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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cinematic Birth Control?

If our "vacation" (to the North Woods of Wisconsin and the suburbs of Chicago) were a movie, I can't decide whether it would be a comedy or a drama or a horror. But (obviously) Reese Witherspoon would play me. And Brad would play Husband. And the trailer would be set to a sultry soundtrack including "I Will Survive" and "Life is a Highway" and "No Woman, No Cry" and "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." And it would include the following teasing images: golf-ball sized hail, toddler heads in fishing nets, gobs of Wisconsin cheddar cheese, a portable plastic potty, a plastic power saw, yellow bath water, stale fries, nibbled nuggets, Cheerio bits, deer heads, bongo drums, pickled beans, elk jerky, Happy Meals, happy children, trout pouts, Toddler grins, missed highway exits, baggage claim naps, tears shed, smiles splayed, laughter ringing, sweaty baby feet, stinky poops, and a predatory past-its-prime banana. This trailer would intrigue and intimidate. It would be cinematic birth control at its most compelling.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Attack of the Vintage Banana

Our "vacation" ended with a symbolic banana bang. Toddler, Baby and I waited on a convenient little bench at Laguardia's baggage claim while Husband heroically wrestled suitcases and carseats off that slow-spinning luggage belt. Toddler decided that it was the perfect moment for story time, so she reached into one of our myriad carry-ons to find her Diego bug book. When she handed it to me to read, I noticed that it was rather slick and smelly.

Me: "Something spilled."

Toddler: "Uh oh, Mommy."

Baby: "Aaaaaah-Daaaaah" [Translation: "Daddy," or more likely "Give me a Cheerio."]

Dutifully, I popped a Cheerio into Baby's mouth and told her Daddy would be with us soon and I examined the bag wherein something mysterious and stinky spilled. Nothing like the blind reach-in and feel-around. I stifled my scream. Because for goodness sake, there were kids around. My kids. And this is what we parents do, right? We pretend all is A-OK.

But all was not A-OK. No. When I removed my hand from the bag, it was covered in blackened, rotten, liquefied banana. Even Baby cringed and screeched in disgust. (Or, more likely, she wanted another Cheerio). So, we had made it through our ten days of travel without an episode of bona fide vomit (yes, there was the grocery-store-Baby-spitting-up-in-my-mouth-episode but that is for another post) and there we were within an hour from home and something, something gross and random and metaphorical, just had to happen, right?

I gathered bits and pieces of the mashed banana remains from the bag, told my babies everything was okay. I told Toddler her book would dry. I kept the Cheerios coming to keep Baby, well, Cheer-i-o.

And in the taxi on the way home, I once more served as the trademark (and now banana-slicked) mommy meat sandwiched between my two exhausted girls. And as we sped toward home, I kept sniffing my sticky, rotten hands, challenging myself not to gag.

When did "vacation" become something utterly deserving of scare quotes? When did "vacation" become something to survive? I've always been genuinely irritated by people who say those painfully platitudinous words, "After that vacation, I need a vacation!" But I am now officially one of them. And now I will utter those cliched, annoying words: I. NEED. A. VACATION.

Don't think you are getting off that easy... Stay tuned for some highlights from our actually-quite-wonderful-given-my-current-propensity-to-focus-on-a-lone-liquid-banana-trip...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dear Cats

Dear Cats,

We are coming home today! Hope you had a nice vacation from us and the girls. Hope you've taken good care of the place. I know you might be a little mad that we left you, but know that most cats and dogs are boarded at a kennel during these times. And you are lucky that you get to stay home. So, don't be mad. When we open the door and drag the babies and the suitcases in, come running. Nuzzle against our legs. Purr loudly. Pretend you missed us.

Insecurely yours,

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dear Baby #4

Dear Baby #4,

Daddy says I'm not allowed to have you. That only three kids fit in a rental car. Your Daddy is so sane and practical. And unfair. I will work on him.

Insecurely yours,

Dear Baby #3

Dear Baby #3,

You don't exist yet. Not even a tiny cluster of cells. But I'm beginning to think about you. Your sisters are a handful and yet I crave more. More chaos. More cheeks. More.

Insecurely yours,

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dear Fellow Mothers

Dear Fellow Mothers,

Stop telling your labor stories to women who are about to give birth. And if you must tell them, lie. Lie big time. Tell them that your doctor was a genius. That the nurses were sent from heaven. That the contractions were mere twinges. That your hospital bag was perfectly packed. That the epidural worked like a charm. That all tears were happy ones. That your husband was a cheerleader. That the baby came out pink and screaming and got a perfect 10.

Lie. Or zip it.

It just scares people. And childbirth is scary enough on its own. No one needs to know how many stitches you got or how many times you needed to push. No one needs to know how miserable your contractions were or that you made it to seven centimeters before getting your epidural. No one needs to hear that you had an emergency C. No one needs to know that the cord was wrapped around your baby's neck and she didn't cry for the first fifteen seconds of her life. No one needs to know about the catheter or the mucous plug or those disposable undies that you wore. No one needs to know these things.

These things make people nervous. Just like this letter does.

Insecurely yours,

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dear Columbia Law School Girls

Dear Columbia Law School Girls,

There must have been something in the water or the Strokos fat-free tuna we consumed with wild abandon in those good old pre-mercury-paranoia CLS days. Because between us, we now have six baby girls (and another any day). No boys allowed.

Who would have guessed back then when we were busy making final exam outlines (okay, you guys were busy making them and I was busy thinking up artful ways of asking you to share them with me) that we would collectively produce more than a half-dozen baby girls in the next half-dozen years?

I have never regretted going to law school. Never. Columbia was a fantastic school and I learned a ton there. I learned all about Constitutional Law and Evidence. I learned about all of the bars along Amsterdam Avenue. I learned how to answer a question about a case I hadn't read. I learned how to spot a group of girls among the masses who would prove life long friends and fellow mommies.

Now let's do everything in our power to make sure our girls don't become lawyers. Just kidding. Kind of.

To life, law, and little girls! I love you all.

Insecurely yours,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dear Danielle LaPorte

Dear Danielle (White Hot Truth teller),

Thank you. For listening to me ramble. For encouraging this riled-up rookie about the possibilities that are endless as long as you dare to dream. For introducing me to two brilliant women Gretchen Rubin and Kelly Hoey, with whom I hope to spend time and trade ideas going forward.

For too long, I thought women were essentially catty creatures because I was one of them. But now, I realize that there is true camaraderie to be enjoyed and support to be gained.

Your words inspire and enlighten. Your dreadlocks remind us that you are not business as usual. Your website is a constant source of nourishment for the soul, that enigmatic item too many of us sell, or ignore, or forget.

I can't wait for your next book. Please come start some metaphorical fires here in NYC!

Insecurely yours,

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dear Anonymous D

Dear Anonymous D,

I'm sure many ILI readers read your comments and think we are friends. They would probably be shocked to know that you stumbled upon my blog randomly. But I am thrilled you have.

This is the beauty of the Internet. The rueful randomness. The fact that two total strangers can bump into each other in invisible terrain. The fact that with the stroke of a key, words and ideas and emotions and confessions can travel from here to there. And from there to here.

We share Kyle and a passion for our kids. We are both experimenting with a new and delightful drug: honesty.

In my darker hours when I wonder why I am doing this, why I am blogging, why I am putting myself out there, I think of you. A person, a successful and good person it seems, who has taken time out of her busy days to read what I have to say. And to say something back. And when I think of this, I realize that it is all worth it. Very worth it.

Thank you for your web friendship. What do you say we talk life and law over a glass of wine one of these days?

Insecurely yours,

Dear Skin

Dear Skin,

I know it's a lot to ask after three decades, but now would be a good time to thicken a bit. You see, I've recently started a blog called ILI. And blogging = putting a small percentage of myself and my words out there. And many people out there like it, but some people seem to hate it and me and everything I have to say. These people love to point out just how my elite education has failed me. They love to point out the typos. And I am expert at pretending that these things, these odd, but pointed jabs of criticism don't faze me, but the truth is they do. I get sad. And I complain to Husband. And sometimes I even cry. And then I buck up and console myself with a string of good well-worn cliches. Like it's all par for the course. It comes with the territory. Yada yada yada. I tell myself to grow a thick skin. But you don't seem to listen. I will give you some time. If you could fatten up by next summer when BLACKBERRY GIRL is released, that would be fine. And if you want to learn how to tan too, I wouldn't object.

Insecurely yours,


P.S. Congrats on being the largest organ! Nice work.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dear Jimmy

Dear Jimmy,

You are a troublemaker already. Tucked inside C's belly, kicking and punching and turning somersaults, keeping her in NYC while the rest of us are fly-fishing miles away. And we wish your Mommy and Daddy were here with us now, catching fish, taking in the views, eating cheese curds.

But I think ahead to next year. You will be almost one. I can see you now - bright blue eyes, a mini-mess of blond hair, a vast and undeniable smile, stumbling around on that old wooden porch, reaching for your Daddy's rods. Playing with your cousins.

You better stay cozy in that belly until I come home.

Insecurely yours,
Aunt Aidan

Dear Facebook

Dear Facebook,

It's one thing to mess with me, but another thing entirely to mess with my mother-in-law. Grammy is a good person. And when I sent her that photo album you were kind enough to allow me to create, you insisted she join your site to view the album.

All she wanted to do was see pictures of her darling grandchildren. Do you blame her? So, she joined. I'm not sure what happened next, but I blame you. You (or some not-so-nice spammer-type) sent friend requests from Grammy to all of my Facebook friends. Very sneaky. Not nice. How dare you?

Grammy would never do this. You've put her in a tough spot. Everyone makes mistakes, but I'm not sure I will forgive you for this one. Or whether Grammy will.

Insecurely yours,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

Wherever you're fly-fishing these days, I'm sure there's no Internet access. And if there were, you wouldn't care or know how to use it. So I will keep this short.

I miss you more than I have ever missed anything. Your silly smile. Your dancing mustache. Your irreverent wit. Your tattered khakis. Your lunchpail wisdom. Your bottomless blues. Your tough love. Your bear hugs. Your bird calls. Your voice. Your laugh. Your "Hi, Hi" and "Morn, Morn." Everything.

You should be fishing with us. But, alas, you are in distant waters.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. I miss you deeply and love you madly.

Insecurely and always yours,
Maidy-Bunks Picnic

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dear Fathers

Dear Fathers,

Tomorrow is your day. Enjoy it. Put away the BlackBerry and the briefcase. Close the laptop. Turn off ESPN. Let the day roll by in slow motion.

Look. At your kids. Study them. Their smiles, their eyes, their elbows, their pinky toes.

Listen. To the laughter, the songs, the complaints, the phone-call from far away.

Taste. The food you make or order. That mid-afternoon beer (or four) you more than deserve. The moment that is fleeting.

Feel. The little hand clutching yours. The grips of that stroller you won't need much longer. The pride that you've done a good job so far.

Smell. The sizzling bacon. The Play-Doh. The Sunday air.

Tomorrow is your day. Yes, there are hours to bill and bills to pay. There always will be. But this is your most important job. A job you won't lose in a bad economy. A job you can't quit in a good one. The best job.

Insecurely yours,

Friday, June 19, 2009

Insecurely Yours

"Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company." - Lord Byron.

Dear ILI readers,

As you read this, I am likely doing any of the following things:

1. Sitting in the backseat of a taxi en route to LaGuardia Airport sandwiched between two carseats holding two girls who are thisclose to vomiting.

2. Bent over a filthy airport changing station, removing vomit-soaked clothes from my girls.

3. Sitting on an airplane praying that we take off on time, that there are no lurking ear infections waiting to spring to maturity, that our plane is not defective, and that our fellow passengers like screeching (and vomit).

4. Sitting in a rental car between two vomit-crusted carseats filled with two vomit-crusted kids with brand new ear infections.

The point? I'm going away. To Wisconsin. The magical middle of nowhere. To fly-fish and spend time with family. Yes, this is the ideal destination for a rookie blogger with two tiny tots; a place with no air conditioning, no Dora, no Internet access.

I'm not going to lie. This last fact (no web access) troubles me because I have just started this blog and I love it and I haven't missed a day (a sad, sad sign of obsession or perfectionism - take your pick) and I don't want to miss a day. So what should I do?

First, research. Per the blogging experts out there, it seems I have a bevy of options: to give you guys a vacation from reading my blog, to post ahead of time, to sign up a guest blogger.

And since I do not like the idea of having gaping holes in my blogging, I won't. There will be something here each and every day for you to read. But what should I write about? I gave it some thought and I had an idea: I will let you guys read my letters. Because in this modern age of email and social media and linking, letter-writing is a dying art. So sad. So I will not let it die. No, this letter will be the first in a series of letters - to people and creatures and inanimate objects. You'll just have to wait and see.

And, no, these letters won't look like the beautiful antique letter above. They won't be quaint and coffee-stained. They won't be handwritten. They will be typed and sent over the web. Not very old-fashioned, I know. There will be no ecru envelopes or licked stamps or mailboxes or mailmen involved in this equation.

But there will be words. Words that are true whether they are written now or later, in real-time or ahead of time. And that is something.

This is a good plan because letters are timeless. This is a good plan because I need to take a break once in a while. This is a good plan because there is something wrong about blogging from a rustic hideaway overrun by deer and trout and ticks.

I hope you like my letters. One of them might even be to one of you.

Insecurely yours,

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Fellow SASM (Stay-at-Starbucks-Mom)

I have bloggerflies. A veritable cyber-crush. She speaks my language. She gets me. She is me.

Okay, the brunette, Southern, suburban, badass, much cooler, me.

But like me, she writes and blogs and has two young kids and does shifts at Starbucks.

Her name is Lindsay Ferrier. I just stumbled upon her stellar and profoundly provocative blog Suburban Turmoil and I encourage you to check it and her out. You can thank me later.

In her post In Defense of the Work-at-Home-Mom, Ferrier examines that war that continues to rage among the various species of mothers out there. In particular, she explores a contemporary attack on the WAHM, and offers a compelling and pointed and right-on account of why we all need to reexamine and broaden our definition of "work," how there are infinite and infinitely good ways to raise kids and carve out careers (and to balance the two) and how we need to call a cease-fire in this relentless and most-unnecessary battle. A nasty battle that ultimately says more about levels of personal happiness and bitterness than it does about perfect parenting and what counts as work.

This SASM is signing off (from Starbucks of course!) to write her new crush a love letter. No joke. If you're lucky, I'll let you read it...

In the meantime, I want to hear from you. Do you judge mothers who work from home? Do you judge mothers who work outside of the home? Do you judge mothers who don't work? (That's a trick question! All mothers work.) Why do you think we are so quick to judge each other's decisions? My hunch: we judge other's paths because we are deeply insecure about our own. It's all about those insecurities, baby.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sand and Snacks

Toddler started summer camp at her future preschool this week. So far so good.

Sending her to this camp makes me feel like a very good parent. Why? Because camp takes place in the very room where Toddler will attend school in the fall. Same cubbies. Same little tables and chairs. Same puzzles. Same teachers. So she will have zero problem separating come September, right? Right?

Things Toddler loves:

1. The marvelously messy sandbox;
2. Snack-time;
3. Her boyfriend

Yes, her boyfriend. We are exactly 2.5 hours into this camp experience and she's found herself a little suitor. He's very cute. They hold hands. And whisper to one another when they're supposed to be quiet. They stand and dance together when they're supposed to be sitting and listening to hushed and civilized songs. And of course they sit together during snack-time.

Uh oh. Let the games begin.

Simply Brilliant (& Scary)

Do you want to become a better you?

I know. I know. This question might make you shiver or cringe or roll your eyes. But answer it anyway.

Most questions do not have right answers. But this one does. The answer: YES.

If you do not answer this simple question in the affirmative, you are either (1) delusional (because you think you are the most perfect you); or (2) lazy (because you don't want to bother).

But the biggest question is HOW. How do we become better versions of our perfectly imperfect selves? Leave it to the ever-wise Danielle LaPorte over at White Hot Truth to take a crack at this one. LaPorte offers 11 Slightly Scary Ways to Become a Better You and they are well-worth checking out. A few of my favorites involve standing in front of a mirror naked, underachieving, and saying no. My least favorite? Choosing silence. We all know how I feel about silence.

What do you think about this eleven step program for personal betterment? Have any scintillating, but scary steps to add to the list?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Know Your Nanny

Guess I look pretty trustworthy. Because the following thing happened to me yesterday.

I sat at my little table in the back of my Starbucks (don't you love how I'm getting possessive of a mega-chain coffee store?) and a nanny pushed a stroller up to my table and left it with me (without asking) while she went to the bathroom. Maybe she saw my furrowed brow indicating superhuman focus on my laptop screen and assumed (quite correctly) that I would not run away with the Maclaren.

But there was one little problem: there was a child in said (gray and orange) Maclaren. Yes, a living a breathing toddler. A cute one too. He was probably three, had shaggy blonde waves, and looked quite at home sitting with me. In fact, he finagled those safety straps off and all of a sudden, I had myself a handsome little coffee date on the chair next to me.

When his nanny came out of the bathroom, she zipped up her jeans (yes, outside of the bathroom. Lovely. She must have been so worried about this little boy!) and reunited with her charge. And I looked at her and thought: Who do you think you are? Someone trusts you to take care of this little boy. Wheel the freaking stroller into the massive bathroom like I have done practically twice a day for 2.5 years. But when I made eye contact with this woman, what did I do? I smiled sweetly. Didn't say a word. And off they went.

I could not stop thinking about this for the rest of the day. Was I supposed to chide this woman I didn't know? Was I supposed to scribble down a description of this nanny and post it on some bad nanny website because sadly I know they exist. Or, was I supposed to mind my own business just like I did, safely burying my nose and my conscience back in my keyboard?

Thankfully, we adore our nanny and it is up for debate whether our girls adore her more than they do us. This is a good thing. Husband and I joked last night about asking her if she's seen that Big Love show (the series about polygamy) to get a sense of whether she would marry us if we proposed. In all seriousness though, please know your nanny. I do not want any more impromptu coffee dates with your babies.

Monday, June 15, 2009

How Many Friends Do You Have?

This isn't an easy question to answer these days. Because (too) many of us have Facebook friends and Twitter followers and then, if we are lucky, some "real" friends. You know - the living and breathing kind who smile and sob and tell stories and sip coffee. The best kind.

The NYT Idea of the Day blog explores the evolving meaning of friendship in this contemporary landscape of social media madness in its piece What Do Friends Mean? The Week in Review staff maintains that the concurrent rise of social media and decline of the economy has prompted us to ponder the shifting psychological, social, and economic faces of human friendship. And, according to the NYT, what does this inquiry leave us with? Confusion.

Confusion is right. Online networking is complicating what was once a more simple, old school process of making friendships and then maintaining them. Furthermore, many of us are admittedly using Facebook and Twitter and other social media tools for professional purposes - whether to blast our authorial voice into the world or to hawk a product or a website. Are the people we encounter while joining in this cyber-conversation true friends or fellow pawns in a big bad game of self-promotion? Both, I imagine.

Furthermore, the NYT piece suggests something alarming and sad; that the current recession is ruining true real-world friendships. Slate author Emily Bazelon states, “Because of the downturn, friendships between two people whose Saturday-night spending and overall class status used to calibrate precisely have now turned into trickier relationships between one person who still has money and one person who doesn’t.” A troubling statistic? Per the NYT, Science Daily data indicates that we lose about half of our close network members every seven years. Cheerio.

How do you define friendship these days? Has the current economic climate compromised any of your good friendships? Has your adoption of online friends and followers had an impact on your relationships with your real world friends?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mr. Money Bunny

Toddler spent the better part of the morning putting coins into her "money bunny," a beautiful porcelain piggy bank she received as a baby gift two-plus years ago.

And when Baby woke up from her morning nap, the four of us embarked on an somewhat adventurous trip to the East Side and back (adventurous because it involved steering our double stroller through the boisterous Puerto Rican Day Parade) to visit our friends and their adorable newborn (Hi, Baby E!). After a much-deserved ice cream stop on the way home, we returned to our place and Toddler diligently resumed Project Coin Drop and got creative and put some of her coins into the soggy half-eaten and very patriotic wafer cone to the right of Mr. Money Bunny. And as I write this it occurs to me that said American flag-sleeved cone is a shred ironic because we spent a good percentage of the day ducking and dodging Puerto Rican flags on Fifth.

Now Toddler took great delight in her simple Sunday activity, in slipping coin after coin into the little slot and hearing it clank at the bottom. And I watched her sweet smile come and go and found myself longing for those childhood days when coins were toys and vocabulary was in high bloom and yet still missing certain words like: mortgage, tuition, market, salary, save, spend, economy, tax, recession. Remember those innocent days? I don't really, but I bet they were great.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Safe Travels, T!

I just put my youngest sister (and her robust suitcase which thankfully has wheels) into a taxi headed for JFK. She's off to Africa for two weeks to volunteer at a daycare center where she will work with underprivileged kids, aged 0-6. As I waved goodbye, I felt those maternal flutters of fear and pride. Maternal because she is ten years younger than I am and the baby of the family. Fear because she is young and beautiful and headed far, far away and because I worry about almost everything. Pride because she is young and beautiful and has an adventurous spirit and a huge heart. 

Safe travels, T! Keep a journal. Take pictures. Have fun. And if you have any sudden Angelina-esque urges to bring home a cute African tot, try to resist! For at least a year or two. A baby, however precious, will likely interfere with your senior year. As Mom says, love you to pieces!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Sound of Silence

All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone. 
-Blaise Pascal.

Pure silence makes me uncomfortable. It just does. Not sure why. Maybe because I am a City girl and I was raised to a soundtrack of sirens. Maybe because when shrouded in silence, I have no choice but to think about things - even the things I'd rather not think about. To remember the things I toil to forget. To dream of the things that linger beyond reach. To worry about the things I can't seem to change. Maybe because when the world is utterly and immaculately silent, I can actually hear the ebb and flow of breath, the scurry of an anxious heartbeat, the melody of my own mortality. 

Whatever the reason, I've always been a fan of background noise. Music. Television. Conversation. Traffic. Fussing. Rain. Anything but the void. And maybe Mr. Pascal would say that my inability to sit in a quiet room alone is a true existential bummer of sorts, a sad and supple source of potential misery. And maybe Mr. Pascal would be right. Maybe he would. I'm sure he was right about many things. Good for him.

Anyway, this has admittedly been a very meandering path to my weekly update on the Happy Headache (a.k.a. the untimely-given-this-recession-gut-renovation of our new place), but, alas, I do have a point and I'm getting there and I was craving a little philosophical Friday afternoon stroll, so I thank you for indulging me. Anyway, I did not attend this morning's weekly construction meeting, but Husband did and he was kind enough to pass along the migraine-inducing minutes of said meeting. Bring on the bullet-points:
  • Structural Engineer has uncovered seemingly serious flaws in the foundation of our apartment, flaws regarding gravely important things like pillars and joists. Translation? Bye Bye Budget.
  • Addressing these things necessarily expands the good old scope of work. Translation? Add six too many weeks to that trusty time projection.
  • Our new place abuts a school. Our project manager says he can hear conversations going on in our lovely neighboring school through the wall of what will be Toddler's future bedroom. What does this mean? We must pay for an ACOUSTICIAN to come analyze the conditions. I am not making this stuff up. We pay someone to specializes in acoustics to come listen to the kids/campers chit chat through the wall and then tell us what we can do to fix it. Translation? RIP Budget.
So, it seems that everything - even the sound of silence - will cost us a pretty penny. And though I am doing everything in my power to pass along my sedatephobia (i.e. fear of silence, there's a word for it!) to my progeny (currently the girls fall asleep every night to the artificial rumblings of rain and the digital crash of ocean waves), I guess I should at least give them the chance to sit (or sleep) in that quiet room alone and decide for themselves. I imagine this would make Pascal proud.

How do you feel about silence? Do you crave it or avoid it like I do? Is this Pascalian malaise an urban or more universal human phenomenon?

Thursday, June 11, 2009


On Wednesdays, I am homeschooled by my girls. And they are great teachers. They work well in tandem. Their lessons are clear and well-articulated, punctuated by drool and laughter, tears and tantrums. By the end of every Wednesday, I look around my apartment. At the rainbow layer of toys and discarded snacks and half-finished art projects, and nod and think: Some major education took place here today. I survived this day and I am smarter for it. 

Here are ten things I learned just yesterday:

1. The toilet makes a mean bongo drum.
2. Pretzels can cure a skinned knee.
3. A standard baby wipe will remove crayon scribble from the interior of a plastic potty.
4. Baby feet are particularly useful for knocking over stacked cans of tuna at the grocery store.
5. Cardboard is a food group.
6. A chaotic playdate might just trigger labor (Calm down. Not mine.)
7. Jellybeans (pink and yellow) are pivotal to parenthood.
8. Diaper cream is actually meant for the face.
9. "Give each cat one treat" apparently means Give each cat eight treats and then dump the rest of the bag on the floor and run away.
10. I absolutely cherish my Wednesdays with the girls. (And the towering healthy modest glass of white I pour once they are in bed.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Party On, Mr. Pres

Honestly, I don't get it. Yes, he's our President. Yes, he has a big job to do. Yes, he has inherited some vast international and domestic messes to mop up. Yes, these are incredibly tough times. Yes.

But he is also a human being. With a beautiful and intelligent wife and two darling girls. He is a husband. A father. A good husband. A good father. (And, yes, I know it annoys some of you that is so good at everything, but get over it.)

So, if this man wants to take his wife on a date, let him. Let them go to the theater and eat a four-star dinner. If she wants to wear a fancy dress and show off those enviable arms, good for her. And if she wants to wear $500 sneakers with said fancy dress, rock on. Life and laughter should not cease just because this man has taken that somber oath of office.

It seems as if there is at least one other American who agrees with me. Or, I agree with her. Point is that we are on that same proverbial page. In her compelling NYT Op-Ed piece, Maureen Dowd asks Can The One Have Fun? and her answer is a big fat YES. Dowd laments the fact that the "fun police are patrolling Pennsylvania Avenue" and makes a good point: "Mixing play with intense work is not only a good mental health strategy; it’s a good way to show the world that American confidence and cool — and Cary Grant romantic flair — still thrive."

My take? Our President is not perfect. He is not a robot. Like the rest of us, he will be better at his job if he takes time to breathe. He will be a better leader of this nation if he presses pause on business as usual from time to time to court his bride and play with his kids. Let him get his Cary Grant groove on. Let him play a round of golf. I do not want a miserable, joyless, high-strung captain at the helm of this ship. No, I think the Leader of the Free World should be a free man. Free to smile and sip the odd (and much-deserved) cocktail with his wife. Free to frolic with his young daughters. Free to pursue the same happiness we all covet and crave in our own decidedly less presidential lives.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Having Some

Toddler: "Where's Mommy?"

Nanny: "She's working now, but you'll see her after your nap."

Toddler: "Then I wanna nap now."

On big writing days, I spend a lot of time outside the house. Because if I were home, Toddler would sit on my lap the whole time and pound away on my keyboard. And that would be fun, but Laptop would probably break. And my blog posts and book chapters would look like this: gdfWJKLGFHJ SSGLSDJFNNNNNNNNNN which does not a career make. So, I leave Toddler and Baby and head to my Starbucks sanctuary where I write. And though I'm able to enter a freakish zone of focus even in the Macchiato mayhem, there is always something in the back of my mind. Two things, actually. My girls. 

Even though I see my girls all the time (and know there are countless women and men out there who are forced to spend the majority of their days and weeks away from their kids and I do not pretend to understand how hard this must be), even though I know my girls are mere blocks away and very happy, I miss them. And each and every day, I wonder if it's worth it. If it's worth pursuing goals that don't (directly) involve them, goals that necessarily take me away from them. And, at my little table in the back of that bustling and cliched coffee shop, I nod every time. Yes, it's worth it. Because I love writing. I'm happy when I write. And I'm a better mother when I'm writing and when I'm happy. So, it's both very worth it and very hard. 

And when I return home, Nanny usually has a litany of cute stories to tell me. And I love hearing them. Yes, even when they are stories about how much my girls miss me when I am gone.

No, we can't have it all. But we can have some. The challenge is to convince ourselves that some is indeed enough.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The 29-Hour Raw Food Diet

If I were visiting this blog and not its proud mama, I would read the title of this post and my heart rate would quicken and I would get a mini-surge of excitement. A 29-hour diet? I can do anything for 29-hours! I would begin to salivate for details and then I would begin reading... and then I would feel stupid and realize that this is the story of someone who could only last on a diet for a pathetic 29 hours. Bummer. 

Last week, I met a friend for lunch. As we perused the menu, she said in a whisper: Let me just tell you, I'm doing the raw food thing. Presumably, she told me this so that I wouldn't mock her for munching on plain lettuce leaves. But her pre-meal confession had another effect on me: it piqued my interest. What is a raw food diet?

So, over lunch, I enjoyed a savory seminar on the raw food diet. And as my friend explained how she makes smoothies and delectable "green juice," I noticed how fantastic and healthy she looks. Sure, she looked skinny and I love skinny, but she always looks skinny. But her skin was good and glowing. She was invigorated, smiling, seemingly high on life. (Or maybe on green juice?)

Hmmm. So what did I do after lunch? I went across the street to the grocery store and bought me a boatload of raw foods. Nuts. Avacados (or "Cados" as Toddler calls them). Veggies. And right then and there, I went on a raw diet. 

The next morning, I was down .5 pounds! A miracle. Now, we all know that it's more likely that I was down a half pound because of all the scrambling I did to learn about this raw food diet, but whatever. So, I decided to stick with the diet. But by evening, after a long day with my little cowgirls, I was starting to dream of cooked vegetables. Of course you are going to lose weight on a diet where it is a treat to have a steamed piece of broccoli! 

Anyway, the next morning, I stood there on line at Starbucks talking to myself. This diet is not for me. Diets aren't for me. Moderation is the key. Life is too short. She did look positively gazelle-like though. No, not for me. And when it was my turn to order, I asked for my beloved and opposite-of-raw Venti Pike Place coffee. And then I added an egg sandwich. And then I scarfed said steaming-hot sandwich in record time, gaining back that piddly half pound. Yum.

Why is it that I am such a sucker for diets? Of course, like 99% of you out there, I would love to drop those five pounds. Of course. But is our societal obsession with diets and weight-loss and before-and-after stories perhaps prime evidence of our shared insecurities? Of our preoccupation with perfection? Of our insatiable hunger for control? Is my brief fling with the raw food diet another sad manifestation of that collective fantasy and fallacy that if we just lose the weight, it will be happily-ever-after? 

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Baby's First Starbucks

The good mother keeps track of milestones. Often, she does so in a baby book designed just for that purpose; to document the "big days," the days when her baby rolls over or sits up or crawls or walks. Yes, she scribbles it all down: those first steps, that first tooth, that first haircut. Because firsts are important. And there are so many of them. And if the good mother does not maintain a written record of these developmental steps, everything will blur together in the chaos of her mind. So, diligently, the good mother keeps a diary.

I have a big stack of baby books. They are beautifully-bound. The pages are thick and substantial. There are places to insert photos and relics. These books are all empty.

But today Baby had a first worth recording. Her first Starbucks. I took her on a solo afternoon trip around the neighborhood and we ended up at our local Starbucks. As the friendly barista handed me my change, I asked if Baby could have her very own cup. The barista smiled and handed me the smallest Starbucks cup I'd seen. Not a Tall or Grande or Venti. A Short. And when I handed it to Baby, I've never seen a smile so vast on a creature so small. She grabbed the cup. And chewed it. And waved it in the air. And celebrated. 

And when Baby fell asleep in her stroller tonight as we ate dinner with my family, I took a picture of that little cup alongside her little feet. So that I would remember this day. This milestone. Those tiny toes. That smile. 

And I studied the cup and saw that on the back there was a brilliant quote from novelist Alice Randall.

Mother-love is not inevitable.
The good mother is a great artist ever
creating beauty out of chaos.

And when Husband and I carried our sleepy girls back into our beautifully chaotic home, I clutched Baby and that cup. And I thought: This is what it's all about. It's not about perfectly-penned baby books. It's not about maintaining an immaculate memory. It's not even about those trademark milestones we moms jabber on about. No, it's about the relatively random stories, the unbridled joy borne from a small paper cup and a magical quote. It's about the imperfect artistry that is motherhood and the inescapable chaos that is life. It's about those masterpiece moments we couldn't forget if we tried.

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