‘Parenthood’ Category

  1. For All The Moms

    May 10, 2015 by Jennifer Carsen

    For all of you covered in spit-up, poop, or that unidentifiable crusty thing that won’t come off your jeans.

    For all of you wipers of bums and noses; kissers of boo-boos; slayers of mythical closet monsters; cutters of crusts and clippers of tiny fingernails.

    For all of you who find yourself saying, “What’s the magic word?” and “Elbows off the table, please!” a thousand times a day, with one hundred forty-two of those times occurring in your sleep.

    For all of you who live on coffee, stale Cheerios, and whatever the kids demand for dinner and subsequently refuse to eat.

    For all of you who consider five uninterrupted hours of shut-eye a pretty darn good night.

    For all of you who silently – or openly – curse people who say things like, “Well, you can relax soon because the weekend is coming up!”

    For all of you who do what needs doing, day in and day out, even if you don’t particularly feel like it (which is often).

    For all of you whose idea of “me time” is a few moments spent in a restorative blank stare.

    For all of you who have no clue where blankie went, but are willing to tear the house apart to try and find out.

    For all of you who know that the very best kind of “help with the kids” involves removing the kids from the house entirely.

    For all of you who know and accept that you will never again, not even when the kids are grown, be completely relaxed and worry-free.

    For all of you who know there is no such thing as a “non-working” mom.

    For all of you wrangling the (surprisingly strong) tantruming toddler in Aisle 6, taking some small comfort in the knowledge at least a few of those eyes on you are empathetic rather than judgmental.

    For all of you who have endured a nasty cold, a stomach flu, or even a minor surgery and secretly relished the small amount of peace and quiet afforded by your ailment.

    For all of you who have experienced the phenomenon of “endless afternoon,” when the hours between 1:00 and 5:00 stretch like the world’s largest piece of taffy (which you are not allowed to eat because your children have gotten to it first).

    For all of you who have had the misfortune of having Caillou enter your lives.

    For all of you who are so chronically exhausted that you no longer have any recollection of what it’s like to feel truly rested.

    For all of you who revel in sticky hugs, sloppy kisses, and gummy and gap-toothed smiles.

    For all of you who love and cherish your own moms, or their memories, more than ever – now that you have a crystal-clear picture of what you put them through.

    For all of you who enjoyed a well-intentioned but inedible breakfast this morning consisting of incinerated toast, bitten-off strawberry hulls, and something that may possibly (hopefully) have been runny oatmeal.

    For all of you who know that in even in the thick of the worst, most hopeless, Alexander-esque terrible horrible no good very bad days, there are glimmers of pure joy and magic that carry you through.

    Today is for us. Let’s raise our glasses to one another, whether they’re holding coffee, wine, leftover apple juice, or – most likely – some inadvertent combination of the three.

    Nonnie, Lorelei, and me: My first day as a mom.

    Nonnie, Lorelei, and me together on my first day as a mom.

  2. My Little Extroverts

    May 5, 2015 by Jennifer Carsen

    If you suffer from intractable shyness and/or introversion, I highly recommend an outing with my two children as an effective full-immersion cure.

    **Scene: The parking lot next to the park, Monday, 11:14 am. A young man (early 20s) with dark hair is at the edge of the parking lot, finishing up a repair on a broken fence gate.**

    Lorelei [calling over]: “You did a pretty good job fixing that gate!”

    Worker [somewhat baffled, yet clearly amused]: “Um, thanks.”

    Nicholas [to me]: “What his name?”

    Me: “Why don’t you ask him, buddy?”

    Nicholas [calling over in inadvertently hostile-sounding fashion]: “What your name?”

    Worker: “Brian.”

    Lorelei [delighted]: “Our mailman’s name is Brian, too!”

    Nicholas: “I Nicholas.”

    Lorelei [bossily talking over her brother]: “He’s Nicholas, and I’m Lorelei.”

    Brian [openly laughing]: “Well, it’s very nice to meet you both.”

    Nicholas [being hustled into the car]: “Bye Brian! Bye Brian! Bye Brian!”

    **End Scene**

    I honestly don’t know where they get it. Eric and I are both pretty quiet, make-no-waves types. The good news is that the world at large generally seems pretty receptive to my children’s highly spirited brand of social interaction.

    (Except for the time Nicholas excitedly pointed to the large woman at the gym and announced, “Her big!” That was a little awkward.)

  3. All LEGO’d Out

    January 13, 2015 by Jennifer Carsen

    file0001574867891It may be blasphemous to say this aloud (and someone in Denmark will surely be coming to clock me over the head with a frozen herring for doing so), but I am tired of LEGOs.

    I know, I know – they encourage creative play and require no batteries and are among the innately quietest of children’s playthings, three things I can totally get behind.

    But I assure you I was far from quiet yesterday when I slipped on a throw rug in Lorelei’s room – due, granted, entirely to my own clumsiness – and landed directly atop a half-completed LEGO Cinderella castle.

    (Let’s just say James Frey would not have had to fabricate nearly as much of A Million Little Pieces had he been there to witness the explosive event – or the million little bruises currently in evidence on my backside.)

    There’s just so much inherent incompatibility between those thousands of eminently lose-able tiny bits and the very fact of children, who would lose their own arms were they not firmly attached. Every once in a while the LEGO people throw in a few extra duplicate pieces for good measure (my secret theory is that even they have trouble keeping track of them), but those are never the ones that disappear down the cracks between the floor boards.

    For over two years now we have eagerly been awaiting the day when Nicholas – aka The Boy Who Eats Staples – stops putting everything in sight in his mouth. We’re nearly there…but now he’s taken to putting mini LEGO tires (which he calls “black olives”) in his ears. I am just waiting for the day when we all rush to the ER and discover that what we think is a crashing ear infection is actually a tiny LEGO lightsaber lodged in his eardrum.

    I am tired of stepping on them. I am tired of falling on them. I am tired of Nicholas festively throwing them around like it’s New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

    I am tired of listening to them clank around in my vacuum cleaner when I accidentally suck them up. I am tired of bending down to pick up what I think is a stray piece of Meow Mix only to discover it is a teeny-tiny pizza that goes with a teeny-tiny pizza man yet cannot be easily wrested into his immobile plastic grip.

    Constant vigilance, extra cleaning, heightened levels of frustration, the imminent probability of serious bodily injury. Maybe my main beef with LEGOs is the fact that they simply amplify all of the existing problems of living with small children.

  4. Pajama Party

    December 18, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen

    The kids have been a symphony of dry coughs the past few days, following on the heels of a goopy/crusty cold last week. For about half a day they both crossed over into that croupy seal bark, but everything quickly settled back down to “normal” – if incessant – coughing.

    This doesn’t mean any of us has been sleeping well, however. Three nights ago, Nicholas had two separate wee-hour coughing/moaning fits that woke us all up. Two nights ago, more of the same, though one of the wake-ups necessitated intervention by Daddy in the form of a midnight delivery of a sippy cup full of water, which Nicholas gratefully guzzled down.

    I naïvely thought that last night might be better. I was mistaken.

    Lorelei’s cough picked up right as Nicholas’s was slowing down, so Eric brought her a sippy cup of water around 10:00.

    We all fall back asleep until around 12:30, when I hear both kids happily chattering away. I go up to find Lorelei hanging out in Nicholas’s room. Both kids are checking out the display his Cars-themed nightlight is projecting onto the ceiling. (The nightlight is not remotely new, mind you; it’s been shining there in his room, unchanged, for at least the past year.) I shoo Lorelei back to her own room and tell Nicholas to go to sleep.

    Cut to 12:30 (yes, again 12:30 – apparently the previous wakeup was some unspecified time before that, which I was too addled to register properly), when Nicholas is moaning, over and over, “Mooommmmmy! Mooommmmmy! Mooommmmmy!”

    I stumble back into the kitchen, figuring he’s thirsty, and assemble a sippy cup of water that I promptly spill all over the kitchen counter.

    “Mooommmmmy! Mooommmmmy! Mooommmmmy!”

    Take 2. I more or less successfully fill the sippy cup, stagger upstairs, and offer it to Nicholas, who is now standing up in his crib like a wolf baying at the moon.

    “No water! I want cookie! I want cookie, Mommy! I want cookie, Mommy!”

    No dice, kid. He may well be hungry – having joined the general familial revolt against the salmon I served for dinner, a choice motivated in part by the fact that I wanted us to start eating better so that everyone would get healthy again (note to self: this doesn’t work if nobody actually eats the healthy dinner). But he ain’t getting cookies.

    As I am trying to explain this to Nicholas – which goes about as well as you might expect, given that he’s 2, sick, and sleep-deprived – I notice a glimmer of movement in Lorelei’s room next door. She’s standing to the side of the door adjoining the kids’ rooms, stealthily peering through the crack like a Peeping Tom. She announces that she has to go potty.

    She goes and returns as I unsuccessfully try to spell out the “no cookie” situation for Nicholas. On the way back from tucking Lorelei in once again, I place Nicholas back down in his crib, explain one last time that there will be no cookies, and go back downstairs. The bellowing continues. “I want cookie, Mommy! I want cookie, Mommy!”

    For the first time ever, I make the conscious decision to turn off the baby monitor in the bedroom. Nicholas may be loud – astonishingly so, come to think of it – but he’s not in any kind of real distress (unless the “O” in “SOS” stands for “Oreo”). Even with it off, I hear him alternately screaming for me, and for cookies, for the better part of the next hour.

    Eventually everyone falls back asleep until about 6:30, the kids’ normal wake-up time, when Nicholas rises for the day and immediately requests peanut butter toast.

    I turn on the coffee maker and plop him into his booster seat to get the toast together. When it’s ready, I place it before him, where it remains untouched. He is completely indifferent to it, though not at all unhappy.

    “Aren’t you going to eat your toast, buddy?”

    He smiles and replies sweetly, “No.”

    Life with littles. It’s really something.


  5. Toddler Tribbiani

    December 8, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen

    If you are an older mom, like me, you may have spent some of your carefree, time-rich, pre-child days watching Friends. (I know it’s hard to cast your mind back to an era before Elmo and Thomas the Tank Engine, but follow me back to the early ’90s, won’t you?)

    If so, you probably remember Joey Tribbiani’s signature catchphrase, directed at every attractive woman who crossed his path: “How you doin’?”

    Nicholas, a budding Ladies’ Tot at the tender age of 2, has already come up with his own version: “How’re you? I Nicholas!”

    Usually, he directs his charms toward pretty moms or other females over the age of 12; girls his own age currently hold little interest for him (probably because they are more interested in playing in the sandbox, or with their dollies, than being macked on by a contemporary sporting size 4 Pampers Cruisers and peanut butter in his hair).

    Unsurprisingly, Nicholas has had a lot of success with this approach among the women he’s tried it with, nearly all of whom respond with warm smiles and sweet words.

    He did particularly well with a cute Target associate this past weekend, as he was able to boost his charms even further by playing the sympathy card (pointing to the recently acquired goose egg on his forehead and reporting on its origins: “I fell and hit coffee table.”) If he knew what a phone number was, I bet he could have gotten one from her.

    We are so in trouble a few years from now.

  6. He’s Getting There…

    December 1, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen

    Nicholas and Eric, discussing the finer points of Christmas logistics:

    Eric: “Nicholas, who comes at Christmas?”

    Nicholas: “Santa!”

    Eric: “How does Santa get here?”

    Nicholas: “Horsies!”

    Eric: “Actually, buddy, it’s reindeer.”

    Nicholas: [Thoughtfully] “Reindeer…”

    Eric: “And who do the reindeer bring?”

    Nicholas: “Doughnuts!”

    (Nicholas also keeps telling us that Santa brings toys to “bad boys!” This is a separate, though no less vexing, issue.)

  7. On Losing My Mind

    November 20, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen

    What a terrible thing to have lost one’s mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is.
    – Dan Quayle


    Last week, I crossed an unwelcome Rubicon of sorts when I lost one of the kids’ library books. My best guess is that I absentmindedly shuffled it in with a pile of papers that went out with the recycling.

    Now, for those folks who adhere to a zen, Pete The Cat-type philosophy of life, this is not a big deal – things come, things go, it’s all good.

    For me, an anal-retentive-Type-A of the first order, it was mortifying. I have never in my life lost a library book before (I don’t even like returning them late), so for me this was a sign that I’m really losing my grip on things. I also felt like I let myself down in some vague, unspecified way, much the way I felt when I got my very first cavity in my 20s.

    The good news, however, is that the urban myth I had heard at some point in my childhood and remembered ever since – that lost library books are phenomenally expensive to replace – turns out to be just that, a myth. Our bill was a whopping $3.99.

    (Though kudos are in order for the grown-up who initially planted that seed in my tender brain long ago, leading me to treat library books like gold ever since…until now, that is.)

    The librarian was amused when I told her that mom-brain had set in. My guess is that a) she has no kids, or b) her kids are old enough that some of those lost brain cells have started to regenerate.

    My working theory is that everyone has just so much they can juggle at one time before they start to lose it. Given that I’m keeping my kids alive and well, my professional life humming, and my marriage solid (if not super-energized – occasionally we’re up past 9 pm!), there’s really not a lot of room for much else. Should you ever drop by for tea, you’ll notice that I’m not investing a lot of time in my vacuuming; that big fluffy thing in the corner is not Brodie, but a world-class dust bunny.

    Even my subconscious is completely out of whack. A few nights back, I had a very vivid dream that they were planning to build an Oscar Mayer theme park behind our house. Dream Eric was angry, but not at all surprised: “Have you looked at a property map lately? That whole area is just open acreage prime for development.” In the dream, apparently, the fact that there was a chain of theme parks devoted to highly processed luncheon meat was not at all surprising.

    (It was also not surprising, in the dream, that there were vast undeveloped acres behind our house. In real life, our house abuts a road and a landlocked submarine – but that’s a post for another day.)

    The next day, real-life Eric was amused and appalled in equal measure. “Only you would manage to make a crazy dream like that revolve around food in some way. Were you excited to take a ride on the Bologna Cups?”

    I had actually been thinking more about a roller coaster up Mustard Mountain, but a spin on the Bologna Cups sounded pretty fun, too. I may be losing my mind, but at least I’m still me.

  8. 15 Ways Parenting Small Children Is Like Being a Trial Judge

    November 13, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen


    1. You face objections at every turn.

    2. Despite your best efforts at behavioral reform, wrongdoers experience a high rate of recidivism.

    3. You are often legally constrained from imposing as strict a penalty as you’d like.

    4. The only place you have a chance to collect your thoughts is in your personal chambers, though you don’t get nearly enough time there.

    5. You can dramatically change the course of someone’s day with three simple words: “I’ll allow it.”

    6. Your docket is always too full.

    7. You regularly deal with inflated egos, whining, and childish behavior.

    8. You’d kill for a good bailiff who can effectively maintain order.

    9. Your decisions are theoretically final, but appeals are always a possibility.

    10. People often appear before you in clothes someone else made them wear.

    11. Precedent plays an important role in your decisionmaking process.

    12. Co-conspirators frequently rat each other out in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence from you.

    13. People regularly throw themselves upon your mercy.

    14. A typical day on the job involves lots of tears.

    15. Much of your toughest work is performed while wearing a robe.

  9. Climbing the Slide

    October 30, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen

    Lorelei does not come from athletic stock, alas. Both of her parents are tall people whose limbs grew so quickly that the coordination just never fully caught up.

    Actually, I partially take it back – Eric was a very good little league player back in the day – but seeing as how just yesterday I tripped over my own feet and nearly mowed someone down, there’s not a lot of hope coming from the maternal genes.

    Lorelei has been leggy and off the charts, height-wise, almost since she was born. Which may be why climbing up the slide at daycare has been her own personal Waterloo.

    I didn’t know this was a thing – climbing up the slide at daycare – until Lorelei requested new, sparkly sneakers to help her in the endeavor. “Oh, Jen, it’s just heartbreaking,” her teacher informed me. “Each child gets three chances to do it, and the whole class is cheering her on, and she just hasn’t quite been able to do it yet,” she said.

    This is one area where the short, nimble kids excel – shooting up the slide lickety-split over and over. I always envied the short kids their fearlessness in this type of endeavor, as well as the fact that they always got to sit in the front row and hold the sign on class picture day. And don’t even get me started on the monkey bars. But I digress.

    In any event, Lorelei did need new sneakers, and I figured sparkly was as good a kind as any other, so she is now sporting a brand-new pair of blindingly bright Twinkle Toes.

    The day after she got them, the kids and I went to the local playground. Nicholas and I hung out at the swings while Lorelei ran slide drills, over and over – the slide at the park, conveniently, is a near-perfect match in size and slope to the one at daycare.

    I was really impressed at her tenacity and refusal to get discouraged as she tentatively climbed, and backslid down, over and over and over. (To add insult to injury, one of those short quick kids was on the next slide over, darting up again and again like it was no big thing.)

    Finally, I saw a little blond head emerge, triumphant, at the top of the slide. “YEAH! I DID IT I DID IT I DID IT! MOMMY, I DID IT!” She was ecstatic.

    Lorelei practiced a few more times with maybe a 33% success rate – which was all she needed back at daycare the following Tuesday, where the rubber would really hit the slide for her three official attempts.

    On Monday night, she carefully stored her new sneakers in their original box under her bed before she went to sleep. We all checked the forecast for Tuesday, too. It was slated to be warm and dry, perfect weather for a slide-climbing attempt.

    On Tuesday morning, Eric and I sent her off with well-wishes. I thought about her often during the day (especially during a brief, unexpected morning shower; I was concerned it would make the conditions too slippery).

    When I got to school for pickup, Lorelei was radiant. “Well?” I asked, hopefully, as she walked over. “I did it!” she announced with the biggest grin I’ve ever seen. She ran into my arms for a huge hug.

    It’s hard to explain how proud and happy I felt for my little girl that day. I had a brief flash of what my parents must have felt for my brother’s and my accomplishments over the years – as with so many things, you look at it a little differently once you have kids yourself.

    You want so very much for them, and you want them to confidently go out and do everything in the world that makes them feel joyous and proud, even when it’s hard. On Tuesday, I saw just an early glimmer of everything Lorelei’s going to someday work towards and become. I can’t wait to be there, cheering her on, every step of the way.

    Today, the slide. Tomorrow, the world.

    Lorelei shoes

    The magic shoes.

  10. 9 Truths About Being Home With Your Kids

    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).