Sara is the author of For the Love of Friends, one of my favorite debut novels this year! She is a high school English and journalism teacher, a wife…Q & A with Sara Goodman Confino
I think I know why 2020 is the flaming garbage pile that it is.
It all began in January, when my mother told me that my grandmother said she was giving her antique sewing machine to my cousin, who has never sewn anything in his life.
I don’t sew well, but I possess the ability to inexpertly mend things. And moreover, I am likely the last human being on earth who can work that beast of a machine. I have spent cumulative weeks of my life threading it for my grandmother, who, at 93, has not been able to wrap a piece of miniscule thread through its inanely intricate nooks and crannies in many years. I no longer need to ask for help—I know each step of the inexplicably overcomplicated process. I could probably do it with my eyes closed. Forget those tests where you need to remember five words. If you can figure out where that piece of thread goes next, your brain is better than most.
Do I need an antique sewing machine that breaks more often than it works?
No, I do not.
Do I have room for it in my already tiny home office that is now being used as a digital classroom as well?
Do I want that goddamned thing after how much of my life I have spent threading it for my grandmother, while listening to her tell me the stories that helped shape who I am as a writer?
“Why would she give it to *name redacted so he doesn’t hate me for this post even though I’m positive he doesn’t read my blog*?”
“He asked for it.”
Being me, I immediately Googled “antique Singer sewing machine,” and pulled up one that was older, in better condition, and listed for $4,000 on eBay. “Wonder why he wants it,” I grumbled angrily. Then, against my better judgment, I called my grandmother and told her I was upset that she was going to give it to someone else after how many hours I had dedicated to helping her with it and after she had said it would go to me someday. (She did say that. Of course, you could admire literally anything of my grandmother’s from a piece of jewelry to the sandwich she was eating and her response would be, “When I die…”)
She got flustered and told me she never promised it to anyone and if I wanted it so bad, I could just come take it now.
At which point it hit me that I REALLY don’t have room for this thing. Or THAT strong of an actual attachment to it. Do I want a sewing machine or some nice jewelry that I can wear every day and think of her? Easy answer. But I’d be damned if my cousin was going to sell it on eBay, and I said as much. We were both pretty angry and ended that phone call without a resolution.
I didn’t sleep that night. And at 3am, I emailed my grandmother, apologizing. She’s old. God forbid something happened to her, I didn’t want that fight to be our final interaction. So I offered up possibly the only entirely abject apology I have ever given. No excuses. No justifications. Just I’m sorry. It’s your sewing machine to do whatever you want with, not mine. I have no claims on it. And I love you.
My conscience clearer, I went to sleep.
I woke up to an email from her, expecting what I usually get when we fight—some garbled message that makes zero sense but provides some vague reassurance that I am forgiven.
What I did NOT expect was an email saying that my apology was not accepted I would miss her when she was dead.
But my grandma is like the tides. Wait a few hours and she’ll turn. And I’ve never known her to hold a grudge, even when she probably should.
I spoke to my mother later that day and was informed my grandmother was baking kugels (a Jewish noodle dish. While every Jew will tell you that their grandmother makes the best kugel in the world, they’re all wrong because MY grandma makes the best kugel and I will fight you if you try to claim otherwise. Of course, at this rate, she’ll probably give the recipe to one of my cousins who will publish it on the internet, so you’ll all get to experience it for yourselves.).
At which point, I lost it. I was four months pregnant with my second boy at the time. Not even quite at the halfway point. And while we’re not a superstitious family, it’s considered bad luck in Judaism to prepare in advance of the baby.
“The bris is more than four months away. No one wants to eat four-month-old kugel that’s been sitting in the freezer.”
My mother sighed. “It’ll be fine.”
I took a deep breath. Stress is bad for babies after all. Fine. Whatever. If she wanted to make the kugels now, she could make the kugels now. My aunt Dolly was famous for making holiday meals years in advance. Four months in a freezer couldn’t REALLY hurt a kugel. Those things would probably survive a nuclear holocaust.
And, despite not being forgiven, I brought Jacob to visit my grandmother that afternoon. She was still making kugels.
“Why are you making them so early?” I asked, unable to help myself. “You know it’s considered bad luck to make things before the baby is born. You’re jinxing us here.”
She turned to me, a spatula in her hand. “Well, I could be dead by then, so at least something of mine will be at the bris.”
I blinked heavily several times and decided not to press the point. Then I spent the next four hours dealing with Xfinity for her because her cable box in the kitchen wasn’t working. When it was finally fixed (which involved two separate trips to the Xfinity store), I was apparently forgiven.
Then a few days later, her freezer died and the Kugels of Passive Aggression had to be transported to my mother’s house for safekeeping until she had a working one.
You can see where this is going: the pandemic hit, there was no bris, and the Kugels of Passive Aggression sat in my grandmother’s new freezer until just two weeks ago, when my grandmother decided we would eat them at our socially distant Yom Kippur break fast on my parents’ porch.
“She’s bringing the Kugels of Passive Aggression!” I hissed to my best friend, who had laughed hysterically at this saga as it unfolded.
“And you’d better eat every bite of that kugel,” she told me. “It’s the only way to end this nightmare!”
So my friends, if Biden wins, the pandemic disappears, and the world just generally stops sucking so much, please know that I ate two pieces of that nine-month-old kugel for all of us.
And it was STILL better than your grandma’s kugel, as you’ll learn for yourself when my other cousin (who has a cooking blog) posts the recipe for the Kugels of Passive Aggression for you all to make for yourselves.
So I know I haven’t posted in… way too long. But I’m here to fix that.
And in case you don’t already follow me on social media, I have a LOT of news.
Last summer, I wrote a new book. Which sounds like such a humble brag. Like what did you do over your summer vacation, Mrs. Confino? Oh, I wrote a novel. NBD.
Of course, that was back in the before times—you know, when the world was still functioning. I also got pregnant in the before times too.
Then the pandemic hit and two wonderful things happened along with all of the horrors that this absolute nightmare of a year dumps upon us daily.
Number one, my goddess of an agent (who was also pregnant and due nine days before me) sold my book.
Then, just days later, she and I both went into labor and had our babies on the same day, a couple hours apart, though on opposite coasts.
So I’m now the proud mother of baby Max and the even prouder owner of a two-book deal with Lake Union Publishing.
That’s right. They loved my book so much that they outbid two other houses and offered to take the next UNWRITTEN book as well.
Which is insane.
Especially because I now have to write a second book while teaching online and wearing a baby in a pandemic with a deadline of next summer.
No pressure or anything.
So what does it feel like when your lifelong dream comes true?
Honestly, I have no freaking idea yet. It still doesn’t feel real even with book advance money sitting in a bank account. Granted, that money doesn’t feel real either because I’m far too superstitious to spend any of it before I see how the book does. So instead I’m basically just crouching over it like an egg to see if it hatches. Which also speaks to my overwhelming sense of imposter syndrome because there’s a tiny, little, itty bitty fine print clause in my contract stating that if I can’t produce a high enough quality book for the second one, I have to give half of the money back. After taxes.
Again, no pressure.
But having that second baby in a pandemic, while full time momming AND full time teaching has also been so all consuming that I haven’t had time to feel feelings about the book yet.
Because teaching while caring for a baby is hard on a level that I never dreamed of before. Like being a working mom on its own is insanely hard. There’s the guilt of leaving your baby. And the even stronger guilt of KIND OF, SORT OF, JUST A LITTLE BIT not minding that you get a break from being a 24/7 mom and get to be something else for eight hours a day.
And teachers get to experience both worlds—I’ve had a few full-time moms tell me that I don’t understand how hard it is for them, and to an extent they’re right, especially because my husband is also a teacher and is home while I am over the summer. But I AM a full-time mom two months of the year in a normal year. And I know from my summers that that is also insanely hard.
This year, however, I don’t even know what I am. Except tired. Oh god, I’m so tired.
We made the gut wrenching decision to send Jacob back to preschool. Which he’s hating. But he needs the socialization after nearly five months of hard quarantine because of the new baby and his doctor was unequivocal about that. I feel like the world’s worst mom daily though because he’s having separation anxiety both because of the pandemic and because he knows Max is staying with me all day and he doesn’t understand why he can’t too.
Additionally, I’m not back out in the world. I JUST started grocery shopping instead of using Instacart, but I did wait until after Max was three months old just in case. I’m terrified of them sending us back to school. But I’m sending Jacob in, at three, in a mask, and hoping for the best.
World’s. Worst. Mom.
I keep joking that I’m providing free birth control to the kids in my online classes because they’re seeing how much trouble I’m having juggling everything. Max is a really good baby and most days he goes to sleep in his Ergobaby and I can just teach at my standing desk with him. And my mom comes to help a couple hours most days. But some days he screams for a significant portion of my class. A kid the other day asked if I could mute my baby.
He was kidding, but I was close to crying. Because there are some days when Max’s naps coincide perfectly with my classes and I feel like I’ve got this mostly under control. And there are other days when I feel like I’m managing none of it at all.
But there are extreme highs as well. I’m such a psycho about Max’s head after Jacob needing a helmet that he is literally only on his back to sleep. Our pediatrician said he has the roundest head she’s seen on a four month old since Back to Sleep started. That was quite the win!
And Jacob, despite the hiccups with school, is so sweet with him. He comes in every morning, peers in Max’s crib and says, “Hey buddy. Nice outfit!”
And the book IS becoming more and more real every day. I somehow made my way through my edits this summer with a newborn and we’re now at the copy editing stage. Granted, sometimes my editor emails me with a request for something and I have to Google what it is (some things don’t change) because this is all new to me, but what a great reason to use Google instead of for anxiety-relief!
I’ll wrap this up because I’ve rambled enough, but I’m still here and I promise to be better about keeping at the blog—even when I’m trying to find time to write book #2 of this contract!
At the risk of sounding Grinchy, I’m pretty far from feeling the Christmas spirit this year.
Not that that’s anything specifically new — I’m Jewish. And contrary to what the non-Jews will tell you, Hanukkah isn’t a major holiday. It’s a minor festival. And not like a cool music festival type of festival. You sing a couple prayers, light a couple candles, and if you’re feeling bougie and want to impress the people you invited over, you make some latkes and maybe serve some donuts. If you didn’t invite anyone over, the latkes probably aren’t happening. They’re a lot of work.
Then the kids get presents.
Presents are where the similarities to Christmas start and end. And to be honest, the presents are an assimilationist trick to counteract the whole Christmas thing. Traditionally, kids got a little money (gelt) at Hanukkah, usually with the idea that they were supposed to learn to give to charity (tzedakah) with it. Which is a pretty far cry from what most kids (including my own) get for Hanukkah. (Although to be fair, I told my family that all I want is gelt — adulting when you have a kid is EXPENSIVE.)
But I’m not here to explain Hanukkah today. I’m here to talk about the draft (only my parents laughed at that, sorry not sorry. They’re providing my gelt this year!).
I’ve actually run into a new problem — which probably isn’t remotely new to non-Christian parents, but it’s my first time experiencing it.
That problem is Santa Claus.
I get that most people love Christmas. What I don’t get is the inability to recognize that others may not celebrate the same holiday. And these random strangers are extending that insensitivity to my child.
Jacob saw a toy ice cream truck at the grocery store last weekend that we had no intention of buying him. It was too small for him, cheaply made, and neon pink (I have no problem with him having pink toys, but the neon made my head hurt). And because he’s two-and-a-half, he had a slight meltdown when we said no. On the scale of meltdowns, it was minor, but there were some tears and throwing his head back and wailing.
“Oh Jacob, don’t cry, I’m sure Santa is going to bring you that toy,” our previously favorite cashier crooned to him. “You don’t want mommy and daddy to buy it for you because what will Santa bring then?”
Jacob stopped crying and looked at her, interested. Thus encouraged, she continued. “See, it’s not worth crying, because Santa is going to bring you that toy!”
Hubby and I stood there frozen in shock.
Even if we celebrated Christmas, it was inappropriate. I read that fantastic article about why we shouldn’t tell our kids that Santa brought big gifts because it makes poorer kids feel like they must not have been as good as their richer classmates. And we were never going to buy that toy.
But doubly so for a child whose only exposure to Santa so far has been seeing inflatable lawn ornaments and asking who that man was.
Now before you accuse me of reigniting the “War on Christmas,” (which is total BS. Sorry not sorry again.) I have no problem with Christmas. Celebrate absolutely any holiday that warms your heart. And I let my kid go trick-or-treating despite Halloween technically having Christian or pagan roots (depending on who you ask). I’m not anti-fun. But for all of these people who want to “keep the Christ in Christmas,” I have to say, Santa isn’t it.
If I’m being honest, I already have mixed feelings about the tooth fairy too. I’m not sure I see the value in deliberately lying to your kids, only for them to later discover that you lied to them, rather than telling them the truth and building trust from the very beginning. And while my mom to this day denies it, when I *caught* her being the tooth fairy, she tried to tell me I was dreaming (and did all kinds of swirly hand things to “prove” it). And the fact that she maintained the lie the next morning (and today for that matter. I guarantee when she reads this, she’ll tell me that never happened) just made me wonder what else she and my dad weren’t being entirely honest about. Was the Mormon Temple really NOT Disney World and “you just can’t get there from here”? Did my Sesame Street tapes REALLY not play in my dad’s car? What else were they lying to me about?
While I don’t personally agree with the decision, I also am fully aware that I have no right to tell others how to live their lives or raise their children. So I know that the Santa lie is going nowhere. But I don’t quite understand why strangers are foisting it on my kid.
The day after we went to the grocery store, we were playing with Jacob and he announced to us that, “Santa is bringing me my ice cream truck.” Hubby and I exchanged glances, having discussed what to say at length when this came up after we both stood there frozen like deer in the headlights at the store. Then we patiently explained that Santa wasn’t bringing him toys, mommy and daddy were because we celebrate Hanukkah, not Christmas. Then we ordered the Little Tikes version of that goddamned ice cream truck while he watched us do it so we could make the point about *us* being the ones to buy it.
And we’re never going to that cashier’s lane at the grocery store again.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Festivus for the rest of us.
Halloween is giving me a newfound respect for my mom. And making me freaking hate Pinterest even more than ever.
Granted, ’80s and ’90s moms had it easier because there was no social media. So if your kid went out looking like a hot mess for Halloween, it only lasted one night–now the memories can haunt your child for the rest of their natural lives.
But my mom went all in for Halloween. Probably because she was an art teacher and therefore crafty–like a mom, not a fox–by nature. So our Halloween costumes were elaborate affairs that we spent months planning. And when we looked like hot messes, it was our own stupid faults for choosing an idiotic theme for my mother to execute.
Like when my brother chose to go as Elmer’s glue. Or a lawn bag. But my mother, despite working a full-time job and being the only cook in our family, created those costumes in loving detail, painting a sandwich board to match a bottle of glue and bending green pipe cleaners to come out of the top of the lawn bag.
The year that my brother was a bottle of glue, I chose to be a Hershey’s Kiss. So my mother crafted a suit out of chicken wire and a hula hoop, which she covered in aluminum foil, then made a pointed hat to match, with a Hershey’s logo affixed to the top, and dressed me in a brown turtleneck and leggings under it. When I was Raggedy Ann, she made me a wig of yarn. When I wore my grandmother’s 1960s pink, knockoff Chanel suit and pillbox hat, she talked me out of putting brains on it for my Jackie Kennedy costume. And when I was Dorothy, as all brunette female children are at some point or another, they didn’t sell child-sized ruby slippers on Amazon for $11.99 like they do today, so my mother painted a pair of Keds red, then dipped them in a mix of red glitter and sequins.
Flash forward to me as a mom? I spent $36 on a baby Cookie Monster costume off Spirit Halloween’s website. I didn’t even go to the store.
I wanted Jacob to be baby Bruce Springsteen, in a white t shirt, jeans, red bandana, a red baseball cap in his back pocket, and his toy guitar. Hubby didn’t love the idea. He wanted him to be something cute and kid-like.
I voted for baby Luke Skywalker. Yes, I’d be buying the costume, but the dogs already have Ewok costumes (which was probably a big waste of money. They already kind of look like Ewoks. But whatever. Dogs are people too.) Hubby vetoed that one too. Which was totally unfair because Jacob recently demonstrated how awesome he’d be with a light saber when we took him to Home Depot and he found a PVC pipe that he ran through the store screaming and brandishing as a sword.
At this point, I began pouting because this is probably the last year that we can pick a costume for him before he starts exerting his toddler Jedi-mind tricks (aka throwing a tantrum) if he doesn’t get his own way. And last year, his first Halloween, we matched his costume to the aviator theme of his helmet (which I had wanted to have wrapped to look like R2D2 and still think would have been a better costume. Yes, I’m a huge Star Wars nerd. But as an ’80s kid, our only brunette heroines were Dorothy and Leia. So basically I’m obsessed with shoes and Star Wars. Blame society.), so I didn’t get to have fun with that one either.
And because he’s related to me, next year, he’ll want to be something weird like a Starbucks cup or a stapler.
We finally agreed on Cookie Monster because Jacob loves the number of the day song when we watch Sesame Street. He prefers the Count’s version (and gets up and stomps his feet along with it), but the Cookie Monster costume was cuter, warmer, and more easily obtained on the internet.
Then I told my neighbor the plan and she said, “That’s easy. Just buy him a blue sweatsuit and glue some eyes on the hood. Done!”
I looked shamefacedly toward the ground. “I kinda ordered it online,” I mumbled.
“Oh,” she said, trying to keep the ’90s mom judgment off her face. “That’ll be really cute.”
I trudged home, the guilt of my generation’s lack of creativity coming off of me in waves. In my defense, store-bought costumes have come a long way since the horrifying plastic He-Man masks of the ’80s. But the fact that my mom made all of those costumes from scratch every year impresses me now. Because ours never looked like a pair of sweats with eyes. Ours were handcrafted masterpieces that would have held up even on social media.
Of course, the irony isn’t lost on me that, at the time, all we wanted were those crappy store-bought ’80s nightmares. But my mom insisted on making ours from scratch every year, probably to save money. Yet, looking back, those handmade costumes were the best and I wish I had the creative energy to do even half of what my mom did.
The good news is that we Jews get a second chance at Halloween. So I have time to step my mom game up before Purim rolls around.
Or he’ll be Cookie Monster again. Or I’ll wear Hubby down about baby Bruce Springsteen.
We’ll see how guilty I feel by then.
Hey guys! We’re going to completely ignore the time jump here and pretend I’ve been blogging regularly all along, okay?
So we had some great milestones and one crappy milestone in the last couple of weeks.
I’ll start with the good.
Jacob is 18 months old! How did THAT happen? He’s walking, he’s running, he’s climbing, he’s dancing, he’s destroying entire cities, the works. And even more exciting, he graduated from physical therapy!
I could lie and say that working on my book (I have a new agent and I adore her–she’s had fantastic insight and I DID work my butt off over the summer on it to transform the manuscript into something I’m truly proud of) was why I stopped blogging, but the real reason was Jacob wasn’t walking yet. And that felt like a huge red flag that I just didn’t want to put out there on top of all of our other gross motor issues.
He started walking at 15.5 months, which technically isn’t even late; anything before 18 months is considered normal. But social media is absolutely soul crushing when you feel like your child isn’t achieving a milestone and everyone you’ve ever known is posting videos of their babies, who are months younger than your babies, walking, running marathons, and speedskating in the Olympics at 11 months old.
I did a lot of soul searching while I worried if Jacob would ever walk. On a rational level, I knew he would because you don’t see people crawling down the aisle at the supermarket. But I realized what an insensitive jerk I had frequently been to other new parents. I honestly never meant to be (except to Karen* from fifth grade. I still hate you Karen.), but because I walked at nine months, I assumed that any baby who didn’t walk that early was behind.
*Karen is not her real name. But I can’t print her real name because then she’ll know how much I hate her.
So as we crawled further and further past Jacob’s first birthday without any independent footsteps, I mentally kicked myself for asking my hair stylist (I adore her–she’s no Karen!) if her nine-month-old twins were walking yet. It doesn’t seem like it would be a loaded question–until you have a kid, at which point it feels judgmental and like it’s pointing out a flaw. Sorry, Christy, I’m a monster.
Our physical therapist also pointed out that Jacob’s feet were overpronating and therefore still not normal, so it felt like there would never be an end to our days of physical therapy. That was really hard, and I started making Hubby take Jacob to his appointments largely because I couldn’t handle the emotional toll of being told the next thing that was going to be an issue.
But then, one day, as we tried to coax him to take a couple of steps between us, Jacob did it! Those couple of steps spread to across the room by the end of the day. And soon enough, he was walking everywhere. And now? God help you if you try to pick him up when he wants to be walking (as he made clear when I took him to TJ Maxx and let him get down from the cart to walk around. When it was time to leave, I definitely looked like I was abducting him as I carried him out of the store, screaming bloody murder and thrashing like a dying fish.
So hearing that he was finally caught up on all of his motor skills felt like the untying of a heavy stone around my neck. Or like a really drastic haircut (seriously, I have a LOT of hair. It’s heavy. There’s a reason I love my stylist!) when your head feels lighter and all of that neck tension just melts away.
Of course, we’ve also had less happy milestones like our first SUPER FUN emergency room visit because Jacob banged his forehead on the ONLY table in our entire house that wasn’t covered in protective foam. We literally had ten inches of unprotected furniture in the house and that one span of table edge acted as a siren, luring Jacob’s perfect, unblemished forehead to crash upon it.
I was peeing at the time (ah the life of a mother, when the bathroom feels like a refreshing break) and heard Hubby screaming for me at the top of his lungs.
When I scream like that, it means there’s a spider. But Hubby is the spider-killer, so I didn’t know what to expect. I did NOT expect to see the two of them looking like the pig-blood scene in Carrie, but thankfully Jacob did not begin using his blood-soaked powers to destroy the entire town.
I surprised myself by staying calm, throwing snacks in my bag (it was close to dinner time), grabbing shoes for Jacob and myself, and hustling us all off to the closest emergency room, only 83 percent sure that the ER was going to call Child Protective Services on us for allowing this to happen to our child.
After some frantic texting to my brother (the ER doctor), my best friend (the ER mom veteran), and my parents (the jackasses who made jokes when my poor baby was bleeding from the head–not you mom, you were fine. It was dad!), we opted to let the ER doctor glue his wound closed instead of calling for a plastic surgeon. It was pretty superficial with very clean lines and, worst case scenario, he could be Harry Potter for Halloween.
The ER staff couldn’t have been sweeter. Not only did they NOT report us to CPS, they reassured us that this happens to their own children as well, and the doctor and nurse sang to Jacob as they glued his forehead (he was screaming because they had to swaddle him in a papoose to keep him still. Neither Jacob nor I enjoyed that part of the experience as I huddled in the corner weeping as soon as I no longer had to be the responsible adult), and we were back home an hour and a half after the incident.
Where I put the baby to bed, then poured myself a GIGANTIC glass of wine and called it dinner. But when I texted a friend a picture of my dinner, he replied with a picture of his own liquid dinner. He has four kids. So apparently it doesn’t get easier and there’s a reason that the Olney Safeway has such a large wine selection.
Cheers to all of you other parents! We kept our kids alive to ram their heads into a table another day!
At Jacob’s one year doctor’s appointment, his pediatrician told us we can throw out all of the pureed baby food and give Jacob table food exclusively.
“He should eat what you eat,” she said, smiling.
I can’t admit to the pediatrician that I survive on the super healthy mom diet of coffee, a protein bar (breakfast), more coffee, a handful of almonds (snack), coffee, a salad or a yogurt (lunch), some random junk food scavenged from the English office or stolen from another teacher’s candy drawer (I’m the worst. I’ll literally walk in while he’s teaching, take candy out of his drawer, laugh at the kids when they ask for some, and walk back out) when I’m starving sixth period that I then spend the rest of the day feeling guilty about, Diet Coke (not every day–but when we’re going through a sleep regression, I’m allowed to do whatever I need to in order to survive), a handful of crackers (snack), and then chicken and veggies (dinner).
In fact, looking over my daily diet, I’m shocked that I don’t have scurvy. When did I last eat a piece of fruit? I didn’t even eat a purple donut, so Homer Simpson’s logic that purple is a fruit doesn’t apply.
That is NOT a balanced diet for a baby toddler (he’s not quite a toddler yet. I can’t call him that. But he IS a baby toddler).
So as I see it, I’ve got two options. I can either adopt a balanced diet for myself and then feed him bite-sized pieces of what I eat, or I can keep doing what I’m doing and feed HIM a balanced diet.
In a perfect world, I’d go with option A, but I’m working full time, tired, and trying to keep weight off without having time to exercise. Judge me if you will, but until the scurvy sets in, I’m sticking with what works.
(Actually, I put low sugar craisins in my salad for today. That counts as fruit right? If purple is a fruit, red is definitely a fruit!)
So I need to figure out what to feed Jacob. His favorite foods so far: grilled cheese, french toast, veggie straws (which, despite clever marketing, are not healthy. They’re slightly less unhealthy potato chips. They’re basically Baked Lays, but yummy), and freeze-dried yogurt drops.
He’ll eat almost anything if it’s pureed–the only things he won’t touch with a ten-foot pole are beets (tried a baby food mix that had beets in it and he gagged on it, spit it right out, then looked at me distrustfully and wouldn’t let me feel him again until I made him grilled cheese two meals in a row. I can’t blame him. Beets are pretty gross) and mangoes.
Whole foods, however, are providing slightly more challenging. Both because he’s not always a fan of textures (he’ll put something in his mouth, decide he’s not into it, and pull it right back out) and because he’s discovered he has a favorite game. I’m calling it “Hungry, Hungry Doggies.”
Both schnauzers began camping out under his high chair shortly after we began using it. At first, they laid next to it, hoping for thrown Cheerios. Then Jacob started dropping toys and sippy cups on their heads, so now they take shelter under him. But when he throws food, two dog heads pop out and scrabble for it, like it’s a marble in the board game. And he laughs hysterically.
Meaning that his food has become their food. (Of course, he’s also gone after their food now. I’ve pulled three pieces of dog food out of his mouth before he could swallow them so far. Mangoes he won’t touch, but kibble? Delicious.)
In other words, it has now become a challenge to get healthy food in him because the only four dishes that he won’t throw to the dogs are grilled cheese, french toast, veggie straws, and freeze-dried yogurt drops.
So I went to the experts: my mom friends. “Help meeeeee,” I begged. “How do I get Jacob to eat healthy foods?”
And I got a plethora of things to try, most of which Jacob summarily rejected because all babies are different and Jacob is smart enough to know that if he throws enough green beans to the dogs, I’ll eventually cave and make him something yummy.
One of my mom friends also tagged me in some Instagram posts from moms who do “kid food-spiration.” (Yes, that’s a thing. The internet has officially gone too far and I think society has been destroyed.) And I was like, oh cool, I’ll follow these pages and get great ideas about what to feed Jacob.
But the more I’m seeing, the more convinced I am that these moms all live in Brooklyn and appear on HGTV shows with multi-million dollar budgets without any discernible source of income. Because no, I’m not making vegan quinoa, tofu and avocado “deconstructed tacos” with gluten-free, homemade bean chips and chickpea and sunflower butter cookies for dessert, all packed in an eco-friendly, BPA free, recycled lunch tin with compartments specifically for their non-GMO, locally sourced, organic pomegranate seeds.
WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
Dude, I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Pepperidge Farm cinnamon raisin swirl bread every day from K-12 for lunch and turned out fine. Granted, I didn’t grow up to have the healthiest eating habits, and I’m hearing that peanut butter is banned from most elementary schools now because of food allergies so that probably won’t be an option for Jacob, but still. I never brought anything green for lunch and I’m pretty sure no one ever called social services on my mom.
With that said, Jacob seems to be a fan of broccoli. I found “broccoli tots” at the grocery store, which he loves (like tater tots, but broccoli instead of potato). We’re still using some of the food packets to supplement his fruit and veggie intake on days when the dogs get a feast. And considering his doctor mentioned that we can give him chicken nuggets (he hasn’t had that particularly delicacy yet), I think we’re doing okay, despite the lack of organic, locally sourced kale and quinoa.
Of course, now that I’ve admitted to my terrible eating habits, I’m making myself feel guilty about the example that I’m setting and am thinking I should start bringing an apple to school to avoid the sixth period candy run. It’s probably a good idea to model healthy eating habits.
And to avoid scurvy. I don’t even know exactly what that is, but if it’s a disease that pirates got, I’m thinking it’s not pretty.
I must have blinked sometime recently (blinking counts as sleep when you’re a parent, right?) because, suddenly, my little baby is a year old.
How did THAT happen?
I swear I was pregnant like last week and he was born yesterday, wasn’t he?
My best friend (and mommy guru, oracle of all things motherhood) told me when I felt like I was drowning in the early days of maternity leave that, when you have kids, “the days are long, but the years are short.” Boy, is that accurate!
So what have I learned this year?
I’m not going to list everything because I’d be writing that list until he was two, then need to start the list of things I learned in that year. But there are some big ones worth mentioning.
One of the first things I learned: I don’t know that I could be a stay-at-home mom. Maybe when kids are a little older, but those first couple months when the hubby went back to work before summer started were ROUGH. Don’t get me wrong: being a working mom is ridiculously hard. I miss Jacob all day and wish I were with him, but if I were home with him all day every day with no breaks, I think I’d go insane and start writing “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” on the walls.
With that said, I have TERRIBLE SAHM FOMO (Stay-at-home mom fear of missing out). I 100 percent WISH I had the means to be a stay at home mom and I’m DESPERATELY looking forward to my summer home with him. DESPERATELY. I absolutely NEVER want to go back to work when it’s time. But I also recognize that having some adult time is good for me. (Granted, I’m not sure teaching in a high school counts as “adult time,” but I’ll take what I can get.)
However, I also could never afford to be a stay-at-home mom either. So maybe some of this is my brain tricking me so I don’t spend all day crying. But in one sense I’m a better mom to Jacob when I’m absolutely dying to see him at the end of the work day. (Like literally. When they spring a meeting on me at the end of the day, I will cut someone to get home to my baby!)
I could, however, be a stay-at-home dog mom quite happily. But I’d be able to go to the gym, go shopping, shower, pee with the door closed, etc with just dogs. Despite what I thought prior to having a child, babies are a different ballgame altogether.
I learned to try to sweat the small stuff less. I know that everything feels catastrophic in the moment, but the reality is, we’ll get through whatever it is. Whether it’s the baby not gaining enough weight or a flat head or physical therapy or whatever pain in the ass is coming next. Is it going to suck at the time? Yes. But we’ll figure it out and come through on the other side.
I learned that I can’t be perfect. That doesn’t mean I’m going to give up and stop trying, but it’s okay if people see the flaws. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to hide all of my imperfections from everyone, but that stupid helmet taught me that I can’t do that anymore because I’m no longer just me. I’m a mom. So there are going to be times when I get to school with scrambled egg in my hair (happened yesterday) or spit-up on my shirt (thank god we’re past that phase!) or other general less than perfectisms. And that’s okay. And if anyone judges me for that, they’ll understand when they have kids. Or not. Who cares?
The cool thing is that I DO care a little less about that now. I laughed about the hair eggs and asked if the kid who pointed them out was hungry. And on a serious note, I have to admit that the responses that I got when I posted about Jacob’s helmet helped me realize that, despite what you see on social media, no one’s life is perfect. Everyone has all kinds of crap, most more serious than mine, that they’re dealing with. They’re not all broadcasting theirs in a blog, but I’m not broadcasting ALL of mine either. (Yes, dear reader, I keep secrets from you. #sorrynotsorry.)
I’ve learned that being a mom is one of the hardest things in the world. I was NOT sympathetic enough to my friends with kids before Jacob was born. Like oh my god, this is HARD. I’m feeling a lot of delayed-reaction guilt that I made my best friend drop everything and come to the Jersey shore for my bachelorette party when she had a four month old and an almost three year old at home. She fell asleep pumping at the kitchen table after we went out one night. Now that I’ve been there and get it, I can’t believe she loves me enough to have dropped everything for me that weekend and I can’t believe I was a big enough jerk to ask her to. I also have NO idea how people do this with two or more kids. How does that even work? I’m exhausted just THINKING about a second baby!
I’ve learned that planning doesn’t work. I’m a big planner. And prior to pregnancy, those plans were beautifully executed because I was good at planning. Babies, however, are plan kryptonite. Breakfast yesterday? I planned to be on time for work with food-free hair, but I was late with hair eggs instead. If I plan to go somewhere, I can virtually guarantee that Jacob will poop right when I’m about to leave, or refuse to eat, or find some new way to prevent that from happening. But I keep making those plans, beating on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the hands of a plan-destroying baby (toddler? I guess he’s not TECHNICALLY a baby anymore. BRB crying forever).
I’ve learned nothing is THAT gross. Okay, maybe that’s not technically true, as lots of things are REALLY FREAKING GROSS when you have a baby. But you deal with it. My mother loves to tell the story (no really, she LOVES to tell this story. Like in front of my friends, boss, cashier at TJ Maxx, you name it) of the time she took me to the grocery store in a primitive 1980s baby carrier and I pooped down her shirt and she didn’t even notice until she went to put me back in the car. As Forrest Gump and the shirts say, it happens. And you clean it up and you deal with it. And if you make fake gagging noises when you’re cleaning something super gross, Jacob will laugh hysterically. (My brother and sister-in-law were horrified when we were trying to get Jacob to smile for a picture with his new cousin and we started gagging at him. It worked though!)
I’ve learned that I need to find time for myself. There are three main components to keeping Sara happy and sane. Reading, writing, and exercise. All three of which are INSANELY difficult to find time to do when you’re a new mom. The exercise part was fine when it was warm out because I would take long walks with Jacob, but once it got cold out, that got much harder. I can’t work out at night because I’ll never sleep if I do it that close to bedtime (I’m the world’s worst insomniac). Mornings are out because I already have to get up an hour earlier this year than I did pre-baby to get him ready and I’m not yet getting enough sleep at night to get up at 4am to work out. So I am HEAVILY (no pun intended when I’m not exercising) anticipating the return of warm weather.
Reading wasn’t that hard to reinstate because I just added in 20 minutes at bedtime. I love my Kindle because it tells me how long it’ll take me to read the chapter that I’m on, but it gets hard when I’m reading something that I love because I’m always like, well, I could read ONE more chapter. And then suddenly it’s midnight and I want to die. But that’s only happened a couple of times so far because the desire to sleep still wins out most nights.
Writing has been a challenge, but that’s why I started this blog. I also just signed with a new agent for my new book and she seems awesome, so I need to start revisions ASAP. That’s going to be tricky because I don’t work well in short chunks of time. I work best when I have a couple of solid weeks of time to sit down and focus. But it’s important enough to me that I’ll find a way.
And finally, I’ve learned that motherhood is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love Jacob more than I ever thought possible and I’ve learned that THAT makes all of the rest of it worth it.
It’s no secret that I love the internet. Google is my BFF. Siri and I fight sometimes (she pronounces my last name as Con-FIN-o, not Con-FEEN-o. Like she should really have a feature where you pronounce something for her and she learns it. It’s not rocket science.), and I don’t currently have Alexa running my house, but I do love me some internet.
Except Pinterest. Screw Pinterest.
I’ll admit, I’ve never truly understood the appeal of Pinterest. To me, it’s vaguely like the idea of Tumblr (which is NOT a real blog. This is a blog. It has writing AND stolen pictures. Not just reposted pictures. Just reposting pictures without the writing does NOT make you a blogger!). You just post other people’s stuff to save it for later. That’s never done much for me.
Granted, it was helpful when planning my wedding–only because after I had a nightmare dress experience at the first store my mother and I went to, my mother looked at my Pinterest, saw that I’d pinned the same dress three separate times, and called around for a store that carried it. She found one, we went in, I tried it on, we bought it, the end. (I also watch zero reality tv*, so I had no desire to cry and be like, “Oh my god, I’m saying yes to the dress!” Gag.)
*I fully intend to hate watch the hell out of the Jersey Shore reboot.
So why do I hate Pinterest after it found me my wedding dress?
Easy. It’s the Disney movie of motherhood. Yes, I love Disney movies. But realistic expectations of men are not their forte. Like if a dude comes up to you and starts dancing with you without your consent and tells you he met you in a dream so he already knows you in real life, that’s creepy AF. I’m sorry, but no one is battling Ursala when he doesn’t even know your real name. Nope. And don’t even get me started on all of those princes kissing unconscious princesses. But in a Disney movie? Oh my god, it’s so ROMANTIC! No, I’m not being sarcastic there. I don’t care how date rapey Prince Phillip is on paper, in Sleeping Beauty he’s awesome!
And that’s how Pinterest is. You look at all these motherhood posts and you’re like “Wow, motherhood is SO dreamy.” I’m almost a year in. Motherhood is not dreamy. It’s far from dreamy. In fact, what’s a dream? Who sleeps anymore? What?
Pinterest is fine when you’re setting up your nursery (you know, pre-baby. When you have time to do cutesy stuff). But once that little guy or gal is born? Especially if you’re working full time, who has time for all of that?
Which brings me to the real problem with Pinterest (only took me 450 words to get there… oops): I am a surprisingly low maintenance mom. I know, I know, no one who knows me would ever put the word “LOW” in front of maintenance when describing me as a person. But as a mom, I’m pretty laid back.
But Jacob is turning one in another week and a half. Which means I have to plan a birthday party.
And all of these Pinterest moms are making me want to tear my hair out.
The original plan was to invite close family and a couple of friends who have kids (because why would friends WITHOUT kids want to go to a one year old’s birthday party? I certainly didn’t pre-kids!), get a couple balloons and a cake from Costco, make a small smash cake for Jacob and call it a day. No fuss, no muss, no problem.
Apparently that’s not an acceptable solution for anyone involved. Costco cakes, which incidentally, were good enough for my high school and college graduation parties, as well as my engagement party, my father’s 60th birthday party, etc, are apparently not good enough for Jacob’s first birthday because everyone I told that plan to said, “You’re really not going to make the cake yourself?”
Some background: I am an AWESOME baker. It’s probably the only reason I have friends at school as I am also snarky beyond belief. And in my younger and more vulnerable years, I used to decorate cakes. My grandma used to make all of our birthday cakes as kids and I eventually started “helping,” then ACTUALLY helping, then started making my own.
The last time I cared enough to do that was 15 years ago though. So I turned to Pinterest. And somehow, in the last 15 years, cake decorating went from “cut a monkey head shape out of a sheet cake” to spending eight hours sculpting the perfect cake and using fondant at home. I’m not doing that. A) Fondant is gross, as I learned from wedding cake testing and B) WHAT MOM HAS TIME FOR ALL THAT?
The problem is, now that I’ve seen all of these fantastical Pinterest creations, I feel like my cute little monkey cake plan will be pathetic and everyone will think I’m a bad mom. And my old cake decorating books from the 90s were no help at all because THIS was what passed for a monkey cake back then.
That’d be a bigger fail than those “1” penis cookies that made the rounds a few years ago. (Side note, we went to a friend’s daughter’s first birthday party about a month ago. And the hubby pulls me aside, points in the corner and whispers, “Why do they have a dick balloon?” I looked and it was supposed to be a pink “1,” but it would have fit in beautifully at a bachelorette party… we may not be emotionally mature enough to be parents after this many years of teaching high school!)
So I’m compromising. I ordered a monkey-shaped cake pan. I’ll decorate that, make a banana-shaped smash cake for Jacob, and call it a day.
My sanity is more important than looking like a perfect Pinterest mom.
Programming note: I’ll be in California for spring break next week, so I probably won’t have a new post for you until the week after that. See you then!
My brother and his wife had a baby in December. But because they live in LA and we’re in DC, I have yet to meet my only nephew. This tragedy is finally going to be remedied in a week and a half.
Which brings me to today’s post: flying with an infant.
Jacob will be one week shy of a year when we make the trip. And I don’t do things by halves, so instead of trying a nice, two-hour flight to Florida, we’re diving right in and doing five-and-a-half hours for our first trip.
We’re also teachers, so we’re poor and therefore are bringing him as a “lap infant.” Pray for us.
I feel like the lap infant plan would have been easy a couple of months ago. But right now, all Jacob wants is to crawl, stand, and cruise. So five-and-a-half hours of holding a squirming baby who wants to do anything BUT sit on a lap is going to be an experience. (Maybe you shouldn’t pray for us, maybe you should pray for whoever has to sit next to us…)
So as the research queen, here’s what I’ve discovered so far.
- Bring your own car seat. In my Googling, I’ve seen all kinds of horror stories about people reserving a car seat from the rental car company, only to find that they were out of them that day. Or the car seat in question was covered in puke. Or was rusty. Or broken. Or any number of other unsafe factors that meant people had to then leave one spouse at the rental car place while the other drove to the nearest Buy Buy Baby or Target to buy a new car seat. Nope. That bulky Britax is coming with us!
- Airlines will actually let you use your car seat on the plane without buying a seat if your flight isn’t full. And with just under two weeks to go, our flights aren’t full (I’m sure I just jinxed myself…keep your fingers crossed for me). So we’re planning to haul our car seat through the airport. Yes, that sounds like the biggest pain in the ass ever, but we bought a wheelie cart thing that it attaches to and you can apparently safely put the baby in the seat and use that as a makeshift stroller, so we can check the stroller before security at least.
- It’s actually cheaper to Amazon Prime a Pack N Play to my brother before we go than it is to bring our own. While airlines let you check a stroller and a car seat for free, the Pack N Play would run us $25 each way and they’re $47 on Amazon right now, without having to shlep it through the airport. No brainer there.
- Get an Airbnb with a kitchen and washer/dryer instead of staying at a hotel. The closest, non-shady hotel to my brother was $180 a night. We found an Airbnb for $124 and is walking distance to restaurants, shops and the beach. While I’ve never stayed in an Airbnb before (and think it’s a little creepy when it’s someone’s regular house), I’ve got to say, the washer and dryer are crucial when traveling with a little one. What do you do if there’s a poop disaster otherwise?
- Everyone I know drugs their kids on the regular. Every single parent that I talked to who has flown with a one year old has told me to give him Benadryl. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Which I guess makes sense. My parents were slipping me Benadryls to travel as late as three years ago when my mom and I flew to LA for my sister-in-law’s bridal shower. But in my case, it wasn’t because I’m squirmy, it’s because I get more motion sick than anyone else on the planet. And if I’m sleeping, I’m not puking.
- TEST THE BENADRYL THING FIRST. Oh my god, apparently on like 25 percent of kids, it doesn’t knock them out, it makes them insane. And the last thing I need for five-and-a-half hours on a plane is a raging Hulk baby climbing all over everyone and everything on the plane. (Hulk baby mad! Hulk baby crawl!) Urban legend? Maybe. But not worth the risk. Plus, testing the Benadryl beforehand gives mommy time to pack.
To be honest though, I’m not sure how I feel about the Benadryl thing. Like I’m sure it’s fine. Dr. Adam says it can’t hurt. His pediatrician gave us the green light (although she also warned us to test it before we go to avoid Baby Hulk). And my parents did it to me for YEARS and I’m (mostly) normal. But the box says not to give it to children under two. And I spend so much time and energy making sure that nothing non-organic touches my child’s lips, am I really going to dope him up for ease on a flight?
Yes. Yes, I am. But I’ll still feel mom guilt about it.
And HOPEFULLY if he conks out for most of the flight, he’ll stay up a little later once we get there and adjust better to the time change.
Who am I kidding? He’s waking us up at 4am every morning when we’re in LA and I know it.
With that said, I’m actually really excited for this trip–and not just because I get to squeeze my adorable little nephew finally! We’re planning to take Jacob to Disneyland, which yes, he’ll be too young to remember, but I still want to see his face when he sees real-life Mickey and Winnie-the-Pooh.
Wish me luck! And to all of you parents who have done a long flight with a little one before, what am I missing? What advice do you have?