October 15, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen
October 14, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen
The kids have both recently gotten into Mo Willems’ excellent series of “Pigeon” books. The main character, the pigeon, has lofty aspirations – such as hosting hot dog parties and driving a bus – that the kids take great delight in smacking down.
In one book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, the pigeon’s rationale for a few extra minutes of awake time is that “It’s the middle of the day in China!” This, of course, has led to many questions from Lorelei:
– What is China?
– Where is China?
– But why is China very far away?
– Why is it the middle of the day in China?
– What time is it in China?
The latter has become a catchphrase of sorts in our house, with Lorelei now asking at all hours of the day and night what time it is in China. Nicholas has started joining in, too, turning to me with an earnest expression on his little face and asking, “Wha time in Chi-ha?”
China is a big place, of course. But the Internet, being the amazing resource it is, has helpfully clued Eric and me in to the fact that Beijing is exactly 12 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. The return to Standard time in a few weeks will throw a monkey wrench into the whole works, but for now it’s an easy way to give Lorelei an accurate answer without having to do mental math (which is hard for me in the best of circumstances but near impossible before 6 am).
Lorelei was briefly annoyed at the fact that China was always ahead of us—“they’re beating us and it’s not fair!”—but she seemed to take solace in the fact that she’ll always have an edge on Hawaii. We have now moved on to what the good people of China are doing at any given moment.
Unfortunately, I fear we have given our children the impression that these folks half a world away, in a culture exceedingly different than ours, are doing exactly what we do here in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA: At 6:30 am, they are eating Life cereal, and at 6:00 pm, they are settling in to watch The Berenstain Bears and Thomas the Tank Engine. We have not made great strides in the global awareness department, in other words.
So if there are any readers out there in China, or anywhere else in the GMT+8 time zone, please do feel free to share some of your daily activities out in your neck of the woods. Because we know you’re not eating as many Jax as we are.
October 8, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen
A typical weekday lunch at our house: the video version.
October 1, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen
September 24, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen
September 22, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen
I’m not an actual stay-at-home mom, but I play one on TV.
This is how I feel sometimes. My kids (ages 4 and 2 – aka the “you’re really in the thick of it” years) are in care just two days a week – when I work like a madwoman on my business – and I am home with them the rest of the time.
So I’m sort of a weird SAHM/WAHM hybrid. This has given me a unique perspective on things, as well as a life made possible entirely through the magic of caffeine.
I can see what’s happening on both sides of the fence from where I sit (or stand, rather – there’s very little sitting in my life these days). I can tell you, unequivocally, that there’s no greener grass to be had. If there were, I would be sneaking away to nap on it.
While I am very lucky to be spending this time with my little guys, it’s not always easy. Here are 9 truths that I have come to realize:
1. The SAHM is not actually home all that much. There are errands to run and excursions to do. Too much time at home with the kids means succumbing to the siren song of Caillou on the Sprout channel, and frankly I’d rather poke out my own eyes with a fork.
2. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had. I don’t know if motherhood is actually the hardest job there is, as many have claimed – that Navy Seal gig is no walk in the park, I’ve heard – but it is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
3. Your entire adult life is compressed into tiny pockets of the day. Namely naptime and the few precious hours between the kids’ bedtime and when you yourself collapse. I would love to be able to add “and the time in the morning before the kids wake up,” but my kids wake up so early that this, alas, is currently a nonstarter.
4. You are constantly trying to do 17 things at once. I find myself saying “hang on!” to both kids countless times a day. If I am hit by a bus tomorrow, this is the catchphrase they will remember me by.
5. I tip my hat to single parents and those of you with more than two kids. More than two kids = playing a zone defense all the time, even if your partner is around. I truly don’t know how you do it. The next time I see you out and about, desperately trying to maintain order, your double espresso is on me.
6. Your two-year-old’s meltdowns don’t mean you’re a terrible parent. They just mean you’re parenting a two-year-old.
7. You find yourself wishing you had time to do the most basic things. I’m not even talking about getting actual work done while the kids are around and awake – ha! No, I’m speaking more of things like being able to go to the bathroom when you need to (not even alone; just at all) and maybe finding time to fish that stray eyelash out of your eye that’s been poking you for the past half hour.
8. You regularly hear the most bizarre things coming out of your mouth. Just this past week has featured such gems as:
– “Lorelei, Abe Lincoln is not creepy.”
– “Mommy is all done licking thumbs for the day.”
– “Hey! Stop sucking on that funnel!”
9. The highs are higher and the lows are lower. I truly love my work. However, a day at work – even a really good one or a really bad one – is still just a day at work, when all is said and done. But a day with your children can be full of heart-melting joy or soul-crushing defeat (often both in the same hour). You’re really painting out to the very edges of the picture every single day…which can be both magical and maddening.
I wouldn’t have it any other way right now. I’d just like a chance to go pee.
This post was brought to you by naptime and the letter S (for the Sweet, Sweet Sleep that eludes me daily).
September 17, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen
September 16, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen
Our local newspaper has a charming, small-town feature called “Kisses & Disses” where you can write in and compliment – or complain about – a local experience, person, or business. (My one beef is that they redact the business names if you write in with a “Dis,” taking some of the bite out of your gripe.)
In any event, today the lead Dis was from a local mom who was unhappy about the fact that Portsmouth no longer has “at least one municipal worker who is certified to inspect and help install infant and toddler car seats so that we can keep our children safe…I am sure with over 21,000 residents living here it would be worth the expense to provide for the certification considering that most parenting articles state that parents usually do not install car seats correctly.”
(The woman had a Kiss for the aptly-named Chuck Gallant in the next town over, who was able to “provide me the help I needed.”)
Now, don’t get me wrong: It’s great when towns can provide this service for residents, and more care rather than less is obviously a good thing whenever you’re dealing with kids’ safety.
But ultimately it’s not the town’s job to ensure your kid’s car seat is installed correctly – it’s yours. And while car seat installation is not a fun process (or a graceful one, especially if you’re pregnant with a subsequent kid – been there), it’s not rocket science, either. Take your time, follow the directions, and you’ll be fine.
And who knows? Portsmouth may well have made the conscious decision to invest its finite resources in something like speed limit enforcement – something it is directly responsible for that has a huge impact on children’s safety and well-being.
This woman’s complaint strikes me as part of a troubling larger movement towards hands-off parenting. “Hands-off” not in the sense of letting kids explore the world and make their own mistakes (we’re unfortunately moving farther away from this every day), but “hands-off” in the sense that this important issue involving my child really has very little to do with me and my own accountability.
Take, for instance, that public service announcement I’ve seen several times now where the mom wants her son and his friends – deeply engrossed in a video game – to get off their butts and play outside. Rather than saying, “Hey, guys – I’m turning off the TV now. Get off your butts and go play outside,” Mom sneakily throws a circuit breaker and cuts off the power to the living room.
The boys, bewildered and annoyed, decide they may as well go outside and shoot hoops. Mom is portrayed in the commercial as a clever kind of parenting hero, but Eric and I both thought it was a lame way for her to avoid being the bad guy.
If we as parents aren’t willing to accept the responsibility for our actions and decisions, how the heck can we expect our kids to be accountable for theirs?
September 14, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen
I’m not a mom. I’m not even a parent.
What I am is a clueless 26-year-old guy who happens to interact with a bunch of two- and three-year-olds on a regular basis due to my job. I’m a teacher. I can’t say that I’m a good teacher, but I do make a solid effort every day. Oh, yeah – one more thing: I’m an English teacher in Vietnam.
Vietnam?! Isn’t it dangerous there? Won’t the communist government think you are a spy? Why would you go there?
No, it’s not dangerous here (the general levels of punishment for crime are extreme enough to deter violence). And, yes, the communist government does think I’m a spy; they have video cameras installed at my school and a direct wiretap on my Internet. It’s actually kinda fun randomly saying trigger words like “government” during Skype conversations…until you hear the little click signifying the beginning of their eavesdropping.
Why am I here? It’s simple, really. I was working in the States a few years back and my little sister said, “John, I’m going to teach English in Vietnam.” I replied, “Can I come?”
A few years later, here I am sitting in class with 20 little Vietnamese faces staring at me, and only one thought is going through my head: How in the heck am I gonna get through another 40 minute lesson?
The students don’t understand English, I don’t understand Vietnamese, my assistants are sitting in the corner playing on their cellphones, and two of my youngest students are kissing in the corner. AHHH! I jump out of my chair to stop Tom (two years old) from fully frenching Sandy (three years old).
Too late. The kiss has already gone on for several seconds by the time I get there. Tom is pretty pleased with himself. This is gonna be a long 40 minutes.
After attempting some failed “listen and repeat” drills, I have all the kids stand up to sing the song “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” The kids are more than happy to be out of their chairs, but somehow in the excitement, Brian loses all his clothes. And I do mean ALL his clothes. Bless his heart, he’s still participating by doing the actions to the song – much to the bewilderment of the little girl behind him.
A typical class consists of the above-mentioned “listen and repeat” drills for about 10 minutes, coloring or some other activity for 15 minutes, then listening to songs for the final 15 minutes. After the nude head-and-shoulders incident I was more than happy to move into coloring time. Upon receiving his customary blue and green crayons, Jerry begins scribbling all over the tile floors as is his wont. I ignore it.
The next 15 minutes are filled with little voices saying over and over “lam sao” and “mau gi” – which roughly translate to, “I don’t know how to do this” and “What color should I use now?” I want to enjoy the calm before the upcoming song time storm, so I lie down on the ground with the students and help them color. It’s my favorite part of the day.
Sadly, the 15 minutes of bliss end all too soon and its time to power up YouTube for song time. The kids have assigned seats for song time, but they are largely ignored. Kids are constantly shoving and jostling in attempts to get closer to the screen, but that’s to be expected. All in all, it’s going pretty well.
I’m standing up there doing my best to maintain some kind of order when I see Tom (yes, Tom again) trying to grab the picture little Sue has colored. A small power struggle ensues which predictably results in Sue’s picture being torn in half. Tom triumphantly holds his torn half in the air and, with a flick of the wrist, sends it floating down to the floor behind him.
Sue doesn’t even see him. She is looking at the paper scrap in her hand, tears welling up in her eyes. I try my best to salvage her picture, but she’s not having any of it. Her little heart was torn just as much as her stick figure drawing. Maybe next class I’ll bring her a special piece of candy or something.
Chaos reigns every single moment of the class. Somehow, despite my best efforts, the little ones managed to learn exactly zero percent of the lesson. Tomorrow is another day…filled with Vietnamese toddlers trying to pull down my pants, smacking my butt, and doing the same to each other.
Want to submit a guest post of your own to Mommy Tries? Click here for all the details.
September 11, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen
Today, of course, is the 13th anniversary of September 11. Other than taking a moment to remember the horror and loss of that day, I won’t write about it here; that ground has already been covered so thoroughly – and well – by people far more eloquent than I am.
But I have been thinking about a brief exchange I had earlier this week with someone who’s been out of my life for a long time – someone for whom I once cared deeply and treated shabbily. I am not ashamed of much in my life, but this particular situation is an exception (though anyone who’s ever seen me dance at a wedding may reasonably feel I should be ashamed a little more often).
In any event, I recently found out that this guy’s mom – still a relatively young woman and someone I had gotten to know during my time with him – had passed away.
I debated for a long time about whether to reach out to him with condolences. Things had, as you’ve probably gathered, ended badly between us (100% my fault), and I didn’t know whether my sudden reappearance in his life might just be rubbing salt in an old wound at a particularly inopportune time.
(This is not to overstate my perceived importance in his current life, which I estimate as something below that of a gnat buzzing around his living room. I’m reasonably certain, however, that if I ever do cross his mind he’s not flooded with warm fuzzies.)
Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should say something, so I bit the bullet and sent him an email with my brief but sincere condolences. I thought it quite likely that I’d hear nothing back, but I did. He appreciated my reaching out. He also said he was grateful that he had nothing left unsaid with his mom.
Our exchange ends here, I think, but his point is a very apt one: If you’ve got something to say to someone, say it. Even if you’re not sure they want to hear it. Even if it doesn’t seem to be the best time, or if you don’t feel you’re the best person to do so. Even if you think you might get hung up on…or roundly ignored. Even if you feel silly.
Just say it. You never know when you might not get another chance.