Morristown Mama Drama: Four lessons learned from the long, cruel winter

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Morristown Mama Drama is two Morris County moms with two different perspectives– one from the land of Mardi Gras (New Orleans, LA) and one from the land of WaWa (Bucks County, PA)–sharing insights and tips from the trenches. We met in Morristown when our oldest kids were 6 months old and have been navigating this delightful, and sometimes harrowing, journey together ever since. Check out our latest escapades and local recommendations right here on Morristown Green.

Now that it seems as though warm weather is here to stay, we can finally look back on the winter that felt like it would never end and find the good that came out of months of cold, wet days trapped inside in the form of some valuable lessons learned.

1. The worst part of your kids getting coxsackievirus is that your husband will also get coxsackievirus.

WaWa: Not only is this a “summer” malady, it’s also one that doesn’t typically afflict adults. But I guess there wasn’t enough sickness, snow and general grossness this winter, so somehow, my husband managed to contract it from our kids in the off-season.

mama drama pukeI may have thought that the worst part of your kids getting sick is the clinginess, or the extra clean up of puke and saltine crumbs, or even watching more episodes of Paw Patrol than I thought even existed.

But no. It’s all that, plus a sick adult to either take care of or ignore, depending on how your relationship functions. Then there is the collateral damage of the child with the stronger immune system balancing out her lack of illness-driven attention by throwing tantrums, having accidents or just doing whatever she knows will push you the rest of the way over the edge. So, I guess the real lesson here is…just wash your hands more?

Mardi: Coxsackie is sort of like dainty chicken pox that covers your hands, feet, and mouth. But maybe coxsackie contracted in the Dominican Republic is particularly virulent. My husband came back with skin that earned him a paper mask the minute we checked into the Morristown ER.

Cocksackie virus, anyone?
Coxsackie virus, anyone?

It’s kind of like a Vampire Peel for your feet (see illustration). Lesson learned–if your toddler has never been around other children, and you put him in the DR resort kiddie daycare (now that’s a vacation)–he will probably contract something– and that something could turn pretty gnarly.

Be prepared. I had the Pedialyte in my suitcase then took it out to keep under 50 pounds. (Dang.) Make sure to pack Pedialyte, preferably in powder form; the generic version in other countries can be very expensive in the resort infirmary. Pack lots of underwear, diapers, and sunscreen. What not to bring–two pairs of black strappy high heels.

2. Get the —- out of the house

mama drama coffeeWawa: Friend’s house. Library. Spacious gas station. Convenience store. Just. Go. Somewhere. There is a marked difference in how much my kids drive me crazy when I’m in the house with them all day versus when we stay on the move.

Maybe they’re on their best behavior, maybe it’s that I’ve gotten good at tuning them out in the car, either way, particularly on days when you can’t really play outside (which may occur during the summer heat as well), it’s so important to break up the day and have a reason for everyone to get dressed.

Mardi: Thank goodness for the drive-through Starbucks on Route 10. Sometimes an “outing” doesn’t have to involve turning off the car.


3. Mother Nature doesn’t care that you spent extra on organic produce but sometimes your insurance does

Mardi: I spend way too much on groceries and don’t do enough homework. Do I really need organic waffles?

Wawa: If it doesn’t have a skin you eat or come from a cow, go with what the kids like best.

Mardi: But it makes me feel like a better mom to see “organic,” like going into the confessional booth and scrubbing clean the guilt of the extra babysitting hour to avoid the bath routine.

mama drama screamI shop for the manner in which I would like to live. I would like to make a gourmet salad for all members of my family every night and include a wide array of colors—gleaming tomatoes, shaved fennel, and crisp carrots.

Wilted leaves and expiration dates taunt me from the vegetable crisper, which I sometimes go into when making my children’s dinners even though it kills me to then scrape uneaten hothouse cucumber into the garbage.

So when the wind maelstrom hit in the beginning of March, we lost power and ended up at Wawa Mom’s house in time to make cookies. Thank goodness for good Mommy friends who will take you in. The snowstorm that followed had us out of the house with no power for an entire week.

Another mommy friend (Alabama Mama) took us in as her “snow refugees.” Upon returning home, we had to throw out all the organic produce. Lesson learned– while insurance didn’t cover the two nights in hotels, our Home Owners did cut us a check for the groceries that went bad in the fridge.

Wawa: Your friends won’t care if you have organic produce or not either if you always have cookie ingredients on hand.

4. You’re not the only one just trying to make it through the day


Mardi: Think you’re the worst mom? Picture this: It’s winter. You are on a get-away. You decide to take your kids to the Baltimore Aquarium solo while your husband has a business meeting. You have your secret weapon with you—the double stroller. If the 4-year old has a meltdown, just rodeo her into that seat and strap her in.  

mama drama surferWell, the Baltimore Aquarium does not let you take in a stroller. So the 17-month-old is screaming to be put down to toddle over to touch and point at every trashcan. You end up carrying the portly toddler till you can finally reach the food atrium—to strap this bucking bronco into a high chair.

Three hot dogs and a huge bucket of popcorn later (don’t judge…they eat organic broccoli at home), you take your seats. The 4-year old states: “I have to go to the bathroom.” You look across the sea of humans to the bathroom at the far end of the atrium. Quick calculation: “Eat quickly, and then we’ll go.”

A fierce whine follows and tears pour onto red, angry 4-year old cheeks. “I can’t.”

Then she begins to pee in her seat. She stands, shaking in frustration and finishes peeing on the floor. Right there in the crowded atrium. Your laughing toddler grabs the bucket of popcorn; it flies up then sprinkles down onto the floor and soaks into a popcorn-pee mélange.

You fetch a stack of napkins, pile them up, and move your daughter to the next seat over. Then you all finish eating. You sort of try and mop up the mess but…ya know. Then when you take your daughter into the bathroom after to clean her up, as you are going to the bathroom, your toddler sticks his hand in the stream of urine because you have no stroller to contain him. All in a matter of 10 minutes, tops. Lesson learned: Go to the Baltimore aquarium with another adult or just watch Finding Nemo on the iPad.

Wawa: Everything is about perspective.

Mardi: Perspective, my arse.

Wawa: Usually if I have a bad day I can remind myself that my bad day is still pretty great in the grand scheme of things. But I had an episode over the winter where in the span of five days a spill fried my laptop (effectively destroying all my work from the past four years), my potty-trained toddler wet the bed for the first two times ever, both kids had multiple coxsackie-related overnight puking episodes, and my husband also came down with that foul pox.

mama drama ice cream I didn’t care about the grand scheme at that point, all I knew was that the only thing that would make it better was eating junk food, alone, in a quiet room. Never mind that I’d been successfully losing weight and feeling wonderful avoiding sugar and grains for the past year.

Mama needed a cupcake…and an ice cream sundae, and several pieces of long-forgotten Halloween candy. And maybe periodic squirts of Redi-Whip directly into my mouth. I can’t be sure, it’s all a blur.

Mama Drama cupcakeIt was an ugly, delicious spiral. But eventually everyone got better, and I got a new computer — and nine new pounds. There must be a lesson here, but I can’t pretend I learned anything or that I won’t do exactly the same thing the next time I have a rough week. Except I might get fresher candy.

Local Tips: There are a lot of play places in the area that are great for a visit on a rainy, cold, too-hot or just boring day. A favorite is Kidnetic in Montville, as it is very well enclosed and has a nice seating area so parents can sit and relax with the kids in full view and bring snacks or lunch to have at the tables. It’s also far enough from Morristown that you might get a bonus car nap on the ride home if you time it right.

The area libraries are also a terrific, free option for a place to hang out. The Morris County Library and those in Madison and Mendham all have nice play areas for kids, as well as programs and story times. In the summer months, the Morristown & Township Library also does Lunchtime with the Librarian in the Macculloch Hall garden, which is a delight. That runs on Wednesdays at noon in July and August.

Urban Renew on South Street–the pod chair is otherworldly and way cheaper than a massage.

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