4/29/08

Is This a Good Time?

Not my babyI admit it. Pre-motherhood, I used to get annoyed when I’d call my friends who had kids and the conversation would go like this:

Me: “Hi, how are you?”

My friend: “Exhausted. The baby was up at — No, you can’t have another Go-Gurt! — 2 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. for no apparent reason and then — We do NOT sit on our brother’s head!! — I had to take the car into the shop but — Hey! Can’t you guys SEE that I am on the PHONE?! The next person who talks gets a time out!… Sorry. You there? Now what was I saying?”

Me: “Um, I’ll let you go. Bye!”

Now I am that annoying, distracted person on the other end. And I’ve learned to start conversations with, “Can you talk?” I used to say, “Are you busy?” But come on, when is a mom NOT busy? If her kids aren’t bleeding and she can chat while she changes a diaper, that’ll do.

BTW, have you noticed that “busy” has replaced “fine” as the default answer to “How are you?” Some people say it as if it’s a badge of honor. “Oh, I’m just SO busy with work and planning my parents’ 30th anniversary party, and plus I’m chairing the committee to ban cupcakes at school and did I mention I’m training for a 10K? I never even have a moment to sit down!” I hate those people. I go out of my way to avoid being busy. Ever. It’s just too stressful.

Unfortunately, stress is unavoidable when you’re a mom. And anyway, the challenge of finding time for a phone call is not really a matter of being busy, but rather, available. It’s not that I’m too busy doing something productive — like, say, unloading the dishwasher — when somebody calls. It’s that I’m preoccupied by my son who’s trying to float his Legos in the dog’s water bowl. Or that I can’t talk because he’s just launched himself off the coffee table.

Often, Miles waits until I’m on the phone to do something bad. He knows I’m distracted and will probably let it go. Like, say, if he dumps an entire cup of water on the floor. Or crushes his crackers into the carpet with his truck. When I was away last weekend I called C. at home and heard him yelling, “Miles, stop that!” While C. was on the phone our son had gone into the pantry, grabbed a box of spaghetti, and had thrown it on the floor and was stomping on it.

So if you call me and our conversation is interrupted 7 times in the first 3 minutes, I apologize. If I seem distracted, it doesn’t mean I’m not listening. I can fish a spatula out of the toilet and talk at the same time. Don’t bother asking if it’s a good time to talk because there’s never going to BE a good time. Now, what were you saying again?

TIP O’ THE WEEK: If you don’t have caller I.D., get it. It’s worth the extra $5 a month. My in-laws even have the kind where an automated voice tells you who’s calling. Then you don’t break your neck dashing for the phone in case it’s an emergency, only to get a telemarketer asking how you’re doing this evening.

And also, this came as a shock to me, but YOU DON’T HAVE TO ANSWER EVERY CALL WHEN IT COMES THROUGH. You can call people back at a better time. They’ll never know. Honest.

READ O’ THE WEEK: 5 Reasons Why Mom Blogs Are the Blogs to Watch. But we already knew that, right? 😉

4/23/08

Into the Wild, With Child

There are mountain lions in Yosemite National Park. Also, bears. Bears so aggressive that visitors are not only warned, but FINED for not removing all food, toiletries, and even car seats from their vehicles. So, let’s see, that means the bears are not only unafraid of humans, but hungry enough to rip apart a car for a snack of toothpaste and stale Cheerios? And why did no one tell me this before I brought my baby into this savage wilderness?

To be fair, we saw no bears on our trip. But we met plenty of people who had, and were more than happy to describe their near-death bear encounters. We did see lots of deer, birds, squirrels, and a chipmunk. And also, bugs. Miles was psyched about those. But initially, the first morning we stepped out into this incredibly beautiful natural wonderland, you know what excited him the most? A fire hydrant. And the shuttle bus. That’s my city kid.

Once we got away from the parking lot, he did start to appreciate nature more. He learned to say “waterfall,” “mountains,” and “pinecone.” We stayed at the lodge right near Yosemite Falls, the largest waterfall in North America. We were told it was an easy 15-min. walk to the base of the falls. Unless you’re walking with a toddler. Then it’s a half-day ordeal. One step forward, two steps back is Miles’ m.o. Walk, walk, climb a rock. Walk, walk, jump off a log. Walk, sit down and admire an ant. Go back and pick up a pinecone. Whine to ride on Dad’s shoulders. Good thing there was plenty of scenery to admire along the way.

We did not have high expectations going into this trip. In fact, you might say some of us (me) were dreading it. I was so stressed in the days prior that I developed a tic in my left eye. Not pretty. Still, I wanted to go to my cousin’s wedding and see all my California relatives, most of whom I haven’t seen since my wedding and who have never met Miles. It’s too hard to visit everyone separately. You get more bang for your buck at weddings and funerals, you know? Then you can see everybody in one place.

My two biggest fears were the long flight and whether Miles would sleep when we got there, especially given the 3-hour time difference. People, the heavens were smiling upon us last week. Except for a seat-kicking incident, Miles was fine on the plane. Only one guy gave us dirty looks. Thank God no one sat next to us with an expensive laptop and a large beverage. (C. did get a lap full of Diet Coke setting up the DVD player, however.) That actually wasn’t quite the miracle cure we’d hoped for. We didn’t have headphones and Miles lost interest when he couldn’t hear the video. So instead, we went through a few dozen snacks and all the stuff I’d purchased from the Target $1 section. Go, Mom!

As for sleeping, it was shockingly a non-issue. I think Miles was so worn out from all the fresh air and exercise every day that he didn’t notice the time change and simply collapsed each night. He even took naps! Of course, one thing about traveling with a baby is that you’re stuck in the hotel once they’re asleep. So all evening activities were out except for one night when C. hung back so I could have a drink with my cousins. And anyway, we were so tired we went to bed early every night. The other wedding guests may have exhausted themselves on 7-mile hikes and late-night parties; we got tuckered out carrying our 34-lb. son around the visitors’ center.

They say weddings are a good place to meet people, and that proved true for my boy. He found himself a girlfriend! Nora, an adorable 2 ½-year-old in ladybug boots, grabbed his hand at the rehearsal dinner picnic and took him on a romantic stroll. At the wedding, they danced together all night. It was too cute for words. While this little romance was developing, C. and I bonded with Nora’s parents over the trials of traveling with a small child.

Millions of people visit Yosemite each year to backpack, hike, camp, and maybe see bears. As for us? We rode the shuttle bus, threw rocks in the river, and spent hours watching ants and ducks. The only bears we saw were the stuffed animals in the gift shop. Yep, we put the “wild” in wildlife, people!

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Dum-Dums lollipops are a mom’s best friend. One tiny piece of candy on a stick ensures silence for at least 15 min. I shoved one in Miles’ mouth to ward off an in-flight meltdown, and another during the wedding ceremony.

SONG O’ THE WEEK: If last week had a theme song, it would be one of my favorite Lemonheads tunes, “The Outdoor Type.” Best lyrics ever.

SHOUT OUT: To all my friendly recent commenters. I haven’t had a chance to respond, but I do read and appreciate them all!

4/15/08

Whatever It Takes

There are a number of things I swore I would never do when I had a child. I most certainly would never, ever sniff my baby’s butt in public. I would never talk to my infant in an annoying, sing-songy voice, nor would I speak to him as if he were an adult. I’d see people at the grocery store with their barely conscious newborns asking, “What do you think, sweetums? The broccoli or the asparagus for dinner?” I longed to shake them and say, “Dude, it’s a BABY. He has no idea what you’re talking about. Nor has he mastered language, necessary to form a response. And he doesn’t even eat solid food yet!!”

Well, I don’t have to tell you what happened. I had a baby, and everything changed. Sure, it took me a while to warm up to talking to him in public. I felt like an idiot, worse than someone making an obnoxiously loud personal call on their cell phone on a crowded train. (Those people seem to lack self-awareness, and the “I sound like an idiot” gene.)

Now, I not only talk to Miles about things he can’t possibly understand, I also sing nursery rhymes loudly and poorly in public, make airplane noises when I’m feeding him, talk about myself in the third person (“Mommy said no eating dog food”), do that ridiculous counting thing (“Mommy’s going to count to 3…), and use embarrassing words like fussy, silly, potty, poopy, pee-pee and boo-boo. And I feel absolutely no qualms whatsoever about sniffing my son’s butt anytime, anywhere. What’s HAPPENED to me, people?!?!

I’ll tell you what’s happened: I’ve realized you’ve got to do what it takes to get stuff done. WHATEVER it takes. And there’s a reason why parents do all those silly and/or gross things I mentioned above: because they work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been locked in combat with my stubborn toddler, struggling to force him into his pajamas while he fights to escape to run naked around the room. Both of us sweaty, out of breath, and covered with diaper rash cream. There is seemingly no answer to this predicament, until … I collect myself and warble out the first few notes of “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

Suddenly, Miles turns into a different baby. His tiny voice joins with mine, his rigid body softens enough to allow me to insert him into his PJs, and both of our heartrates return to normal. It’s amazing, I tell you. Except for the times when he’s so grumpy he pushes me away and yells, “No song! No song, Mama!”

I have come to embrace doing whatever it takes to get the job done in other areas of my life, as well. I conducted a conference call from Panera the other day, my new home-away-from-home as long as our DSL’s down and Miles is at the sitter. It was loud — the espresso machine hissed, business meetings (apparently between the hearing-impaired) were conducted at top volume around me, and the guy next to me nearly elbowed his latte into my laptop. And still, I persisted. I finished my call, got my work done, and consumed a pecan pastry or two in the process.

Now, all I have to do before we leave for a week’s vacation out west is: finish the laundry, pack for Miles, find the Pack ‘n’ Play sheet, find Miles’ missing stuffed doggy and backup blankie, locate his birth certificate, remind my husband to check in for our flight online, get my watch fixed, turn in an assignment, mail a birthday card, drop off the dog at the kennel, and consume large quantities of carbs and caffeine to deal with the stress of it all. Whatever it takes, right?

PICK O’ THE WEEK: If you haven’t heard, my new obsession is “Jon and Kate Plus 8” on TLC. Last night I watched the episode where they travel to Utah and their flight gets redirected and stuck on the runway for hours. If those parents can travel with twins and toddler sextuplets, by God I can do it with one kid!! That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway….

(BTW, who knew there was backlash about this show? Reading this, I have to wonder if the writer has ever been married or had children. I mean, what wife and mom DOESN’T berate their husband constantly?! j/k 🙂 Love ya, C!

4/12/08

Too Good to be True

People, you had to know this day would come. I’ve been merrily going about my business, blithely blogging about shopping trips and celebrity babies and C.’s fabulous new job which, after an arduous but temporary training period in another state, will allow him to work from home, thereby making life easier for all of us. Right? All together now: WRONG.


Look, I know we’re currently living in an era of positive thinking and the law of attraction and living your Best! Life! Ever! Oprah and Dr. Phil and Joel Osteen and any number of self-help gurus would have us believe that if we’re not 100% fulfilled and happy and financially stable with our dream jobs and perfect families, well, we’re just not focusing enough on the positive, darn it. We Negative Nellies are bringing our bad fortune upon ourselves, and we need only think happy thoughts and the blessings will rain down upon us – Money! Great sex! Good looks! Well-behaved children! The respect of our colleagues and communities!

Sorry, I’m getting carried away. Look, I love me some Tony Robbins as much as the next gal. But as much as I try to fight my naturally pessimistic tendencies, I just can’t help but think that sometimes, crap happens for no good reason. And you have to take the bad with the good. And you reap the best rewards from working hard. And if something seems too good to be true, it is. That has certainly proven to be true with this work-from-home thing.

Now, before you say “I told you so” (you know who you are!), let me assure you that I am no stranger to the challenges of working from home. I have been doing it for years. I know you don’t just shuffle on over to your desk in your bunny slippers whenever you feel like it, turn on your computer and rake in a six-figure paycheck. I am fairly sure that C. knew this as well. Especially since he has the benefit of my firsthand experience, working outside the land of on-call tech support and free coffee in the break room.

So, anyway, well over a month ago, C. started getting the basement set up as his home office. He called our phone company, Verizon, to get another phone line installed at the house that he would use for work. Apparently, Verizon understood “install new phone line” to mean “disconnect DSL.” An easy mistake to make, right? I mean, there’s so much room for confusion.

The thing is, when you work from home, you are completely and utterly dependent on your phone and Internet connection. They are your lifeblood, if you will. Your sole connection to the outside world. If you work in an office and e-mail’s down, you better believe a whole team of tech guys are ON it, ASAP. Whereas if you work from home, you ARE the tech support guy. So you’re the one on hold with the phone company for a bajillion hours, explaining to one minimum-wage employee after another that you ARE in fact a Verizon account holder and have been for years, and that NO your credit card hasn’t expired, and NO you most certainly did NOT mean “disconnect DSL” when you said “install additional phone line.”

I won’t bore you with the rest of the gritty details. Suffice it to say, C. has gotten no work done for days. Tensions are running high in our house. Did I mention I also work from home and am dependent on the phone and Internet? (I’m posting this from Panera, BTW.) And that we’re going on our first cross-country trip with the baby next week? And that I have a project due before that? And that our car was struck by a hit-and-run driver the other night? Which requires filling out a police report in person? (With a toddler in tow? Yeah, right.) And that Miles has a new habit of sprinting headfirst into traffic? (He doesn’t understand that a cul-de-sac is still a street.)

Tony … Joel … Dr. Phil … ANYONE. Tell me how the HELL we’re supposed to “positive think” ourselves out of THIS situation!! And, people, the next time you catch me proclaiming just how wonderful life is? Please smack some sense into me. It only means there’s a surly, underpaid customer service rep waiting in the wings to wreak havoc.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: So after I wrote this, I watched Primetime with Diane Sawyer about a guy with terminal pancreatic cancer who’s using his remaining days to encourage and inspire others. Check out his “Last Lecture” on YouTube. Kinda puts things in perspective, huh?

TIP O’ THE WEEK: By eavesdropping on another mom at Barnes & Noble, I discovered Trader Joe’s Snapea Crisps. They have the texture of Cheetos and a pleasantly salty, mildly pea-like flavor. Miles snaps them up (pun intended). Since they contain some protein, I figure they’re better than potato chips.

4/7/08

Fashion Challenged

Yesterday my sister-in-law and I met at an outlet mall and spent the day shopping. For ourselves (supposedly). Without the kids. This rare and exciting treat was sparked by my SIL’s discovery, while going through several months worth of photos, that she was wearing the exact same sweater in every shot. Her baby, on the other hand, is rarely seen in the same outfit twice. Sound familiar?

You may recall my recent shopping frenzy over Miles’ Easter outfit. Whereas I wore a sweater I bought on clearance 3 or 4 years ago. I tend to only buy myself new clothes for special occasions. For instance, I purchased a couple of business-y outfits before a work conference last spring. And in February, I spent several crazed evenings and weekends looking for the perfect thing to wear to a black-tie event for my husband’s new job.

I OBSESSED over this, people. I was determined to find the perfect hip yet classy, elegant yet unfrumpy dress, shoes and bag so that I could stride confidently into this room full of successful professionals and hold my own. Even if I had nothing to talk about besides naps and Bob the Builder. Turns out, I looked just fine in my blue satin cocktail dress. I saw everything from floor-length ball gowns to sequined mini dresses with leggings. (Even *I* know better than that!)

So, in preparation for my shopping excursion with my SIL, I took inventory of my wardrobe. I discovered I own 23 cardigans. 23!!! The rest of my closet is filled with:
• special-occasion clothes I will probably never wear again (see above)
• work/church clothes which I rarely wear
• jeans and cargo pants
• T-shirts
The T-shirts are divided into categories: long-sleeve shirts, short-sleeve shirts, shirts I wear to the gym, shirts I can only wear under things (hence all the cardigans), and shirts I can wear on their own. My wardrobe is one sorry state of affairs, people.

So I set off to buy some cute, everyday outfits. Stuff I could wear, say, to lunch with friends, but also to the playground with Miles. And also, something to wear to a wedding at a national park where temperatures could range from the 30s to the 60s, and heels are out since the ceremony is in the middle of a meadow. Is that a fashion challenge or what?

After 4 hours of shopping, here’s what I left with: 2 pairs of khakis, a shirt, and an umbrella for myself; 4 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, a sweatshirt, and a pair of pajamas for Miles. I barely bought myself one whole outfit, let alone anything cute or wedding-worthy!

Even so, it was a fun day. We got to take our time, try stuff on, have some adult conversation, even eat lunch sitting down. (Even though my SIL said, “When I don’t have the baby with me, I hate to waste time eating!”) Mission Mommy’s Day Out: Accomplished. Mission Fashion Overhaul: Failed Miserably. Oh, well, there’s always next weekend!

TIP O’ THE WEEK: For a day of shopping sans children, carry as little as possible (wallet, lip balm, water) and dress in layers so you won’t get overheated and weighed down halfway through the mall. And for Baltimore/DC area moms, the Children’s Place, Carter’s, and Oshkosh outlets at Arundel Mills are well worth the trip. I wore out before we got to Gymboree, so I can’t vouch for that.

4/4/08

Month 23: Baby, One More Time

I’ve never had a reason to dislike J.Lo. Until now. I mean, what new mom of 1-month-old twins looks this good?! And claims she ENJOYS getting up for 3 a.m. feedings? A mom who’s got not one but two round-the-clock baby nurses, that’s who. And is it just me, or is it a little odd that she decided — before the birth, without even giving it a try — that she wasn’t going to breastfeed? Is that even legal these days? Of course, if you’re J.Lo, people probably aren’t giving you the evil eye at the park for feeding your babies formula.

I have a new theory about people who can’t stop extolling the joys of early parenthood, and/or are already planning the next baby before the first one’s umbilical cord falls off. They are either a) insane, or b) don’t take care of their own children 24/7. I’m just saying, if you’ve got live-in help, aren’t nursing, aren’t losing much sleep, and a baby has very little impact on your normal lifestyle then, sure, what’s not to like? Have another! Hell, have 7 others! (I’m joking, Angelina Jolie.)

Then again, I do know a few regular people who can’t wait to expand their families soon after the first baby. Those moms tend to have had easy births and babies who are good sleepers. Whereas the ones who had hellish recoveries from C-sections, colicky babies, postpartum depression, etc., are a little less eager to take another go at it. Writer Lauren Fox gives a thoughtful take on her anxiety about the impending arrival of her second baby in “One More Time?” in the March issue of Babytalk. (Free at Babies ‘R’ Us, BTW.)

So what’s MY problem? I’ve mentioned my fear of having another baby before. I have no good reasons for this. As births go, Miles’ wasn’t easy by any means, but it wasn’t as bad as some, either. He didn’t sleep through the night till he was 10 mos. old, but he didn’t have colic and he’s a great sleeper now. We still travel, go out, and have houseguests, so he hasn’t impacted our lifestyle THAT much. And yet …

In Fox’s essay, she explains why she waited 4 years to give her daughter a sibling. I have to say, that made me breathe a sigh of relief. I still have time. I get a little anxious these days every time I meet a mom who has a baby the requisite 2 or 2.5 years younger than her last child. Even I am exactly 2.5 years younger than my brother. It’s like that’s the cosmic rule of sibling spacing, and I’m violating it. Of course, there are families with siblings of all different ages. But you have to admit, after a year or two, if you’re planning to have more than one child, the subject of Baby #2 comes up. A lot.

It’s funny, though — to borrow an analogy, can you imagine being so happy with your spouse that you say one day, “I’m having so much fun with one husband, I think I’ll bring home another!”

But I sure do love babies. Those fuzzy little heads, those sweet pink toes … I had started to forget just how appealing newborns can be … until I saw those ridiculously cute little twins of J.Lo’s. Damn her and her People magazine photo spread!!

READ O’ THE WEEK: What No One Tells the Mom is an honest, eye-opening look at the realities of life as a new mom. It’s the follow-up to author Marg Stark’s What No One Tells the Bride also a great read.

QUOTE O’ THE WEEK: “I’d rather have roses* on my table than diamonds on my neck.”
Emma Goldman (*or, in my case, tulips or Gerber daisies)

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