Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Perfect Storm

A few hours ago my handsome, freshly bathed toddler sporting adorable monkey pajamas charmed the pants off of every disgruntled, fresh-off-of-work shopper in my local Whole Foods Market.  I could not walk three feet without a stranger witnessing and commenting on his giddy demeanor, his infectious sing-song-like laugh, his smile or the gleam in his eye.  Yes ladies and gentleman, the P-man was "On." Which of course means, you guessed it, Mommy was ON with a capital O-N.

What's that you ask?  Oh, of course, he's always this charming, happy and delicious.  That's why I look so impossibly refreshed after 12 hours of entertaining a fiery lithe boy with a penchant for climbing things.  Excuse me while I strut (not walk) through the deli section right on into the bulk foods aisle.  Because (and excuse me if I'm mistaken) that's where we moms who kick parenting's ass buy organic, hormone-free, antibiotic free, vegan grains with names that we can't pronounce and turn them into delicious, nutritious Whole-Foodsier-than-thou meals that our toddlers gobble up.  Right?

Yes, today had been the perfect day.  We ran errands, we visited museums, we had play dates and Mommy's new bangs stayed perfectly in place through it all. Yet somehow, just one hour after our perfect visit to Whole Foods where we gave the performance of a lifetime, I stood in my kitchen covered in instant oatmeal.  Yes, instant oatmeal from a packet.  Instant oatmeal within which I had tried to hide an egg, just the smallest bit of protein for my toddler whose palette is only so robust as to eat products from within the bread and dairy families these days.   Covered in instant oatmeal and at my wits end, I looked my 16-month-old son square in the eyes and politely asked, "P, could you please stop acting like an asshole?"

Poor choice of words?  Yes.  But, forgive me for saying it and for thinking it, but when someone screams, cries and physically expresses disgust in the second or third food product you've prepared for him that evening  by using his tiny little hand to dump and smear it all over you....that, my friends, is acting like an asshole.  A tiny, adorable, charming little asshole.

Broken, I hand P a far-from-organic, unholy, processed stick of cheese that much to my dismay will serve as dinner.  He looks up at me, smiles and says, "Thank You" before puckering up for a kiss.  We sit on the floor while our grown up dinner simmers on the stove.  Next to me rests the pan that I used to cook the offending egg half-an hour earlier.  I pick tiny remains of scrambled egg out of the pan and drop them into the yogurt he happily eats off an adult-sized spoon.   He moves a few steps away, looks back at me and flashes a brilliant yogurt-covered smile.  I melt.

Once again, Mommy's little asshole has reminded me of what a perfect day it has been. What a perfect day they all are.  A long time ago I read an article that described having children as long stretches of exhaustion, frustration and difficulty peppered with small moments of joy so great that they wipe away even the most trying of incidents.  At the time, this article made me ponder why anyone would have children.  I questioned how any moment could produce the kind of happiness that completely diminishes even the most emotionally distressing, sleep deprived stretches of time.  Now, as someone fortunate enough to experience the intense delight that something as simple as a smile or sweetly uttered, "thank you" from your child can bring, I find myself questioning more often what it was that frustrated me in the first place.  Most of the time, I simply can't remember.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Babies and Bars

The year was 2007.  The day was March 17.  The party started at our 650 square foot studio apartment in Murray Hill.  After a few hours of the kind of morning drinking only appropriate on St. Patrick's Day, we moved to our neighborhood pub, Third and Long.  UnPlain led a parade of revelers into the bar, probably playing "air" bagpipes and in the middle of the crowd spotted the most adorable, cuddly, snuggly, six-month old baby.  Yes, six-month old baby.  Wah?

True story.  I put down my imaginary bagpipe and marched directly up to the drop dead gorgeous twenty-something mother of the drop dead gorgeous zero-something baby, held out my arms and yelled, "Can I hold him?!"  I surmise it must've sounded more like "BlahBlahSLUR-BOLD-EM" considering how many mimosas I'd had that day.    To my surprise, the mother-of-the-year candidate in front of me handed over Little Mr. Adorable almost instantly.  I S-H-I-T you not and have a large number of eye witnesses who can validate this story.  Not only did she hand him over, I carried this baby on my hip, with a drink in the other hand for a good 10 - 15 minutes, dancing, laughing and playing peek-a-beer.  It was only when she whipped out her supermodel perfect boob in the middle of a crowded pub, on St. Patrick's Day to breastfeed him that I handed him back over.  Behind me, T and all the others tried to pick their jaws up off the floor.

At 27 years old, with the ring not quite on my finger yet, I passingly judged this woman who appeared to be close in age to me.  For days my friends and I remarked about the fact that this new(ish) mother had her baby in a crowded bar, handed over her baby to someone who had clearly imbibed a few cocktails and then proceeded to breastfeed her baby after probably having a a few cocktails herself.  We judged, we made jokes, we expressed disbelief.

What I did not feel at the time, was the heart heaviness that I feel now when I think back to that experience. As the mother of a precious little man who rules my world in the most wonderful way, it physically pains me to remember the disregard with which this woman treated that tiny someone who completely depended on her for the most basic of needs.  Perhaps this sounds a bit dramatic (have you met me?), but it hits me in a way now that it didn't back then.

Then yesterday, when a friend posted on Facebook this debate, "Are Modern Parents Self-Absorbed" from it brought me back to St. Patricks Day 2007 and got me thinking about UnPlain, T and Baby P in 2012.  When you have a baby, does your life stop?  Do you give up the pre-baby activities you considered fun?  Or, do you bring baby along for the ride?  For me, I think we meet somewhere in the middle.  Life does not stop, it changes.  Fun is still to be had, timing is simply trickier (and more expensive).  And baby comes along for the ride sometimes, when it's appropriate.

P has come along with T and I to a day time wine tasting event, but Momma UnPlain didn't get to taste all that much. Does P come out to dinner with us?  Absolutely, but we go early, we order fast and if P's not cooperating we get our food to go.  I believe it's my job (and my pleasure) to behave responsibly.  I  do what's best for my child and do my best to be considerate of others.  On the other hand, it's unfair of you express your annoyance just because I have a stroller or because my baby is still learning to control the volume of his hearty, wonderful laugh. Do you also think that my 90 year old grandparent in a wheelchair who yells because he can't hear should be kept out of your favorite dining establishment as well? I'm sorry, is Grandpa ruining your meal?

The bottom line is you're not going to see my baby at a club or lounge and you're not going to see my baby watching your favorite band at your favorite bar at 9pm.  You probably won't see me either because I'm tired and I'll be in bed.  However, you may see my baby at that family friendly biergarten on a crisp fall afternoon and we, the entire family UnPlain, have every right to be there whether you like it or not.

Monday, August 27, 2012


A while back I wrote about a "first date" that T and I went on with another couple.  No, I'm not talking about a Burning Man type of first date with another couple, I'm talking about a "hey, I like the way you guys roll, let's get into a bottle of wine and maybe have a dance off later" type of first couple date. Who knew that years later I'd still find myself standing idly by chatting with L, while our then-boyfriends, now-husbands hit the floor for yet another impromptu dance-off after what would appear to be a mature, adult dinner?  With this particular couple, it was love at first pop-n-lock and they remain two of my most favorite people on the planet to this day.

Three and a half years later I find myself "dating" again.  This time, I'm Play Dating.As in,  "hey, your kid is the same age as my kid, why not get them together and hope we like each other at least a little."  It sounds simple, but anyone who knows women knows that we mate for life.  Our friends mean the world to us.  We talk on the phone.  When we hang up the phone, we text each other.  After we text each other we post on each other's Facebook walls.  Then before our husband, boyfriend or roomate can roll his eyes and say, "haven't you had enough?" we tell him about the hilarious thing that our best friend just told / texted / facebooked us.  And not to let the cat out of the bag, but those same husbands, boyfriends or roomates would be none-to-pleased to learn that we share, in excruciating detail, pretty much everything with those girlfriends in our inner circle.

My personal core group of girlfriends, aka: my besties, consists of two single ladies who I categorize by danger levels similar to the terrorist threat color system, one not-so-single lady for whom I look forward to one day playing Maid of Honor for, and one really not-so-single lady who just popped out her second child in two years.  All of these girls know me for who I am including the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.  None of these girls live within 45 minutes of me.

What I learned shortly after 27 hours of labor, 3.5 hours of pushing and three months of colic is that moms need other moms and we need them close by.  Moms need other moms who can drop what they're doing and drag their yoga-pants-wearing asses across the street for a quick sanity check, coffee break, or to answer the question, "how the hell did you get your baby to stop chewing the side of his crib?"  Bring on the play dates!

P, like most one-year-olds isn't particularly choosey about who he plays with.  If you touch his toy, he will hit you.  If you touch your toy that he's playing with, he will hit you.  If you do none of the above, he probably won't hit you.  That leaves the rest up to me.  Luckily I had met a great group of ladies in the prenatal yoga class I attended religiously leading up to P's birth.  Our babies are all around the same age, our sciatic nerves are back in tact and almost too-easily, our parenting style is on the same wavelength.  After giving up a three to four hour daily commute, I was finally able to actually hang out with them.  How fortunate was I to learn that we also share other things in common, like the belief that it's acceptable to have a beer with lunch, a little Baby Einstein never killed anyone, and organic chicken nuggets are a godsend.

I thought to myself, "who knew it'd be this easy to meet awesome people with kids the same age so close to home?" They must be all over right?  So I hit the baby-circuit hard, branched out and quickly learned that I was WRONG.  Not all other mom's out there think like me.  I've met tiger moms, helicopter moms and know-it-all moms who prefer to preach rather than a give and take of advice.  Had I just simply been so lucky as to find a group of like-minded, fun-as-hell mommas on the first shot, before P was even born? Um, holy crap, I had.

I'm not sure whom I'm more grateful to.  P for giving me the opportunity to meet such cool people right here in my neighborhood or these ladies for their hoards of GOOD advice, hilarious stories and willingness to turn circle time into happy hour at the drop of a hat.  Either way, I consider myself incredibly lucky and am thrilled to be reaping just another benefit of giving up corporate america for paci's, poopies and the responsibility of teaching my son that while it's OK for right now, he's going to eventually have to learn to let go of his penis.  Good thing I have a small army of new friends to help me out with that one.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Working Girl

When I bid sayanara to my nine-to-five just one short month ago to stay at home with my darling little P, the only "work" I envisioned myself doing involved werking it.  As in werking six-inch wedges on play dates (because stilettos would be totally inappropriate).  Or werking my best step-touch at Mommy and Me music class.

Deadlines, conference calls and phrases like "circle back," "ping me", and "the net-net" are a thing of the past.  Or they were supposed to be, but the truth is this:  I. Like. Money.  I think most of us do.  UnPlain has a penchant for shopping, enjoys a good car service pick up, and likes to buy good wine (or large quantities of decent wine).  The simple life has never been for me and while I'm proud to report that I am one-sixth into my personal goal of not purchasing a single item of clothing for six months and, I wouldn't balk at the opportunity to purchase a new bag, pair of shoes, or even a bra for that matter.

Additionally, I think most moms out there would agree that werking it with a toddler ain't that easy.  Recently, on a particularly inspired day I channeled my best Betty Draper and threw on a pair of high-waisted, side-zip  cigarette pants with a lovely white collared shirt.  I accessorized myself perfectly, threw a diaper and wipes into my handbag and headed off for my day of visits with P.  Hours later, back at home I sat on my kitchen floor in my chicer-than-though mommy gear with sweat-stained pits and yogurt all over my once pristinely pressed pants.

Not only is werking it with a toddler not easy, it doesn't pay the bills, so when approached by a former employer to take on a two-and-a-half month freelance project, I jumped at the opportunity to earn some dough and use my creativity for something that doesn't involve crayons.   Before I could say "conference call" I found myself ignoring P to create a spreadsheet, hiring a nanny and dialing into a daily team meeting.  Before I could say "conference call" I found myself fighting off the pangs of guilt and sadness that come with missing precious moments with P.

Today marks one week since I've been fortunate enough to land a two-and-a-half month gig, working from home, doing something I really enjoy.  While what I'm doing is fun, challenging and allows me to have big girl conversations it somehow pales in comparison to the satisfaction I feel after a day of playdates, errands and cooking.  I've spent years working crazy hours, giving 1000%, traveling around the country and taking extraordinary pride in my achievements as an event producer. Now, 10 years since beginning my career, I can honestly say my favorite to answer the question, "What do you do?" is "I'm a stay-at-hom-mom."

In the meantime, going back to guilt and back to the grind for two-and-a-half months, is a fabulous reminder that  I can work it and werk it.  For a short time anyway....  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Party Girl

"Hey Jane! Our parties used to look a lot different right?," shouted a friend from across the room.

I laughed as I sat there cross-legged on the floor, with a Corona Light in my hand fending off an unwelcome hair pull or involuntarily nose-picking courtesy of any one of the 5 children between the ages of 1 and 5 years old who had me surrounded.

The friend was the birthday girl, E's father.  The party was the second first birthday party that P, T and I attended this past weekend.  The beer was a far cry from the Kir Royale or Red Bull Vodka that I used to enjoy when hanging out with my husband, the birthday girl E's parents (who used to be known by their first names) and any number of our other friends on a given night out in Manhattan where we all used to live.

I mulled over topics like coxsakie (google it),  teething and music class with the other suburban, NJ mom's at the party.  I wore shorts from old navy and a checkered button down.  I finally heaved myself up off the floor, looked at T and said, "your turn."  As in, it's your turn to entertain the baby and make sure he doesn't injure himself or smack another child.   Folks, it appears I've gone from sexy twenty-something girlfriend who suggests the next fun activity to thirty-something wife who orders the next item on the to-do list.

In the land before children, a typical Sunday afternoon involved nothing remotely close to Disney characters and birthday cake.  And that's because a typical Saturday night involved wearing something scandalous, going somewhere fabulous, and waking up in that same scandalous outfit, with a french fry in your bed and a bad case of the horrors (aka: the what-did-I-do-last-nights?).  The only food I wake up next to these days are half-petrified Cheerios courtesy of P (who hides them EVERYWHERE).

I was always particularly fond of "the morning after," when over coffee and brunch we would all sit around and crack up about whatever ridiculous thing we said to a bouncer the night before.  The days when the "morning" after meant some time after noon when we all woke up.

Do I miss those days?

I certainly don't miss the unfortunate middle-of-the-night heart pounding that comes with three Red Bull Vodkas or the regret of devouring a pound of roast beef at 4am (hey, it's protein).  I certainly do miss the scandalous outfits, the devil-may-care attitude and the non-stop energy that we all seemed to have.  Fortunately for me, I don't have to miss the laughs.  Although the subject matter has gone from boozy mishaps to poopy diapers, the friends have stayed the same so the laughs are always there.

While I'm pretty sure I may never find myself in the position of having post-work cocktails turn into a 6 AM visit to the Korean Barbecue, I'm guessing I have a few wild nights hiding in my back pocket.  Until they come around, I'm quite content with a nine PM bed time (for me) and a six AM wake-up call from P because these days I laugh just as hard, I love even more and my appreciation of it all is that much greater.

So when I post that annoying Facebook parent post about P taking his first steps today (he did!), I ask those of you who don't care (which means most of you) to humor me.  It's certainly not the most entertaining post, nor does it live up to your scoring the best table at Beauty and Essex, but it's what I've got and I love it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Modest Life

I've never really been accused of being a "lady."  While I can't quite remember the first time I let one rip in front of T (something my grandmother claims to have never done in front of my grandfather), I can say with 100% percent confidence that it was long before we were engaged or even living together.  When it comes to UnPlain, what you see is what you get and T knew he was getting a Broad to Lady ratio somewhere in the 80/20 range.

With that said, there have always been some lines drawn in the sand.  Sure, burps, "fuffies" and nose-picking are well-charted territory in our home (and car for that matter), but we have drawn lines in the sand.  The door stays closed for number 2, I shave my legs in private and I do my best to avoid subjecting T to the never-cute task of having to run to the store for tampons.  After all, there's something to be said for even an extraordinarily little bit of mystery.  

There were a few other less-than-ladylike practices that I shielded my wonderful husband from, but then in walked pregnancy, childbirth and now a toddler.  Goodbye modesty, hello feeble attempt at behaving in a manner that's more human than animal.  It was probably sometime around the moment the doctor yelled, "get down here you have to see this!" to my husband who was under implicit instructions to stay above-the-waist that the door on modesty and mystery was slammed shut.  Now, with a one-year-old who possesses a level of curiosity that has lead us to nickname him "Nosy Rosy" not only is that door closed, it is dead-bolted.

Prior to having a child of my own, I lamented right here on Unplain about the conundrum of what the proper protocol for using the bathroom when charged with the care of a toddler is.  Now, as a mother to the most curious little boy of my own, I have the answer and it's not pretty.  I long for the day when I will once again use the bathroom alone, with the door, dare-I-dream-it, closed.  Alas, a little privacy is not mine to be had.  For now, a trip to the bathroom means a frantic attempt to urinate before P can pull all of the toilet paper off of the roll, grab the skeevy toilet bowl brush with his pristine little hands or fight his way to the toilet water before I can get it flushed and covered. 

Perhaps when I'm done having children and they are old enough to be left to their own devices, I might again enjoy the simple pleasure of making a trip to the loo without an audience.  I may even turn back the clock on time and return to the once-fleeting days of when I used to spare T, my family and the guy in the car next to me the wrath of my bodily functions and behave like a lady.  Maybe one day, but probably not, and until then I think I'll enjoy this free pass to burp the alphabet loud and proud to an audience, however unwilling that audience may be.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

My kid is chubby.  My kid is a ginger.  Girls make my kid cry.

If things continue this way, middle school is going to be rough.   Truth be told,  P comes from a gene pool that includes a tendency to be overweight and have frizzy hair, bad vision, pale skin, moles and an abundance of body hair.  To my darling son, your father and I apologize in advance.

The good news is, the same collective of traits also includes the ability to overcome the fat gene,  hair that miraculously turned straight and shiny, skin that will get golden if enough sunscreen is used, pretty eyes, warm smiles, great senses of humor and big hearts.  Sorry kid, you're stuck with the moles, the body hair and you'll probably be in glasses by the time you're three (hey, neither of us ever had braces.)

As a frizzy-haired, overweight teenager I placed extraordinary focus on these, my shortcomings and I often wondered if my parents did the same. When my mother took me prom dress shopping was she, a size two, horrified that she was buying her 16-year-old daughter a size 12 dress?  At 17, when a boy with a car came to pick me up for a date, did my father wonder what any teenage boy wanted to do with a chubby girl who had a tendency to break out pretty badly once a month?  I have a feeling these thoughts never crossed their minds and if they did, I never knew.

I could argue that they were just being kind, but to this day when my parents look back at my teenage years the words they use to describe me are funny, wild, smart, a "handful."  Never once have they used the words fat or awkward or made fun of the ill-fitting clothes I tried to wear because the skinny girls were wearing them.  Sometimes I even get annoyed that they don't mention more often how chubby I was because I feel like they might not notice how I lost 80 pounds in my early twenties.  How I went from being a girl so insecure that I would do anything to avoid being called fat to a woman so confident that I don't even try on clothes before I buy them.

Now that I have a son of my own, I realize that a parent sees her child differently from how that child sees himself.  Because as parents, we see the whole picture.  Yes, if you break down P into tiny little fragments, he is chubby, he is ginger and girls do make him cry.  But put him all together and he is delicious.  He has giant eyes that actually glisten when he smiles.  The only thing better than his big smile is his even bigger laugh.  He is a brilliant dancer and even though girls his age make him cry, he gives Mommy, Daddy and his stuffed animals the sweetest hugs you can imagine.

As parents, we don't see the tiny pieces of our children.  We don't focus on the shortcomings that they will one day hone in on so closely.  We only see the total package.  The adorable, the hilarious, the smart and the sweet.  As parents, it's now our job to take our fat-necked, awkward little bulldozers and remind them that these things don't define them.  It is now our job to show them what we see and remind them that we see who they really are.

It's a difficult job, but I am reminded that even if we don't 100% succeed in instilling blissful ignorance in our children, we can do enough to instill the kind of confidence it takes to know that no matter what "flaws" they find in themselves, the total package is far greater than the sum of those less-than-perfect-parts.  It is also our job to throw in a good, swift, kick in the ass if and when our children get so full of themselves that they don't behave how a good, kind person should,  but that comes later.

For me, it took some time, but how lucky am I that I now finally see myself the way my parents do? Beautiful.  Smart.  Funny.  Good.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Shake What Your Momma Gave You

Every visit to see family and friends brings with it questions and comments about who P looks like.  He has Daddy's ears and smile, Mommy's eyes and round face and he somehow looks just like his cousins too.  A visit to my parents recently prompted my father to say, "That kid is all Reiffe" while a barbecue with T's family, prompted his cousin to proclaim that P looks just like me.

I can't even begin to count how many hours of conversation have revolved around what P looks like, but these days I'm more interested in his personality.  Surprisingly to me, at just 13 months old, it's out in full force and I'm discovering that in addition to having Mommy's eyes, he has Mommy's temper.  And in addition to having Daddy's smile, he has Daddy's flair for the dramatic (ok fine, Mommy has that too).

Today was the kind of day where I got to experience and appreciate P for who he is and who he's becoming at the ripe old age of one.  Today was what I call a "house day".  One of those days where the only things on our schedule are naps, housework, errands and meals.   One of those days where I get to learn a lot about my son.  And today I learned this:  My son wakes up in a bad mood.  My son throws a mean tantrum.  My son thinks burps are really funny.  And so do I - to all three.

After two out of three naps today, P woke up in a foul mood.  Crabby, cranky, whatever you want to call it, he's kind of a "bitch" when he wakes up and for some reason, each and every time I'm perplexed.  "What's the matter, Pookie?" I say over and over.  I incessantly sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider, play Peek-a-Boo and shove stuffed bears and puppies in his face to try to make him smile because I just can't seem to figure out what could possibly be wrong.  All the while he pounds his fists, whines, cries and remains completely disinterested in any of my efforts to make him laugh, smile or simply be even the slightest bit pleasant.

Perhaps if I took a moment to stop and think, I'd remember that I know someone else who is "kind of a bitch" when she wakes up.  Someone named UnPlain.  I also know someone else who despite waking up next to me for the past seven or so years years continues to be perplexed and can't seem to figure out what's wrong.  Someone named T, who incessantly talks to me, asks questions and tries to hug me during the 20-30 minutes between the moment I wake up and the moment I become a human being.  It doesn't stop there.

P's foul mood combined with my annoying efforts to make him feel otherwise generally seems to send him flailing into a full-fledged temper tantrum.  This is another area where I'm somewhat of an expert.  Amongst other things, a door, a wall and a really expensive pair of eyeglasses have fallen victim to my "Italian Attitude" over the years.  Today, I watched as P chose to take his rage out in a similar manner by body slamming Elmo into the ground, giving my arm an unpleasant nip and giving the dinner I so nicely prepared for him multiple five-finger slaps in between cries.

Maybe years of watching T stay annoyingly calm during my most stressful moments are what now keep me annoyingly calm while P does the only things he knows how to do to express his anger.  Whatever the reason, I manage to calmly eat my dinner while P anything but calmly tries to massacre his.    While I don't particularly enjoy watching my 13 month old act like a "total baby" for a full hour, a small part of me is proud of his persistence and stick-to-itiveness.  A very small part.

After he finally calmed down and happily ate the lovely meal that he'd spent the previous 45 minutes violently smushing, P paid his compliments to the chef with a loud, hearty belch.  Always the mature adult, I did what I do anytime someone I know let's it rip; I laughed.  Immediately, P began laughing along with with me and for a few minutes we acted like a couple of twelve year olds burping the alphabet for the first time and cracking up the whole way.

It was in that moment, in between laughs, it became clear to me that regardless of whose physical features his most resemble, he and I are two peas in a pod. All I can say is good luck T.  You're going to need it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

What Did You Do Today?

What did you do today?

Today, I picked up a small nugget of poop (yes, poop) with my bare hands.  Why?  Because it went rogue and it was solid enough to pick up and throw away.  I also got nailed in the head with a chicken nugget, smacked in the face with a impossibly strong and deceivingly tiny hand and I attempted to firmly say "NO" while trying not to laugh as P smeared avocado all over basically everything.  Then, at 12:30pm I sent my husband an email that said "We really need to sit down, talk and sort out our life" which, I'm guessing, is probably the last email any man, in the history of earth, wants to receive from his wife at 12:30pm on Friday.  He's thinking about a beer; he's thinking about coming home and watching the Olympics and he's thinking about being done with work for two days.  And now his wife wants to "talk" and "sort out life."

The first three weeks of being a stay at home mom have been extraordinarily blissful for my little family.  Dinner is on the table every night, I learned how to give myself a mani-pedi and I told T the other day that I "enjoyed" cleaning the floors...because I actually did.  He loves having me home and I've been relishing in my new role as Nanny, Cleaning Lady, Nail Tech and Cook.  Fortunately for both of us, giving up my $600/month Banana Republic habit has been far less difficult than I anticipated and three weeks in I'm surviving the Six Month Challenge with no issues and managing to dress myself freshly most days.

Then today, I gave up.  Three weeks in and I'm wearing leggings, a sports bra and a tank top to the supermarket.  Three weeks in and I go into a full on panic about our financial future.  Three weeks in and my earth-mother like patience disappears and I break down into full on tears because P is screaming for no reason in the car on the way to that supermarket that I'm headed to in my leggings, tank top and pony tail.  Did I mention I haven't showered today?

Thanks to my all or nothing personality, I immediately started updating my resume, checking out job opportunities and have now decided one thousand percent that this amazing gig as a Mommy that I've scored just can't last the full year we've agreed to and momentarily, I resent T or maybe the universe for not having it all figured out for me. Hence, the email about "needing to talk" and "sorting out our life." .

This is what they talk about when they say there are Ups and there are Downs and for some reason it takes me a little longer to come to the conclusions that most people already know.  Because the truth is we are fine. The truth is we are more than fine and life is pretty good.  In fact, life is pretty great even without a new handbag this month.  But I've never been very good at appreciating the middle.  Until now.

See, today just when my thoughts and fears got a little too loud, my toddler got a little too quiet.  So I walked into the kitchen to see what was going on.  What I found was 20 tupperware containers and 5 dishtowels strewn across the floor while one little boy sat happily in the middle of it all wearing a devilish grin.  All of a sudden it becomes a good thing that I haven't showered and that I'm wearing leggings, because I plopped myself right down in the middle of it all and played with my little boy, my tupperware and my no-longer-clean dish towels.  Then instead of mapping out tonight's conversation, I began to look forward to going to dinner with T, not because we are going to "talk" and "sort out" god-knows-what, but because we are going to laugh, a lot, because that's what we always do.

What did you do today?

Me?  Today, I played.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Young, Wild and Free

Despite the fact that I like to bump Wiz Khalifa's party anthem, Young, Wild and Free in my not-even-a-little-bit-pimped, four door sedan with a toddler in the back seat, I am none of those things.

Young?  Well, I'm relatively young, but I'm not party on a Tuesday night because I live in NYC young and I haven't been since I was 29.  Wild?  The wildest thing I've done lately is stay up past midnight at a wedding and "sleep in" until 9am.  That's a far cry from the UnPlain whose trips to Vegas made The Hangover look like a children's book.  And Free?  The only thing Free about me is my pay rate, because I work for a toddler and he only pays in smiles and kisses.

However, yesterday, for about two hours, I was all of those things at the most unexpected of places; the Periodontist's office.  Yes, the Periodontist's office where the average patient age hovers around 68.  Check Young off the list please.

Now on to Free.  Yesterday was the first time since leaving my paying job to play house that I've been separated from P.  It's scary, but true, that for the last two weeks and three days P and I have been quite literally attached at the hip save for the 45-minute nap I took this Saturday while I listened to T and P play just outside our bedroom door.  So after I dropped him off at Grandma's house and started my drive to have some long-dreaded gum surgery, it dawned on me that I was free.  No baby to buckle in and unbuckle out of a car seat, no blackberry to check, no dishes or laundry to do and only one place to be. The oral surgeon's chair.  Not everyone's idea of freedom, but any parent would likely agree that laying back in a chair without a child, spouse, boss or co-worker interrupting is about as free as it gets.  I was FREE, despite the fact that an oral surgeon was about to rip my gums away from the teeth that nature had so nicely attached them to.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Momma's Boy

Through my entire pregnancy, I waited for that magical moment when my newborn baby would be placed in my arms and I would fall so deeply in that different-kind-of-love that every parent so dramatically tells you about.  You know, the kind of love that you can only understand when you have a child.  Well, I vividly remember the moment P was placed in my arms and while yes, I did love him, no, I didn't fall in the kind of love that every parent in existence had managed to convince me that I would.  And that I should.

Perhaps three hours of pushing, getting punched in the stomach by a nurse and doing the unconceivable in front of my husband took all of the stamina that one needs for falling in love out of me?  Perhaps my face was too unbelievably swollen to see my newborn son clearly enough to fall in "that kind" of love with him?  Perhaps I'm just not that kind of maternal goddess?  Whatever the reason, the truth of the matter was that at five minutes old, I loved my son, but I was not absurdly in love with him.

To my relief, that moment did come about three months later when my high-strung, high-maintenance newborn began showing off his flirtatious personality and ever since, every day, I've fallen more and more in that obnoxious kind of love that only a parent knows for their child (yes, it's true) and these days, I'm pretty sure he feels it too.

I'd be lying if I didn't also admit that early on in my pregnancy I had secretly hoped for a girl.  Mainly, because I longed to one day have the kind of relationship with a daughter that I have with my mother.  The kind of relationship that goes from being 16 and feeling something just shy of hatred for the woman who buys your clothes, cooks your meals and drives you to the mall because she just doesn't understand the complicated, angsty "woman" you are to being 25 and enjoying nothing more than gabbing over a large glass of wine with the woman who understands more than anyone the woman you've become.  So when the doctor unceremoniously announced, "we have a baby boy" I wondered what I would do with trucks, trains and a lifetime with the less affectionate gender.

Well, I quickly figured out what to do with trucks and trains and boy (oh boy) was I wrong about boys being less affectionate.  Now, at one year old, I can barely break free from the clutches of my affectionate little momma's boy.  Every day at about 6pm, we sit on the floor and play while we wait for Daddy to get home.  And every day at about 6pm, while we sit on the floor and play, P will wrap his freakishly strong little arms around my neck and slobber baby kisses all over my face, often trying to shove his baby tongue in my mouth.  We'll be sure to work on that because while affection is a wonderful thing, an Oedipus Complex is not.  But for now he can slobber, hug and kiss as much as he wants.  This has become my favorite part of the day.  Let's put it this way, I enjoy it so much that I even put down my wine glass.

I also now realize that regardless of gender or whether it takes 1 second or 3 months to fall head-over-heels in love with your baby, if you develop a friendship with your kids, they will enjoy that glass of wine with you forever.  Even with the army of boys I'm convinced I will have (happily might I add), I think my chances are pretty good because I come from a long line of mothers whose children enjoy their company.  Or maybe I come from a long line of mothers whose children enjoy wine.  Either way, I look forward to the day my momma's boy spreads his wings and runs off on his own without desperately clinging to my "apron strings" and I'm hopeful that he will turn around and see not only his impossibly young-looking and stylishly dressed mother, but he will also see his friend.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Marathon (wo)Man?

Because just learning how to be a good SAHM (stay-at-hom-mom) isn't enough,  I've crafted a list of Commitments to keep and Goals to accomplish during this, my one year at home.  In brief, I've committed to myself and my little family that I will make a home, I will write (UnPlain and other projects), and I will be fully present for P (the reason i'm doing this in the first place ).  On the goal side, they are few and simple.  Goal 1:  Become conversational in Italian via the Rosetta Stone.  Goal 2:  strengthen my existing friendships and make at least one new, real friend.  Goal 3:  Run 10 miles.  Simple right?  I mean, languages don't take years to learn, friendships time to build and running? Well my idea of running for many years was running from the couch to the pantry.   I totally got this. 

Whether I like it or not, I am now deeply entrenched in goal number 3, running a distance of 10 miles.  Simple to some, unheard of to others.  I personally am never one to be outdone, not even by myself, so I went ahead and signed my overambitious ass up for the Newport Liberty Half Marathon in September.  If I can run 10 miles by the end of the year, why not just make it 13.1 by the end of the summer?

Say it with me, Go Big or Go Home.  Whether it's gambling, throwing a party or running a mini marathon, for better or for worse, this is the only way I know how to do things.  So one day, after a poolside afternoon of sangria and guacamole led to a discussion about the Jersey City half marathon, I slapped down my forty dollars and signed myself up, 100% convinced that I'm equipped to take this on.  Immediately after, I Googled "half marathon training schedule" and happily filled the next 9 weeks of my calendar with days marked 4.5miles, 6 miles, 10 miles and so on.  The steadily increasing long runs look perfectly achievable, laid out daintily on my calendar.  Oh look, two weeks from now, I'll run 8 miles.  Lovely.

Cut to week one of training.  Now, my max ever (ever, ever) run is six miles.  Six huffing and puffing miles around beautiful Montclair township, NJ.  My average Saturday run is 4-5 miles and these have all been done sans a 25 pound baby (or is he a toddler now?) in a 17 pound stroller.  But now, on a schedule of two weekday short runs and one weekend long run, I must perform those weekday short runs pushing 42 lbs mostly up hill around the lovely Brookdale Park.  So how am I doing?

I completed my first 3.5-mile, mostly-up-hill, pushing-baby short run with only a mild (I use the term lightly) degree of difficulty last Wednesday, to be followed by a 5 mile solo run on Saturday.  How'd Saturday go? It didn't.  Remember, I go big or go home, so on Friday night, I went big into about four hearty glasses of Sauv Blanc and woke up Saturday morning with the first real hangover I've had in months.  Run - derailed.  13.1 mile dream - fading.  But it's too late.  I've signed up, I've put it out there and I am not one to easily admit failure (without a good excuse anyway).  Good thing I managed to put myself back together Sunday and hit my 5 miles with ease, followed by 3.5 with P in the park this morning. (OK, I'm lying - it only did 2.5, but I was tired and its uphill and did I mention I'm pushing 42 LBs?!)

Looks like I'm back on track for now, but with eight weeks of training to go, I really am hoping I stay on track because I do actually enjoy running these days.  This is as opposed to 6 years ago, when T and I lived in the city and I only pretended to love running when my real hobbies including running around Manhattan at all hours of the night, wearing a napkin and heels, looking bored and pretending not to care that I got into Bungalow 8 (when it was cool). So please, wish me luck.  I need it.

Advice from runner's welcome!

Parenting Sidebar:  Whilst writing this post, I turned away from my beloved Mac and my beloved 5-o'clock glass of cabernet to find P snacking happily on a cardboard book...perhaps I should look back at my commitment to be fully present for P...and commit to it.

Coming Up This Week:  An update on the 6 Month Challenge and a Perspective on Play dates.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Not On My Watch

I am prewired for guilt.  I'm Italian, I married a Jew, there is absolutely no way around it.  Slap on the cuffs and lock me up Judge - I'm guilty. Or at least that's how I feel.  It's so bad that sometimes I feel guilty about how guilty I feel and wonder, should I be burdening myself even more?

Add on to that the immense guilt factor that is motherhood itself and I'm now officially off the charts.  It's mind-blowing how raising a tiny creature whose needs are generally as simple as feed me, change me, hug me, love me can create a steamroller of wondering "Am I doing the right thing?"  I began feeling guilty yesterday over the concern that P wasn't interacting with other children enough during this, my very first week as a stay at home mom.  Today, I felt guilty that maybe he isn't getting the right type of interaction with other children.  A walk with a friend this morning?  Did he really interact?  Four hours of playtime with my nephew?  But, they're not the same age.  It never ends and I wonder how I will handle the first time he gets hurt.

As you will find with most couples, one parent tends to be more high-strung and one tends to be more laid-back and anyone who knows T and I can deduce who's who in the equation.  For those of you who don't know our dynamic, take the following example.  T won't leave the house in the morning without having checked the weather from three different sources followed by a roundtable family discussion on what the proper attire for that day is accounting for temperature, humidity, wind speed and potential for precipitation.  Way over on the other side of the spectrum, I consider a glance out of my window sufficient to tell me all that I need to know.  I will say that he's never caught in the rain without an umbrella, but on the other hand, a little water never killed anyone, did it?.

Sufficed to say, as parents our MO's differ dramatically.  While T follows closely behind P pushing his walker, with all hands on deck to stave off a possible fall, I stand far off in the distance feeling sure that if even if he does fall he will be fine and he'll learn something from it.  T will say, "Don't eat that Cheerio off the disgusting floor;" while snatching up the offending, tainted food item.  To the contrary, I stand aside and thinking, "What's the big deal?  He's going to get ecoli sometime or another."  Fortunately, we always tend to meet at the proper place in the middle, somewhere between paranoid and ignorant.

However, now that I'm the primary care giver, it's becoming blatantly obvious to me that P's first and hopefully-not-too-major injury is likely to happen on my watch.  At this point, I'm just hoping it doesn't end up being my fault, because frankly, I'm not sure I can handle any additional guilt.

Given how things are going,  I'm guessing that the first trip to the ER for stitches, a broken bone or a welt on the head may very well find me partially, if not fully, responsible.  Yesterday, for example, I crushed my poor, innocent, perfect baby's pinky finger under my big, fat foot.  Perhaps that's a bit dramatic, but I did step on his little finger with my average sized, well-pedicured lady foot.  I stepped on it for a good five to ten seconds before I even realized that the answer to "What's your problem P?" was "You're stepping on my finger Mommy."

I simply wasn't wearing the right pair of shoes for an afternoon trip to Starbucks and so I ventured into my closet to change them.  My budding momma's boy followed right behind me and after putting one adorable sandal on, I put my right foot down and started to put on the left shoe.  As I was doing so, P started to cry.  So I looked down, directly at him and asked, "What's the matter P?"  I watched him for a few seconds as I finished putting on my shoe trying to figure out why he was so suddenly cranky and then it hit me, OMFG.  My eyes landed on my thankfully soft soled shoe that was resting delicately on his teeny, tiny, pinky.  A good portion of my body weight pressed down on the most beautiful, perfect, elegant pinky finger that the earth has ever seen...until that moment.  Convinced I had shattered his tiny bone into a million little pieces, I picked him up off the floor and showered him with an equally large number of kisses.

Thanks to his infant-sized attention span and that it turned out my full weight was not bearing down on his little finger, P was fine and he had forgotten the entire incident within about thirty seconds. I, on the other hand, had not.  Mired in guilt, I began envisioning P, 21 years from now, sitting on a couch in our basement, getting fat on Fritos and Beer, feeling dejected because his Major League Baseball career as a closing pitcher was ruined thanks to a mangled pinky finger, courtesy of Mommy.

Luckily for me as quickly and thickly as I pile the guilt onto myself, I've also managed to learn to forgive myself just as fast.  I think this is an important skill for any parent, especially for an Italian parent, married to a Jewish parent to both of whom guilt is a way of life.  Judging by P's smiles and the fifteen "mommy hugs" per hour that he joyfully doles out, I'm guessing he forgives me too.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Six Month Challenge

I am an amazing saver.  Amazing.  Less in the sense of given $100, I will put $50 away for a rainy day, but more in the sense of "See that gorgeous red DVF wrap dress that retails for $385 at Bloomies? I scored it for $200 on Gilt!"  That's 185 dollars saved!  I've probably saved well over $10K in the last year alone....  Which begs me to ask the question, "How much have I spent?"  Come to think of it,  am I actually a better spender than I am saver?

Our new status as a single income family has forced both T and I to take a closer look at our budget -   something we don't particularly enjoy doing.  That's not to say we've lived a financially irresponsible life.  We save and we certainly don't overspend or live beyond our means, but we also enjoy our hard earned money and seize opportunities to travel, eat good food and drink good wine.

At first pass, it became scarily clear that our monthly surplus, meaning what's left over after the bills are paid, but before the groceries and that to-die-for tuxedo-inspired jacket are bought, has decreased  significantly.  Not only did I give up a particularly shitty commute, I gave up a particularly generous paycheck.  Suddenly ringing up a giant Banana Republic bill any given month doesn't seem like the best idea.  Was it ever?

It doesn't help that T and I are CHAMPION shoppers.  If shopping were an Olympic sport, he and I would be the team to beat.   In fact, I knew I was in love the first time we set out for a day of shopping and didn't return home until 9 hours later exhausted, our arms weighted down with bags, basking in the feeling of success that comes with a 20% off coupon or the Nordstrom half-yearly sale.  In the not-so-long-ago world of 10-14 hour work days where I would see our son for a mere 1 hour total on the average, shopping was my one release.  So much so that when I started my most recent job, I challenged myself to not wear the same outfit for as long as humanly possible.  I went two full months.  It felt damn good.

Now that I'm forced to retire my credit cards for a while (in addition to my over-priced coffee habit, the notion that wine is to be ordered by the case and the every-so-often decision to call a car service home), I've decided to challenge myself in a new way.  The 6 month challenge means that I will go 6 full months without buying a single item of new clothing. Ouch.  Ever the self-proclaimed fashionista, I'm choosing to look at this as an opportunity rather than a challenge.  I now have the opportunity to revisit my wardrobe, find new ways to wear things, cross items over into the next season and re-werk (2 snaps up) what I've got in a new way - the ground rules are as follows:
  • No new clothing purchases at retail (Full disclosure, I've fallen off the wagon already when I bought a new pair of shorts and tank yesterday after a trip to the mall to return something for T.  Whoops.  I am now 24 hours shopping free, do I get one of those sobriety chips?  Also, if I return something does that mean I can get something new as long as it costs the same, if not less?  Say it with me - Loophole!)
  • Free or swapped items are OK (I will be scouring Craigslist for that girl just dying for someone to take those ruby ankle strap platforms off her hands.)
  • I will allow myself to purchase accessories (within reason of course, there's no new LV bag in my future).  Accessories may just be what gets me through.
  • Shoes are only allowed if they are an absolute necessity (I certainly don't need a 5th pair of black closed-toe platform pumps, but if my snow boots suddenly sprout a hole, I obviously have to replace them.  And the new pair OBVIOUSLY has to be cute.)
  • I am allowed to use the $110 credit I have on Rent-the-Runway should we be invited to a worthy event.
Those are the rules and this is me taking a stance against consumerism, saving the planet by reusing any particularly lovely discarded items and living a simpler life.  I'll be sure to share any hidden gems I find hiding in back of my closet or any strokes of genius that allow me to repurpose something that has been worn to death.  Six months feels like a long time, but I always say go big or go home.  Game on.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 1 - Under Pressure

Let me start out by saying, I've come into my new role as a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) with the expectation that I would be living some sort of hybrid life; a cross between that of Betty Draper (the skinny years) and that of  June Cleaver. A world where home cooked meals meets a 2pm martini break and all the while I stay impeccably fashionable and impossibly thin.  Here's what really happened.

After insisting that I handle all of the baby's needs this morning, I offered to make T breakfast before he headed off to work.  He chuckled and refused my offer, sweetly indicating that I don't need to take on the world on Day 1.  Regardless of T's impetus that I ease into my new role, I decided to start my day by making four new lists (To Do, Groceries, Baby Proofing, Projects) envisioning how quickly I would check each one off and how easily it would all fit into the new schedule I would build (Monday - Housework, Tuesday - Playdate, Wednesday - Errands and so on and so forth).

Mathew headed out to work right around the time that I would normally sneak out the door of P's daycare wishing his teacher's good luck.  Right around the same time that P generally begins to get cranky - and he did.  Playtime?  No.   Some Milk?  No.  Hold Me?  Yes.  Now put me down!

After about an hour of up "Pick Me Up / Put Me Down" and getting approximately 3/4 of a dish rinsed and in the dishwasher, P started rubbing his eyes and I thought, "Woo hoo!  Nap time."  What I didn't anticipate was that I'd listen to P scream for the next 45 minutes while I got myself dressed (and dressed well might I add, because I promised myself I would not let fashion or personal hygiene suffer).  Forty-five minutes of scream, scream, scream, scream, scream.  And then some more screaming.

I found myself a bit confused.  The daily report he would come home from daycare which always reflected "Nap:  9:15am - 10am", not "Scream:  9:15am-10am."  At precisely the same moment that I gave in and picked P up out of his crib, his body went slack and he fell asleep in my arms.  Five minutes later, thinking it was safe to put him down I attempted to gently lay him back in bed for some serious napping.  Instantaneously, he put Vulcan Death Grip around my waist with his legs and began to wail uncontrollably.  Clearly unhappy with my decision to put him down, he seized the moment and relished the opportunity to pee all over me. How on earth did my little evil genius maneuver his baby junk right out of the way of his diaper in an obviously premeditated plan to whiz all over my super cute first-day-as-a-stay-at-home-mommy outfit?  Thanks for the golden shower my darling child.

Game - Set - Match:  P.

The rest of the day went somewhat more smoothly, certainly not great and I realized quickly that I need to reassess my grand plans.  Susie Homemaker, the Rosetta Stone and my DIY projects would have to wait.  Someone else has been raising my son for the last six months, spending 50-60 hours per week with him, getting to know his habits and managing his needs with ease.  Someone else knows him better than I do and cares for him far more gracefully.  Week 1 is no longer for making lists and organizing all the things I will do for the house, our family and myself.  Week 1 is for getting to know P, beyond the weekend, beyond 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening.  I'm not sure how I lost sight of this while making my lists, but somehow I did.  Perhaps urinating all over my pretty shirt was P's way of reminding me; hopefully I would've figured it out anyway.