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Thursday, July 16, 2009

I've Moved!

I am thrilled to announce that the new and improved Ivy League Insecurities has launched! I will now be located at http://ivyleagueinsecurities.com/ so bookmark me. Come on over and make yourself at home. And never fret. Everything you've read and seen here will be there too. The good news is that my new digs are far sleeker than this cozy joint. The bad news is that you will need to resubscribe. But in the grand scheme of things, that's not that bad, is it?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Playground Plaid

Who knew I was such a rebel? Such a free-thinker?

At the playground a few weeks ago, Baby and I hung out while Husband chased Toddler from the slide to the swing to the sprinkler. Now Baby is at the marvelous stage where she can't walk, but she wants to walk. But she certainly does not want to be held.

Sitting on a sticky park bench wrestling with a feisty (and freakishly strong) eight-month-old is a shred embarrassing and not an activity one can sustain for more than a few intense moments, so I looked around. And spotted our waterproof picnic blanket in the base of our stroller.

I pulled it out, unfurled that trademark plaid, and placed it down on the padded playground floor. And then I placed Baby in the center of it and surrounded her with toys and non-toys on which I was (reasonably) confident she wouldn't choke.

Then came the stares. Parents looked at me like I was crazy. Like I was giving my infant a cigarette. A few times, I caught their eyes and shrugged. A few nice parents came up and whispered: "genius."

And I felt like a rebel, bucking tradition, breaking those tacit playground rules. Who knows - maybe I've started a trend and by the end of summer Upper West Side playgrounds will be patchworks of plaid?

On a more philosophical note (and you know I love me my philosophical notes), this experience made me realize that conformity is very often 100% unconscious. We go about our days, we do what we do, but we often don't think about why we do what we do. Nor do we very often find ourselves pondering why we don't do the things we don't do. This is hardly a earth-shattering thought, but could it be that many of our habits, our routine activities, are not products of pure choice or free will, but are rooted in adherence to tacit societal and behavioral norms? Do we not do things like have makeshift toy picnics at the playground because of the power of convention, or simply because we are not very imaginative creatures most of the time?

Maybe, just maybe, this has nothing to do with conformity or convention or imagination. Perhaps, this is just a matter of old school etiquette. A playground is a designated space for kids, yes. But for kids to run freely. There are permanent obstacles of course - the swings, the slides, the water fountains. But perhaps we are not meant to create more obstacles by taking up a sizable footprint with a picnic blanket? If we get all Kantian here and think of what would happen if everyone threw caution to the wind and threw down a blanket, there would be no room to run...

Anyone have any thoughts on my admittedly bizarre inquiry into convention and creativity?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Now We're Talking

Last Friday, I wrote a post about Judith Warner's latest Domestic Disturbances piece wherein Warner provocatively posits that there is a dangerous resentment toward affluent and educated women brewing in our contemporary society. Though her words sparked a storm of criticism among many readers, those same words struck something in me. I was moved to do something I am actually very bad at doing -- to write a thank you note. To be honest, the note wrote itself. I just sat there, rattled, impassioned, pounding the keyboard. And when I posted said note on the NYT and then later on here on ILI, I felt a familiar breed of nausea. Immediately, I worried that I had gone too far, said something it was not my place to say. That perhaps I should have just ingested Warner's words, mulled them over, and then moved on.

The temporary existential unease, the fleeting fire of regret, was well worth it. Within hours of posting my thoughts on the matter, I had a few comments from fellow bloggers who applauded me for saying something, for starting - or rather continuing - an important and necessary conversation. And then yesterday, these compatriots continued the discussion, each on her own blog.

Lindsey of A Design So Vast bemoans our inclination to judge others based on appearance, on external qualities. She writes, "It is impossible to know, from how someone looks on the surface, what is going on inside his or her heart. I have learned enough in my life to know that with absolute certainty." And she is on to something, isn't she? Because this is what affluence and education are - superficial, surface markers of an individual that often reflect poorly what is going on internally. Thankfully, Lindsey is another curious soul who refuses to remain quiet because of her arguably fortunate life. She states, "I will not be muzzled; I believe there is too much to be gained by telling our stories, whoever we are and whatever formal education we have."

Lindsey's classmate Mama of The Elmo Wallpaper highlights an interesting and overlooked feature of the Montana mom saga, namely that this woman was so overwhelmed that her judgment was possibly compromised. Being overwhelmed, stretched thin, drained are phenomena to which all of us mothers can surely relate, regardless of pedigree or paycheck. Mama makes a number of stellar points, her arguments rooted in her own experience as "one damn lucky woman" and concludes, "An education or a privileged background doesn't guarantee us anything, and everyone has a story to tell."

I want to thank these two women, these Cheerio Compatriots, whom I've never met in real life. Yes, because they linked to me. But more because they are keeping this conversation, this fundamentally important, albeit incendiary, conversation, going. Because they are telling their stories. Yesterday was a good day; I read their words, their ideas, and through the screen their conviction was pure and palpable. I felt a surge of old school academic adrenaline and nodded and said to myself, Now we're talking.

Let's not stop now.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tan Theft

No, this is not me. But I am equally gorgeous and my face is perfectly symmetrical like hers. My eyelashes are just as long. And I can make this come-hither face too. For long stretches of time without laughing.

All joking aside, there is a lesson to teach you and this picture makes a perfect prop. Yesterday, I was as pale as the left side of her stunning face (right side of the picture - I'm confused too). And today? Yup, you guessed it. As tan as the right size of her stunning face (left side of the pic). Well, not quite as tan. But close. I joke not.

How is this possible? It's magic. No, actually it's called a spray tan. And you would think that after about a dozen botched spray tan adventures over the last decade, I would learn and embrace my whiteness. After all, Mom says that pale is beautiful, that fair skin is creamy, delicious perfection. Everyone points to Nicole Kidman as a compelling example of the beauty of alabaster. And, no, she is not a hideous creature. But I am not fooled. She is about seven feet tall and when she was eight months pregnant, she looked like she had eaten a moderately sized turkey burger (with the bun on the side). The point: I didn't learn my lesson. No. To the contrary, I repeated those childhood words in my head: If at first you don't succeed, try and try again.

So I tried again. Yesterday was a gloomy day for me and I figured what better way to cheer up than strip naked and stand in a spaceship-like machine and let it spit orange chemicals all over my body? So I moseyed down Columbus Avenue to Beach Bum Tanning and told the nice (and very tan) man behind the desk that I'd like a spray tan. He nodded and asked me for my name. And I'm not sure why he needed to know my name to grant me access to the spray tan room, but I gave it to him. And then he asked for something else. My right index finger. My right index finger?

Yes, he wanted me to place my right index finger on this groovy little finger pad thing. Four times! Now I had to ask.

Me: Why?

Very Tan Man: So people don't steal your tans.

Me: But I don't want to buy a package of tans. Just one tan, please.

Very Tan Man: Put your finger on the pad, Miss.

Me (in my head as I am dutifully placing my fingertip on that pad four times like the good girl I am): Who steals tans?

Very Tan Man (presumably noting my now incredulous pale face): It happens. I tell you. People steal tans. It happened with this married couple.

At this point, I just nodded and asked him to point me to the faux-sun-spaceship wondering what kind of wife would stoop as low as stealing her husband's tans? And after practicing about six times how to stand for optimal spraying, I stripped down, pressed that ominous black button, closed my eyes, and crossed my fingers. And as I walked home, skin still pale and sticky with the promise of summer glow, I smiled smugly. Because I had a secret. I was mere hours from hotness. And sure enough, as the hours passed, I grew darker and darker.

And I woke up this morning and guess what? My skin is no longer transparent! There is some color. No, it's not as bronze as the beauty's (half) face above, but it's tannish. And other than my hands (which look like I've been sifting through powdered bricks), the tan is reasonably even. Is it perfect? No. But we all know perfection is boring. I know. I know. Tell that to little missy above and Nicole Kidman.

Any humorous tanning stories out there? Anyone else walking around with a positively glowing pair of hands?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

One Year

March 22, 1942 - July 12, 2008

"But I always remember the fish I lose more than the ones I land."
Strachan Donnelley, Big Little Snake: Metaphor Mongers and Mountain Rainbows

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Quitting Is Delicious

Earlier this week, I wrote a heartfelt post on quitting, on how we should not rush to judgment of those people who quit ostensibly good things. Like, say, diets.

Well, we all knew it wouldn't last. At least I did. I guess it's possible that some of you out there had a pinch more faith in me.

That's right. After a short stint as an annoyingly abstemious post-"vacation" dieter, I'm eating bread again. With a vengeance.

It all went down the tubes yesterday beginning with one of my favorite Starbucks Spinach Feta wraps. I was hard at work, burning like a zillion calories on my Laptop and figured: it's a whole wheat wrap. That is very healthy. Probably has fifty-something grams of fiber. Shouldn't even count as bread... And then BAM. Diet is over.

Since that moment, I've consumed the following yummy carborific goodies:

1. Spring rolls
2. Vats of white rice
3. A Skinny Cow (ha!) mint ice cream sandwich
4. A grilled cheese sandwich
5. Toddler's leftover fries
6. A Levain chocolate chip cookie. (Heaven)

And now I am writing this post and thinking ahead to dinner. What will it be? Not sure yet. But I do know that it won't be home-cooked or bread-free. Quitting can be delicious, my friends! Don't judge me. Join me!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tea and Sconces

A couple of my friends (rightly) scolded me today for letting a few weeks go by without updating you all on the Happy Headache (the untimely-given-the-recession-gut-renovation of our new place). Truth be told I've been too busy "vacationing" and defending my elitist ways and editing my novel and collaborating on my new and improved website (stay tuned!) to think much about our future home let alone update anyone on its evolution. But I'm back.

Currently, we are scrambling to finalize the lighting plan. We all know that lighting in a home is big deal. Good lighting can mean the difference between a happy, airy sanctuary and a dark dungeon. Fine. So we should focus. But our designer has designated dozens of sconces. Now sconces are cool. I like them. But Husband and I talked about it and neither of us grew up in a house with a single sconce. So are these lovely wall lights truly necessary or a modern indulgence?

This brings me to another more philosophical inquiry. Hypothetically speaking, should one design her home for the (uber-casual) life she currently leads or the (more formal, adult) life she envisions leading some day? A life of coffee and bagels and toys and diapers or a life of tea and sconces and etageres and dinner parties?

I have flashbacks to those good old pre-wedding days when Husband and I were on that cliched registry mission. We wandered aimlessly through china pattern after china pattern, collectively weathering a identity crisis. Should we go the practical route of our then-present-day and pick something befitting a young, moderately hip, childless twosome? Or pick a more pretty and polished and refined china that would be appropriate for our decidedly more formal future? We went with the latter and selected a gorgeous and sophisticated black-and-white set by a designer I can't remember. Shows how much we use our china.

When making design decisions, do you design for your present or future self? Your real or ideal life?

Domestically Disturbed

This morning, I sat on the hardwood floor between Toddler and Baby, brokering peace negotiations between the pajama-clad girls who are many long months away from receiving their Masters in Sharing. Mission accomplished. Within a few moments, Toddler was playing with her Mama Tape Measure and Baby was playing with her Baby Tape Measure. And I had a few fleeting, but delicious moments to go online before Baby pulled up on my back and yanked out a massive fistful of my hair. Maybe she wanted me to get off my computer. Or, maybe she's envious because she's bald.

Anyway, before snapping my laptop shut and giving my girls the absolute, unmarred attention they deserve, I was able to read this article. It's the latest entry in Judith Warner's NYT blog Domestic Disturbances. And I was sufficiently disturbed (in the best possible way) to forgo that much-needed shower and read it over a few times, read all of the comments it elicited, and then write my own comment. In that little comment box, I wrote one of my Insecurely Yours letters. I thanked Judith for her brave words, for speaking up, for defending those of us here on ILI and beyond who are educated and interested and insecure. If you are curious, you can read my letter below.

Now, off to analyze my infant-induced hair loss and take that much-needed shower. In case you are interested, while I am showering, I will be giving myself a very articulate pep-talk to prepare myself for the attacks I fear are headed my way. And if there is time left over, I will contemplate the symbolism of those tape measure "toys" with which my girls love to play. Cheerio.

Dear Judith,

Thank you. For daring to lift that proverbial lid on our society’s simmering stew of resentment of women with “major educations,” of women who are intellectually-curious and interested, of women who are unwilling to stay mum behind a lipstick smile just because their lives are charmed in some way.

In writing this post and triggering the comments that precede mine - many of which are unnecessarily snarky and collectively serve as a prime example of the very resentment you explore — you cast a light on profound and provocative topics of education and wealth and social perceptions. Many of your readers are missing the point here - and maybe willfully so. Patently, your article is not about the law of child endangerment, or what it means to be a responsible mother. Nor is your article truly about this one woman, a professor in Montana.

Rather, your article (bravely) points to an arguably wider phenomenon, namely our culture’s apparent desire to put a muzzle on women who are affluent and educated. There does seem to be a belief that because these women enjoy noteworthy privileges of elite educations and financial freedom, they should keep quiet. Often, it seems that acceptable stories - of struggle, of adversity, of that enigmatic “real world” that we all live in — can only be voiced by members of the more “normal” species of women. I recently started a blog called Ivy League Insecurities in an effort to give these women a voice, to combat the societal message to stay mum and enjoy my “good” life and I have been criticized and - shocker - told to keep quiet, that my story is not a story worth hearing, that my insecurities are inauthentic because of my objectively “privileged” life.

So as one of the well-educated women you write about who is simply unwilling to stay mute, I applaud you for writing this and for welcoming and weathering the very predictable and revealing maelstrom it has triggered.

Insecurely yours,

Aidan Donnelley Rowley

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Is Quitting Always Bad?

Unless you've been living under a big, fat, sound-proofed rock, you know that Sarah Palin recently announced her decision to step down as Governor of Alaska. And, unsurprisingly, this move has triggered a maelstrom of criticism and controversy.

Frankly, there are infinite variables to explore here -ethics, finances, sexism, scandal, media bias, family/work balance, political agenda - but I would like to focus on something basic and timeless, something that transcends this contemporary Sarah saga: the stigma of the quitter.

From a young age, we are spoonfed encouragements to persevere. We are whispered the wisdom that quitting is intrinsically bad, a telltale sign of weakness. Obviously, these messages only apply to quitting arguably good things, things that are ideally meant to enhance our existence (jobs, teams, marriages). Obviously, quitting bad things (smoking, drugs, criminal activity) does not carry with it a social stigma, but the opposite.

But I wonder if we need to reevaluate our cultural belief that quitting good things is always bad? I quit my plum job at a law firm and though met with judgment and even disdain, I have never been happier. Friends and family members have called off wedding engagements to very likable and loving people and have never been happier. I had many friends at Yale who, after torturing themselves, decided to quit their sports teams and never looked back.

As a society, we seem to tolerate quitting better if there are sound reasons offered. It's okay to leave one job if you have another, better job lined up. It's okay to leave your fiance if he beats or cheats. It's okay to stop playing soccer if you are injured. But what if there are no articulable reasons? Sometimes the best decisions don't have reasons attached. Sometimes instinct is the best measure.

I'm not saying that quitting should be done with haste. Or that there isn't often virtue in perseverance in the face of obstacles. But I do think we should all be more open-minded about the decisions others make. And I know it is a pipe dream, but I think we need to move beyond thinking in problematic binary oppositions (good/bad, right/wrong, smart/dumb).

In terms of Sarah Palin, I am guilty like many of you. I heard that she was quitting and I jumped fast. A scandal is afoot! A lawsuit is brewing! She couldn't hack it! No, I'm not a mega Palin fan. (Severe and diplomatic understatement.) But I'm going to try to practice what I preach. I'm going to zip it and reserve judgment on this latest development until we all have a little more information. I need to study up on my Palin-tology. And this is something I vow to do because I think that whether we like it or not, we haven't seen the last of this Alaskan. And whether or not we like her politics or her wardrobe or her grammar or her maverick-y ways, we owe it to ourselves to study this creature.

Thoughts on quitting? Do you always think there will be a stigma attached to quitting?

Keep Asking. Always.

"Philosophers are adults who persist in asking childish questions."

- Isaiah Berlin

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

BUI (Breastfeeding Under the Influence)

Couldn't ignore this one. Police recently responded to a domestic disturbance call in North Dakota and encountered an intoxicated woman who was breastfeeding her newborn. They arrested her. And she subsequently pleaded guilty to child neglect and faces up to five years in jail. For more of the sordid details on this boozing and boobing saga, click here.

No, I do not know enough about this situation to cast informed and well-calibrated judgment on the actions of the police here -- and no one has compelling scientific evidence about the effects of alcohol in breastmilk on infants -- but as a lawyer and as a mother and as an American, the story troubles me.

As a lawyer of latter day, I'm worried about the very real problem of line-drawing. Are we going to start rounding up pregnant women who are sipping wine or nibbling feta or not eating anything while pregnant because data indicates that these things might not be good for the fetus? Are we going to arrest a woman who has ingested vast amounts of caffeine and is nursing? Where do we draw these legal lines?

As a mother, I am concerned about this story because, well, (gasp), I consumed moderate amounts of wine while nursing both of my daughters. Yes, I was responsible. No, I didn't nurse while intoxicated. But I would be lying if I said I abstained from Pinot during those postnatal months. I would also be lying if I said the Pinot wasn't often a sublime treat at the end of a long and tiring day. And I am no scientist, but both of my girls appear to be thriving. (Brag Moment: Toddler's teacher called her a superstar today!)

As an American, I worry about privacy. I am not sure anyone truly knows how to define privacy or that enigmatic right to privacy. But it's easier to intuit when privacy has been violated. It seems to me that this woman's right to privacy has been compromised in some way I cannot quite articulate. Admittedly, this is an argument I am less sure about. And this is when facts of the case matter. If this woman was conspicuously drunk, unable to care for her tiny baby, and someone in that home or nearby called the police because conditions were unsafe or out of hand, maybe her right to privacy has been surrendered? Who knows. My legal knowledge is rusty. This is where my lawyer friends can maybe help me out?

What are your thoughts on this arrest? Does it trouble you like it does me? Are you better able to articulate what is wrong with this picture? Or maybe there is nothing wrong with this picture and I am simply defending my own questionable behavior?

The Bread Boycott

You've been there before. I know it. You go on vacation. And you eat. Everything. Portion control? Out the window. Dressing on the side? Who's eating salad? Not much of a dessert person? That doesn't stop you. Calories become your friends. The more, the better. And each and every night when you go to sleep feeling happy and bloated, you feel so popular!

And then each morning, as you slip into those shorts or jeans, and the task seems a tiny bit more difficult, you tell yourself you are imagining things. And then you go find a few thousand breakfast calories to inhale. And then on the car-ride home, the long, screeching-filled trek, when you are scarfing Chicken McNuggets - a food you deemed disgusting mere days before - and washing it down with the dregs of your daughter's milkshake, you think nothing of it. It's so very hard to be healthy on travel days. Right, right?

Home again. You reunite with that subversive scale that waits patiently for you to step on and face reality. But you do everything in your power to avoid the step. You shower. You brush. You examine the tan that doesn't exist. And then you tell yourself that it can't be that bad. That having a grip on reality, however fat that reality has become, is better than delusion. And then closing your eyes, you step on. You lean forward a bit because that usually shaves a half pound or so. You open your eyes.

Two pounds. Not bad. Not good, either. But then you think of all the yummy wine and cookies and famous Buffalo hot dogs you consumed. You think of the fun you had welcoming those two pounds and you think: maybe, just maybe, it was worth it. And then in the mirror you smile at yourself. Proud of this patently good and healthy attitude about things. Proud that you have not morphed into that melancholy creature who doesn't appear much on vacation. Proud that you are cutting yourself some proverbial slack. Proud that you are seeing things for what they are. Two pounds. That's nothing!

And you dress and giggle at the fact that your clothing is actually or seemingly a bit snug. And you get on with your life.

And then you boycott bread. What?! What happened to that sensible creature in the bathroom who embraced the imperfections in diet and humanity? What happened to that healthy and realistic attitude that life should be enjoyed and not controlled at every moment? What happened to the ever-rational conclusion that two pounds is negligible?

I have no idea. But please let me know if you find her.

In the meantime, you are not eating bread. Or any sugars or grains for that matter. And it has been two days. And, yes, the numbers on the scale are behaving again. And you even feel a bit better. A bit healthier. And, yes, these results would probably have occurred if you simply stopped ingesting 3000+ daily calories or eating cookies after breakfast or snagging goodies from your child's Happy Meal. But you credit yourself. Your control-freak self. For taking life by the reigns. For blaming innocuous and nutritious bread. For taking life which was blissfully fun for two weeks and squeezing all the joy and extra calories from it. Good for you. You must be so proud of all that energy you invested in banishing two pounds that you could have put toward writing a chapter or making an art project with your girls or catching up with a friend. Good for you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Are You a Screamer?

Calm down, naughty ones. This is a PG post.

I needed stamps. Desperately. Why, you ask? Because I just got a very kind, but firm email from the head of Toddler's camp/school reminding me to pay my overdue tuition bill. Great. Way to make a stellar first impression! Dutifully, I wrote a check, stuffed it in an envelope and promptly realized that we are fresh out of stamps. Of course.

So, on my way to my office Starbucks, I hit the ever-hopping local Post Office. And those of you who are worried about me avoiding my novel edits, never fret. I'm actually writing this post on line at the Post Office. The Post Office! Ha! I happen to love puns and happen to be a pinch over-caffeinated which makes everything hilarious. But I digress.

Anyway, I walked into the sweltering Post Office and saw the vast line for the little stamp machine and turned to leave. There was no way I was waiting on that line with all of those sweaty stamp-less souls. But then something amazing happened and I had to stay.

An anonymous youngish woman at one of the window-things (very appropriately dressed in a deep and angry red dress and red flats, sporting a low ponytail, carrying an overstuffed Citarella bag - leave me alone - the line was long and I'm a fan of details!) was SCREAMING at a postal worker behind that plastic/glass wall-thing. SCREAMING. I'm not sure what the issue was, but it couldn't have warranted the tirade I was lucky enough to witness. Things she said?

"I am not petty! We all work for a living! I deserve to be treated like a human being! I do not appreciate that tone of yours! I want your name! I want your supervisor! I am just standing here politely expecting quality service! I do appreciate you! I do care about you! I do respect what you do for a living! I am not petty!"

Now, this went on for fifteen minutes. I kid not. Long enough for me to take a mental snapshot of this mental woman. Long enough for me to write a blog post on my tiny BlackBerry. And when this woman turned to leave, I caught a glimpse of her face which was now a bold burgundy like her coordinated outfit. And I (and the rest of the riveted strangers in my midst) studied her as she departed and wondered what triggered such an outburst. Because my guess is that it had nothing to do with mail.

I'm beginning to think that our population is made up of two distinct species: screamers and non-screamers. For better or worse, I fall into the latter camp. I'm actually a fairly confrontational person. I do not let things stew. If there is an issue, I address it. But I do not scream. I don't raise my voice with my kids. I did not yell once during childbirth (though I came close with the Snickers Incident - Hi, Hubby!) I never pitch fits for bad service at restaurants or in airports or in taxis. I don't think this is necessarily a conscious or principled decision, that I've decided that screaming is counterproductive or non-utilitarian. Rather, it's just not something I do.

Is this screaming business a matter of nature or nurture, happiness or dissatisfaction? Who knows... What I do know is that if you ever need material, juicy snapshots of human interaction, make a cameo at your local Post Office. Nothing like long lines, a lack of air conditioning, and hot tempers to spice up a bland summer afternoon. And thank you to the lady in red for inspiring this post and for giving me a reason to wait on that long line. Without you, I wouldn't have sent off that embarrassingly late tuition check. Without you, I wouldn't have countless stamps in my possession.

To which species do you belong? Are non-screamers more mellow by nature perhaps? And more likely to pay bills late and run out of stamps?

Elaine Envy

I dropped Toddler off at camp this morning and after clinging to my leg for a few delicious moments that made me feel wonderfully needed, she said, "Bye bye, Mommy" and promptly started decorating a cardboard star-wand with blue glitter. And for the first time, I left the school. On the way out, I assured Toddler's teacher that I would be within a two-block radius and tethered to my cell phone. And before I could utter my phone number, the door was shut to that colorful room. So, like it or not, the separation process is underway.

Having a good chunk of time to spare, I met Sister C for breakfast. C is 38 weeks pregnant, glowing and gorgeous, waiting for her little boy to make his debut. We lingered over yummy food and drink, talking life and law and little babies. And I had a feverish resurgence of belly envy. I looked at her - all sunny smiles, on the precipice of perhaps the biggest day of her life. I looked at her belly - round, taut, bulging with promise and I thought: Yup, I'm officially envious.

It didn't help that I went to see her finished nursery which is hands down the coolest, funkiest, most artfully arranged baby haven I have ever seen. I will ask her if I can take a picture and post it here on ILI because it is that amazing. It's a sanctuary of blues and aquas and greens, full of animal motifs and rich patterns... Leave it to my Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude, Yale Law Grad beauty of a sister to be good at yet another thing. I have zero doubt she will make an incredible mother and I can't wait to see it happen... and soon!

I'm also envious of another thing: Elaine. Elaine is the miracle of a baby nurse who stayed with Husband and me during the first weeks of Toddler and Baby's lives. And now she will stay with C and her new fam. A seasoned veteran of all things baby, with a cool Jamaican accent and sweet smile, Elaine brought a sense of sanity, calm, and happiness to our home during a time when things could have easily been insane, hectic, and anxiety-riddled. She answered infinite questions, taught infinite lessons, showed me how to burp and bathe a baby. I am forever indebted to this woman and I cannot wait to see her again. I know that baby nurses are largely a Manhattan phenomenon and that there are many of you out there who are judgmental of paying someone to stand by and keep the postnatal peace. I know plenty of you probably think having a baby nurse is indulgent and unnecessary and you are certainly entitled to your opinion. But I have zero regrets. And when I have Baby #3 (and Baby #4 - I can dream!), I will welcome Elaine back into our humble abode.

When will my baby nephew arrive? When will I be reunited with Elaine? Stay tuned! My guess: C will go into labor late Thursday night and her cutie will arrive this Friday, July 10...

I know you don't know her (or maybe you do!), but when do you think C will give birth? What are your thoughts on baby nurses?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Back to "Business"

I planned on penning a provocative post about Sarah Palin or the conundrum of celebrity death, but those can wait. I planned on waiting until this evening to post because I am back to "business," hard at work finalizing edits for BLACKBERRY GIRL and I need to put that first until it is completed. But I can't wait until later.

I am sad. Nanny just texted me and said that the girls had a blast at the playground and that Toddler is soaked because she ran through the sprinkler. And as I read this text, I smiled. And pictured rosy cheeks and soaked ringlets. Cheeks and ringlets I've seen 24/7 for two weeks straight. Because as exhausting as "vacation" was, I was with my girls at every moment (except for when Grammy and Dad-Dad generously watched the babes while Husband and I slept in). And I got used to this. And even though I saw my girls a few hours ago, I miss them. And, yes, I'm being a bit melodramatic because we will reunite a few hours from now for music class. But this is about something bigger.

Maybe I should only work before 7am and after 7pm and during nap-time? Maybe I should put off career ambitions until the girls are in school? Maybe I should be soaking up this fleeting time with them? Maybe my priorities are off-kilter?

I know. I know. Tomorrow, I will probably feel better about things. I will realize that it is in fact possible to be a mother-plus. But right now, I am on the verge of tears about a missed trip to the playground. Right now, frolicking in the sun and sprinklers with my little girls seems to be the most important thing in the world. Far more important than blogs and books.

When will this get easier? Will it? Can "business" and babies truly coexist?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Clichés Are Cute

Well, we are home, sweet home apartment. And, yes, this is a cliche because it is a saying, expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect. But I think we should give cliches a chance. They are cute. They are overused because they are true or ring true for the people who utter them.

I think as a society we are problematically obsessed with originality. Yes, we should all strive for novelty and ingenuity in our work and in our lives. But we can't always be original. So, no, I'm not reinventing the wheel here (another lovely platitude). I'm using a tired old saying to convey something that is profoundly and predictably true: I'm happy to be home. To be surrounded by familiar toys and cats and mail-piles and other cliched clutter. And anyway I'm too tired to utter something original.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


"The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage." -Thucydides

"Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes." -Mahatma Gandhi

"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." -Voltaire

"Freedom lies in being bold." -Robert Frost

"All good things are wild, and free." -Henry David Thoreau

"Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." -George Orwell

"Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves." - Friedrich Nietzsche

"Freedom is choice and love and delicious uncertainty. Freedom is the ability to fumble around for what feels right. Freedom is the right to dance foolishly at a patriotic parade with a baby on one's shoulders. Freedom is the right to weave words and nourish ideas. Freedom is the imperative to dream. Freedom is everything that matters and more." -Aidan Donnelley Rowley


"Independence is happiness." - Susan B. Anthony

"Do not destroy that immortal emblem of humanity, the Declaration of Independence." - Abraham Lincoln

"It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinions; it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but he great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"True independence and freedom can only exist in doing what's right." - Brigham Young

"In the progress of personality, first comes a declaration of independence, then a recognition of interdependence." - Henry Van Dyke

"Independence is chasing your child and realizing for the first time that one day you might not catch her. And that she might not need you to." - Aidan Donnelley Rowley

Friday, July 3, 2009

What Have I Done Wrong?

Ensconced in the privacy of my home, I am very good at convincing myself of certain things. One such thing? That Toddlers are an inscrutable species, that they will do as they please and then one day morph into polite and decorous little people. I tell myself that toddlers are inherently poor eaters, that it is very normal for them to run around, never sit for a meal, graze on Pirate's Booty and pretzels and that it isn't weird. And the experts (our pediatricians) enable me in my delusions, telling me that 'Toddlers don't starve." Rather, they eat when they are hungry, they get what they need, and that putting undue focus or pressure on food and mandates to consume it will only create an "issue," and we all know that "issues" are to be avoided like that proverbial plague. And I quite like this laissez-faire philosophy of child-rearing, so I listen to it. Cross those fingers. Hope for the best. Occasionally Routinely offer ice cream as a reward (for a few bites and many tears).

But after spending time with other little ones (my sisters' kids in Wisconsin and Husband's cousin's kids here at the Cape), I have that sinking feeling that despite my own well-tailored rationalizations, despite the honest advice from an esteemed practice of docs, I have done something wrong. Last night, Toddler pitched a screaming fit when we put a plate of food in front of her. Very articulately, she told us over and over that she did not want to eat it. Now, her three cousins (ages 3-6), sat there like little gentlemen, chewing their chicken and sipping their milk. Their mother told them they couldn't be excused from the table until they had finished their meals and they listened. They sat. And ate. And then, later that night, when our girls were asleep and I was sipping a post-tantrum cathartic glass of Pinot, these little boys sat through our adult dinner again. Nibbling from their parents' and grandparents' plates. And that's not it. When dinner was over, these three little men cleared the table.

I know. It's not a competition. But I felt sad. And then I played a dismal game of Wii Bowling and felt even worse. And I am convinced that Toddler -- who is usually sunny and has been stormy -- is getting her molars and it is potentially painful to eat. Or, more likely, this is another self-serving excuse that will cushion me from a painful realization: that I am not perfect, that maybe when it comes to this aspect of parenting - the food/nutrition/waiting on elders aspect of parenting -- I have done something utterly and irreversibly wrong. Who knows.

Please tell me that my Toddler, despite her vitriolic anti-nutrition displays, will be a healthy and happy child. And that if I practice a bit, I will become a better virtual bowler.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Is Knowledge Always Power?

Last week, I posted a letter to fellow mothers urging them to stop sharing their labor and delivery stories with pregnant women. This letter like my blog and like life was part serious and part silly. And it prompted a pair of insightful comments from loyal ILI readers. One of these comments came from fellow-blogger Mama over at the delightful blog The Elmo Wallpaper. Mama stated - ever-diplomatically of course -- that she disagreed with my argument that women should lie about their labor stories.

She wrote:

...I believe in telling the honest truth, because not telling it just makes women freak out when they are in the middle of it and things AREN'T going perfectly. I would rather them know that it's perfectly normal to NOT have the birth you expect. And I think it's almost criminal that nobody tells you about the aftermath. Knowing it's coming, IMO (in my opinion), makes the experience less terrifying.

And instead of responding to her comment in the comment box, I decided to make this is its own post because really this is about something far bigger than birth and babies and pseudo-serious letters to fellow members of the Mother Species. This is about knowledge.

We all know that I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to education, to my alma maters, to concepts of knowledge and continued learning. There is something magical and majestic about knowledge. But does it always empower us or does it sometimes hinder us? Is it always better to know more, or does a little (willed) ignorance perhaps go a long way?

When I quit my job at the law firm and told people that I was going to write a novel, I was serenaded by a chorus of condescension. The gist? My plan to jump ship and write a book was cliched and cute. An ill-conceived, utterly blonde move. And then people who knew more than I about the publishing world (which at that point was practically everyone) regaled me with countless stories of failure, of dusty manuscripts, of slush piles, of evil agents. I was fed statistics - alarming ones - about how hard it is to complete a novel and then find an agent and then sell the book to a publisher.

But I tuned these people out like I do waiters who read dinner specials and I nodded politely and then I continued to chip away at my first novel. I would venture to say that it was because of this willed ignorance or timely naivete that I actually finished the book and then started looking for an agent. If I did too much research, if I soaked up all of the dismal details of the stories told, I would likely have been derailed, deflated, discouraged.

This is what I meant when I urged you moms to gloss over the miseries that might have marked your deliveries. Not because I am a proponent of dishonesty. (Quite the opposite. My aim in creating this blog and nurturing it is to be honest with you and myself and the world and my fingers are crossed that this honesty is deeply contagious.) Rather, my feeling is that there are times when full knowledge is not power, but the opposite. When a little mystery is a good thing. I think a woman who goes to the hospital to give birth should be excited (and, yes, a bit scared) and cautiously optimistic and realistic that uncertainties abound. I do not think this woman should have specific visions of a litany of minutiae that might go wrong. No, I think she should be shrouded in a thin veil of blissful ignorance about the admittedly tough and undeniably rewarding road ahead.

What do you all think? Is knowledge always power? Or are there times when we should dial back on details?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy 2.5th Birthday, Toddler!

Dear Toddler,

A quarter of a decade ago, on New Year's Day, you were born. Pink and perfect and screaming proudly, "I am here and I am tiny but I will change your world." And you stayed true to your promise. On that day, everything changed. Life lit up like a birthday cake. Rainbows reappeared amidst beige horizons.

If I were a better mother, maybe I would have gotten you a half a cake on this half-birthday, but I didn't think ahead.

I love you to pieces.

Insecurely and forever yours,

Beach Brain

If you were gracious (or bored) enough to read my recent "vacation" vents, you’d think I’d vow to stay put at home for a while. It would be the sensible thing to do. But no. I try not to be sensible too often. It bores me.

Last night, Husband and I piled our little jet setters (and enough luggage/gear/potty paraphernalia for six months) into a sparky rental car to drive to Cape Cod to visit Husband’s extended family. The drive was mostly smooth, the girls mostly slept, and we made good time. We scarfed soggy sandwiches and chewed gummy worms and in an old school (and utterly futile) move, I swigged a Diet Mountain Dew to stay awake. Around one in the morning, we tiptoed into the home where we’re staying and tossed the girls into foreign cribs. Obediently, like the awesome, well-raised kids they are, they settled in and snoozed. Five hours later, Husband and I woke up to a swell of saccharine baby screeches and damp beach air. Exhausted, yes. Drained, absolutely. Happy, you bet.

I will try to keep the vacation play-by-play to a minimum because writing about the indulgent details of my "adventures" is beginning to bore even me. But I wanted you to know that I’m here and not there (although in cyber-territory, it doesn’t much matter) so that you will forgive me if I say something flip-floppy, offensive, or just deeply blonde.

Apologies in advance for the beach brain.

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