1/31/10

If You Had One Day Left

This may sound morbid, but I think about dying a lot. And from talking to my mom friends, I know I'm not the only one. Maybe awareness of our mortality goes hand in hand with motherhood. Or maybe I watch too much Lifetime.

In any case, I was well prepared when a fellow blogger asked readers what they would do if they only had one day left to live. Read my answer at TheBump.com:

1/27/10

Health Tips from a Complete Non-Expert

As January winds down, I keep encountering people who have resolved to live healthier this year. Exercise more, eat better, slow down, the usual. To those folks I say, good for you! But do you have to take up ALL the parking spots at the gym? Some of us have boatloads of kids and diaper bags to carry, you know!

And also? I hope I’m not standing behind you in line at Panera when you special-order your lunch and ask for everything on the side. Just GET THE SALAD!! If you really want to save calories, you shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Sorry, went off on a tangent there. What I meant to say was, I would like to share some healthy living tips with you all. I am by no means a health expert or a model of fitness -- “Why run when you can sit on the recumbent bike and read People?” is my motto -- but I have been a vegetarian for a couple of decades and I’ve never been on “The Biggest Loser.” That qualifies me in some small way, right?

Just to be clear: I am not a medical professional, just a mom who forces her kids to eat vegetables and go to the gym with her. Got it?

Take the “ex” out of “exercise.” What do you think of when you hear the word “exercise”? Extreme workouts? Sweat, pain, discomfort? Then find something you don’t hate. I can ride a bike 10x longer than I can run, for example, simply because I enjoy it more. And I do yoga because it’s relaxing and I feel taller and looser afterwards. Whereas body pump (weightlifting) classes just make me sore. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable to count as exercise.

Sneak it in. Forget Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook. (Unless you’re craving this.) There are MUCH easier ways to sneak healthy stuff into your kids’ food. I mix carrots into any baby food my 11 m.o. turns up his nose at. (Like green beans.) I sprinkle wheat germ on my 3-y.o.’s yogurt and call it “crunchies.” I mix flaxseed into pancakes and muffins, and have been known to add pureed spinach to spaghetti sauce.

We try to buy unsweetened everything (yogurt, oatmeal), and add our own dab of sugar, honey, or jam to it. We also buy wholegrain everything—bread, pasta, tortillas, cereal. There’s no excuse to buy white bread. EVER. If you must, use Rachael Ray’s trick of making a sandwich with the wheat bread on the bottom and the white bread on top. Sneaky, huh?

Go veggie. Vegetarian fare has come a long way since tofu and soymilk. At any Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and ordinary neighborhood supermarket you can find a huge variety of frozen veggie entrees. My favorite product is Morningstar Farms Grillers Recipe Crumbles. Substitute them for ground beef in tacos, chili, spaghetti sauce, and countless other recipes. The soy chicken, on the other hand? You can skip. (Except the nuggets. They’re not bad.) And remember: anything meat can do, beans can do better.


Swap out the coffee. You know those too-much-coffee jitters? I’ve started switching to green tea after one cup of coffee in the morning. If you think it tastes like boiled vegetables, try Lipton Green Tea with orange, passionfruit, and jasmine with a squirt of honey. Yum! It gives me enough of a pick-me-up to get through the day but won’t keep me awake past “The Daily Show.”

Make it a habit. You wouldn’t skip brushing your teeth for a day, would you? Or washing your face? OK, well, definitely not for 2 days straight, right? Because you’re in the habit. And you’d start to feel gross. And your friends would avoid you.

Well, it’s the same with exercise and eating healthy. Start by just showing up at the gym, or going for a walk, or eating a fruit or vegetable with each meal. Before you know it you’ll be running 10k’s and downing shots of wheat grass. Or not.

Look, I can and sometimes do eat a bag of BBQ potato chips for dinner, but I pair them with a side of carrot sticks and ranch dressing. It’s all about balance, people. Good luck with those resolutions! Save me a Stairmaster, would you?

TIP O’ THE WEEK: I never could get into V8. These Apple & Eve fruit & veggie juice boxes are MUCH tastier. I steal them from my son all the time.

1/25/10

The Saga of the Skinny Jeans

It’s all Oprah’s fault. And Rita Wilson’s. The other day I got sucked into one of those makeover shows. Who doesn’t love a good makeover? Mrs. Tom Hanks, looking ridiculously young and attractive for a 50-y.o., was coercing women to shed their shapeless, outdated excuses for fashion and step into 2010. According to Rita, there are 4 must-have items for women of every age: black leggings or skinny jeans, black boots, a sweater, and a scarf.

Personally, leggings give me flashbacks to the 6th grade. Technically, I believe those were stirrup pants I wore, but the look was the same--tight pants under a long top. Mine happened to be an oversize pink sweatshirt, which may or may not have been off-the-shoulder. Hey, it was the “Flashdance” era!

Then leggings came back in style when I was in college, because I distinctly remember a comment made by a snooty teacher during my semester abroad in France. This guy took one look at my outfit and asked if I was going to do “l’aerobic” after class. OK, dude. You’re the one in skintight WHITE JEANS with a neckerchief, but I’M the one committing the fashion faux pas? Whatever. French people.

Anyway, I would be thrilled to never encounter leggings again. But what do you know? They’re ba-aack. Along with their sinister cousin, the skinny jean. Or even WORSE, an evil hybrid: the denim legging!! Can we all just admit that this style does not flatter 99% of the population? Unless you’re an Olsen twin or a German supermodel, you can’t rock skintight pants.

At least, that’s what I thought. Until Rita and Oprah trotted out women of all ages, shapes, and sizes looking great in skinny jeans and boots. Well, damn. If they can do it...

I had the perfect excuse, too--date night. It’s Restaurant Week here in Baltimore, and my husband and I made reservations at a swanky Italian place downtown. Since we go out about as often as a solar eclipse, however, I don’t exactly have a lot of stylish outfits. In fact, my current wardrobe includes a pair of black velour sweatpants that I wore during both pregnancies. And wool clogs. My God, I look worse than some of those “befores” on Oprah!

So with this little nudge, I headed out to find some---yes---SKINNY JEANS. First stop: Old Navy. I might only wear these things once, so why pay more than I had to? I struck out there, and the next place I went. I was ready to call off the whole charade but I decided I’d try Loehmann’s just for kicks.

If you’re familiar with Loehmann’s, then you know that the dressing room is one, big, open, mirrored, fluorescent-lit nightmare. What was I DOING here?! Especially when I couldn’t even pull the first pair higher than my knees. Damn European sizes! But lo and behold, I found a pair that actually weren’t hideous. And they were $180 designer jeans!! (Originally. On sale for $24. Please, don’t you know me at all?!)

I took them home and got ready to go out. And by that I mean I attempted to apply eyeliner while keeping the baby from eating toilet paper, made up his bottle while my hair dried, and prepared Miles’ dinner while my husband got ready at his leisure, by himself. I swear, he takes longer than a cheerleading squad primping for homecoming.

So I put on my new jeans with some boots I already owned and a cool vintage velvet jacket I’ve had forever. Oprah and Rita would be so proud! Then I looked in the mirror and saw that I looked exactly like... this:


Not exactly the look I was going for. But hubs said I looked good. Plus, the sitter had arrived and we were late for our reservation. So off we went. Giddy-up!

CONTEST O’ THE WEEK: Win a trip for 2 to L.A. and/or tix to see the movie “Valentine’s Day.” Share your most romantic or funniest Valentine’s Day memory with Care.com. They say all entries should be rated PG ;) Contest ends Feb. 14.

1/21/10

10 Things that Make Me Happy

I don’t usually participate in contests or memes (mostly because I don’t even know what that word means), but I am today. Laura at The Life of a Tattooed Mom of 3 bestowed me with the Sweet Friend Award. First of all, how great is her blog’s name? Second, how nice is that? And third, this one sounds like fun: all I have to do is list 10 things that make me happy, then share this award. Ready? In no particular order:

1. My family. I know I bitch and moan a lot, but you want to know why I keep going even in the face of sleepless nights, other people’s poop, kid-inflicted injuries, no free time, and stains on everything I own? Because every single day my 3 boys (yes, even the 37-y.o. one) bring a smile to my face and a warm glow to my soul. Also, they give good hugs.

2. My house. Yes, it’s usually messy. And it could use more closet space. And a new kitchen. And one day, I hope it will be more Pottery Barn and less Fisher Price. But I love it, from the blue shutters to the painstakingly repainted walls to the sunny family room. It’s even got the white picket fence. Well, white-ISH.

3. Magazines. When I was a kid I read hand-me-down Elles and the NY Times Sunday magazine. Even my brother’s skateboarding mags and my mom’s Family Circle. Today, I’ve graduated to O and Real Simple. There’s just something about holding a shiny, new piece of reading material filled with interesting stories and pretty pictures. I am still grieving the loss of Wondertime, BTW.

4. Writing. Given #3, it’s probably no surprise that I grew up to write for magazines. Of course, just like Ugly Betty I soon learned there’s a lot of grunt-work and politics behind the glitz and glamour. Still, nothing compares to seeing your byline in print and your story on newsstands. I even like writing press releases and corporate copy. But the writing I really love is this stuff. From the heart, direct to my readers, right here on my little ol’ blog.

5. Exercising. I know. I lost you, didn’t I? I can’t help it; it’s in my blood. I grew up handing out water at my dad’s marathons and doing Kathy Smith workout videos with my mom. Gymnastics, swimming, tennis, kickboxing, and yoga mark the stages of my life. (There was even a brief step aerobics phase.) You may never see me training for a triathlon, but I cherish my 3-4x/week gym workouts. It’s one of the few times I get a break from my kids!

6. Reading. Sadly, this hobby has taken a big hit since I had kids. I simply don’t have the time or brain power to read entire novels anymore. I wish I did. But for now, my reading is limited to magazines, blogs, and the occasional anthology. It doesn’t really matter what, it’s the act of stepping outside your own little world and learning about other subjects.

7. Watching TV. What I’m doing instead of reading novels: watching Ugly Betty, Chuck, Modern Family, and Cougar Town. On DVR, of course. No time for commercials.

8. Traveling. Another thing that’s in my blood, thanks to my globe-trotting parents. And another thing that’s taken a hit since kids. (But hasn’t stopped entirely.) When you wake up in a new place, especially one that’s vastly different from your home, even routine daily activities like grocery shopping and riding the bus are an adventure.

9. Good food. Specifically, food that’s not cooked by me. I have had some spectacular meals in my life, like the pasta arrabiata at a restaurant in Paris, tapas at our favorite spot in Baltimore, and the salmon at my cousin’s rehearsal dinner in Yosemite, to name a few.

10. Music. Back in the day, my husband and I used to go to concerts fairly often. We both love music (though not always the same kind) and even now, a favorite activity is hooking up the iPod and watching the boys dance in the family room. I appreciate good music (plug for my favorite local radio station, 89.7 WTMD) and a good song can change my mood in an instant. There are too many to name, but one of my all-time favorites is Suzanne Vega’s “Gypsy.”

Wow, that was fun, huh? Now I’m passing the torch to a few of my favorite bloggers, in alpha order. (If you're not listed, you've already been tagged or I don't think you'll do it!)

Anchormommy
hooey!critic
The Dundee Writer
The McMommy Chronicles
Musings from Mt. Rogo
Personal Faves
Pineapple Babble
So Much to Say, So Little Time
Write Expressions
Writing the Waves of Motherhood

1/18/10

Leisure Time & How to Find It

This weekend was much like an ordinary weekend, except that I did something shocking and unprecedented in the past year: I READ THE PAPER. Sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee. And by “paper” I mean the actual newspaper, not the online version, and on the same day it was printed, no less. Of course by “entire” I mean the front page, the arts & travel sections, and the magazine.

And it was in the Washington Post Magazine that I read “The Test of Time,” by Brigid Schulte, in which the reporter – a busy working mom – tries to figure out where her time is going. I’ve included the link, but you may have to register, and given that many of you reading this are also busy working moms you probably don’t have time to read it all anyway.

So here’s the gist: Schulte meets with a so-called “time specialist” who claims that women have 30 hours of leisure time a week. “Oh, really?” says Schulte. “Prove it.” She keeps a time journal for a year and reports back to this guy to show her where all this supposed leisure time is amidst the work deadlines, cupcake baking, homework helping, cleaning, errands, and life in general.

But first – and this is the funny part – she has to track the guy down. The free-wheeling single professor is always off on vacation, at beer festivals and concerts. And this other expert she consults who tells her to slow down? Is single and childless and lives with his parents. Hmm, how DOES he find the time for those daily walks on the beach, I wonder?

But wait, it gets better. The time guy goes through the reporter’s time journal and highlights her leisure time. And do you know what he counts as leisure, people? Exercise, returning e-mails, listening to the news on the radio while getting her kids up for school, taking her son’s bike to the repair shop, and WAITING FOR 2 HRS. FOR A TOW TRUCK. Yes, that’s right. Inhaling exhaust fumes on a median strip is considered “me time.” Never seen that in a Calgon ad, have you?

Now, clearly, this guy’s definition of “leisure time” is suspect. I mean, OK, I’ll give him exercise, even though that’s pretty much mandatory for basic health. And MAYBE listening to the radio or reading the paper, even though as a journalist that could be considered part of your job. But errands? And waiting for a tow truck? Come ON.

In my opinion, true leisure time must meet these criteria:

* Longer than a 10-min. block. Five consecutive days of waiting in the school pick-up line does NOT equal an hour of uninterrupted relaxation.

* Some measure of control or choice involved. For this reason, an extra hour in the waiting room because the dentist is running behind does not count as leisure time.

* Cannot include basic hygiene. I just read another article that encouraged stressed people to take more bathroom breaks. First of all, that would imply that you are alone in the bathroom, which I rarely am. And second, sitting on a toilet – especially a public one – in no way replaces a coffee break on a sunny park bench. However, I will admit that sometimes a 6-minute shower does feel like a spa getaway in my world.

* Must be fun. Returning e-mails = leisure? OK, if you’re corresponding with a friend. But not if you’re telling the PTA you’ll bring a tossed salad to the teacher luncheon. And let’s take cooking. If you ENJOY whipping up a 5-course gourmet meal, then that’s leisure. But churning out 3 meals a day for your picky and ungrateful family because they have to eat is not the same thing.

It’s an interesting discussion, though, I’ll say that. I do agree that most people are WAY too busy these days and that many wear their busyness as a badge of honor. Not me. Do I enjoy being engaged and productive? Yes. Busy and stressed? No thanks.

The article gave me all the encouragement I needed to put on a movie for my son, let the baby play on the floor, and relax with my coffee and the paper. For about five minutes, that is. Then spit-up, snack time, and sibling squabbles were calling me once again. Oh well, my leisure time was nice while it lasted.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Did you know you don’t have to return e-mails the minute you get them? I know! Shocking but true. For some reason, even though I’ll happily let the phone go to voicemail, I can’t quite wrap my head around this. Maybe because I once worked for an internet company where people would instant-message you to say, “Did you get the e-mail I just sent?”

1/13/10

The Terrible Threes?

I don’t know what’s going on around here. My formerly sweet 3.5 y.o. son has morphed into a teenager overnight. Emotional outbursts, tears, name-calling, aggression, refusal to eat, streaking, night-waking – all out of nowhere! What the heck??

The other day, for instance, I picked him up from preschool like I always do. We were getting out of the car and I noticed a couple of empty juice boxes on the floor. (Nothing out of the ordinary, sadly.) “Let me grab those and throw them away,” I said casually. I picked them up and tossed them in the nearby garbage can.

Then Miles went nuts. And that’s putting it mildly. “NOOO!!!! I don’t WANT you to throw them away!” he screamed, tears of rage streaming down his cheeks. “NO, MAMA, NO!!” He then proceeded to kick the trash can until it fell over, spilling garbage onto the ground. What the … ?

Chalking it up to low blood sugar, I ignored him and carried the baby into the house. Miles followed, and seemed to have calmed down somewhat. I made his lunch and he began eating it silently. I poured him a cup of milk without him asking. (Normally, he begs for milk, chugs it immediately and then wants nothing to do with his food.) When he noticed this, he said, “Why did you give me milk?” Me: “Because I know you like it.”

Round 2 of losing his sh*t: “I don’t WANT milk!! I don’t wanna hafta pee!!” More screaming, more tears. I couldn’t keep myself from laughing. This child has never passed up milk in his LIFE. And as for the peeing? That’s our excuse for not giving him more milk right before bedtime. At this point, I’d lost my patience and sent him to his room. There was stomping and door-slamming and other assorted ugliness. I half-expected a pack of cigarettes to fall out of his pocket.

I repeat: what the HECK?! It’s not like this was just a bad day, either. There have been a handful of other uncharacteristic, out-of-the-blue outbursts recently. Even at school, which was a first.

My son used to be a champion eater, too – he once declared veggies his favorite food – but that’s all changed. Every meal is a fight to the death over every little bite of scrambled egg or chicken. He would consume an all-popcorn, fruit, and milk diet if we let him. But protein? Forget it.

I know you’re not “supposed” to battle with kids over food, but I see no way around it. The “let him starve, he’ll learn” philosophy leads only to meltdowns and more stress for me. And yes, I realize that it’s a power struggle, but I think I do a pretty good job of offering my son choices and letting him have SOME autonomy.

And don’t even get me STARTED on the clothes. When he’s not stripping naked and running around the house, he’s having a hissy fit over a certain pair of jeans or an uncool shirt. (Basically, anything without a truck, dinosaur, or superhero on it.) The kid would live in his pajamas if left to his own devices. We may have a budding Hugh Hefner on our hands.

Plenty of people warned me that the threes are even worse than the so-called “terrible twos.” (Thanks, people. Helpful.) But I don’t know what you’re supposed to do about it. Fortunately, there are glimpses of Miles’ former personality in between all the drama. When he snuggles up next to me to read a book, say, or kisses his baby brother on the head. Other times I catch myself thinking, “Who is this pajama-clad punk and what have you done with my son?”

PIC O’ THE WEEK: “Check out my new choppers. And, yeah, I know how to use ’em. Mommy’s got the teeth marks to prove it.”

1/11/10

Goodwill Toward Moms

I was sweating bullets at the mall today as I wheeled around my barefoot baby -- in the middle of winter!! But what can I do? The child will NOT keep socks or shoes on his feet, people! So I balled them up and stuffed them in my pocket so I wouldn't lose them. But I was bracing myself for a smack-down from the parenting police.

I don't know why, though. Despite constantly hearing about people being judgmental and rude to mothers for everything from how they dress their babies to what they feed them, this actually hasn't happened to me (much).

In fact, if anyone has been judgmental and intrusive it's ME. Almost, one time... Read more about mom-bashing vs. goodwill toward moms at TheBump.com:

1/8/10

Off and Running

As little as 2 days ago, we had 3 bipeds in the house and 2 quadrupeds – the dog and the baby. Now, the baby is one of us -- HE’S WALKING!

I am equal parts proud and horrified. See, he’s only 10 mos. old. My older son walked at 10 mos., too. And went from walking to running practically overnight. Well, you know what comes after walking, right? FALLING. And tripping and split lips and chipped teeth and visits to the ER. Oh, joy.

So here’s how it happened: we were playing in the family room, and Riley pulled himself up on his big brother’s Bat Cave. (You know, Batman’s secret hideout? Duh.) Before I knew what was happening, the baby turned around and took 3 quick steps towards me. I started shrieking and Miles starting laughing and Riley looked confused and pleased at the same time.

We then spent the next 20 min. trying to make him walk again so I could capture it on film, which resulted in tears and hysterics and jealousy. Nice job, mom. Well, what do you want from me? It’s exciting stuff! Anyone who thinks they won’t be as thrilled about Baby #2’s milestones is wrong.

Besides, I missed Miles’ first steps. At the time it was traumatic, but like any good writer I turned that trauma into material. The result was an essay that appeared in A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers. Take that, mommy guilt!

I have to admit, I haven’t been quite as vigilant about recording my second child’s milestones. He rolled over at 4 mos. Or maybe 5 mos.? Started crawling at... um... Well, I KNOW he got his first tooth at 7 mos. Or was that Miles? First food? I’m going to go with sweet potatoes. Yeah, that sounds right.

Anyway, back to the walking. Seeing a tiny, bowlegged person in footy pajamas teetering around on 2 legs is an interesting experience. At first it seems strange and wrong, like a cat using a toilet. But at the same time, it’s adorable and hilarious – you can’t witness it and NOT crack a smile. And when you see how pleased with himself the baby is, it’s even better. Look, ma, no hands!

Here, just see for yourself:
video

And from another angle:
video

Admit it, it’s exciting. And it proves that my baby’s a genius. It took cavemen, what? Hundreds, thousands of years to learn to walk upright? (Hey, I took biology a loooong time ago.) Yet MY son mastered the skill in a mere 10 mos. Hmm, I wonder if cavemen had to worry about chipped teeth?

QUOTE O’ THE WEEK: My 3 ½ y.o. son Miles doesn’t like when I call him “cute.” He prefers “cool” or “awesome.” However, he recently made an exception: “I’m cute when I’m in my jammies and cool when I’m in my clothes, Mama.”

1/5/10

46 Inches of Fun

How ridiculous is this? Inside this box is a television approximately 9 times the size of my baby. It’s like he’s sitting in front of a movie screen. Does anyone really NEED a TV that big? If you ask my husband, the answer is “Hell, yes!”

He’s been wanting a flat-screen TV for years. He’s researched them relentlessly, pored over back issues of Consumer Reports, and memorized the user reviews on Amazon.com. Why he never pulled the trigger, I don’t know. Maybe because we always had a more pressing need come up, like diapers or tuition?

Anyway, this Christmas a few of our family members chipped in to help us him get the TV. We actually got into a heated debate when my parents were here over how big was too big. It should be obvious who was on the side of “the bigger the better.” While my mom and I argued that just because a screen the size of a Buick only costs $100 more, doesn’t mean you should get it. I mean, if I wanted to look at George Clooney’s pores in actual size, I’d go to the movies.

Except we rarely do anymore now that we have 2 little ones at home. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve become a huge TV addict since I had kids. So now at least I can watch all that trash on a good TV, right?

Well, you and I both know what’s going to happen. “Ugly Betty” and “Design on a Dime” will never light up that 46-in. screen. It’s going to be nonstop football and basketball and baseball and God knows what other sports. I think my husband would even watch curling on a flat-screen TV.

Of course, he’ll have to duke it out with our son first. I can just see them going head-to-head, locked in combat over the remote:

“I wanna watch Diego!”

“But the Patriots are on.”

“No Patriots, I want Wall-E!!”

Actually, I know exactly how my husband will solve that problem. The other day I walked into the family room to find C. watching the game on the big TV, Miles watching a movie on the portable DVD player, and the laptop open. Oh, and C. was doing something on his phone. Think we have enough screens for everyone??

I’m not even going to touch the whole debate over whether TV or video games are evil and how much is too much and whether Spongebob is turning kids’ brains into marshmallows. That’s for every parent to decide for themselves. (Although, if you’re anti-TV, get back to me after a couple 12-hour days home alone with a toddler. Or months of sleepless nights with a newborn. Trust me: you will not feel like cracking open “War and Peace.”)

The first order of business, though, will be anchoring this beast to the wall. I’m less concerned with rotting my kids’ brains than with them getting squashed like bugs under a Stonehenge-sized television.

PICKS O’ THE WEEK: I don’t usually like the shows that everyone else likes, but most people agree that “Modern Family” is hilarious. (Bit o’ trivia: Julie Bowen is from Baltimore.) I’m also enjoying “Cougar Town,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Better Off Ted.” Can’t WAIT till the “Chuck” season premiere on Sunday!

1/3/10

New Year's, Post-Baby

You'd think I’d know better by now. New Year’s Eve is overrated at best, and an expensive, drunken disaster at worst. I’ve spent many a December 31st carousing with strangers and shivering on street corners waiting for cabs, and many a January 1st hung-over and hating life. And yet, the next year I’d buy a new outfit and do it all again.

Until I had a baby, that is. Just try finding a sitter on New Year’s. Go on, I dare you. Not to mention that hangovers and 3 a.m. feedings don’t go hand in hand.

So for the past few years, we’ve gotten together with a group of friends and stayed in. No cabs or reservations necessary, and we can bring the kids along. Sounds good in theory, right? Here’s the reality...

4 p.m., New Year’s Eve: Miles has been cranky all day. Riley is teething and whiny, and no one napped. The dog needs to be dropped off at the neighbors’, C. has to go to the liquor store, and I have to pack overnight bags for 3 people. Also, I have nothing to wear.

5 p.m.: We leave the house half an hour late. Everyone’s still cranky. We should really turn around and go home. This was a bad idea.

5:30 p.m.: Crap, I forgot to pack toothbrushes. Pit-stop at CVS.

6:15 p.m.: We arrive at our friends’ house. We haven’t seen them in ages and their kids have gotten so big! This is going to be fun.

7 p.m.: Wow, the kids are all getting along great, and they all ate their dinner. Things are off to a good start.

7:30 p.m.: The baby goes down without a fight. What were we worried about? Piece of cake!

8 p.m.: Our other friends arrive and our hostess puts out the delicious appetizers. The dads are wrangling the older kids into bed. Par-TAY!

8:30 p.m.: The children are nestled all snug in their beds, and the grown-ups are sipping prosecco and feasting on crab dip and chicken skewers. So glad we decided to come.

9 p.m.: Our other friends call with bad news – their sitter stood them up. Can you imagine?! The nerve! The mood grows somber as we mourn for our friends. Should they wake up their kids and bring them over? Should we Skype them?

9:30 p.m.: Dinner is served. Our hostess has outdone herself; the food is superb. The stories, jokes, and cocktails are flowing. I feel like my old, child-free self.

10 p.m.: “I hear somebody. Is that a kid?” It is. Ours. Miles can’t sleep because we’re being too noisy downstairs. C. goes up to tuck him back in.

11:30 p.m.: Almost midnight already? I can’t believe I stayed up this late! I don’t even feel tired.

12 midnight: Happy New Year! I need to sit down. And I better switch to water.

1 a.m.: Sooo tired... Is it lame if I’m the first one to call it a night? Maybe I can last a little bit longer...

1:30 a.m.: Our friends call a cab. Thank GOD. Now I can go to bed.

1:45 a.m.: Miles wakes up as we crawl into bed. Crap. “Go back to sleep, sweetie, it’s still nighttime.”

2 a.m.: I’m sweating and someone’s snoring. Please, please, let me fall asleep. I only have a few hours till the baby’s up.

5 a.m., New Year's Day: Riley wakes up crying. Are you KIDDING me?! I lunge for him before he wakes the whole house.

5:30 a.m.: After a half hour of the baby kicking us and clawing at our faces, C. gets up and takes him downstairs. Miles wakes up and gets into bed with me, fully awake. I feel the room spinning. This was a TERRIBLE idea.

6:30 a.m.: C. bursts in, “We have to leave NOW. This is ridiculous!” Unlike the baby, he is not well-rested and brimming with energy. I doubt I could find my own feet right now, let alone drive a car. We retreat to the basement, which is filled with every toy known to man including a life-size dinosaur.

7:30 a.m.: I am in HELL. Miles is dumping out every box of blocks he can find, while the baby finds every single toy that emits loud, electronic noises. Meanwhile, our friends and their kids sleep peacefully upstairs. What is WRONG with my kids?! How did they get the pre-dawn waking gene? And also the loud-as-hell gene??

8:30 a.m.: Our friends are up. There is coffee. Life is good.

Once back home, we spent the next 2 days recovering. I realized it’s not the staying up late part that’s hard for those of us with small children. It’s the getting up early and plunging head-first into the chaos regardless of how much you drank or how little you slept part that kills you.

Next year? I’m staying home and going to bed at 10. And watch -- that will be the year my kids sleep in. Happy New Year!

FLICK O’ THE WEEK: Looking for a cute, quirky romantic comedy? Rent “I’m Reed Fish.” I’m currently intrigued by the actress Schuyler Fisk, who it turns out is Sissy Spacek’s daughter and quite a talented young singer/songwriter. Listen to “From Where I’m Standing” on her MySpace page.

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