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Thursday, September 29, 2011

“Little, party of 4” or learn to live with what you’ve got…

So we are not having anymore children, and I’m very sad about that on some level. Zaiki are the first and the last. You know, there are people to whom everything is easy – they seem to breeze through life blissfully unaware of struggles, efforts or disappointments. And then there are the rest of us.

To me, nothing was ever easy. All I have now I had to fight and work hard for. Even with pregnancy fate/God/something didn’t give me a break – I had to fight to get pregnant and then to keep it - being on bedrest for 5 months was not fun. When the girls were born, I was hoping that at least they’ll be easy-going and mellow, because Kevin and I deserved a break. No such luck. The first few months were hell as we battled constant crying and my postpartum depression. The girls have what my pediatrician calls “high-need” temperament and I have a feeling we are in for an interesting ride once puberty hits.

As for other aspects of our life, for the past year our family had been in the middle of a very long and expensive renovation project. Since we live in NJ and are tied here for the next 10 years because of Kevin’s job, and the house market is insane for a middle-class family, we’ve lived in the same small-ish house for almost a decade.

When the girls were born, we tried to sell, and had an offer that fell through a month away from closing partially due to our realtor’s shenanigans (you know who you are, Millenium 21 Realty!). The house was bursting at the seams: us, my mom staying for 6 months, two babies, squirrels in the attic, a miniscule kitchen with no dishwasher – it was a Survivor Island.  

Then we decided to build an addition. Refinancing was its own special hell, as well as trying to find a reliable contractor. We finally did: John Scutti from Scutti Construction, my kudos and gratitude to you!

Due to budget constraints we opted to do some of the work ourselves (I say we but really mean Kevin, who is gifted and handy. There isn’t much on the home front he can’t fix or build). I excel in drinking wine, painting and running. I’m also a good baker (my cupcakes are LEGENDARY), but home improvement is not my forte. I don’t even know how to work a screwdriver…But I digress.

So, moving into a one-bedroom with two one-year olds, paying rent on top of mortgage, Kevin, who was working all hours to finish the house, never being around made 2011 winter a rather bleak time for me.

The day we moved back into the house both girls got stomach flu and threw up all over our couch and everything they had. The washing machine was not hooked up yet, so that was an interesting three days. Then the kitchen cabinets got delayed. For two months.  

Now we are almost done with some much needed and appreciated help from various friends – we have floors, walls, and heat. The kitchen (with a dishwasher) is in place, and our new leather couch has been delivered yesterday and got zaiki’s approval.

Two days ago we moved our big girls into a bigger room and transitioned them into big-girl beds. Sonya fell out of hers the first night. Last night thunder and lighting woke up Maya and she cried. They have been super excited and unmanageable, not going to sleep till 10:30, which in zaiki-time is like 2 in the morning. But I know that they’ll get used to their new room and get back on the sleeping schedule.  

We had very difficult and draining three years. We are getting back on track, things are getting easier (as much as they can ever get for us). We are settling down. So even though, when I watch my daughters grow up oh so quickly, it makes me want to add another little soul to our family, we are not going to do that.

I don’t want another upheaval, stress, sleepless nights and additional financial strain. I’m tired. I know Kevin is tired too. Our plate is full.

I wish it was easier, I wish I had a better job, more money, more family support and people who were involved in our lives, but it’s just not in the cards.

So our family is complete. But it’s not so bad – zaiki are endlessly entertaining, Kevin is handy and fun to hang with, and I bake. I try to think of what lies ahead: Halloweens, costumes, family trips, New Years, snows, summers, first loves and much more. I think I am content with what I was given in life as I try to make the best of it.J

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Zaikiliciousness :)

So I think that my girls embody sisterly love. See for yourself and dare to disagree :)
And Mama:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

zaiki and co.: Toddler entertainment: Disney, Why we are afraid o...

zaiki and co.: Toddler entertainment: Disney, Why we are afraid o...:  borrowed from /wildlifeweb  As zaiki get older, I find them more and more entertaining. It’s fun to watc...

Toddler entertainment: Disney, Why we are afraid of raccoons, and How Laurie Berkner saves rainy days

borrowed from

As zaiki get older, I find them more and more entertaining. It’s fun to watch their little brains work and make connections between reality and make-belief.  

Little Sonya for the past month has been afraid of raccoons. In the mornings, her first words to me usually were “mama, raccoons are coming”; “raccoons are going to eat me” and other pleasant variations. Then she’d run outside and scream at the birds: “watch out birds, raccoons are coming”. Raccoons became so scary they overshadowed our other nemesis, The Giant Oatio, who was “coming to eat my face”, according to Maya.(WTF, right? Still can’t figure this one out, if you have any suggestions, please comment below).

Since raccoons that I’ve met in my travels across children’s literature are usually cute and cuddly, they are pretty random creatures to be afraid of. We just chucked it up to Sonya being Sonya, but the stories of raccoon atrocities and warnings to the birds persisted. Then, one busy weekend morning,  I put on Disney’s “Lion King”…

As it got to the part where two stupid lion cubs are gallivanting across the elephant cemetery, Sonya started yelling for me to come sit with her because raccoons were coming. Did you figure it out yet? She meant hyenas, since wonderful Disney animation gave them dark patches around the eyes that were akin to a raccoon’s mask… And the aforementioned hyenas catch the poor Toucan bird and stick him in a fire…See the logic? Isn’t it so creative, imaginative and overall amazing that she was able to make the connection?

So I am holding Disney responsible for my children’s disrupted sleep and foundless fears. And my babysitter for showing them a Disney “Halloween” compellation DVD that included the scary snippet in the first place.

On the other, anti-Disney end of the spectrum, we have such children’s entertainment as Yo Gabba Gabba, Caillou, Jack’s Big Music Show. (I’m not mentioning Dora and Wonder Pets because I hate them and their whiney voices. I hope that The Giant Oatio eats their faces).

Jack’s Big Music Show introduced us to our favorite singer, second only to Mama – Laurie Berkner. Both Kevin and I agree that she is the best thing that happened to children’s music since the Wiggles. She is actually listenable. And funny. And a Rutgers grad (just like me!!!!). Her videos are bright and colorful, they don’t overstimulate zaiki, they enjoy dancing and singing her songs, like “I’m not perfect”, “Party Day” and “5 Days Old”.

It’s light entertainment and holds their attention on cold or rainy days while I try to have breakfast or get something done. And I fully expect to get a free family pass and a backstage meet-and-greet after this shameless promo entry.

Now Sonya doesn't mentions raccoons anymore, only if we happen to be outside in the dark. The Giant Oatio doesn’t appear in the repertoire either. Waiting for other fears to raise their heads as zaiki keep exploring the world around them and expanding their worldview. A giant potty, or a tooth brush maybe? Broccoli? 

Meanwhile, my strategy for TV and DVD viewing is this: about 2 hours a day total, more Laurie Berkner and less Disney. J

Sunday, September 18, 2011

zaiki and co.: Foot neuroma, mousetraps and other injuries

zaiki and co.: Foot neuroma, mousetraps and other injuries: This week marks the start of something remarkable, wonderful that I never thought I could experience again: I am back to running! Yay! Afte...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Foot neuroma, mousetraps and other injuries

This week marks the start of something remarkable, wonderful that I never thought I could experience again: I am back to running! Yay! After two months of dealing with painful and annoying neuroma in my right foot, I’ve been running again. I’m slow, my endurance is shot and I need new running shoes, but at least I’m doing it.

The sordid tale began with wearing uncomfortable shoes to work, coupled with running in Brooks Green Silence that don’t support my natural foot strike, forcing me to land repeatedly on the ball of my feet. Great shoes though, wide, comfortable and super-super light. I did half-marathon in them this spring, and had no foot issues whatsoever up to that point. As my weekly mileage increased, I noticed repeated numbness and pain in the ball of my foot. After about a month of limping, I went to highly, ahem, capable foot doctor who waived a chicken bone took x-rays of my foot and told me to stop running for now. That was in June. After constant whining on my part, repeated visits, co-pays and two cortisone shots, I ordered orthotic inserts. Still waiting to receive the left one. In the meantime, the pain gradually went away. I have to be careful, take it slow (running with the girls in the stroller has been great, it adds to endurance training and keeps me from sprinting) and ice my foot after running.

These are the treatment options should the pain persist or return:

1. Orthopedic inserts (can’t speak to them, don’t have them yet)

2. Cortisone shots – actually did wonders for me, although the process is a little freaky

3. Should the orthotics provide no long-term relief, alcohol injections into the nerve to destroy it. Those actually been shown to have high success rate (80%), but most insurance plans don’t cover them, check with your doctor

4. Last, but not least – nerve removal. Done as an outpatient procedure, the side effect is permanent numbness of the affected toes. Not fun but covered by most insurance plans (gotta love American healthcare, no?). I had a nerve-numbing agent injected into my foot, and not being able to feel two toes out of five is a bit unsettling…

In case you are wondering, foot neuroma is characterized by feeling of numbness, “pebble”-feeling in the bottom of the foot, and tingling. It is worse in the mornings, and wearing narrow shoes or running shoes with minimal support can trigger it. Initially, I had to wear an orthopedic boot for a month, which helped to reduce the pressure on the spot.

In other reassuring news – Sonya’s finger got caught in the mousetrap over the weekend. Because you know, I don’t feed my kids so they have to scavenge for food.

A cautionary tale for all cookie-lovers:
Once upon a time, Kevin and I decided to do an addition on our house. The construction dislodged a family of mice that was determined to have its revenge. With floors being semi-finished, there was a small hole around the radiator pipe. Little nimble mice kept climbing through it inside, eating all our food and pooping. In retaliation, we set up a mousetrap. Since (based on previous experiences) even our mice are foodies, they refused to eat usual mouse-food (like peanut butter, cheese, etc), we bated it with Nilla Waifer cookie. It worked, one visitor met his/her untimely death, and we bated the trap again for good measure. So it sat there, silent yet deadly, for a day…

Meanwhile Saturday was upon us. Maya and Sonya stole the box of Nilla Waifers from the kitchen counter and ate them all. Then they decided to see if anything was left on the floor (sure, the most logical place to look for food!). Sonya came across the mousetrap, rejoiced to see the cookie in it, but nothing is free in this cruel-cruel world as we all know. You can imagine the rest. As I held sobbing Sonya in my lap with an ice pack around her finger, Maya wisely mentioned “sissy, no touching! It was mouse’s present!”. J

Coming soon: why we are afraid of raccoons or how Disney stole my children’s sleep, and why we like Laurie Berkner.          

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Two Ps of (semi) successful potty training


 Ladies and gentlemen, the seemingly impossible had happened: no, no aliens have landed; no, the job market in the US still sucks and there are no confirmed white unicorn sightings anywhere.

But this is something monstrously important for our little corner of the world: our zaiki are PEEING ON THE POTTY!!!!

For someone who is childless, this may not a big deal and they may get grossed out by further reading as it discusses toilet habits of toddlers. But people with small children understand the hugeness of this event. I know that the road to diaper-free existence is not over by all means, but this is a grand first step.

Zaiki had been refusing to sit on the potty for months. I tried bribery, which didn’t work at all, then I let it go, tried again, lamenting that our girls will be the only high schoolers in diapers. You may have read my whining in the earlier post on this blog. And last week, it happened: both asked to go to the bathroom. What preceded this was hard work of yours truly, Kevin and our babysitter.

Since I’m a smugly confident potty-training expert now, let me walk you through this step by step:

It all started two weeks ago when my babysitter took zaiki to the store and bought them pretty panties with princesses and Dora. Naturally, the girls wanted to wear them. We started wearing them over the diaper. Then without the diaper for 20 minutes. Told them they are not allowed to pee on the princess/Dora/whatever because it will make her sad. Then we would put them on the potty every 30 minutes (my sitter actually had a kitchen timer set) for 5 minutes.

After about 3 days they started to recognize the urge to go. This sucky rainy Labor Day weekend I took the diapers off completely while we were at home. After Maya got praises and hugs for going, Sonya got huffy and had to do exactly the same thing “sissy” was doing, which was sitting on the potty with her bare butt and picking her nose. Flushing the toilet is a privilege (yes, 2-year olds are extremely easy to amuse) so both were trying to outpee each other. This sibling rivalry worked to our advantage, and for the past week we hardly used diapers at all: only for naps and car rides. Of course, we had a couple of accidents, two pairs of underwear had to be thrown away, but that’s all small stuff that will correct itself with time.

So these are my two Ps of potty training: Peer pressure and Pretty panties.  I may get two letter Ps fancily intertwined tattooed on my back, this is how happy I am about this. J

Friday, September 2, 2011

I am a soft-bellied sissy, or how no power really really sucks

Recent hurricane Irene swept over New Jersey, and our family was of the thousands of people affected by it.

In a true slacker fashion, we didn’t bother to prep much: the day before the storm Kevin bought some candles, lazily scouted the stores for lantern batteries, found none of course. We snickered over panicky squirrel people stocking up on generators, batteries and ramen noodles as we sipped wine while preparing for my 26th birthday party. Once the storm was over and we had electricity Sunday morning, we were certain that the hurricane was grossly overhyped.

Then, around lunchtime, the power went out. We waited, and waited… Went out for a walk, saw carnage and devastation as Raritan river seeped into the town. It got dark, we lit candles. Packed the fridge with ice. And waited.

By Monday night I was hyperventilating and the food in the fridge was starting to come alive. We frantically cooked everything to prevent it from growing brains and taking over our house. Zaiki asked for TV but were content with “it’s broken”. We showered at a friends’ house, like homeless people. Maya screamed “I want light!” while she went to bed.

By Tuesday night we acquired a generator. And then the lights came back.

This little August adventure got me thinking of how good do we really have it and all the comforts that surround modern men. And how the electric companies like PSE&G have so much power over us. And how I am not at all tough and how much I love my hair dryer, among other things. And how the hygiene and cleanliness of pre-electricity society were not at all on the modern level. Candles definitely don’t provide adequate lighting, and if you can’t see dirt, no need to clean it, right?

One thing I found surprising was how easy it was to entertain the zaiki. I guess we are doing something right, since they were pretty content throughout the ordeal. No TV withdrawals, no really big tantrums. I think (and if you ask Kevin, I’m sure he’ll agree) that I handled the power outage far worse than the girls did. Now we have a generator. J