Head Mistress Knows All

Written by GWEN

Izzy interacting nicely with some new friends. So proud!

So, have I told you about Miss Whiteside? She’s Izzy’s Head Mistress and she is a genius. The children love her. And they fear her. A very difficult feat, which results in the children listening to her…and me wanting to BE her. Not only does she somehow seamlessly achieve this perfect balance, but she’s also a bit of an expert on parenting, kids, education, discipline, creativity and just loving childhood. Did I mention she nannied for British royalty?

The other parents from Izzy’s nursery and I have decided we need to tap into this knowledge while we can! And Miss Whiteside has decided to tap into our desperation for her advice and approval. Monetarily that is. We do this in the form of dinner parties at one of our houses, where Miss Whiteside chooses a topic of discussion, she prepares reading material for us, we learn a lot and then we eat. And drink. And pay her. The dinners are fun, educational and often a bit of a therapy session where we unload our deepest darkest secrets and fears from our own childhoods. Last time, after a few glasses of wine, I announced that my parents never told me they loved me when I was kid, and while I knew they did, I still have made a point of telling Izzy and Otis how much I love them about every 12 minutes. Another mom admitted the only time her mother told her she was beautiful, was on her wedding day. I mean…tears welled. (Mine, that is.)

The information and lessons I gather at these dinners are with me all the time. For instance, BE CONSISTENT. If I say to Izzy "Do that one more time, and there are no stories tonight" then I have to follow through. No more, this is your last chance. No more, threats for next time. NO. STORIES. The other day the whole family was out at the playground, and as the boys ran around (well Otis kinda teetered more than ran), the Mister and I watched as another family struggled to be consistent. Their son, Marcello, was a bit of a terror. Hitting his sister. Hitting his friends. Kicking. Whining. The usual antics. After he kicked his sister for the third time the mom finally said if he did it again, they would have to go home. Well. Marcello did it again. And again and again. But they never went home. After a while, I turned to my Mister and whispered, "If Miss Whiteside were here, she would tell them to be consistent and send that kid home. And no park for the rest of the week."

My Mister replied with, "I wish Miss Whiteside was always here." I got the distinct impression this was a dig at me (and my lack of consistency), but I chose to ignore it.

The Mister and Izzy mesmerized by Marcello.

I’ve also learned that while Izzy definitely needs to learn boundaries, it’s also important to just let him be a little boy. He needs to get his energy, frustrations and aggression out somewhere. So if needs to rough house with his friends, and nobody is getting hurt, to let them go ahead. That same day at the playground, Izzy was having a great time with his friend Orson playfighting, hugging, etc. And then supposedly Izzy pushed another little boy. I didn’t see it, but went straight up to him and asked him to apologize, which he did. Case closed. The other mom, however, reprimanded Izzy (in front of me, after I had already handled the situation) and then turned to me and whined, "You know another little boy just pushed my son a few minutes ago. I don’t understand what’s wrong with these boys. They’re so aggressive. My son isn’t aggressive at all." I mean first of all, YET. He’s not aggressive yet. And second of all, they’re boys. Stop you’re whining and go see Miss Whiteside.

Another Miss Whiteside-ism I am trying to adhere to, is to not over-praise. Or if you do praise, to do it in a specific way.

EXAMPLE:

Izzy and I are walking to school. He sees a funny electric car on the road.

IZZY: That car is blue and yellow Mommy!

I look over to see that indeed the car is blue with a yellow hood.

ME: IZZY!!!!!!! You’re exactly RIGHT! That car IS blue and yellow! That is SOO GOOD! Great job!

The kid is three. He recognized two primary colors. But I can’t help it, I get excited. I’m working on it.

Anyway, the examples come in about a hundred times a day. Parenting is a tricky thing to navigate. I try and follow Miss Whiteside’s advice whenever I can and I also follow my own instinct a lot of the time, which I think she would approve of. (At least god I hope she would.) I also have learned so much from the other parents, as we all share what’s worked and what hasn’t at our dinners. At the end of the day, I feel super lucky that Izzy is in good hands for three hours every day. He is learning so much education-wise, but also on how to become a real person, and a good person—and I’m glad that we’ve found someone we trust and admire to help guide him (and me and my mister) during these oh so important formative years!

My devil children.

I Love Frozen! (& I’m Not Ashamed to Admit it)

Written by ERICA 

Most of the time, I’m a little embarrassed to admit what graces my TV screen. I spend more time watching Super Why, Mickey Mouse and Thomas the Train than I spend watching any programming meant for a 30-something-year-old. And when it’s not children’s TV, it’s tween TV. Or as my husband calls it, “garbage.” I would argue that Pretty Little Liars is the absolute best show you’re not watching (and PS, it’s WAY racey and terrifying for a teenager…I mean sex with your teacher, drugs, lies, MURDER!), but that’s besides the point.

Anyway, I know every word to every song in all three High School Musical movies. Owen and I spend approximately 20 minutes every night re-enacting the duet “Breaking Free,” complete with dance moves and microphones. It’s epic, we even harmonize…but I’ll save the video proof for another post.

The point is, and I swear I have one, I’m not usually proud of my entertainment schedule because, well, it’s been taken over by a 3-year-old. That is, until said 3-year-old gave me a perfect excuse to watch Frozen. Because, I’m gonna go ahead and say it, Frozen is AH-mazing in every sense of the word.

Hi, my name is Erica, I’m a 31-year-old mother of two and I cannot stop thinking about Frozen. (Hi Erica…)

So, back to Frozen. Oh my god Frozen. My nieces have been obsessed for a while, much like any young girl not living under a rock. Until recently Owen showed no real interest in Frozen or any other Disney princesses, to be quite honest. But when AJ and I realized we were the last living parents who hadn’t learned every word to “Let It Go,” we took charge. As soon as the movie was released on iTunes we got down to business. And OMG. 

This movie is just too perfect in more many ways than I can explain. But let me try… **SPOILER ALERT**

1) The music.

OK, so I had clearly heard “Let It Go” like a billion times before watching the movie. Some versions (Idina Menzel) better than others (my nieces, sorry girls, love you). But until you see it in the context of the movie, you haven’t lived. And I’m only being slightly dramatic here. And I’m equally obsessed with every other song on the soundtrack. I’ve been singing “Love is an Open Door” for hours. It’s annoying, but I don’t even care. PS, these parents might like it more than me. 

2) It’s heartbreaking and intense, but never scary.

I still have a hard time watching Ursula explode at the end of The Little Mermaid, and show me someone who doesn’t flip their shit when Scar kills Mufasa and I’ll show you someone with a heart of ice, (see what a did there?) And how about when Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger or has to escape the forest of deadly thorns? I mean! SCARY! But Frozen is just perfectly crafted to be emotional on every level, without terrifying you. There’s loss, and moments of fear, but I don’t see Owen having nightmares about a snow storm. The villains are really just misunderstood and lost and the bad guys are really just jerks more than they’re physically threatening. Which brings me to…

3) Good looks don’t count for everything.

The “prince” you think is a total dreamboat at the beginning of the movie turns out to be a cocky assbag looking for power at any cost. And the less attractive, rough-around-the-edges, but super likable guy is the one worth fighting for. Looks aren’t everything, and being a good, caring person is way more important than having a good head of hair. A life lesson I hope to pass on to my kids when they’re old enough to have any clue what I am talking about.

4) As much as it’s an animated fantasy, it’s also so real. 

Yes, we’re talking about magical powers that allow Elsa to freeze her kingdom, but we’re also talking about losing loved ones, feeling isolated and alone, struggling to connect with family, embracing your true self and finding love. And yes, maybe these characters are getting their advice from a talking snowman, but what are best friends for?

5) Olaf.

Speaking of a talking snowman, raise your hand if you think Olaf is the most lovable, adorable, funny, cute, weird and quirky but oh-so-amazing source of comic relief in a Disney movie, ever? Sure, Flounder, Sebastian and Scuttle are also awesome, and I guess Zazu had his moments. But Olaf is just perfect. Well done, Josh Gad. Well. Done.

6) Kristen Bell.

Did anyone else know girl could sing? Cause godDAMN. I mean, Idina Menzel’s voice has been one of my faves since the original production of Rent which I saw 7 times, literally. But Kristen Bell? RIDICULOUS talent. I mean, just watch:

7) There are real world life lessons.

The shit hits the fan when a big sister tells her little sister she cannot marry someone she just met. Seems like such a no-brainer. If Maggie comes home from college and tells me she is marrying some frat guy she hooked up with last night then hell will freeze over in our house too. But think about it… almost every animated movie us babies of the 80s grew up watching involves a young girl falling in love after one glance and giving up her entire universe for that person. Arielle gives up her voice, her life, and her family to chase after some prince she met for like 5 seconds. Amazing movie, yes. Ridiculous lesson for young girls, damn straight. Listen up Maggie Moo—do like your momma, be friends with a guy for a few months, then date him for 7+ years and then we can talk about marriage.

8) In the end, it’s about love…

And not just romantic love. Sure, falling in love is an important part of life. But at the end of the day, nothing is more important than the bonds of sisterhood and the friends (and reindeer, snowmen…) and family members who love you. 

My loves.

On the Move AGAIN

Written by GWEN 

Bye bye extra space!

Well, if you can believe it, we’ve moved. AGAIN! This time to the Mister and I’s old flat that we bought in 2006 pre-engagement/pre-marriage/pre TWO CHILDREN! It’s teeny tiny, but a delightful and bright flat. The plan is to hang there until the new, new house (as we’re calling it for Izzy—since there have been several new houses/flats in between) is ready. Hopefully no more than a few months.

Suffice to say, I was FREAKING OUT before we arrived. The flat is by anyone’s standards small for a four person family. The kitchen is falling apart, has a dorm fridge (or mini-bar as my friend Kelley called it), and no dishwasher. Not ideal for avid cookers/entertainers and general mess makers.

The minibar (fridge).

The actual move was a shit show, per usual. Totally unorganized with unlabeled boxes everywhere, keys missing, water and heat not working upon arrival and a minor leak to keep things interesting. Not to mention the mouse trap I found under the sink. You’d think we’d be experts at this whole moving thing by now, since we seem to do it every few months. But no. Every time is a new nightmare.

There are no words…the good news is we found the spatula!

On the other hand, every time I freak out and every time it works out in the end. When we moved to Belgravia, I didn’t know how I was going to handle driving Izzy back and forth to school every day, but it was fine. This time, I didn’t see how we were all going to fit in the flat. But we are. And the boys actually seem to love it.  Every place has its compromises and its pros and cons. At least in this flat there are no stairs. So I can leave Otis for a minute and not worry he is going to plummet to his death. But in the other flat there was a dishwasher. And a freezer. And an elevator.

But I digress. I’m super excited to be back in Notting Hill, where it all started, and where I feel most at home. Any major move or change is always going to be a challenge with kids—for us and them. I feel bad uprooting them all the time, but I’ve found that like us, they are pretty flexible and resilient. And, at least this is one step closer to being in our new NEW home.

That is until we move again, which no doubt won’t be long, what with the Mister being in property development and all. He likes to take his work home with him. (See what I did there?)

I’m exhausted. Good night.

Loving it!

Spring Break Forever B*tches

Written by ERICA

So…we just wrapped up spring break here in South Beach. And before you get too many mental images of inappropriate nudity or all-night partying or all-day tanning on the beach, let me be clear.

As a parent, spring break is NOT what it used to be. No matter where you live, even if it’s here in party city USA. Spring break used to mean pina coladas by the pool and bad decisions on the dance floor and coming home with a tan and blowing off steam for 7 days straight. Spring break these days is not a party. And it is DEFINITELY not a break.

Here is what spring break means to me now, a stereotypical part-time working mom of 2 kids and 1 dog living in a fairly civilized residential neighborhood of South Beach: It means no school. It means trying to entertain a 3-year-old with endless energy in between teach Flywheel classes and caring for my new baby. It means sifting through crowds of drunk kids on my way to the drugstore. It means a whole lot of naked people (not me) roaming the streets on my way to the supermarket. It means waking up at the same damn time I do every day even though I’m staying up way later than I should and the rest of the city seems to be on vacation. It means I’m TIRED.

That’s not to say we didn’t also have a really fun week.

As exhausting as it may be, it’s nice to have Owen around and to not have to rush off to here-there-or-that-place every 2 seconds. Our mornings were, in theory, less hectic when we didn’t have to be out the door at a specific time. And it was fun to spend QT with Owen, to get a little taste of all the humor and energy he brings to school every day. PS, Dear Miss Ashley—I am SO sorry. I sure hope Owen doesn’t try to look at your boobies when you’re talking to a complete stranger.

And because so many other people we know and love were also on “spring break” we had a lot of visitors in town. Which caused us to make a LOT of plans. I know I know…oooooh look at us we’re SO popular. True, but that’s not even what I’m getting at. We went out 6 nights last week. 6 NIGHTS. Heat game, check. Birthday dinner, check. Hanging with friends, check check and check. Working late, check. I might be aging myself here, but that is far too many nights when I am not on the couch and in pajamas by 8pm.

And in the spirit of vacation and family time, we decided to take Owen to see Disney on Ice this past Saturday. It was a great idea until it wasn’t. Because the day went something like this:

Drive to the arena in downtown Miami which just so happens to be smack in the middle of the Winter Music Conference (aka Ultra, aka HELL). As we drove to our destination we had to first pass through the masses of intoxicated young hooligans dressed in, literally, bikini bottom booty shorts and neon crop tops—with NO bras. I would have covered Owen’s eyes if he hadn’t been out of arm’s reach in the back seat. We got to the arena, sat down in our seats and got settled right as there was a really loud BOOM and some fireworks. We were warned it was coming, but Owen was caught off guard. We looked down, saw his lip start to quiver, then came the tears, and then came the pee. So yeah, my potty-trained 3-year-old got so scared he peed himself…on my lap. We changed clothes (sadly his, not mine), we bribed him with ice cream, it sort of worked, and then 20 minutes later we left.

And on our way home we saw more of the half-naked nonsense, and I found myself strategizing all the ways I would one day tell Maggie she is forbidden from ever leaving the house looking like a cheap hooker.

And then, because of the timing of the show, Owen skipped his nap. Which led to a whole lot of crying and screaming because he wanted gummy bears for dinner and he needed mommy to hold him when she was trying to use the bathroom in peace. It wasn’t pretty for anyone involved.

Saturday night was, I would argue, our best attempt at big night out. Think spring break, for old people. We went to dinner at 7:30pm—wait for it!—and after a LOT of wine to wash away the lap-pee incident, we went out to a karaoke bar. And things just got a whole lot messier and more awesome after that. I sang a duet of The Thong Song. And we nailed it. The end.

Anyway, all in all it was a great week that I’m happy to say goodbye to. I am happy to have my civilized (ish) life back without crazy drunk teens running around giving my agita. I’m happy to have Owen back in school, partially because he LOVES it there and partially because mommy needs a couple hours of toddler-free time. I’m happy to have some nights at home where all I need to do is sport sweatpants and catch up on Scandal. (SHHHHH DON’T TELL ME ANYTHING I’M SO BEHIND!) And I’m really happy that I have many many years before I have to worry about Owen and Maggie experiencing a very different kind of spring break.

Bye Bye Boobie

Written by GWEN

To breast feed or not to breast feed? Every new mother asks herself this question. For some it is a very simple yes or no. Some want to, but can’t. Some just don’t want to do it to their bodies. Some do, but only for a short amount of time. Some want to stop, but are riddled with guilt. 

My baby! One year old and off the boob.

I definitely knew I wanted to nurse both my boys and fortunately it was fairly easy for me. I had the typical excruciating nipple pain and difficulty with latching for the first couple weeks, but both times, after that it was pretty much smooth sailing (aside from the whole Super Boob thing, that is). I also know that I’m very lucky that I produce plenty of milk, and not everyone is physically capable of this. Of course it may not be luck, but more the copious amounts of baked goods I consume.

For both Izzy and Otis I breast fed them the first full year of their lives. Neither of them had a drop of formula and I am proud of that fact. It was something I wanted to do—not because I think formula is evil—I know plenty of people who give their happy, healthy babies formula. To be honest, the idea of buying formula and bottles and sanitizing was all a bit much for me. Goes back to my whole laziness factor. Plus, I do believe that there can be nothing better for your child than his mother’s milk. So though, at times, a whole year of breast feeding and working around my boobs was a bit much, I did it.

However, I never judge mothers who don’t breastfeed. It is a personal decision and every mom I know does what is best for her and her children. I try never to judge in general when it comes to motherhood… except when I see six year olds nursing. I know in some cultures that’s normal, but I’m sorry. Eew.

Anyway, last Thursday morning Otis had his final breastfeed EVER. I have been tapering off for the past couple months, and was down to one feed a day. Once Otis turned one, I was ready to stop, but was waiting for his mood to be right and for him to be over a nagging cold. And then finally it was time. Friends keep asking me if I was sad? The answer is yes, but I was also ready. Otis, on the other hand, I think could have continued for a while more, but he’s doing fine.

I know some mothers often feel bullied and guilt tripped into breast feeding or not stopping once they’ve started. I had never felt this way until a couple weeks before I stopped. I went in to see my Pediatric Health Visitor (don’t ask) to see if she had any suggestions on how to wean Otis off the boob. Her first response was, "Why do you want to stop?" To be honest, I was expecting more of a, "WOW! You’ve done a whole year! GOOD FOR YOU!" Not so much. This caught me off guard and for a second I did think, "Well, I guess I could keep going." But I had to stop myself and think. NO. This was my decision. I wanted to do a year and I’ve done it. It’s time to get my life and body back. With Izzy it was much easier. He had started biting me for the last month or so and it was blatantly clear that we were both ready to move on. The first day he went without boob he was a little moody and then that was it. Case closed.

Passed out after a morning cry marathon.

Otis has been extremely clingy and the first few mornings woke up crying for a couple hours. But he’s doing great now and moving on nicely. Luckily, he loves cow’s milk and he loves drinking out of his little straw cup. He’s growing up and, though it’s a little sad to say goodbye to the baby phase, I can’t wait to see his little character evolve. PLUS, I’m excited for my boobs to even out. To stop stuffing sad little lefty with my silicone chicken fillet, and to go bra shopping for my newly shrunken ladies. Bring on the black lace A cups!


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