One Shingular Sensation

by Alison Friedman in Mommy's Musings, The Sick

At first, I thought it was a feast of bug bites. Just above the ribcage/under boobage, I had an itchy spot. It didn’t look like anything more than skin irritation, and last Friday, during our parent-teacher conference, it took everything in me not to rip off my shirt and scratch away at the itchy, tingly area. I might have even zoned out around the part about Madelyn… something blending words… something under a minute… something sight words. I don’t know. At the end, when she asked if we had any questions, I didn’t really ask any because I just needed to get out of there and satisfy the itch. That’s how you know it’s bad — I didn’t ask questions. The teacher could have told us that Madelyn was ready to skip grades and go to high school next year, and I wouldn’t have known because all I could think about was “Don’t scratch your boob in front of the teacher. Don’t scratch your boob in front of the teacher. Don’t scratch your boob in front of the teacher.”

At dinner that night, I had a few more itchy spots and felt like a dog in the summer. Therefore, I was suddenly convinced I had fleas. Or bed bugs! We had just gotten back from New York after all. But then it dawned on me that Bryan and Princeton, the two men I sleep with nightly, were not itching.

Later that night, Bryan and I binged some TV and I couldn’t get comfy on the couch. My back was painful. It felt sore, like I needed a massage in only one area. By the time I got into bed, I was super annoyed by both the itching and the back pain that I barely slept a wink.

I went a whole other day and by Sunday, I noticed that the itchy areas were more pronounced spots that definitely looked like bug bites or hives. The welts were even bigger as the morning went on. I had scheduled a massage to take care of that sore spot on my back, but quickly canceled it so I could go to urgent care instead. I just didn’t feel right.

Despite feeling worse and worse, I had put off going to urgent care because I knew what the doc would say: “Here’s a prescription for hydrocortisone cream. Put it on. Voila!” and two copays later, I’d apply cream I already had in the cabinet that I’d forgotten about from the last two skin-related urgent care visits.

Also, P.S., why do these things always happen on the weekends?

So imagine my shock when the doctor announced I had shingles! She explained it to me, which I will now do here, because prior to this appointment, I thought shingles was a dirty old disease for geriatric folks. Now I am properly educated. So, shingles is in the same family as chicken pox. Anyone who’s had chicken pox, has shingles! After chicken pox, the virus settles in on a nerve and then goes to sleep. It lies dormant for a period of time… or even maybe forever (if you’re lucky!). But when immunocompromised or if there’s lots of stress, the virus unlocks itself from the nerve, goes crazy, and disturbs that entire line or panel on which that nerve lives.

I am glad to say that shingles is not contagious unless I rub my rash on a person who has either not had chicken pox ever or has not had the chicken pox vaccine (and that’s just ridiculous because who goes rubbing their rashes on infants?). And it would not transmit shingles; it would transmit chicken pox! It is not airborne like the cold or flu so you can’t get it by being in the same room as me. If you have shingles, you cannot give shingles to anyone. It’s more like a delayed party favor virus you give yourself. In my case… about 30 years after having chicken pox!

Unfortunately, there’s not much to be done about shingles. I can take ibuprofen/acetaminophen for pain. And because I went to the doctor within 72 hours after spots appeared, I was eligible to take an antiviral, which is also prescribed for genital herpes. If you heard a lady at the Walgreen’s window speaking loudly to the pharmacist, “Thank you so much for my AHEM SHINGLES medication!” that was me.

The most awful part about shingles is that it’s a slow burn with no sign it’s going in the right direction. On Sunday, I was itchy and had some back pain, but it wasn’t anything horrific. Five days later, I can now barely stand up straight because it feels like both the Astros and the Dodgers are taking batting practice on my back. My few spots that looked like bug bites are now angry and bright red, multiplying in a band across my ribcage and side. I’m basically a walking lava lamp. It is absolute agony and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

The saddest part is that Bryan is out of town in San Francisco this week for work. He planned his trip so I could meet him on Friday and spend the weekend with our friends for his college roommate’s wedding. I also had big plans to see a couple other girlfriends who live in the city during the free non-wedding time. As each day went on with shingles, I kept trying to convince myself that I’d still go; we’d just take it easy and I’d travel lightly and I wouldn’t even dance that much. But late on Thursday, after keeling over in pain and also realizing there was no dress or bra or pair of shoes in my closet that I could force onto my body for the wedding, I waved my white flag, super reluctantly, and canceled my plane ticket. It was not an easy decision. If the shingles had stayed the same as they were the first day or two, I still think I could have made it. But even now, they are getting worse before they get better, and I’m pretty worthless. I moved in with my parents for the week because I can barely drive or get the girls dressed or lift Arielle. I’m just so sad to miss the weekend and celebrating our friend who was part of our wedding day. It’s really not fair and I don’t care how childish I appear as I cross my arms and scowl.

Fortunately, Bryan is staying in San Francisco and will go stag to the wedding to be with the gang and celebrate his buddy, and no matter how many pictures or videos he sends me, my FOMO game is strong and I am devastated to be away from all the fun.

Instead, my weekend looks like lots of cuddling up with painkillers as I try to get comfortable. I’ve heard many different ways this could finish up — 10 day or 30 days; open, oozy sores or dried up rash; tingly twinges of back pain to long term nerve damage. It runs the gamut, and I truly hate not knowing what the next course is on the shingles menu. If my antivirals are helping, well I’d hate to know how this would feel if I didn’t have meds.

I honestly didn’t know that anyone my age could have shingles. I feel so advanced and mature, like the next thing I get to enjoy is cataract surgery or a hip replacement. I’m just so glad that my kids will never know first hand about this horrible virus. Since they both had the chicken pox vaccine, they will never have chicken pox and shingles. Thank you, science, for coming through for our kids. If only I was young like them instead of a little old lady and with shingles. Maybe I’ll start playing BINGO. Or eating a steak dinner from Denny’s at 4 p.m. Just call me Gertrude.

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That One Virus

by Alison Friedman in Marvelous Madelyn, The Sick

Since we are the world’s okayest parents, we took Madelyn to see “Hamilton” with a fever. It wasn’t super high. It was one of those 99ish fevers that probably meant she just overdid it at school. Or maybe the fever was the pupu platter before the main entree of an oncoming cold. At intermission, I was already thinking about my game plan for the inevitable snotty noses and complaints of plugged ears. After all, Arielle had just finished her cold (thanks, preschool!) and it was pretty much the one-month mark of school, so a cold for Madelyn was not exactly surprising.

After we got home from the Great Tow Yard Midnight Adventure of 2017, we put Madelyn to bed and hoped for the best. You see, we had the day off from school and wanted to enjoy one last family day at Disneyland before our annual passes expire in October. We decided we’d play Disneyland by ear: if she woke up totally fine, we’d go. If she woke up kind of OK, we’d drug her and go. And if she was legit sick, we wouldn’t go.

She woke up totally fine. We went.

I brought the Advil and Tylenol with me just in case that random fever turned into anything else. And twice, we literally bumped into my friend, who’s a nurse and the wife of one of our pediatricians, so really, the healthy vibes were on our side. The Disney day would be perfect.

And it almost was except for those times that Madelyn spiked another random fever. That’s when I patted myself on the back for being at Disneyland and administering Advil. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Once she had the fever reducer and pain reliever in her system, within 20 minutes she was back to her ol’ self.

Arielle might have been judging me for choosing to bring her sick sister to Disneyland. But I didn’t KNOW she was sick yet, AR. I. ELLE. OKAAAAY???

By the end of the day, though, she was a disaster. At first I assumed it was due to exhaustion from the late night at “Hamilton” only 24 hours before, but as time went on, it was clear she was achey and had chills. She was miserable as we were leaving Disneyland, and I’ve never wished so badly for a cold to just start already!

Friday morning, it was very clear that she would have to miss school and that fever persisted. She turned her nose up to juice and popsicles and applesauce, and she just wanted to sleep. She had no energy whatsoever, and began to look as sick as she felt. Her eyes became puffy and by Friday night, I was icing her eyelids to bring down the swelling, but they didn’t budge. I knew we’d be making a visit to the pediatrician on Saturday morning. Because these things always happen over a weekend. Of course.

She woke me during the night with complaints of aches and chills again. It seemed like the meds would work great until they didn’t. Spoiler alert: this pattern continued for six nights and counting. And still, no signs of a cold.

We shuffled ourselves into the doctor’s office on Saturday morning and we ruled out some things that had popped up in my rabbit hole of Google searches. Of course her eyes were not as puffy, so we looked like morons, but isn’t that how it always works? It was not even a full three days of a fever, so we agreed that a virus needs a bit more time to do its thing. He even ordered a strep test, but that came back negative. I was hoping it was positive so we’d have an obvious plan of action, but we decided together that if by Monday, she still had a fever, we would come back for some blood work.

Well, you know where this is going.

Monday, I called her out of school again to give her another day to rest and just in case her temperature spiked. Sure enough, by mid-day, she was back up into the 100s, so we enjoyed an end of day visit with another one of the awesome docs in the group. The doctor agreed that a cold would’ve been obvious by now; her ears looked clear; and five days of fever was a little on the long side for flu. Since she agreed with our equally wonderful Saturday doc, she was about to apologize to me for the drama of inevitable lab work she was going to order if the last straw idea turned out to be negative.

After a tiny finger prick, a little rectangle that looked like an at-home pregnancy test from the dollar store was used to read a drop of Madelyn’s blood. The doctor said that it takes about ten minutes to get a read, so we should just wait a bit in the room and then we’d have an answer. However, before that little test was even walked out the door, the tester started to show two positive lines, but not for a pregnancy… for mono!

I was shocked. When both doctors first mentioned the long shot of mono, but kind of dismissed it, I also didn’t consider it to be a possibility since Madelyn hasn’t been getting friendly at fraternity parties.

That I know of.

You know, she may have mono, but she could still be a hair model.

So here’s what we know: mono symptoms can last around ten days in kids, which typically just include fever/aches/chills and perhaps some swelling, which explains Madelyn’s eyes. Thankfully, there’s no major swelling in her lymph nodes or abdomen, which is good news for her liver and spleen. Apparently, mono is a lot easier to power through as a kid. I asked about the contagious factor because Madelyn also lives with a very cuddly little sister, and the doctor surprised me and said, “Even better! The sooner they get it over with, the easier it will be.” But also, it’s not super likely that Arielle will get it, and mono is transferred via saliva.

So how did Madelyn get mono? We’ll never know. Stuff like that drives me crazy. I would pay so much money to find out the exact moment and specific saliva molecule that infected my daughter, but science isn’t that good. I did learn that incubation is four to seven weeks, which means it all went down sometime in July or August, and we’re just only seeing symptoms now. The only thing to do is keep her comfortable which includes fluids and fever reducers. She’s also taking over Bryan’s iPad, watching TV shows and taking photos.

Animal face filters: the ultimate cure for the mono blues.

Her favorite new thing to do, though, is sending me texts. While we are in the same house. This is what happens when they learn to read and write; they can then communicate like adults. It’s maddening. She also became demanding when, due to user error, the apps or Netflix would poop out.

Here are a few examples of texts along with my most inner thoughts to her messages. This is a great reminder to never give her a bell to ring from bed.

She’s cleared to be out in the world: school, extra-curriculars, meals. She just hasn’t left the house much mostly because she has no energy. I’m hoping that after missing six days of school and resting at home, she’s almost at the end of this. My heart can’t take it anymore. And there’s also not enough coffee in the world to get me through the day since the nightly wake-up calls — literally — are so difficult and sad and exhausting. It’s like having a newborn again, and there’s a reason why we stopped after two: I’m a wimpy mama!

I will say, though, that other than mono lasting so damn long, it’s not as difficult or as annoying as taking care of a child with a cold or any other upper respiratory tract infection. At least there’s no snot or plugged ears or constant coughing all day without much relief. When she spikes a fever, it’s upsetting and dramatic, but it’s also very temporary. But it’s not, well, messy, per se. So, silver lining?

Madelyn will take all the healing vibes she can get as we get her through this totally random bout of mono. We can’t wait until she can come back to school and return to dance as soon as she feels up to it. And when she’s in college and her friends are down with a case of this virus, she’ll know just how to take care of them: with patience, binge watching television, and a lot of humor.

In the Room Where It Happens with Madelyn

by Alison Friedman in Marvelous Madelyn

It didn’t take long after “Hamilton” hit the stage at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York that both Madelyn and I were hooked on the music. She was about 4 years old when she caught the bug and seeing her little tushie bop up and down to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rhythmic story telling of our founding fathers was pretty much the cutest thing ever. I never expected her to understand the show at a young age, but she once asked about certain characters or plot points and songs, and she organically discovered this chapter in our nation’s history that was filled with more juiciness than a telenovela. Little by little, she began to comprehend this period in time (“You mean, Hamilton and Burr are older than my GRANDparents?!”) and found interest in the roots of our country.

When we visited Washington, D.C. in April, I’m pretty sure she’s the only kid whose eyes lit up over the sight of The Treasury Building because we told her that that site was all due to A. Ham. Most kids get pumped about space shuttles in museums or seeing where the POTUS lives. Nope. Madelyn likes the building that employed our country’s first Secretary of the Treasury.

Feeling the ten dolla founding fatha vibe in America’s capital.

So when we had the opportunity to buy tickets for the “Hamilton” tour in Los Angeles, it was a no brainer that we would spend 20 Hamiltons on a ticket so she could go.

Our countdown was long and tantalizing. We prepared by brushing up on lyrics and going over plot points. We watched the PBS documentary that I recommend everyone watch, whether you’re seeing “Hamilton” or not, but especially if you’re seeing “Hamilton.” The cramming sessions for “Hamilton” were not dissimilar from what I imagine the training to be that athletes go through before traveling to the Olympics. Instead of Beijing, all we had to brave was the 101 freeway and then the magical night would be upon us.

Madelyn studies up with her fellow Hamilfans. I’ve often found her reading the book and memorizing names of actors and song titles.

But, here’s where I have to rewind. Our pre-“Hamilton” one-week countdown game was strong. Every morning, Madelyn would announce how many sleeps were left until September 20th. When she finally woke up on “Hamilton” Day, we celebrated that we were mere hours away from a life changing theater experience. Bryan and I had already entered the realm of Life After “Hamilton” since we had seen it together a few weeks before, and even though I knew what was to come, I was so excited all over again because it meant watching Madelyn watch “Hamilton.” I took her to school and kissed her goodbye and told her that at pickup, we’d jet home and get ready to go to the show with Bryan and my mom.

At 2:35, I awaited Madelyn at her classroom door and expected her to burst out of the room like the Act II hurricane that Alexander sings about. Instead, she dragged her feet and had her head down and she looked sad. At first I assumed she had a bad day and I was ready to go all Aaron Burr and challenge any kid who bothered her to a duel. But the teacher guided her out toward me and mentioned she was not as vivacious in class as she normally is and to check her out when we got home. I did the tried and true, highly advanced and clinical lips-to-keppie temp test, and I felt like I was going to throw up.

Madelyn had a fever.

My brain went through a hamster wheel of “what comes next?” and the only solution that didn’t end up in heartbreak was to drug her up and take her to “Hamilton” anyway. And that’s exactly what we did. At home, she took a shot of Advil, got cleaned up, and I reminded her of other times that people she knows had to man up and work through sickness: My dad was hospitalized for pneumonia days before his wedding day; Bryan went to a Dodgers game as a kid with the flu and faked being healthy so he wouldn’t have to miss it; My dad drove me to Santa Monica for a job interview after I graduated college because I had mono and couldn’t miss it, so I popped an Advil in the car and an hour later, there I was dripping in sweat with my makeup running down my face and my hair frizzing as my fever broke while telling the SVP of Marketing for Nickelodeon why she should hire me (I didn’t get the job). These stories only made Madelyn cry. But I told her all she had to do was sit in her seat and soak up the brilliance of “Hamilton” and she’d be in bed before 11:30.

Thankfully, just like it did for me on the way to Santa Monica, Madelyn’s fever broke and she was mostly fine as we got to the theatre. Since my mom was with us, she suggested we use her handicap parking plaque so that we could get super easy street parking that would let us get in and out of the area quickly after the show and, bonus!, we wouldn’t have to pay for parking at the meter. And since we got to Hollywood pretty early, we had no problem finding a spot, pulled up to the curb, and strolled over to dinner with time to spare before the show.

Ninety minutes til curtain and this girl was all smiles and excitement thanks to a little Advil and adrenaline.

I was very close to stopping traffic so we could have an unobstructed photo with the theatre but then that would make me as crazy as the rest of Hollywood.

Mimi saw the original Broadway cast of Hamilton, but something tells me she was just as excited to see the tour with Madelyn in the audience with her.

We took lots of pictures and pumped ourselves up for what it would be like to finally see “Hamilton” together. I had picked out a cute dress for her to wear for the occasion, but she insisted on wearing her show shirt over her dress, and despite the fashion crime, I couldn’t tell her not to. She was so proud to be flaunting the logo shirt around the lobby and house of the Pantages. She was definitely one of the youngest audience members, if not the youngest, and she even struck up a conversation with a lady in the lobby about the show and her love for musical theatre.


Not sure what I was holding onto tighter — temporary healthy Madelyn or the golden tickets to grant us access to this musical theatre game changer.

The lobby of the Pantages never fails to amaze and awe.

Playbills in hand! We were just steps away from the room where it happens!

From the first note of the show to the last, we held hands and squeezed fingers during our favorite parts. I checked in on her face every few minutes and while she didn’t have a giant smile wiped from cheek to cheek, I noticed instead how intently she was paying attention and soaking it all in. “Hamilton” is not a show you go into blindly; there are so many words and so much story that moves along. If you zone out, you miss it. It’s not a musical for the lazy theater goer. It makes you think and it keeps you listening. I’m so glad Madelyn was on that journey and giving it her all.

The show got out late and Madelyn definitely looked tired. I’d like to think it was the tour of the Revolutionary War that tired her out, but I’m sure her little virus was keeping her down. I threw out the possibility of going to the stage door because WHEN IN ROME HOLLYWOOD, and she didn’t hate the idea. My mom and Bryan thought I was a little nuts for suggesting it, but I thought she’d really get the experience of a lifetime by meeting the actors and contributing to her overall theater geek-ness. After all, it was at the same stage door that I met Lin-Manuel Miranda after “In the Heights.” Full circle.

So we went, because we are adventurous and also enjoy self torture. We found a spot right up against the barricades and not too long after, cast members started trickling out. They were all so kind and gracious. Each one commented on how cute Madelyn was and thought it was adorable that a six-year-old was stage dooring. It made my heart burst to hear her address each actor by their name and thank them for their performance. Then she would tell them what she liked about their character in the show. She totally made up her own little formula for conversation and nailed it.

The first principal to come out was the understudy for Lafayette/Jefferson, Desmond Nunn, whose portrayal was full of all the swagger and sass!

Joshua Henry’s Aaron Burr was absolutely magical. He rocked the role flawlessly. A class act and a phenomenal actor.

Mathenee Treco portrayed Mulligan/Madison as passionate and loyal. He’s a delight on stage!

Raven Thomas, the understudy for Eliza and her stage husband, Michael Luwyoe who played Alexander Hamilton himself. Raven’s Eliza was sweet and comforting.
I liked Michael’s Ham performance better the second time around. His Act II scenes (a little heavier) were super strong! And at the stage door, both were so kind and attentive when they didn’t have to be.

…and then there’s the king himself! Rory O’Malley made my cheeks hurt from smiling so big! He’s perfect and absolutely comedy genius. This was definitely my biggest fan girl moment at the stage door, as I’ve followed his career for a long time. He’s just the best.

After about 45 minutes at the stage door, we began a 5-minute walk back to the car. We told Madelyn she could just conk out in the backseat and go right to sleep when we got home. She shuffled along as we crossed Hollywood Boulevard and walked up Vine. And we continued walking. And walking. And walking.

At one point, I said that my contacts must be fuzzy because I couldn’t see our car, which is my brand new black Honda Pilot. Then my mom pointed out that the spot we were standing in was where our car was parked. And as we looked up and down the street, we were not seeing my car. Anywhere.

My heart began to race as I realized my car had been stolen. I started thinking about all the items in my car — the strollers, the car seats, Madelyn’s ballet bag with her shoes, some of Arielle’s toys. We began to panic and I immediately felt violated. I blurted out “Oh my gosh! What do we do?! My car’s gone! Someone stole my car! Do we call 911?” and as we all tried to wrap our heads around it, Madelyn burst into tears — I literally saw the buckets of tears catapult from her eyes — and in the most devastated wail similar to “Stellllaaaaaa” from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Madelyn said, “BUT MY BALLET BAG!” More Irma and Harvey-like tears.

And then, like a rational person, Bryan looked up at the sign. Right above our heads, and apparently, above our car that used to be there, there is a sign that says after 6:00 p.m., it’s a tow-away zone and handicap placards are not exempt. While Madelyn was still burying her head in my mom’s body over our unstolen vehicle, Bryan and I began to laugh — and then scratch our heads — and then laugh again over the fact that our car had been towed and we were standing on a deserted Hollywood street with a sick child at almost midnight.

After calling the information line to learn where my car had gone to jail, we took an Uber to the tow yard and with our tails between our legs, paid bail at 12:30 a.m., and made our way home.

Bryan pays bail for the car; Madelyn wanders around in delirium; and I take photos because I do inappropriate things during stressful times.

While it was far from being an inexpensive night (we could’ve bought another ticket and a half with the tow money), I’ve never felt richer experiencing “Hamilton” with Madelyn and going on an adventure in and out of the theatre. Plus, life lessons are much more fun to learn when you can laugh at yourself.

And what did Madelyn think of the actual show? It blew her away.

First of First(s)

Yesterday was a big day in the Friedman house and it all happened within 2 hours of waking up. YAWN. So tired. O. M. I would type the G but I’m just that tired.

Madelyn and Arielle both had their first day of school and everything went pretty perfectly. Other than the no-sleeping in thing.

Oh, and not to bury the lede but Bryan was out of town for work this whole week so it was single mama milestone time and part of me feels like Supermom for doing it all myself and part of me feels super lame for being proud of doing it all myself.

I woke up the girls after I bargained with the alarm clock to not be sooooooo rude and abrupt in the morning. Madelyn woke up excited to start her first day of school. Arielle was just confused because she normally snoozes until 8:30 (don’t hate!). Thankfully, outfits were picked out the night before (including mine because… mom friends) and lunches were packed before going to sleep so all we had to do was take care of ourselves and make time for a 3-minute BTS photo shoot.

I love how Arielle is looking up to her big sis, learning the ropes of how this first-day-of-school thing works.

First grader and first time preschooler — these girls love going to school!

Arielle looks like the cutest little jailbird ever with her mugshot pose.

Madelyn is a professional first-day model now.

Each girl got a frozen Trader Joe’s waffle on the go because I’m the world’s okayest mom, except for Arielle, who got two because I knew she’d need a refill during Madelyn’s drop off. We walked onto campus together and made a quick stop to take a photo with the school sign. I’m planning to snap the same shot of her in the same place every year to see where she ends up on this sign as she grows. Sometimes I am impressed with myself.

We lined up at her classroom and I had no idea what to expect because we were not placed in the class I thought she’d be in. Apparently, Madelyn is a cooperative learner and easy class citizen (funny, the principal clearly hasn’t seen her do chores and help out around the house when I ask), so she was placed in a first grade/second grade split. I’m mostly okay with this because I am a product of a first/second split as a first grader and I think I turned out fine… enough. Also, she is in a class with a lot of her friends. The teacher is great from what I hear, and who I wanted Madelyn to have for second grade. So, we shall see what happens next year. I am super bummed to miss out on the classroom we hoped to be in (super bummed = I talked myself off a ledge and had to actively restrain myself from turning into that crazy mom), but I also know Madelyn will do great in any class. I’m super proud of her and can’t wait to see her enjoy some challenges and maybe even get a sneak peek into second grade.

New building, new door, new room. Same backpack.

Of course, the best part about the first day of school is seeing friends she missed all summer! She didn’t have many playdates with school friends because the first half of summer, Madelyn was in camp every day and the second half of summer, she was working on a TV project (more details TBD). “Normal” is not a word I’d use to describe Madelyn’s summer, so we are all feeling refreshed and delighted to be back in the routine with some of her favorite friends.

Madelyn’s FAYEvorite friend from kindergarten is in her class again, and we are all so happy!

Two feet away from literally entering first grade.

Parents were invited into the class to check out the new digs, and just as Madelyn and I got comfy at her desk, Arielle ran out of that second waffle. So that’s when Armageddon happened, basically, and she let out screams and enacted tantrummy fists and no amount of rational conversation could be exchanged. The bell would ring in about eight minutes and parents were still hanging around the desks inside. I was so sweaty from this and frantically figuring out my exit game plan because I knew this was not acceptable. The teacher casually walked by to let me know that “it’s ok! We’re almost done in here, so you can probably just say goodbye now,” which was a super nice way of telling me to take the maniac toddler in my arms and remove her from the classroom. What a fantastic way to start off the year as the crazy toddler mom. Thanks, REL.

A quick kiss later, we fled the room and hurried to the car so we could get to our next stop: Arielle’s preschool!

Madelyn was so excited to have her own desk with shelves inside to store her things. I imagine this is like the elementary version of lockers.

Despite the fact that it was a school filled with toddlers, Arielle’s drop-off was a lot more low key: tons of familiar moms from years of preschoolhood together, warm and sugary sweet teachers, and best of all, tons of easy parking.

I signed her in while she temporarily hugged my leg and then I showed her where her lunch, snack, and water go. She totally owned the classroom and felt so proud to be there. She immediately got on the floor to play with building toys and sat with her friend. The girls’ older siblings were in preschool together and now it’s exciting that the baby sisters are going through it in the same class, too.

Arielle was hard at work doing her very first preschool STEM project.

Brooklyn and Arielle both sat down to explore the toys on the carpet and were super involved in their exploration.

Brooklyn got a little verklempt when her mom started to leave, but Arielle made sure to let her know she had a friend in her.

Saying goodbye to Arielle was super anti-climactic at her drop-off probably because she didn’t have a baby sister at her’s to steal her thunder (grumble grumble), but I’m so glad there were zero tears from her all day. That is not the experience we had with Madelyn at the same age.

After a little more schmoozing with mom friends on the playground, I made it to my next stop right on time: behold! The new tradition! The most brilliant idea ever! The escape from reality! The Massage! I booked an hour of me time to relax and get those knots worked out. Quite frankly, I’d been saying I was going to get a massage for six months, but every time I’d think about booking it, something stressful or physical would come up and it seemed wasteful to indulge in a massage when it would be ruined right after due to more deadlines or travels or events. But I think two kids successfully attending their first day of school after a wild summer was the best way to start the 2017-2018 school year!

That massage table made me its bitch.

Pick-ups in the afternoon went just as well as the morning hustle. Both girls shared big hello smiles with me and squishy goodbye hugs with friends. At first I was a little emotional to leave the kindergarten bubble and start in on the final round of preschool, but I’m feeling really positive and excited about the school year and know my girls’ happiness is the best part!

After school, Arielle enjoyed a leisurely ride with friends around the playground, similar to what some experience as they travel from bar to bar at night in a college town.

Madelyn ran out with a smile on her face, so I’ll call that a win.

Fun references with the now-annual photos from Madelyn’s kindergarten year:

Madelyn’s First Day of Kindergarten
Madelyn’s Kindergarten Update After a Few Weeks

  1. nicole
    8/24/2017 10:22 PM

    love your words. always! glad to hear they had great first days.

A Fairy Happy Birthday

This year in kindergarten, all around her, teeth were dropping like flies. Madelyn made it very clear that she was jealous of all the other kids in her class who had teeth that were flappin’ in the wind and regular visits from the Tooth Fairy. Even when her very best friend lost her first tooth, Madelyn sulked in the corner because her envy outweighed her happiness for her friend. I can remember wanting to grow up at the same exact time as all my friends, too (and reading all those Judy Blume books near the end of elementary school made me eager to, as Judy would say, … develop… so I understood), but I explained to Madelyn that she was one of the youngest in her class so she would probably not lose her first tooth at the same time as everyone else.

I was shocked when, a month before turning six, she still didn’t have a wiggle. But about two weeks ago, Madelyn complained of her tooth “hurting” and I thought that was strange since the tissue and the tooth looked healthy. I asked my dentist friends and they mentioned that just before the start of a wiggly tooth, sometimes kids say their tooth hurts, but what it really means is that it’s just bothering them and there’s no pain to be concerned about.

That’s exactly what happened to Madelyn!

A few days later, I checked, and sure enough, the tooth moved side to side ever so slightly. Just as quickly as the wiggle came on, so did the progression of the wiggle! It seemed like no time at all until she, too, finally had a tooth that was flappin’ in the wind.

The night before her sixth birthday, we went to Lazy Dog Cafe for our traditional Birthday Eve Dinner and she enjoyed a huge ice cream sundae with a candle in it. As she blew out her candle, I knew exactly what she’d wish for: to finally lose her first tooth! It was barely hanging in, but I figured it needed another couple days. I had a pretty good feeling it would be out before the end of the weekend.

Wishing for the wiggle of all wiggles.

Good thing she didn’t lose her tooth right then and there or we never would have found it in that ocean of whipped cream.

Knowing this, I kept reminding Bryan to make a stop at the bank to pick up some magical and fairy-like $2 bills. I couldn’t do it because I have been with Madelyn non-stop all day working on a television show (more on that in … a while). But between his busy work days and the limited hours a bank is open (9 to 5 just really isn’t long enough apparently!), as of August 8th, we were still not stashing away $2 bills.

After our Birthday Eve Dinner, I had to drop of Arielle at my parents’ house so that she could spend the night since we’d be waking up early to take Madelyn on set. We were excited to show Bryan around and introduce him to the cast and crew who’ve become like family. Sending Arielle to my parents’ house the night before was the most logical plan since our morning would be super early.

While I was in the car, Bryan called and I heard chaotic crying and gasping in the background. “SHE LOST HER TOOTH!” he announced. I let out a desperate, “Are you serious?!” that was not that dissimilar from how I responded to his marriage proposal.

We quickly connected to FaceTime once I got to my parents’ house so I could see Madelyn’s face. She was still freshly watery in the eyes and super unsure about this milestone.

Me, in the upper left hand corner, trying not to cry because growing up omg.

Thankfully, he preserved the moment by having her tell the story of how she lost her tooth. Sounds to me like not only did she get rid of the day’s sugar and plaque, but she brushed away her tooth, too!

As the best daddy in the world, he handled the clean-up and talking her off a ledge like a total pro; Madelyn was completely freaking out that her tooth was now a fossil as she held it in her hand and saw a hole in her gum line in her reflection.

Bryan had Madelyn get the room ready for the Tooth Fairy which included tidying up the area around the bed so she wouldn’t trip over dirty laundry, headbands, and Legos late at night in the dark room, as well as writing a note to the Tooth Fairy in order to establish a healthy child-fairy rapport.

She’s such a little cheerleader:
“Dear Tooth Fairy,
You are the best. You can do lots of things. I love you! I want you to put my tooth in a box safe and perfect as can be. You can do this! Go Tooth Fairy!
Love, Madelyn”

I had ordered a cute pillow on Etsy that hadn’t arrived yet, so Bryan had Madelyn drop her tooth into the pocket of my childhood Tooth Fairy pillow, tucked her note inside with the tooth, and placed it under her pillow as tradition tells kids to do.

Madelyn ready for Tooth Fairy Prep 101.

When I came home from putting Arielle to sleep, I got to work. Since our $2 plan was out the window, we went for the only cash we had that wasn’t twenties. A nice, clean, crisp $10 bill would have to do. And while I wasn’t super thrilled about setting the bar that high on tooth #1, I decided on a few things: 1) She doesn’t really know the value of money yet anyway, so if I switch it up on her for the next tooth, she won’t really care; and 2) She’s seeing her favorite show, “Hamilton,” in September, so the way to make this tooth loot relevant is to tie it in with Hamilton himself who, as Lin Manuel Miranda says, is the “ten dollar founding father.” Thanks to some loose powder shimmery eye shadow, I made the bill sparkly and magical, and I knew that would seal the deal for her.

I also wrote her a letter from the Tooth Fairy and stressed out a fair amount as I knew I had to straddle the narrow line of making the writing easy enough to read (no cursive) and different enough to disguise my printing. I added some more glitter and shimmer to the letter — because apparently the Tooth Fairy is just a moth who’s been squished on paper?? — and knew it was time to do the deed.

Just before planning the route to the pillow and sneaking into her room, Bryan and I documented the moment. After all, this very point of parenting was brand new to us, and something I was looking forward to since the day I realized who my Tooth Fairy was. A fleeting whirlwind of emotions left me a little teary (do I have a Chopped Onion Fairy who accompanies the Tooth Fairy?!) because I distinctly remember when that very tooth that was hanging out in her pillow pocket grew into her mouth. There were tears and a few sleepless nights when she was a handful-and-a-half months old, but she grew to showcase a beautiful smile and this moment that was six years in the making meant it would transition to a new version of that smile. Time is so wonderful and cruel like that. So, all this to say, because it’s a big parenthood moment, we snapped a photo of the Tooth Fairy just before making touch down.

We found these wings tucked up in the top of the closet with the rest of the costume stash.
Pretty much the last time I wore this, I was dressed up as an angel at a college fraternity party. I am very sure that many vodka cranberries were involved with the 2003 version of this outfit.

I found Madelyn sleeping on the middle of the foot of her double bed, not even near her pillow, as if to make it easy for the Tooth Fairy to find the buried treasure. One less tooth, but no less considerate, that Madelyn.

I did the exchange and tip toed away. Very simple, but very breathless. I was sure she would wake up from the sound of my heart beating, like horses stampeding in a Game of Thrones battle. She stirred for a moment and I was already coming up with my go-to on-the-spot reason for being in her room in the middle of the night. But Sleeping Toothless Beauty continued slumbering, and my stealth fairy powers paid off. I didn’t know I could hold my breath for so long until I was safe in the hallway, undetected and unscathed.

This morning, she woke up on her birthday and ran into our room, way more chipper than anyone should be at 7 a.m.

“MOMMMMMMYYYYY!!! I have some exciting neeeeews!” she dangled the word “news” like I’d never guess in a million years and was waiting for my shocked reaction.

“Oh yeah?” YAWN. “What’s that? What could be so exciting this early?”

“Well,” she took a deep breath to drop the bomb. “The Tooooooth Fairy caaaaaaame! And she left me moneeeeeey! And it’s TEN DOLLARS. You know why? Because I love “Hamilton!” She really punched it with that “Hamilton.”

I declared that her Tooth Fairy knows all about her and is magical that way. How impressive. She couldn’t get over the fact that the Tooth Fairy was so smart and brilliant (go on… tell me more!) to not only know these things, but to put this much thought into them. If only she knew that the Tooth Fairy couldn’t make it to Chase before closing.

Madelyn couldn’t stop grinning her new grin. If she were a peacock, her feathers would be sprouting all over the place. And when I reminded her it was her birthday, too, her eyes almost burst open and her jaw hit the floor; in all the excitement of the Tooth Fairy morning discovery, she had completely forgotten she woke up on her birthday! She did her happy dance, gaping hole in her smile and all, and we spent the morning cuddling this baby who, truly, over night, grew into a totally awesome and unique six-year-old.

After her birthday dinner, I couldn’t help but capture this quintessential six-year-old moment.

I couldn’t think of a cooler way to lose a first tooth or a cooler girl to lose it.

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  33. Mimi
    8/11/2017 9:47 PM

    Wow Madelyn! So many big milestones happened to you in 2 days!
    Happy 6th Birthday! I hope all your birthday wishes come true and you have the best time being 6. I had such a wonderful time celebrating with you and your friends at the dance studio party.
    And how exciting that you lost your first tooth! The Tooth Fairy is the best fairy and is always excited to visit a kid who takes such good care of their teeth like you do. This is only the beginning of more visits from the Tooth Fairy.
    I am so proud of you and love you very much!
    love, Mimi