Friday, May 29, 2015

5QFriday - 3 Under 3, On the Other Side of the World...

I call one of my best friends, Leslie, my "most normal friend." She is smart, kind, generous, down-to-Earth and hilarious.
Despite being so normal, she has had one of the craziest parenthood journeys of anyone I know. Her becoming a mom started with months without her husband, who remained in Dubai at the end of her pregnancy with her twins, and continued on through the... (ummm... accident? No.... ) surprise of finding out about their third when the twins were just 1 1/2. Ever so cool, and with an amazing strength, this girl has remained her same, sane self.

In honor of her annual Summer return to the States next week, I'm excited to share her interview today for 5QFriday!

  1. I've always called you my most normal friend. You always seem level-headed and have remained (mostly!) calm throughout your unique and at times challenging parenthood journey. What is your secret?! It must be because I am a middle child - aren't we supposed to be well-adjusted??!! In all seriousness, it has been quite a journey so far. I found out I was pregnant in 2011 with twins - the journey of getting pregnant was long and tedious so I was thrilled albeit SO nervous as I didn't know anyone at the time who had twins. I delivered my two bundles of joy in October 2011, 6 weeks before they were due - we spent the first part of their life in the NICU but soon came home from the hospital and my parenting journey began. I don't remember the first year - literally. It was a blur. Two babies crying at night, two baths, two diaper changes, etc - life was hard but I wouldn't have changed anything! I should also mention that we were (and still are) living abroad during this time. Then when the twins were 18 months I got pregnant with my 3rd (this came as a SHOCK) and had him last year in April 2014. He's my little miracle child with the chillest personality and a smile that melts your heart every time. My secret?? I swear, I don't have one in particular...BUT make sure to 1) Take everyday one day at a time - I know this is so cliche but I swear it's TRUE. 2) Don't have guilt that you lost your patience (although a difficult one to achieve!) 3) Enjoy them at the age that they are - Don't wish for them to be older or younger - each age is precious. 4) Laugh and be silly - kids are damn funny! 5) Pour a drink at wine o'clock (sometimes before or sometimes after) - it definitely eases the pain of the dreaded dinner/bed/bath trio. OHH and how could I forget, be flexible. Schedules are great and all my kids are on one, BUT life throws in unexpected twists and turns so just "go with it" sometimes!
  2. You live extremely far from most family and friends - how have you made sure to stay connected and that your kids stay connected while living abroad?  When we moved to Dubai 6 years ago, the plan was to stay for only 3 years.....apparently, that's what everyone says and then they get sucked into the lifestyle, weather and daily grind. We do love Dubai and always say that we would make this city a lifetime one if it was not so FAR away. It only takes 12 hours by airplane with 3 children and days of anxiety prior to the flight to get home :) I am happy to say that I do keep in touch with alot of friends from home quite regularly. We pencil in phone calls (with the dreaded 8 hour time difference), facetime and of course text! With modern technology it has made it much easier to stay connected. Also, we travel home to South Jersey in the summer time and make ourselves at home at my parents house for 10 weeks - this is quality family and friend time. I try really hard to make time for all friends, even for a drink at the bar, an exercise class or a coffee. 
  3. What is your best advice for twin moms?  If all else fails, make sure to keep those two children in sync and on the SAME SCHEDULE ALWAYS! When Sydney and Hayden were babies, I would wake them up to feed at the same time, eat at the same time and they would even be tired and take naps at the same time. Of course, everyday was not certainly loves to sleep more than the other and one twin is always the one trying to control the daily schedule. However, if you can accomplish this you will get your "break" in the day when they nap, clean up from meals only once and be able to start sipping your wine in the evening when BOTH heads hit the pillow at the same time! 
  4. What is your best advice for moms of three under three (you crazy @$$ people!!)?  Deep breaths, patience but most importantly trying to find some time to yourself so that you can handle the daily challenges that WILL arise. My twins were only 18 months when I found out I was pregnant with my third - the tears that ensued were 50 % happiness and 50% How the ^&*^)* will I handle three under three?! To my surprise, it has been amazing, although super challenging. I try really hard to schedule some "me" time during the week when I can swing it between the three kids, working part-time and of course, taking care of my 4th child, my husband. I am an avid exerciser and often spend my "me" time exercising. It has been my way to clear my head and prepare for the daily challenges that certainly come my way. It also gives me a sense of peace and gives me some time to reflect on the kids and life in general! 
  5. What are your best moments / memories as a mom?  One of the reasons we moved to Dubai was because my husband and I love to travel. In Dubai, Marc gets 6 weeks of vacation (I know it's not fair!) and we always use that time to travel. We haven't stopped traveling now that we have the three children - I dread the packing/unpacking and especially the flights but I love once we land and get to explore different parts of this world with our three munchkins. We went to South Africa in December and the twins still talk about the animals on that trip - they explored nature and took time away from toys. We believe that traveling will make them more open to different cultures, be more tolerant of change (flexible) and allow them to see this beautiful world that we live in. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A glimpse at my past two weeks...

We all survived my nanny's vacation! It was touch and go at times, and included one baby illness, one newly-implemented behavior system and lots and lots of laundry and &$@"&$? bottle washing... but we lived!

It may sound crazy to brag about surviving twelve days, but to me it was a daunting task and one that I'm proud of completing. Since the girls were born, I've been a working mom - thriving off of my professional life and accomplishments, adult activities and conversations without simultaneously keeping an eye on a baby, and recognizing that I am simply a better and more patient mother when I take that time for myself. I know women who are the exact opposite - they thrive off of being home with their children, can't get enough of planning classes, meals and playdates and would love to never set foot in an office setting again. And I know some that are a mix of both. I have always had Fridays with my girls and never hid the fact that they were my most difficult days. I attributed it to dipping in and out of being their primary caregiver, but now know that it's just a challenge for me no matter what!

Case in point: I'm not totally proud of how these weeks appeared to others at times. I certainly lost my temper, missed more than a day or two of showers, and let Lila sleep through music class, her only obligation for the week. I was the sole mother to show up to a "nanny birthday party" for a child in our building. I was dripping sweat when we arrived at the park, with a crying preschooler (sad because we were late) who barely listened to me while we were there, bullied me into giving her a cupcake AND pizza AND a lollipop AND JUUUUUICE, and who scooted around the park with reckless abandon. Not to mention a baby who thankfully fed herself her bottle in her stroller, parked strategically close to some of the nannies who I knew would keep an extra eye on her while I attempted to chase Rebecca down. And those nannies laughed openly at me, as I self-deprecatingly gave them the countdown until Dina was back (oh yeah, this was on Day 1). We lost a bottle, two other bottle caps and a lovey. We got dressed straight out of the (CLEAN!) laundry basket.

But... I also mastered getting both girls into the tub at the same time. I learned Lila's new mannerisms and cues and cries. I watched her crawl, feed herself and almost master holding her bottle. I watched Rebecca run carefree at three different playgrounds after school, remembered both of her extracurricular classes and got her there on time, and recruited her to be my special "Helper Buddy" with her little sister. And in stolen moments of Lila's naps while Rebecca was in school, I made connections with another site looking to feature my writing, planned a non-profit fundraising event, published an article on GoodHousekeeping's site and kicked off 5QFriday here (then I skipped the second. To be continued this week...).

Of course I don't doubt that I could be a stay-at-home mother all the time, but it has never been what I choose to do. Even now, piecing together freelance positions vs. my full-time previous job, I know that my personal fulfillment is greater if I have the time to dedicate myself to those other jobs as well as that of being a mother... and the past almost two weeks proved that. It also reinforced two other things that I have always known - choosing to stay home IS A JOB. A thankless one, an at times exhausting one and always such an important one. And? Neither is right, nor better than the other. Both have benefits, challenges, pros and cons. Both are vital roles in communities and societies and the fact that anyone would ever pit "Mommy Wars" against each other bewilders me. Each can and should help support the other. And every family, couple and woman can decide which suits her best.

Kudos to all my mommy friends who watched me stumble through the past two weeks,  lending hands or eyes when needed, and to my back-up baby sitter who came on Tuesday to help a mama out. It takes a village...

Friday, May 15, 2015


Welcome to Real Life, Real Laughter's first-ever 5QFriday! Every week I am going to post a five-question-long interview with someone new, to hopefully showcase some different perspectives. Some questions will be the same each week, and a couple will highlight why I've chosen that person...

Today's 5QFriday is with my mom! Welcome to Real Life, Real Laughter, Denise Weiner! Who better to kick off the series on my blog about motherhood?
My mom and my older daughter, Rebecca, on our annual family summer vacation

 As a mom raising two daughters in the late 70's and 80's, I knew she'd have a different perspective than all the moms I know raising kids now. So here are her answers for 5QFriday!

  1. What are the biggest differences you notice between when you were raising us and watching us raise our children now? Raising kids in the late 70s/80s meant the kids could be kids. They played outside alone, rode bikes through the neighborhood and beyond, ate food without reviewing nutrition information on food labels, did homework on their own and we did not feel compelled to schedule activities for them 24/7.
  2. Best moments / memories as a mom? The best moments as a mom are watching your children become their own person; appreciate each moment and milestone... It all passes in the blink of an eye!
  3. What parenting "cliche" resonates the most with you? "Give your kids roots and wings"
  4. Worst thing a parenting could do? Do not try and control the destiny of your children. Each one beats to his/her own drum and it is not up to us to shape their lives!
  5. Your best advice for moms today? Cherish each moment and realize the honor and privilege you have been given to watch your children grow and be part of their lives.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

In Honor of our Nanny

Our nanny, Dina, is on vacation starting today, for the next 12 days. This is the longest we will have been without her in four years! She is - and I am in no way exaggerating or demeaning my husband or children - the best thing that ever happened to my family. Over the years I have frequently heard from my neighborhood spies (aka mommy friends) how incredible she is with my daughters, and I've been fortunate enough to have witnessed it time and time again, but even more so since beginning maternity leave in August and being home more now due to my career changes.

When we just had Rebecca, I worked M-Th, as did Dina. On Fridays I was home, and those days exhausted me to no end. I have SO much respect for stay-at-home moms and nannies just from my 20% schedule as one! Fridays are still my craziest day, as we've kept Dina's schedule the same despite mine changing, but I also absolutely cherish them - our "Mommy Days" are precious to all of us (I think...). And on Monday morning when I hear her key in the lock? I won't deny that there is ALWAYS a sigh of relief.

I try to model myself after Dina. It is not going well. She is an endless fountain of patience, love and kindness - I am not. She is an amazing cook - I am definitely not. She is neat, organized and never forgetful - I am none of those things. And she is sweet, playful, funny and so nurturing to my children - those I've got (phew!).

Rebecca is - and I am not overestimating this either - OBSESSED with Dina. She will pretty much only eat the food that Dina cooks. She lists her in the members of our family. She calls me Dina before saying Mommy sometimes. And when she is sick, or falls down, or cries about generally any (and every)thing, it is Dina she wants, and I have to say, "I know, love, she'll be back Monday...".

There are times when those things hurt. I want to be the one that comforts her most, who she cries for in the middle of the night (actually I don't want her to cry for anyone in the middle of the night, just sleep, but if she's going to want someone, I'd prefer it be me). And I want to be the one who cooks her favorite foods (case in point, Dina is the one who makes arroz con pollo, or chicken with rice, below).

It stings more than a little bit to hear her say that she wants her over me.

But... I wouldn't want to leave my children with anyone that didn't love them, and who they in turn didn't love, as much as she does. And I love that she has been just as much a mother to them when I am not able to be around as I am, and that they feel that wholeheartedly. And I love her just as much as they do, and can genuinely say, when Rebecca says, "I want Diiiiiiina," that I do too.

It is such a strange and high-pressure thing to do, to find a nanny. We were unbelievably lucky to find Dina, who we heard about on a local moms' message board from a person moving out of town. She is the only person I interviewed and I instantly knew she was "the one." Halfway through our conversation she asked to get down on the ground and play with Rebecca, who was four months old at the time, and as I watched them get to know each other - and saw Rebecca instantly at ease and smiling with her (not a common occurrence for her) - I was even more sure.

Here are things that I think are incredibly important when choosing a nanny, or babysitter:

  • Gut feel - you know what I mean, mamas. You can instantly feel when something is right or wrong - Don't discount that feeling.
  • Love - Dina radiated love and calm and happiness the second I met her. It wasn't a front or a show, but just her way of being. The recommendation from a local mom showcased this too, as did the fact that she'd been with her prior family for over a decade, and still kept in touch with the children. 
  • Mothering Instinct - It was important to me that the person I hired to be with my baby had been a mom. It just comforted me to know that they'd probably seen, heard and handled more than I had. I marvel at her ability to keep up with my now scootering, running, jumping, somersaulting four-year-old, and think that perhaps she doesn't just do wonders for my kids, but that they also do wonders for her.
  • Ability to communicate - Dina speaks Spanish with my children which I love, but is also fluent and able to communicate with me in English. When discussing sometimes complex issues around the care of your children, Spanglish doesn't cut it, so I'm grateful that we understand each other all of the time.
  • Openness - Both Dina and I are conflict-avoiders. It is great in the sense that we haven't had any major disagreements, but being around more now, I know there have been situations in which we've both been more passive than honest. I am making a point to be more open with her about any sensitive situations. 
  • TRUST - This is beyond a necessity. Entirely non-negotiable. I implicitly trusted Dina from day 1, given the references I'd talked to and her demeanor. (If you've met her you know what I mean.) That doesn't mean she couldn't have pulled the wool over my eyes, as I know some nannies have done to friends of ours, and unfortunately that is just a risk you have to take in this situation. I have been unbelievably lucky. Someone once asked if we had a nannycam. We don't, and that is something I debated back and forth in the beginning, but never did. My feelings on it are: if you think you need one, get it - you will feel better. BUT, be open about it with your nanny. If you're hiding it, that's breaking the openness rule, and the trust and gut instinct ones as well. Your nanny should know and be fine with you having a camera because there is nothing she should want to hide from you, end of story. 

Another point - we chose a nanny over daycare for the ease that it brought into our life during what was not an easy time, and it was the right decision for us. I would have to imagine that most of these things apply to choosing a daycare as well, though I can't speak from experience. But that gut feel? The Mommy Instinct that shouts at you from every corner of your body? That is unmistakeable.

In the beginning of our parenthood journey Evan and I would look at each other on a Sunday, over a mess of toys and bottles, thinking we'd done pretty well as parents over the weekend. Then we would realize we'd forgotten Rebecca's medicine or vitamins or to cut her nails or give her even one single vegetable or (gulp) a bath. And we'd say, "It's okay, her real mom will be back tomorrow. She'll get us all back on track." With Lila, forget it. That girl is lucky we remember to take her with us on weekends.

Any nanny must-haves that I missed? Amazing or horror nanny stories? Let me know in comments below!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Life with Two...

It was never a question that my husband and I wanted more than one child. For a time I wanted three kids - when I was growing up a younger sibling always sounded appealing. But once we had our first it was crystal clear we would only be traveling that newborn road one more time, if I could even convince my shell shocked body and my deeply impacted husband to do that.

I knew I wanted a CHILD and a BABY - not two babies. That meant only one in diapers at a time (though Rebecca did her damnedest to make that almost not the case), an older child who could somewhat entertain herself and help me with the baby, and NO DOUBLE STROLLER. These were not negotiable stipulations.

Just after Rebecca's third birthday we found out we were expecting. It wasn't unexpected at all, but judging from the silence as both of us stared wide-eyed at each other over the positive pregnancy test, we were... terrified. We had a rough road the first time, and had watched friends and family with two do this unending juggle and knew what was ahead.

"It's twice the work!" people told us...  (Uh... great?) "You'll realize how easy having one was!" they said...  (EASY?!) "Oh, having an older girl is so great - they are so helpful, just like little Mommies..." (Have you MET my stubborn, steadfast, INSANE daughter since turning 3?!?!)

Here's what I've realized in the eight months (today! Happy eight months Lila!) since Lila was born...

  • Having one WAS easy! OK, maybe easy isn't the best word, but it was super manageable. I could hand her to my husband and go on my way and vice versa. One of us could sleep in or zone out and BOTH of us could snag a nap on weekends when she decided to take one. Tag teaming was our way of life, and we embraced and were good at it.
  • The older one is smarter than you ever knew. They know how to manipulate and work the system to get what they want - ATTENTION. They had it all before, and will do their best to get it all now, as your home fills with people coming to meet the baby and tossing them an "Are you a good big sister?" comment as they walk by. And what people say is right - they don't care if it's good or bad attention - you focusing on them and yelling, "hurry up!" while they stall at getting dressed / going to the potty / eating / picking out a stuffed animal to bring to school / getting in the bath / walking / scooting / ARGHHHHH will do just fine for them. (And two seconds later they'll do something adorable and the frustration that you felt towards them a minute earlier will disappear.)
  • The older one feels more than they even know. In case you hadn't picked up on my subtle hints, Rebecca acted out a bit when Lila was born. Not at the baby ever - she LOVES her with all of her heart, it is so sweet - but at my husband and me. She invented an angry voice, angry face, angry grunt - it was, and still is, intense. After searching online for some help, I came across someone that suggested asking her if it was HARD to be a big sister. All people ask is, "are you a GOOD big sister," but no one really asks them how it is. And I realized - when Lila is fussing or crying, I could look at my husband and say, "Ugh, this sucks! Make her stoooop!" and instantly feel a bit better knowing we were in it together. But Rebecca didn't have that person while likely feeling the same way. I went into her room one night to put her to bed and asked the question - is it hard being a big sister? She immediately burst into tears, nodded and told me she didn't want a baby, it's so hard, and bawled good and hard for a minute or two. I told her that it was okay, and I didn't like when Lila cried and fussed either! And I just wished she would stop! And that made Rebecca smile. Suddenly we too were in it together, and she instantly felt - and acted - better.
  • The older one can be super helpful, if you make it fun. I've turned just about everything into a game, and let Rebecca call the shots whenever possible. She gets to pick out Lila's clothes, help give her a bath and fetch me things while I time her. We have races to see who gets into the PJs first, who can get from one task or room to another quicker and who can get dressed faster in the morning. I also often don't ask her to do things, just say that I need them done - and (usually) she is all too happy to jump in knowing that she'll get praise for doing so. Lila spit up? "Oh, where are those burp cloths again? I really need one!" Rebecca is up in a flash bringing one to me. I thank her and call her "helper buddy," and it works - most of the time ;)
  • Good babies are wasted on first time moms. Someone told me this recently, and it is SO TRUE - I had my tough one first, and appreciated the goodness and sweetness and happiness and non-colickness that is Lila SO much more because of it. I can handle whatever curveballs this one throws at me because her sister hurtled 18 of them at once right at my head. With my girls, my sugar came after my spice - and I wouldn't want it any other way. (Of course, I'd probably say the opposite if Lila was the difficult one, because it wouldn't seem as hard having been through motherhood once before!)

Having two is not just twice the work - it's twice the EVERYTHING!!! Twice the sleeplessness - and twice the sick - and twice the crying - and twice the clothes - and twice the noise - and twice the toys - and twice the injuries - it is simply non-stop where before there were breaks, though you didn't realize it at the time. Now our life is a constant dance of "you're on this one, I'm on that one..."

But it's also twice the laughter - and twice the love - and twice the staring at the (ahhhhh) closed eyelids of your sleeping children - and twice the adorable antics - and twice the causes for my husband and I to stare wide-eyed at each other above the heads of our growing kiddos, in wonder and amazement at the little PEOPLE we've made, and smile.

Monday, May 11, 2015

About Me...

A bit about me...

I had a completely normal, typical upbringing in White Plains, NY, about half an hour north of NYC.
The nuclear, four-person family that laughed together constantly. A cat. An elder sister I revered. I made friends easily, did well in school, loved reading, went to sleepaway camp every summer from the age of 8, and had a close-knit extended family pretty nearby. All the boxes were checked.

I am acutely aware of how thankful I should be for all of this - I didn't have any major life challenges, didn't lose anyone close to me until I was in college and led a pretty blissfully ignorant life.  I just sort of... coasted.

Through high school, where I was the president of the student body (I won the election reportedly because people wanted to hear my maiden name - Weiner - over the loudspeaker. I'll take it!) and involved in our local synagogue's youth group. Through college at Syracuse University where I was the president of my sorority and found my best and dearest friends right on my floor freshman year. Through my mid-twenties in New York City, working my dream job at a PR firm and having the time of my life. I just... coasted, always. Even with the name Weiner.

I am now a Neadel. I met my husband through one of my college best friends whose husband went to law school with him. As she got to know him she knew we had to meet, so we did - that was it. We both knew right after our first - and were sure after our second - date. No drama, we just... yup... coasted into our relationship, moving in together, getting engaged and then married. Life was incredible - we bought an apartment we love in Hoboken, NJ, just across the river (yes, the biggest drama in my life up until the age of 31 was moving from NY to NJ) and decided to start a family... 

Which rocked me to the core.

After having my daughter in 2011, I had severe postpartum depression and anxiety. I have never been the same. I realize that compared to what some have gone through, this isn't a drop in the bucket - but for a girl who had everything come to her easily up until that point, I was completely shaken.

I began going to therapy (and realizing that anxiety had maybe always been just beneath my surface, but this just brought it out) and taking medication and rebuilding myself - and it worked. I emerged grateful, stronger, better, happier and proud of what I had been through. I came through a Warrior Mom.

I went on to have another baby, to come through that rattled but unscathed - and that brings us to now.

Now? I just turned 35, and I have my own nuclear, four-person family. Daughters who (so far) revere each other. No pet (cat or dog - that's our biggest drama so far, which to eventually have) yet, but I'm sure there's one in our future. And now, having gone through the past four and a half years of my life, I am extremely grateful - for my life, my family, my friends, my community, my health, my loves Evan, Rebecca and Lila, and for whatever comes in the next 35+ years.

My love, my rock, my entirely better half. 

On New Year's Eve I found one of those inspirational quote things on Instagram, and regrammed it. It said:

So here I am... 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Keeping it Real...

If there's one thing I've always been able to do, it's tell people the real deal. I don't sugar coat or hold back any punches - life is what it is, and we all get through it somehow. And we get through more easily, more... um... happily and more... well, ALIVE if we share our experiences with each other. I've always been an open book, so now, am creating a spot for that book to live.

Welcome to Real Life, Real Laughter - where I'll tell you about life, while hopefully making you laugh along the way. Because if there is any part of this crazy roller coaster called life that causes you to feel lonely or be unhappy - a little laughter and commiseration does a world of good.