Saturday, January 28, 2006

On Parenthood (and other movies)

At the risk of dating myself, one of my favorite movies in college was Parenthood, an unremarkable comedy starring Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Mary Steenburgen, and Dianne Wiest (interesting bit of trivia -- it also featured a post-Bill and Ted, pre-Speed Keanu Reeves). I don't know why I liked it so much; it wasn't as though I was a parent myself, or knew anyone facing parenthood. But for some reason, the movie has stuck with me all these years. I keep coming back to some of the visuals in the movie -- the kid who kept running into a wall with a bucket over his head, the daughter barfing all over Steve Martin. I was reminded of the movie recently while watching Steve Martin receive the Mark Twain prize. I'm sure that 20-30 years from now, I'll be recalling Father of the Bride.

What is interesting to me is the power that movies (and to some extent, television) have over our lives. I know that I'm particularly media- and pop culture-obsessed, but movies form the backdrop -- the narrative, if you will -- to many moments in our lives. So, readers, now that you are a parent, what movies do you identify with?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Curious

I was at my post-Harry's-bedtime book club meeting tonight when asked if I had baby pictures. Nope. But I had my phone! Lots on there. I started wondering, is it weird that this is the only place I carry photos? I don't really carry a wallet. The phone is always with me. It makes sense to me...am I the only one that shares photos this way?
Also, what's the deal with the new Wal-Mart ads? They seem to be targeting a new audience, namely: me! I'm a Target shopper, but Wal-Mart's new ads show a thirtiesh woman at home with a baby and another on a treadmill with an "Ipod." I suddenly feel the need to start buying things at Wal-Mart. Am I just a sucker for savvy marketing?
Also, I think my husband has picked up a pseudonym: Kristopher Kaiyala. Or do all men have issues with allowing toddlers to self-feed yogurt?

thinking about resolutions (at the end of January)

I read The Washington Post Magazine Year in Review issue. Well, I was reading it a few weeks ago. But even then, I was reading Sunday’s paper on, oh, the following Thursday. It usually takes me all week to read the Sunday papers. (And then it takes me weeks more to write about something that strikes me. The magazine has been sitting on my desk next to my computer since that Thursday, January 5.)

I do not remember the last time I made a New Year’s resolution. New Year’s celebrations have always been anti-climactic. Except the time I ran the Midnight Run in Central Park, but that was seven years ago! What fun: 15-degree temperature, fireworks, champagne at the halfway point in little thimble cups, ice on the Central Park roads.... Anyway…

I was reading The Significant Others column by Jeanne Marie Laskas, “The Journey of a Thousand Miles… begins with a trash bag.” She writes about New Year’s resolutions (fitting, right, for a January 1 column?), trying to pick just one small thing instead of rolling over the last year’s resolutions that never got done. Her thing was to be a neat(er) person. After considering where to get started, she focuses on her desk:

“I see there are many items that can be pitched. Here, for instance, is a pair of reading glasses I got at Target with lenses that turned out to be way too strong for me. Looking through these glasses gave me actual motion sickness. Now, someday, my eyes may need correction this strong, so should I save them? Or perhaps should I donate them to charity? One of the two rubber nosepieces is missing, but I suppose there are nosepiece replacements you can buy. Um. What the heck am I supposed to do with these things?”

I look at my desk… Who cares if it is a new year? I should always keep it neat, throw things out. But I don’t. I see s*hit tossed everywhere:

  • A hammer that I used a week ago that should be returned to the toolbox (and I have gone from office to basement enough times to just grab it and take it down with me).
  • A list of dentist names and numbers that I should file (let alone that huge pile of “To Be Filed” crap).
  • The cord for charging my iPod and another one for downloading photos from my camera spilling across the desk top.
  • A licked-clean spoon, probably left here from when I ate breakfast over an editing job a few mornings ago. The dish made it to the kitchen, the spoon was left behind

I have no reading glasses from Target. But what If I threw out something? Or put something where it belongs? Ah, that would feel good. But whenever I am not working or caring for Iz, I don’t get around to cleaning my office. Well, I do actually clean my office now and again. And then it is so much more pleasant to sit and work here.

But it is so hard to get started. So instead, I wrote this blog entry.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Role Reversal

I am a petite blond former cheerleader. My husband is a 200 pound hairy hockey goalie. I am rather girlie to the untrained eye. Kevin isn't close to girlie...until you start talking about shoe shopping.

Harry calls Kevin "MaMA." It is very accurate. Kevin IS Mama. It is not just because he cooks and does midnight wakeups and is Harry's "consistent" parent (I travel for work, Kevin is home every night). Here is my most recent example of why Kevin is the mommy and I am the daddy:
  • I came back from CVS last night (another earache) and found Harry in the tub with roughly an inch and a half of water. When I give him a bath, the water overflows and everything is soaked. I suppose Kevin is worried about drowning and all of that. Harry like s to swim in the tub though!
  • Harry's dinner plate last night that Kevin prepared had fruits and vegetables in the shape of a happy face (so cute!). For lunch I handed Harry a knife, a block of port wine cheese and some crackers.
  • Kevin helps Harry up the slide steps, I stand behind the rock wall like a drill sergeant making him do each hold himself (okay, maybe not a drill sergeant but certainly a climbing instructor).

There are still certain areas that are traditional, but some of our daily activities are funny even to me. As for Harry, he might be described as "all boy" (he walks like a tough guy), but he will spend hours pushing his "baby" in a stroller or feeding him (Graco makes a doll and stroller set in dark blue), preparing dinner at his little kitchen, or walking around with beads and a "purse" (it is actually a mini sports bag). Harry will run around the yard with a hockey stick and puck making growling sounds, all the while making sure his chocolate box headband stays in place!
Harry wants to be big so badly! he doesn't differentiate between gender activities at this point. I guess Kevin and I don't really do that either- except fro the headbands! But he'll figure that one out at some point!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Bell Tolls for Me

How can something so beautiful, so sweet, so absolutely yummy want to kill me so badly? That's the only explanation I can come up with. Sweetie Pie wants me dead.

For starters there's the sleep thing. Is it fair to call it a sleep thing when there's no sleep involved? Basically, I spend the entire night nursing Sweetie with tiny, short nap breaks. As a newborn, she slept in two hour blocks. Now that she's almost five months old she sleeps in forty-five minute to one hour blocks. I'm her favorite pacifier. I'm her only pacifier.

Then there's the eating thing. I've met my picky eaters before but Miss Pie takes the prize. Not only is she picky about what she eats (breastmilk, please) but she will only take it in its original form. No bottles for her, thank you! Not from her father, not from her grandparents, not from her teachers.

Which brings us to the final thing: school (which is what we call day care in our house). Sweetie Pie isn't a fan. The first day I had to come feed her midday. The second day she plodded through and today, the third day, I got a call at 10:30 a.m. that I needed to come in because she wouldn't stop crying. I went in and held her and--poof!--she stopped crying. I put her down to play with her and waaaaaa. Beet red waaaaaaa. Tears streaming down face waaaaaaa. Pick her back up. She's fine. After about ten rounds of this fun game, I gave up and took her home. Which would be fine if I didn't have three work deadlines looming ahead. We went back in the afternoon to hang out and help acclimate her. And guess what? She played her little game again. "Coo, coo, coo!" Mommy thinks she's doing okay, and sets her down to play. "Waaaaaaaaaa!" Up she goes. "Coo, coo, coo!"

The end result of this? An overly tired, sore nippled, work-stressed mom who teeters on the edge of oblivion. Right now, I'm blogging from bed as she sleeps next to me (because why would you sleep on your own when you can sleep touching Mom?) and she's so beautiful and peaceful and sweet. The sad thing is I know how much I'm going to miss all this in a few years. In the meantime, I'll just continue my role as zombie mom until I can wrangle up two hours of sleep in a row. Word to the wise: Stay out of my way. I'm not the most pleasant person around right now

Activity #287: Get your kid an email address

There's been some talk in the blogosphere this week about babies born with URLs already reserved for them. That's fine and all, but there's a reason to get your pre-reading child online that's not just about reserving his or her Internet real estate. If you sign your kid up for an email address, you can send messages to his or her future self.

All those things that you aren't writing in the baby book are candidates for an email to your child's future inbox.

Dear Julian, today you threw a tantrum like none other I have seen. It was impressive.
Dear Julian, today you said "Mama" in a way that told me you knew exactly how to use that word.
Dear Julian, I'm on my first business trip away from you, and frankly it's not half-bad.


Let's face it, handwriting in baby books is old school. Screen-based communication is what our kids are going to expect. This is how their lives will be documented.

If you are commited to the paper-based method, you can check baby's inbox from time to time and print your messages out. Or, just wait. When these guys are old enough to open their inbox, they can read all the notes you wanted to send them when they were too young to understand. And hopefully, they won't see your name in the From line and click "This is spam."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Just Like Us!

My husband sent me this link. I thought it was, as my buddy from New York would say, "Intra-sting." Looks like the boys aren't so different after all...except for that cool ability to pee standing up...

Mirror, Mirror on TV

Have you ever noticed that women great each other like this... "Wow! You look great! Have you lost weight?" Or some women think that comments like this are compliments, "Oh my gosh, you look positively anorexic. What have you been doing?" Has the media really brainwashed all women of the world into thinking that we aren't beautiful unless our bones are showing?

Our daughters and sons need us to break this chain of negative images. We are all strong and beautiful. The size of our jeans and the cost of our clothes is not what is important. Our values, drive, and outlook on life are important. Our self-respect and respect for others will make us happy and successful.

I have been fighting self esteem battles my entire life. I hate waking up every day and feeling that I am not good enough, not pretty enough, and not rich enough. Some of these negative feelings stem from the onslaught of images from the media making us all feel plain and boring. Some of it comes from my childhood and seeing women all around me obsessed with weight, looking "average", and their lack of money.

With all of this said, and as hard as I try, I cannot seem to stop comparing myself to others. Why??? I've been trying to build my self esteem for years. But it still seems to eat me alive. Every day I wake up tell myself that I am beautiful, strong, and have it all. I mean, I have the most incredible husband and child. My family is supportive and there when I need them. And the friends I've made as an adult are the greatest people on earth. If you were to meet me you would never in a million years suspect that I am fighting inner demons just standing there talking to you. I am friendly and seem confident on the outside. But in mind I am scared and weak and afraid that you won't enjoy our conversation and will think I'm an idiot. What will it take for me to feel truly proud of myself. Don't get me wrong - I do feel proud many times - maybe even once each day. But it does fade, and then I must fight the negative feelings in order to feel the thrill of a beautiful day once more.

I have vowed to never, ever, ever mention weight or weight loss or body types in front of my daughter. I will celebrate her accomplishments and her failures. I will support all of her choices. If we live honest, healthy, nutitious, active lifestyles our daughters and sons will mimic our actions. They won't have to worry about their "looks" because they will be fulfilled in so many other ways.

I'm not exactly sure how I will accomplish these goals. But I do know this...that my daughter will not inherit my low self esteem. She will feel so much love and security and joy from her father and me that she will never doubt herself.

If this is the one thing in my life that I can accomplish it will make me happier than anything in the world. It is the one special gift that I will gladly give her.

Let's break all the mirrors and fill our children's worlds with sunshine and windows instead.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Heavenly or Cruel?

Let's travel back 12 Years. I remember the first time I saw a mother using one of those child leashes. I gasped out loud. She was walking through an airport and yanking on her poor innocent son. I began objecting to a friend, "Can you believe that people treat their children like dogs? That is cruel! I wonder if they keep him tied to a tree in the backyard."

Now, Fast Forward to Present Time. While scrambling through a busy airport during the holiday season this year, trying to keep up with my 1.5-year old, dropping carry-on luggage, and searching for a bathroom to change a dirty diaper, I saw a heavenly sight. I saw a father using a child leash on his son. Amazing how having a toddler can change your outlook! This leash was attached to a backpack instead of the child's wrist (or neck like that old picture in my head!)

Now, I'm not saying that I would use one of them - NOT YET - check with me in another couple of months (laughing at the thought). I'm not quite that brave yet. However, with a toddler who can probably run a sub 5-minute mile in circles around the house on top of my own self-diagnosed ADHD (exaggerating a little here, folks) which causes me to sometimes forget where I am or which project is in the works...who is to say that I don't need about 10 of those leashes.

This, of course, prompted a long discussion among my mommy friends. "We could design leashes encrusted with rhinestones so they don't look so primitive." Are they cruel? Are they not? Would you dare use one and deal with the glares of passersby burning a hole through you?

I will say this...as many times as my dear daughter has tried to zip out the door at Starbucks as soon as it opens - or - screams with glee as she maneuvers through a crowded mall - or - runs amuck through the racks at a clothing store playing hide-n-seek with mommy...I have considered tying her safely to me.Would a leash be the answer?

Uhm, nope, not for me. Can't quite get this picture out of my head...imagine a 'child-walking' service where a person has 6 kids on leashes walking through Central Park. Too funny. Don't forget the poop bags.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Second Guessing

Shortly after waking up today, I was sitting on the sofa watching Sesame Street with the little guy, and rage took over my body. I have no idea why! I am pretty much a morning person, I love my cuddle time in the AM with Harry, I had a great weekend, I wasn't in a hurry to do much...but I just suddenly got so mad. The main thought in my head was that nothing I ever decided as a child seemed to be right. I grew up in a town where nothing I did was like what everyone else did. I lived in a place where I often felt like I need to apologize for having gone to college. You would think it was a mountain in Appalachia, but it was New Jersey. For all I know, maybe it was just my family that was difficult, and not everyone else in the town.
Still trying to figure out what caused these suppressed feelings to well up. Maybe it was the long lost relative I have recently started corresponding with that, like all of the others relatives I have ever emailed with, has decided to send me every God/Jesus message he can find. Maybe it was the conversation with a friend about how against daycare her husband is, being a child of daycare himself. Conversely, I was an at-home kid until nursery school and am against that. Maybe I spent my sleeping hours wondering if we all grow to despise our parents' decisions.
I may never know, but I keep hearing my mom's voice in my head repeating "Why would you want to do that?" or "Wouldn't you rather do this?" or "I know you like this dress but (wouldn't you rather waste 5 hours trying on 900 others) so that you can be sure?" I wasted the time fruitlessly trying on multiple dresses for my 8th grade graduation, but after that spent a lot more time out of my house and by the time my senior year of high school rolled around, I tried on 1 prom dress (a less-than-frilly ivory cocktail dress that would be in style to this day) and tried on 3 wedding dresses and ended up with the first one I saw - yes, off the rack even, but it was perfect for what I had in mind.
You might thing that I am easily satisfied or that I settle for things. I am not/ I do not. I just believe in knowing what you want and doing things right the first time. I have done this with cars, colleges and my decision to have a baby. The first time I really ran was to train for a marathon, which I completed 6 months later. I adjust things in my head, and then I set out to do them right. Yet, there are so many other things that I don't do or say because I feel that they may not be good enough or right enough, or else I swing the opposite direction and think my way is the only way to do anything. It's all very bipolar.
That crazy chick Dr. Laura seems to have a new book out about getting over our childhood. Now, I am the last person to say you should blame your childhood for anything! But, I also think you should be made aware of issues you have and perhaps establish where they came from before getting past them. I think it is helpful for me to remember all of those second guesses from my mom questioning why I would want to play softball (I didn't, at least not until 1 year in high school), or leave the area to go to college (I did, and I never went back) or not have a baby in my 20s (I waited). My decisions worked out for me. Those of my mom's that I listened to (dying my eyebrows, getting a water bed, painting my room peach) did not.
Somewhere along the way I forgot that my mother and I have almost always disagreed. She always seemed to be more interested in "showing me off" or having someone to love her than in just being my mother. She taught me how to read early, but then seemed to resent when I became smarter than her.
After Harry was born, she popped back into my life more actively and seemed to blend herself into my life. This was great, but it was not long lasting. Now she is here, and the tables seem to have turned again so that I feel I have to do what I can to make her happy, which is not always easy, since she is crazy. Yes, crazy, and most of me hopes she isn't reading this. Most of me.
The other day she emailed that she wanted to join us for Harry's birthday trip to Disney World. I politely emailed back that the three of us need our alone time as a family, but if they wanted to go to Florida and overlap their trip by a day, that would be great. I actually used the word "great." I haven't heard from her much since. I felt guilty for a few days, now I am just angry. I am angry that she could turn something having nothing to do with her, something I look forward to doing with my husband and child, into something that makes me feel bad. Maybe that is what brought up so many old memories.
My mom stayed at home with me until I was 8. I suppose you could say I was privileged. Most people just said in front of me that I was spoiled (I really wasn't). We weren't weathly, but I was an only child and I had lots of creature comforts. I didn't have friends or much attention though. My mom was usually on the phone or taking me off to do errands. When we did go to the neighbors', I played with the kids while the adults talked...usually about how unhappy they were at home or how they should get a job. I wished she would have too. I wished I had someone to play with. My first day of school was the greatest day of my life. I wished my parents didn't seem to put me in the middle all of the time. I wished I'd had parents who set rules, fed me vegetables, put me to bed by 8:30.
Certainly, I would hope, not every mom out there is crazy. I do think watching a child can be very stressful, regardless of who you are, and every woman should have time for herself. If you are crazy though, and maybe it is just my mom, Susan Smith, and Andre Yates, why would you think it best to make your child stay home with you all day, letting your negative thoughts spill onto them like acid? Kids are like sponges. They pick up the good stuff and the bad. You wouldn't use a kitchen sponge after cleaning up a messy salmonella spill, but some would assume that if they keep a tidy home and put bows in their daughters hair that she won't notice all of the poison erupting around her.
I look back on comments that I have made to Harry, especially that he is getting older now. I hope I have never discouraged him. I hope I have made it clear that I respect his idea to run around the pool and jump in without me catching him, it may be better to stay closer to me, at least so we don't run into any other swimmers. If he wants to do something I might think is icky, it's cool, he can do it, but I may not want to join him. Harry is his own person, and just because I disagree with him, doesn't mean what he is doing is wrong. Of course I would think this, after all, I am busy second guessing myself. Perhaps living on peanut butter is the best idea. What do I know. I am not the expert on life. No one is! And, perhaps, hard as I try, Harry may grow up and resent my decisions. I certainly hope not.
What I do know...I need to get out and run today! Running my not be the best thing for my particular body, but it does clear my head, and that makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Activity #153: Create a family photo wall

Real grown-ups might already have one of these in their house, but I am just getting started. I'm doing this to help Julian learn his grandparents' faces.

I recommending assigning this task to family members, both to create less work for you and so that no one complains that they don't like the picture you chose. Call all the grandparents and tell them to bring you a framed picture for this wall. (They should be highly motivated when you tell them it’s for baby to get to know them better. ) To build an outing around this, go out to a frame store and decide what kind you want. Or check out (pictured here) the Picture Wall Company product that will make this as easy as possible.

Once your wall of fame is in place, walk by with baby and point everyone out and say their names. Progress note: Julian is sort of saying "grandpa" as of yesterday.

If you want to get high-tech and achieve the same objective, check out BabyMeetsFamily.com. It's a video, sorta like Baby Einstein, that includes pictures of your family and you. You upload the pictures on the web site and then they mail you a custom DVD.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Getting Old

My husband is sitting nearby, strumming his guitar and watching hockey. It is about 8:30 and the sounds of it all go right through me. The hockey announcers are about to cause me to have an anxiety attack with their choppy, panic inducing words. The guitar- well, I feel bad. It was my idea to get it back out so that Harry could be exposed to it. My sweet Muffin is working on two of my favorite songs - and yet I want to pull my hair out while jumping off of the roof! I think what I had in mind for the guitar was for it to be played during normal hours. Muffin complains that it is only 8:30.
When did 8:30 become late? I used to start getting ready for the evening at 8:30, with the music cranked up! I used to know what Jay Leno looked like. I used to wear tank tops to bars in winter. Did I know a few years back that all of that "craziness" would be short lived? The strangest part of all is that it wasn't that long ago. If I knew then what I know now, I would have worn more bikinis, stayed awake later, traveled more.
I am not sure I know anyone who actually went out on New Years Eve this year. That includes childless couples and those who are single. Okay, I lied. My friend Andrew's 50-something parents have been partying lock rock stars. I went to a mountain resort in the poconos but didn't stay up late enough to see Dick Clarke.
There is a show currently on TV called How I Met Your Mother. It is quirky and I like it and odds are it will be cancelled. Regardless, it reminds me of my post college days, hanging out with a small group of friends in the bars of Baltimore. I guess in a way, those days seemed like vacation. We had just finished a busy phase in our lives, and we were hanging out for a while, preparing for the next one. Of course, I didn't have the cash to travel throughout Europe, and I didn't have the money for a personal trainer. I had to go to sleep at some point so I could wake up and make a name for myself in business world. Still...
The next phase is here for me, and it's not what I expected. I like staying home with my son. I am not that ambitious at work. It is kind of okay that I can barely run a 10 minute mile. I would never have imagines that slowing down could sustain me.
My biggest worry is that everything I have worked so hard for could be taken away in an instant. I guess that worry is a lot to manage. Maybe that is what makes me want to go to bed at 9:30, instead of gettig a sitter to watch Harry sleep so that I can hit the bars...or an 8:30 kick boxing class, for that matter!
I was 30 when Harry was born. I'd had plenty of time to have fun, and I think I did a fair job of that. It's time for me to be a soccer mom now. I love my little house. I want to fill it with furniture from Pottery Barn kids. I love my mini-van (but I did get a stealie for it). Rather than taking advantage of some free time, Kevin and I both take Harry to his gymnastics class, his swim class, out for his bike rides and to his room for his 2 hour bedtime rituals. I guess it is not so bad to be responsible at the moment. I guess, in the words of my father, that's what you do. Besides, I can party like a rock star when I'm 50.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Almost French (a book)

A book that is not about mothers, children, or running...

I have loved reading Almost French: A New Life in Paris, a memoir by journalist Sarah Turnbull. It is one of the best books I have read in a long time. All the clich├ęs apply: I couldn’t put it down; I lost track of time while reading; etc. Turnbull writes about her first years of living in Paris, where she still lives. You may love Paris or know nothing about it – no matter because her story is simply a good story. And her writing is real, clear and uncontrived.

Turnbull, an Australian, moved to Paris in an uncharacteristically whimsical way. (Though Australians are known for being travel-aholics. Some say it is because they live so far away from their cultural roots in Western Europe. As a child, my mother, who is Australian, kept a suitcase packed with essential supplies for her imagined world travels.)

Back to the point, Turnbull meets a Frenchman while traveling in Bucharest, and visits him in Paris. She falls in love (she does not, however, detail their romance in a usual way) and she moves to Paris to live with him. Over the next few years, she builds a freelance journalist career and faces many culture clashes. Some of her experiences are funny, but not always. Some are tense, but not quite look-away painful and hard to read.

Turnbull does not write about motherhood or children, but she does mention running once. Her book has brought a refreshing change to my reading material. And she is so easy to identify with because her writing is so compelling and she faces so many common, yet specific, dilemmas.

And, come on, my whole identity is not about being a mother and a runner, right?

So what do I read next?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Setting an example

The new year -- a time for fresh starts and resolutions (and more episodes of Grey's Anatomy -- I swear, I've been in withdrawal from that show). I've been doing a lot of thinking about the example that I set for my daughter. Navigating the minefield that is girls' body image and self confidence is tough, and since my daughter's birth I vowed that she would not have to go through the same crap I did (a grandmother who would greet me in my thinner times with "you are so much more beautiful when you lose weight," a size 4 mother complaining that she needs to lose weight). Instead of focusing on weight, I've been trying to focus on eating healthy, staying active, and nurturing self-confidence. It is not easy.

A large part of that is my running. My daughter sees me as a runner, and has said that she wants to run with me some day. This makes me so happy to see a positive effect; now I just have to sustain it for another 20 or so years.

My first marathon, run a couple of months after my daughter turned 1, was for me, to prove that I could do it. This year's marathon -- when she will be 4 -- will be for her. OK, maybe just a little for me, too.