Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Of Faith and the Easter Bunny

Sawyer wanted to know when the Easter Bunny was coming to our house.

This was a sticky one.

David tried to tell him he won't come because he's afraid of the dogs.

"But he comes at night. The dogs will be sleeping," Sawyer pointed out.

Got him on that one.

And so it was left to me to explain what Easter is and why we don't celebrate it. I mean, we'll take the kids to the town's Spring Fling that includes an Easter Egg hunt. But they won't wake up Easter morning to find a basket full of chocolate and jelly beans and peeps.

I figured I'd first better start with Christmas. See, we have a tree and we exchange gifts. My kids believe in Santa and Rudolph and elves.

But they don't believe in Jesus.

"Who's Jesus?" Sage asked me today.

Yes, I had managed to do Christmas without explaining what it means. I'm Jewish by birth and tradition. We've lit the menorah at Chanukah the past few years and this week the kids attended their first Passover Seder.

My husband is vaguely Christian. Which is to say he doesn't go to church. But he believes in G-d or a higher power, and, like me, is not a fan of organized religion.

When I was a child my parents allowed us to hang up stockings. We had no tree, but I fervently believed in Santa Claus and would perch on my bed Christmas Eve, gazing out the window in search of a shiny red light amid the stars.

Maybe they didn't want us to feel left out. When you grow up in a largely Catholic area, it's tough to understand why you're the only one not participating.

I think that's part of why we do a secular Christmas, even though that's an oxymoron. It's tradition for my husband. The gifts and candy canes and picking out a tree is fun for the kids. And there is my affinity for shiny things. Like sparkling lights and ornaments.

So today I started the Easter convo by telling the kids that Christmas is to celebrate the birth of a man named Jesus who lived a long time ago. Then he died, and on Easter, he came back to life.

"Like Michael Jackson," Sage said.

Okay. Not so much. The idea of resurrection is a slippery slope for a child, because then they will start asking if Grandpa is coming back. Or Michael Jackson.

"Well," I told them, trying again. "Some people believe that Jesus died and then was resurrected, or kind of came back to life. They are called Christians because his name was Jesus Christ. Now, Mommy believes he was alive. But I don't believe he came back to life. And that's why we don't celebrate Easter."

By this point, I had no idea if I was making sense. I was trying to make it as simplistic as possible (so yes, I'm aware that Christ wasn't his last name, but I didn't want to get into the whole Christians believe he was the Messiah and Jews don't. That discussion is for another day).

Luckily lunch was ready and their attention became focused on turkey sandwiches and carrots.

A few weeks ago, a game of Legos with the neighbor boys devolved into an argument about G-d. The boys said G-d was there, in the garage. Sawyer countered with "No he isn't. He's dead. MOM! Who's G-d?"

I'd been putting off talking to my kids about G-d. I struggle because I feel it's hypocritical to instruct them to believe in a G-d I'm not sure exists. Children are so black and white, you know? If you tell them something, they take it as truth. Now, I don't have a problem with Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy or even the Easter Bunny. To me, that's part of the magic of childhood.

So what did I tell Sawyer? At the time, I said we'd talk about it later with Daddy. It took a couple days, but he cornered us in the car coming home from the beach.

I explained that G-d is a spirit, not a person. That He is like the wind: you can't see it, but you know it's there by the way the leaves move. Some people like to talk to Him if they are feeling scared or lonely and it makes them feel better, and lots of people believe He created the world and everything in it.

"Is G-d real?" Sawyer asked.

"That's for you to decide," I told him.

Thing is, even though I am ambivalent about His existence, I do not want to close off the possibility for my kids. If G-d is something they feel will help them in their life at some point, then I'm all for it. I don't want their beliefs to be entirely colored by my thoughts. I have struggled with this a lot, wondering if I'm doing a disservice to my kids by not raising them in a particular religion or with a strong faith - or any faith - in G-d.

I think growing up in a religion is easier than not. There are rules. Guidelines. Books and television shows and games. And churches or temples that help. Maybe you sing songs with your toddler about Jesus, or whisper into your baby's ear about what a blessing from G-d he is so it's always a part of them.

Living in Orange County is tough when it comes to this stuff. We have Saddleback Church with Pastor Rick Warren right down the street. We didn't have Evangicals where I grew up back East; religion was a private thing and nobody really talked about it. Out here, every other SUV or minivan at the pickup line at school has a windshield sticker advertising Warren's Easter Sunday service at Anaheim Stadium.

I don't believe you need religion or belief in G-d to be a good person. There's been too much destruction in the name of it (see Bin Laden, Osama or perhaps Crusades, The). I have a tough time getting behind a G-d who would allow such suffering, especially of children.

You do need a loving family or mentor to guide you as to what is right and wrong. You teach your kids to be strong, kind, caring and accepting of others, not because they're trying to please G-d, but because it's the right thing to do as a human being.

That's what we're all trying to do, as parents. Whether we go to a church, temple or mosque. Whether or not we believe in a greater power, or if we find inspiration in the beauty of nature or in the miracle of children.

I am still on my own journey to find faith. And it weighs on me, how to set the right path for my kids.

It weighs on me.

Orange County Moms Blog

Hey peeps!

I was recently invited to join a blog group and their Orange County Moms Blog is live!

I had my first post on there, so come check it out. You can read all about how I was felled by the stomach flu - but not in the way you'd think!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Giveaway, peanuts and Laura Bennett

She HAD to know, being a AAAA cup herself: Do all the women out here in The OC really have boobs as big as the ones on The Real Housewives?

And that was my first email from Laura Bennett.

Who is Laura Bennett, you ask? If you don't watch Project Runway (that was tough to type, people. I mean, how can you NOT watch PR? I will need your reason, in writing, so that I may point out the huge gaping maw in your life), then you might not have heard of her. But if you are a watcher, think back to Season 3.

Tall red head? Pregnant? Outspoken architect who was a better designer than most of them? Finished second? You'd kill to have her design an evening dress for you?

Yes, THAT Laura Bennett.

She has a new book coming out called, "Didn't I Feed You Yesterday? A Mother's Guide to Sanity in Stilettos." It's mostly about her family - she has six kids. SIX! - and her irreverent take on parenthood, with a few style pointers and a little dish about PR thrown in (keep reading this post to find out how you can win an autographed copy!). It's less a guide and more of a momoir and how she's managed to stay so fab amid the chaos.

I couldn't wait to read it. (I mean, I loved her first email to me!) She was my favorite contestant that season and the book was what you'd expect: funny, sarcastic and clearly, she's not entirely serious about a lot of stuff, so don't get your knickers all in a twist. I don't think she is, anyway. Because I'm sure she (or someone) does feed her kids more than once a week, and she seems sane, even if she lets her tortoise have free range of their two-bedroom Manhattan loft.

I'm reading, smiling, reading and then WHOMP.

My knickers were BEYOND twisted.

She went there.

Peanut allergy.

If you've read this blog for awhile, you know that's a topic I feel passionately about, as Sawyer has a severe allergy to peanuts and tree nuts (you can read about it here and here).

Laura talks about Munchausen's by Peanut, where "faker" moms invent an allergy in their children to get attention. She writes about how the allergy wasn't around when we were kids (true, I mean, I never heard of anyone having it when I was growing up), and that technically there are more people with shrimp allergy. She also writes "Ironically, science shows that exposure to peanuts in school-age children actually reduces the risk of allergies. Avoiding nuts out of fear becomes a self-fulfilling snack-time prophecy."

I can tell you that science does NOT conclusively show this, other than one study that, while interesting and optimistic, is not exactly scientific.

So I crafted an email. I couldn't in good conscience blog about her book - or give one or two away - without calling her on it. Frankly, I was pissed. She has a child with learning disability. She should know better than to question the validity of another - in this case, potentially life-threatening - disability!

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. I mean, she's not one to mince words. She's the mom you'd be totally intimidated by if her child was at your school. You know, the one who's always put together, in awesome Manolo Blahniks and carrying a fab Birkin bag. Who NEVER has spit-up on her shoulder or chocolate fingerprints on her impeccably tailored trousers.

Then again, you might never see her: she has nannies and even a manny who help shuttle five of her kids around New York City. You'd pee your pants if she asked you out for a drink (you'd of course go, after nine wardrobe changes, and you'd find out she's actually a lot of fun).

I pulled on my Big Girl britches and pressed "send."

And you know what? She was lovely. And classy. We might not completely agree on stuff, but I appreciated her taking time to respond.

Here's my email:

I wanted to love this book - I really did! And for the most part, it was just as I thought it would be.

But then, well, the peanut allergy thing. Now I know you love to be controversial and I'm sure the way you've written it is meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek and clever and all that. At least I hope so, anyway.

Thing is, it's painful for those mothers, like myself, who live in fear that every time they send their child to school, they may not see them again. Every time. Can you imagine that life?

We live it every day. My kid is 6 and he's been hospitalized twice after accidentally eating something with peanuts. He will have to deal with this allergy the rest of his life.

 And tho I guess technically more people are allergic to shrimp, most elementary school kids aren't bringing shrimp salad sandwiches for lunch. You don't see toddlers downing a shrimp cocktail up on the playground equipment at the park and then smearing their grubby hands everywhere. And most stuff isn't made on shared equipment with shrimp. 

Actually, the most deaths from food allergy occur between ages 15-35, so the danger only gets worse.

We all know a "crazy allergy mom" who's invented something for their child. But that shouldn't diminish the reality of a child - like mine - who really has a life-threatening allergy to something that doesn't need to be in our schools (I would LOVE a peanut-free school, but unfortunately, too many parents complain about  the Right to Eat Jiff for our district to act on it). 

You have a child with a disability (FYI, peanut allergy is covered by the Federal Disability Act). How would you feel if people - other moms, in particular - laughed and said it wasn't a big deal? That therapy was just the mother looking for attention? Now add to it that he could die without certain precautions, and you have some idea of what it's like. 

Anyway. I'd love to talk about your book on my blog. I found it smart and sarcastic and fun. But it'd be disingenuous of me not to mention the part about the peanuts - or to promote a book that propagated such hurtful misinformation. There's already enough of it out there, believe me. 

And Laura? She encouraged me to speak my truth. And here was her response:

I do know that life threatening food allergies exist in children. I once saw a classmate of my son’s sit on a paper bag that had been used for a peanut butter sandwich. His eyes were swollen shut within a matter of minutes and he began to have alarmingly labored breathing. We were in the playground after school and his mother was able to get him to the hospital immediately. Ironically, his father is one of New York’s top Thai chefs, a cuisine more laden with peanuts than any other in the world. I also know of a wonderful, funny little boy who has a terrible wheat allergy. At social gatherings he likes to embarrass his mom by saying, “Hey Mom, remember the time you tried to kill me on my birthday?” She mistook regular flour for a wheat-free product she usually bakes with. So I have seen food allergies first hand.

That said, I have also seen faker moms first hand. In my book I call it Munchausen’s by Peanut. Moms who stand up at class meetings and ask that no one in the class bring peanut butter sandwiches, but when asked for more details, because we are concerned and want to help, find out that granola bars are OK. Well is there an allergy or not?

I have a child with a learning disability. He goes to a school that specializes in his particular flavor, among several others. The school is publicly funded, so while there are children there who come from wealthy families, most are from families of more moderate means. One little boy had Leukemia at an early age and the extensive chemotherapy has left him with developmental disabilities.  Another child was the unlucky twin in twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. There are children with brain function speech delays, and braces on their little tortured limbs. In this school, where the parents have real medical and financial concerns, miraculously, there is not a single peanut allergy. In my other children’s fancy private school armies of moms run screaming in the halls posting Peanut Free Zone posters. 

I think the worst crime committed by the faker moms is not frightening their children about ghost allergies, but the fact that they de-sensitize the mom population. Hearing about peanut allergies has become a kind of white noise, and when a child comes along with a legitimate allergy, one that is truly life threatening, where the parents have had to take great measures and make real sacrifices to ensure the safety of their child, everyone questions whether this one is for real.

And I hope I never again have to see proof that an allergy exists. 

I'm really sad - and scared - that some mothers see peanut allergy as "white noise" because some other mothers have no idea what they're talking about (there actually are "safe" granola bars, but in general, they're not okay).

Thing is, peanut allergy IS real. I flip into Mama Bear mode when I feel my child is being threatened. That is, when unsafe foods are being served in his kindergarten class. When another mother suggests he can "eat a cracker" when all the other kids are getting cookies. When I see the eye rolls when I bring up my concerns over the menu for the school party.

I will get in your face if I have to. You can call me Crazy Peanut Mom if you want. And then I'll show you the pictures of Sawyer, when he was just 2, in the hospital with IVs in his arm, bravely smiling at the camera.

What really bugs me? When mothers dismiss other mothers as being hysterical. Because ultimately, we're all trying to protect our kids.

Mostly, it's a matter of education. And looking out for each other.

I know Laura and I agree on that.

Now, there was a part of her book that really spoke to me (aside from where she gives wardrobe tips, because Lord knows I desperately need to get out of Frumpy Mom Mode). In the beginning, she talks about being on a plane and, while trying to contain the mess that comes with traveling with a passel of kids, she hears the flight attendant talking about how you need to put your own oxygen mask on first - before helping your child.

That struck a nerve.

She writes in her book:

"I always take care of myself, and I parent my children my way, not the way others expect me to. I get my oxygen first. When I stop and think about it, I often find that my worst days are in direct proportion to how far I let myself drift away from that yellow plastic mask."

It's a great reminder, because what mom doesn't sometimes lose herself in the daily (sometimes minute-to-minute) struggle of taking care of her kids?

The book is a glimpse into a very different life than mine, but in the end, we're all the same, trying to do what's best for our family. Even if some of us (me) are doing it in ancient running shoes instead of skyscraping stilettos.

How cute are her kids, by the way? Seriously! But five boys? Gah!

Anyway. This brings me to my very first giveaway! Two lucky winners will get a copy of "Didn't I Feed You Yesterday?" personally inscribed by Laura! Because despite the peanut part (which I know you will cover with a black Sharpie) it was a good time.

What do you have to do? I'll make it easy. You don't have to follow, tweet it, Facebook it or make out with it. But I'd sure love it if you would. Except for maybe the making out part.

You DO have to leave a comment, with either your favorite style tip or your best "how to look like I've got it all together even when I, you know, don't but you'd never know it" advice.

That's it! I'll randomly select two winners Sunday, April 4th.

This is my first contest, so don't let me down! Enter!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Little League Mom

Sawyer started his first season of Little League this spring.

It's not cheap, people. They get you at registration. Then they start in with the fundraisers. And they're not voluntary.

So you'd think the least the child could do was, you know, enjoy playing.

But no.

He said he was nervous, that he didn't know how to play as we got ready for his first practice. I explained that that's why they have practice: so they can all learn.

Then it was that he'd rather be home running in the street with the neighborhood kids, whacking each other with light sabers or swords or sticks or whatever they can find.

He did okay in the first game, only slumping over when he had to play catcher and wear all the equipment (because it huurrrt).

He apparently complained all through Wednesday's practice that his arm hurt, he was tiiiiired, etc. And yet, when he got home, he leapt out of the car and ran up the street to play.

This morning? He didn't want to go to baseball. Oh no. He wanted to DRAW.

Now, I don't expect him to be the next Albert Pujols or Derek Jeter. I do, however, want him to have a positive attitude and try his best.

So that's when I have to channel my inner Little League Mom (you might be familiar with its close cousins, Stage Mother and Pageant Mom, but not to be confused with Soccer Mom, which involves bad jeans and a minivan).

I got right in his face and told him that he made a commitment to his team and he WAS going - NOW! as fat tears rolled down his cheeks. Then off he went to the field with David.

He was playing third base when I got there with Sage and X. And he made a play! I whooped! I clapped! I shouted GREAT JOB!

Because that's what being a Little League Mom is to me: I go crazy whenever he hustles. I don't care if he gets a hit or if his throw sails over the first baseman's head. I bite my tongue when he lollygags to first base - although, if you put a cheeseburger on a string and hung it over the base, I bet he'd break land speed records. Just sayin'.

See, when I first started covering sports for a newspaper, I was on the bottom rung: I had to cover high school sports. And boy did I learn what I never wanted to do if I had kids someday. I saw parents shout profanity at opposing players and call them fat or ugly or whatever. One time I was covering a girls soccer state tournament game and one of the players, as she ran down the field in the middle of the game, yelled to her coach "Get him out of here!" while pointing at her father on the sidelines.

I've seen drunk parents, belligerent parents, drill sergeant parents.

I vowed never to humiliate my child that way.

And so, I keep it all positive. Even when I want him to stop picking his nose out in center field (pick a good one! Atta boy!).

Sometimes it's tough for me to understand how he can be so uninspired. When I was his age? I would've LOVED to have had the chance to try out different sports. But my mother didn't want to drive. It's a big reason why I always try to get my kids involved in whatever they ask.

Sawyer just doesn't have that burning desire to be out there. I know he's only 6, and maybe that will come. I sure hope so. I think sports are great for kids, to teach them how to be part of a team, to win AND lose and to get some good exercise.

I guess I'd hoped he'd love baseball the way I do. I spent most of my career around it, and believe me when I tell you that you REALLY have to like the game to be a beat writer covering a Major League team.

Sawyer was excited when we went to Spring Training last weekend and he got to meet Angels Manager Mike Scioscia - especially when Mike moved the gate and tons of fans to let us through, and then posed for a picture with us. (Mike had to bribe Sage with the fungo bat to get her in the picture.)

And to give you an idea of what the fans look like from inside the fence..

No one asked for our autographs. Surprisingly.

Anyway. I briefly chatted with Sawyer's coach today between innings about Sawyer's lack of enthusiasm. And then before his final at-bat, I simply told Sawyer to make it his best one.

He actually RAN to the batters box. He hit the ball hard enough that it got through the infield on one bounce and raced to first! He was having fun. There was even a smile!

And then - and then! Sawyer was awarded the game ball.

I'm sure the coach (who is wonderful and who was also Sawyer's AYSO coach in the fall) wanted to light a little fire. Judging by how excited Sawyer was about the whole thing, I'd say he succeeded.

We'll see what happens next week.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Home again - but not for long

We piled into the car Saturday for our first road trip with our completed family.

We were off to Tempe, Arizona, to take in a little Spring Training baseball and visit with friends. It's the first time I'd been anywhere since Thanksgiving of '08, when I was pregnant with X and we flew to visit David's brother and family in Florida.

The drive was going to be about seven hours, including stops. We figured X would sleep for a lot of it.

We were wrong.

Here is a list of what I've learned about traveling with three kids, ages 6 and under:

1) The baby will not sleep in the car. If he does, it will be when you're only going to be in the car 10 minutes, so your husband has to drive him around for an hour in a car that gets to the tune of 8 miles per gallon city.

2) If you don't have a screen to watch videos in your car, go out and buy one. Immediately. I don't care if you don't allow your kids to watch TV at home. If they are not reading yet, and no one can find the Leapsters, then the TV will save your life. Trust me.

3) Pack food. Lots of it. They will say they're hungry while they're shoveling snacks into their faces. DO NOT forget the drinks, however. You will hear about how they're DYING of THIRST exactly five minutes after you've passed the sign that reads, "Next Rest Area 50 miles."

4) Unless you have an actual two-room suite - with a DOOR - at your hotel, you will all have to go to sleep at the same time. Or the baby will stand in his pack-n-play and shriek until all the lights are out.

5) You can't fall asleep at 9 p.m.

6) You never realized how loud your eldest son snores. You make a note to buy some benadryl. For both of you.

7) Don't let your husband pack the pack-n-play. He might bring the bassinnet, and your child's head and feet touched either end. Which could explain why he was up every three hours the first night.

8) When your daughter tells you her tummy hurts, believe her. No matter how prone to drama she is.

9) Three innings of a baseball game is all you're going to get, so don't bother getting settled in. Besides, you'll be up chasing your toddler around, trying to keep him from picking up a stray bottle cap or peanut shell the whole time anyway.

10) Just because your daughter ate two sliders and is doing cartwheels do NOT assume everything's fine.

11) If your toddler is playing with some Jenga blocks, he WILL slam one into the eye of the three year-old daughter of a friend's friend. He will soon after walk up to her, lean in so she's looking at him, then smile, wave and say, "Hiiiii." A real charmer, that one.

12) When your daughter poops a little in her pants - which she NEVER does - at the store the morning you are getting ready to leave, and you see that it is green, do not think it's a fluke.

13) Don't bother stopping in a store for more than 5 minutes to purchase new underwear. Your youngest will shriek the entire time.

14) Do try to make it as far as you can without stopping on the ride home. When your daughter has a green poop explosion at the rest stop, don't be relieved it's only coming out one end.

15) You might get excited about checking out the Cabazon outlets in Palm Springs. But don't for one moment think you will shop. Your daughter, who has just woken up from a two-hour nap, will need to use the bathroom urgently. When she's done, and she starts coughing on her way out, you now know she's about to barf. Because she does - right in the doorway.

16) Do not pimp-slap the custodian who comes to clean up the mess but steps in it instead - and then starts shouting profanity. Do hug the women who get napkins from the nearby food court to help you clean up your daughter, who is trying not to cry despite being covered in vomit (do curse the "green" restroom that doesn't have paper towels in it).

17) Don't wait until you are 45 minutes from home and have a sick child and a wide-awake, fussy toddler in the car to discover you've left your purse on the chair of the restroom. Do thank the good samaritan who turned it into mall security with contents intact. Have them FedEx it to you, since you are going HOME and not back to Palm Springs.

18) Try not to get frustrated at your eldest, who, in tears, keeps saying, "I miss Arizona."

19) Do not let your husband out of your sight when you arrive home. The second he steps outside to turn the water back on, your daughter will throw up right on the floor in front of the bathroom. Do feel good that he's cleaning it up.

20) Be grateful that no one - not a sick child nor  an over-tired toddler - woke up in the night.

21) Start planning your next trip. 

Because despite the lack of sleep and the rough ride home, we still got to be together as a family. That's what builds the "Remember when we..." stuff that we'll talk about forever. Some of the best memories I have from growing up our the trips we took - even the not-so-fun-at-the-time stuff.

So what are you waiting for? Pack up your family and go - you never know what you might discover!

I'd love to hear some of your best traveling with the family stories - please share!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

They're real, and they're spectacular

I've got these red scratch marks on my chest right around my neckline.

They are are battle wounds, people.

Now that X has reached the very old age of 1, he has discovered some important truths: he has finally realized that, those things? The ones that have fed him EVERY DAY OF HIS ENTIRE LIFE? Yeah. They're permanent. And they live under my shirt. ALL THE TIME!

Such excitement! Such a thrill!

(I mean, to me, it's like, duh, dude, what took you so long to figure it out? But hey - we can't ALL be geniuses. A third child has to get the leftover brains.)

This means that X has now entered into that annoying endearing stage where he tugs at my shirt and claws at me - shouting DIS! - whenever he feels he needs a little something something. It doesn't matter if we're home or, say, at the checkout counter at Target.

The boy wants what he wants when he wants it.

He also, after pulling my shirt away from my body, will peer down into the contents of my bra. Upon seeing that THEY'RE STILL THERE, he then lets out a triumphant laugh. AHA! HAHA!

Thing is, I'm trying to start the weaning process. Which is going to be tougher to do since, if I tell him "no," he will be all, "Ha ha, you're funny, what do you mean "no?" They're right there! I can see them! Ha ha! Now give it to me now or I will throw the Mother of all Tantrums. Oh yes I will" and so on.

I have never been lucky enough to be in the position to wean at a year. I had to "force wean" my other two much, much earlier because of their allergy/sensitivity issues. I wouldn't even be thinking about weaning, but I've been off dairy, soy, wheat and eggs for over a year and, frankly, that's 364 days too long.

It's time for X to fully embrace the sippy cup.

So I'm asking you, blogosphere, for your best weaning tips. FYI: He has not had a bottle since I went to a Springsteen concert the first week of April - when he was one month old. So we need to wean to a sippy.

Thanks. I know you won't let me down!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday

Do you remember when...

Getting chased was SO much fun..

And how your chubby legs felt to run run run?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Let him eat cake. Please!

You're having a first birthday party for your child. You've got the bounce house filled with kids in the back yard, the pizza's about to be delivered and old friends are chatting about the other first birthday parties they've attended at your house.

But we all know what the main event is. Because when a baby turns one, he gets to have cake. And there is nothing quite like watching that first tentative taste - followed by the head-first dive into all that deliciousness.

The frosting flies. Fistfuls of cake are shoved into the mouth. It's a full-body wonderful mess.

Good stuff, isn't it?

But when your kid has food sensitivities, it's not so simple.

When Sawyer turned one, I made this dairy-soy-wheat-egg free "cake" for his birthday. It was the size of a large pancake and weighed about 10 pounds. No joke. And the "frosting" was basically melted sugar.

Poor little guy.

Yes, I know HE wouldn't have known whether he had cake at his party. But I would.

Things have changed in six years. Manufacturers finally realized they had a big consumer base for gluten-free stuff. And that a lot of kids have issues with soy and dairy (adults, too).

So I figured it wouldn't be that tough to find a cake mix for X's birthday party yesterday.

I was wrong.

If they were gluten-free, they contained dairy or soy or needed eggs. Or the substitutions they recommended were nowhere to be found at the stores near me.

Which is why two hours before the party, I still had no cake for him. I'd dispatched David to our nearest Whole Foods (which was 20 minutes away) because, thanks to my friend Joya, I'd heard they might have exactly what I needed.

And they did. David picked up a box of chocolate cake mix and vanilla frosting from Cherrybrook Kitchen. Finally! A mix that was like a regular cake mix - easy to use for someone who is so NOT Julia Child. All I had to add was oil and water and vanilla extract. Fifteen minutes later, I had a dozen chocolate cupcakes.

The frosting mix called for butter, and luckily, Whole Foods had a dairy and soy-free substitute. I mixed it up and frosted them - 10 minutes before guests were to arrive.

X spent the party walking around and trying to grab all the balloons. He ate a dinner of blueberries and tortilla chips. He said "aw bun" when I asked if he was done - the first two-word phrase he's ever uttered.

It got better, though. Because, finally, it was time for cake. And I had just the thing.

We put candles on the "regular" cupcake cake for X to stare at while we sung Happy Birthday.

Then I put him in the high chair and presented him with his first-ever cupcake.

He stuck a finger in. He looked at me. He poked it again and then put his finger in his mouth. And there was that little light, that thing that clicks in their baby minds.

That thing that shouts SUGAR!!

Soon he had his fists in the cake and frosting in his hair.

He was happy.

Me, too. I also got to eat one, and you'd be surprised by how good it tasted! Really chocolatey. And even though it's been over a year since I've actually had a cupcake, it didn't skew my taste buds.

So why did it matter so much that X got to eat cake, an event he will never remember?

It's just, when you have a child with food sensitivities or allergy, you want them to have the same rites of passage as everyone else. There are enough things they will do without as they get older - like birthday cake at his friend's parties. I live this with Sawyer and his peanut allergy every day.

No amount of wishing or pretending everything's fine will make it so. Food allergies are extremely serious and there is no worse feeling than giving your child something that makes him suffer - and I definitely didn't want to do that just for a photo op.

I knew this would be safe for him.

So on X's first birthday, no matter what his food journey will be, he got to be like all the other kids.

He got to eat cake.

*Cherrybrook Kitchen did not give me free stuff, nor am I a paid advertiser for their products. However, if they'd ask, I'd be happy to keep talking about their products. They were THAT good and helped a Mommy feel like an okay parent for a day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lesson Learned

I have freakish feet.

Now if THAT doesn't just grab you and leave you wanting to read more, I don't know what will. I just don't know.

So. Freakish feet. They are structurally odd. My second AND third toe are longer than my big toe. That's not normal.

Not only does it allow to perform amazing feats (ha! feats! get it?), such as picking up pencils from the floor - and then signing my name on things, or, you know, typing this blog post ALL WITH MY TOES, it also leads to a lot of pain when I run distance.

Luckily, I'm horribly out of shape right now and haven't broken through the three-mile barrier. It usually doesn't start acting up - and by that, I mean, causing me to feel like I'm being knifed in the foot with every step - until I start doing runs of 10 miles or longer. Which is not happening anytime soon.

Anyway, I also get these odd foot cramps, where it feels like my arch is collapsing. When this happens, I can't stand up. Why, yes, I WAS the one sitting on the floor clutching my foot and moaning amidst the racks in the middle of Macy's one time.

It usually happens if I've been wearing shoes with no arch support all day. Like flip flops. Can't wear them for longer than it takes me to get from the car to the nail salon and back.

Yesterday I was freezing. So I wore my Uggs from the moment I woke up. I was standing in a neighbor's driveway in the late afternoon, and my left foot cramped so badly I immediately sat down. I didn't want to take my boot off to rub my foot so I just kind of sat there awhile and within about 10 minutes it went away. Or so I thought.

We walked a few doors down to our house and, right on the front porch (well, it's not really a porch, just a concrete slab. Totally ugly. Totally drab. But you get the idea), I crumple. It's the foot. Again.

My kids went inside while I sat out there. Sawyer stood at the door, clearly wondering what his Crazy Mommy was doing this time. I managed to scoot backwards on my butt and into the house, where I successfully shut the door with my other foot.

I then opened the closet door and stood to try to hang up my coat. Yeah. Back down I went.

I sat on that floor for another 10 minutes. By this time I'd taken off my boots and was massaging my foot. The cramp was on the top of my foot, near my toes. It makes it all spasm. I can't express to you how painful this is. You're stuck with having to imagine. Or you could have a very large person stand on your foot while pulling your toes as hard as possible. You'd get the idea.

Probably 25 minutes later it's better and I was sitting at the table eating my dinner, feeling okay, when the cramping/spasms hit my OTHER foot. Now I'm in tears.

And there was Sawyer, standing next to me. He rubbed my leg and asked if I was okay, if it really hurt, that he hoped it would feel better.

"I'll be right over there on the couch if you need me, Mommy," he said.

What a sweetie. I mean, seriously. My six year-old boy tried to comfort me (his sister was not interested, and X gets a bye due to his age), and even came back over to rub my leg again, while I grimaced and hung onto my foot.

The kicker of this whole thing is, I have no clue where he gets this empathy from. Because when he falls and scrapes his knee or gets whacked a little too hard by the neighbor kid's light saber, he cries - and I tell him he's got to be tough, that it's not that bad. I admit to occasionally eye-rolling with how dramatic he can be.

But yet, when Mommy is in pain, there he is, trying to make me feel better. He even asked me a couple times today how I was doing.

Someday, he'll be a better Mommy than I ever was.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The X Man is One

X was up at 5:30 this morning.

Which was 15 minutes after he was born, exactly a year ago today.

Happy Birthday, Baby X.

Can I still call you Baby?

Now that I'm sitting down to write this, I find it's actually kinda tough to sum up an entire year. There's just so much. And I'm trying not to think about how this is it. I will never again have a smushy little creature to love. Unless it has fur and a tail.

If you'd like to read all about my amazing home birth, click here. It's my story that ran on the front page of the newspaper. Pictures are pretty cool, too.

X was a surprise baby. As in, SURPRISE! YOU'RE PREGNANT!

But he's also been a Surprise Baby. As in, he has amazed me over and over. Not just by being him, but by what he's taught me:

That his firsts are just as thrilling as they were for the other two kids: First smile, first tooth, first roll over, first sit, first solid food, first crawl, first word (dada, of course), first step, first run (which really isn't a RUN but a fast-moving drunken reel across the room).

That giving up dairy, soy and wheat for an entire year in order to nurse him was completely worth it, that I finally really *get* why women love to nurse, that I cherish the quiet time he and I share because of it, and that I know I won't think it's funny when he starts lifting up my shirt in public.

That there really is no greater feeling in the world then snuggling a baby, even before they can snuggle back. And I will miss the way his little fist always wraps around the back of my arm when he gets to big to fit on my hip.

That the light in his eyes and big toothy grin when he sees me is the most precious gift of all, to know the love you've given is being returned - even if you are not the perfect mom.

That in three tries, I still don't have a child who looks anything like me (darn those Korean genes!).

That there is nothing quite like watching the bigger kids hug all over the little one, that your eldest has gotten into his bed and cried after accidentally giving his baby bro his first fat, bloody lip, that the neighbor kids have adopted him as their own, too, and now your baby has no fear of walking up to a group of kids he doesn't know and hanging out with them.

That the "3 second rule" now is the "he can have it if the dogs don't get it first rule." That the baby gate is still in the garage instead of at the bottom of the stairs, and that he can make it up three steps before I notice and get him back down, and I'm not completely freaked out.

That baby belly laughs? Still the best sound. On the planet.

That it's okay that he is chasing Daddy now, because it was All About Mommy for an entire year. I can share.

That he was blessed with Sawyer's generally cheerful nature and Sage's "tenacity."

That I didn't think either of us would make it past his three months of colic, that I feel for every mother who has ever had to deal with an inconsolable baby, day after day after day, but that it WILL pass. And you will finally get to see a happy little person emerge.

Most important, that your heart always has room for just one more.

Happy, happy birthday, Xander. I can't imagine a world without your smile. Thank you for making our family complete.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Layla Grace

I thought I would be writing about my baby today. He turns one tomorrow.

Instead, I'm blogging about another baby. One who I've never met - in person, anyway.

But that's the thing about the internet, isn't it? You don't need to know them to, well, KNOW them.

Layla Grace.

Maybe you've heard of her. Possibly you're one of the more than 43,000 followers on Twitter who've waited anxiously for updates from Shanna, her mother.

I knew of Layla Grace through Shanna. She used to post over on I remember when her comments were simply about getting a new car. What baby names she liked.

The usual stuff.

That is, the usual stuff when your baby doesn't suddenly get diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma.

Layla Grace was a happy, healthy, chubby toddler when she lost her appetite, not entirely unusual for a 18 month-old. And then she became severely constipated.

Soon after, late last Spring, came the diagnosis we all fear - for ourselves, but mostly, for our kids: cancer. It wasn't good. It had metastasized, taken over, wrapped around her aorta. There was a tumor behind her eye and ones behind both ears. It was in her bones, her bone marrow.

The Marshes chronicled much of Layla Grace's battle on their blog and through Twitter, from which I got the above photo.

When you go back, and read some earlier posts, the hopefulness is painful - because you know the eventual outcome.

Layla Grace.

She died this morning. She was two.

There are thousands of kids who die every day. Not just from cancer. Mostly, from hunger or diseases related to that. From malaria. From war.

And yet, this particular child has touched so many people. Shanna took to Twitter (where she was trending #2 worldwide at one point today) and Facebook to not only help raise awareness for this despicable disease, but also to ask for prayers for her baby. If one person was moved, became closer to their faith, learned about Neuroblastoma, then Layla Grace's life would mean something to more than just her family. It HAD to mean more, because how else to comprehend the incomprehensible death of someone so young?

Was it just the image of a beautiful little girl, wearing a hat with the giant fuchsia flower on top, that attracted attention? Was it the family's strong Christian faith that drew people in?

For me, it was in part because of a small connection via the internet message board world.

I became riveted. Would Layla Grace beat this? How were Shanna and her husband, Ryan, handling this?

Why, why did it matter to me so much?

Because I could be Shanna.

I have little kids.

I could be the one hearing that shocking diagnosis.

I could watch my child go from an active, exuberant whirlwind to one who thinks it's normal to have a tube going into her chest. When a good day is one in which she doesn't vomit - much.

And then. Then. All you have left is to pray for a miracle, if you believe in that sort of thing.

Layla Grace came home and into hospice care.

There was a final outdoor photo shoot, where a pale and slender Layla Grace rests her head on her Daddy's shoulder while her mother and sisters gather around.

She was allergic to morphine and all its relatives, so it was difficult to manage the pain (Layla Grace had to have morphine AND an antidote).

The Marsh's last couple of tweets and blog posts were exceptionally heartbreaking and gave us all a glimpse into what it's really like to watch your precious, precious baby slip away.

"Layla's breathing is very shallow, her breaths are getting further & further apart. Laying next to her watching her sleep. She's beautiful." - Shanna tweeted on February 28th.

You learn that watching a child die isn't at all like you see in the movies. It's not comfort and peace. It's not quick.

It's seeing your child spend her last moments not wanting to be held because it hurts too much. It's crying more tears than you thought possible - but not in front of your baby, who is still aware of what's happening around her.

It's reading her favorite stories aloud as she sleeps.

It's wondering if the last time you saw her open her beautiful blue eyes was, in fact, The Last Time.

It's shaking your fist at G-d while still praying for a miracle.

It's counting her breaths, noting that she takes eight a minute.

It's feeling her feet get cold.

It's knowing.

"Layla went to play with the angels early this morning. Rest in peace precious Layla. 11/26/2007 - 3/9/2010."

It is now up to the rest of us to decide how we want to honor her.

For me, I'm truly appreciating my kids are healthy. That if the worst things that happens to X is his double ear infection then we are incredibly lucky.

I'm hugging my them more. Enjoying the noise of them. Watching them play and laugh and shout.

I'm holding my baby tighter, picking him up with joy when he cries for me yet again.

I do these things for Shanna, who can no longer do that for HER baby.

I do it for Layla Grace.

What will you do?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Oh, Target, I thought we were BFFs!

This morning I dug through my Sunday newspaper and found this little slap-in-the-face on the front of my Target ad:

That's right. 'Tis the season. ALREADY?!?!?!

Well, you may say, you live in The OC. I bet you're ALWAYS running around in a bathing suit.

To which I say, Sure I am. Especially to the grocery store. Not. Look, people. It's not always that warm here. Right now it's not even 50 degrees. And yes, that would feel like a heat wave to many of you who live back East, but seriously, it's not that warm. Even it it WERE 90 degrees out, you still wouldn't catch me running around in one of those numbers. Even if they're on sale for $14.

Last summer, when I was just three or so months post-delivery of Baby X, I did take my kids to the pool, and to this local place we call the Beach Club. It has a pool but is surrounded by sand, so kids can walk into it or sit in the sand part and play.

I succeeded in never getting myself into a bathing suit. Sawyer has been water-safe for a couple years, and is a really awesome swimmer. Sage became water-safe this summer. Truth is, she didn't have a choice. Mommy wasn't going to jump in and grab her. It was sink or swim, baby!

Okay, not really. I would've thrown her a floaty or something.

But there was NO WAY I was going to expose myself - or anyone else - to what a third baby does to one's body. Plus, I often had X with me and I didn't want him going in these pools, which were often closed due to "fecal matter" in the water. So, parents? There's a REASON plastic pants are required for ages 4 and under. Which come to think of it, is ridiculous, because there was no way my 3 1/2 year old was going to agree to wearing something like that. But I've seen too many parents put their toddlers in wearing nothing but one of those Pampers swim diapers that hold nothing. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

Rant over. Sorry for the delay.

What was I saying? Yes. This year. No excuse. I know X is going to want to go in the pool. It's going to be up to me to get over myself and get in there. Sage asked me so many times last year to come in the water with her, to play ring-around-the-rosy, to let her swim between my legs.

I missed out. I know it and I'm not proud of it. Things are going to be different this summer. I'm just not quite...ready yet. It's only March. Why, oh why must Target do this to me? I was just enjoying a small handful of Lay's, which has now turned to dust in my mouth. DUST!

I know no one's looking at me, a middle-aged mom of three. We are our harshest critics, though, aren't we? I can forgive a jiggle or bulge on someone else, but on me? It's like a personal affront.

And really? When it comes down to it, I don't have to look at my own ass. If you don't like it, look somewhere else. I've got kids to play with, and I am NOT missing another summer of fun.

This summer, it truly will be EVERYONE in the pool!

Friday, March 05, 2010

What's on YOUR list?

Whenever we'd go to the store around birthdays or the holidays (which is one and the same for Sawyer), and the kids would ask for a toy, I'd tell them to put it on their list. So they'd go home and make one.

They'd devour the catologues from ToysRUs, Target and whatever I'd get in the mail. They'd circle what they wanted - which was pretty much everything. And when I'd say that I was pretty confident they WOULDN'T be getting the the $750 Lego set that builds a life-sized tank, they'd reply they were SURE Santa would bring it.

Even now when I don't want to have to explain why I'm not buying them something, I'll suggest they put it on their list.

Which led to this conversation with Sage this morning. It totally cracked me up. Because a child's frame of reference is so specific, you know?

"Mommy? Can I have waffles for breakfast?"

"Oh, no, I'm sorry, we don't have any."

"Why not?"

"We forgot to buy them. I'll put them on my list."

"Mommy? Why is Santa bringing us food?"

Thursday, March 04, 2010

I do NOT love you, you purple freak!

X is sick. He's got a nose that runs faster than Usain Bolt. He's got a phlegmy cough. And then he gags. He actually barfed on me yesterday. I guess that's an exaggeration. Because I stood up to help him and he threw up on his pants. We both stared at the pool of (thankfully) liquid. Then he went ahead and stuck his little hand in it.

So I had to pick him up and hustle him upstairs. Let's say he protested the clothing change. At high decibel. Good, healthy lungs on that one.

You might be surprised to learn that I've never been barfed on before. My husband has been the recipient. He's caught it in his cupped hands. He's worn it all over his shirt. He's really had no choice - his children's mother sprints from the room (see Bolt, Usain). David is the puke man. I'll handle snot, blood (makes him light-headed) or poop.

Anyway. Let's get to the point of this post, shall we? Before I go off on another tangent about some other bodily function. Like passing gas. Because I could TOTALLY talk about that for, like, hours!

David was gone for the day so I couldn't take Sage to dance this morning, as Xander was too sick to come along. Sage wanted me to play Zhu Zhus with her (don't judge, people! The kids have a LOT of fun with those toys, and they don't hurt as bad when you step on them as an opened Bakugan does). But X decided he was not going to nap. Oh no. Despite waking a few times during the night and getting up for good at 6 a.m., he was not having it.

I had to entertain him, which meant I couldn't really play with Sage. I decided to turn on some music and found some station on the TV that plays Toddler Tunes. Whatever that means.

And here comes the big admission: I LOVED it. Sage was lukewarm to it. X was excited because the background showed different graphics, including two of his absolute faves: balloons and a rubber duckie.

But me? I was up and dancing! And, unfortunately for my kids, singing! Oh yes. How could I not? I'm sure I'm dating myself here (which, incidentally, was my pretty much my social life for part of my 20s), but I heard "On Top of Spaghetti," "I'm Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor," "Whole Word in his Hands," "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and even a couple Beatles songs.

That is exactly why the station is STILL ON five hours later.

I still love it, but with every love comes a test, right? I mean, you love your spouse, but there are some things (wearing socks with holes in them, snoring, etc.) that you have to overlook because the good SO outweighs the not-so-great stuff.

There are deal breakers, though. We're talking bad teeth. Chewing with an open mouth. Oh - and of course, being racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic or voting for George W. Bush.

The station played on. All was awesome. Until I heard that voice. You know the one. Sounds like someone inhaled helium while suffering from a massive sinus issue. One other hint? The singer is a large purple dinosaur.

I almost shut it off. Almost. Instead, I excused myself to the bathroom. Thankfully, when I returned, it was over.

I'm giving it another chance. Ah, the early stages of love! Makes you overlook a whole lot, doesn't it?

But it's been warned. I can only tolerate so much.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Took The Boy to Nordy's for his first pair of Big Boy new shoes. He was more interested in the balloon. If only making kids happy was always this easy.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The One

My husband chases cars the way other men chase women. That is to say he finds them on Craigslist. Kidding! About finding women on Craigslist. Though I'm sure, judging by the ads on there, some men do troll there.

Not my guy. 

I have never, in our almost 11 years together, seen him check out another woman in front of me. But a Corvette ZR1? A Ferrari Spyder? An Acura NSX? Gives him whiplash when one of those beauties zips by.

So when I cracked up our Toyota Sequoia last month, David began the hunt. He spent hours perusing Craigslist, checking out all the really attractive ones. And sometimes the cheap ones too. He cruised the dealerships, seeing if anything struck his fancy.

This is where I admit the whole thing bores me to tears. I mean, just pick a car and buy already! But no. He has to weigh all the pros and cons, the mileage, the seat arrangement, the year, the make, and was I SURE I didn't want a minivan? Maybe this is why it took him five months after meeting me to actually call me for a date.

He finally told me a couple weeks ago that he'd found The One. He did all the chatting up of the owner. They met. They did a test drive. 

Then David came back to report to me. He TOTALLY did a kiss-and-tell! He was pretty hot on this one. He showed me the pictures on the internet. 

I gave him the go-ahead. That's right. I said it was fine with me if he wanted to commit - without my ever seeing it.

This morning, the deal was consummated right on our kitchen table. 

And this is what is now parked in our driveway.

A big-ass Chevy Suburban LTZ. And I do mean BIG ASS.

I got in the driver's seat and looked in the rear-view mirror. I believe the car ended somewhere in China. David assures me I will be fine parking this monster. The car has a rear-view camera and sensors that beep faster as you're backing in near something.

What I need is for the sensors to shout  STOOOOP!!!!!! 

Or else the above view may not look so idyllic. Maybe my husband can stand behind me with those sticks like the airport workers use on the tarmac. A little to the left, the left, now the right, okay, back a little get the picture.

I'm worried. Because the car sure is purty. The big palm tree on the side adds a nice touch, don't you think?


The best thing of course it that it's large enough to accomodate our family of five and all our accessories and is made to keep us safe.

I haven't taken it for a spin yet. I'm still a little nervous. Will we get along? Will I love it as much as I loved my Sequoia?

I guess I just have to trust my husband. After all, he's already shown he has excellent taste - in both cars AND women.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Give that blog a limbo whirl

I'm really good at limbo. I mean, if there was a tour, I could totally go on it. And make scads of money.

Seriously. I'm that good. You might not think it just by looking at me. For one thing, I'm tall. And no one's ever accused me of being graceful. Still. I'm awesome at it.

Cue music!

One time I was at this wedding and there was a limbo contest. I was stoked, especially when I was one of two people left in the contest. Nothing like a little competition to fire me up. So there I was, seeing how LOW I could GO. And my then-boyfriend is on the other side, waving frantically at me. I'm thinking, "Look at him! He's so happy for me! I'm amazing!" I go under the stick, run to him for my congratulatory hug, only to have him inform me that now EVERYONE at the wedding knows what color underwear I have on (at least I wasn't going all Britney Spears and I was actually wearing a pair).

I think on the tour I'd wear pants instead of a short dress. Or I could wear shorts. Maybe spandex. A spandex catsuit!

Does anyone even do the limbo anymore? Weddings? Bar mitzvahs? Bueller?

Which leads me to this: my freakish talent is really no help to me now. It's out-of-date. People have moved on.

I feel the same way lately as I'm checking out a lot of blogs. One thing is painfully clear: mine sucks. Not the content! Writing is the one thing - aside from limbo -  that I CAN do.

I'm talking purely appearances here. I don't have a logo yet. Or anything fancy at all. I figured out how to put two buttons on the side (for the SITS girls and for Classic Play) but I have no idea how to get any more on there (and I want more!). I had to have help linking my email the other day.

I don't have to work for Microsoft or anything. I just need to be able to do basic stuff. Thing is, it's beyond me. I don't know how to improve it without hiring someone - with all the money I'm NOT making from this blog. Create a custom template? Use HTML? Foreign language. I don't speak in code, people.

I am in awe of you who do - which seems like pretty much everyone, even those using Blogspot just like me. What am I missing here? The technology part of my brain?

So in the meantime, while I'm trying to muddle through, don't judge my blog by its cover. It may not have all the bells and whistles. But it's what's inside that counts.

Oh! About the limbo? I'll leave you with the Hass.

Related Posts with Thumbnails