My Kid is Fine

by Jennifer Forte Cuomo, Blogger for a Day

As a child I distinctly remember a few things about being in elementary school. One is how terribly bored I often was with whatever lesson was not capturing my attention. The other thing I recall is how I enjoyed socializing with the other children. So much so that I was often in trouble for having limited “self-control,” as it was referred to circa 1980. My report card would come home and there were good marks (“S” or “E” for Satisfactory or Excellent) for everything but self-control. Next to that was always an “N,” for “Needs Improvement.” My mother would sigh and say something to the effect of “Really Jennifer? Again?” And life went on.

I suppose then, it should not come as a big shock to me that my son Nick has problems controlling himself at school at the tender age of 7. Maybe because he is a boy, maybe because he is a little indulged as well, his control is much less than we would hope and certainly beyond simply “needing improvement.” So much so that we’ve recently had lots of contact with the teacher, the social worker, the school psychologist, the vice principal and yes, even the principal.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to, after churning myself inside out over this for the better part of one year: my kid is fine just the way he is. Allow me to explain. I do not mean it is okay for him to misbehave or act out of turn. I do not mean we will not continually work to reinforce good behavior and reprimand bad behavior. I certainly do not mean that he can disrupt the classroom. All of this is being addressed on an ongoing basis and things have improved.

What I do mean is my son is an individual. He is learning about the world and himself in a way that makes sense to him. Sometimes we have to guide him in a different direction. Sometimes we have to allow him to make mistakes in order to learn something. He is just that kind of child. But he is also the kind that can add three and four digit numbers in his head since he was 6 years old. He is also the kind that reads a full grade level ahead of most of his peers. He loves math. He loves science. He asks a lot of questions. He loves playing with other children. He loves swimming, football, soccer and hockey. He will happily try any sport or game, and almost never gives up until he masters it. He is smart and goofy and athletic and social and we want him to be him. And oh yeah, he is also compassionate and kind. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.

We’ve opted out of getting Nicholas tested although it’s been suggested to us by more than one of his teachers. I’ve also been gently nudged into considering medication if he were indeed to test positive for ADHD. I have nothing against medication for children who need it to learn. However, my son excels at every subject in school so I can only assume medication would make life for the teacher easier, not for my son.

Do we get frustrated with Nick? Why yes, yes we do. He is a tough kid at times. But with the tools and strategies we’ve employed, his self-awareness and behavior has improved and we feel it will continue to do so. What we do not want him to feel is that we don’t like how he is so we’re going to fix him with pills to make everyone else’s life easier. What lesson will he learn from that? This is what he has been given in life–he has to learn to get it under control on his own. He can do it. We believe in him. We will continue to fight for him and his right to be himself. Because my kid is fine just the way he is.

Jennifer Forte Cuomo is a Mom of two actual children who secretly favors her dog because she never talks back and is always happy to see her. She runs her own PR agency specifically so she has an excuse to travel without any members of her household coming with her. She loves cooking, gardening and drinking coffee in the morning without having to reheat it in the microwave more than two times.
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Motherhood by a Nose

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I’ve always had a sensitive nose. It runs in my family. My aunt’s sense of smell is legendary. One time, many years ago, she almost divorced my uncle after he had the audacity to use a bathroom cleaner with bleach to remove some mildew on the ceiling. Another time she slept with her nose out the first floor bedroom window after he used an oil-based deck paint somewhere in the basement.

When I became a mother, my overly sensitive nose was bombarded by all kinds of scents, most of which were awful. However, I was surprised to discover that there are a few that aren’t awful at all. In fact, some of them are nothing short of sublime, and being a scent connoisseur of sorts, I sniff them out every chance I get.

For example, my youngest child, who is six, scraped his elbow the other day and I was rummaging around in our bathroom for some Neosporin to apply but instead found an old crusty tube of A&D. For anyone who doesn’t know what A&D is, it is an ointment used to prevent diaper rash. And it smells like heaven, but with a distinct medicinal finishing note.

When I found it, I felt a rush of excitement, quickly unscrewed the cap, and breathed in memory after memory of tiny babies cooing and blowing raspberries while lying naked upon a terrycloth changing pad. That smell was with me 10 to 12 times a day for too many years than I care to count, but now it’s gone, and the sadness is almost too much to bear (which is why I went out and bought a fresh, new tube).

Here are a few other non-awful smells that define motherhood:

Baby’s Breath

There is nothing on this earth that smells better than the breath of a baby. When my babies wailed from hunger or exhaustion, my ears bled, my eyes leaked, but my nose could not have been happier. This is perhaps the part of my children growing up that I regret the most, because they won’t let me bury my nose in their mouths anymore–they think it’s weird. Not sure why?

Dreft

This laundry detergent, specially formulated to smell like puppies, rainbows and unicorns, is a close second to baby’s breath for the most wonderful smell in the world. I know it’s not the smartest choice to have your baby’s sensitive skin exposed to clothes washed in such a powerful, artificial scent, but taking care of a baby is really hard and sometimes you just need some aromatherapy to get you through the day. I should buy some Dreft just for old time’s sake, like I did with the A&D, but I’m pretty sure my husband does not want to smell like puppies, rainbows or unicorns at his next Little League board meeting.

Anything from Johnson & Johnson

The links to cancer notwithstanding, anything from Johnson & Johnson (e.g., the baby shampoo, the powder, and the bubblegum pink lotion) lulls me into an intoxicated state of euphoria even when the daily rigors of parenting are killing me. I’m pretty sure Johnson & Johnson is the reason why I accidentally had a third child.

Baked Goods

I am not and have never identified myself as a baker, but something happened when I became a mother that compelled me to think that maybe if I combined all-purpose flour with a few other white and powdery ingredients something resembling a muffin or a cake might magically emerge from my oven. And sometimes this actually happens but mostly, it doesn’t. Still, though, even if my muffins taste like paper and my cake sticks to the pan with a ferocity typically seen only with white on rice, they fill my house with a fragrance that can only be described as joy, hope, and beautiful dreams all coming true at the same time.

Coffee

Most parents I know drink a lot of coffee. It’s how we cope with everything from colic to college. If you are a parent and you don’t drink coffee, I am suspicious. As a result, the rich, seductive aroma of coffee has become an integral part of parenting–as omnipresent as sippy cups and umbrella strollers. One time, I even confused the smell of coffee for the smell of a dirty diaper, the two are so intertwined. I recognize that I am probably the only one who ever did that, but that’s what happens when you’re a Mom with a nose on overdrive.

 

 

New Tech Policy

I am recovering from Spring Break Barfapalooza 2015 so I’m not going to post anything until next week, but until then, here is our new tech policy for your enjoyment:

OVERVIEW

Too much time is spent on technology. Also, there are too many fights, and the fights are getting really bad.

SOLUTION

A new policy that limits the time spent on technology and prevents fights.

Xbox/WiiU

  • There will be no more playing together.
  • You may play one hour a day by yourself. Use your iPhone, iPod, iPad to track your time.
  • You may pause the stopwatch to eat a meal, go to practice, bathroom, shower, etc.
  • If you have gone to practice, it is OK for someone to jump in and play while you are gone. If you are eating a meal, bathroom, etc., it is not OK.
  • When someone is already playing, you cannot demand that they stop playing so that you can play. Instead, ask them how long they have left.
  • In Minecraft, you have to stay in your own world.
  • Grace has permission to delete dumb worlds. If she isn’t sure whether or not it is dumb, she will leave it.
  • If you don’t want Grace to delete your world, you should name it something other than FJEIRUSLAKDJGKFHGAKSKROEMTK. Try Greg1DND, Gavin1DND, etc. (DND = Do Not Delete)
  • NO MORE SCREAMING. If you scream, the game is over and your hour for the day is up.

LAPTOPS

The time spent on laptops with headphones is getting out of control. You can’t sit in your bed for five or five hours on the Internet. You are going to stunt your brain’s development. One hour a day on your laptop is plenty. Use your iPhone or iPod to track your time. If you are sick, you might be able to spend more time on your laptop but you have to get this approved in advance by me.

BATHROOM & DINNER TABLE

No technology is allowed in the bathroom or at dinner. It is OK at breakfast and lunch.

GENERAL

Start reading more books and going outside more. Now that the weather is getting nicer, I expect you to walk the dog more often, go for a walk around the block, go to the park, get on your bike, go to town with your friends. No more sitting at home on the Xbox and the Internet.

Here is a way for you to track your non-tech time:

Read

Art

Legos/Toys

Play Outside

Walk Dog

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday

Every Sunday, you can give me your chart for me to sign and if I am happy with it, I will give you some $$$.

CONSEQUENCES

If you are not following the rules and you are spending more than an hour a day on the Xbox and your laptop (for two hours/day total), or if there are fights, or screaming, the Xbox controllers will be taken away again.

Signatures:

Gavin

Greg

Grace

Mom

Dad

The Great Minecraft Fight of 2015. So far.

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Like any Mom with multiple children, I watch my children interact on a daily basis and wonder what they are going to be like as adults. Will they be close? Will they nurture the sibling bonds I have tried my best to instill? Will they share holidays and encourage each other through all of life’s challenges?

Sadly, if the last few months of Minecraft on the XBox are any indication, the answer is no.

My kids are not new to Minecraft. They used to play it years ago on the iPad and I almost lost my mind. They played it feverishly for months but then their interest waned and I was never so grateful.

For Christmas, I don’t know what he was thinking, but Santa gave my kids an XBox and threw in a $19.99 Minecraft game at the last minute. Because it’s been so cold and awful here in New Jersey this winter they can’t–and won’t–stop playing. And when they play, they fight. And it’s bad.

Here is how the last fight unfolded:

My youngest, who is six and can’t even make himself a sandwich in real life, finally found a fire aspect book somewhere in the nether and was looking forward to enchanting both a sword and an anvil when his sister went downstairs, joined the game, and caused a catastrophic glitch. The glitch caused him to lose all of his stuff, including his map, and in his fury, he grabbed his virtual sword and started virtually hitting her with it.

She started to virtually lose her health, and began “lightly flicking her wrist” in real life against his chest but according to him it was a sudden and violent slap in the face. In response, he let out a fierce battle cry and began savagely beating her in real life with the XBox controller.

She collapsed in a heap on the floor, which caused my other son to briefly look away from whatever he was doing in his world to glance in her general direction since he was obviously very concerned about her. He returned his full attention to the game, but not before calling out to me for help.

I was trying to ignore the battle since I had just made myself a nice salad but felt guilty after my son called out for me so I went down to the basement, where the XBox is located. Once I got down there, I found my 5-foot 6-inch tall 12-year-old daughter curled up in a ball convulsing and sobbing in pain while my 40 lb three-foot-tall six-year-old son stood above her with flames coming out of his ears.

She is usually very dramatic and he is usually very angry so there was a chance that all of this was just business as usual, but I had to assume the worst. I silently grabbed my son (also known as “The Spawn of Satan”), and led him into his bedroom for a time out while my daughter (also known as Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind) retreated to her bedroom, slamming the door behind her. I returned to the basement, gathered up the controllers, and hid them in a secret place for an undetermined length of time.

And that is when I FINALLY enjoyed my salad.

 

Let’s Eat the Damn Brie

by Vicky Samori, Blogger for a Day

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I have been on a diet for as long as I can remember. I come from a household where image was everything and the media didn’t do anything to convince me that my body was okay just the way it was. When Sports Illustrated started to feature models with impossibly perfect bodies on their cover, both men and women would swoon, and I knew what I had to do. I began consistently passing on the cheese-drenched nachos, salty french fries and chocolate cake with creamy frosting in order to strut around in my tiny floral bandeau bikini without feeling utterly humiliated.

It didn’t occur to me until decades later that I live in the northeast. I mean, I knew I lived in the northeast, but I never did the math. Out of 12 months, there are really only two in which you can strut without freezing your ass off. And, if you factor in rainy days, sick days, and other non-bikini wearing events that occur in summer, there is really only a single month. So I spent 12 months a year for 40 years–that’s roughly 15,000 days, or 50 percent of my life–depriving myself of all that tastes good in order to look great in a bathing suit for a total of 30 sun-filled Bain de Soleil days.

Looking back, I can admit that I was flawed but it wasn’t my waistline or backside that was the problem. It was my youth. With maturity comes an ability to see the truth, and the truth is that stick figures are for cartoons, not for humans who need to eat and drink in order to survive and, I will argue, be happy. It’s true that there are a few anomalous mommies out there with amazing bodies who can eat whatever they want and not gain weight, but I choose to ignore you…sorry.

Impossible as it seems, I am approaching the big 5-0. Instead of feeling old, I feel liberated. I am done counting calories as if my life depended on it and will no longer look in the mirror with self-loathing. I am embracing the new me. This version has a little more junk in her trunk, but she also fills out a t-shirt nicely. It is in that spirit that I raise my Nutella-filled spoon to all my fellow middle-aged women and say, “F**k it, life is short….let’s eat the damn brie!!”

This summer, I’ll be ditching the tiny bandeau for a body shaping tankini but you can be sure I’ll still be strutting. And I won’t feel utterly humiliated–I’ll be feeling pretty darn good about myself. Cheers!

About Vicky Samori: Vicky is a stay-at-home mother of two (four if you count her husband and dog). She devotes all her time trying not to screw up her children but does find time to read, torture herself with hot yoga, and continue to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. 

Spring is for Sports, so Let’s Eat

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Everyone is dying for spring, but I am in no rush, mostly because of my allergies. Who am I kidding? It’s because of the sports. This spring I am going to lose my mind shuttling three kids between five sports. I enjoy watching my kids play sports, but if I’m being honest, I don’t enjoy it that much. Certainly not as much as my husband.

Growing up, my husband played football, basketball, and baseball and he excelled at each one. So naturally, watching his kids play sports brings back a lot of wonderful memories.

For me, though, there’s not much to which I can relate. In my youth, I played competitive piano and my exposure to sports was extremely limited. Aside from the 1986 World Series and the OJ Simpson murder trial, my family didn’t really even watch sports on TV.

Today, all kids seem to do is play sports (and Minecraft), and I’ve had a really hard time pretending I know what’s going on. It’s not that I don’t try, I do, but eventually I zone out, irritated by all the noise, especially the piercing whistles. I start thinking about all kinds of things I know no one else on the sidelines is thinking given that there is an actual game going on.

You would think that I would just sit there and politely keep my non-sports thoughts to myself, but I don’t. Instead, I share them. I start blabbing about whatever pops into my head. Most of the time, these thoughts are about food. Here is the transcript of an actual conversation I had with my husband at my son’s basketball game a few weekends ago:

Husband: “Oh my God, how did that not go in?”

Me: “Oooooo! So close!”

Husband: “He’s gotta make those.”

Me: “So I know we said sushi for dinner, but Greg wants spaghetti and meatballs.”

Husband (shouting): “WHO’S GOT 15?”

Me: “Actually, I bet I could get Greg to eat a meatball sub from Subway.”

Husband: “STAY SQUARE!! SQUARE UP!!”

Me: “No, I can’t do that. Subway is junk.”

Husband: “Great job boys!”

Me: “Good job guys!!

Husband: “Whatever you want for dinner, I don’t care. GREG, GET BACK ON D!”

Me: “Alright, well, let me see what he says after the game. I really don’t want to cook tonight. I’m so tired. What time is this over?”

Husband: “HELP HIM OUT, HELP HIM OUT!!!”

Me: “My skin is so dry, I can’t deal. Don’t forget I’m going to that party tonight.”

Husband: “GREAT PASS! What party?”

Me: “The Oscar party, after dinner.”

Husband: “Oh. So don’t cook then. Just do Subway. THREE SECONDS!”

Me: “I don’t want Subway.”

Husband: “That’s right, you said sushi. WATCH IT, HE’S REACHING IN!”

Me: *yawn*

Sometimes, I will be at a game without my husband and my boredom will compel me to start chatting up another Mom, even though she is giving no indication that she is open to chatting. I’ll ask her if she has tried the new restaurant in town and she will answer me but two seconds later she will break eye contact to scream positive encouragements at her child across the field, making me feel like a boob for ever venturing into non-sports territory in the first place. Even my closest friend once gave me “The Heisman” after I offered to share the details of my most recent meal with her so that she could enthusiastically remind her daughter to be “softball ready” in the outfield over and over again.

When my last and youngest starts playing tackle football in a few years, I am hopeful things will be different. If I had to choose one sport to tolerate for the rest of my life, it would have to be football. I’m sure this has something to do with the glorious food of football (e.g., chili, wings, nachos…what’s not to love?) but over the years I have come to understand it much more than any other sport and therefore should be able to pay better attention. Except if it’s cold. Then the only thing I will be able to think about will be those things that keep me warm in winter, like pot roast, sausage lentil soup, and beef stew. Oh well. Maybe I’ll just help at the snack stand.

I need a break, fast

The other night after I went to floor, I experienced mild panic knowing that come morning, I was going to be bombarded by three hungry children without any means to feed them since we had just spent two consecutive days snowed in, eating everything we could get our hands on. There was seriously nothing left, except maybe for some white rice, ketchup, and leftover broccoli.

As I feared, I woke to one child standing over me demanding that I get up and make breakfast. Thankfully, I was able to find some frozen pastries for him hidden deep within the freezer. Another child refused to suffer a sub-par breakfast and instructed me to immediately go to the store for organic strawberry toaster pops. Still another child wanted me to go to the store for chocolate hazelnut spread imported from Italy.

I wanted to tell these extremely demanding children that they should not expect me to cater to their every whim and that white rice, ketchup and leftover broccoli does not only make an appropriate but surprisingly delicious breakfast for many children all over the world. But, I didn’t. I went to the store, even though I hadn’t brushed my teeth and my boobs weren’t being supported in any real way. I was, however, wearing yoga pants and not pajama pants, so as far as I was concerned, I was winning.

Halfway to the store, I realized I wasn’t winning but losing because I would actually have to visit two stores, since Stop and Shop doesn’t carry strawberry toaster pops and Whole Foods doesn’t carry Nutella. Would other Moms do this? Probably not. Other Moms would never find themselves at two grocery stores at 8am on a Friday in a bra meant for sleeping because they are better able to manage their inventory and would never run out of everything in two days. Still other Moms would have had their children up and dressed early so that they could all enjoy a lovely breakfast out, smiling and laughing together at the local diner. I aspire to be one of those mothers, but I’m afraid I will never get there.

Anyway, I returned home and prepared everyone’s special breakfasts by request. They were kind and appreciative, until I revealed I would be packing them white rice, ketchup, and leftover broccoli for lunch–then they got all demanding again. Can you imagine? With that, I announced that I needed a break (fast), and I locked myself in the bathroom, but not until I grabbed a pen and paper to make a proper grocery list once and for all.