First Sign of Spring – Vomit!

The trees are budding, the robins are returning and the hats and gloves have come off.  But, that is not how I know it’s spring.  How do I know the weather has turned for the better?  I spent all day Sunday throwing up!  When I picked up my daughters from school two days ago a little girl was heaving up her lunch on the sidewalk.  Three of my friends’ kids have now spent their requisite 24 hours unable to keep anything down.  Ah yes, spring has sprung.

After spending an entire fall and winter in a flurry of Swine flu vaccinations and hand sanitizer pumping I forgot about the dreaded stomach bug that wafts into New York City on the first stirring of warm air.  Why?  I’m sure there is some scientific reason for the change over from respiratory to gastrointestinal viruses but I don’t think it matters.  All I know is that now that I’ve been a parent for almost 8 years this spring stomach bug is a more clear indicator of the change in seasons than the groundhog.

So, I’ll be enjoying the daffodils as they start to peek out from under the slushy dirt and walking back and forth to school in the warm sunshine.  But, make no mistake the “throw-up” bowl is coming out from underneath the sink cabinet where it’s been stored all winter.  And I’ll probably shove a few paper towels in my purse just in case.  After all, I can never remember from one year to the next if Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, but I will never forget that time my daughter threw up Oreos and blueberries at 3 am.   It was the unfortunate end to a glorious spring day.

This post originally appeared at nycmomsblog

You Call This a Playdate?

Here’s the thing about the word playdate, sometimes the “play” part goes well, and sometimes, well, it just feels like a date.  An awkward, stressful, when-will-this-afternoon end date.  In the toddler years it’s usually a double date with the stranger mom or nanny in tow and then you have to make conversation, which in New York City usually centers around the awful school process, the teachers at your current school, or the kid who still isn’t potty trained or picks his nose and wipes it on other kids.

Thankfully, my daughters are almost eight years old so we are now in the drop off playdate stage.  These playdates have their own set of expectations.  I used to know what these rules were – give a snack to stave off any hunger related meltdowns, keep the playdate to an hour and a half maximum, and basically leave the girls alone with a bin full of Polly Pockets.  But, this year something changed.  This year everyone got a Wii.  And somehow, I have no idea when, the Wii went from a playdate taboo to a playdate must.

I was against the Wii as a playdate toy on principle.  Exactly what that principle was I’m not sure, but I did think that screen time is not interactive together time and isn’t that the point of a playdate?  Especially for my daughters who are identical twins, creating these one on one playdates with friends individually was something that I thought was really important.  How could playing on the Wii compete with the friendship creativity that arises from playing with their American Girl dolls and stuffed animals?  But then the inevitable happened.  We had a playdate with a girl who didn’t want to play anything.  She wasn’t shy, she just wasn’t interested in doing anything and it was making my daughter crazy trying to please and entice her into a game – any game!

Then this girl noticed the Wii sitting there on the floor winking its little yellow light at her.  At that point it was either the Wii or calling her babysitter to pick her up early.  So I struck a deal with my daughter, she could play the Wii but only if they did something active and together.  We plugged in the two Disney Dance, Dance Revolution Mats and they had the time of their lives dancing together.  And when my daughter let her friend create her own Mii at our house her friend exploded with happiness.  She couldn’t believe we would have a virtual version of her living forever on our TV.  Seriously, this was the tech  equivalent of giving someone one half of a “BFF” necklace, and it had the added bonus of implicitly saying, yes, you will come over again.

After that playdate I have allowed the Wii as long as the other parent approves too.  We’ve worked out new rules now for these playdates – they can’t be all Wii, they have to be active, and everyone has to be able to play.  And I’ve come to realize that playdates have to evolve, not just because my daughters are older but because the toys at their disposal have grown up too.  Although my poor downstairs neighbors would probably much rather my daughters and their friends stuck to playing with the dollhouse instead of dance, dance, dancing on their heads.

This post originally appeared on nycmomsblog

Flying the (Not) Family-Friendly Skies

Of all the ways your life changes when you have kids none is more drastic than the way you travel.  Gone are the days of a small carry-on with a book, an ipod and some trashy magazines.  Suddenly your carry on is like Mary Poppins carpet bag – full of snacks (both salty and sweet), stickers, markers, DVD players, DVDs, coloring books, activity books and depending on the age of your kids, diapers, change of clothes, wipes, ear drops, maybe some pajamas and even a change of clothes for yourself (yes I learned the hard way that mishaps on the plane tend to land in my lap, or down the front of my shirt).    Early on when my twin daughters were just babies we were like a small army going off to war as we marched down the jetway.  Two strollers that we could fold in 5 second flat, two car seats unlatched and ready to load, and an industrial sized diaper bag that just barely fit in the overhead.

Luckily for me my daughters are long past the nightmare travel age.  They wheel on their own small carry-on bags filled with but a few key possessions – a DS, an ipod, a treasured toy and a book.  But, I remember well those days when every passenger on the plane eyed us with dread as we boarded and made our way down the aisle.  You could see them secretly praying, please don’t sit near me, please, please.

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Real Moms Never Pay Retail

Saletags

I grew up in Brooklyn way before hipster boutiques and cute home furnishings stores dotted the avenues.  Back in the 70’s and 80’s Brooklyn shopping was synonymous with one word – BARGAIN.  And finding those deals was a sport for my mom, brought to new highs when my grandmother visited from Michigan and the two of them piled us into the Volvo station wagon and headed into the depths of Brooklyn to the major discount emporiums like Century 21 and Aarons.  Stores with salesladies who wore heavy false eyelashes and would eye you up and down in the communal dressing room with a discerning Tim Gunn eye.  This was before the widespread prevalence of nationwide discounters like Marshalls and TJ Maxx, back when if you wanted to go to Loehmanns you hauled yourself up to the Bronx, not the nearest mall.

As if all of this bargain hunting wasn’t already in my genes I had an aunt who worked as an advertising and marketing executive at various major department stores (we’re talking Marshall Fields and Bergdorf Goodman).  So we enjoyed a family discount that made Neiman Marcus as affordable as Target.  Really.  As fun as this was it can really warp your perception of what things do – or at least should – cost.  After a childhood filled with heavily discounted designer clothing I find myself unwilling to pay retail for most anything – most of all my kids’ clothes.

Luckily the Internet has opened up a whole new world of bargain hunting.  It’s almost impossible to pay full price.  Sites like retailmenot.com, ebates.com, fatwallet.com, not to mention eBay and a basic google search yield myriads of discount codes.  And not just for buying on-line, but tons of deals and coupons for printing out at stores.  Of course living here in New York City also brings another big benefit and that is all of the fabulous sample sales where designers get rid of excess merchandise that is in the stores right now.  But the Internet has opened that treasure trove as well – sites like Hautelook.com, ideeli.com, and gilt.com can bring the sample sale frenzy right to your home.  Honestly, it’s almost too much for one bargain-hunting mom to handle.

The recession has made all of this discount searching cool and hip, but I began passing on my bargain finding skills to my daughters as soon as they could read.  They know how to find a Build-A-Bear coupon online or work an eBay auction like pros.  They know you don’t hit that submit button until you’ve searched for the promo code or at the very least free shipping.  And when it’s their allowance money on the line you better believe that they will use price comparison tools and coupon searching to put Suze Orman to shame.  Nature or nurture I’ll never know for sure.  But, one thing is certain, my daughters have caught the bargain-hunting bug, and like true New Yorkers they’ll never want to pay retail again.

This post originally appeared at nycmomsblog.com

The Doctor Will Not See You Now

bad doctor md

I am 37 years old.  I have been going to the gynecologist for about 20 years.  During that time I graduated from high school and college, started a career, got married, gave birth to twins, tried many different forms of birth control and brands of birth control pills, and changed doctors 4 times.  One thing has remained the same in all these years of my “women’s” health care – I always saw a doctor, a Board Certified, Medical School Degree, diploma hanging on the wall doctor.  This year I went through the usual ridiculous measures that you need to take in order to see an OB/GYN in a busy Manhattan practice.  I called 3 months in advance of my desired date and, after much conferring with the receptionist,  got an appointment for my annual check up 4 months later.   All set right?   Well, no…

Last week I came home to a message from the receptionist telling me that my appointment time will have to be changed to 5:30 pm.  In other words I will have to get a babysitter so that I can go to the doctor.  When I called back to figure out a new time during the school day I was told the next available time would be 2 months later.  Or, the receptionist informed me, I could see the PA next week.   The what?  The Physician’s Assistant, like this was the most normal option in the world.  Turns out the Physician’s Assistant could do an exam, a Pap smear even prescribe drugs.  Just like a doctor, the receptionist cheerily told me, except she didn’t go to Medical School.

Now, maybe I’m crazy.  Or maybe as the daughter of a doctor this just smacks of the further denigration of respect for what doctors do, but isn’t that part about going to Medical School kind of important?  I’m sure a PA has been well trained and can help a doctor “see” more patients than she would normally be able to, but when I go to my doctor for a check up – a very personal check up I should add – I don’t think its too much to ask to actually see my doctor.  My vetted, carefully chosen, highly recommended doctor.  Isn’t that relationship important?  I feel like checking in with my doctor once a year is not just about the actual exam and subsequent lab tests, but about the yearly catch up.  How am I doing?  Am I thinking about having another baby?  Am I happy with the birth control we decided on last year?  How’s my marriage?  Any personal issues that I would only discuss with my OB/GYN like sex or post pregnancy blues, or other things that are so easy to talk about when you’re in that office with a doctor dedicated to women’s health suddenly become shunted to the side.

I’ve come to realize that now that I am not going to have any more children and fall into the GYN side not the OB side I warrant less attention in my doctor’s practice.  But, I want to know why a woman is less worthy of a Medical Doctor’s time because her appointment is “routine” instead of prenatal.  So I told the receptionist that I would not like to see the PA.  I will get a babysitter or have my husband come home early so that I can have an actual in person appointment with my doctor.  And I have to say this has made me rethink my doctor herself.  I will probably start looking for a new doctor, maybe one without the hyphen -OB, and one who thinks that a check up is an opportunity to check in.

This post originally appeared at nycmomsblog

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The Recession’s Front Line: Our Schools

budgetcut_nyc_schoolsThe day after our SVmoms conference call with Katie Couric about Children of the Recession, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) announced system wide cuts to the New York City public schools. The official amount was 5%, but at my daughters’ school it was about 15%. This is on top of the fact that our school will be expanding from an already record setting 7 kindergartens to 9 kindergartens next year. One thing was clear from our call and from the reporting on CBS News; our schools are bearing the brunt of the recession and yet the government is not responding in kind.

Sure, we all read about the enormous stimulus package aimed at education, but it turns out that most of that money is earmarked for specific entitlements. And, lets not forget that that money has to be funneled through the local bureaucrats. In New York City we have the opposite problem from many school districts. Instead of shrinking population and merging of schools we have a surge in public school interest and enrollment that has caught the DOE by surprise despite parents warning that this was coming. New York Magazine has a feature article describing this debacle in detail. But, the bottom line is that at a time when our schools are called upon to do more than ever the powers that be are asking them to make do with much less. What does that mean?

Well, while parents are cutting back after school activities and enrichment because of finances their kids will likely lose art, music and other enrichment in their school day because of budget cuts.  The wealthier schools will be able to make this up in fundraising, but even that will be less dependable in this economy.  There are also practical concerns for schools stepping in to help a child in need emotionally.  Kids are coming to school carrying the stress of their homes, whether there’s a job loss or fear and uncertainty.  So, can a school afford to lose their psychologist or social worker at a time when kids may need that help more than ever?

One thing we’ve heard over and over again is that this crisis can be an opportunity.  I’ve always wondered what would happen if everyone had to send their child to public school.  If the uber-wealthy and just plain rich didn’t have the option of private school and instead had to pour their resources and considerable political sway into their local zoned school.  It would be interesting to see how quickly the elected officials would respond.  How fast new schools would be built and older ones upgraded.  How many concessions would be made in union negotiations and how much outcry would be heard when things are done without parental input.  This will never happen I know, and don’t get me wrong; the current school system has plenty of well-off and outspoken parents.  But, this turn of events, this surge of upper middle class parents demanding a place in their local public school could be a good thing in the long run.  It’s a shame however that it is such a disaster in the short term.

Our schools are where our children spend the bulk of their time.  The teachers and administration are seeing the impact of the recession every day – both in their school budgets and on the kids’ faces as they enter with all of the weight of their homes on their shoulders.  For those of us parents fortunate enough to have time or money to support our schools now is the time to step up and do it.  For those of us parents with a stake in the public schools (and really isn’t that all of us?), now is the time to demand better from politicians.  The recession has impacted children in so many negative ways – from healthcare to homelessness to obesity – shouldn’t we at least make sure that our schools get the resources and support they need?  They are our true front line of defense, and they deserve all the back up they can get.

this post originally appeared at nycmomsblog

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