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.