Thursday, July 28, 2011

Child Free

My in-laws have taken our children to Texas.

I mean, we know they were going to do it. It's not like I need you to call the authorities or anything. I'm just informing you as a preface to the story of our child-free week.

My husband's folks were visiting us in California, and since we were already planning a trip to Texas for my husband's high school reunion a week later, we decided to send the kids ahead and take some much needed "time for ourselves".

Bye Bye Offspring!

As these plans began to take shape my husband and I started to imagine all of the opportunities the week might afford us.

We'd recapture the magic and all too brief days of our courtship by rushing off to local hotspots on a whim!

We'd catch up on our summer movie going without glancing at our watches in a panic at the babysitting bills we were racking up!

We'd finally tackle long-neglected household projects that had piled up since the kids were born!

The door shut on the kids' departure. David and I barely had time for a melancholy sigh before we began enacting OPERATION CHILD FREE! We watched a movie DURING THE DAY. We took delicious and alarm-free naps! We went out to dinner at eight o'clock! And I'm not afraid to say that on that first night we stayed out PAST ELEVEN O'CLOCK!

It was everything we had imagined that life unburdened by children could be!

But on Day Two, things started to go a little off the rails.

David left for work in the morning and my body, being ill-adjusted to late nights and heavy meals, went into a state of semi-revolt. With no reason to rally, I took to my bed at 10am with a stack of unread US Magazines. Unwilling to cook without children to feed, Snickers Bars became a cornerstone of my day's sustenance. Hours passed as I lounged around different areas of the house, candy wrappers piling up in my wake.

By the time David got home, ready for our evening reservation at a local bistro, I was hard pressed to dress myself and exit the house. Still I rallied. We headed out for another meal and staggered home once again in the wee hours.*

The next day my Sid and Nancy-esque decline continued. Grand plans to start the great American novel and/or clean under the bed dissolved in a multi-hour "Say Yes to the Dress" marathon accompanied by an ice-cream based meal plan.

When David arrived home for the weekend he was immediately drawn into my web of sloth. Canceling our remaining dinner reservations, we instead opted for long nights on the couch in our underwear (for the record, if this sound even vaguely sexy to you, you are conjuring the WRONG image), watching third run movies (Limitless? NOT a good film) and dining from box after box of chocolate donut holes.

Thankfully, tomorrow we will be reunited with our children. 

And then life can return to normal. Crazy, busy, occasionally nightmarish, but (now we know) better than the alternative normal.

I can't wait.

*Please note, the "wee hours", in this case, should be taken to connote any time after 10:30pm.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It Takes Two

When people find out you have a two year old and a one year old, they occasionally react with alarm.

I was at a wedding this weekend (quick aside to the Berkshires - way to go with the epic scenic beauty, Berkshires, really good job). In getting to know our fellow revelers we encountered no small measure of concern when we told people about the respective ages of our children.  

And I can't say they're wrong. As this blog has often chronicled, it's a bit of a madhouse over here. But today I'd like to take a little time to speak to the unheralded upsides of having closely spaced siblings, because shockingly enough - there actually are some.

For example:

The Diapers

One common concern that people express when they find out my kids' ages is the diaper issue. They tell me they can't imagine having two in diapers at the same time. 

But, to be honest, what I can't imagine is getting one kid out of diapers and then STARTING AGAIN. The fact is, when the diapers need changing at the rate they do at my house, they just kind of become part of the stinky fabric of  life to the point where you barely even notice them.

Which brings me to a larger point.

You're Already Doing It

When you're in the "under three" zone, having an extra human around doesn't really make that big of a difference overall. The diaper point is really true for almost all aspects of life when you have two young kids who are close in age. 

Flinging chicken fingers at dinnertime? Just make a couple more!

Heading off to the zoo for a day of animal peeping? Unfurl the double stroller and make it a family fiesta!

Dealing with a severe zoo-based meltdown when your kid is perturbed by the gorillas for reasons that defy explanation? You'll hardly notice when the other kid starts screaming because he has spied the snack stand and cannot live another second without stuffing his maw with Dipping Dots!

Whatever the child-related dilemma, the fact is a second kid doesn't really make it any worse, because you're already doing it. Now you're just doing it a little bit more.

They Entertain Each Other

This simple truth is the Holy Grail of the closely-spaced offspring. Unfortunately, at our house this is a nirvana that has not yet been fully achieved. Currently, my two boys have a relationship that is characterized by mutual ignoring, interrupted by brief bursts of intense violence. BUT, I have seen glimmers. They're are days, even now, that they do manage to play together (or at least, near each other) for a significant amount of time. This amazing development affords me some precious downtime which I use to catch up on house cleaning, meal preparation, Facebook perusing, and/or excessive snacking.

And that's golden.

So, I leave you with a simple thesis. Yes, there are some real downsides to have two kids under three. There are days when, just as you've settled the younger one into a swing at the playground, you look up to see your two-year-old taking off across the adjoining soccer fields. And it's not great.

But I remain steadfast in my conviction that if you are on the fence, don't be afraid! I'm in the deep end of the closely-spaced sibling pool and I'm here to tell you.

Come on in, the water's fine.....*

*Please note: This advice may be the result of advanced sleep deprivation, intense laundry-related malaise, or Stockholm 
syndrome. Follow at your own peril.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Is This Thing On?

My background is in comedy.

From my earliest days I've had a calling to make people laugh.  As a kid, I was the class clown. In high school, I provided the comic relief in the plays. In college, I joined an improv comedy troupe and wrote funny plays which I'd stage on campus to the delight of throngs of my fellow students. 

The moment I graduated, I decided it was time to give up my amateur status and go pro. I took to the open road determined to carve out for myself a glamorous comedy career!

This at first involved several not-so-glamorous career stops, including waitress, costumed Santa's helper, cardboard box assembler on a factory line, legal secretary, paralegal, document coder, word processor, and at one particularly low moment - epically depressed car wash flier hander-outer. 

But through it all I stayed true to my dream of bringing laughter to the masses for fun and profit. I lived in Portland, New Orleans, Santee, SC, New York City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, and points between performing in dive clubs and renting out small theaters to perform shows.

I got raves for some performances and scathing reviews for others. One night I got booed off the stage at the Improv by an angry crowd of nearly 500. I've written for nationally broadcast comedy programs and was recently rejected for a job writing copy for infomercials.

I guess you could say it has been up and down.

Until now!

Because, in the last few years, I have found MY TRUE COMIC CALLING! 

I have identified MY PERFECT core audience!

I've located a group of people for whom my comedy NEVER FAILS!

And this group is --- children under the age of 2.

I once had a 30-something cousin who came in from a basketball game at a family reunion, in which his opponents were primarily children, and announced with confidence, 

"I could rule if everyone in the NBA were under five feet tall!"

In a similar fashion, what I've come to realize is that to truly dominate in my comedy career, the answer is simple. I need to limit my audience exclusively to children two and under.

Because, I tell you, when it comes to chuckles, the routine I like to call, "Whose feet are these?" KILLS EVERY TIME with this set!

Looking for guffaws? My act "You have a belly button!" CANNOT FAIL with the little ones!

Need additional proof? Please see the following exhibit and delight at my act entitled "BEEP!/BOOP!"*

Which is why I've decided to open a chain of comedy clubs which will only admit infants and toddlers. We'll serve mushy food stuffs and milk in sippy cups (maybe a little juice for the hard-core set). I'll slay 'em in the aisles nightly with my guaranteed comedy stylings, and the best part? Last show at 6pm, I'm in bed by 8:30!

Folks, it may have taken me years of trial and error, but I now know where my career's destiny lies: shouting the phrase, "Who's a little monkey?" repeatedly to the delight of my chosen audience. 

Please, don't forget to tip your waitress.

* Please note, hilarity only guaranteed if you are currently under 15-months of age.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Here Comes the Judge

I remember after the Tuscon shootings President Obama gave a speech in which he pleaded with Americans:

Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let's use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.

And I remember thinking, "That doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun. Wouldn't it be easier to just point fingers and name call?"

Because the thing is, when it comes to judging other people, not only do I really enjoy it -- I happen to be awfully good at it.

My sister and I had a game we used to play at weddings. The game was called, "Who's Luckier?"

Basically the way it worked was this: we would assess the bride and groom and then try to make a determination as to who was getting a better deal out of the union. 

A balding paunchy groom with money weds a struggling beautiful actress without two dimes to rub together?

She's luckier!

A decent looking groom with an annoying voice who chooses a woman whose parents have an awesome vacation home upstate?

He's luckier!

If there were a significant enough number of complicating factors these discussions could truly go on for hours.

But as is true with all truly delightful pastimes, I learned quickly that the game of "Who's Luckier?" had a fairly significant downside. This was because I found myself playing the game in relation to my own potential spouses. I'd start dating a guy and I'd quickly begin to obsess on which one of us our wedding guests would think was luckier. 

If I dated someone handsome, I would worry that upon our marriage, our guests would sit there staring at us with derision and muttering to themselves, "She's MUCH luckier." If I dated someone broke I would imagine them all shaking their heads and whispering back and forth, "I guess he's luckier."

As it turns out, this sort of thinking was not particularly conducive to finding a good life mate.

Eventually, I did get married. And I was luckier. But even more amazingly, it appeared that my husband believed himself to be the lucky one. The whole experience made me realize that when it comes to something as complicated as two people choosing whom to partner with for life, there are such a variety of factors that go into the decision that it simply isn't possible for two spectators sitting in white rented chairs to properly adjudicate which member of said couple is, in fact, luckier.

And so, it was that the game came to an end.

Now, several years later, I find myself remembering this lesson when it comes to dealing with my fellow moms. I think of all the times when I have sat back watching another mom struggle with her child and allowed myself a delicious moment of smug superiority. 

*wistful sigh* 

But I've been at this long enough to know that it won't be long after such an indulgence that I find myself dragging a screaming, sand-throwing toddler from the playground, my back bent under the withering stares of the gathered mommies. 

So I am making an attempt at being more generous of spirit. I'm trying to remember that when I see a mom struggling with her kiddos that I may have just missed another moment where she was performing at the top of her game. I'm working to offer my fellow moms a supportive smile or encouraging word in lieu of my preferred righteous glare of indignation when I come upon one of them having a hard time.

And although there are days that this is really, really hard - it remains the undeniable better choice.

Speaking to my father (a former prosecutor) yesterday I brought up the jury in the Casey Anthony case. "How could they be so moronic?"  I cried. "What is wrong with those people?"  I demanded.

My Dad paused for a moment and then responded, 

"Nothing is easier than finding someone guilty when you're not the one in the jury box."

And I think he may be right.