Buried Under Winter

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As the snow tumbles down for what feels like the millionth time in the last three months, I find myself resigned to it’s inevitability. It’s the part of the winter where the cold, gray, and ice have completely taken over everything and it feels like the sun will never show itself again. The dreary days seem to stretch on as far back as I can remember and as far forward as I can see. It is the part of winter where I realize I’ve been buried up to my eyeballs and didn’t even see it happening.

Here in New York, the fluffy white flakes settle down and cover everything in a sheen of pretty for about 10 hours before they begin to morph into something sinister. First the piles at the sides of the streets and sidewalks fill with cigarette butts and dog shit. Then they begin to gray and then to blacken. A week after the storm, what remains are iced-over mountains of detritus and soot; hulking black humps punctuated by discarded rubber gloves, soda cans, flyers for discount suits and threading salons, and lost mittens of all shapes and sizes. How does the filth pile up so quickly?

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The drudgery of pulling on boots and zipping up jackets, of slogging through slush and shivering against the wind, have become second nature. We don’t even notice it anymore. No one stops to chat at school dropoff. There are no shared walks to here or there. The parks are filled with ice and puddles and not fit for squealing, running groups of children who’ve been sitting at school all day. Every trip is a hurry in from the cold. It is lonely and long and dark.

So as the snow falls and falls and falls and I prepare to lace up my boots yet again to go out into the winter, I keep telling myself one thing…Spring is going to feel SOOOOO good!

Thanksgiving in NYC

Hands down, one of my favorite things about living in New York City is Thanksgiving. Long, long ago, when the husband and I were just dating and I was still in college, I started coming here to his family for Thanksgiving…and the parade! I have ALWAYS loved parades and the best one of all is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every year, my house was filled with the sounds of parade coverage as we lounged in the living room waiting to go to my grandma’s to feast. When I had a chance to actually attend in person, I jumped at it…and kept going every year after.

I have so many parade memories that they sort of start to meld together into one awesome parade: there was the year we had brunch at Jean Georges and watched from the patio, the year my sister-in-law and I froze to death and laughed at a family near us that had a comment for EVERYTHING, the year my mom and sister came up and we took selfies with the balloons before it was cool (with a real camera no less), the year we watched from an apartment high above Central Park West, the year Declan was a tiny baby in the Bjorn.

But two years ago, we said no more. It got to be a hassle getting the kids there and then getting them ready to go to the in-laws. So instead we went to the balloon inflating the night before. NEVER go to the balloon inflating!!! It is a nightmare that knows no equal where people are herded like cattle past giant cartoon characters captured in nets. We escaped into the subway halfway through!

So last year we scrapped the whole parade. It was sad, but it was relaxing. This year, we were all prepared to watch on TV and hang out at home. But after 40 minutes of interviews with sitcom stars, commercials, and clips from Broadway shows, Brady and I couldn’t take anymore. So we went for a little walk and got us some parade action.

Bad Mommy

Yesterday, I was not my best self. Brady and 3 of his oldest friends started a week of camp at the zoo yesterday. Getting there and back is not the easiest, especially with toddlers in tow, but it’s a cool experience so it’s hopefully worth it. Taking two buses with two children and a folded stroller often makes me want to move to the suburbs where I could just drive everywhere.

But we made there it pretty easily and then Declan and I had fun in the park with our friends for a awhile before taking the easy way out and cabbing home for lunch. My mother-in-law came in for the afternoon so I went alone to pick up Brady and a friend.

After pickup we all decided a stop at the ice cream cart was a good idea. We got some treats and the kids played a bit. When an argument broke out, Brady got frustrated and then exploded at his friend who started crying. When I corrected him, he had excuses lined up and insisted he hadn’t done anything wrong before beginning to sob himself. I hate this behavior of his so much that I, in my 35 years of adult wisdom, responded by doing the EXACT same thing. Yes, as he raged at me about how it wasn’t his fault, I got more and more frustrated and, like a rubber band pulled beyond it’s range, BOOM, I snapped. 

I yelled at him to apologize to his friend, to stop walking away from me, to act better. I used my growly angry voice and my mean, angry words. In essence, I acted like a child. When finally calmed down, I got Brady aside and talked to him in soft words about why I didn’t like his behavior. I pointed out to him that losing your temper is something that happens, clearly it had just happened to me, but that that doesn’t mean it’s ok and we still have to say we’re sorry. I said was sorry and gave him a hug.

But I still felt just awful. I was embarrassed for losing my temper in front of my friends, my friends’ children, and countless tourists enjoying an afternoon in Central Park. I was ashamed of treating my child that way. I felt like a failure as a mother, not only because of my behavior, but because of Brady’s behavior. Even though I was trying to teach my son that being human is ok, that emotions get the best of us sometimes, and that we just have to try to react better in the future, I was not allowing myself the same consideration. 

Today I still feel badly about yesterday afternoon, but I’m working on it. I cannot changed the way I acted, but I can change my future reactions. I can allow myself to be human and I can use this to remind myself to take a breath next time and to be a better example to the child who has clearly inherited my quick temper. 

Parenting a 2-Year-Old in NYC

There are some things about raising children in the city that I find particularly irritating. We have to load up and walk blocks to get outdoor play. We have to get on the bus or subway to get anywhere outside of the neighborhood and take the stupid stroller with us on such excursions. Everything costs fifty times more than it should, especially school/camp/classes. There are things. But one that really gets me is the stares from people (ahem, older women) when children misbehave. 

This morning Declan and I dropped Brady off at school and headed to Starbucks like we do most mornings. We like to sit for fifteen minutes or so while I sip my coffee and he eats a muffin or another snack and we often chat with other people who have just dropped their kids off at school. This morning Declan was having none of it. He wanted to sit…but ONLY in seats that were already occupied. I tried to explain that we could sit in any of the several unoccupied seats which prompted him to scream his bloody head off like a wild animal. 

I packed him into the stroller and started the 3.5 block walk home. He continued to howl and rock from side to side screaming that he wanted to sit down and NOT go home! Tears streamed down his face. He waved Brady’s green Crocs (which he, of course, had to hold) over his head. He kicked the stroller blanket down until it was dragging on the ground. I called my mother and talked on the phone like nothing was happening to keep myself from screaming at him on the sidewalk.

I stared straight ahead and walked as quickly as I could. But I couldn’t help but notice the heads turning in our direction, the whispering, the raising of hands to mouths in shock at the behavior of this horrible child. Because no 2-year-old in the history of time has ever thrown a fit before and no mother has ever ignored the tantrum not wanting to reinforce the behavior and hoping that it would subside. Certainly these women never had children of their own and, if they did, they NEVER acted up and, if they did, it was in the privacy of their own homes or easily diffused by expert mothering. 

I pushed through, ignored the reactions of the people around me, and made it to our building where the doormen laughed a little and gave me sympathetic looks. I know that some of those people were probably sympathizing. I know that some of it was my own feelings about his behavior being projected onto other people. I know I shouldn’t let it get to me, but somehow it still does. At least this time no one asked me if he was ok. 

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Post-horrific, screaming, sobbing, flailing fit Declan.

Odds and Ends and Lots of Snow

With today’s massive snowstorm which warranted a hazardous travel advisory yet not even a school delay (for reals?). Wait, I have to pause here to report that it is THUNDERING, yep, mother nature is one effed up biotch lately. Ok, where was I? Right. Because of the snow and the schlepping of children to and from school in said snow, I nearly forgot to pimp my guest post on Winding Road tomorrow. I’m super excited! Kerry does a Freestyle Fridays series with a guest blogger every week. I wrote about yoga and anxiety and love…of yoga. You NEED to check it out. You need to check out Kerry’s blog anyway because it is awesomesauce. Can you tell I’m a bit punchy from all the snow, and the decongestants for my stupid cold…and all of the damn snow?

So we did pickup in this...

So we did drop-off in this…

 

And walked to pickup through this.

And walked to pickup through this.

I am planning to drive, wait for it, all by myself (!) to Pittsburgh tomorrow for my crazy adorable niece’s first birthday party. I haven’t been alone for a whole 7 hours in, like, over 6 years. I’m slightly psyched. So that snow had better not be planning to screw this up. Seriously.

One of my other fave bloggers, Mary at Contrary Mom, awarded me the Liebster Award the other day. I’ve actually gotten this one a few times now so I don’t do the whole thing anymore, but I do like to answer the questions when I can. Plus I think everyone should read Mary’s blog. So here you have it:

1)  Why do you blog? To stay sane. To say what I need to say. To maintain the illusion fact that I am a writer.

2) What is your best post? I have a few that I really like, but I think my favorite is my recent post on suicide. While the subject is a downer, I felt good about how I addressed it and got really good feedback.

3) What is your favorite book? I don’t have one. I love way too many books of too many varying genres to pick one favorite. I adore both Bret Easton Ellis and Jane Austen just to give you an idea.

4) Have you seen any good movies lately? The Lego Movie–everything is awesome!

5) What makes you laugh out loud? My 2-year-old being serious, my 6-year-old being silly, and New Girl

6) If it was your last week to live, how many selfies would you take in your “I’m dying” t-shirt? Like a billion.

7) What is your pet peeve? Easy, cutting in line, who do you think you is?

Ok, so wish me luck (and good weather) on my drive tomorrow, please read my guest post at Winding Road, and for goodness sakes NO MORE SNOW!

Project Optimism: Fire Station

This morning I was lucky enough to be a chaperone on Brady’s class trip to our local fire station. Although it’s only 5 blocks from the school we took a bus, which might have been the most exciting part of the trip for most of them. Most kids here only take a school bus for field trips.

The fireman giving the tour had a super-thick New York accent which made it all the more awesome. He went over fire safety with them first, then they got to see a fireman in full gear and touch all of his cool equipment. Then each kid got to sit in the truck and we took photos of all of them. Next they went through the ladder truck to see the hose and then got to check out the pole, complete with a fireman sliding down. It was lots of fun.

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At the end we were outside the firehouse waiting for the bus and the kids were asking the men questions. Outside of our firehouse is a memorial to the nine men from the station who died on 9-11. They each have a photo with their names underneath. Most of the kids’ parents had spoken to them about this at some point, as I had with Brady. But some of them were asking lots of questions about the dead firemen and what happened to them. The man who gave the tour answered them in the best way possible, but I can’t imagine how hard it must be for him to have to answer this each time a class comes through. Tough.

Still, it was a great trip. They got a call just as our bus was coming around the corner and the kids got to watch the men put on their gear and get into the truck. A perfect ending. I felt really lucky to be a part of it. It was a great way to spend a morning.

Project Optimism: Fall Farm Fun

Like the alliteration?

Sitting here on this gray and windy day with the construction droning on outside my window, it’s hard to believe that just this Saturday we were enjoying the fall leaves, picking pumpkins, petting goats, and playing outside. Now, fall in the city is pretty amazing. I do enjoy being here this time of year, but it also makes me yearn to leave the concrete behind and experience all that autumn has to offer. The husband’s aunt is living in a house on the property of a large farm in Western Massachusetts so we headed up there this weekend to get back to nature a bit. Even though the sun was hiding most of the time, we really enjoyed it.

The Kind Words of a Stranger

Although social norms may deem it odd, sometimes it is absolutely wonderful when a stranger tells you what they think. Today as I was coming home with the boys, pushing Declan in the stroller with one hand, bags hanging from every possible place, a pizza box in my other hand, we waited for the elevator with a woman I had never talked to before.

I gave Brady the keys and asked him to hold them for me so I could unlock the door when we got home. “I can’t unlock the door,” he said to me. “I know,” I replied, “you’re holding them to help me out.” The woman waiting with us smiled at him. The elevator arrived and I maneuvered the stroller with all of it’s cargo and the pizza box into it. I pushed our floor and asked the woman for hers. She reached out and said she had it.

Then she looked up at me and smiled. “I don’t want to seem weird,” she said, smiling, “and I know I don’t know you, but I just had to tell you…” she hesitated, but I smiled at her so she went on. “I tell my sister about you and your husband and kids all the time.”

“Really?” I asked taken back a little.

“It’s just the way that you talk to them and the way you interact,” she told me, “and the way they behave. You’re just a lovely family.”

“Really?” I said again, smiling this time.

“Yeah, so I just wanted to tell you,” she finished.

We arrived at our floor and started to remove ourselves and our stuff from the elevator. She stepped out to help us.

“That just really made my day,” I told her. She gave me her name and said it was nice to meet me and I did the same. I hope she knows that it really did make my day. As a parent I often feel inadequate and in public, even in the lobby and elevator of our building, I often feel judged. People rarely hesitate to hand out criticisms. Just this morning a traffic cop leaned out of her van to reprimand me for having Declan’s stroller slightly off the sidewalk as we waited at a light. For someone to have noticed my family and especially to have noticed the way we talk and interact and think it was something nice to witness makes me feel sort of amazing. While I try to keep my children under control when we’re around other people, I’m certainly not trying to be the picture of a nice family when we’re coming and going from our apartment. It just blew me away that my family made any impression on a stranger and it really did made my day that she took the time to mention it to me. Sometimes, it’s good to say the weird thing to that lady on the elevator. It just might make it all seem easier.