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Things I Said Today (Petting Zoo Edition)

 

  1. Do you think sheep count sheep when they’re falling asleep?
  2. Let’s not touch where the pig just went potty.
  3. Remember what the zookeeper said about not hitting the goat?

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Other Things I’ve Said:

Things I’ve Already Said Today and It’s Not Even 10am

and

Things I’ve Said And Meant In the Moment But Later Regretted

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The Death of Marital Bliss

We are like ships in the night. Acquaintance-level roommates. Fellow custodians at a hospital and the patients are still in diapers. If we were a football team, we’d call this a rebuilding year.

We used to travel a lot – Europe, the tropics, long drives up the coast to hotels so ritzy and sexy they didn’t allow guests under the age of 18. We took it for granted, we decide, after a horrendous cross-country flight with our two infants at Christmas.

Our once beautiful home is now littered with cheap plastic toys and ride-on’s that scratch the formerly shiny mahogany floors. Our master bedroom, once as plush and full of decorative pillows and soft cushy shams as a luxe hotel room, is no more. All the pillows are permanently stacked in a corner, exposing the bare metal bedframe and one crumpled bedsheet. A room now as disheveled and spare as a crack den.

We deal with stress differently. He loses weight, I gain it, so it looks like I’ve been eating all of his food. When we got married we wrote each others’ wedding vows. Now, we are dangerously close to violating the one in which I’d made him promise that he would never weigh less than me, as it is both unattractive and unfair.

Two years ago, our therapist wrote a bestseller and closed his practice. Horrendous timing for us. I remember begging him on hands and knees (to no avail) to keep us on as clients. We are molting – mossy – with petty (and not so petty) resentments.

I always vowed I’d never become one of “those women” or “those” wives/mothers who passed the kids off to her husband the moment he walked in the door following a long day at work. After all, I had reasoned then, he would’ve just come home from a long day at a job that ALLOWS me to stay home to raise our kids.

Then we had kids.

And now, I don’t pass the kids off to him once he walks in. No, I meet him at the street, can hardly wait for him to finish parking his car.

Carrie Friedman

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The Ever-Expanding Heart

Right before she falls asleep for the night, our youngest lists off all the words she knows, as if she’s doing a roll call. I listen outside her door.

Doggie? (Check.) Meow? Daddy? (Check check.) She goes through them all – 30 in total – while she’s sitting in the corner of her crib. After she’s done with the list, and has decided the gang’s all here, she curls into her animals and falls asleep.

It’s during moments like these – and there are usually several per day – when I fear my heart might actually explode, can’t possibly contain all of the love I have for these tiny people. Instead, I am shocked by the fact that my heart continues to expand, continues to make more room for these amazing beings and all of their discoveries, humor, and love.

And then one of them has a ten minute ear-piercing temper tantrum that balances it all out.

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Tired Words (Part Two)

For the whole day I walked around thinking his name was GEORGE Letterman because I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember his real name.

“I think I have a brain tumor,” I told my husband.

“No, you’re just tired,” he said. “I still can’t think of the name of that thing that floats—”

“A floatation device?” I volunteered.

“No.”

“Lilypad?”

“No. It’s kind of like a tent?”

“A boat?”

“No. It’s made out of the same material as a tent.”

After TEN MORE MINUTES of this, we finally arrived at the word Raft.

Motherfucking raft.

We need sleep.

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Flying with kids: some do’s and mostly don’ts

We went on a flight with our kids once. Once being the operative word.

It was Christmas a couple of years ago. We flew nonstop cross country to see my family. At the time we had a newborn and an almost-toddler. I didn’t just prepare for the flight, I flippin’ OWNED that thing…or so I thought.

I will spare you most of the gory, ear-infection packed details, save these 5 tips:

1. DO pack extra outfits in your carry-on, for EACH of the travelers in your party. I thought of the kids but not myself and, thus, sat in a vomit-crusted turtleneck for the whole five hour flight.

2. DO get a Sit ‘N Stroll 5-in-1 car/plane/wheely/stroller/can’t remember the fifth thing-seat. We loved it so much it was not only the hero of our trip, we might reach out to the company to become their spokespeople. Literally, I tell everyone – even random strangers – how great that thing was. Considering having it bronzed for posterity.

3. DO take a page from our book: I wrote the following and packed it in individual Ziploc bags full of candy and earplugs and placed them on the seats of all the rows surrounding our row. People loved it. It bought us a lot of good will, so that when our kids inevitably started screaming and vomiting before we even took off, nobody rolled their eyes. At least not in front of us, anyway.

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“We know what you’re probably thinking: ‘UGH! I’m sitting near babies!’ We get it. We’ve been traveling without kids our entire lives…until now. Rest assured, we’ve come prepared. That said, we can’t know how our babies will react to their first flight. So here are some ear plugs just in case. Hopefully you won’t need them. Enjoy your flight. Sincerely, Seats 3A, B and C”

4. DON’T travel during the holidays. Or if you must, pick odd dates/times, in efforts to avoid the crowds. Holiday travel is the worst: passengers are often sick and you and your kids are breathing that germy canned air.

5. DON’T go if you don’t have to. Seriously. Traveling with babies is terrible. But the good news is: they grow up! We have decided to remain land-locked for the next few years: we drive to nice in-state places, the kids nap on the drives: everybody wins. As my husband said, after our long-delayed return flight: “The next time we get on a plane, our kids better be able to fly it themselves.”

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Things I have already said today and it’s not even 10am

1. Poop is not for throwing!

2. Why would you want to eat the dog’s food when you just had such a delicious breakfast?

3. PLEASE stop drinking the shampoo.

4. Suffocating your sister is NOT OKAY!

5. I love you too, Sweets. More than you know.

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Today’s Temper Tantrums

What I said during my toddler’s 4th tantrum of the day:

I know, sweetie, you’re so frustrated because you want to hold Zebra RIGHT NOW, but sister is having her turn with Zebra. How about this, let’s count to 20 and maybe then sister will be done and you can have your turn? Sound good?

What I felt like saying:

I’m gonna need you to cut the bullshit. It’s called sharing – look into it, for fuck’s sake. Now let me teach you how to make mama a strong bloody mary.

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The Continuing Disintegration of My Mind

I once had a beautiful mind (not a Beautiful Mind, mind you). It was full of interesting nooks and crannies, fabulous contradictions – the same brain that stored memorized poetry and Chaucer (in Old English, obvs) also knew ALL the words to Notorious B.I.G.’s final album (RIP) and remembered every single phone number I’ve ever had. Once upon a time, I could calculate tips for waiters, think of witty comebacks on the spot, do long division.

Now, not so much.

I asked the hubby this morning: “What’s 9 times 7?”

Two things that make this question unacceptable:

1. I tested out of AP Calculus in high school, then CHOSE to take more math in college because I LIKED IT SO MUCH AND WAS SO FUCKING GOOD AT IT.

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2. I can’t blame fatigue anymore! Our amazing children each sleep 12 hours a night! Uninterrupted! And have for a while now! (To be clear, I am not upset about this. Only bummed I can’t blame them for my shortcomings.)

Yesterday, while observing my daughters being nice to each other, I said: “Good sistering, girls!”

Sistering.

I threw a bag of trash into the washing machine yesterday. Didn’t realize it until after I’d poured in the Tide.

So, truly, flecks of my brain are starting to chip off like old paint. Is this just part of getting older, or maybe what happens when one feeds one’s brain a steady diet of Sesame Street and Baby Einstein, with no time to dine on the newspaper or that new Lawrence Wright book that’s been collecting dust since it was preordered on Amazon? I can’t be certain why, exactly, I’m losing it, but I am and I don’t like it one damn bit. I am becoming one of THOSE women – the kind who putters around instead of walking with purpose. The kind who constantly tells you to remind her to do something, or wanders into rooms and stands there, lost, asking aloud: “Why did I come in here?”

And don’t try to make me feel better about my brain erosion. Don’t lie and say it’s adorable or endearing because I know it’s neither. No one wants to be married to/friends with a putter-er or dodder-er. No one finds this attractive, especially when the dodder-er in question is a mere 36 years old.

Terrifying new frontier, this. Next up, no doubt: a Fanny pack and Med-Alert jewelry.

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My New Best Friend

I remember registering for baby stuff a couple of years ago. All my mommy-friends had raved about going all natural – “giving your baby only the best,” which apparently meant all organic foods and organic, wooden toys. I took this and ran with it. No battery operated toys for us – no siree. “Kid-powered!” I remember declaring to my husband. “That forces kids to use their imaginations, instead of all these light and sound shows they’re calling toys!”

And then I actually had kids.

Last week I bought a Laugh and Learn Puppy in hopes he might act as a playmate to my older child, to occupy her while I feed her younger sister. As I plunked the batteries into his back, I secretly prayed he would fulfill this wish or more – entertain both of them just long enough for me to take a goddamned shower.

My, how times have changed.

It’s taking a while for the kids to warm up to him, their new brother, but still, I feel like he will eventually become a welcome member of our family. Sometimes, from the other room, I hear Laugh and Learn say, “I love you! You’re my friend” in the middle of the night. It’s usually unprovoked. It’s usually a little creepy. Maybe there’s something wrong with his batteries.

Still, it’s nice to hear.

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The Short Fuse

Fine, maybe my fuse was short to begin with. I’m not the most patient person, and I’m working on it. But add soul-crushing fatigue to that, and my fuse is a cartoon one with sparklers shooting off of it, Tom and Jerry style.

Case in point: I returned to my car in the grocery store parking lot today and found a note on my window that said “Nice parking job.” I looked: I was parked ON the line, so the car next to me, presumably the writer of the sarcastic note, had to park SORT OF close to me.

Maybe in the past I would’ve shrugged it off or at most crumpled it up and left it there so the driver could see it upon his or her return to their car.

Today, and without even thinking about it, I turned the note over and wrote, “Have a nice day, Fuck Bag” and slapped it on their windshield.

Kaboom.

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A Proposed Parenting Pact

Can we all just agree on simple, repeatable sounds for the giraffe and the zebra already? The sooner we do, the sooner they’ll become universal, and my kids will stop asking me what they say.

P.S. – Is the zebra from the horse genus? If not, CAN it be?

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So Much Sweat

No one mentioned there’d be this much sweating. An hour into any given day with the kids and I’m covered with it. Are other mothers experiencing this or do I have a glandular issue? Or are they just better at hiding it? This is actual physical labor; the lifting and shlepping and chasing of children is the only cardiovascular exercise I’ve gotten in the last year. It’s like a 24 hour Power Yoga class, except it somehow doesn’t address my actual problem areas.

The other day I walked the kids in their double stroller to the drugstore, several blocks from our house, because we were running low on milk and formula. By the time we got there, my stringy hair was dripping sweat like icicles melting off trees in early spring, and I smelled like a seaside town.

Of course the children waited until we were in the checkout line to start the tantrum portion of their mornings. While they were screaming, I accidentally opened my wallet upside down and loose change fell out everywhere. At that point, my sweat level had reached an all-time, George-Wendt-in-a-marathon high. I was on all fours, collecting my change, but to the fellow who had just walked up behind me in line, I looked like the most desperate, unfortunate beggar (one with two children no less) – in stained clothes, scrounging for change on the floor.

Inevitably, that guy behind me was an arrogant shithead I went on 3 dates with 12 years ago.

And he recognized me. Of course. “Oh my God! You look so…different…!”

I muttered something like, “I don’t know who you’re talking about,” quickly paid and pushed my screaming children out of the store, sweating all the way home. Time to invest in a more absorbent wardrobe.

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Wanted:

One magical elfin type to clean up all the dishes and bottles and toys at the end of every day.

Hubby and I are too busy (shlepping, but also) enjoying our toddlers, the creators of the messes we are later too tired to clean up. Also, we would much rather witness the younger one say the word “rainbow” for the first time while pointing out the window, or the older one read/paraphrase a book to her little sister. These moments are the stuff of life – moments we can’t explain to each other or  re-do. It’s just not the same when one of us is downstairs, resenting the shit out of the other while scrubbing out bottles.

So, more Rainbows, less Dawn dishwashing detergent.

It would be mostly light housekeeping at the end of every day and then said magical elf can rest in the broom closet until the next evening.

Too soon for a live-in robot maid like the Jetsons had?

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The 90 Minute Mother

I love my kids. LOVE everything about them. I love how their minds work. I love how they smell. I love the way tomato sauce sinks into their dimples even as they flip their lunch plates onto the floor.

I waited for a long time for my kids and that wait only underscores how much I feel for them. I could not imagine my life without them. I am lucky, blessed to have been gifted with these little miracles.

Yet after about 90 minutes with said-miracles, my attention starts to wane. I find myself craving my computer, an episode of Ellen. A jog, or a glass of wine. Some meaningful me-time.

Okay, ANY kind of me-time.

During my 90 minutes of mom-glory, I am the perfectly balanced mother: loving educator, dedicated caregiver, conscientious guardian of the future. For those 90 minutes, we enjoy any and every type of unstructured playtime – some days that means pretending to be animals at the zoo. Other days, we review our colors while playing I Spy on a walk around our neighborhood. We run up and down “the big hill” (driveway) in our front yard. We sing along to our almost worn out CD of The Sound of Music.

Then, somewhere around the 90 minute mark, the activities I suggest become far less active on my part. We go from playing tag at the park to sitting coloring pictures to trying out my newly invented ‘let’s pretend to nap’ game. I get tired, I get distracted. I start wanting to connect with the outside world, wondering if anyone’s emailed or called. At the 2.5 hour mark, the fatigue becomes overwhelming and I am tempted to retire to the couch and lay catatonic for a while. Or maybe watch The View. By 4 hours in a row of child-rearing without a break, I feel like I’m being dragged behind a truck down a gravel road.

Of course I don’t show my kids these feelings. But I feel so guilty about it that sometimes I think the older one knows. She is two. Her forehead at rest has the almost furrowed shape of my husband’s. She looks at me and I think she knows what I’m thinking and she is judging me. And then, inevitably, it becomes apparent that she was pooping. And I am crazy.

I know I can’t be the only 30-something mom who had a full life before she had kids who feels overwhelmed by the weight of parenting after an Ellen plus half of The View length of time. But my friends don’t talk about this. I can’t be the only one, right?

I have a woman who comes to help. She is, I am convinced, one of the eight wonders of the world. Somehow she never fatigues! Or if she does, she never shows it. Is it because she’s getting paid? Is it because she gets to go home to her babyless household? She is the 90 minute me on my best day, all day and every day.

We share the same parenting philosophies, and she is a former kindergarten teacher. We couldn’t leave our kids with a better, more qualified person. We all love her, she’s practically a member of our family. She exudes warmth and curiosity. She is Mary Poppins in sneakers.

I marinate in guilt while she is around. I am absolutely steeped in it, and I’m not entirely sure why. Is it because deep down, I feel I should be doing all the child care?

Is it because I am technically a Stay at Home Mom, even though I work out of our home? As a writer, the lines are fuzzy. I work every day, but a freelance writer doesn’t have a set income, nor an office outside of the home, so it’s hard to take my job seriously sometimes.

I have always had a hard time accepting help. I come from the Midwest: we raked our own leaves, cleaned our own houses, and were only left with babysitters on Saturday nights when our parents went out. We loved that babysitter, a high school student from down the street, because she let us watch the Saturday night lineup on NBC – Facts of Life, Gimme a Break, Golden Girls, Empty Nest. (So, basically, our real sitters were Charlotte Rae, Nell Carter, Bea Arthur, and Richard Mulligan).

The guilt is not helped by the fact that the children reach for me when I’m leaving, and they scream. I feel badly that I still want to leave. I overthink it, overfeel it: I feel badly that I want more in my life besides my kids. I leave because I know they are safe. I leave because I need to take care of my mind and health so that I can better take care of them. I leave because I know that I will always come back.

 

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When nostalgia becomes nutstalgia

Is it possible to experience nostalgia for something that ended a mere 3 hours ago, or is in fact still happening?

3 hours ago it was my toddler’s last gym class. She started out the 8 week course timid and weepy, afraid of the ladder, slides, and other kids. But today, the last class, she only cried when I said it was time to go home. She was climbing the ladder as confidently as a fireman (who she pretended to be while doing it), and went down every slide with a high pitched “Wee!” of glee.

I’m trying so hard to live in the moment while raising my kids, and it has been fairly easy so far, since young children are nothing but present. But I do find a kind of removed wistfulness wash over me now and then. I find myself nostalgic for moments even as they’re still happening.

Tonight, after dinner, to celebrate my daughter’s fearlessness and “graduation” from gym class, I play the euphoric song Brave by Sara Barielles on my ipod speakers. We dance around the kitchen together, her arms wrapped around my neck.

“You hold me tight?” she asks.

“I promise,” I say. “I will always hold you tight.”

She sighs and puts her cheek next to mine and says,”Cheek to cheek.”

And just like that, I’m leaving the moment, thinking about how times like these – more memorable than what a camera can capture – make my heart ache, for the splendid but ever-fleeting present, the painful past before she was here, and the future when she won’t want to dance cheek to cheek with me anymore.

Suddenly I’m on the outside looking in, as if watching through our lit kitchen window: a mother dances with her child, and I am already missing her tight grip, the soaring melody, and the sound of her singing along.

 

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Tired Words

Mama don’t speak so good no more.

-Words I’ve unintentionally made up (and what I meant) :

-Revisement (revision)

-Upsetion (anger)

-RandPauly (adjective to describe Tea Party republicans)

What about you? Have you done this?

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The Arsenic Hour Lasts All Night Long

When will the lambs stop screaming?

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The “No-Cry Sleep Method” is neither No-Cry nor a Sleep Method. Discuss.

We used to indulge our older child’s sleep quirks, which meant sometimes up to an hour of rocking her to sleep. But when we had our second baby, shit got real, fast.

We went right to the experts of the latest trend, who everyone recommended – well known and well regarded authors of a book and a company that advertises a no cry method for getting your baby to sleep and stay asleep, through the whole night. But when we sat down with said-experts, we found out it’s about getting your child to sleep…by letting them, essentially, cry it out. You can go into their rooms after 5 or 10 minutes of crying, but you can’t pick them up, you can only say, simply, “We love you, go to sleep, it’s okay.” And then you have to leave the room again. Brutal.

My husband doesn’t help at all in this department. In fact, he hurts the movement. “I just don’t want her to think we’re abandoning her,” he says. He makes it sound like we’ll be leaving her at a train station with nothing more than a blanket and a bottle, or tying her up in the backyard, her crying like a dog barking until the neighbors call the police and tell us to bring her inside.

I remind my husband that we’re not neglecting her, we’re leaving her in a perfectly quilted safe place, a throne practically, so that she sleeps, which we all need. This teaches her to self-comfort, a valuable quality in life. Even though I’m only half-sure myself, I hope that by trying to convince him I will fully convince myself.

I was raised in a house where, I can safely assume, my mother came and got me every time I cried. I can’t recall that far back, of course, but it seems about right. My parents were overprotective, but their hearts were in the right places. (Sure, they broke up with my high school boyfriend “for” me – read: against my will and not to my knowledge – because they didn’t like the fact that we’d had a small tiff earlier that day over lunch, which I had made the mistake of telling them about over dinner.)

Ultimately, their overprotection and fierce love didn’t do me any favors, especially once I was an adult. Everything, every little loss or failure or rejection, shattered me.

My husband, on the other hand, sees us letting our daughter cry as abandonment or neglect. Eventually, my husband agreed we should give the No Cry Sleep Method Which Totally Involves Crying a try. All he asked was that I start it on a night he had to work late. Translation: “Do it while I’m gone.”

I nodded. Though I would have loved some support throughout the process, I knew he couldn’t handle this.

And now, the night has arrived. He is working late. I put the newborn down to bed, and then take our older daughter to her crib.

7:30pm – I hand her her animal friends one by one as she asks for them. “Doggie?” “Meow?” “Bear?” She carefully places each in different corners of the crib, then points to them, counts them 1-2-3, taking a census. Poor thing has no idea what’s coming. “Up!” she asks, reaching for me. This is the point where, once her animals are all placed, she gets rocked to sleep in my arms. I feel a pang in my chest. I want to grab her and forget about this stupid hacky method. “Up!!” she says again.

7:32pm – I follow the method to the letter. Thank God they have written me a script because I am frozen in her stare, the longing in her eyes.

“Okay, sweetheart,” I say. “Now it’s time to go to sleep. I will be right here. We love you so much and you have everything you need.”

I dim her lights, leave the room, then shut the door.

She screams. She screams so loud I worry that she will wake her sister, that windows will break, that it will set off our security system. This will not do. I immediately break the rule and peek my head in, repeating from the script: “Everything’s okay, sweetie. You have everything you need. I love you.” I retreat to the master bedroom to wait out the storm.

7:35pm – I am the worst mother ever. What kind of person lets her kid cry like this? A sadist, clearly. A blackhearted, soulless, hateful sadist.

I watch my baby on the video monitor. She’s jumping up and down in her crib. She alternates between screaming and crying. The cry kills me. It’s a heartbroken cry. A full-body cry. My goal as a parent was to raise kids who’d never cry like this, yet here I am, witnessing it and not doing anything to make it better?

7:38pm – This is the opposite of Attachment Parenting. This is Abandonment Parenting. Sidenote: the actress who played Blossom is totally going to breastfeed her kids all the way through puberty, isn’t she.

7:40pm – The crying has slowed but she’s still standing in her crib. She calls out to everyone she knows – appealing to anyone who might help her. First, to her newborn sister, then Daddy, then the dog. Then she moves on to each of the grandparents, the little boy who lives next door, our cleaning lady. Even the contractor she met all of once makes the list.. Everyone but me, the evil meanie who put her in this dungeon in the first place. I suddenly become wistful, find myself longing for the days when I’d rock her to sleep or rest her on my chest, our breathing in sync. She will only be this young once, I start to reason. Eventually she’ll work out her sleep issues but now, I think I need to stop this. She is my first born, it took so long to have her, and it’s inhumane to put her through such trauma. Someday, she’ll be a teenager who won’t let me hold her hand in public. Now is the time for cuddles. To hell with these “No Cry” maniacs. I get up and look at the monitor, about to turn it off.

7:43pm – She has stopped crying. She’s still standing there, but she’s silent. It’s the moment when she realizes no one is coming for her. She has a choice: she can keep crying or she can surrender, to our will, to sleep, She stands there, in the center of her crib, mulling the options. Then, she turns around and looks directly at the video camera, directly at me. She lets out one more howl, as if to say ‘you win this round, but not the next.’ And instantly she hunkers down, butt in the air, a ladybug on a tree stump.

She’s like me in so many ways it scares me. She’s stubborn, willful, won’t take no for an answer, a fighter, born with clenched fists. And also like me, she fights sleep until the last second, then as soon as she drifts off, she tucks her hands under her cheek like a pillow, lets out the most delicious contented sigh. It takes everything in me not to tiptoe into her room and quietly climb into her crib with her.

7:51pm – Am I going to do it again tomorrow? I don’t know. I don’t care. Exhausted, I, too, surrender to sleep.

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My New Invention

The minute my fingers leave my  younger daughter’s back she screams. I used to stand in her dark room, some nights for an hour, rubbing her back, the crib rail lodged in my armpit, cutting off all circulation to my fingers.

Until now!

From the makers of those Pseudo-Humans you can put in your passenger seat in order to use the carpool lane, it’s…Mamaquin, the Mom Mannequin! ™

Just drape Mamaquin over the side of your wee one’s crib and voila! Your child sleeps in the dimly lit room with the comfort of your doppelganger and you can sleep lying down for once. Everybody wins!

Patent pending.

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New Stores of Choice

 

Used to be: Fred Segal and other swanky-tank places

Now: It’s Walgreens. Everything I could possibly need is there (baby formula, milk, eggs, baby food, shaded lawn chairs, Midol, dog bones and treats, $5.99 flip flops, pajama jeans). Conversely, if it’s not offered at Walgreens, odds are I don’t need it (I’m looking at you, alcohol and $300 Kate Spade wallet).

What are yours?