Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When Toddlers Take Trips

Biannually my husband and I have a temporary memory lapse and decide to take the girls on a mini-vacation.  This often happens over a long weekend and since we live in the Bay Area, we are lucky enough to have a plethora of get-a-way options that are just around a two-hour drive from our home. 

We will often go away for just one night.  This can be an ideal set-up when traveling with two small children.  It is enough time to have a little adventure, yet not long enough to provide tremendous amounts of sleep deprivation.  If the youngest has trouble sleeping, we can all catch up the next night, in our own beds. 

Last weekend we decided to head north, to Healdsburg.

On Sunday morning we packed.  Since Elana is such a big girl (she is four, after all) she was allowed (reluctantly) to pack for herself.  In her pink butterfly backpack she crammed: one dress, one pair of pants, one nightgown, three Barbie dolls, four colorful rocks, two plastic necklaces, three heart-shaped bracelets, and her sister's Leapfrog Leaptop.  After a quick inspection, I made her add a pair of underwear and her toothbrush and toothpaste.  Maisy, the two-year-old, insisted on helping me pack her clothes, which ended up being a bit gratuitous, as she demanded to wear her too-small, fancy pink party dress the entire trip.

After carefully using our Tetris skills to maneuver two backpacks, one bag of clothing, one sack of a snacks, a pak-n-play, two baby hiking backpack carriers, and one umbrella stroller to fit securely in the trunk of the car, we buckled up the two kids and were on our way. 

Ten minutes later the girls were begging for snacks.  Fifteen minutes after that they were asking "Are we there, yet?"  They then proceeded to spend the rest of the hour and 45 minute trip arguing over toys that they never wanted to play with before they saw their sister enjoying them.  I finally understood how my step-father felt when he would threaten, "If you guys don't stop fighting, I am turning this car around."  I was two-seconds from uttering this myself, before I realized that I would only be bluffing.

We arrived in Healdsburg about an hour before lunch time.  We walked around the small historic downtown, which took a grand total of twelve minutes, then found ourselves browsing the local toy store.  Each girl was allowed to pick one small toy.  Elana settled on a small fairy and horse figurine set, and Maisy chose a black and white cat that came in a cloth purse.  She named the cat "Dicky" after a babysitter's pet.  For the rest of the trip we received nasty stares from passersby who heard Maisy call her stuffed cat by name.

After a quick run around at a nearby park, we had lunch.  The girls shared an order of blueberry pancakes that neither would eat because the blueberries were "funny".  We then headed to our hotel for nap time.

While Ted checked in and unloaded the car, I set up the portable crib in the large(ish) closet and drew the blackout curtains.  We read stories to the girls in one of the two queen-sized beds, then informed the girls that it was time for naps.  After singing "Flower Glean and Glow", I placed Maisy in her crib and closed the sliding closet door.  This was met by immediate and aggressive demands to sleep in a "big-girl bed, like Lana".  So, Ted cuddled with Maisy in one bed while I tried to lull Elana to sleep in the other.  After thirty seconds it was apparent that nobody was going to sleep.  After twenty minutes we fully gave-in and turned on cartoons.

We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the hotel hot tub (the heating element for the pool was broken) and attempting to go on a hike with our uncle and cousin.  However,  without a nap, Maisy refused to go in the carrier and Ted drove Maisy around in the car for an hour-and-a-half while the rest of us hiked.

On the bright side, we spent a lovely evening at the uncle's house, having a relaxing dinner while the girls explored our cousin's old toys.  In addition, both girls were so thouroughly exhausted that neither protested too much at bedtime.  Maisy even agreed to sleep in her closet. 

At exactly 6:01 in the morning, Maisy crowed her wake-up call.  Repeated attempts to snuggle her back-to-sleep were inept as she lay between Ted and me poking our noses and asking, "Mommy sleep with Daddy?"

At 6:20, Elana woke and both girls were ready to play.  Since I do not function before 7 AM, we turned on the TV.  Ted got bagels, cheerios, and milk from the free breakfast buffet and the girls veged with their eyes glued to Calliou.  The media feast continued with Raggs, Sid the Science Kid, Curious George, and The Cat in the Hat knows a lot About That as the adults lounged in our pajamas reading magazines.  Two and a half hours of cartoons??!  Our children had never known such a thing was possible.  The girls spent the rest of our morning playing with their animals in Maisy's closet.  This was the best vacation ever!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stop Whining!!!

This is a transcript of a typical trip to the grocery store/Target/Walgreens:

Toddler: "Please?" 
Me: "No."
Toddler: "Please?"
Me: "No."
Toddler: "Just a tiny one?"
Me: "No."
Toddler: "But I really, really want it!"
Me: "We are not buying that."
Toddler: "I won't ask for anything else."
Me: "I already said no."
Toddler: cries.
Me: searching my purse for Advil.

Children learn to whine before they learn to talk.  When babies reach the magical age of one, they being practicing whining using groans, whimpers, and cries.  By the age of two, the whining has transformed to groans, whimpers, cries, and the occasional "I don't want to" statement.  By four years of age, the child has fully honed her whining skills and now expertly uses begging, demanding, and negotiating.

Surprisingly, my whining threshold is relatively high compared to many of my mommy friends (this is probably due to all my years of training as a middle school teacher).  Most days I can deal with the persistent pleading of my toddlers.  As they have cultivated their whining techniques, I have honed my ability to ignore them. However, there are many days when their griping can beat me down, causing me to retreat to a locked bedroom and practice the yoga Lion's Breath.  This downplayed yogi roar usually does not accomplish the objective, so I often spend another ten minutes in the room playing Backgammon on my iPhone and disregarding the pounding on the door.

So, why do children develop the inevitable whining trait when every adult is in universal agreement that this is unattractive and annoying?  The answer is simple: attention. They all want attention, and inevitably at the times that are impossible to provide it.  Sure, I understand that the child is probably tired, or hungry, or grouchy, or not feeling well, but at some point I have to make dinner and fold the laundry.

While there are many ways to help eliminate the whining, my favorite is the simplest- ignore all statements that begin with a complaint.  Pretend as though you have become temporarily deaf, or launch into a loud solo of an old Suzanne Vega song.  Nothing helps drone out the sounds of griping toddlers like "Da da da da, da da da da, da da da da, da da da da."

As a math teacher, I understand that people need to be offered a variety of ways to tackle difficult problems (squashing whining is similar to solving a complex differential equation).  In case this method is not your style, I searched the interwebs looking for other solutions to the whining epidemic sweeping the houses of families with toddlers:
  • Acknowledge the toddler's need for attention.  "Honey, I know that you want me to pick you up this exact moment, but right now I am holding two bags of groceries and trying to open the front door."
  • Avoid triggers.  So, does this mean that I should never take my child to the store, out of the bath, or put her down for a nap?
  • Demonstrate the behavior.  Some experts suggest providing the child with a demonstration of the offending speech.  When my children repeatedly whine for something, I like to stop my foot and shout "I want an Oompa-Loompa, NOW!"
  • Redirect.   As soon as your two-year-old begins complaining about changing his diaper, try distracting him by describing tonight's dinner or lima beans, mushrooms, and polenta.  Soon he will have something new to whine about.
  • Walk away.  And repeat, repeat, repeat!
  • Reinforce positive behavior.   Let your child know how proud you are of him that he made it through an entire bedtime routine without the usual half-dozen groans!
  • Be consistent in your response.  This is so much easier to write than it is to accomplish. 
However you chose to abolish this behavior, know that you are not alone.  Kids have been whining since the dawn of man, and will continue whining until the Apocalypse (which, evidently, was not on May 21st).   Whining is developmental; it's how they learn to argue and debate. 

Damn, Maisy and Elana just began fighting over who gets to play with Baby Pee-pee.  I know that it is only a matter of seconds before one of them comes crying to me.  Oh well... "I am sitting, In the morning, At the diner, On the corner..."

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Not to Wear: Playground Edition

Even though the Oxford English dictionary officially added the term “muffin top” in March, that doesn’t make it acceptable for moms to sport a pair of too-tight jeans and an unflattering t-shirt.      Unfortunately, it’s too easy for moms, especially moms of young kids, to fall into the fashion rut—elastic-waist yoga pants, zip-up hoodies and old tennis shoes. It’s no wonder: why bother dressing up when your body is so different than it was pre-pregnancy? Breasts have swelled, shrunk, and/or fallen, hips are wider, and let’s not get started on the extra layer (or two) of fat in the mid-section. Nothing fits anymore. And the nature of parenting work—baby spit-up, soiled diapers, food everywhere—doesn’t help to inspire a mom to throw on something pretty. However, there is hope. 

Two months ago we put a call out to GGMG members, asking for volunteers to participate in a clothing makeover. We were overwhelmed by the number of emails. Among the 60 responses from women desperate to be saved from their disheveled looks, we found three women with disparate fashion needs. With the help of Maegan Boyle, a Bay area personal stylist, the mothers spent a rainy San Francisco afternoon losing their dowdy and embracing their inner chic.  

Jessica, a mom of a two-year-old daughter and a four-month-old son, needed clothes that could transition between her work at a biotech firm to her other, endless job as a mother. Since she was still newly postpartum, her body, like all mothers after birth, was thicker through the midsection.  Jessica arrived wearing an old pair of red, ill-fitting corduroy jeans and a plain black t-shirt. The outfit did nothing to draw attention to her beautiful face or show off her good curves.  
Jessica Before (photo courtesy of Natasha Maresca Photography)
Maegan helped Jessica find a look that complimented her post-baby body. On her bottom half Jessica wore a pair of boot-cut, dark wash jeans with no embellishments to create one long lean line from her hip to her ankle. The jeans were mid-to-high rise, which concealed and controlled her problem area. On top she tried an easy and lightweight modern sweater that floated away from her tummy and balanced her top and bottom. The volume in the neck and sleeves of the sweater created the illusion of a smaller waist, and the long cowl brought the focus up to her face. For footwear, Jessica chose a pair of metallic Børn ballet flats—comfortable and easy to slip on to head to the park or to the office.
Jessica After (photo courtesy of Natasha Maresca Photography)
Get Jessica's look at: http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=30072209

Katy is a fourth-grade teacher and mom of 10-month-old daughter Nia. Although she needs clothes for both work and home life, she didn’t want to look like the average teacher sporting holiday sweaters and white tennis shoes. Her personal look is more edgy and funky. Katy is tall and slim, but now has slightly larger hips and a tummy she would like conceal.  
Katy Before (photo courtesy of Natasha Maresca Photography)

Katy came to the store wearing a pair of cropped, baggy jeans that were a few sizes too large, a striped t-shirt and sneakers. Her look did not honor her long, slim body. Katy ended the afternoon in a pair of contemporary, sexy, black, straight leg jeans that hugged her curves in all the right places and emphasized her long legs. The jeans were high-rise to control the tummy, and the straight leg, versus a skinny leg, was a jean that better complimented her curvy hips. The look was paired with a black, slightly cowl neck t-shirt that had edgy ruffles around the neckline. Katy was one long, slim column of sexy black!  The outfit was completed by pops of color with a turquoise necklace, red patent leather shoes and a cream Michael Kors bag. 
Katy After (photo courtesy of Natasha Maresca Photography)

Get Katy's look at: http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=30071201

The last volunteer was Elizabeth, a single mother to her two-year-old son. Elizabeth works from home, where jeans count as fancy attire. Now that her son is no longer a baby, Elizabeth is hoping to find a more sexy, sophisticated look and think about dating again. Even though she is slimmer than she was before pregnancy, her body has changed, repositioning a bit of weight onto her midsection and chest. She is broader in the shoulder and narrow and straight through the hips and legs. Elizabeth arrived sporting shades of brown: a zip-up brown, hooded sweater over a plain white t-shirt, beige cords and brown shoes. Her drab look did not match the remarkable individual she is.
Elizabeth Before (photo courtesy of Natasha Maresca Photography)
With Maegan’s assistance, Elizabeth found an outfit that not only better matched her personality but also highlighted her best features. Maegan helped Elizabeth incorporate color into her wardrobe, colors that compliment her own natural coloring and make her look more approachable and fun. On her top, Elizabeth wore a lime-green, low-cut, floaty tank top with beautiful detailing around the neckline to help conceal her larger bust and draw attention to her face. She also traded her brown hoodie for a comfortable open cardigan in eggplant that floated beautifully over her curves. Perfect for San Francisco weather, it was also versatile enough to be worn to a play date or to dinner. Since Elizabeth was so straight through her hips, the boyfriend jeans gave volume to her bottom half and were the perfect pair for running around after her toddler. She can also mix the jeans with sexy wedge sandals and an evening tank top for a summer date outfit. Finally, Elizabeth chose the same Børn ballet flats as Jessica but in lime green.
Elizabeth After (photo courtesy of Natasha Maresca Photography)
Get Elizabeth's look at: http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=30071872

Style Tips for Every Mom
Whether you are heading to the gym, to the playground or to work, Maegan believes that all women should ask themselves this one question: “If someone snapped a picture of me right now and posted it on Facebook, would I be okay with that?” Each time we step into a public space, we make an impression with the way we dress. Here are some of her tips for making that impression becoming:
  • Fit! For moms, especially moms with young children, one of the biggest challenges is fit.  As Maegan says, “Ill fitting is never flattering.” Oftentimes moms are stuck in their old, pre-baby wardrobes, which don’t match their new shape, or they borrow from their husband’s closet. Baggy does not hide the problem areas; it just makes them look bigger.
  • Balance! If you are larger on the top than the bottom, wear darker shades up top and light on the bottom to create a leaner look. Similarly, if you are heavier on the bottom, wear dark pants and a light top with a flattering neckline and pretty details.
  • Emphasize your best feature! Wear clothes that draw the eye to your favorite body parts.  Tops and dresses should always accentuate the narrowest part of the waist. If lower stomach is a problem, empire waist may hit at just the right spot.
  • The right denim! A great pair of jeans should be a staple in every mom’s wardrobe. The key to jeans is finding the appropriate rise. Joe’s Jeans or Not Your Daughter’s Jeans are good options for postpartum women with a troubling tummy.  
  • Workout wear does not need to be dreary! If you need to leave the house in yoga pants and a t-shirt with a built-in bra, make sure these items compliment your body. Be sure to incorporate color and fit into your workout wear.
  • Nothing is ready-to-wear! Do not be afraid to make use of a good tailor. Women’s bodies are unique and most clothing is designed to fit rectangular body types. If you find a great dress, shirt or pair of pants, buy the size that fits your largest portion, and have it tailored to perfectly match the rest of your body.
  • Rework your old wardrobe! Similarly, if you have pieces from your pre-maternal life that you love, have these altered to work with your new body.
Contact Maegan Boyle for your personal styling needs at (415) 695-4659 or at maeganboyle.com. You can also find fashion tips at her blog: maeganboyle.wordpress.com.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Baby Botox?

Speaking of The Sexualized 4-Year-Old, have you read about the San Francisco mother that injects her eight-year-old daughter with Botox?  Not sure about you, but I, for one, am sick of seeing tweens with smile lines.  Faces should be blank canvases, revealing absolutely nothing of the inner soul.  We should all stop and praise this mother for breaking away from the parental norms and fighting to make it socially acceptable to inject poison in our children.  Three cheers for plastic pre-teens!

(Watch Good Morning America's interview with the "Botox Mom", Kerry Campbell.)

For reasons unbeknownst to me the mother is now being investigated by the San Francisco Human Services Agency.  Why are they punishing a mother who is only trying to give her daughter a leg-up in the competitive world of baby beauty pageants?  A young girl has got to be willing to go that extra mile to win these cutthroat competitions.  And, have you seen the trophies?  Who wouldn't want to pay the $1000 entrance fee and shell out the big bucks for physical fitness trainers, voice coaches, salon services, talent coaches, tanning, evening gowns, bathing suits, talent costumes, accessories, and flippers (plastic dental appliances used to make those kiddy smiles absolutely perfect!) for a chance to win a three-foot-tall tower of glitter and molded plastic?  In my opinion, a prize like that should be a staple in every little girl's room.
Some argue that child pageantry is greatly adding to the sexualization of young girls.  I argue that it prepares them for the real world, where people are judged on their looks, baton twirling ability, and toothy smiles.  Furthermore, pageants help train girls in the interview process.  Where else are you going to learn how to answer the tough questions like: "What do you think about the growing number of foreign investments in the United States?" and "Do you consider yourself to be a giver or a taker?"  (Questions taken from the Pageant Preps Book.)  One needs to only watch this video to appreciate how pageants help create eloquent and poised young ladies.
My only current concern is that I may have waited too long to start entering my own children into this glamorous realm (the oldest is already four!).  In any case, I am practicing to be the perfect pageant mom.  I have already made these statements part of our daily routine:
  • "Put that cupcake down!  We have a bathing suit competition coming."
  • "Hurry, or we will be late for your hair extension appointment."   
  • "Did you see what that girl was wearing?  TACKY!"
  • "Smile!  Bigger!  More teeth... I said smile, not smirk."
  • "First runner up is just another term for loser." 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Sexualized 4-Year-Old

A new study, by researchers at Kenyon College in Ohio, has found that nearly one-third of all girls' clothing being sold at major retail shops can be considered "sexy".  The study states that most of the offending clothing either emphasizes a girl's (lack of a) chest or her (lack of a) booty.  Kid's stores are abound with low-cut dresses, short skirts, halter tops, and jeans with embellished back pockets (this draws the attention to the butt).

Personally I choose not to buy my toddlers bikinis, opting instead for those hideously old-fashioned suits with the attached ruffled skirts.  However, I slightly question the validity of the study.  Abiding by the rules of the study this dress would be deemed "sexy" (Pleated Dress), since its empire waist and ruched top creates an illusion of breasts.   Similarly, this one-shouldered Old Navy Dress (Old Navy Dress) would make the list for having an inappropriate neckline.

I don't know how chaste of an upbringing the researchers had, but I'm not going to pretend that this trend is something new and that three or four decades ago we weren't wearing tube tops (forgot about these- click here), and super skinny jeans (the ones with the ankle zippers), bodysuits, and ripped t-shirts that hung off one shoulder.  In fact I distinctly remember my eleven-year-old self sporting a super-short pair of neon Bodyglove shorts with two hand prints on each butt cheek to 6th grade (and I was a rather innocent tween). 

I might even go as far to say that the current trend in children's clothing is more modest than that of my childhood.  Most little girls want to emulate the grown women in their lives and hence kid's clothing styles often imitate those of the adults.  While the late 70's and early 80's fashion bared a lot of skin, today's women's fashion is more focused on flattering the body style and minimizing (read covering) problem areas.  I truly believe that the female role models in my children's lives reveal less body than the grown-ups I encountered growing up with my hippie parents.

When it comes to my own childrens' clothing, I mostly allow them to exert control.  While my 4-year-old does own one halter style ballet dress (which she insists on wearing over a t-shirt, since it is itchy), one of her favorite dresses is an ankle length, stiff cotton, pink and white striped prairie style dress with puffed sleeves that stop just below the elbow.  Our nanny and I lovingly refer to this as her Big-Love-Mormon-Fundamentalist-Compound-Dress. The fashion sense I am trying to impart to my daughters is that of comfortability with flare, not skin with bling.

My husband is more on the conservative side and becomes visibly distressed when the girls ask to play with make-up and jewelry.  While he insists that this is making them look like tramps, I have difficulty seeing the harm.  When the make-up is self applied, the girls look about as slutty as a clown at a school carnival.  Elana uses the eye shadow to create one long unibrow from temple to temple, and the lipstick is applied from the bottom of the philtrum to the bottom tip of chin.  Sexy only to the blind.

In her book, Cinderella Ate my Daughter, Peggy Orenstien writes about the new tween role models, such as Miley Cyrus and Salena Gomez, are overtly sexual and assisting in guiding our daughters to their early sexualization.  Again, I don't need, nor want, to see images of Miley pole dancing or posing nude for Vanity Fair, but I also vividly recall my 7-year-old icon, Madonna.  My best friend and I spent many afternoons dressing like her and choreographing dances to Like a Virgin and Material Girl.  I even remember us preforming a lip-sync dance to Who's That Girl at the elementary school talent show.
Orenstein further contends that the dolls girls now play with are more blatantly sexual.  Growing up in the 80's, Barbies were a must have in every girl's bedroom.  Today Barbies are still in fashion- for four year old's.  As girls enter elementary school these dolls are being replaced by Bratz and Moxie Dolls, which have bigger eyes, fuller lips, and sexier clothing.  Even though I only had the traditional Barbies to play with, the horror flick plots my friends and I reenacted with Barbie, Ken, and Skipper were anything but innocent.

Maybe I am being naive and relying too much on my hope that my two young daughters are going to have many more years of innocence, and that the dreaded sex talk is at least a decade away.  Perhaps the sexuality that Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus expose to our young ones is worse than that of Madonna (check out this photo) and Cyndi Lauper (or this one), but I am not yet convinced.  It wasn't too long ago that my little girlfriends and I were tromping around in our Rainbow Brite t-shirts and Daisy Duke shorts singing "Like a virgin, touched for the very first time."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother's Day: What We Really Want

This year I vow to not be the passive aggressive mother that pretends to appreciate the spontaneously planned family brunch at a semi-fancy restaurant with cloth napkins and no crayons, while inside desperately wishing to be sipping this mimosa without the company of children.  I am not going to pretend to accept the homemade hand print in white plaster as adequate appreciation for the tireless job I preform each day.  No, this year, I will make it perfectly clear as to how I want to celebrate Mother's Day. 

I don't want flowers, I don't want chocolate, and I definitely do not want to be woken up early with breakfast in bed.  I don't even want jewelry!  Handmade cards and necklaces made of Cheerios are a nice addition to this day, but by no means enough in of themselves.
This year I want to celebrate mother's day by spending a few hours (maybe even the whole day) forgetting that I am a mother.  I want to lounge in a spa chair being massaged by a half naked man with the body of David Beckham, the face of Colin Farrell, and the speaking ability of Silent Bob.   I want to lie relaxed with cool cucumber slices over my eyes without worrying what mischief my children may find when I'm not looking.  I want to eat a meal without scolding a pint-sized progeny for throwing bread at the next table.  I want a mini-vacation from my life, is this too much to ask? 

Remarking that gift giving between couples can be difficult. would be like stating that Elmo is annoying- completely obvious and unnecessary.  While my husband has given me his fair share of wonderful presents, I have also received the following birthday gifts:
  • a set of Williams-Sanoma wooden salad bowls  
  • a pink vacuum cleaner
  • a People Magazine and US Weekly (single issues, not subscriptions)
Maybe because we have been together for over a decade, or maybe because my focus now lies with the offspring, or maybe because my expectations were significantly lowered when he handed me the plastic bag with magazines inside, but whatever the reason, I no longer have the need for him to surprise me with thoughtful tokens of his love.

In the past few years I have decided to never again be disappointed on my birthday nor Mother's Day.  A week or two before, I vow to elucidate exactly how I want to spend the day and what I would like to be gifted.  This year for my birthday, my husband planned (as per my detailed request) an evening away at a nearby hotel.  In addition, I needed a new jewelry box, which I insisted on researching and choosing.  It was a lovely birthday, and my present was precisely what I wanted.

This week I explained to Ted how the events of Sunday (Mother's Day) will transpire.  At 12:20, before nap time, I will leave the house, alone in my car and have a luxurious thirty-minute childless car ride to a new spa in Menlo Park.  After spending the afternoon with a friend being pampered by the half-naked gods, Ted will ditch the girls with a babysitter and join me for dinner at a nice restaurant.   In the end, it really doesn't matter that I planned the whole day.  This is what matters: no kids + no responsibilities + massage + pedicure = bliss!

If the husbands/children reading this post are still on the fence about granting the mother in their life this "day off", here are a few statistics to help persuade you:  (courtesy of happyworker.com)
  • 88% of laundry is done by moms.  This totals 330 loads of laundry and 5,300 articles of clothing each year.
  • Women average 2.2 hrs/day on chores, versus 1.3 hrs/day for men.
  •  54% of children eat breakfast and 79% eat dinner daily with their moms, compared to only 41% and 66% with their fathers.
  • Preschooler requires mom's attention once every 4 minutes or 210 times/day
  • The average woman is in labor for 16 hours!!!

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Thank a Preschool Teacher!

    "If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers." (Edgar W. Howe)
    Mora Priscilla and Mora Chaya
    Spring break gave me a new appreciation for teachers.  This realization was rather shocking to me since I was (am) a teacher, as well are my mom, brother, sister-in-law, uncle, aunt, grandfather, and about half of my childhood friends.  Over the course of the 9-day break, I realized that I would rather be sitting in a middle class seat, in coach, on a 15-hour nonstop flight to Cairo than spend two whole weeks at home with my two kids.  As the image of this wondrous flight lingered in my brain, the trip became more and more appealing.

    Tomorrow is National Teacher Appreciation Day, and although none of my students ever acknowledged my tireless work on this national holiday, I am feeling an extremely strong desire to thank the preschool teachers in my life.  Below is a letter I drafted to my daughter's teacher.  However, I feel that it is pretty universal.  Please feel free to copy, paste, and change the underlined text so that you can send a nice note to the teacher that is saving your sanity, too.

    Dear Teacher Priscilla,

    Although there are many people that love my children, the care and affection that you bring to them is beyond words.  However, since I am too lazy to drag both the children out of the house to the local store to buy you flowers, I thought that I would give words a try.

    Thank you for always smiling and offering a hug when Elana walks in the door.  You make her feel welcomed, loved, and safe (especially on days when Mommy is feeling bitchy and just wants a latte).

    Thank you for appropriately oohing and aahing over each dress Elana proudly adorns for school.  Because you do this, Elana eagerly dresses herself each morning in anticipation of your joyous reaction.

    Thank you for providing a safe, contained place to play with paint, glitter, beads, and glue.  Because you do this, I have an excuse to say "no" when she asks to make use of our own art supplies after I spent the morning cleaning the house.

    Thank you for never turning on Sprout programming.  I know that there are days that you are absolutely knackered, and the last thing you want to do is manage twelve three and four-year-old children running amok around a small enclosed space threatening to dump every bin of toys.  Still, you never throw your hands in the air and sit them all in front of Dora.  Because you don't do this, I feel less guilty when I do. 

    Thank you for providing a variety of gender neutral toys for my daughter to play with.  Because you offer her the opportunity to engage in car, bug, and superhero play, I am less disgusted that her room looks like the Disney Princess aisle at Target.

    Thank you for reading to her every day after lunch.  Because you do this, I can send her straight to her room for "quiet resting time" the moment we set foot in the home.

    Thank you for patiently working with Elana to overcome her separation anxiety.  There were days I was 99% positive that I was going to get a call to come back and take home the screaming monster.  But, the phone never rang.  Because you put up with her monumental meltdowns, I was able to spend the morning writing in my favorite coffee shop.

    But most importantly, thank you for loving my child from the hours of 8:45 to 12:45.  Because you do this, I can love her a little more the rest of the day.

    Thank you, a thousand times, thank you!

    Elana's exhausted, but ever so grateful, mother