7/24/08

In the Wrong Moment

Something I hear all the time lately is to “be in the moment.” Aren’t we always being told to focus on the present, Be Here Now, and appreciate the little things, because IT ALL GOES SO FAST!! People especially love to say this to new moms.

I always want to tell these people, “Look, I get that your baby grew up overnight and is now graduating college and you’re all sentimental about it, but mine is still an ACTUAL BABY who gets up in the middle of the night and demands attention and nourishment and diaper changes 24/7. So excuse me if I don’t agree with you that this time is as fleeting and precious as a rainbow.”

While we’re at it, let’s talk about this “being in the moment” thing. When people say that, I think they are picturing moments such as your baby taking his first steps. Laughing in delight as a butterfly lands on his nose in a meadow of wildflowers. A puppy licking ice cream off his chin. Watching your little angel sleep peacefully in his crib. Well, who WOULDN’T want to be in THOSE moments?!

What about the moments when you’re waiting in line at the pharmacy and your child is plucking every single pack of gum off the rack and then rummaging in the wastebasket that’s probably filled with used hypodermic needles? What about the moments when you’re in church and your baby is releasing toxic fumes into the air and his diaper? What about the moments when you take your child to get a haircut during your lunch hour and for no reason whatsoever, he throws a complete fit? Anyone lining up to be fully present in THOSE moments? Anyone??

What many people fail to understand is, when you have a small child, there are many, many, MANY moments in the day. Too many, some might say. Considering that many babies wake up at, oh, let’s say 6 a.m. and may not go to bed till at least 7:30 p.m. – and even then it’s probably not for a solid 8-10 hours – that’s 13 ½ HOURS WORTH OF MOMENTS!! (OK, you can subtract a couple for a nap.) Even the Dalai Lama could not be fully present and at peace for that many moments in a row!

In fact, much of early parenthood is not about savoring the moments, but rather about getting through them. My friend L.H.’s baby gets up at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m. every day. So she takes her for long walks in the stroller to pass the time until she has to go to work. When people say “be in the moment,” you can be sure they’re not considering moments that occur before 8 a.m., people!! Before COFFEE, even!

These are the moments you’ll find me “being in”: when I come downstairs wearing earrings and a nice shirt and Miles says, unprompted, “Oh, you look pretty, Mommy!” That puddle on the floor? That’s my heart melting. Or even less emotional moments, like this morning when we’re brushing our teeth and he says, “We all have eyebrows.” How awesome is that? He is like a tiny Zen Buddhist, full of awareness and wisdom.

We leave tomorrow for our annual vacation at the beach with the family, so I’m taking a week off. Wish me luck – I’m sure our trip will be filled with all sorts of moments.

NEWS O’ THE WEEK: Calling all writers and would-be writers! I’m teaching an online class starting Aug. 20, called “Personal Essays that Get Published.” The 6-week e-mail class will teach you how to find ideas, how to craft catchy openings and solid endings, and how to submit your work to magazines.

Several of my blog entries here have turned into essays published in such places as American Baby, Health magazine, the Baltimore Sun, and the Boston Globe. So if you’re interested in writing for fame and profit, sign up now before the last few spots fill up! More info here.

QUOTE O’ THE WEEK: “Feed the baby, wipe off the barf, change stinky diaper, kiss your husband, sign your best-selling book – just another typical day in the life of a mommy!”
–Tori Spelling

7/21/08

(Not So) Fit Mama

FitMama DVD

I may have gotten a little smug about my ability to fit exercise into my busy schedule. As you might recall, I have always been a bit of a fitness freak, even if it meant doing ’80s-style prenatal workouts or making a spectacle of myself as the only pregnant person in my yoga class.

When Miles was born, I signed us up for Mommy & me yoga and then Stroller Strides. Also, my husband was getting home from work by 6 p.m. every night so I could go to the gym. And then … it all sort of fell apart. Which may explain how I found myself in my living room one afternoon hoisting large cans of garbanzo beans with my toddler attached to my leg. But first, let me back up.

Strapping the baby into the stroller for a jog around the park was all well and good when he was immobile. When we first started Stroller Strides, Miles was content to just take in the scenery and gaze at the other kids. Now, not so much. First, he’s one of the oldest now. Second, he can see the playground from the jogging path and would much rather be there than in the stroller. Third, he is bigger and stronger and more obstinate, which explains how he was able to tip himself and the entire stroller over one day. There I was, doing my step-ups on the bleachers and I look over to see my kid toppled over, legs flailing. He wasn’t hurt, just a little dazed. And probably pretty proud of himself, the little stinker. That was the end of class for us that day.

Next, I tried taking him to the gym with me. He doesn’t seem to mind the day care as long as there are other kids to distract him. However, he has the uncanny ability to time his dirty diaper for smack-dab in the middle of my workout. So the whole time I’m on the treadmill, I’m cringing, waiting for those inevitable words over the loud speaker: “Miles’ mom, you’re needed in childcare.” Sure enough, he’s set off a stink bomb. When he sees me, he immediately gets excited that we’re going home. So there goes my workout.

Gilad

Finally, in desperation, I turned to Gilad. You know, the curly-haired, pumped-up “Bodies in Motion” guy? He’s got a show on FitTV. He and a group of other oiled-up, spandex-clad buff people lead a full-body workout on a picturesque bluff in Hawaii. Then there’s me in my toy-cluttered living room wearing an old T-shirt and using 2-lb. cans of beans for weights. Almost as glamorous, right?

Miles finds this fascinating for about 5 minutes. He even tries his own version of jumping jacks, though he can’t quite get his arms and legs to move at the same time. Then he gets bored and starts whining to watch “Finding Nemo.” When I ignore his pleas, he attaches himself to my leg. Sure, an extra 31 lbs. makes the leg-lifts more challenging, but I fear I will be lopsided since I can’t get him to switch legs. The cat stretch turns into a game of horsey. Guess who’s the horse?

I give up. Sure, I could try again during nap time, but that would cut into my blog-reading and cleaning-avoidance time. And you know what? I’m not even sure flat abs are worth it. I’d much rather take a nap and throw on an empire-waist top. Maybe I’ll drag myself back to yoga. At least that doesn’t require garbanzo beans.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: I’m not the only would-be fit mama. Sarcastic Mom’s determined to “Drop it with Dance,” come hell or high water.

7/17/08

Mama Don’t Know Jack

Muscle ManI know toddlerhood is all about kids asserting their independence and testing limits and all that, but my WORD, what a pain in the butt it can be! Some days Miles has to argue with me about EVERYTHING. No, this is not new behavior. But now it’s even infiltrated our previously pleasant reading time.

Here’s an example. I was reading Miles a counting book of his. It starts with “One ostrich playing the organ” and goes up to “Ten tiny turtles playing trumpets.” Except my son adamantly began arguing with me from page one: “No. No, Mommy, dat’s NOT a organ. Dat’s a pee-no.”

“You’re right, it does look sort of like a piano, but it’s actually called an organ.”

“No, dat’s not a organ.”

Whatever. Moving on… Except he kept this up throughout the WHOLE BOOK!! Those 6 bees were not playing bongos, they were playing drums, he insisted. The 7 eagles were most certainly NOT playing electric bass, they were playing guitars. Duh, Mommy! And don’t even get me started on the newts — excuse me, “lizards” — playing nose flutes!! (BTW, what the heck ARE nose flutes?) Finally I just threw down the book in frustration.

But that tricky little toddler of mine, sometimes he purposely baits me. “What’s dat, Mommy?” he’ll ask innocently, pointing at a guy on a ride-on lawn mower across the street.

“That’s a lawn mower,” I tell him.

“No! Not a lawn mower, dat’s a TRACTOR,” he crows, pleased with himself for outsmarting his dim-bulb mom.

My friend S. grew so irritated with her older son’s superiority complex that one day she blurted: “I am 34 years old! I have a college degree. You are 7. Do you really think you’re smarter than me??” His prompt reply: “Yes.”

But back to the toddlers. Have I mentioned the temper on this kid?? God forbid I walk up the stairs ahead of him when HE wanted to go first. Or if I dare take too long refilling his sippy cup. The funniest thing I’ve read all week is from “Naptime is the New Happy Hour,” by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor. She’s describing her toddler daughter’s temper tantrum one morning:

“… because I committed the cardinal sin of starting the coffeemaker without giving her ample opportunity to push the button. Actually, as per our tradition, I’d asked her if she would like to push the button, but it seemed she and Elmo were having a private moment and I was intruding with my rude question … But a minute later, when her bionic hearing picked up the sound of coffee brewing, she went completely mental. ‘You pushed the button! I wanted to push it! MAMA! PLEASE! I need to push the button!’ she screamed as if I wasn’t in the same room with her or even the same country. “

Oh, I’ve been there, sister. You better believe I will never again choose what floor I want on an elevator as long as Miles is around.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: I just renewed a bunch of my subscriptions for less than $5 apiece at BestDealMagazines.com. They don’t have everything, but they do have Wondertime, Redbook, Working Mother, and tons more.

7/13/08

Imagine That

“Dere’s monsters, Mommy,” Miles says to me one morning, sitting on my bed.

“Monsters? Where?”

“In my room.”

“Noooo, there are no monsters in your room!”

“I hear dem.” (This is said in a whisper.) “Hear da monsters, Mommy?”

This is either the opening of a creepy horror movie starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, or it’s evidence of my 2-year-old’s budding imagination. Where does he come up with this stuff? Did he hear another kid talking about monsters? Was there a monster theme on an episode of Blue’s Clues? Because I’m fairly certain I have never mentioned monsters to him.

I’m not too concerned, however, because he doesn’t seem scared by the concept. More matter-of-fact. Of course, not much scares my son, unlike other kids his age. There’s this little boy in his toddler gym class that had an absolute FIT one day because there was a dad there with a beard. The little boy only had to catch sight of Beard Guy to start wailing and clinging to his own (beardless) dad. In Beard Guy’s defense, he was not actually a scary, intimidating type guy, but more of a mild-mannered graduate student in philosophy type. But all that mattered to this poor little boy was the beard, and it was terrifying him. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and had to leave.

So, anyway, Miles has started to develop quite the vivid imagination. In the bath one night, he announced that his rubber duckie was named Ting-Ting. The next day, Ting-Ting was spotted driving the car next to us on the highway. Alrighty, then!

Miles also insists that those around him play along with his imaginary games. Once he spent a good 20 minutes running back and forth from the kitchen, preparing food for his dad and me. “You want lunch?” he’d ask, then run off to fetch imaginary sandwiches, drinks, cookies, pretzels, and whatever else he could think of. We, in turn, had to pretend to devour these tasty treats.

C. has gotten into the habit of telling Miles stories at bedtime. (Perhaps after the 12 billionth reading of Richard Scarry’s “Busy, Busy Town”?) He’ll ask Miles what he wants a story about. “Pigeons.” When C. claims he doesn’t know any pigeon stories, Miles settles for a tale about a farm. But I ask you –- where the heck did he come up with pigeons?? They’re not exactly plentiful in suburban Maryland.

But back to the monsters. More details have emerged. They’re black, and they like to bite people. (Naturally.) Apparently, they are visible during the day as well as night. They do not yet have names, but if Ting-Ting is any indication, they’re bound to be imaginative ones.

PIC O’ THE WEEK: Quintessential summer.

NEWS O’ THE WEEK: The Jolie-Pitt twins have arrived at last!! So what do we think of the latest celebrity baby names, Vivienne Marcheline and Knox Leon? What about Sunday Rose and Levi?

7/8/08

Month 26: Is It Still a Party If It’s Over by 8?

Party

Remember going to parties where you and your friends laughed, flirted, did Jell-O shots, and danced on tables into the wee hours? Yeah, me neither. But people took pictures, so I guess it really did happen. These days our parties are drastically different. For one thing, they are few and far between. Who’s got time? Or energy? For another, they usually include kids. No problem, you get to see your friends without worrying about a babysitter, right? And yet, once you add kids to the mix, a party takes on a whole new life.

First, they must be carefully scheduled between naptime and bedtime. So out with the late-night cocktail parties, in with the afternoon BBQs. Since at least a third of the guests are probably pregnant or breastfeeding, you don’t need nearly as much liquor. Out with the kegs, in with the six-packs. And forget about dressing sexy. You’re going to be squatting and lifting and probably getting juice spilled on you. And if my son sees even the tiniest bit of flesh — say, if I’m coming out of the shower in a towel — he shouts, “You nakey, Mommy!” Besides, it’s just not cool if half the guests at the party are shorter than your hemline.

One good thing about post-kid parties is the food is usually great. We recently attended a christening celebration for a friend’s daughter. This is a guy whose parties used to feature beer pong, shirtless frat boys, and a few open bags of chips. Imagine my surprise when our host ushered us in to a posh, lavishly catered affair. There was not a keg or funnel in sight. And the only people who passed out or threw up were the babies.

The mark of a thoughtful family-friendly party is juice boxes and Goldfish alongside the Chardonnay and brie. If only we could keep the good stuff out of reach of the kids. I have witnessed more than one child (including my own) pick up a chip, lick it, and put it back in the bowl. I’ve often wished someone would invent a 5-foot-high coffee table. It’s the only way to protect the hors d’oeuvres from sticky little mitts.

At a “with kids” party, you’ve got to watch your step. You could stomp on a crawler or trip over a toy. And watch where you sit, too — someone might have spit out a wad of spinach dip on your seat. If you’re the host, you’ve got to expect spills and messes. The best you can do is to serve apple juice instead of grape, and hope the dog eats the food that ends up on the floor before a baby gets it.

I actually don’t mind the chaos of kid-friendly parties. It’s fun to see all the kids together, and everyone’s pretty much in the same boat. I do miss those long conversations in the kitchen when the party wound down, though. Finishing off the last of the wine, kicking off your shoes, and cranking up the music. At our last get-together, the only ones dancing were the under-3 set. Times have changed, sure. But an impromptu toddler dance party is way cuter than a sloppy-drunk bachelorette singing karaoke, don’t you think?

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Check out this site for fun, inexpensive party supplies.

7/3/08

Reality TV for Moms

I hate to admit it, but reality TV has kind of grown on me. I guess this is not SO surprising, since I do prefer real life over fiction any day. What I hate are cringe-inducing shows featuring overly coiffed bimbos dripping mascara tears and professing their love for some dork they just met yesterday. So while you won’t catch me watching reality shows on dating or dancing or even dog-whispering, I AM intrigued by programs about pregnancy and parenthood. Yep, that’s my “escapist” indulgence after I put the tot to bed. Go figure.

Back in the day, I was a 90210 fan. (I still have the tacky twin-sized comforter to prove it. Thanks, Mom.) So perhaps it’s no big mystery why I like Tori Spelling’s reality show. What?! I think she’s funny. Don’t judge me. Like on last night’s episode, before her ob/gyn appointment –- she’s pregnant with her second baby, a girl –- she was talking about her irrational fears.

Tori: “Could the baby puncture one of my organs, causing me to bleed internally, therefore drowning her in my own blood?”

Dean (her husband): “Um … let’s ask Dr. J.”

Who among us hasn’t been there, peppering our husbands with all sorts of inane and improbable fears? I also like the show because their baby boy, Liam, is super cute. Once he was on the red carpet for the first time with his parents, being blasted by about 4 zillion flashbulbs and paparazzi and he’s all, “Yeah, baby!” mugging for the cameras and waving his hands around, rocking a tiny faux-hawk. Anyway, you should watch it.

Then there’s the new show, “The Baby Borrowers,” in which several teenage couples move in to their own houses and learn what it’s like to take care of a real baby. For several days, they have to care for an infant, then they move on to a toddler, teenager, and senior citizen. Pretty clever concept.

In the first episode, the teen girls had to put on a fake pregnant belly and take a class on childcare. This one girl totally flipped out because her boyfriend laughed when he saw her with the belly on. Girl, you are in for a serious shock if you think that’s the worst of it. She didn’t even have to strap on a fake pregnancy butt!! And it’s not like they induced morning sickness or gave her hemorrhoids, even. The belly’s a piece of cake, if you ask me.

My first thought when a bunch of parents showed up to hand off their (real) babies to these couples was, “What the hell kind of parent would willingly turn over their precious infant to a couple of underage complete strangers?!” One mom said she was a teenage mother herself and wanted to show teens how hard it is. OK, I guess that’s a good reason. Also, there were behind-the-scenes nannies in each house in case of emergency, and the parents could watch their babies on closed-circuit TV. But still. If you saw some of these couples… “Immature” would be a NICE way of putting it.

It was kind of funny to watch these kids struggling with feeding, diapering, and getting the babies to sleep, but mostly it just confirmed what us moms already know: taking care of a baby is DAMN HARD WORK. Of course, what the teens could never know is that when it’s your own, it’s different. It just is.

But could you imagine having cameras on you 24/7?? Then people would know that I let Miles eat food he’s dropped on the floor. And that C. lets him listen to explicit versions of rap songs. And that I often eat ice cream straight out of the container while I’m watching my shows. And who’d be crazy enough to reveal that stuff? 😉

WISH O’ THE WEEK: Happy 4th of July, everyone! Have fun even if you can’t stay up late enough to watch the fireworks and your kids are scared of them, anyway.

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