Crafty

So I’ve never considered myself particularly crafty. Artistic, yes. Creative, definitely. But craftiness implies a level of…patience and detail wrangling I just don’t have.

When my daughter was less than a month old, in some kind of hormonal haze, I bought a Martha Stewart scrapbook kit. The idea was that this would be her baby book. It was part of a shopping spree only explainable by being freed from my breastfeeding house arrest.

It turns out this is kind of fun. Now don’t get any ideas that I’m some scrapbook maven. I’m sure it’s cheating to use one of the kits, and I know people do amazing work with little bits of paper, doilies, and glue. Did I mention I hate using glue sticks? I mean, I graduated nursery school for a reason. I also got my only Below Average mark on a report card in all of elementary school for cutting. “Cutting” was an evaluated task and I wasn’t good enough. Patience! Details! Little bits o’ things! Not my forte.

When I got into drawing and painting as a teenager, these limitations did come back to haunt me. Patience and a sort of neatness are virtues in painting and I would always hastily declare something DONE! ART! It’s done because it’s art and I say so! before I should have due to a severe lack of patience.

Anyway, lifetime failings aside, here’s my daughter’s baby book in progress. I want to mostly finish it so I can leave it out at her 1st birthday party and awe people. With my awe-inspiring awesomeness at life. And paper bits.

In progress. It’s a messy business. Note the quesadilla maker box is used as a platform for coloring for my daughter. It’s not part of her baby book. Yet.

Oh, yeah. I guess I didn’t do the cover yet. I forgot I had to do the cover, too. This is time-consuming.

Labor page. The midwives said I was awesome because I pushed (from fully dilated to birth) for 7 hours with no epidural or pain medication.

Hmm, this page looks a bit crowded. I will amend!

First Halloween and Christmas. All my photos are digital so if I happen to have anything printed, I’m adding it to the book. If I don’t have any physical prints this very moment of an event, like oh, say, my first child’s first Thanksgiving, it’s going to get skipped. Wow, I’m a great scrapbooker.

Love needs a mention.

Gotta brag record for future generations when your baby does everything early, right?

This page isn’t done. I couldn’t handle any more assemblage of minute ephemera by this point.

I’m up to Easter! I could conceivably finish by the time Anna gets married!

Dairy Free Dinners

I’m on week two of a dairy free diet, and so far it’s been slightly challenging to find meals that leave me feeling full and satisfied.

Thanksgiving leftovers, the only dairy I’ve had in 2.5 weeks

I keep feeling like I’m missing something. Not sure if it’s the richness/ taste of dairy or the fullness from saturated fats. I’m not a huge red meat eater so I think I’m missing that…animal fat, I guess.

Foods I’m using to try and satisfy this feeling:

Avocado, on everything

Almond milk (in cereal and oatmeal)

More nuts

More eggs and meat

Peanut butter

Mayo

Tonight I had regular old pasta with tomato sauce, and I didn’t miss the Parmesan cheese too much. I wanted pizza, so this had to do.
Other weeknight meals this week: chicken sausage and peppers and ground turkey and avocado tortillas.

I’m obsessed with Frontera Foods flavoring packets from Rick Bayless. Did you know he’s a fitness junkie?
And hot?

Anyway, with avocado and warm corn tortillas, I didn’t miss the cheese.

I chopped up half an onion, two potatoes, and cooked them with ground turkey then added the simmer sauce. So easy it works with a twenty-minute napping baby.

I’ve also been trying some really expensive dairy free products like this chocolate chip cookie dough. I was just craving yummy baked goods.

They definitely didn’t have the consistency or look of standard cookies, but they tasted good!

Since I’ve cut dairy, Henry seems much less fussy and gassy, but his diapers are still really full of mucus. I know, it’s gross. I’m not sure if I should cut soy next, or if it will just take more time.

Things That Are Stupid At the Playground

I spend a lot of time at the playground.

I see a lot of stuff that explains why America is doomed as a superpower and how we deserve our inevitable decline and eventual future eating cat food from China in our post-first nation hovels.

We suck.

Today I saw an eight year old who didn’t know how to pump her legs / swing herself on the swings. She wasn’t delayed or special needs in any way. She wanted her mom to push her. She may have even been ten years old. She was practically menstruating and she hadn’t learned to push herself on a swing.

I’m pretty sure the Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese are building swing sets at eight years old.

Today I saw a nice grandmother repeatedly admonish her nine year old granddaughter to be careful and not fall off a tiny little rocking car that BABIES go on. It was like the height of this girl’s knees. I’m pretty sure she’d be okay even if she did fall.

I see kids who can’t play because their parents are telling them what to do next. Go on this swing! Now go over here!

I see huge children of varying advanced ages being followed by parents who hover over them as they climb like three steps.

There are a lot of good books written about this.

A Nation of Wimps is one. Free Range Kids is another. But I don’t need to read an entire book to see the absurdity. This was just TODAY at the playground. One afternoon at a playground makes me feel like either the entire world is nuts or I am.

I think we know the answer here.

Do you see things that boggle your mind at the playground?

Gosh Darn It I’m Good Enough

I’m currently working on an article about New Year’s Resolutions and why we fail so spectacularly at them.

I spoke with Tara Newman, who is a healthy lifestyle blogger by night but an organizational psychologist and goal setting coach by day. She had a lot of really thought-provoking things to say about what goals we set, how we should approach making changes and common pitfalls. It got me to thinking.

See, “my friend” has a little problem with yelling sometimes. Well, not really a friend. A little birdie that lives in my yard and has my face and name is what I mean.

Yelling.

Now, I have to preface this by explaining that yelling seems normal to me. I grew up in a half-Italian family where yelling was just one setting on a vast dial of emotion, one that could slip momentarily into happiness, elation, anger, sadness, and myriad other expressions and then back as if it had never happened. Like a loose dial that could spin around and around. You were never meant to be upset about the yelling because kissing and love and tomato sauce were around the corner. It never meant anything. Just an opera of unmediated human expression.

The problem is other people don’t experience it this way, people like my dad, and my husband, and the vast hordes of pale Northern Europeans that have mostly populated North America, and even me, even with that upbringing, I know it’s not quite right. It’s not the way to be. But at moments of stress, exasperation, overwhelmed, I revert back to what I know. The easiest path. The worst response. I’d like to not yell as much.

Tara brought up the point that a good way to start is to do a little research. Why do I yell? What happens right before it, both externally and inside my brain? What are the circumstances surrounding it? Do I really mean to say something else, perhaps:

UNCLE!

Or I GIVE UP Or I NEED TIME ALONE Or I’D LIKE TO GET ON THE FIRST GREYHOUND BUS TO FUCKING ALBANY I DON’T EVEN CARE WHERE IT’S GOING BUT THEN I’LL MISS MY KIDS SO I BETTER STAY HERE AND YELL BECAUSE NO ONE IS GETTING DRESSED AND I HAVEN’T BEEN ALONE IN THE LAST 500 HOURS

Or whatever. And then instead of just setting the goal to “not yell,” which is way too big and unwieldy and non-specific, I should set action-oriented smaller goals like 1. Plan for a small mental break each day to keep sane and avoid getting overwhelmed 2. Express my feelings in other ways and so on…

So I’m going to try this jazz. Me and Stuart Smalley, we up in this bitch.

Yell Free 2014, here we come. This is going to require a lot of drinking, but please note I did not say Drink Free 2014. I’m good enough, but I’m not a saint.

Hell Week

Hell Week is kind of like Shark Week, but instead of sharks, it’s filled with trips to the pediatric emergency room.

I’m going to write this in the past tense in a hopeful/defiant middle finger to the universe and a way to proclaim that it’s over. That THAT was last week, and this week will be a spectacular return to the mundane.

Like the week before last, when I was just worried about getting my runs in each day, and what time the kids napped and went to bed at night. And that my four year old didn’t like soccer that much.

This week we didn’t even try to go to soccer, or preschool for half of the week. It was pure survival mode.

Last weekend we celebrated Henry’s first birthday with a trip to the farm with hay rides and giant swings and cupcakes decorated like pigs, cows and duck-chicks, and on that day it became known to me that there was a family health crisis going on, no not Henry’s, ANOTHER one, then I spent the next few days stressing, but then started to come up for air on that one, Tuesday Henry started having a runny nose, no big deal, Anna had had a cold a few days before, wasn’t a bad one, just involved copious amounts of nose running, he was running around happy as can be, went to bed Tuesday night, then at some point when I was nursing him around 5 a.m. the next morning, I felt him making a weird thumping with his stomach against me. He was asleep so I figured he was dreaming, you know how you can sometimes make involuntary movements while you dream? But then I turned on the light to check and realized he was having a little trouble breathing.

Am I overreacting? Am I delirious? Please don’t be this breathing shit, God knows I can’t handle this, can’t handle watching stomachs and necks and fingertips and lip color like we did when Anna was three months old and sick with RSV bronchiolitis do I wake up my husband? Yes I do, check Henry, yes he agreed he was wheezing a bit, do we watch him, do we go to the after hours urgent care do we go to the hospital where are your shoes do we call someone to watch Anna no get her in the car no warm it up I think cold air is bad for breathing or is it warm? I can’t remember is there time for Googling no, no Googling, that’s panic inducing let’s go, call the pediatrician on call my phone is dead get your phone Anna is crying where are we going is it morning no it’s not morning yet

is henry getting worse in the car why yes yes a little bit

drive to the urgent care, they are closed, who invented an after hours urgent care clinic that is closed ever?

and so on. ER visit, diagnosed a reactive airway situation, gave steroid shot, three treatments of Albuterol, sent us home with a nebulizer. Second night, rinse, wash repeat.

So Thursday morning we got back from the ER around 6 a.m. The kids wouldn’t go back to sleep, because why would they possibly sleep after being up at 4 a.m.

By nightfall the following had transpired:

My phone had gone missing. I assumed it fell off the roof of the car somewhere between our house and the hospital.

That morning the street sweepers came through. They come through maybe twice a year, but of course they came Thursday and sucked up my phone (?).

Henry managed to throw his mesh feeder into the toilet just as Anna was flushing it. A plumber and $300 later the rubber gasket blocking the pipe was removed.

I went into the backyard and realized the ground was squishy beneath my feet. I had turned the hose on to water the trees THREE days before. The hose had been on since Monday.

Henry peed on Walt’s sandwich.

We were too tired to make another one.

And that was just Thursday. You see how this is going.

I’m glad the week is over. I will never take health and sanity for granted ever again. Right now Henry is still on the nebulizer but I’m hoping he’s finally on the mend. I also got sick and couldn’t run so I was even more of a basket case of stress than you’d imagine, and I just tried to run this morning and had like a lack of air/asthmatic type coughing afterward so who the hell knows when health will return to my house.

I’m doing woo-woo crap I don’t normally believe in, anything, kale shots, burning mugwort, positive thinking, all hands on deck, get me to health week.

Hell week is for the sharks.

La Mia

Today is Henry’s first birthday but I haven’t yet written about Anna turning four. It’s been a busy whirlwind since traveling, coming home and jumping back into the preschool year and routine, and both birthdays. The school year has been off to a rocky start. Jet-lagged, overwhelmed, Anna balked at the five mornings of institutionalization (plus soccer on Sundays!) and we are slowly getting into a new groove.

Wake up, preschool prep, walk to school. We walk every day we can, which is the best new ritual ever. I run with Henry in the jogging stroller while Anna is in preschool, so Anna hitches a ride on the end of the Bob, or walks a bit.

Henry’s not sure he likes it. He kicks her and she screeches in mock annoyance which is actually joy. She loves when he pulls her hair, when he wrestles her and they roll around on the floor, when he sits on her head and grunts. She’s pretty much the best big sister that ever could be, and he can do no wrong in her eyes.

Now that’s she’s four her eyes are all brown. They’ve lost all the hazel of her babyhood, and even though she’s a petite flower of a four year old, clocking in at 32 pounds and 36 inches tall, four years old can no longer be mistaken for a baby’s age.

Except it can, and in between her adult-like interactions, hobbies, loves, dislikes, habits and conversations a wide-faced baby lives. One that gets way too tired after being forced to go to school five days a week and wants to be carried upstairs, cradled on her way to pajamas and a book.

Anna the baby is there, but now she just shares space with Anna the mini person, Anna the artist, Anna the athlete whose body sometimes gets ahead of her (“I can’t calm down, Mom!” She laments after whirling and screaming through the house or yard for an hour). Anna the thinker and Anna the girl who loves her princesses and her dress up clothes, who fashioned makeshift Rapunzel hair by finding a long white ribbon that she demands we tie onto her hair, just so, that she then flounces around the room like a Disney heroine on stage.

Anna the ham.

Anna the artist shows the most. Left-handed, right-brained, anti-authoritarian on a tricycle, she refuses to be quizzed.

“Do you know what number this is?” A well-meaning lady at the park asks.

“No.” She answers, factually, even though of course she knows, she’s known since she was two years and zero months.

Her ditto sheets from preschool come home all wrong, all right, with the doodles all over, mermaids and suns and dogs and people with eyebrows and the drawing that’s supposed to be colored in ignored, with the spaces empty and the backside covered in elaborate artwork.

She doesn’t want to be tested. She wants to be loved. On her birthday I read her all the nice comments people left on Facebook about her, about how she was special, and funny, and super kind, and she considered it all, mulling it over in her little doll head, and then she asked, “What else did they say?”

But they couldn’t say it all, and neither can I. I’m just here as co-illustrator, ghost writing credits. I’m still looking for enough words for my love, for the world’s love. What else? What can I say?

What else will they say?

Spartacus Matris

I don’t know how to conjugate Latin. If anyone does, please correct my stupidity above. Do I keep it Spartacus Mater? Nominative? Genitive? Mommy brain? I used to know this stuff.

Anyway, perhaps a linguistics exam will be part of my Spartan Sprint this Saturday in Blue Mountain, PA. I wish there were academic portions of most road races and mud warrior events. I would win things! Someone please invent a Mud-Jeopardy-SAT Question-5K.

So a funny thing happened on the way to the Spartan Forum: We accidentally signed up for the hardest of all the Spartan Sprints, the one dubbed “Mini Beast,” and a race that although advertised as a 5K is actually a five-miler. Did someone over at Sparta HQ mix up their measurement systems? Do they not know about the wacky metric systems those Frenchies are using in Commie Land?

Doing this was meant to be a fun family fluke. I convinced my sister, husband and my sister’s boyfriend to sign up. If we expire in mud, they will most likely blame me in their final throes. They are 25 years old and are P90X enthusiasts and although they only started running to train for this race last week (good job, guys) they are young and spritely and innately athletic so I’m sure they will do fine. Me and my husband on the other hand are of advanced age, which has been accelerated by the process of nine months of slow death by sleep deprivation torture (my hair is turning white as we speak. Oh wait, that’s the dry shampoo I don’t have time to brush out.)

Well, really, I’m mostly affected by the baby’s 1,500 night nursings. But my husband is 12 years older than me and only suffers from couch sleep. He is one year away from the Sexy 45-49 year old age bracket (seriously, that’s a sexy damn age group. Check ’em out at your next Firecracker run) and he is worried he’s too old and crotchety and fragile-of-lower-back-vertebrae to make it through all the obstacles. But with my sleep torture, I figure that ages me a decade so we are roughly on par. Also, there are no Instagram or Tweeting or Googling obstacles because then he would be doing burpees for the next year. The man is 44 going on 104 when it comes to the Social Medias.

We did track work in the heat once. We’re ready! RAHHHHHHH

I also had the brilliance to not change my training at all in preparation for this race since it’s just for fun! Oh so fun! and now I’m not really sure we are ready. It’s kind of like gym class redemption except I don’t know if I can climb a rope any better than I could in 1993 (hint: not well!). But in 1993 my only exercise was eating Pecan Sandies and drinking Schwepps Dry Grape Ginger Ale inside while reading Jane Eyre for the fifteenth time on 75 degree sunny days (hey, that book was not going to read itself for the fifteenth time). I’d like to insert a shout out to my mom for buying my favorite snacks in the dwindling twilight of our unhealthy grocery years. That was before we had whole wheat bread even.

Now I can do three chin ups and 75% of one overhand pull up! I’m good at brute suffering (carrying things, slogging up hills). I am not sure I am bad at aiming javelins but I suspect I am.

I’m going to run in a sports bra so all the 22 year old Spartans will swear off childbearing and the world’s population will stop increasing. I’m running for a cause. Please donate.

Luckily enough we will be traversing our ski slope gauntlet as a team, and my husband is six feet tall so I’m planning to be boosted over walls like a small child. Walls=check. I’m kidding, I’m sadly and misguidedly competitive, so of course I am going to try to do every obstacle by myself, and my goal is not do any burpees.

We have a three hour drive to where we are staying so that’s sure to encourage excessive daytime napping in the children, which means excessive wake-ups the night before, and along with my daughter hating to sleep anywhere besides her own bed (“I miss my dog!” she wails, as soon as we are going to sleep away from home despite not having noticed his existence for weeks before) I will be adding my own personal, highly advanced, add-on obstacle for my Spartan Sprint test of mettle and looking good in mud test:

Racing up a mountain in 90 degree humid heat after being woken up every twenty minute the night before and every couple of hours for the last two thirds of a year.

Beat that, Spartans.

Speaking of nine months, Henry has been taking his first steps. He started with one the day before he turned nine months old and now is doing three or four. He is nine months and four days old. I’m applying for his Junior Spartan race now.

Confessions of a Humblebragger

I’m guilty of the veiled Mommy brag as complaint.

Please consider my extenuating circumstances as you mete out your judgment.

Since my kids were born never sleeping, and my son never napping, and only seldom happy while stationery, I feel justified in distracting myself with any and all positives I can find.

He drew that right before he played a sonata on the piano.

When Henry was a newborn and I had to hold him all day and I wanted to run away hourly I soothed myself by focusing on his beautiful little face and perfection. At least I could dress him up and he could look spectacularly precious in the outfits he would puke on and cry in.

Now that he’s older and not sleeping or napping any better and in fact WORSE I need to find something else to think about, and so I think about and talk about his development.

He’s not winning any baby sleeping prizes? But damned if he isn’t going to walk at nine months. So when I Instagram a photo of him standing alone and then I humblebrag something like “Oh here we go again, guess he’s not happy crawling!” Or whatever stupid somesuch drivel that I type into my iPhone amidst whining and crying and then Anna crying because I said we were going to do something outside today and she “haaaates outside and wants to go to an inside mall” (WTF) and it’s 80 degrees and June and I’m sick and Henry’s sick so we can’t even hang out with friends and I’m so tired I punched a wall the other night (true story) and Henry will only sleep in my arms with a boob in his mouth and I CAN’T GET COMFORTABLE ON MY BACK I need to roll and toss but I can’t because it wakes him up and he’s cranky all day because he’s sick and it’s ONLY 9:47 AM and I don’t know how I will survive until my husband comes home at 7 PM and I CANT EVEN WORK OUT since there’s no more preschool so I can’t run with the jogging stroller and we can’t go to the gym and I was too tired to run last night (I can’t believe that- I’m still so mad) and I want to run away again.

Ah life is such a joy with young kids. You will miss these days. They’re so easy when they’re this young. GO EFF YOURSELF NEXT PERSON WHO SAYS THAT.

So don’t hate me when I post some precocious shit my three year old said or drew. I have nothing else, people. Leave me my advanced baby and my photo milestones. Let me humblebrag the day away.

It’s really hard to clean all my stainless steel appliances!

It’s so taxing being a stay at home mom who is financially secure enough to have an expensive gym membership (she can’t even use)!

I wish I wasn’t so damn smart because then I wouldn’t have so many good ideas I can’t do anything with because I’m holding a snotty baby from goddamn sundown to…the next sundown.

I live ten minutes from a beautiful ocean beach and lots to do, but my three year whines when I try to get her somewhere!

Do you feel bad for me yet?

Tough breaks

I do feel bad for myself. At least today. At least this week. Ask me again next and I’ll be penitent and grateful forever.

Splurging

The other day a friend mentioned she’d never gotten a professional massage. That it seemed insanely indulgent, spoiled rotten, a total unattainable dream. That got me to thinking, because see, I view massages as like completely necessary elements of health and wellness. I practically have an unalterable massage budget.

Yet, we drive one budget car for our whole family. We just don’t care about cars, really. Sure, if we had money to burn we’d get something lovely with leather seats, but until then it’s Hyundai Elantra 4 LYFE.

Yet, we spend way too much on eating out, since we like, um, delicious foodstuffs. We are really picky foodies.

Yet, I never, ever, ever, spend money on clothes for myself. That seems somehow decadent to me, to buy something that doesn’t come with a thrift store price tag or from Target or Marshall’s (maybe, for a splurge).

The other day, I bought myself some comfortable pajama shorts to sleep in. I couldn’t believe I was spending money on sleepwear. I don’t think I’ve done that in at least ten years. I usually wear whatever daytime clothes become unwearable in daytime, if they’re comfortable. I remember once as an older teenager, my mother would always buy me pajamas for Christmases and birthdays because she knew I was this weird ascetic teen who was so in my head and saving all my pennies for backpacking to Europe trips that I slept in cargo pants and even jeans.

While I’m not sleeping in jeans these days, I still find it uncomfortable to spend money on certain things and yet easy on other things. I’m lucky in that my husband shares my financial value system. Down the block from the first apartment we shared on Manhattan’s Upper West Side was a Tui Na Chinese massage place, open amazingly into the late weeknight hours. I mean, this place was like four buildings down from us. How could we resist an hour deep tissue massage along with our delicious take out or sushi dinner du jour?

I’ve had mysterious constant kind of muscle/myofascial pain for most of my adult life, so massages are a health must for me, especially as I train more. They can never, ever, ever be too much pressure for me and if I accidentally overpay for a fancy, spa massage with a practitioner lightly tickling my skin, I’m pissed. I need serious knot work, crazy death grip.

Everyone should get a massage, at least once. Maybe I’ll get that friend a gift certificate. So she’ll be forced to use it, and not spend the money on her kids, or whatever.

What do you consider verboten luxury and what do you “give” yourself?

A Full Life

One year ago, I was getting ready for my baby shower, nesting, ironing my curtains, resting my aching sciatica, walking my dog every night as if that would somehow bring the baby sooner, convinced that sooner is better, for everything, always.

I always wanted to be three steps ahead. When I was in high school I frantically wished for college, thinking all my problems would be solved with some freedom (turned out I was right about that one). In college I pretended I was in graduate school, shunning the gaucheness of the undergraduates and their social scene, hanging out with the PhD students who lived off campus. When I was 10 I ached to be 14,16,17 and have my first boyfriend and first kiss. When I was 23 and single, living in Manhattan, I stayed up all night, laying on my Ikea slat bed, with my laptop overheating on the mattress, reading strange granola stories about women who went to cabins in the mountains and gave birth to their babies alone under the moonlight, cutting umbilical cords with rocks. I wanted a baby – I felt it physically – even though I had just ended my first serious relationship and was going out every night, dating for fun.

When I was 5 I read the newspaper with my father, instead of my board books. When I was 9 I crept into the Young Adult Section of the library and then read every single book they had, over those long summers that only existed when you were a kid, laying in air-conditioning on a blue carpet, in our high ranch. Sprawled on a towel at the public pool. Chlorine, yearning. All I wanted was for time to pass, rushing me into that next place. Feeling like I was meant to be somewhere else, already, fast. I quit smoking cigarettes when my friends were just swinging into their pack a day habits. I was 21 and I threw my almost full pack of Parliaments onto the highway, the only time in my life I’ve littered from a car. I taught college courses at 24, the boys snickering as I walked in the first day, exchanging glances that I knew meant they would never listen to me, no matter what I did or how thick the rims on my black eyeglasses were. I’m almost 30 and I’ve had more jobs than most people have in a lifetime, two abandoned almost-careers. I don’t know what I want to to do or be besides a mother to my daughter. The rest will come, or it won’t come, because I still have a lot of time left.

When my daughter was one month old, I wished she were 4, 5, 6 months, thinking that she would sleep, I would sleep, life would be a dream; when she was 6 months, I couldn’t wait for her to walk. Now I’m ready for potty-training, preschool, family vacations where we talk and play games in the car, conversations. She’s not a year yet.

I think I’m ready to stop time, at least for myself.