(From the archives.)
Let me start with an admission. If I worked in a restaurant and saw a mom walk in with her three little children – her three little boys – I would try not to make eye contact. I’d yell, “Not it!” to my fellow servers. I’d take up smoking… so I could duck out the back door.
But that’s not what happens at my IHOP. (And I call it “my IHOP” even though I only go there every couple of months.) Not only does the waitstaff not run away when I walk in with my two little boys and baby, they actually seem happy to see us. We get high fived. We get fist bumped and slapped on the back. We get treated the way Snooki must get when she walks into her local tanning salon. And, don’t forget, they have syrup at IHOP – five syrups on every table. I have three children who each have ten fingers. That’s thirty potential sticky fingers. And, we get high fives, fist bumps and slaps on the backs when we walk in.
Last time, Chris waited on us. Sometimes it’s Sebastian. Other times it’s Romel. Let me tell you about Chris, Romel, Sebastian, and their manager, Anwar: the staff at Charlie Trotter’s, Jean Georges and Le Bernadin don’t hold a candle to these guys when it comes to customer service. And, from what I hear, none of those places have free crayons either.
I was there pretty recently. I strolled in with my boys at eleven thirty in the morning. It was a Saturday. Have you ever eaten breakfast outside of your home? 11:30 a.m. on a Saturday is prime time. Every table is taken. Every seat is filled with hungry people who want to stuff their faces with reasonably-priced bacon, eggs and pancakes.
Chris took our order – went to the kitchen – and then reappeared. He wanted to know if my sons could do him a favor. Could they help him carry the plates from the kitchen to our table when our order was ready? Could they? Could they?! Could Mary Richards light up the whole world with her smile? Heck yeah! They said yes and then we waited. We even called my husband to tell him the good news.
While we waited, a thought occurred to me. The plates were going to be hot. Maybe too hot? What if my kids hurt their fingers? I debated whether or not I should pull Chris aside. Had he thought about how hot the plates might be? My children use their fingers all of the time. Please Chris, don’t burn my kids’ fingers!
And while I mulled over whether or not to talk to Chris, I glanced at my three year old. He was about to explode. The anticipation was almost too much for him. He had the same look on his face that he did after his third birthday party when he learned he was going to get another birthday party the following year. And the year after that. And the year after that too. (“You mean, I get another one?!”)
Chris came to get my sons. “Are you ready?” he asked them. And so, my three year old and six year old walked with Chris to the outside of the kitchen. He handed each of them a plate. I winced. (“Please don’t let them burn their fingers.”) And they walked. Slowly. Happily. Carefully. They reached our table. They were each holding a tube of yogurt upon their plates. They were only holding yogurt. Chris was carrying the plates with the hot pancakes. He didn’t want them to burn their fingers either.
Pictured: Sebastian and Chris.
NOTE: Should I point out that I am not being paid by IHOP? I am not employed by IHOP. I don’t make any money if their stock (are they public?) shoots up today as a result of this post being published on my blog which is read by fourteen zillion people. I don’t eat for free at IHOP. In fact, when I go to IHOP, I barely have time to eat. But, that’s the fault of my kids. Seriously. Let me eat in peace, guys. Please.
(From the archives. I rerunning some of my “People Who Kick Ass” series.)
My Chicago suburb is home to one of the world’s most famous and respected adoption agencies called, “The Cradle.” I’ve driven past the agency, which is housed in a majestic stone building, hundreds of times.
Since its founding, The Cradle – which deals in both domestic as well as international adoptions – has placed nearly 15,000 children into permanent homes. Every now and then, I see a picture in my local paper about a fundraiser or benefit for the celebrated agency, where – once ago – Gracie Allen and George Burns, Bob Hope, Al Jolson and Donna Reed all adopted children.
But I had heard something about the agency that I thought might be urban legend. Supposedly, there was a program through which volunteers could help care for the babies. I was suspicious. I knew very little about adoption but I doubted that infants actually lived inside of the agency. I assumed the babies lived in foster homes while they awaited their birth parents’ decisions as well as the adoption process.
I was wrong.
Last week, I picked up the phone and called The Cradle. I wanted to find out if they really had a program where volunteers could care for babies. The answer was yes. It turns out that the Cradle is the only adoption agency in the United States with an onsite nursery. An average of six to eight infants at a time spend their first days, weeks and even months of their lives in the nursery which is staffed twenty-four hours a day by both a registered nurse as well as an infant specialist. The volunteers I had heard vaguely about were called, “Cuddlers.” But, there is at least a two-year waiting list to become one.
Could I come see the nursery, I asked. To my surprise, I was again told yes.
The third-floor nursery looked how I hoped it would. It was bright and clean – and its windows opened to let in fresh air. Butterflies and caterpillars decorated the windows and walls, and I was told that a Christmas tree occupied the room in the winter. During a two-day blizzard this past year, the staff nurses brought in blankets and pillows and stayed overnight. They were prepared, I was told, to stay as long as they would be needed.
The nursery was filled with cribs, rocking chairs and – to my delight – books. When I looked in, there were two Cuddlers helping the staff members care for three babies. (There have been as many as 18 infants in the nursery at one time.) I watched one of the Cuddlers read a board book to what looked like a one month old. As she read, he went from the quiet alert-state to a gentle sleep. When his eyes closed, the Cuddler put away the book and continued to hold the baby in her arms.
I was told that because of the nursery, birth parents can take their time while they decide what’s next. Some choose to bring their children home. Many choose to pursue adoption. This is a place where they know their babies are well cared for while they make their decisions.
Lynne Firestone coordinates the Cuddler’s program. Lynne, who adopted her two adult children through The Cradle, pointed out that the agency needs to have people who can take care of the babies no matter what. “They [the babies] can’t get enough constant care, loving and holding,” she said. “It helps them feel that the world is a good place.”
Toward the end of my tour, I was taken to the room where the adoptive parents – if they didn’t already meet in the hospital — see their babies for the first time. It was called, fittingly, “The Belonging Room.”
NOTE: If you want to volunteer to become a Cuddler, you’re out of luck at the moment. But, if you want to support The Cradle you can visit their website. They also have an Amazon wish list for the nursery, where you can find everything from pacifiers to diapers to swings.
I feel like my shopping list is pretty spot-on this morning.
Melissa: In a nutshell…
I wanted to give everyone a heads up that next week, I’ll be reposting some pieces from the series I ran a few years ago called, “People Who Kick Ass.”
I started the series as a chance to shine a very small spotlight on people around me who I thought deserved it. It was also a nice way to bury my head in the sand and take a break from the national and international news. And, yes, I feel like doing THAT again.
But, mostly, it was an opportunity to say thank you and give a virtual shout out to people in my “real life” who I thought deserved it.
And, so, that’s what I’ll be doing next week. I’ll be reposting profiles of some “People Who Kick Ass.” Or, I’ll just write about Kim Kardashian’s book of selfies for the next seven days.
I haven’t quite made up my mind.
Asking your kids to wash your car is a good idea only if you specify that they must not open the door and stick a hose inside.
Today, I am thrilled to introduce you to two new people, Norine Dworkin-McDaniel and Jessica Ziegler. They have a fantastic blog where they write and illustrate funny, clever stuff about parenting called the Science of Parenthood.
Well — obviously — they are only new to you if you don’t already know them. Duh. If you do know them, aren’t you excited to see them here?! The point — and I do have one — is that I have a hilarious guest post today by Norine of the Science of Parenthood. Drumroll…. Please silence all phones…. No flash photography please… Okay. Without further ado…
HOW TO DRESS A NEWBORN FOR BRUNCH IN 27 EASY STEPS:
I am not one of those gals who takes forever to get ready simply to leave the house. I do insist on showering if I’ll be seen in public. And makeup. And doing something with my hair other than hide it under a baseball cap. But generally, I can make it from shower to sedan in about 30 minutes flat. So when the time came to dress my newborn for brunch, I didn’t think it would be that much different. After all, he’s a boy. Men can get showered, shaved and dressed so fast, I believe they actually go back in time. And my newborn wasn’t even shaving yet, which was a huge time-saver.
So there we were — my husband Stewart, our newborn and I — away for the weekend at a friend’s condo in Palm Beach. It was my first trip anywhere since I’d given birth four weeks before. My husband had gone fishing in the early morning. The plan was for me to meet him at a chic water-front eatery around noon. I figured Stewart had the hard part — he was going to wrestle tarpon. All I had to do was slap a onesie on my cherub that said something clever about him being our tax-write off, and I’d be out the door in no time.
Right … Those are the things you still believe when you’re a first-time mom with a new baby. Here’s what it really takes to dress a newborn for brunch:
Step One. Put baby in a fresh diaper and adorable onesie and pants, then strap into car seat. Fabulous. He is all ready to go.
Step Two. Pack diaper bag with diapers, wipes, Balmex and disposable bags. Add two bottles of formula (because you tried breastfeeding and failed miserably, so please, no judgment). Toss in five pacifiers — in case pacis #1, #2, #3, #4 fall on the floor and can’t be properly disinfected at the restaurant. Add three extra outfits, in case of spit-up or diaper blowout.
Step Three. Realize you are running late. Make one last pit stop (No, the bladder never fully recovers.) Grab wallet, keys and sunglasses. Sling diaper bag over shoulder. Pick up car seat. Put hand on door handle …
Step Four. Remove hand from door handle because baby is crying … okay … now make that screaming.
Step Five. Put everything down. Unbuckle baby. Realize baby needs a diaper change.
Step Six. Sigh … heavily.
Step Seven. Go back into guest room. Lay baby in the center of the bed so that — even though he cannot move yet — there is not the remotest possibility that he will roll over, fall from the bed and smash his skull.
Step Eight. Open diaper. Duck as the baby immediately lets loose a stream of urine that could knock a tin can off a fence at 50 yards. Make frantic attempts to block the spray with your hands. Realize that this is actually increasing the spray area. Try to ignore the loud screaming as baby sprays himself in the face.
Step Nine. Notice that you are VERY late.
Step Ten. Grab wipes, diapers, Balmex and a clean, dry outfit from diaper bag.
Step Eleven. Strip off soiled, wet onesie, being careful not to break baby’s neck as you pull it off over his head. Wipe pee off of baby. Put on fresh onesie, being careful not to break baby’s neck as you pull it on over his head.
Step Twelve. Squeeze Balmex onto your fingers. Attempt to apply it to wriggly baby’s red, diaper-rashed bottom. Get Balmex on every possible part of the wriggly baby’s skin BUT the red, diaper-rashed bottom.
Step Thirteen. Strip off second onesie. Throw across room.
Step Fourteen. Eye naked, pee-soaked, Balmex smeared baby on bed.
Step Fifteen. Cry.
Step Sixteen. Decide that brunch is wholly overrated … eating anything not delivered to your doorstep is wholly overrated. Wonder why people even bother leaving the house before dinner.
Step Seventeen. Fill bathroom sink with warm water. Put baby in water. Attempt to wash pee and Balmex off of squalling, thrashing, slippery newborn.
Step Eighteen. Gently dry baby with towel. Grab another diaper and third onesie from the diaper bag.
Step Nineteen. Return to guest room. Find dry spot on bed to lay baby on. Redress and rediaper baby. Buckle baby back into car seat.
Step Twenty. Survey much-depleted diaper bag.
Step Twenty-One. Repeat your favorite line from The King’s Speech: “Fuck. Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck and fuck! Fuck, fuck and bugger! Bugger, bugger, buggerty buggerty buggerty, fuck, fuck, arse! Balls! Balls, fuck, fucketty, shit, shit!”
Step Twenty-Two. Consider that if this whole situation was the stuff of a Judd Apatow movie, you’d be laughing hysterically. Start laughing hysterically.
Step Twenty-Three. Strip bed and throw pee-soaked blanket, sheets and bedspread into laundry.
Step Twenty-Four. Realize you have now set the Guinness world recordfor being late to brunch.
Step Twenty-Five. Scoop up diaper bag, keys, sunglasses and car seat. Make the sign of the cross … even though you are Jewish. Leave the house.
Step Twenty-Six. Drive frantically — but still very s-l-o-w-l-y — to the restaurant. Valet car. Because dammit, you earned the privilege of not schlepping your baby, bulky car seat and depleted-but-somehow-still-fucking-heavy diaper bag across the fucking parking lot.
Step Twenty-Seven. Spot the mimosa at the table that your loving husband had the forethought to have waiting for you. Weep with gratitude. Drain glass in single gulp. Repeat.