, with few people actually questioning it's validity.  Even so, with the economy depressed, couples are not only delaying childbirth and investing in birth control, but deciding to stay after one.  Whether these couples want the freedom to travel, the possibility of exploring career options, or not to be financially strained, they are adopting China's "one couple, one child" mantra. 

    Many of my friends fall into this category, and even though they are steadfast in their decision, guilt always finds a way of making itself heard.  Are they setting their child up for failure?  Will she be lonely?  Will he have social difficulties?  Will she be selfish and spoiled?  Luckily, the answer is probably not.

    In the 1980's, Toni Falbo, an educational psychology professor at the University of Texas (also an only child and mother of one) analyzed hundreds of studies and deduced that ''only children scored significantly better than other groups in achievement motivation and personal adjustment.'' She found no evidence, in any published report, that only children are "lonely, selfish, and maladjusted."

    In the past three decades, numerous other studies have found that only children have more extensive vocabularies, more years of schooling, higher income potential, and slightly higher IQs than their counterparts with siblings.  This is presumably because these children do not have to share the limited resources of the parents.  In addition, only children do not have the social problems we presume that they will exhibit.  They have as many friends as other children, a normal level of self-esteem, and may even be better sharers, firmly believing that their time will come.   


    The fact that these children have unlimited access to their parents allows these children to have a leg up on their peers, both emotionally and monetarily.  With more time and money to spend on just one child, parents also tend to be less stressed, more satisfied personally, and happier as a couple.  In fact the addition of each subsequent child has proven to make families less and less content.

    So, why even bother birthing two?  With the infant death rate declining, and the demise of the family farm, the need for large families has fallen.  (I don't know about your family, but my two girls rarely help with the hoeing, plowing, and wood cutting.)  The reason most parents give for doubling down, is to provide a sibling to their first, but after reading the research findings, this seems to be futile, since the addition of another child provides little benefits to the family.  

    For me, after my first, I wasn't ready to be done with babies, and wanted that second time around.  I've never regretted adding Maisy into our mix, but when our family gets together with single child families, I certainly understand the case for the distribution of limited resources.  Yet, then again, no sound is quite as sweet as hearing Maisy tell Elana, "I love you, sista," right before she sits on her face.

    For those that want to read more, check out Time Magazine's The Only Child- Debunking the Myths.

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    Driven to Distraction- Toddler Style


    This frightening scene took place yesterday in my car, on the way home from getting the kids' haircut.  The girls were admiring their rewards from the toy vending machines Kidz Cutz employs to lure kids and parents into their establishment. 

    Elana- "Maisy, can I see that (cheap, plastic, worthless piece of) princess (junk)?"
     
    Maisy- "No, it's mine."

    Elana- "Please, I'll let you see the (hideously dazzling) princess sticker I got."

    Maisy- "No."

    Elana- "Then, can I just see the piece of paper it came with (so that I can admire all the other princess garbage that they offer)?"

    Maisy- "No you can't, Elana!"

    Elana- "Maisy, I hate you!"

    Maisy- "No, you love me!"

    Elana, knowing that she would get in trouble for hitting Maisy, decides to take off Maisy's left shoe that is encroaching on her space and throw it in the front passenger seat.

    Maisy- "Wahhhhhhhh!!!  Elana took off my shoe!  Elana took off my shoe!  Put it back on me!"

    Elana smiles, her mission accomplished.

    Maisy- "I need my shoe!  Elana took it!"  (Insert extremely loud shrieking.)

    Elana- "it's just a shoe, Maisy!"

    Maisy- "Elana is looking at me!  Stop looking at me!  Don't look at me!  NOOOOO!"

    Me, finally breaking my silence- "Girls, stop fighting.  Mommy is driving, and on the 101 and I can't get your shoe right now.  Maisy, you will have to wait.  Elana, leave your sister alone."

    Maisy- "Why? Why?  Why? WHYYYYY?"

    At this point Elana quietly smacks Maisy on the leg and touches her hair.

    Maisy- "Elana HIT ME!!!!!  WAHHHHHH!"  Her stubby legs are now kicking the back of my seat. 

    As my blood boiled and my face turned red I felt the sudden urge to slam on the brakes and instill a real sense of fear into the little terrors in the back seat.  However, I was on the freeway, with no shoulder room, and cars were passing me at 70 miles per hour.  I took one deep breath, let out a fierce "STOP" and made the critical decision to spend the rest of the drive ignoring any noise that originated from carseats. By the time I pulled into the garage, a year and a half had been shaved off my life.

    It is no cliche to say that driving with children can be hazardous to your health.  In Britain, children have been voted the #1 distraction in cars, surpassing cell phone use and navigation guides.  According to the Daily Mail, the government study found that "95% of parents admitted a baby or child having a tantrum took their attention off the road and 8% of parents said they had caused an accident because their child had been crying."

    A recent State Farm Insurance study actually contended that children were safer with the grandparents behind the wheel, than their own parents.  This may be due to numerous factors including-  today's grandparents are younger than they used to be, and that grandparents are more nervous, and so more cautious, when carting the precious cargo.  I believe the main reason to be that children behave their absolute worst in front of the parents, where they know the love is unconditional and permanent. 

    In 2009 a lawyer from leading Manhattan law firm was arrested for kicking her 10 and 12-year old daughters out of the car after a fearsome battle between the sisters.  This did not happen in the shady streets of the Meat Packing District, but in a fashionable part of Scarsdale.  When the police were contacted by a good Samaritan that discovered the younger daughter, the mother was arrested and held overnight.  Personally, I think that the all-night separation from her bickering daughters may have been just what any mother would need.  This woman may have made the choice between booting her children from the car, or driving into the nearest telephone pole.  Sanity comes in many forms. 

    Its not only that the small confines of the car create perfect breeding grounds for fighting children to torture their parents, but a moving vehicle provides plenty of opportunities for other types of misbehavior.  A quick poll of my mommy friends found that their toddlers have:
    • thrown food, balloons, streamers, jewelry, socks, and shoes out the window.
    • unbuckled their brother's carseat in a fit of rage.
    • requested (read demanded) the same song by Raffi (or Madonna) fifty times in a row.  
    • peed in the carseat, then become uncontrollably upset that they had to sit on the wet fabric.
    • throw up, spewed, vomited, heaved, and puked over every square inch of the backseat upholstery.
    • screamed so loudly and persistently that the mother's foot unintentionally stomped on the gas, resulting in expensive speeding tickets and online comedy traffic court.
    According to drivers.com, these are the do's and don't of driving with children.

    Do
    Don’t
    Prepare in advance all snacks/drinks/backseat activities and have them readily accessible for the children.
    Pick up dropped items.  Adopt the “you drop it, you lose it” attitude.
    Pull over when things get out of control.
    Mediate fights between the children while driving.
    Stay focused.
    Use your cell phone in your purse- the kids are enough distraction for one driver.

    The most important thing to remember, is that while you are behind the wheel you are the driver, not the referee.  Good luck, we all need it!