What will the Orlando tragedy mean for my kids?

IMG_20160526_210732For about a year, my 5-year-old daughter decided she wanted to be a lesbian. I don’t think she totally knew what it meant, but she was used to me encouraging her to be and love anyone — boy or girl. Maybe my repeated emphasis on “love is love” slanted her decision, but it made me proud, too. It still does, but it makes me scared now, too. Knowing that transgender people can’t use the bathroom of their choice seemed oppressive and immoral a few weeks ago, but after the tragedy in Orlando, I am suffocating in sadness.

It is too tragic to comprehend.

I want my kids to grow up to be whoever they want to be, but not if it means they’re going to be gunned down. On the other hand, I want my kids to go to school and grow up, too. Should I let Sandy Hook and Columbine scare me out of sending them to school?

It seems like there will always be another tragedy, as long as the NRA allows such unrestricted access to assault weapons, and it makes me feel so helpless. All I can do is sign petition after petition, support every effort to raise funds and awareness for the Pulse victims and LGBTQ communities around the world, and Like every article posted remembering the beautiful victims that were so heartlessly massacred this past weekend in Orlando.

I could also urge my kids to do whatever it takes to fit in. When they’re old enough to hear the horror stories of such senseless acts of hatred and destruction, I could beg my kids to be straight and “normal” and to lay low and stay out of harms way. I could beg them never to go to nightclubs, or fast food restaurants, or even the post office. But I can’t, I don’t want to, and there wouldn’t be any point because harms way is never in the same place twice.

Who knows if my daughter will grow up to be a lesbian, and who cares. All I want is for her to grow up in a world with stronger laws on gun control, more laws supporting the rights of LGBTQ people, and no more hate.

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What IVF Feels Like, According to Women Who Have Been Through It

After two years of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, Erin W.’s  doctor recommended that she try In Vitro Fertilization — a process commonly known as IVF, in which eggs are removed from your ovaries and mixed with sperm in a lab. Embryos are then transferred into your uterus. So, the 32-year-old, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, began a journey filled with doctor’s visits, shots, and tests. “IVF hurt my pride and my emotions more than it physically hurt,” she shares. But, Erin says that she was willing to go through all of it to realize her dream of becoming a mom — and it worked. She now has a daughter.

At the start of an IVF cycle, people usually feel really good because their hormone levels, especially estrogen, are high, says Allison Rodgers, MD, a board certified ob-gyn and fertility expert with Fertility Centers of Illinois, in Chicago. “However, as the ovaries swell with follicles, some women have cramping or bloating,” she explains. “Rarely, women can get ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome in which the ovaries over respond to the medication. This is rare, but can be serious.”

If you’re considering undergoing IVF, you may feel overwhelmed and even scared. But the exciting part is that IVF may lead to the baby that you’ve so desperately wanted. To give you a sense of what it really feels like to go through IVF, we talked to women who have actually been through it. Their experiences have many things in common, but they’re unique as well.

“IVF was a last resort for me, so by the time we tried it, I felt numb. It’s so expensive, so there was only going to be one round for us. Finding out that I was pregnant felt like a gigantic relief after the disappointment and physical discomfort of trying other fertility treatments for 18 months without success. The early months of pregnancy, when I was so sick and unsure if the pregnancy would ‘stick,’ were intensely painful. I do, however, feel incredibly appreciative now for the fact that I’m a mom. I take the job seriously, not that I’m perfect in any way, but I’m doing my best. Even though I fancy myself an atheist, I thank God every day for my adorable, sweet, smart, funny little boy and his little brother, who was a total surprise!” — Julie M., Brooklyn, New York

“We went through our first round of IVF after trying to have a baby for eight years. I gave myself all the shots, which weren’t painful, except when I occasionally hit a nerve. I produced a decent number of eggs, and the retrieval went smoothly, but I had a bit of pain and some uncomfortable bloating for about a day afterward. Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful, which was just heart breaking. A few months later, we did a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) with donated embryos. I started my shots again, getting my body ready to be pregnant. Then, the transfer was done and it worked! The hardest part was the progesterone shots, which continued until I was 11 weeks pregnant.” — Niki J., Pullman, Washington

“I was sedated for egg collection and there was quite a bit of discomfort afterwards, so I rested for a couple of days to recover. While I was sedated, my husband had to deliver his sample, which he found to be very difficult due to the surroundings! The embryologist kept in touch with us over the next couple of days to let us know how the embryos were developing, and we were eventually called in for the transfer. This was a surreal experience because I was in the operating room with my legs in stirrups and feeling very exposed, making small talk. We discovered that the nurse, embryologist, surgeon, and I all lived in the same village. So, there I was, making small talk with my legs spread wide in front of two strange men…any remaining shred of dignity disappeared at that point!” — Jen H. Cardiff, Wales

“I did three cycles of IVF, spread out over nearly two years. All unsuccessful. The side effects were what I expected. On one hand, I definitely felt way more physically exhausted. I remember having a really tough meeting at work, one that I normally would have just been really pissed off about, but this time tears were streaming down my face. It was physiological and I couldn’t control it. On the other hand, when I was on estrogen I felt like a friggin’ goddess. It was bizarre. The needles, OMG, the needles. So, so bad. Stabbing a five-inch needle — so big you could see the opening of it — into my ass each night was a nightmare. The stomach shots were no biggie and I got used to them right away. But to do the ass shots I’d have to ice down my butt till it lost all feeling.” — Hallie G., Hudson, New York

“I was sad and lonely by the time I did IVF. I never thought I would get pregnant. I wanted to talk about it, but most people didn’t understand the heartache, and my husband didn’t want me to discuss our business. My doctor called and told me it was time to start the process while I was at a conference for work. I left and went to a specialty pharmacy, a half hour away, to pick up my drugs. I went back to the hotel, where the conference was, and got some band-aids and alcohol swabs from the front desk. I gave myself a shot in the public bathroom. I was so worried a co-worker was going to come in and see me! But, the actual shots did not hurt that much. Once you get used to sticking a needle in your stomach it’s not so bad. The side effects weren’t that bad, either. The actual procedure to remove the eggs was a bit painful but kind of dreamlike, because of the anesthesia. I was awake for the placement of the embryos so it was a bit uncomfortable, but not terrible, and it was over in a couple of minutes. The doctor gave us a picture of our embryos and a little petri dish to remember our visit. I thought it was so weird at the time, but now I treasure that first picture of my twins.” — Jenn S., Chapel Hill, North Carolina

“My husband had to give me shots at a very specific time, something like 12:15 a.m., every day. Then more tests, followed by going to hospital for the egg retrieval. During the procedure, I was on a big table in an operating room with my pelvis in the air. The last thing I remember before they knocked me out was the anesthesiologist telling me she liked my nail polish. I woke up when they were wheeling me back to the recovery room. My doctor came and told me how many eggs he got — 15! I went home and slept for hours, and the next day they called to tell only 8 of the 15 eggs had fertilized. Still good. Then it’s a bit of a waiting game, because they wanted to see which embryos would continue to thrive. Four days later, one embryo was put into my uterus. They also gave me a picture of my embryo – just a ball of cells at that point, but it’s crazy when I look at it now. That’s my daughter’s first baby picture!” — Erin W., Brooklyn, New York

“Making contact with the fertility clinic was about the most daunting thing I’ve ever done, even though it only involved sending an e-mail. I was making the decision to become a mother on my own, and I was terrified. However, once I’d met with the doctors and nurses, and once I was really on my way, it was all fine. I might liken the experience to going away to college—absolutely intimidating, horribly isolating, seemingly beyond my ability to withstand…until it wasn’t. Generally speaking, I was happy while going through IVF. I may have been moodier than usual, but I wasn’t weepy or depressed. I felt a sense of purpose. I most definitely took great pride and care in making sure I did all the injections right and at the right time. I was taking control of something, and I was proud of myself as well as, of course, apprehensive. And, I ended up with a healthy baby.” –Caroline S., Washington, D.C.
[Originally posted on Momtastic.com]

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8 Truths About Why I Seem to Love My Second Child More Than My First

IMG_20150730_090512As a kid, I remember asking my mother, “Who do you love more?” Her answer was always the same. “I love you and your sister both equally,” she would say, and give me a big squeeze. Now that I’m a mom, it’s time for me to face that same question. And the answer should be obvious. I love my 5-year-old daughter just as much as I love my 1-year-old son. Yes, of course I love them both equally … but I can’t help noticing that sometimes it seems different with my second child…

1. I care more when my son hurts himself. When my daughter was a toddler, I prided myself on taking a step back and not overreacting when she tumbled. But now, anytime my son falls down, I scramble to his side and shower him with affection. The truth is… I probably wasn’t paying attention when he fell. I was helping his big sister on the monkey bars, or rushing to make two different breakfasts and a lunch, and since I don’t know what actually happened, I have to overcompensate.

2. I am more affectionate with my son. He always wants to be held, and we have the best snuggles. The truth is… I’d cuddle my 5-year-old, too, but she’s not usually in the mood. Half the time she’s mad at me (and, let’s be honest, I’m annoyed with her, too), or else she’s off at school/playdate/art class. Besides, this is the last baby I’m ever going to have, and I don’t want to miss a minute of it.

3. He didn’t kill my social life. When Friday night rolls around, I am perfectly happy putting on sweatpants and going to bed early, knowing I’ve got a 6 or 7 a.m. wake-up call. The truth is… When my daughter was born, there was this moment of panic: “Ohmygod. My life will never be the same. WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?!” By the time my son arrived, it wasn’t that big a shift because I’m already a hermit parent. Parties, bars, openings — I gave up most of that stuff years ago.

4. My son is showered with gifts. Our house is full of books, mountains of Duplo, and every type of ball, puzzle, and teether. The truth is… Only two of those toys are his; the rest are hand-me-downs from his big sister or one of her friends.

5. We have all the fun. We laugh together, play together. We don’t worry about anything. The truth is… I’ve outgrown the hypochondria I had with my first baby. I take it in stride now. My son ate a random band-aid at the playground? Protein. And I never bother with the pediatrician if he’s got a 102-degree fever and a runny nose anymore. I’m not an expert, but I’m more confident (and relaxed) in my job.

6. My son is in all my pictures. Scrolling through my phone, you might think I only have one child. Every picture is of my son: taking a bath, laughing on the swing set, eating strawberries. The truth is… When my daughter was an only child, there were a billion pictures of her, too, but now that she’s in kindergarten there’s no time. By the time I pick her up from school, it’s a race to get home and make dinner, bathe both kids, and get them off to bed. Not to mention, she hates posing for pictures!

7. I’m totally in tune with my son. I have the right game, the right song, the right story for every occasion. It’s like I’m a second baby savant. The truth is… I learned the hard way, just like every other mom. When my daughter was born I only knew a few songs. Over time, I learned a few more and a few more. Everything I know has been tried and tested on his big sister.

8. He’s an easier baby. I don’t need to watch him like a hawk when he’s playing and exploring and testing new skills. The truth is… He’s not an easier baby. Not by a long shot. What feels easier isn’t really because of him, but because I am a more experienced mom. After five years of parenting, I am easier on myself, and naturally that filters down through my kids.

*Originally published on Momtastic.com

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So Infuriating: Michigan Pediatrician Refuses to Treat Lesbian Couple’s Baby

A 6-day-old baby girl in Michigan was refused treatment by a pediatrician because her parents are lesbians. There are so many things wrong with that statement, it makes my brain hurt. When I first read this story, I couldn’t believe it. Really? I mean, really?

It continues to baffle me that people still find homosexuality so morally offensive. Gay, straight, female, black, we should all have equal rights — it’s that simple. I’m straight, and I think my daughter is too (judging by her crush on almost every Disney prince), but that doesn’t stop me from chiming in whenever I get the chance. “You know, you don’t always have to marry Prince Eric,” I tell her. “You’re allowed to fall in love with Ariel if you want.” She doesn’t totally get my point, but I will never stop reminding her that it is okay for girls to love girls and boys to love boys.

Living in a progressive Brooklyn neighborhood, it’s easy to forget that there is still so much prejudice in the world. Nobody blinked an eye at the gay couple in my newborn prep class, or the lesbians at baby yoga. My local grocery store is a distributor for the free ‘Gay Parenting’ magazine. It’s okay to be different. It’s great, in fact.

Sexual orientation is nobody’s business and it should be legal to love and marry whomever you choose, but, in this case, that’s not even the point. After my rage subsided on behalf of the really adorable Michigan couple, I still couldn’t get this story out of my head. Outrage for discrimination aside, this doctor — this professional who specializes in the needs and wellbeing of children — REFUSED TO TREAT A BABY. It’s worth saying in all caps because in my head I am screaming. On what planet is it okay to discriminate against a baby?

Okay, calm down. Calm down. Just for arguments sake, let’s try to rationalize it. Put aside the facts and your personal feelings about same-sex couples. Imagine these are swastika-tattooed clan members bringing their baby in for a checkup. Or convicted murderers. Or Jack Johnson fans. If the victim were somebody you disagreed with morally or simply didn’t like, could you see it from the pediatrician’s side? It shouldn’t take you long to realize, NO, that doesn’t change anything. Of course racists are horrible, and don’t even get me started on Jack Johnson, but that has absolutely nothing to do with a baby. Nothing. No matter how you look at it, it’s not about the parents. It’s about the baby. An innocent, six-day-old baby.

It is infuriating that anyone, much less a doctor, would take her narrow-minded beliefs out on a baby. It is more than infuriating, though. This story makes me sad and confused. I never thought to ask my pediatrician if she supported gay rights, but does she? I don’t know if she’s a democrat, or a christian, or a member of the NRA, but none of those things should affect the job she does. Unfortunately, it affected this Michigan pediatrician. After praying long and hard, she apparently felt so strongly that she chose to humiliate and belittle the new moms. By sharing her petty, bigoted views, she disrupted their happy-family-mojo, distracting them from the extraordinary first moments of parenthood.

I feel for them, and I wish none of us had to raise our children in an intolerant world. But, forget about the hippocratic oath and the dead-wrong decision this pediatrician made. The truth is, these mamas dodged a bullet. Who wants someone like that caring for their child? Not me.

[Originally posted on Momtastic.com]

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Born in the bath, in Bath

When I woke up Sunday at 4 a.m. with strong contractions — a week before my due date — I thought it was a false alarm.

“No, I really think you’re in labor,” my husband said, watching me wince and grit my teeth every four minutes like clockwork. “Call the hospital,” he added, and handed me the phone.

A mild-mannered nurse agreed. Second babies often come quicker, and she suggested I make my way in to the hospital ASAP. Well, this was not part of my ideal labor plan but I did as I was told. I had been hoping the baby would come on Tuesday. Tuesday would be after Trixie and I attended The Queen’s Knickers (a kids musical) on Sunday, and after my booked-long-in-advance dermatologist appointment on Monday. Tuesday worked for me.

Sunday, however, worked for the baby. At 5 a.m. we dropped Trixie off with her granddad and drove through the empty, pre-dawn streets to the Royal United Hospital in Bath. Hobbling into the Princess Anne maternity wing between two-minute-apart contractions, the first thing Andy and I noticed were the screams — heinous, blood curdling shrieks echoing out of delivery suites and into the vacant hallways as women were tortured labored nearby.

“Jesus,” I gasped, but there was no time to dwell. With my legs spread wide, my midwife (a total stranger, because prenatal, labor, and postnatal care are handled by different midwives in the UK) told me I was about 8cm dilated. In a haze of pain I muttered the words “water birth,” and the squat, mousy brunette shuffled off to fill the tub — which took forever to fill, by the way. Water dribbled from the tap like the wheezy remnants of a kids juice box. Even the midwife seemed to think it wouldn’t fill in time.

“You could labor on the bed,” she suggested. “Or squat, or get on all fours?”

“No,” I bristled. My homebirth dreams had already been quashed; the least I could do was labor aquatically. “I’ll wait.”

While we waited, I thought about Buckethead. He’s a guitarist known for wearing an expressionless white mask and KFC bucket-hat, and we’d been up late watching his music videos the night before. A contraction rolled through me and I wondered about the bucket. Was it an affront to vegetarians? Did the bucket combat stage fright? Within seconds the pain was so severe I realized I didn’t give a crap about Buckethead or his greasy cardboard helmet.

“Do you want gas-and-air?” the midwife asked softly.

This I was eager to try. Quickly I nodded and accepted the portable oxygen and nitrous oxide mask. Gas-and-air is the go-to pain relief in the UK. In the scheme of things, it is lowest on the totem pole, followed by the nerve-stimulating TENS machine, pethidine (morphine), or what we in the U.S. are all familiar with, the epidural. Gas-and-air, aka laughing gas, is supposed to have a calming effect, but with each sharp inhale, all I felt was a buzz of nervous energy. Thanks for making me feel like I drank seven cups of coffee, gas-and-air.

Soon, a mega-contraction rippled through me. “I think I need the bathroom,” I groaned.

My midwife stopped in her tracks. “The toilet?” she said. “What? Don’t sit on the toilet.” At first we thought she must be kidding, but she explained, “If you think you need a poo, it probably means the baby’s coming. You don’t want your baby born there, do you?!”

Point taken. So, with Andy’s hands digging firmly into my lower back, we made our way across the delivery suite and into the ¾ full tub.

“What do I do?” I asked, taking another swig of gas-and-air, which, although ineffective, did alert my husband that another contraction was ahead.

“What do you feel like doing?” the midwife asked.

I looked at Andy for the answer. He shrugged.

“Uh, I guess I could push?” I finally said, wondering if this was a test, and if I would pass.

She shrugged. “Okay then, give it a try.”

Part of me appreciated her laidback, hands-off approach to midwifery, but another part of me just wanted to grab her by the scrub lapels and scream, “You’re the midwife! Tell me what the fuck to do!”

But it was up to me. And, actually, that was kind of cool. I pushed when I felt like it; I bossed my husband around; I changed positions when the urge struck. I took charge (I mean, while screaming bloody murder and begging the midwife to ‘Get this thing out of meeee!’)

Ten minutes later the tub had finally filled and I was looking at a grapefruit-sized human head between my thighs. “Can it breathe?” I sputtered, reveling in the sensation of my baby’s body wriggling inside me as its noggin swiveled in the water.

“It’s not breathing yet,” the midwife replied calmly.

How the hell could she be so calm? There was a frigging head twisting around between my thighs!

“One more push,” she said—or, like, mildly suggested, I guess.

With Andy’s hand still dedicatedly rammed into my lower back, I did as I was told. A few seconds later, out came the body, and I pulled a total stranger from between my legs and into my arms.

Andy cut the slimy, gelatinous umbilical cord and then looked between the baby’s legs. “It’s a boy!” he cried.

No way. Even though we suspected we’d have a boy, and our family and friends thought we’d have a boy, and even my mother’s psychic in Santa Fe predicted a boy, I was still in total shock that it was, indeed, a boy. A remarkable boy named Harvey, we later decided.

Though the next few hours were a blur, some things stick out in my mind — especially when comparing this experience to childbirth in America. For one, the nurses never took Harvey away. Not to warm him or weigh him or clean him or to give me a chance to rest. Never. Your baby stays with you the whole time, which would be a frigging miracle at a US hospital. Also, we were released three hours after Harvey was born. Three hours! Think about it: While you were at the multiplex seeing ‘Interstellar’, I was delivering a baby, staying long enough for vitals, cuddles, and a cup of tea, and then driving home with him in the backseat. Wow.

And the midwife. I joke, but she was amazing. It might seem glaringly obvious that midwives are incredible and invaluable, but two weeks after Harvey was born there was a Midwife Strike in England over a one percent pay increase. One percent? Frigging give it to them, right? But apparently one percent is a tall order (in a world where the MPs have been recommended to get a 10 percent pay increase — insanity!).

So, that’s it. That’s my birth story. Even though it didn’t fit in with my ideal labor plan, everything worked out pretty well. Trixie’s granddad took her to see The Queen’s Knickers (“Mummy, there were knickers everywhere!”), and I kept my booked-long-in-advance dermatologist appointment, too.

“Ms. Richards?” the doctor said, calling me into his office a mere 30 hours later. “This way.”

“Coming,” I said, then added, “Sorry,” when I realized how slowly I must’ve been walking. “I gave birth yesterday.”

It was worth it just to see the look on his face.

[Published on Momtastic.com]

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Making Friends For My Daughter … With or Without Her Help

We’re one month in, and Trixie seems to be adjusting very well to life in England. She’s happy with nursery school, our house, and the new words she’s learning for the things in her life (like mum!). She’s even started to make a few friends … well, sort of. Turns out, my daughter has the frustrating tendency of hindering her own friend-making abilities. Let me elaborate.

Yesterday at the playground, Trixie was whizzing around on the flying saucer swing (a contraption I’ve not seen in the states, but it is awesome), when a towheaded little girl with a Cabbage Patch face and bouncy braid (I mean a plait as the English say) came up and asked to get in the swing, too. She looked a year or two older, and Trixie was instantly smitten. They giggled and sang until the girl ran off for more playground fun. Trixie wasted no time chasing after her older, bolder pal. For about 20 minutes the girls played and chased and egged each other on. I pushed them on swings, guided them on the ropes course, and bought imaginary ice cream from them … though my heart sank a little when the girl told us she didn’t live in Bradford on Avon, and was only there while her mom had a picnic with a friend (and left the caretaking to me, apparently). Turns out, our new friend was from Swindon, a town about an hour away (think Park Slope to Newark — and just as charming).

An hour away? I thought to myself. Ugh. Not to sound lazy, but that’s too far to schlepp for a playdate, considering we don’t have a car. Instantly, our plaited pal was dead to me. Trixie, on the other hand, wasn’t sharing in my geographical antipathy. The two girls continued playing but I retreated to a shady patch of grass, loath to make small talk with a four-year-old I’d likely never see again.

It wasn’t until a bit later that a blaze of ginger hair skipped into the playground and I heard a little boy yell, “Hi Trixie!”

My ears perked up. Hastily, I made my way toward them, smiling at the mother when she caught up with her son.

“Does your son go to the nursery school?” I asked, quickly pushing Trixie’s swing like I’d been there the whole time and not sitting on the grass reading my Facebook feed.

“Yes,” the mom said with a friendly smile. “And this is Trixie? I’ve heard Oliver mention her!”

“Cool!” I said, and smiled back.

We were off to a good start. The kids were all playing together and the mom and I were talking … but then all of a sudden Trixie and the Cabbage Patch Party Crasher zoomed off to another area of the playground. Oliver shrugged and went in the opposite direction, taking his mother with him. Noooo! Come back! I thought desperately. But I put on a brave face, secretly praying Little Miss Towhead would eff-off already. Yeah, sure, maybe they were having fun, but Trixie was ruining a perfect opportunity to befriend someone we might actually see again! Trixie, don’t be a fool, I wanted to scream.

But I’m not a horrible person. Not really. I stood back and let the girls have fun, occasionally using my psychokinetic powers to will them back toward the slides and adorable Oliver. To be honest, I can’t blame her. Trixie is a girl, and not just a girl, but a girlie girl. Of course she wanted to talk about Frozen and chase after a real-life Elsa clone rather than play bad guys with a boy from school. How was she supposed to know Oliver was a keeper, and that we’d probably never see blondie again?

However, I’m happy to report, it wasn’t a total bust. The three of them managed to band together for a game of hide and seek, and I focused diligently on chatting with the boy’s mother. (The girl’s mom, BTW, was still totally uninvolved and enjoying a picnic 50 feet away, which Oliver’s mum and I happily rolled our eyes at and bonded over.) Turned out, we had a nice conversation, and when a friend of hers arrived (with another of Trixie’s classmates), we all had a friendly chat. Eventually, Cabbage Patch McPlait was called back to the picnic blanket, and Trixie got in a few solid minutes with the two kids from her nursery school. And even though she kind of screwed it all up by chasing after a playground-one-night-stand, it all worked out in the end because, guess what: Trixie snagged an invite to a birthday party this weekend. Our first English birthday party –hooray!

So, ultimately, it’s okay if Trixie foils her chances at making new friends. That’s what I’m here for, and I’m damn good at my job.

[from Momtastic.com]

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From Brooklyn Pre-School to UK Nursery

From the moment we got to Trixie’s new nursery school, I knew things were going to be different. Not just because the space itself is a gorgeous three-story Georgian home opposite a sprawling playing field, whereas her Brooklyn preschool was in an old schoolhouse with a concrete slab for outdoor space and a gym in the basement. Cosmetic allure aside, there are a few things that set this English nursery school apart.

It wasn’t an ordeal to get in. Unlike Brooklyn, I wasn’t required to visit the school or (as in some cases) put Trixie through an interview process to apply for admission. All I did was send a pleading e-mail, informing the manager that we were about to move to England and if I didn’t get my daughter into a nursery school she wouldn’t make any friends and she’d hate her new life and we’d all drown in our own misery. Bam. Done.

It’s total chaos … but organized chaos. I’m no longer fooled by the lush front lawn, sparsely strewn with children’s playthings and muddy wellies: inside the foyer, it is anarchy. Kids everywhere, caregivers trailing behind, and an alarm—a sort of muffled but constant wail. The siren seems to trigger whenever the front door is ajar (a reassuring thought, should a toddler be nimble and tall enough to twist the lock and escape). When the door shuts and the alarm stops, boisterous energy ebbs and flows between rooms. One plush-carpeted room leads to the next, each floor separating the different age groups in a Hogwarts-esque fashion from Minnows, to Puffins, to Tigers and Giraffes. Heaps of babies and toddlers giggle and cry; sing and play. And by pick-up time, the kids are never found quietly waiting at 4 p.m. sharp, as I relied on in Brooklyn; no, it’s anyone’s guess where I’ll find Trixie, from the playhouse on the front lawn, to the field over the road, or maybe reading a story in the classroom. Like I said—anarchy! And yet, somehow it works.

There’s a special school-issued bag. On the first day, I was given a pink cloth sack with the school’s logo and told to personalize it, fill it with spare clothes, and bring it back. I managed to throw in some extra princess undies, but completely forgot to ‘Trixify’ it. And so, on her second day, I foolishly scrawled her name across the label with Sharpie. Bad move. Turns out, most of her classmates bags are embellished with patchwork, buttons, and even macramé. Damn you, English parents! Needless to say, I went to my mother-in-law’s begging for colored ribbons, and hurriedly sewed an array of vibrant tassels onto Trixie’s bag. God forbid my daughter become the loser-new-girl with an uncaring, uninspired American mom.

The cirriculum is different. I’ve always been curious if my daughter was taught anything other than macaroni necklace techniques at her school in Brooklyn, but up on the third floor of her new nursery (I mean second floor, because the wacky English call the first floor the ground floor, and the second floor the first floor and—help!), the Tigers dress as knights and ladies for Medieval studies, and have a weekly French lesson during which they name and then eat fresh fruit from the market. Tres magnifique!

The field trips are less stressful (for me). In Brooklyn, the idea of toddler outings used to panic me. I’m not super-overprotective, but there was a lot of traffic and—I dunno—it just seemed like a lot of effort. Here, however, watching the kids don their tabards (aka neon yellow vests) and scurry down off-road passageways to the local farmers market to buy flowers, I feel totally at ease. I suppose maybe the organic cheese monger at the library-parking-lot market could accost them as they’re selecting a dazzling bouquet of foxgloves … but I think I’ll chance it.

Originally posted on Momtastic.com

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Brooklyn to England: Perks and Perils of Living in a Country Cottage

“Mama!” Trixie screams from her new bedroom. “There are loads of rolly pollies in my room. Loads of ’em!”

First I laugh at her phrasing. “Loads.” Not something she used to say, but a word that has nestled into her vocabulary since we moved to England two weeks ago. With a sigh, I put down my computer and climb two creaky flights of stairs to my daughter’s bedroom, grabbing a dustpan and broom along the way, and begin the nightly ritual of scooping up rolly polly bugs and throwing them out the window. One, two, three … seven, eight … twelve.

At least I got her to stop calling them wood lice, I remind myself, wincing when a particularly fat one squirms as he flips into the pan.

But alas, rolly pollies—or wood lice or pill bugs or butcher boys—are part of our everyday life now. I asked for it, as my mother-in-law likes to remind me. “There are plenty of nice flats in our town, but nooo, my daughter-in-law said she had to have a place with character, and that’s what she got.”

What can I say? It’s true. I decided that if I was going to move all the way from Brooklyn to rural England, I wanted a place with oodles of charm. No more seedy, brown-tiled foyers, no more broken buzzers or chain-smoking supers lurking in the basement. Been there, done that. And now, here I am, in paradise—a delightful three-story cottage built circa 1750. Dark wooden beams hold up the ceiling; quaint stable doors separate each room; vibrant pink roses climb the stone facade; and a swing-set perches on the edge of our flower-filled garden, perfect for our three-year-old daughter. Our neighbors are lovely, and my Facebook friends drool with envy over the bucolic setting. The whole thing is, well, perfect.

But it’s also an old house. Like, really frigging old. So old that it was built before the invention of wedged sneakers and high heels, back when people didn’t need more than 5’8″ of clearance to walk through a room. That’s okay though, I tell myself, because it’s beautiful here. The birds chirping outside our window are a hell of a lot nicer than New York’s police sirens or the guy yelling at his dog in the next apartment building over. Our cottage has character and history. The claw-foot tub is to-die-for. Come winter, I’m going to curl up in front of our very own log fire. And all those tucked-away cupboards and tiny latched doors that Trixie has found? They’re great! They’re charming, they’re fun, and they’re perfect for hide and seek—as long as I remind myself that these are not the same cupboards used in a horror movie I once saw about the vengeful ghost of a mistreated child.

Actually, helping Trixie acclimate to her new surroundings has been a lifesaver. Instead of shrieking at the sight of slugs and spiders, the two of us have become entomologists, grabbing butterfly nets and magnifying glasses as we embrace the great outdoors. After watching a little boy get nipped by one of the local horses the other day, we now know to lay our palms flat when feeding horses and stroking their manes. And even though I’d give anything for a yellow cab to swoop in and cart me up the Everest-like hill to our cottage, Trixie and I love discovering secret passageways home. Plus, it turns out, her scooter makes an excellent Mom-pulled chariot when she’s too tired to climb any further (nevermind that I’m six months pregnant as I schlep a three-year-old up said mountain).

All I have to do now is adapt—learn to duck my head around the wooden beams; smile at the sight of wood lice; and eventually stop worrying that evil spirits are using Trixie’s bath letters to send messages from beyond the grave. I’ll figure it out because my heart swells when I see Trixie and our six-year-old neighbor playing together on the swing-set, and I’m already comforted by the sound of her tiny feet pitter-pattering down the wooden stairs each morning as she jumps into our bed for a cuddle.

Maybe country life is going to be creepy, but it’s awesome, too. And, hey, I asked for it.

[Published at Momtastic.com]

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How I Got Out Of Another Boring Saturday

For me, every day moments usually include peddling snacks like a human vending machine; schlepping picture books in case boredom ever strikes; and crouching in public toilets to wipe a three-year-old’s butt. This past weekend, however, thanks to an American Express event at Brooklyn Bowl about EveryDay Moments, my humdrum Saturday got awesome.

First of all, anywhere with a red carpet and velvet ropes is tantamount to Buckingham palace as far as my daughter is concerned. “How do we get in?” Trixie asked, her eyes widening. “What do you think is going on in there?!”

“Let’s find out!” I said, and as soon as we entered Williamsburg’s funky, saloon-style bowling alley, the fun began. Wristbands: check. Bowling shoes: check. Raffle ticket: check (Okay, so we won an umbrella … but Trixie got to spin the prize wheel, and that was a thrill).

The two of us wandered over to our very own bowling lane and on her FIRST turn Trixie got a strike! My daughter, the bowling prodigy! Well, further evidence would prove otherwise, but we still had a blast on the darkened lanes, surrounded by ecstatic kids, and adults with ice cold margaritas.

Bowling quickly lost it’s allure when the TriBeCa Film Festival-sponsored movie began to play on every screen in Brooklyn Bowl (of which, I now know, there are many). Kickin’ off our bowling shoes, Trixie and I meandered over to the overstuffed beanbags to watch Moon Man, an imaginative, colorful and trippy animated flick about the man in the moon getting bored at his post and hitching a ride to Earth on a passing comet. I snuck off to the buffet to load up on chicken wings, mac n’ cheese, and hummus, but when I got back, Trixie was riveted (though she didn’t actually understand the plot, and would not respond to my questions for love nor money).

To be honest, before we got there it had been a rough, naughty-girl morning, and I wasn’t at all surprised when The Meltdown began. In fact, if we hadn’t had such a unique event to attend, Trixie probably would have been given bread and water and a lump of coal for dinner. However, when given the choice between stubborn tantrums at home or free food and bowling, it wasn’t a tough decision to make. So, as the frown deepened and my daughter’s body became more and more spaghetti-like as I tried to move her from the beanbags to the crayon/drawing station, I knew I was pushing my luck by staying another second.

As I struggled to contain my flailing child and whisk her out of the building before we could cause a scene, a perky, badge-wearing brunette came over to say hi and make sure we were enjoying ourselves.

“We wanted it to be a memorable, family-friendly event, you know? Easygoing. Just like childhood. Pizza, mac n’ cheese–it’s just so fun, you know?”

“Fun. Totally,” I grunted, gripping Trixie’s windmill arms with all my strength.

“Aw, your daughter is so cute!”

At that exact moment, Trixie slammed my body hard against a table full of crayons.

“Oh my!” the woman said, jolting back.

Humiliated, I pulled myself upright and tucked Trixie, kicking and screaming, under my arm. “Just another every day moment,” I said, and made a beeline for the coat check.

**published at Momtastic.com**

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Preschool Procrastination

It started almost a year ago. I was on a playdate, and one mom-friend said, “So, where are you sending Trixie to preschool?”

At the time my daughter wasn’t even two. I thought, “Um…huh? Preschool is for three-year-olds, right? Am I really supposed to figure that out now?”

The answer—much to my surprise and dismay—was, yes.

Now, I have a lot of mommy friends and, to be honest, I let them do most of the dirty work. When one friend went on a tour of a pristine Montessori oasis on Brooklyn’s gritty Third Avenue, I sat back and waited for the report—that’s how I heard about every other reputable school. There was still some heavy lifting on my part though. Turns out if you want to apply to preschool you have to visit the school yourself first.

First up, we went to a slightly hippie, play-based school for our tour (and by “tour” I mean “interview”). All I knew of the school, in addition to the hefty price of admission, was that each parent had to volunteer seventeen hours per semester. Seventeen hours! And pay tuition! Yeah. Still, we gussied up and set out to wow the admissions staff.

Wow them we did not. Trixie spent most of the time picking her nose, but I was the screw up. I was nervous. I talked a lot. Tried too hard to be funny. At one point I randomly blurted out, “You don’t let the kids go outside, do you?” The woman looked at me like I’d asked to bum a cigarette. Like, maybe I lock my daughter in the basement—which might’ve explained why Trixie was standing in the corner of the office screaming, “Don’t look at me!” That’s what she does when she’s making a poop. (And who doesn’t like a little privacy when they’re pooping on a preschool interview?!)

Needless to say, we didn’t get a letter of acceptance. Still, I couldn’t blame it all on the interview. Like most preschools in the neighborhood (city? country?), this particular establishment had guidelines. Checklists, forms—weeding tools, if you will. They wanted to know what we, as parents, could bring to the program. What were our family’s goals for preschool? What were our child’s strengths and weaknesses? Ultimately, they were looking for children who would “bring something” to the two’s program. So I guess we didn’t bring what they were looking for—a diaper full of sh*t wasn’t it.

Another nearby school along a tree-lined block in Park Slope had a pleasant, eclectic vibe. I went on the tour—sans nose-picking daughter—and the school seemed great. Except…then I started asking friends about it. One mom told me parents often begin lining up at 1 am the night before registration to get a spot. And I’m talking bone-chilling February here. Seriously? I mean, I’ve never even queued up for a concert, let alone preschool.

Ultimately, I decided not to worry. I skipped the midnight line and put my preschool-addled brain on hiatus. I saw the forest for the trees and realized we’d find something. A co-op, a playgroup, the preschool where they give out razorblades at snacktime—something would materialize. A few weeks later, I decided to call the school with the eclectic vibe. Once I’d missed the 1 am registration, why not? Maybe Trixie could be waitlisted. To my surprise, the program director said, “Oh, sure! We still have a few spaces!” I was floored. After all those visits and interviews and applications, we managed to get into a great school.

And so, with months to spare, the preschool craze came to an end. Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of summ–

Wait, what about kindergarten…?

[Published in New York Family Magazine]

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