it’s like grad school on TV!

Here’s my new favorite television moment. No, it’s not when Paula Abdul told that David kid on American Idol that she wanted to squish his head and dangle him from her rear-view mirror. Though that, too, was rather good.

No, my favorite TV moment is when my boys sit in front of Noggin, drooling with excitement, as The Upside Down Show is about to begin. Just before it starts, there is a soothing, maternal voice which intones:

The Upside Down Show builds deductive reasoning and abstract thinking through pretend play, and models alliteration!”

My kids think The Upside Down Show is funny. I don’t. But that intro? Now THAT’s hilarious.

The Upside Down Show teaches kids nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. And that’s fine. If I can watch American Idol, then my kids deserve a few minutes of mindless trash as well. As long as they get their teeth brushed first.

If I did want my kids to learn deductive reasoning, about the last place I would turn is The Upside Down Show. My kids have watched each episode at least a dozen times, and as far as I can tell– from my seat at the laptop in the next room– it teaches them how to run around their living room, make annoying noises, and communicate with invisible animal companions. Quite the antithesis of deducing anything, or having reason, I would argue.

But, for whatever reason, my kids love it, so that’s fine! Why does everything for our kids need to be twisted into something superbly edifying? Why does Noggin feel the need to assert that Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends teaches children about diversity? Why not say, “Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Friends gives moms twenty-two minutes to not only shower, but also blow-dry their hair. Go! GO!!”

Or, if they really want to impress me? Teach my kids how to “count by two and tie their shoes,” like Franklin. Tell his frenemy Beaver to shut up, and let Franklin show his stuff, if he’s so freaking smart. Actually, why not have Franklin himself tell Beaver where to shove her holier-than-thou attitude? Maybe then my kids would learn something.

But don’t throw toys in the toilet and tell me it’s a pool party. Don’t tell me, as a parent, that your delicious sugary product is loaded with spirulina. No matter how many times you say so, Noggin, you are not like preschool on TV. Don’t ever change.

what do you mean, she’s not sleeping through the night?

Here is Maddie, sleeping peacefully and giving me (hopefully) half an hour to write before her brothers get home from school. Note to Sanctimommies: please hold your emails about how I shouldn’t let her have a doll, a crib bumper, or a blanket in there with her. If that doll was a killer, she would have made her move by now.

Here’s what I do want to talk about. This conversation, repeated numerous times in recent weeks:

WHOEVER: Awww. How old is she?
ME: Three months. Well, three and a half.
WHOEVER: Awww. She sleeping at night for ya?
ME: (chuckle) No.


ME: Um, no, not really.

Uncomfortable pause, until WHOEVER walks away, rejecting both of us utterly.

This happens to me all the time. ALL THE TIME. And I’m really not sure what is happening. In whose world is it unusual for an infant to get up at night?

I can attribute some of these strange reactions to “Whoever” being a guy, and/or from the Rice Cereal in the Bottle As Soon As Possible Generation, or to having memories grown fuzzy with the passage of time.

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s a mom, as in a currently-with-young mom, who asks me if Maddie’s sleeping through the night. And when I say “No,” as in, “Of course not,” I still expect the knowing nod and a wink in return, the “I been there, sister!” sort of thing. Instead, I get this vaguely aghast stunned silence thing.

“Is YOUR baby sleeping through?” I finally asked one harried-looking first-time mother, in response.

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “My baby nurse has him going nine to nine, for a couple of weeks now.”


“Don’t tell my husband that,” I tittered nervously. But he was already at my elbow.

“Twelve hours a NIGHT?!” he said. “Amy! You have GOT to get Maggie on a schedule!”

“Her baby drinks FORMULA,” I hissed to him in the car on the way home, when he decided to revisit the topic of this Wonderful Mom and her Incredible Sleeping Baby. “It is NOT the same thing. And, if you ask me,” I sniffed, “twelve hours is much too long for a three-month-old, anyhow.”

But these are weak arguments, in my husband’s eyes. And, I must confess, in mine as well. If other babies are sleeping, then my baby could and should be also. So now I find myself in the same place I have been twice before: on top of getting up with the baby at night, I also have to feel bad about it.

My first child didn’t sleep through the night until he was ten months old. He had reflux, we got off to a bad start, and despite reading one hundred “how to get your baby to sleep through the night” books, despite rather concerted efforts on my part, that was how long it took. After about six months, I was actually embarrassed. When the pediatrician asked how he was sleeping, I lied and said, “Great,” so I wouldn’t get the eye roll. When everyone at playgroup talked about how great it was to be sleeping eight hours a night again, I avoided eye contact. At least strangers stopped asking me. By the time your baby is wearing 12-18’s, no one asks if he is sleeping through, since every other baby in the WORLD is by that age. I did nothing to correct that assumption.

Inside, however, I was screaming, “I was up four times with him last night! I was literally awake more than I was asleep! Do you want to see the chart?!” I wanted someone to pat me on the back for my hard work, to give me a little sympathy. A little comfort. A little “He will be sleeping soon. Why don’t you go take a nap?” Not “Overly wakeful children are the result of overindulgent parenting,” and all the other stuff the books were telling me.

I now KNOW that isn’t true. Because my second child was a champion sleeper, comparatively. And now my third sucks, comparatively. Having nursed three different babies, I should finally accept the lesson that each child is different, and the one common denominator is that they, and not I, are in charge.

But I’m getting pretty tired. And Babywise and “Ferberize” and The No-Cry Sleep Solution are calling to me from the bookshelf. I might just thumb through a couple of them and see what they say.

Somebody stop me.

what are you giving up for Lent?

So, I don’t know if you even know this, what with all the Valentine’s Day preparations you probably have going on, but Lent started yesterday. Way early this year. I only got the heads up because my kids go to an Episcopalian school. Apparently this was the earliest Ash Wednesday since 1913? All I know is, we all lost an April break from school this year.

I went to the liturgy yesterday morning at my kids’ school and got the ashes on my forehead. I didn’t see a single other person yesterday with ashes. Admittedly, I don’t get out much. Still, that really surprised me, and I wondered if the Starbucks barista thought I just had some newspaper schmutz on my forehead, and I guess it means I’m not in Scranton anymore.

I’m not the most observant of Catholics– after all, I got ashes from an Episcopalian minister– but I love Lent. I love the opportunity to go cold turkey on something I love too well, and explore why it was so important to me in the first place. Back when I was single, I gave up clothes shopping. I was wasting a lot of time browsing through the sale racks at Banana Republic (ah, to have those hours back now). Four years ago, I gave up, to which I was well and truly addicted, and thank goodness, broke the thrall that the sanctimommies there held over me.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to give up this year, and so I asked Cooper, who is wise beyond his years, and unflinching in his honesty. (Recently he cocked his head and looked at me, while I was wearing a tight shirt, and said, “Mommy, it’s funny. Buzz you don’t have a baby in your tummy anymore, but you still look a little bit pregmint.” Let’s be honest, he was doing me a favor. I thought I looked good in that shirt.)

“So what do you think I should give up for Lent?” I asked Cooper on our walk home from school, after explaining to him what “Lent” was, and reassuring him that five-year-olds were not required to participate.

“The scones at the Golden Pear,” he said, without hesitation. Wow, was he right. The Golden Pear is a bakery in the town where we have a summer house. So they are not a frequent indulgence for me, in the off-season. But I think I literally ate one every day this past summer, while I really was still pregmint. Talk about loving something too well.

“Perfect!” I said. “No muffins, no scones, no baked goods.”

“No treats!” Cooper generalized, helpfully.

“Well.” I hedged. “I mean, I can have, like, some licorice or something. Just not something from a bakery.”

“AND you should give up coffee!” Cooper trumpeted.

“Now, now, l-let’s not get crazy,” I said.

“If I had to give up something I really loved,” Cooper continued, “I would stop playing with baby Maddie.”

“Aw, sweetheart. I know God wouldn’t want you to do that,” I said, giving him a squeeze. “And God doesn’t want me to give up coffee, either. Because I need it to be a good mommy.”

So baked goods it was. Then today I ran into a friend of mine on the street, pushing her two-year-old home in his stroller. He was eating a Mr. Goodbar as big as his head. “Do you know it’s Lent?” she said, grabbing my arm.

“Actually, I do,” I replied.

“I am COMPLETELY giving up chocolate,” she said. “Between that, and the diuretics I’m taking, I’ll lose at least eight pounds.”

“You’re right!” I said. “I’m giving up chocolate too!”

Upon further reflection, however, I have decided that there may be something wrong with this picture. If I’m giving up baked goods and chocolate, not as a sacrifice, but as a way to lose weight, then Lent becomes just another opportunity for my perfectionist control freak self to take over. Giving things up for Lent should be about becoming a better person on the inside, not on the outside.

I do think giving up coffee may make me a worse person on the inside, so I’m sticking with it. And I’m still giving up the baked goods. If I look less pregmint in forty days, then that will be a good thing. But I’ve also decided to give up gossiping. I’m not even sure I know how. But THAT will be a sacrifice.