Perfectly Imperfect

As if raising children in today’s world isn’t difficult enough, the modern day mother is also pressured to live up to increasingly unobtainable standards. Thanks to social media and the ease of sharing information online, moms everywhere are subjected to irritating images of Pinterest-perfect birthday parties, picturesque bento boxed lunches of gluten-free, organic, dairy-free meals, and other #momgoals-worthy grandiose exhibits of motherly perfection. Sure, we would all love to be perfect mothers and provide our children with the very best childhoods, but that’s just it – perfection in motherhood is a myth. We hold ourselves to these unrealistic expectations of what our society thinks motherhood ought to be like, thereby almost always setting ourselves up for failure.

Although I may appear put-together and well-rested when you see me on the street, there’s a great probability that I’m actually exhausted and my apartment is littered with broken crayons, Cheerios, and toys strewn in every direction. Usually operating on insufficient sleep, I often find myself fumbling through the day just trying to juggle the needs of two young kids and a mountain of other responsibilities while maintaining some semblance of composure. I applaud moms everywhere who make motherhood seem like a constant stream of cuddles and cotton candy and believe me, I would love to live in a constant state of bliss with my tiny humans. But somewhere along the lines, diaper changes always evolve into exhausting power struggles, fevers and head colds turn into debilitating double ear infections, and I’m usually running on empty by 11am. Home cooked meal? That’s funny! Once the kids are fed, I’m lucky if I have enough energy to order delivery dinner.

I’m not perfect. I MAKE MISTAKES. There, I said it.

Just last week I planned to have my very first movie date with my toddler, an activity that would serve as a welcomed departure from his familiar morning routine of playground, children’s museum or errands with Mommy. We prepared several days in advance by discussing rules for inside the theater, my behavioral expectations, and what kind of snacks we would share. To merely say he was excited is a gross understatement.

As we strolled over to the theater prior to the movie, I was overcome with the delightful anticipation of sharing this new experience with my exuberant little buddy. We approached the box office and suddenly something caught my eye. There it was – a sight so alarming I instantly thought my eyes were deceiving me. “SOLD OUT!”  How could this be? How was I going to explain this to my pint-sized sidekick? “Come on, Mommy! Let’s go! Let’s go!” he squealed as he tugged my arm toward the theater.  I grasped at my thoughts, trying to find the right words to let him down gently. Choose any other movie and we’ll get any candy you want! I’ll buy you a pony! Just please forgive me. I explained that there were no more tickets left and admittedly, I should have planned ahead and bought tickets online. He gazed up at me with his big doe eyes. “It’s ok, Mommy.” And just like that, we walked hand-in-hand to the playground like we had done countless times before.

And then it hit me – I shouldn’t be so frightened of exposing my child to disappointment. After all, learning to cope with letdowns is a necessary skill for becoming a successful adult. This misfortune of having to skip a movie seems rather inconsequential in the scheme of things, but these minor setbacks are actually training our children to confidently overcome life’s challenges down the road. I was so proud of my boy’s emotional resilience and ability to easily bounce back without even so much as a minor meltdown! It was in that moment I realized that despite our botched movie date, this imperfect morning was nothing short of perfect.

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10 Things Nobody Tells You About Motherhood

1. You will stop caring about what other people think of you.

If Academy Awards were given for temper tantrums, my toddler would outrival Meryl Streep for best performance. Able to transform from perfectly delightful toddler to borderline foaming at the mouth in .25 of a second, there is no telling where he will strike next. To the strangers offended by my wailing child on the floor of Whole Foods – sorry I’m so preoccupied raising my children that I thoroughly ignored your conspicuous disapproval of my parenting skills.

2. You will learn the true meaning of exhaustion.

You spend the greater portion of your 20’s working hard, partying harder, and burning the candle at both ends. You know everything there is to know about being tired, right? Guess again. The exhaustion following a night of alcohol-fueled bad decisions pales in comparison to the hamster wheel of motherhood. Sleeping all morning is no longer an option and unlike hangovers, sleep deprivation can’t be cured by mozzarella sticks and Gatorade.

3. Having a few close mom friends is essential.

Nobody understands both the joys and struggles of raising tiny humans quite like other moms, and during the first few years of motherhood these friendships are fundamental in maintaining your sanity. These relationships are often based on a mutual love of nap time and adult beverages and serve as the perfect outlet for commiserating over the challenges of the first year, terrible twos and raging “threenagers.”

4. You will kiss your vacations goodbye.

Although our children are seasoned jetsetters, I hesitate to use the term “vacation” to describe our getaways, as these trips are rarely relaxing. Gone are the days of floating down lazy rivers and reading US Weekly on a chaise by the pool. Suddenly swim-up bars have been replaced with swim diapers and sunscreen application is met with poolside meltdowns.

5. There will never be enough time in your day.

Despite your best pre-baby time management skills, it will be a continuous struggle to manage your never-ending to-do lists and overloaded calendar. You will inevitably try to cram your entire adult life into the small window between your child’s bedtime and the moment when you fall asleep on the couch still clutching your Iphone (while adamantly insisting that you aren’t, in fact, sleeping).

6. Your children (and their stuff) will take over your whole home.

Despite your best efforts to maintain a sophisticated home, your living space will become inundated with toys (most of which your child will seldom even use) faster than you can say “Paw Patrol.” I’ve always paid meticulous attention to detail, especially when it comes to keeping my home neat and organized. At first I shuddered at the sight of cumbersome baby gear alongside my perfectly-curated living room filled with French antiques. One gargantuan play mat, two exersaucers, two swings, and one play kitchen later, and I’m finally coming to terms with our new interior design.

7. Everyone is an expert on how you should raise your child.

Your colleagues, relatives, and even your barista at Starbucks will be eager to offer their unsolicited parenting advice, especially during your most challenging motherhood moments. Unless you can provide me with a copy of your “Mother of the Year” certificate, I will pretend to graciously accept and carefully contemplate your advice before walking away and complaining to my mom friends about our encounter.

8. You will appreciate silence.

Remember those peaceful Saturday mornings spent sipping cappuccino while quietly reading the New York Times? Me neither! There is no volume control to the soundtrack of motherhood, and flashes of silence are so infrequent that we often suspect our children are in danger when the room is too quiet. As I exit the elevator on the floor of my apartment building, I can already hear the cacophony of sounds emanating from my apartment – balls ricocheting off the walls and high-pitched voices vacillating between shrieks of joy and tearful whimpering.

9. You are way more capable than you ever thought.

I vividly recall the final few moments before leaving the hospital after the birth of my first child. As I strapped my fragile newborn baby into his car seat for the very first time, I marveled at the tiny defenseless creature before me. “They’re actually going to let us take him home?” I questioned my husband in disbelief. Like many new moms, I was incredibly intimidated by the enormous sense of responsibility that accompanies parenthood. It wasn’t before long, however, that my motherly instincts kicked into high gear and I was offering unsolicited parenting advice to other new moms – ha!

10. You will be eternally grateful for it all.

Although sometimes motherhood feels like an endless onslaught of tears, spilled milk, and low-grade fevers, there is no greater joy than waking up to smiling faces and rediscovering the world through their eyes. And every night before you go to sleep, you will pray for the tools to persevere through the chronic fatigue while secretly wishing that all of this will never end.

20 Things Only Manhattan Moms Understand

  1. We experience no greater happiness than stumbling upon one of the city’s iconic street fairs while strolling outside with our little ones. “No thanks – I don’t like fried dough,” said no child ever.
  2. Spending a few days in the suburbs arduously loading our babies in and out of car seats gives us a newfound appreciation for the ease of running errands in the city.
  3. The UES Mommas Facebook group is our holy grail for parenting advice, product recommendations and exploitations of nannies behaving badly. And although we won’t admit it, we love watching the Oscar-worthy drama unfold when moms go head-to-head over the most controversial topics.
  4. We enter the bus at the rear so that we won’t have to fold our strollers. If the bus driver didn’t see it, did it even happen?
  5. We get annoyed when we see people leisurely walking down the sidewalk hand in hand. We know you love each other, but please don’t monopolize the only passageway separating me and my midget psychopaths from the tranquility of nap time.
  6. We are equally agitated by clueless pedestrians who stop suddenly in front of our strollers. People driving cars know such deviant behavior leads to getting rear-ended, but many pedestrians still remain oblivious. Learn some sidewalk etiquette and keep it moving, amateurs!
  7. Choosing between Uppababy and Bugaboo is a critical decision that requires multiple visits to Giggle or Buy Buy Baby, hours of second-guessing and countless revisions to our baby registries. After all, we need all-terrain vehicles capable of conquering demolished asphalt (thanks, Second Avenue subway construction), maneuvering around potholes and schlepping to Bloomingdales even in inclement weather.
  8. We’ve all been there – we reach the crosswalk just as the countdown clock arrives at single digits. Enter creepy pedestrian, abruptly violating our bubble of personal space while marveling at our sweet defenseless babies.  I’m flattered that you think my baby is adorable, but that doesn’t authorize you to caress her perfectly dimpled hand with your filthy meathooks. Within seconds my baby’s hand (and your germs) will be inside her mouth.  Gross!
  9. We can change a diaper anywhere, including the back seat of a cab, park bench or even on our laps . . . in the dark and with both hands tied behind our backs.
  10. The effort we put into our friendships with other moms is directly proportional to the child-friendly amenities provided by their apartment buildings.
  11. There is nothing more exciting than discovering a new restaurant that offers the ultimate brunching bonanza – both bottomless mimosas and high chairs.
  12. We attend the “Cry Baby Matinee” at the City Cinemas East 86th Street theater, a rite of passage for all East Side moms. Rather than sneaking in candy from Duane Reade, we arrive with an arsenal of sippy cups, Puffs and Cheddar Bunnies, all of which will most likely end up on the floor.
  13. We can multitask better than any of our suburban mom friends.
  14. The city sandbox is no replacement for the beach and we loathe this playground Petri dish. Really, what’s in that thing?
  15. We know the precise locations of every Mister Softee truck within a 2 mile radius.
  16. Summer marks the beginning of sprinkler season in most of Manhattan’s public playgrounds. In addition to water shoes, we buy several pails, shovels and watering cans even though our kid will most likely just poach water toys from other kids at the sprinklers.
  17. Our children think that “lobby” is a number between 0 and 1.
  18. We go to great lengths not to disturb our sleeping children – a note on our doors asking deliverymen to “knock softly,” expensive soundproofing of walls and windows, and then the doorman rings the buzzer to alert us to a food delivery, except we didn’t order food and he buzzed the wrong apartment, and now the kids are awake and screaming. Ahhh!
  19. We scoff at the ultra-competitive world of New York City nursery schools, but inevitably spend hours making spreadsheets comparing the philosophies of education, tediously filling out elaborate applications, writing extensive entrance essays, and subjecting our children to playgroup interviews.
  20. On rainy days, our children flock to this Upper East Side hangout, where they abandon their strollers and run like untamed antelopes through unassuming masses of people.  In this real-life representation of the Lord of the Flies, children often decimate everything in their paths, leaving behind a scattered trail of toys and books. Barnes and Noble, thank you for your unwavering patience and for graciously hosting even our most mischievous little ones.  Love, the Moms of the Upper East Side.

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Lessons From My Baby Girl

In this fast-paced concrete jungle so many of us call home, we are often scurrying through our lives at a breakneck pace. As the competition to get our kids into the most prestigious schools intensifies, parents go to great lengths to give their children the edge they need to get ahead in this unforgiving metropolis. If you peer closely into the shadows of the soaring skyscrapers down streets snarled with yellow taxis, you will typically observe them in their most natural state – these stroller-striding, sleep-deprived moms hiding behind Chanel sunglasses and relentlessly barreling down the sidewalks en route to the city’s premier infant and toddler enrichment classes. We sacrifice our sleep and sometimes even a blowout, all in the name of educating our children. But while we Manhattan moms put forth unparalleled efforts to give our tots every learning opportunity, we seldom pause to recognize the priceless lessons our babies are unwittingly teaching us. 

Last week we joyfully celebrated our daughter’s first birthday with our closest friends and family. Between nibbles of cake and sips of champagne, I found myself immersed in a moment of reverie, reflecting on this whirlwind year and pondering the sheer wonder of it all – the challenges of juggling two-under-two, the poignant memories of my daughter’s first milestones, and the unexpected events that jarred me into reappraising my priorities. It boggles my mind that this ephemeral chapter in my daughter’s life will be one she recalls only through stories and photographs. And although she won’t recollect it, her first year is also one of developmental leaps and absorption through our direct instruction, modeling and environmental osmosis.  Little did I know that the lessons my baby girl would teach me would be just as valuable as those I have imparted to her.

Perservere

There appears to be no impediment on this Earth that will halt my baby girl from obtaining any physical objects she targets. Take wires and electrical outlets, for example. For a reason unbeknownst to me, my daughter, like my son before her, is spellbound by hazardous enticements and drawn to them like a moth to a flame. Although our electrical outlets are equipped with sliding plate covers to prevent the kids from sticking items into the tiny holes, it’s more challenging to baby-proof occupied outlets.  After having furnished our apartment with the finest 19th century French antiques (thank you, Charles Cheriff Galleries), we have resorted to reconfiguring our furniture into a makeshift obstacle course in an effort to block off access to electrical outlets. Equally naughty as she is internally driven, this pint-sized apprentice electrician will strategize and exhibit calculated maneuvers to scale any barricade put in place to prevent her from accessing those dangerous corners of our apartment. She perseveres through any challenge and won’t give up until she succeeds, or in this case, seizes a fist-full of wires requiring a prompt intervention to move her back to her playmat. In a blasé smirking manner, looking backwards to make sure I’m watching, she will do it again and again and again.  I admire her steadfast tenacity and continue to be impressed by this quality on a daily basis. Despite repeatedly tumbling before somehow climbing over our roadblocks, not once does she think, “maybe this just isn’t for me.” If more of us took a cue from our children and refused to be weighed down by a plethora of perceived limitations and impossibilities, there is no limit to what we might accomplish.

Find Joy in the Little Things

My daughter enjoys showing off her self-evident comprehension of “object permanence,” and what better way to tickle her fancy than engaging in the universal game of peek-a-boo?  Her high-pitched squeal of excitement when I vanish and reappear is a reaction so unadulterated, so pure and one filled with joy. This game, though so very simple in nature, transcends all language and cultural barriers; it is based solely on the fundamental concepts of expectation and surprise. It never gets old. In fact, repetition only seems to intensify my daughter’s jubilation. And as it turns out, the laughter is contagious! Regardless of how many times we engage in this infantile amusement, I can’t help but succumb to her giggles as I hide my face and suddenly pop back into her view. I can only hope that she will greet me with the very same enthusiasm years from now when peek-a-boo will have become a distant memory. Her captivating sense of innocence and wonderment at life’s mundane pleasures is a refreshing departure from the ominous uncertainty of today’s world.  If we could all see the world through the eyes of a child we might appreciate the small, commonly-overlooked pleasures in our everyday lives.

Live for the Moment

Like most babies, my daughter has the fantastic ability to embrace the present and appreciate each moment as it transpires.  She is blissfully unaware of the stressors that plague many adults and has no concept of either the past or future. She knows only now – this very moment, which is essentially the only thing we have for sure. While some adults spend the greater portion of their lives lamenting the past, mourning missed opportunities and worrying about the future, my baby experiences sensations only in the here and now. So long as her needs are gratified immediately, she has no foresight into what needs she may have in the future and isn’t distracted by thoughts of time gone by.  Although the complexities of our adult lives have robbed us of this same divine naiveté, we can all by some measure strive to be more present in our daily lives.

No Two Babies Are Alike

Prior to my son’s birth in 2014, I had visions of nibbling on tea sandwiches and petit fours in Central Park while my baby played quietly on a blanket next to me. Boy, did I have a warped perception of motherhood!  In addition to assuming the role of new mother after the birth of my son, I also acquired the not-so-glamorous roles of bodyguard, referee, and janitor. As stay-at-home-mom to my incredibly thrill-seeking, rambunctious boy, my days were spent protecting, policing and cleaning up after my son as he mischievously sought opportunities to scale furniture, jump from high surfaces, and turn our apartment walls into crayon-based murals of his own design. When I became pregnant with our second baby while my son was merely 13 months, I was frightened to my innermost core. As much as I love a challenge, I shuddered at the thought of having two of these pint-sized bulldozers leveling our apartment like a tornado. And then I found out we were expecting a girl, and a wave of tranquility washed over me and awakened my inner child who had fantasized about one day having a little girl of her own. As nature would have it, it wasn’t too long after my daughter’s birth that I began noticing unmistakable differences in the personalities of my baby girl and toddler son. My baby girl has always been so mellow, loves cuddling and being held, and cries whenever I leave the room, whereas my son has been an independent free-spirit and risk-taker since day one.  The disparities in their personalities could not be any more consistent with gender-specific stereotypes. A few weeks ago my friend, Chelsea, and I took our baby girls to the park for a picnic lunch. As we listened to the birds chirping and airplanes swirling above, our babies sat peacefully by our sides, and in a moment of pure nirvana, we locked eyes and knew this was the rare flash of serenity that we so foolishly thought defined motherhood.

Love knows no bounds

Most second time moms concur – at one point we thought it was inconceivable to love a new baby as much as our first. Our first borns made us mothers and taught us everything we now know about unconditional love. For 20 months my son had my undivided attention and within this time we shared a wealth of unforgettable experiences (for me, at least). Every day was a new adventure. We ate at the latest restaurants, traveled to different neighborhoods in search of the best playgrounds and had play dates or classes virtually daily. I knew him with every fiber of my being and our relationship was one of perfect harmony. When I discovered I was expecting my 2nd child, I experienced both anxiety about the changing dynamic of our relationship and fear of splitting my time and affection with a newborn. How could I even fathom loving another baby as much as my son when I couldn’t possibly share that same connection with a new baby? The answer to this question would soon find its way to me. I discovered soon after my daughter was born that the heart is not subject to limitations as I had once thought, but rather is capable of infinite love.  As our family of 3 expanded to 4, my heart so naturally followed in suit. And so began this crazy adventure as a family of 4, my heart practically bursting at the seams with every moment.

 

 

Chugga Chugga Two Two – Adventures of a Toddler on the Second Avenue Subway

Like most Upper East Side moms and residents alike, I was absolutely ecstatic about the January opening of the mythical Second Avenue Subway project after decades of setbacks and delays. Aside from easing congestion along Manhattan’s East side and providing efficient transportation to other neighborhoods, the unveiling of the long-awaited project also provides unique opportunities for those of us with young children.

New York City weather is as unpredictable as the sale racks at Bloomingdales on Black Friday, and much to my chagrin, my rambunctious 2-year-old doesn’t share my affinity for hibernating indoors in sub-zero temperatures, torrential downpours or the most simmering summer heat waves. The 86th Street subway station has become a frequent fieldtrip destination for my kids, especially on days when either rain or severe temperatures prohibit outdoor play. The subway platform at the 86th Street station is 93 feet below street level and impervious to the city’s most severe weather elements. And unlike most other subway lines, a mechanical cooling system within the station will be activated this summer to maintain a comfortable temperature of approximately 10 degrees cooler than outside at street level.

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As my toddler approaches age 3, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep him entertained within the confines of our Manhattan apartment. Always on the hunt for new adventures and opportunities to assert his independence, he thrives in new environments and enjoys being an on-the-go tot. Because of his blossoming curiosity about the world, I present him with frequent hands-on experiences to keep him physically active and nurture his urge to know more. He’s been enamored with the Q Train since its Upper East Side inauguration and we can’t pass by its entrance without him pleading to go for a ride. The first order of business when headed to the subway is perhaps my toddler’s favorite part – descending via escalator deep into the cavernous station. I use this opportunity to teach and reinforce the basic safety measures of facing forward, holding hands, and being cognizant of what’s going on around us at all times. Although we always avoid rush hour, the escalator can be treacherous for toddlers and it’s imperative to take the proper precautions to avoid injuries.

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Once on the train platform, we eagerly await the arrival of the train. As it approaches, my toddler beams with excitement and his silky baby strands blow wildly in the breeze of the oncoming train. Years from now, I will remember him as joyful as he is in these tender moments. When the doors open and people file in, he knows to quickly locate an empty seat and sit down. And when the train starts moving, he’s in all his glory, squealing with delight as the train accelerates down the track. It’s not long before my toddler amasses a fan club of passengers who are enchanted by his playful demeanor and irresistibly sweet face.  A natural performer, he feeds off this attention and loves making new friends. It doesn’t matter where the train stops or what’s nearby; as soon as we exit the subway car and ride the escalator to street level, he’s ready to turn around and do it all again.

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Although he’s barely 2.5 yrs old, my toddler enjoys examining the large New York City Subway map in the train car and pointing out various locations around the city. He understands that the colored lines represent different trains and that straphangers ride different trains to get to different places. We’ve had many conversations about how the subway is a means of connecting people in different neighborhoods city-wide. I point out landmarks he recognizes (such as JFK Airport and his favorite parks) and we discuss which train line we would take to reach those points. Two-years old isn’t too young to be introduced to basic concepts of geography and by allowing him to take an active role in the discovery process, I’m laying the foundation for a lifelong love of learning. Next stop – the New York Transit Museum!

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Mothering Without A Mother

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The last time I saw my mother was March 19, when my family congregated for brunch to celebrate my brother’s 40th birthday. As my mother looked around the table at my husband and me, our two children, and my brother, his wife and their two children, she beamed with pride. “Look at all we’ve created,” she spoke softly to my father, her face luminous with pleasure. Although only 65 when she died suddenly two weeks later, my mother had been living her dream. There she was, looking on, as her babies had grown up, gotten married and started families of their own. In a way, her life’s work was complete.

Nothing could have prepared me for this loss. Facing each new day without my mother is much like waking up to a world without a sky – unimaginable. I’ve been looking for ways to articulate the tsunami of emotions – the heartbreak, despair, anger, sorrow, confusion – engulfing my heart in the days following her passing, but I’ve arrived at the realization that words alone cannot give voice to the depth of these feelings.

In the days immediately following my mother’s death, I gazed out the windows bewildered as people walked in and out of restaurants, their lives seemingly unfettered while my world was imploding, rendering me crippled. As a mom of an infant and toddler, there has never been a time in my life when I’ve felt like I needed my own mother more. Although 80 miles separated us, my mother was the first and last phone call of every day and was at the very heart of everything I do. She was the only person who was truly interested in the most mundane minutiae of my daily life. And in the frequent moments of pandemonium that often define motherhood, my mother was my guiding light and penultimate voice of reason. I long to hear the sound of her voice on the other end of the phone, offering guidance, wisdom, and telling me stories about my own childhood. And when my children reach a new milestone or do something to make me laugh, it feels slightly imperfect because I can’t share it with my mom. It is in these bittersweet moments when I miss her most. You see, it doesn’t matter how old you are. As a woman, you never stop needing your mother, and I will never stop needing mine.

My mother put her entire being into raising me and my brother and ensuring that we had every opportunity to learn, grow and achieve our dreams. And although she was a selfless woman who loved her children unconditionally, she was the quintessential Jewish mother who also made sure to remind us of her sacrifices and hold us to the highest of expectations. These expectations and my fear of failing to meet them served as catalyst for academic success and all aspects of personal achievement. In fact, although I’m now a grown woman with a family of my own, I am still very much guided by an inherent desire to make my mother proud.

If I am to make any sense at all out of her death, it is that life is both fleeting and precious. Seasons change, calendar pages flutter in the breeze, and time rapidly accelerates as we get older. As I continue on this surreal odyssey as a motherless mother, there is only one thing about which I am certain – I will take one day at a time and will instill in my children all of the values my mother worked so tirelessly to instill in me.

Money doesn’t buy happiness.

Those who knew my mother know that her life was marked by neither glitz nor glamour. She wasn’t at all impressed with worldly possessions and turned away from most material things. She was a minimalist who felt most comfortable wearing a paint-splattered grey hooded sweatshirt. I recall the time when I bought my first pair of Louboutins and she eagerly pointed out to me that the bottoms of my shoes were red, as if I hadn’t known. While Mom had very little appreciation for the finer things in life, she was always amused by my love of all things fashion and indulged me with frequent shopping trips as a child. In fact, some of my favorite childhood memories with her are afternoons spent in a mall dressing room as she tirelessly brought in one outfit after another for me to try on. Although she humored me and my affinity for inanimate objects, my mother also taught me that true happiness can be found only in relationships with people and through acts of kindness. As such, her legacy is not one of material things accumulated in her life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.

Give back to the community.

At any given time, much of my mother’s kitchen counter tops would be concealed by heaping piles of calendars, return address labels and other paraphernalia sent by the charities to which she religiously donated. The Humane Society, Paralyzed Veterans, and Jewish National Fund were just a few of the causes to which she felt so very committed. From a very early age she instilled in me that tzedakah – charity – is the most important of mitzvot.  Her unshakable moral compass, righteousness, and fervent belief in donating to those less fortunate exemplified her adherence to the fundamental principles of Jewish life.

Always carry a jacket with you.

It could be an August afternoon with sweltering temperatures and stifling humidity, but my mother would never forget to carry a jacket with her and always reminded me to follow in suit. Any failure to do so would be irresponsibly flirting with the risk of catching a cold. You see, my mother was the embodiment of the universal caricature of Jewish mothers. What if it’s cold in the restaurant?  What if they have the air conditioning on? These were real possibilities, and you know what? She was usually right!

Be honest and true to yourself in all of your endeavors.

My mother approached life with an unwavering commitment to brutal honesty. Always eager to voice her opinion and expose any injustice, she was truly a force to be reckoned with. Her incredibly quick wit and unfiltered opinions made her the most perfect sounding-board, and I consulted with her before making the majority of my important decisions. My mom was also not at all skittish when it came to offering unsolicited critiques and suggestions on my clothing choices, and although she couldn’t be bothered with her own wardrobe, she had a keen eye for fashion and meticulous attention to detail.  Who needs Fashion Police when you have a Jewish mother?

You can do anything if you put your mind to it.

Anyone who had met my mother could attest to her ferocious determination. There was nothing this woman could not do. A jack-of-all-trades, she regularly mowed her 1.5 acres of grass on a sit-down tractor and took on laborious household projects such as once installing kitchen counter tops, wallpapering, scraping away popcorn ceilings and painting a myriad of rooms in addition to arduously power-washing the exterior of her house.  Equal parts Herculean and stubborn, my mother refused my father’s pleadings to hire professionals to perform tasks she felt she could execute better herself.  My brother and I would win Halloween costume contests at elementary school every year thanks to my mom’s over-the-top homemade costumes (think 6-foot tall giraffe). She even outdid herself constructing a Tudor dollhouse for me furnished with carpet, linoleum floors and wallpaper in every room. My mother loved projects and her creativity knew no bounds. As a knitter extraordinaire, she would make the most exquisite sweaters for my children and even my dog, whose custom threads turn heads on every street corner.

In her absence, I am left with sadness so profound that sometimes it feels like I’m drowning in grief. While the relationship I have with my mother is one that transcends the limitations of the physical world, I can’t help but feel robbed of her at a juncture when I still so heavily relied on her guidance. If there is a silver lining to be found, it is that the principals and values she so deeply ingrained in me read like a transcript to my ever-present inner voice. My greatest wish is that my kids will always know how much she loved them and how they had made her life complete.  If I can be half the mother to them that she was to me, I know I will have succeeded. And if she were here right now, she would most certainly be wondering what all this mishegoss is about. I can practically hear her say, “Enough already, Melissa. Go live your life … and put a coat on – it’s chilly out.”

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Surviving with Two-Under-Two

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As little girls we spend hours pushing miniature strollers, dressing (and undressing) dolls, emulating how we see mothers care for their babies and practicing for the future.  Just like the real thing, right? Ha! As a child, no one tells you about the diaper blow-outs, catching vomit with bare hands, or being peed on, all while operating on 3 hours of sleep. Taking care of a baby is an all-encompassing job, and while it’s indisputably rewarding in a myriad of ways, it can simultaneously trigger feelings of terror, frustration and exhaustion (in that order) akin only to dodging through crowds of seasoned shoppers at the Saks after-Christmas sale.

In May my husband and I embarked on an emotional roller-coaster as we welcomed our second child when our first was merely 20 months old.  Our cozy family of three had become a quartet overnight and it felt like we were driving a Ferrari without a steering wheel. In the weeks leading up to my newborn’s arrival, I felt a sense of guilt that even surpassed the time I had too many mimosas and purchased full-price Louboutins identical to a pair I already own. How would we preserve what we had with our toddler while embracing the changing dynamic of our growing family? How would I have the energy to keep up with a raging toddler while waking every two hours to feed a seven pound dictator? These were questions to which I would soon have answers.

Having 2 babies under the age of 2 presents its own unique set of challenges, but with patience and an optimistic mindset, it is possible to tend to a newborn’s basic needs while also managing an active toddler. Below I will divulge five of my own tried-and-true strategies for surviving, thriving and even looking chic while caring for two-under-two.

      1. Put the Phone Down

For many Manhattan women, shopping is a competitive sport that requires discipline, stamina and a high-speed internet connection.  If you’re like me, you’re glued to your phone around 11am/12pm EST when the online flash sale sites launch their daily deals. Who wouldn’t be interested to peep all of the discount designer merchandise on RueLaLa, Gilt, Hautelook, etc.? It’s easy to be distracted by the constant presence of our mobile devices and the immediacy of communication and information that they provide. Aside from accessing flash sales, we grocery shop, order dinner, pay bills, read news, and receive social media updates from friends all at the touch of a button. Although it may be difficult at times, it’s essential to disconnect from these digital distractions, especially in the company of your little ones who are competing for your attention. I really restrict my phone usage around my kids and instead use our time together to play games, read books, and focus on being “present”. Sharing these private moments with each of your babies reassures them that they are both loved and an important part of the family. Moms everywhere – Next time you feel the temptation to use your phone, please remind yourself that while the internet will be around for years to come, your babies will be babies only once.

      2. Privacy – It’s Overrated. 

I can’t even remember the last time I was able to take a shower or use the bathroom without the presence of a pint-sized playmate. Now that my toddler has learned to open doors, I’ve surrendered the little slice of privacy I’d been clinging to since his birth. When I’m brushing my teeth, there he is – my steadfast bathroom buddy, excitedly rummaging through my makeup drawer. If anyone needs their toilet flushed 157 times, my kid is available! Need toilet paper? No problem! My toddler has just unraveled an entire roll. Rather than allowing privacy deprivation to get me down, I consider myself lucky to have children who constantly want to be with me and I’ve grown accustomed to incorporating my sweet little sidekicks into my routines, even those that happen behind (once) closed doors. When my toddler isn’t busy ransacking my bathroom cabinets or trying to flush household objects down the toilet, I try to involve him as much as possible in my morning routine. My pint-sized personal stylist loves picking out my clothes and accessories, helping me get dressed, brushing my hair and helping me make coffee.  In the afternoons, I often utilize my toddler’s nap as an opportunity to wash my hair, in which case my infant joins me in the bathroom in a bouncy seat so I can watch her through the glass shower door (with door cracked for fresh air). Sometimes I even add Olbas (http://www.olbas.co.uk/products/olbas-for-children.ashx) oil to my shower if she’s at all congested. She loves the sound of the cascading water and enjoys playing peek-a-boo as I wipe away the fog on the glass door. Who needs privacy when you can have inquisitive smiling eyes gazing up at you at all times?

       3. Distract, Distract, Distract.

One of my chief concerns about having two-under-two was how I would keep my high-energy toddler safe and distracted so that I could peacefully nurse my newborn. This thrill-seeking mini-MacGyver, appropriately nicknamed “The Monkey”, would be right at home swinging from trees in the jungle. In highly calculated maneuvers, he pushes furniture to help reach objects, scales shelving units, jumps from high surfaces, and cannot be left unattended for even a moment. I had heard promising feedback about the Amazon Fire tablet through a friend and figured I would give it a shot. The tablet proved to be a successful means of keeping him engrossed and out of harm’s way, but I didn’t feel comfortable exposing him to so much screen time. That’s when I came up with the idea to create a “breastfeeding basket” filled with stimulating toys that I would make available only during the times when I’m nursing the baby. Worked like a charm! Nesting cups, Tupperware containers and Mister Potato Head have been some of his favorites, but it’s important to switch up these toys regularly otherwise the novelty wears off and the breastfeeding basket will backfire. If all else fails, you can always put your toddler into his crib with some toys.

      4. Mommy & Me.

“Who is this new little creature monopolizing my mommy’s time? Why doesn’t she spend as much time with me anymore? Am I still her numero uno shopping sidekick?” Welcoming a new baby presents many challenges for the two-under-two family, the greatest of which, in my opinion, is helping the toddler adjust to the new family dynamic. He/she may be angry, confused and/or jealous of the new baby and unable to adequately communicate any of these feelings. After my daughter was born, it was very difficult for my son to fully comprehend the concept of having a new sibling. Even though we read books about becoming a big brother and role-played with dolls, it wasn’t until we brought the new baby home from the hospital that reality sank in. Although my son has been smitten with his baby sister from the very beginning, there have been times he has struggled with jealousy stemming from sharing my attention. While verbally reassuring him of how much he is loved is important, I’ve found it much more valuable to show him through my actions.  I incorporate into our daily routine at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted “mommy & me” time and it’s been such a fantastic way for me to remind him I’m still his mommy. We take mommy & me classes, go out for lunch, visit museums and play at the park. Most importantly, giving him my undivided attention every day makes him feel valued and appreciated.

      5. They’re always sick – Get used to it

When my son was an infant he never had so much as a sniffle.  I took him to classes, restaurants, and more shopping adventures than I’m willing to admit. Fast forward two years and things couldn’t be any more different.  On any given day, there is a fairly good chance that someone in our household is sick.  Now that my son is in preschool he’s exposed to countless germs, all of which he eagerly brings home to his baby sister. Despite frequent hand washing and our best efforts to sanitize everything that comes through our door, it seems like we are fighting a losing battle. Ever try quarantining a rambunctious 2-year old in a Manhattan apartment? You would have an easier time going to Hermes and walking out with a Birkin. The first winter with your toddler and newborn/infant will inevitably be an endless onslaught of runny noses and low-grade fevers. No need to panic, however. Armed with infant Tylenol, boogie wipes and a NoseFrida, you will have all the essentials to ride out even the worst cold season. Dust off your Juicy velour separates and take advantage of this time by sharing extra cuddles and allowing them to indulge in their favorite television shows. Most importantly, take comfort in knowing that childhood exposure to germs may help boost immunity and enjoy those snuggles while you can!

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