Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Round Two

G lifted up her shirt and pointed to her belly at my doctor's appointment yesterday and announced to the waiting room, "Baby."

Try explaining that there is a baby in mama's belly to a 21-month old. It's almost as crazy as trying to explain it to the mama: "So, there is this person inside me and today he or she grew ears. And tomorrow, he/she will start sucking his/her thumb and the next day, maybe open his/her eyes and react to a light shown outside my belly. Oh! and he/she is breathing liquid and at times gets the hiccups." Ok, right. That's totally easy to warp my head around.

The Safeway cashier who scanned my pregnancy test, stopped abruptly to ask. "Whoewah, does the fahrtha know?"

Being pregnant a second time is a lot less of a big deal. No parties. Not as much sympathy. Fewer random back rubs from T. It's like I know too much about what is to come this time around, so it feels less exciting and a little more...exhausting. But then on the good side, Round Two feels more normal, less stressful and more confident.

Pregnancy, in general, is not all that fun to me, as my random puking on Friday night might suggest. And yet, being pregnant is at the same time sort of magical, or spiritual, or something. It's sort of like proof of God. It's just too amazing and mind-boggling to be a random act of nature. And it seems that other people who smile at me on the street when they see my swollen belly, may subconsciously think the same.

That must be why people love to touch a pregnant belly or ask a pregnant woman about her due date, or how she feels, or if she's excited, or if she wants a boy or a girl. And while, I don't love to be called, "cute," as most 30 somethings probably don't, I have to realize, it's not really about me. I think people just have this desire to be close even for a second, to a pregnant woman because of what she symbolizes. No matter what people do or do not believe, or how cynical the world is, or how much financial trouble the US is in, a pregnant woman can often be this sign of hope or goodness or a sign of just something way bigger and way more important than any one of us.

The other day G lifted up my shirt to kiss my belly. Then she pulled my shirt back down and said, "Bye Bye Baby." She doesn't really get what's going on. But then, it's a pretty crazy concept for anyone, really. That must be what makes it so amazing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Crazy Mama and the Starbucks Experience

At one point in time, long, long ago, the fall time change meant another hour of sleep. Now, as every mama knows, it only means another hour of awake. My grandfather used to say that daylight savings time was all for the golfers. I am pretty sure he said that with a little bit of disdain. He wasn't a golfer. He was a railroad engineer who worked nights, so I bet he wasn't too fond of random messings with time. Me, I think maybe Starbucks is in on daylight savings. They know that the mamas will be needing an extra cup when their kid starts to make a habit of 5 am rises. Time change=more coffee.

This is why G and I found ourselves in Starbucks this morning, way before the 9-5ers were well-caffeinated. I love my neighborhood. There are plenty of every kind of people in my hood: mamas, nannies, partiers, druggies, rich, poor, cool boot wearing women, homeless, shoeless man. I love the diversity, even if I do get a little annoyed when the junkie on our block reprimands me for not having shoes on G. (This has happened twice, from two different stoopers.) It's a great place to live. BUT, Starbucks before 9 am on a weekday with a toddler who is trying to shove over the VIA coffee display feels a little...uncomfortable.

T and I decided a while ago that all mamas are crazy. And this I now know for a fact. This morning, I actually felt crazy. Or I felt like everyone else felt I was crazy.
But then, YOU try to keep one eye on an active toddler in a crowded space, with breakables everywhere, while at the same time keeping tabs on your purse, your place in line, your over-sized stroller and your husband's drink order. It's actually much harder than the non-mama might think.

However, if I were to be completely honest, I would have to admit that I add to the crazy a bit. Zen, I am not. For example, why do I feel I must speak to G in a louder voice than I would to anyone else?


Then my stroller made a break for it, hitting the guy in a green bowtie (yes, a bowtie, on a Wednesday morning.) and then it nicked the women in the Stilettos. (I have absolutely no idea what kind of shoes they were. All I know is they were not walking shoes.) So after I cursed T silently for not re-hooking up the stroller break, I grabbed it and tried to stash it in a corner, which was really a corner of no return in the back of the shop between the door and the mega coffee line. Luckily, some woman who no doubt thought I was crazy saved the stroller, dragging it around the people and closer to the door. "Jesus Woman!" I could hear her say in her head, "Get it together!"

As I went to pay for my coffee, uber conscious of the line behind me and the depth of my purse, I threw my bag on the counter. It was then that I felt the beady eyes of judgement. I just picked up a $168 Lucky bag from the outlet for $50 bucks. But these people didn't know this. All they knew was that I used more than two adjectives to order my coffee, I was slightly out of control in my mama-ing, and that I had just casually thrown a $168 bag on the Starbucks counter. U.G.H. I thought, they think I am "one of THOSE mamas." I don't know what that means, really, but I am sure it's not a compliment.

TO top it all off, Bowtie squeezed by G and me at the door as I was trying to figure out how to handle three drinks, a purse, a toddler and a runaway stroller, without losing or killing anyone, and without feeling more obtrusive than I already did. Bowtie didn't even look at us. He just walked right out the door, with not even an "excuse me," as he let the door close behind him.

When I returned home around 8:17 a.m., I was exhausted.

The truth is, I don't think those people in Starbucks thought much about G and me. They were too busy thinking about their own lives, schedules, and bowties. I was just something else they would have to maneuver around that day. I was just another Crazy Mama, in Starbucks, ordering an expensive drink with an expensive bag, with a toddler, before 9 a.m., with a rather large stroller, and a big voice, trying to keep her head on straight while also getting (for the love of God!) a little caffeine.

I swear, Starbucks is totally in on the time change.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Random Musings

A friend of mine describes parenting as driving through the Baltimore Tunnel on your way to New York City. Before you get enter the tunnel, you're listening to music, you're singing, you have the windows rolled down...Then you get in the tunnel and suddenly you become very tense and focused. You have to drive. No radio. No chatter. You are just concentrating on getting safely through. And once you get through, then you can go have check out all the fun in New York City.

There is some dumb movie out there starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pheiffer that came out years ago. A line in the movie haunts me. Bruce and Michelle are married, but a few kids later, their marriage is on the rocks. Bruce turns to Michelle and says, "What happened to that fun girl I used to know?"

T and I recently went to dinner at a childless friends' apartment. Not only was it totally clean, it was the most organized space I had ever seen. It was like their apartment was drawn on a piece of white paper with a gray pencil, using right angles only. I mean, even if you don't have kids, where are your months old stashes of New Yorkers that you haven't read but can bring your self to throw away? Where are your nostalgic high school sweatshirts that have more rips and more memories than your college sweatshirts right next to them that you can't possibly throw out lest you forget that one frat party that one time where you stood on the radiator and danced with P to, what was that song...?

When we returned to our own place that night strewn with colorful stuffed animals and toys that play slightly out of tune songs that get in your head for weeks, I felt a little defeated.

Whoever said women can have it all must have been a man.


I had a lovely lunch today with G and a couple of our friends at a very cool neighborhood spot full of very good looking people working on their macs and ordering second and third lattes. (Wow! No recession here!) G has the energy of someone high on cocaine, so I spent most of the time running after her, maneuvering around messenger bags and faded couches. But the day was lovely. My G is charming and happy and loving and so full of life. She is so worth all the crazy that she has made of my life.

I don't need to see New York City anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sometimes I Throw Things

When I was a kid, my Mother, on occasion, would say through clenched teeth, "I quit motherhood!" I always picture her saying it over a basket of dirty laundry in the basement. It never sacred me. I knew it didn't mean anything, really. But now as a mama, I know that that was my Mom's way of voicing frustration with her job.

There is a little dent in the wall of G's bedroom, right behind the door knob. I don't remember the particulars now, but at some point, out of frustration, I threw the door open so wildly that I made that dent. The chipping paint stands as a symbol of a crazy moment that I prefer to dismiss with a laugh.

I have been known to throw things: cell phones, books, and most recently, I threw a raw egg against the side of the dining room wall, out of frustration.

Such actions worry my dear, stable and calm husband, concerned for my sanity. But from conversation with other mamas, I do think there is an element of crazy that comes with the territory. A mama from work confessed to throwing a glass of red wine against the wall. A friend admitted to not being able to deal with her girls after 5 in the afternoon. Tina Fey's character in "Date Night" concedes that she would like to trade her daughter for a life time of wine.

There is nothing like mamahood. Nothing.

I have never had to do anything very trying in my life: lay bricks for a living, escape genocide, survive a mud slide, so I do feel a little weak on the days that I just can't seem to pull it together and be ok with 12 hours dictated by the whims and whines of a toddler, but I do find the job pretty challenging and I wonder at the women who appear to think of motherhood as a bowl full of cherries.

I love my grl intensely. I hate that she won't let me pee in the morning without freaking out. I love that she can sing the melody to the ABCs. I hate when she demands "tunes" and then throws a fit if I play a tune not to her satisfaction. I love that my grl pats me on the back as I hold her, as if to say, "I know you're working hard mama. Thank you." I hate that she whines if I try to wash the dishes and let her play alone.

I will try very hard in the future to stop throwing things, but I know it won't be easy. But then I have to remember, anything worth it isn't really easy: triathlons, a gourmet dinner, a byline...And Mamahood is no different.

Ultimately, of course, it's better than all those things combined, even if I don't always recognize it, and even if it makes me want to throw things once in a while.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I have been told that my inability to tell G "no" will come back to kick me in the butt. But I am just not good at it. I know I should tell her no when she tries to feed herself oatmeal in the morning. I know I should tell her no when she stands on the dining table chair. I know I should tell her no when she cries to be picked up when I am washing dishes. And that's just the beginning: I should tell her no to cookies, Gatorade, eating only the chocolate chips out of my chocolate chip muffin, to climbing the spiral staircase at the beach, to walking down the city street barefoot, to throwing her toys (she has an amazing arm), to dragging her blanket through puddles, to falling asleep on me, to eating crackers off the floor, to drinking water out of a glass, and definitely from demanding escape from her stroller in the supermarket.

I don't.

I have a little part of my brain that is devoted to the word no. It holds all the bad memories of the times I have heard the word spoken to me in the last few decades. It's a space full of disappointing moments with voice teachers, editors and friends, and I would love to be rid of it, but I just can't seem to drop it, and I find myself retreating to that space when I feel lame or defeated.

G has no such space. To her, and to her parents, her life is only about yes, what she can do. There is no can't. She doesn't understand that word. Her life is this blank sheet of paper on which she can write anything she wants. It's almost overwhelming as a parent. It's up to us to show her everything out there!

I know that no matter how smart G is, how coordinated she is, how outspoken she is and how smiley she is, she will hear the word "no" someday. She may even have a small space in her head devoted to it, although I hope not. But for my part, I have decided to save that word for her and use it sparingly. She will hear it soon enough someday, from strangers, from friends, from bosses. Until then, why not let her see only what is possible.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Cookie

I just read a mama blog in which she referred to the birth of her kid as "magical," and the first two weeks of her kid's life as "the best time."


This was not my experience. To me, birth is an explosion of liquids. And the first weeks after giving birth are purely survival.

I just got G to bed. It is 10 p.m. She was up at 6:30 a.m. Somebody, get me a cookie, fast.

"I just wish other mamas would have warned us how hard it would be," my mama neighbor said to me. This is a funny comment now that I am writing it, but my friend was totally serious. She is six months pregnant and was sitting with her two year old, talking about how she and her husband were figuring out how they were going to handle their lives with two kids, two careers, and a bazillion chores.

I didn't ask her if she would have done things differently had she known what mamahood entailed.

I love the real mamas who live in my building, all weighing careers with kids, and their own lives with their families' lives. And at the same time trying to maintain presentable bathrooms, and relationships with the ones who got them into this mess in the first place: their husbands.

The instinct to have kids must run really deep. Why do people do it over and over and over again throughout the ages? It's hard! And gross! And it totally screws up your schedule!

Is it for love? That kind of voracious, grind your teeth and hold your breath love that feels at times more like pain than love? Is it for hope? Belief in the future? Belief in mankind? What is it that compels us to keep breeding?

I would expound further, but it's midnight and I have to get up in six hours to my Moody Morning G.

Really, I deserve that cookie.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


A friend and I were talking about the Gore breakup recently. She was convinced that he had another woman. I said I thought it would be more fun if she had another man. "Mothers don't have time for affairs," my friend told me.

Growing up, I heard the phrase, "That's not my department," a lot. It was my parents' way of delegating tasks to each other. When the plumber needed to be called for a leaky faucet, my Dad would say, "That's not my department." When the plumber needed to be paid after his services, my Mom would say, "That's not my department."
My Mom's department was the bigger one, if way less lucrative, but the system 40 some years later has seemed to work.

In October of 2005, I won the Powerball Jackpot when I married the sweet TL. There are myriad reasons for his lovelines, not least of which (when you have a one year old) is that he will do whatever I ask him. So one day I asked him to clean the bathroom. Okay, fine, he said, and proceeded to prop up his computer on the sink right there next to the toothpaste and soap, type in www.mlb.com and watch the Red Sox game while "cleaning" the bathroom. What is that phrase? If you want something done right, do it yourself?

It's a complaint of every mama I know: Life's daily tasks often seem to fall to the mama and there is nothing 50-50 about it. It doesn't matter if the mama works full-time as a lawyer, part time as a teacher or stays home with the kids and runs them from school to play dates to dance recitals to guitar lessons, mamas just do more.

"You girls have it so good," my neighbor's mother told her. And we do. The dads of today do a lot. TL cooks dinner, baths G and puts her to sleep after working all day. I think my own Dad, in watching his kids become parents appreciates now what my Mom did all those years during the day by herself. But my Mom thinks it's almost harder today. The roles are not so easily defined and so the tasks not obviously the mama's or the dad's. How do you know which department you are supposed to be running anyway?

I guess you just figure it out as you go along, hopefully. In the meantime, I think, (sigh) the bathroom is mine.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

To Be Present

My grl's eyes are very dark. They are the color of the raisins that she ate (and then spit out) tonight. I love them. They look rounder than most eyes too; like the way a little kid would draw two eyes on a stick figure. There is a cheesy one year old boy out there who will someday say something to G like, "I could lose myself in your eyes." Ick. But then, I can understand that he might.

G looks at everything. She can spot a small piece of green trash, the size of a dime on an otherwise clean playground, from across the park. She will go to it, pick it up and look at it. Then of course she puts it in her mouth, but before she does, she gives the piece of wrapper her undivided attention. She really sees it. I suppose when absolutely everything you see is something new, that's what you do. She does this with books, flowers, that fuzzy that was stuck to her fingers the other day, dogs on the street, city birds out our window, strangers, mama, everything. She looks so intently, she seems to see something that I don't. It's sort of like that guy in American Beauty looking at the plastic bag floating in the wind.

It's amazing walking down the street how oblivious people seem to be of the world. So many people are plugged into various devices, they are missing so much, I think.

G misses nothing.

I have been trying really hard to be present these days, and see and look the way that G does, and value whatever it is that is right in front of me, and whatever time is happening right now. It's sort of hard to do, and today as I was trying to "be present," I think I ended up totally just zoning out.

I watched T's middle school baseball team play a game of wiffle ball recently. They were so fun to watch. They didn't seem to care about anything but right then and there, laughing as they slid around the gym floor running into each other.

When do kids loose that ability to be present? And why?

It's amazing how wise kids are, and how little credit we give them.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Fake It Until You Make It."

Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler was once asked about how he got to be a famous rock star. His response: "Fake it until you make it."

I can not fake it. And I am increasingly concluding that this is a detriment to any forward movement in my "career." The girl at work who wears black boots that make a sound as she walks by, she is faking it until she makes it, and doing it really well, I think. (But just what is that sound her boots are making anyway? Are there chains wrapped around her ankles?)

Or the blond chick at work who seems to be afraid that my low-chick-on-the-totem-pole cooties will jump onto her. She won't even look at me. She is also faking it until she makes it, and she too is doing a good job.

I may be too honest. Most people don't admit their flaws or their knowledge gaps. They laugh along, or walk away, or bs until they figure it out. I have never been able to do this. I don't know why. I'm not totally against faking it. It just seems like a lot of work and energy and it would put me in a position to be called out at anytime. That sounds uncomfortable.

But where this honesty seems to be working is in mamahood. G is so real and uninhibited and cool. She doesn't play weird games and therefore doesn't expect weird games from her mama. It's all very simple: Mama hugs her and speaks to her softly, therefore mama loves her. Mama tells her "no" to sicking her finger into the outlet, therefore, she is totally curious about what that will do. Mama won't eat chocolate around her unless mama is planning on giving her some. Mama really wants to let her climb on the dining room table because she is so impressed with her, but realizes this may be setting a bad precedent.

G expects everything and everyone around her to be as simple and real as she is. If G is sad, she cries. If G is happy, she smiles. If G is frustrated that the blanket she is standing on won't move, she hisses through her clenched teeth and then cries out. She is out there with her feelings and thoughts. What you see if what you get. She knows no other way.

If only it could stay that way.

When is it that G will realize that people are more complex than they may appear? That they may have ulterior motives or deep scars or hidden flaws? When will G conclude that many people are faking it until they make it?

It worked for Steven Tyler, but I'm hoping that faking it is not the only way to make it. There are people who succeed by putting themselves out there honestly to be judged by who they truly are, and not by who they are trying to be.

That's what I hope anyway. But in any case, as a mama, I like that I am not a faker. G will never wonder how her mama really feels about her, or who her mama really is. Hopefully this will add a little simplicity and calm and stability to her life in a world that will at times feel complicated and confusing. Other people around her may not be able to give her that. But her mama always will.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Compassionate Competitiveness

There's a girl at work who carries a bag that reads, "I don't like people." I smile at her when I see her in the hall, as I do to everyone at work, with the thought that maybe someday, someone might swing the bat for me. But my smiles to this chick are consistently met with glares: big, mean, head down, lips pursed, intentional glares. It's as if she is sucking in the light around her and contaminating it with her mean vibe. The girl is good at glaring. Her bag speaks the truth.

This weekend, G met her first Not-So-Nice Toddler. My sweet nephew turned two and had a birthday party that included about 15 little peeps all running around, in and out of the house, in and out of their mamas' arms and in and out of various moods. G was happy to be somewhere different with a lot of action, but, she preferred the sidelines. She watched and took it all in.

The first time the little chick shoved G down, I was standing right there. I didn't want to just scoop her up and take her away, I sort of wanted to try to teach her something, something about being tough, or something about standing her ground or something about people. "Get back up, my grl," I told her. And the chick shoved her down again.

This little girl's mom was very nice, and as she steered her kid away and I boxed G out, she mentioned that she wished she had a little bit of whatever fire it is that her kid has. That, she said, could help her in her business world. I could use a little of it too, really. The smiles only go so far.

G was left with a bruise on her left cheek. G's dad was mad. My mama friend this morning was appalled. I'd like to think the G learned something, maybe not about being tough, (by the end of the night, G resorted to tears after a few too many shoves) or standing her ground, (G couldn't. The other chick was older and taller) or even people (I am sure G has forgotten the other chick) but, maybe something about life or birthday parties or blond chicks. Who knows?

From my end, I am now wondering about how I should teach my lady to handle aggression. Turn the other cheek? Shove back? Walk away? No option seems appealing to me. I don't want G to get into an all out brawl, but I also don't want her to neglect to stand up for herself. She'll need a bit of an edge, at times, to get where she wants to go. But then again, I wouldn't want her to shove everyone down in her way either. Can you teach compassionate competitiveness?

Here is yet another another lesson that I am not sure I understand myself.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

G's Shoes

We've had a hard time with shoes for G. She started walking around nine months, before we had time to google "baby shoe sizes." For a while we pretended that it was enough that she wore those little socks that look like shoes. But then she outgrew those. So we bought her a couple pairs of shoes, but they were too small. Then we bought her tie shoes that we thought were cute, until we tried to get them on the grl. Finally, we bought a pair of shoes that seemed to work, and then we promptly lost them.

T and I love to talk about G, and who she is, under that roly poly belly and those dark chocolate colored eyes. We wonder if you can know who a one year old will be.

G's grandma gave her a rocking lion for Christmas. G likes to stand on it. She holds on to the handle bars with both hands and her butt in the air, looking like one of the sequenced ladies in the circus riding an elephant. I don't think she can balance herself with no hands on the wobbling lion, but I know that is what she is planning on doing next. She lifts her head and smiles at me as she swings her behind to rock the lion. The grl likes a challenge.

G is good with challenges. But she is bad with mornings. T and I awake every morning to a full on 10 on the G Scream Scale. She goes for it with no warm up or anything. No, "Hello in there. I am awake and therefore you must be too!" It's just immediately, "WHY AREN'T YOU IN HERE!!!!!!! I AM AWAKE!!" It's in the morning that I find myself wondering about designer babies and if there is a way to turn on the gene that dictates "morning person." It's also the time of day that T will most likely say something like, "Man, what guy will marry her if she is like this in the mornings?" (I don't remind him, "Probably a nice guy like you.")

I already have these ideas about who G is: She is sporty. She is curious. She is awkward looking in most dresses. I can't help but make such judgments. But I am trying hard to make sure I leave G and who she is, and wants to be, open. I don't want to already have expectations of her. Who knows? Maybe tomorrow she'll decide to be a morning person and she'll have a smile for me. And then maybe by Friday, she'll decide that standing on the lion is scary.

We have shoes for G now. They are sandals, Velcro and unrestricted. They seemed to work...for a while anyway. But the other day, G loosened her foot so that her toes were free, but her heel remained strapped. She got annoyed and wanted the shoes off. These shoes apparently don't quite fit either.

That's alright. We'll go find some other shoes for G to try. She may have to go through a number of shoes before she finds a pair that fits. As long as eventually she is comfortable in whatever shoes she is wearing, that's what will really matter to me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Just A Mom

A couple weeks ago, I threw my Mom a birthday party. It was no big deal: burgers, Mexican dip, a pretty cake, a cheese ball. But with a one year old, everything is about 100 times harder than it should be: In Target, as I was buying the paper products, G spilled mini-Cadbury eggs everywhere. At home, while I was ordering the cake, G (impressively) picked up my hot coffee and treated herself to a taste, which then went everywhere, and quickly became no treat at all, for anyone. In front of my computer as I was trying to send the invites, G got herself stuck behind the couch. Even better, in trying to get herself unstuck, she got stuck in the sticky "child safe" mouse trap behind the couch.

A one year old ups the difficulty rating of any task no matter how small. But I am a mama and even though no one put any warning labels on the cute packaging, I understand that this is just the way it goes now. If I want to run, work, read the paper, clean the bathroom, shop for groceries, or even just go to the bathroom, I have to work my schedule, as well as my multi-tasking skills.

So, my cousin walks in the door to my Mom's birthday party.
He says to my Dad: "Wow, you look great!"
He says to my brother: "Wow, obviously you are keeping fit out there in California!"
He says to my other brother: "Are you tanning up there in New York? You look so young!"
He says to me: "Hi!"
So I say to him: "Hey! What about me? Don't I look good too?"
His response? "Oh, you're just a mom."

Ah moms. We do. We go. We make it happen. But at the end of the day all we are are moms. Just moms. Even now with doctor moms, running moms, corporate fancy-pants moms, thong-wearing moms. It doesn't matter. A mom is still "just a mom."

At least we have progressed beyond the mom jeans.

It's annoying, society's? media's? everyone's? idea of a mom. This despite my own feelings of strength as a mom. (Also my own feelings of emotional disarray at times, but that's for another blog.)

When G was first born, we would go to Safeway daily, just to get out and feel like we had done something. Everyday in those first months of mamahood, the Safeway loudspeaker would blare a commercial that went something like this: "Want something fresh and tasty to jump start your day? Pears are a good energy boost. They are great for moms and athletes alike."

In my urban hood, the mamas I meet are cool, smart, friendly and not restricted by their identities as moms. They are also really into their kids and totally focused on them while still maintaining their own personalities and interests. Maybe the reason for all the dated and dumb perceptions of moms out there is because mamas today are redefining mamahood, making it mean something broader and therefore something harder for people (like my cousin) to fully understand.

My grl and I like to challenge other runners we come upon on our afternoon runs. If boys hate to be passed by a grl, they REALLY hate to be passed by a mom. When they see that this is a possibility, they will either turn left as we go straight, or they will suddenly feel the need to tie their shoes. This is hugely annoying to us and we feel that these boys have not given us our due. The next time this happens, though, maybe I'll try to make him feel better and scream out to him as he crosses the street away from us:

"Yo! Don't worry about it, man! I'm Just A Mom!"

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mama Brain

I lose things all the time these days: my id, my green hat, my keys, my right, silver old high heel that I needed desperately for a wedding recently.

The other day, I packed running shoes in my bag before we headed to my Mom and Dad's, so I could run that afternoon. As I did so, I thought, "Man! Why won't these fit in my bag today?" I discovered later, upon dressing for my run, that I had packed my husband's size 11 running shoes, instead of mine.

Such flakiness is referred to as "Mama Brain." It's a fuzzy head. It's an absent look. It's a feeling that you have just forgotten to do something but you can't quite remember what it was.

At basketball games, no matter how long I have been guarding the same girl, I will forget which one I was guarding after a turn over. "The girl in the red shirt? The one in the blue shirt? Oh, I bet it was the one who JUST SCORED!"

I want to wear shirt as a disclaimer that says something like, "I am a mama! Please forgive me if I am a total idiot! I am trying to keep another, very small, very weird and very loud human alive."

On many a run with G, I get such bad Mama Brain that as I am running, with G, right there in front of me, I stop! in my tracks because I think I have forgotten G somewhere. "Oh shit!" I panic for a second before I remember that I am pushing the grl.

I have lost my brain, but at least I haven't lost G yet.

It seems that I used to have time to think about BIG STUFF, like life and love and the world and good people and bad people, and people I liked, and people I didn't, people's whose clothes I thought were cool, people who never looked at me no matter how many times I passed them in the hall at work. Now, I think that I am not thinking most of the time. OR, maybe I am thinking SO much that I don't even realize that I am thinking, and therefore coming across like I am not thinking.

There, that was just thinking.

The bottom line is that G takes up so much of my brain that there is very little of it left for things that don't really matter.

There's a guy at work whose whole life is about going out to the cool new bar or the fancy new lounge. I can't help but chuckle/judge a bit. He says things like, "For every foot of snow that falls, they are going to be serving $2 off all rail drinks!!!"

Clearly, he and I are not in the same place.

Your life changes with a kid, so it only makes sense that your head would too. You brains cells are in overload trying to grasp the Crazy Town that is your life. You have to pare it all down to the stuff that really matters: Poop over pettiness, Pack n Plays over packed bars, day-to-day over daydreams, smiles over sleep, friends and family over foes.

It's amazing what you can learn from a one year old. (Silent shout out to the sleeping G!) I think (!) that I'll embrace my Mama Brain from now on.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


As a thank you to her mama for the very cheap rental of her body, the sucking of every once of her calories, and the miles and miles of walks around the city so she could sleep, the G has learned, "da-da."
This morning I looked at her and said, "mama" and she responded, "da-da."
"Mama," I said.
"Da-da," she demanded.
This went on and on until she said, "da-da" one last time and then smiled at me.
The grl is playin' me.

When my Dad turned 65, we all threw him a big party. My brother wrote him a song. I wrote him a poem. There were decorations and food and surprise guests. When my Mom turned 65, there was...I can't even remember. I am hoping that we called.

I've heard my mom talk about the different relationship a mom has with her kid as opposed to what a dad has with his kid. Having a little perspective these days, I am starting to understand what she was talking about.

Why are moms and dads so different? Moms are so constant that they are easy to forget? Moms know you better than dads? Dads, you never want to disappoint, and moms, you disappoint all the time?

I broke my leg when I was in the third grade skiing down a mountain in Colorado. I hit a tree. It was bad and dramatic, and the ski patrol came and bundled me up in the sled. My Mother, so many years later, still can't talk about it. I remember as I was sitting in the snow looking at my leg turned out at a very unnatural angle, I kept screaming over and over, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" My Dad knelt down next to me and took off his red gloves to reveal his big, strong, weathered hands. (I think I remember this because it always surprised me when he took off his gloves in the snow. I thought it was too cold.)

In the weeks that followed though, it was my Mom who took me to the doctor, picked me up at school, talked to Mrs. Clark about missed work, invited my best friend over, and made me gourmet picnics in the backyard with my big old cast hanging off the blanket.

Maybe it's ok that moms have a different relationship with their kids than dads. (And it's ok that the G says da-da and not mama.) I know if given the choice, my Mom would still be a mom over a dad. She would take her kids' (at times) biting words and disrespect. She knows us best, I think she would say, and therefore she has seen some of the best too.

I picked up G to put her down for her nap this morning, cradled her and started singing. She laid still in my arms- a rarity- and just looked at me with those big, brown eyes, listening. When I finished the song, she smiled. I laid her in her crib, put the blanket over her and she smiled again.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Jenny Sanford's mom

I think my girl is beautiful. I tell her as much, dozens of times a day. I sing her songs about how sweet and smart she is, or just entire songs made up of two words, over and over again: "Gilly, Gilly, Gilly Girl."

My very physical lady loves to climb on the table, the chairs, the kitchen counter, me. She can wiggle her way off the bed (probably 2-3 feet high) and land on her two feet. I watch her do it and then applaud.

On the playground a couple weeks ago G approached some moms and kids and said clearly, "Gilly." She hasn't said it since then, so maybe it was a total fluke, but I said to the moms that day, "Wow, what does that mean if her first word is her own name!"

I've been thinking a lot about Jenny Sanford's mom these days. (Jenny's the wife of the senator who had the affair with the Argentinian chick.) How did Jenny's mom raise her daughter to think that the way her husband treated her was ok? Jenny was magna cum laude from Georgetown, classy, pretty, from a prominent family, why would she hang with a guy that mistreated her from the beginning? How could Jenny have such low self-esteem?

Can you trace a girl's confidence to her mama?

Yikes, that's a bit of pressure.

It's a tough world out there for chicks. There are all these rules: Be determined, but not bitchy. Be pretty, but not too sexy. Be sporty, but stay feminine. Be curious, but remain pure.

I guess it's a lot to try to teach your daughter, especially if you don't really understand the rules yourself. And then, the rules are always changing, with generations, with technology, with equality. It's all just too hard to figure out. Maybe I'll just tell her to make up her own rules.

I just thought of a new tune to sing G that maybe she'll like. I think, though, I'll keep the lyrics the same.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

For DC Mamas looking for something to do

Hey DC Mamas!

G and I checked out Spark Lab at the newly renovated American History Museum yesterday at 14th and Constitution Ave. (The lab is open 10-4 everyday. Enter at Constitution Ave and go right to the West wing.) It was a very cool alternative to our standard library visit. It's good for all ages kids. They conduct experiments with the older ones, but score for G! they have a little part with blocks and puzzles for kids under 5. G dug. Met some cool peeps too. And then we just walked around the huge lobby area where G shed all her footwear. The woman does not like to feel restricted!

Museums in the wintertime rock! No one is around; except for the English woman who asked me where the Gap was because I "Look like someone who would know where the Gap is." I am still trying to figure out if that is a good thing.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Year One

I tell friends who are big and pregnant for the first time, things like, "You're gonna be great!" and "It's awesome!"

What I really think is, "Oh shit, I do not envy you."

A year ago last week, I went into labor with the G. T and I walked into the hospital calm, smiling and holding hands. We walked out three days later exhausted, clueless and totally annoyed that we could not figure out how the damn straps on the car seat worked. (My brother actually had to drive to the hospital to help us.)

G floored us.

The lady popped onto the planet all crinkly and red and weird looking. I was embarrassed of her nose. There was something weird about it and I wondered if everyone else thought the same. T left my side immediately to be with her and I felt replaced. I wasn't all aglow and in love with her. I was hormonal and trying desperately to figure out this weird, new planet on which I had suddenly found myself. And G was literally sucking the life out of me: The hungry girl was nursing every two hours! grappling for my boob like some sort of blind rodent. I would look out the window into the alley at midnight, at 2 am, 4 am, 6 am...and I'd wonder how the heck I was gonna do this.

Our favorite survival story comes at the end of a G screaming day-into-night marathon. We were so fed up and exhausted and at our wits' end that we threw on some jeans, threw G in the stroller and walked to the bar for a much needed beer. G stopped crying. And we stopped being totally annoyed. T's advice to anyone now with a colic baby is simply, "Keep a six pack in the frig."

"Why do people do this?" We'd say to each other. "And on purpose! And more than once!"

G turned one this weekend. The year has felt like both the fastest and the slowest year of my life. She has opened up my heart. She has demanded the best of me. She has seen the worst of me. She has made me a better person. She has exhausted me and challenged me. It's been tough, but I sort of wouldn't want it any other way. After all, anything truly worth doing requires real effort, determination and strength. I am proud of our battle scars.

Today G sleeps a bit more. We understand the workings of a car seat. And T and I both think our smart, strong, highly vocal lady is the coolest thing on the planet. Even better, (and thankfully!) we're pretty sure she likes us too.

Happy one year my crazy lady!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cookies for Breakfast

We went to our second music class the other day. G likes the percussion instruments, but she seems sort of freaked out by all the weird high pitched "Weeeeeeeee!" and "Boink!" sounds the teacher makes. It is pretty strange the way adults behave with kids, so free and uninhibited in ways that they never would be in real life. I wonder when it is we start teaching kids the opposite, when we teach them control! and discipline! and inhibition! No wonder life is so confusing. We learn one thing and then we learn the exact opposite.

I dunno what sort of disciplinarian I will be, and I wonder if I should have that figured out at this point. I did give G cookies for breakfast this morning and I know that can't be good. (There is a mama-police angel that sits on my right shoulder that quietly scolds me for such things.) But it did get G to stop crying and the cookies did have oatmeal in them. And they were homemade! No preservatives!

Waiting in the airport this weekend, G and I watched as one mother over and over again told her kid to stop sitting on the floor. G and I were both sitting on the floor, eating M&Ms. I am sure that mom and I were totally judging each other.

G and I have had many battles at this point in our relationship; battles of sleep, battles of moods, but yesterday we may have had our first Mom-Daughter battle. I tried to get her to understand, "no" to biting me. I pulled her away and stood her on the floor and shook my head, firmly reciting, "no, no, no." She turned her back to me, walked to the door, looked over her shoulder with those deep, dark eyes and shook her head. The woman, I am quite certain, was mocking me.

There is always so much discussion and strong opinions about who is harder to raise: girls or boys. Many women seem to favor sons over daughters, including my chick cousins. This has always disturbed me a bit since 1. I am a girl and 2. not liking girls just because they are girls seems totally backwards to me. It's sort of like not rooting for your own team. My own Mom, I think, has always valued her strong friendships with women, so it wasn't until later that I realized how hard women can be on other women. Some women look at me and seem to totally hate me when I am running down the street with G, for no reason, other than, I guess, cause I am a fit chick.

I think the G has already learned how far a smile will get her. It's almost a game with her to try to get strangers to look at her. She has no concept of who she is smiling at on the street: black, white, short, tall, rich, poor, man, woman. She is not competing with anyone or judging anyone. She has no concept of any of that. All she wants is a smile back.

However I discipline G in the future (or whatever I let her eat for breakfast) I hope that I can keep that kind of openness to other people, (and to other girls) alive in her. The world could learn a lot from ma G.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Scream Town

If I thought at this point I would be a totally together mama, I also thought at this point G would be a totally together kid. Another day, another scream-fest.

G and I have yet to master nap-time. It's like this elusive plane that I know many kids go to and G gets there every now and then, but she doesn't stay for too long and she'll never get there without first a nice, long visit to Scream Town. That's where we are right now: In Scream Town. It's loud. It's wet with tears, fraught with boogers, and chuck-full of some good mama guilt.

I have written about the loss of innocence, the loss of time, the loss of a your old life, but how about the loss of sleep? T and I used to scoff at parents who noted their exhaustion. "Ok, right, we'll be tired. We get it," we would say.

A couple nights ago, G screamed on and off again from 2 am-6 am. Sounds like an exaggeration, right? It should be. It sounds crazy. Well, it was. Recalling the number of eff bombs I dropped in those wee hours, I realize that G's screaming is no exaggeration. It was like some sort of circuit training or track workout. G would scream for about 20 minutes, then go to sleep, then wake up, remember that she was pissed and then scream again. 20 on. 20 off. This went on all morning. It was incredible and impressive. And I couldn't say eff enough.

I wonder if the mom-police would get on me for G's screaming. (Although, from my experience with the mom-police, it seems as if the women on the force are not moms at all, really. I will admit, however, that taking G running in the rain was a bad call and the non-mom-police should have glared at me for that one. Lesson # 2356 learned.)

I digress. We are here in Scream Town again today. I feel my blood pressure ascending.

Shoot. My grl can scream. Really, there is nothing like it. T records it and then makes his high school class listen to it as a way to promote safe sex. We call her full blown, there is a poltergeist in my room scream, a 10. Anything below that is really fine, mostly because we know how bad a 10 is.

G started her lung work outs at just a couple days old. "Well, at least she will tire herself out so she'll sleep tonight," we would say. Ah, what naive parents we were. Lady G has the stamina of Barack Obama on the campaign trail. She can just keep going and going and going.

Which is why here I am still in Scream Town. And here again, wondering about my momhood ability. Yesterday while G screamed (at only about a 6 on the scream scale) as I tried to get her bundled up and out the door for a walk, I looked at her and said, "G, I am not sure I am cut out for this mom thing." But then, I finally got her out the door and moving down the street and she chilled out. She took a nap. I got a run in. And G was ma beautiful lady.

I just went in to G's room, picked her up, rocked her to sleep and successfully put her in her crib. We have made it again, at least for the time being, out of Scream Town.

And I just spoke too soon. eff.