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Life Lately

We’ve done a lot of celebrating since I last wrote. Mackenzie’s birthday and Father’s Day and soon we’ll be celebrating the last day of school! Huzzah!

Mackenzie has finally begun to use her fat legs to move. She is taking her very first steps with her toy walker and she is cruising on the couch. She’s figured out how to get up the first step of the staircase landing and if left there long enough she will try to go up the other steps. I think she’ll be walking all on her own in another month or so and I’ll be wishing for the days when she didn’t move.

She still only has four teeth but it looks like another 6 are coming in all at once. Her gums are red and swollen and some days she is clearly in pain and uncomfortable. This is why the good Lord invented medications. When all else fails, give the baby some drugs.

She is saying a lot more than just dada now. She calls me nana so mama bas to be right around the corner. Everything is “dat dat dat.” She points constantly screaming DAT! And the other day when I said you want this? She said “yea dat.” She makes sure she is understood by screaming at you until you give her what she wants. She will go from the sweetest, cuddliest baby to a Godzilla-like temper tantrum in a minute. I guess that’s the Gemini in her. She is very determined to get what she wants, when she wants it, and most of the time that is food. If you are eating around her she opens her mouth immediately, even if you aren’t offering the food to her. She reminds me of a dog.

Charlotte is very happy summer vacation is right around the corner. She will go to camp in July and probably tell me she hates it and then I’ll show her the cashed check for camp and explain it doesn’t really matter what she thinks!

All in all, things are good and feel normal again. I’m hopeful this summer continues the momentum of leaving the pandemic behind us. I’m hopeful we get good news about school sometime before August. If we don’t you’ll probably see me on the news like a raving lunatic. I don’t want to write or live or read about remote learning anymore. Here’s to better days ahead!

One.

Dear Mackenzie,

It’s hard to believe I am writing your first birthday letter. I don’t think I have ever felt a year go by as quickly as this one. As a 2020 baby, your first year of life was drastically different than most. I remember in March of 2020 when the world locked down how I thought everything would be back to normal by the time you came into the world. But then I remember spending so many days worrying that I would have to give birth to you alone, that we would have no visitors, no help, nobody to greet you. Your birth was so much different than your sister. Your daddy was thankfully allowed to be with me, but the hospital was such a different place. It was so quiet. No visitors lining the halls with balloons and gifts. Masks on everyone around us. But then you came, and for two nights it was just us. The no visitors policy wasn’t such a bad thing. We had you all to ourselves and we loved every minute. We video chatted friends and family to show you off. And then we went home to start our new life as a family of four.

This has been, without a doubt, the best year of my life. It is conflicting for me to say that, because for so many it has been the worst of times. There were certainly days I didn’t think I would make it, but you are – and I say this without any reservations – the best baby I could have ever had. You are so different than your sister and I think it’s because you are pandemic baby, and if the Lord blessed me with Charlotte 2.0 in a lockdown I probably would have gone a little nuts. You are so calm and so happy 99% of the time. I cannot believe I have had the privilege of being home with you this past year. I love you in a way I didn’t think possible. I love watching you and your sister. From the early days when she would hold you on her chest and pretend to feed you, to the times now when she carries you around the living room so you can play together, every moment is a gift. I love how much you love to eat. I love how you scoot your chubby butt around the floor. I love how you wake up and give me the biggest grin when you see me come into the room. Could you sleep a little better? Perhaps. Waking up at night isn’t really necessary any more, but I love how for just a few minutes you need to put your hands on my face or my chest to go back to sleep. The fact that you are my last baby and that I will never do this again is probably why I don’t complain so much about it. I also know Charlotte was a hell of a lot worse so I can totally manage this.

I love the way you dance and how much you love dogs. The way you point to everything and anything and say “dat” over and over. How you actually behave during Charlotte’s never ending zoom schooling. I am probably a bit biased because I am your mother but I think you are one of the most beautiful babies in the world.

There have been days where I didn’t know if I could manage all of this. I imagined your first year a lot different than it has been, but you were the calm in the storm. You came to us at this time for a reason. When I hold you I feel at peace. Some of my favorite times are when me, you and Charlotte are hugging each other and you can’t stop looking at both of us and laughing. I am so blessed to have had this time with the both of you together.

I can’t believe the baby times are over and behind us. I already miss your infant smell and those baby stretches, but those have been replaced with your little voice trying out new sounds and words. The sleeping on my chest has been replaced with pulling yourself onto my lap to hug me. The nursing has been replaced with …. well, still nursing. You’re the same as your sister in that regard. I doubt I’ll be getting you to stop any time soon. As sad as I am to have your first year behind us, I know things will get better and better. I love you and your sister more than anything in this world. You complete us my Kenzie girl. Happy birthday, baby.

Sh*t Charlotte Says

Sometimes I just need to write down the things that Charlotte says so I never forget them because she really makes me laugh. This is the perfect place to do just that. In no order, Charlotte lately:

When a commercial for a deaf basketball group comes on the television: “I hate this song in this commercial it’s terrible.” I tell her to be nice because it is a commercial about deaf people and she responds with “so they can’t hear the song? Good for them.”

Anytime I put any outfit on Mackenzie that wasn’t handpicked by her: “oh god that outfit is horrible. I’d never wear that. Disgusting.”

When she walked into the living room of my grandma’s house the other day in front of everyone holding my tampons, waving them in the air screaming “HEY MOMMY WHAT ARE THESE?!” And then later on proceeded to ask me if they were candy.

Whenever Mackenzie starts crying and she screams at the top of her lungs “shut it up Mackenzie! Everyone has had enough of you!!!”

Just now when I went to move her small baby Barbie away from Mackenzie and she shouted at me “NO I NEED THAT BABY! SHE IS ABOUT TO GET BORNED OUT OF ANNA!!!” And then proceeds to put on a full performance of the baby coming out of Anna’s stomach and everyone shouting welcome to the baby.

When I hear her mutter to herself when she is shutting the basement door “gotta close this so mom doesn’t yell and Mackenzie doesn’t fall and die.” At least I know she’s listening to me part of the time.

Let it End

I have never in my life counted down the days until the end of school more than I have this year, and that includes all of the years of my own schooling. Never has the warm weather been more of a promising sign that this school year from hell is ending than it is now. Charlotte has barely had a school experience and yet I cannot wait for this to be over. Perhaps I’d feel differently if she were going 5 days a week like most Staten Island public schools, but alas, here we are 8 months in and only 2-3 days a week is still all we get. I cannot wait until my dining room table is no longer a hot mess of books and computers and a tablecloth filled with pencil shavings and crayon drawings. I don’t want to look at any of the crap in there for another second. I don’t want to sign on to one more friggin’ zoom. I wish they’d end it all now, to be honest. What the hell else are they going to learn on the computer from now until the end of June? Absolutely nothing!!! Do us all a favor and put us out of our misery.

A few weeks back we found out that Charlotte’s school had the option to send back two grades full time until the end of the year and they declined. They didn’t feel it was best for the community or fair to other kids or a whole plethora of other stupid reasons. They said they didn’t even decide what grades would have gone back, although the logical answer – and the answer for most schools with this same choice – would be to send back the younger kids. But no, why would we do such a thing like that? Why let the little kids get a taste of what 5 day schooling is like so they can be better prepared for September? There is still no plan for September, by the way. Who knows what fresh hell awaits us then. Whatever guidelines the DOE put in place won’t ever allow for Charlotte’s school to be normal, so if those guidelines don’t change I guess we’re up shit’s creek without a paddle. After we learned about that I did what I like to think I do best and I wrote a letter to the principal and the group of parents tasked with making the decision. A group that we didn’t even know existed because who would know such things when there is no communication? I circulated the letter to other parents as frustrated as I was and I got a lot of signatures. I expressed our frustrations with the year and with the choice they made and hoped they would see what good full time school would do for the younger kids, even if it was only for a few weeks. I received a response from the principal a week later that was probably drafted by some goon at the DOE and didn’t address any of the issues we raised. We also sent the letter to the superintendent and a councilman on Staten Island and got radio silence from them. It is disheartening. I don’t know what I expected and I probably shouldn’t have expected anything at all, but I thought that maybe someone – anyone! – would care.

But I did something. I took all of my bitching and moaning and I did something. I did the only thing I could do for my child and I put pen to paper and put it out into the world. And other parents agreed and signed on to my words, and that will just have to be enough. I tried and I failed, but at least I tried. And if September comes and nothing changes, I will continue to put pen to paper and I will send my words to anyone who will read them. We have to do better for these kids. Enough is enough.

Mother’s Day Gift Guides

It’s almost Mother’s Day and you know what that means!! All the Mother’s Day gift guides have been rolled out across the internets. Oh what a time. Here are a few of the very real gift ideas that I found during my google search:

An online cooking class with Gordon Ramsey for $180 dollars. You know what’s not a great idea? Gifting the mother in your life a cooking class after she has most likely just spent the entirety of the pandemic cooking 3 meals a day for her family. If anyone in my family gifted me a cooking class after watching me prepare food constantly for over a year I would rip my stove out of the wall in a fit of Hulk rage. Get her a gift card to seamless and call it a day.

A grow your own mushroom kit. I just can’t see the majority of mothers out there being thankful for this kind of thing unless it’s a different kind of mushroom, you know what I mean? Why would we want something ELSE we have to keep alive? Who likes mushrooms enough to grow them yourself? They’re usually 2 for 5 at the grocery store.

Retinol anti-aging cream. OK OK OK. So I am fairly certain the majority of moms need this, but do we want it from our children for MOTHER’S DAY? Hey mom, you look like garbage, here’s some cream, Happy Mother’s day! Actually, the reason we have so many wrinkles is because of our children so maybe they should be the ones doling out the bucks for the cream. At least just get us a facial so we can enjoy the experience.

A box of mejdool dates, for the “mom with a sweet tooth.” I have a sweet tooth. I don’t want a box of mejdool dates. Get me some real candy, you cowards.

Sooooo many teapots. What is with the teapots? Do moms really drink that much tea? Most of the moms I know are drinking room temperature coffee, right? I’m always drinking room temperature coffee.

Any type of jewelry that has a heart with MOM in it. I don’t want to sound rude but I am fairly certain nobody wants this. Nobody needs a fake gold chain that says BEST MOM EVER in big letters the size of Flava Flav’s clock necklace. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend isn’t a saying for no reason!!

The old faithful gift idea for those that forget to get gifts, a “coupon” book of things to do for mom. This is cute if it is coming from young kids with an ACTUAL gift from the husband on the side. But if you’re only giving your mom a piece of construction paper that says “good for one massage” I can promise you you’re going to have a mom who is madder than a pissed on chicken. NO THANKS.

I say it every year and it still holds true. GIVE YOUR MOTHER A DAY OF SILENCE. Take those children AWAYYYYYY. Get RID OF THEM FOR AN AFTERNOON. Let her sleep in and eat what she wants when she wants and let her watch TV on the couch without worrying about who needs a snack or a diaper change. LET HER TAKE A NAP. And for the love of God, DO NOT MAKE HER BREAKFAST IN BED. NOBODY WANTS THAT. NOBODY.

My family gifted me with AirPods which is a necessary, welcomed, and appreciated gift. I have already begun using them to drown out the sounds of my children, which is really what they were intended for. Happy Mother’s Day indeed.

I know you’re not supposed to have a favorite child, but am I correct in saying that on certain days (or weeks, or months…) you’ll like one of your children more than the other? Perhaps it is because of the age difference, but Mackenzie is my favorite right now. Maybe it is because when I get up and get dressed in the morning, all Mackenzie does is smile at me and Charlotte looks me dead in the eyes and says “you’re wearing that? That dress is pretty but the tie on it is horrible and the sleeves are terrible and I’m sorry I said that out loud but I would never wear that.” Or maybe it’s because all Mackenzie wants me to do is hold her and love her and Charlotte tells me “when I get older I am moving away and you can’t visit me and I will do whatever I want” when I tell her she can’t eat an Oreo for breakfast. It could also be because when it’s time for Mackenzie to go to sleep I put her in her crib with no issues and when it is time for Charlotte to go to sleep she tells me “this is the worst time of my life” and holds her eyelids open until I tell her I’m going to leave the room. It could be all of these things so I can’t really pinpoint the exact reason, but Mackenzie is a much, much easier child to be around.

Obviously we have spent way too much time together since March of 2020 and Lord knows we could both use a break. The days she goes to school we get along much better. She still criticizes my clothes like she is Joan Rivers on the E! red carpet, but at least she is happier and not fighting with me about everything under the sun. Being at work a couple of days a week helps too, even though on Saturday she told me, in front of my mother, that she wishes I would go to work for 100 years. Does it hurt my feelings sometimes? Sure it does. But then I just look at Mackenzie and pray she never turns into the 6 going on 16 year old that Charlotte is.

It’s not all bad. The other night she was very kind and loving to me when my knee was acting up. She helped me put ice on it and asked if we could have a sleepover so I could cuddle her. It just feels like those days are so few and far between. At least Mackenzie loves me and I’ve got a few years before she turns on me too.

On the Move

There was a time not too long ago where I was worried about Mackenzie not crawling or standing or showing any interest in moving. Eric and I found videos of Charlotte crawling and standing and doing everything Mackenzie wasn’t way earlier. They say not to compare your kids, but of course that’s easier said than done. I kept saying Mackenzie was just lazy and would do everything in her own time even as I worried.

I was a fool.

In one day Mackenzie figured out how to move and move fast. She won’t crawl and she’s still not trying to stand on her own but she’s managed to scoot herself around at a very rapid pace. She looks like she is in a kayak pushing herself all over the place. I put her down on the rug and walk to the fridge and by the time I turn around she’s behind me. She got over to the tv stand and immediately knocked down a shelf of picture frames. She scoots to the stove and rips the dish towels down. She found the outlets which now need outlet covers. She tried to eat a phone charger and ripped all of the artwork and magnets off the fridge. She gets herself stuck under the kitchen stools and races over to wherever Charlotte is and destroys whatever she is playing with. There is so much shouting of “get her away from me!!!” I’m constantly vacuuming and making sure there is nothing on the floor because she thinks everything is edible. Barbie shoes are my nemesis.

What a fool I was. I should have enjoyed the stationary baby instead of worrying because I obviously had nothing to worry about and now I can’t leave the room without containing her. The party is over!!!

The destroyer of decor.

Nighttime Musings

Every night before bed I lay with Charlotte until she falls asleep. It’s annoying but it works and after 5+ years of her never sleeping she finally, FINALLY, stays in her bed all night and sleeps until the morning. Even her sister’s screaming doesn’t wake her up and it is a miracle so if I have to lay with her until she is a teenager so be it.

We have the same routine every night. I turn off the lights and climb in and play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by Lisa Loeb (only this version) on repeat. I have no idea why this is her chosen song but here we are. She yells at me to move my knees and hold her and rub her back and I tell her 100 times to go to sleep. And every night she pops her head up and says “mommy can I ask you one more thing?” and so we began the round of Charlotte’s 20 Questions. She saves every single question and thought she has for before she goes to bed. Here are some of my favorites:

“Did Mary have parents? You know, Mary with the lamb and the God? Did her parents die and come back to normal life too? Oh so every Easter Jesus dies and then comes back? How does this work?”

“Can I have a car when I’m 12? Why can’t I have a car when I am 12 if I have my pink jeep now? Why is it the law that I have to wait to drive a car? Why can’t I drive my pink jeep in the street? Who makes these rules?”

“Why do I have to sleep? Why can’t I just keep my eyes open and stay up all night? I hate this time of day.”

“When is Mackenzie going to be old enough to play with me? She doesn’t do anything I want her to do and I’m tired of waiting.”

“How come you don’t have to go to bed when I go to bed? Why do I have to do everything and you don’t have to do anything?!”

“When are you going to get my hundred dollars out of the bank? Why can’t I just keep all of my money in my room? Why do you take all of my money away from me?”

“When are you going to let me hold knives and cut things by myself?”

We’re Six!

I was listening to the cast recording of Six the Musical (the British one, since the Broadway version was supposed to open the night the pandemic shut the entire world down so we have yet to get a cast recording) many months ago when Charlotte asked me what the song was because she liked it. Fast forward to now when Six is the ONLY thing we listen to. And not even the entire album, just three select songs, with the finale being her favorite one. The show is nowhere near appropriate for her, but 1) I miss Broadway more than anything and 2) she doesn’t even understand the inappropriate parts. She knows every single word to the finale now considering we listen to it on loop for every car ride and she jams out in her room to it on the daily. She knows all about Henry the 8th (“he was fat and mean!”), Anne Boleyn (“she got her head chopped off, but there’s no video of it”) and learned what divorce is. Like I said, not appropriate, but whatever. She calls the songs “episodes” because she thinks everything is a TV show. It’s very cute.

So, as my Broadway loving heart began to swell with her interest in the music, I told her that when Broadway opens up again I would buy us tickets and we would go to the show just the 2 of us. (I recently learned that children under 10 are not admitted, but that is no longer an issue. You’ll see why if you keep reading.).

She was very excited and asked me if she had to be quiet, if she could get popcorn and if she’d see the head getting cut off. Yes, no, no. On our way home the other day after listening to the finale for the 950th time, I told her I’d show her a video of one of the performances so she could see the costumes and the girls who sing. I thought this would solidify her desire to see the show with me. It’s like I don’t even know my own daughter. Because none of that happened.

She didn’t give a single F about the costumes. Did not care about finally seeing the face behind the voices. Oh no, all Charlotte cared about was that they sounded different. “This doesn’t sound anything like the songs we listen to!!” Never did it occur to me she would have an issue with a live performance. I explained that live singing will never sound like a recording, that recordings are done in a professional studio and will always sound perfect. That live music and theater is special because it always sounds different! She was NOT having it. “I hate this live and I want it to sound like my songs. Turn it off.”

And so this is the tale of how I 1) saved myself a few hundred bucks on a Broadway show with an ungrateful child and 2) got away from any disappointment over the fact that she can’t see it live until she is 10 anyway.

As my cousin said, Charlotte’s gonna Char.

The Day the World Stood Still

365 days ago was the last normal day most of us had. March 12, 2020. Everything felt so uncertain and scary. In the weeks prior we knew about the coronavirus but would often jest about it. But then the NBA shut down abruptly the same night Tom Hanks announced he contracted the disease. I vividly remember laying in my bed frantically texting my friends and family that night. After that the anxiety seemed to heighten. And on March 12 I went to work and after that day nothing has been the same. At first I wondered if I’d be back before the baby was born. I realized I wouldn’t, so my dad took me to the office one Saturday in our still new masks to collect the things I needed. Surely we’d be back by the time my maternity leave ended. Mackenzie is 9 months old and I’ve been to the office 4 times. Interestingly enough I am on my way there now, in a mask on an empty bus going into a still empty city. 365 days later and it feels like nothing has changed.

I remember when Mayor dBag announced the public schools would close until April and I panicked. What would I do until April?! 365 days later and Charlotte still barely goes to school. Who would have ever predicted that? Certainly not me. I don’t let myself sit and think about how much she has lost out on because it will drive me insane. There are so many articles out there now calling these kids Generation C, or Generation Covid. I started to read one yesterday and had to stop myself because it was so doom and gloom. Their lives are being shaped by this whether we like it or not. There is a Before and an After.

But perhaps there is a light at the end of this tunnel? I keep trying to see it and I don’t know if it’s the light or just a train coming out of a tunnel to hit us head on. When you get one piece of good news about vaccines you get another piece of news about how the variants are here to destroy us again. I just want all of this to end. I got my first vaccine dose on Monday (as a federal employee I am eligible so don’t @ me) and I get my second dose April 7 so at least I can say I’m vaccinated and stop worrying as much. But until our kids are in school and we’re all back at work and things feel normal I don’t think my jaw will unclench. I long for the days of just going and doing and seeing. I miss Broadway and parties. I miss doing things without rules. I want to dance and sing and sweat in a mosh pit of people. And yet I feel like this past year has now conditioned me to be afraid of these things. I’m constantly counting how many people are around me. A crowded grocery store makes my head hurt. I feel like I’ll be that way for a long time.

We lost a lot these past 365 days but we also gained a lot too. We learned what’s really important. We spent more time with our kids (even if we think it’s been too much time, because it has been!). If our kids are Generation C we are the Pandemic Parents. We’ve managed the impossible. And we’re still doing it. So if it takes another few months or another year, eventually this will end. And I hope I’m next to you in a crowd, singing and dancing probably weeping from joy to be near people once again. The first round is on me.