Monday, December 31, 2007

Best and Worst of The Year: The 2007 Edition

This year was much better than last. In 2006 I was in such a fog. This year, the fog lifted enough for me to clearly see around me and where we were going. I think I got closer to learning a few good life lessons. By “closer,” maybe I mean I am just a little more aware, but aware is a good start. I am starting to delete the toxic (which includes things such as Dr. Pepper, underminers and certain trains of thought) from my life, but that is a slow process. I drifted away from some people and grew closer to others. After years and years of loss and struggle and strife, I had two beautiful, healthy and did I mention beautiful baby girls. And I became a runner. Who knew?

Here, in no particular order, some highlights and lowlights:

Best of the Best: Madeline and Avery, June 1st, forever and ever. And Nicole, but since including her birth date seems irrelevant, I’ll include our anniversary, which Nicole selected to be April 1st. For years and years April 1st and June 1st passed through my life without any notice. And now they are the most important days of my life.

Most Played Songs on My iPod: The winner is a sad, slow instrumental song called Song From a Secret Garden, which I listened to 76 times in a row on an overnight trip during which I shared a room with a friend who snored very loud. Rounding out the top five are Stronger (Kanye West); Tears Dry on Their Own (Amy Winehouse); Mr. Brightside (The Killers) and Useless Desires (Patty Griffin). Nicole played You Are The Sunshine of My Life (Stevie Wonder) and Midnight Train to Georgia nonstop for the girls in the first months, but that’s her iPod and not mine.

Biggest Musical Surprise: I really like Carrie Underwood’s new album. And I am not a country fan by any stretch. I love So Small and Nicole jut told me tonight that the song All American Girl makes her cry. Something about how in the beginning we were hoping we would have at least one baby boy. In retrospect, I think I wanted a boy because I really loved the idea of naming a boy Atticus. Turns out two girls is so perfect in so many ways. I need to read the lyrics to see what it is that made her cry because this is a woman who doesn't cry during songs.

Stupidest Reason To Sulk: I was mad at Nicole because she bought the wrong brie. It was $60 and the size of a wagon wheel. Who pays $60 for cheese? I didn’t talk to her for an hour. I bet Nicole can come up with many more in this category!

My Trendiest Moment: When I acquired MRSA, months before it became all the rage, and spent six days in the hospital.

Most Innocent Comment: One day on the phone my nephew asked where Nicole was. I said she was at work, and Leif replied “That’s because all husbands are at work now, right?” One of these days I will explain to him that Nicole is not my husband. Or that husbands aren’t the only people who work.

Best Movie Seen in a Theater: Juno.

Favorite Television Shows: The Office and Amazing Race. Can’t get enough of either.

Best Books I Read: A Thousand Splendid Suns; Love Works Like This and Pretty Is As Pretty Does. And Little House on the Prairie, the entire series, again.

Books I Couldn’t Finish: Thirteen Moons and The Double Bind. These both got great reviews but I ditched them, after reading more than half of each.

Worst Written Book: Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child. The most poorly written book ever. No order. No structure. Too confusing. And I can’t even get the title right. It is as if the book was poorly translated from Latin. Someone needs to write the Cliff Notes.

Unhealthiest New Habit: Drinking Dr. Pepper constantly. Not drinking as much water as I should.

Healthiest New Habit: Running! And using face cream. And massaging cream into my cuticles. I’m all about creams. Also, this was the second summer in a row with no tan lines, meaning, I didn’t lay out in the sun, as I love to do, but promised Nicole I wouldn’t. You could argue that with two newborns I was out of the running this summer, so I guess summer ’08 is the make-or-break year.

Favorite Electronic Toys: My Nike iPod running system and Flip Video. Also my new book light, which Nicole says is so bright that we could land a 747 in our bedroom.

Best Getaway: Fire Island, if only for the comic relief. While there, I was carrying Madeline and said “Hi beautiful!” to her, as I am wont to do. A hot young (boy) thing sashayed by me and said hello back, like I was talking to him! He then proceeded to say “See you at the underwear party!” to another man passing by, and swished into the sunset. I want his life.

Best New Addition to the Food Rotation (homemade): Chicken in basil cream sauce

Best New Addition to the Food Rotation (ordered in): Brushetta from Puccini

Best New Addition to the Food Rotation (bought in a box): Rich and Creamy Double Churned vanilla ice cream bars

Scariest Moment: Being told at an ultrasound by the world’s meanest technician that both of my babies have cysts on their brains. Scary, not-compatible-with-life diseases are discussed in such a blasé, indifferent tone that I question if the doctor is even human.

Longest Wait: Waiting four days for the FSH results (fine!) and another week and a half for the amnio results (all clear!). Thank god. And we received confirmation that I am carrying two girls. The name debates begin. Betsy, Becky, Sadie, Olivia, Ryan and Harper are immediately overruled by Nicole.

Worst Pain: A C-section that was far from lovely, followed by the excruciating process that is called breastfeeding, which was great but so painful. Oh, and hand surgery was a bitch, too, though I did enjoy the happy atmosphere that the surgeons created in the OR.

Biggest Academic Accomplishment: Finished my second Masters and decided a break from grad school was definitely in order.

Best Freebies: We won tickets to see Patty Griffin and Melissa Etheridge in concert. And we got a years’ worth of free diapers. Actually, this was a gift, not a win, but regardless, how awesome is a year’s worth of diapers for twins?!

Best Bringer Home of the Bacon, Literally and Figuratively: If Nicole weren’t such a superstar, I would never be able to stay home and take care of these babies and live the lifestyle I have become accustom to (which includes credit cards and all-I-can-eat-gummi bears). She is also up for promotion which, if she gets, is ultra-superstar, since it would be her second promotion in three years (she finds out in late late January). AND she also has become quite the bacon chef, whipping up brown-sugar dredged baked bacon with herbed scrambled eggs every once in a while. I call it candy bacon.

Best I Fought The Law Moment (and I Won): I refused to accept the fact that my insurance wouldn’t pay for a couple of huge chunks of my C section costs because they said two of the doctors in the OR were not Cigna-certified. Even though my ob/gyn’s practice was covered by Cigna and I was at a Cigna-accepting hospital, it was my job to ask each and every doctor and nurse in the OR if they were Cigna. While under anesthesia and in the middle of a C section and experiencing the worst pain of my life, I was suppose to say “Excuse me, do you accept Cigna? Oh, no? Then please don’t touch me. Yes, I know I am peeing blood but can you find another Cigna doctor stat.” I contested this and I won. Let this be a lesson to you all.

Pictured above, our quiet New Year’s Eve includes sundaes. After deciding to spend it at a friend’s house, then deciding to spend it away, then deciding to spend it at a party, we ended up doing nothing. Now, as I listen to the mayhem and madness outside on the streets, I question our decision. Next year, we are definitely getting out of the city. Also pictured, us, them and the four of us. Still getting used to the fact that there is four of us now. What a difference a year can make.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

What’s Too Painful To Remember We Simply Choose to Completely Forget Until Those Memories Come Back to Haunt Us In New And Special Ways

I don’t have many childhood memories. Or, perhaps I should say, I don’t have many good childhood memories, though I have an instant recall of the bad. What memories I do have are more like little hallucinations with questionable origins, tiny snippets and pieces of life that seem so foreign that I am not even sure they belong to me. It’s like I am watching a movie of someone else’s life and I can't change the channel.

I cannot for the life of me remember the name of my third grade teacher. Or fourth grade. Or fifth grade. I cannot remember what color my bedroom was. I can’t remember what room I slept in when I lived with my grandparents for six months. Or remember what we used to eat for dinner. I do remember what whiskey sours smell like and how much I liked to let my ice cream melt until it was a soup I drank without a spoon and my cranberry-colored corduroy culottes. But these little scraps and fragments I can’t seem to weave together into an honest-to-goodness childhood.

My first true, real memories probably start around sixth grade, and even those are vague. There are reasons for all this, for certain, but I don’t know if I will ever really get into them here. I don’t even dissect it with my closest friends. It’s wearying to live in the past, and painful to sift through it all, and besides, my own actions, when analyzed, belie my truth more than my words probably ever can.

All this stuff rears its little head because now I worry about creating a happy, safe, memory-rich childhood for my children. One with traditions and rituals and matching Christmas pajamas for all of us. Believe me when I say that these seemingly silly little things like matching pajamas are so important to me.

I look at the girls sometimes and wonder how I can possibly always protect them and always make them happy. The idea of it, the very concept of it, is overwhelming. How can I do it if it wasn’t done for me? Thank god there’s Nicole to shine the light on the path we need to follow because my missteps will be many I’m sure.

I am not the most forgiving person, this is true, but there comes a point in your life when you realize, in that make-your-therapist-proud sort of way, that carrying around all that anger and pain only hurts you in the long (and short) run. I know this, just like I know I shouldn’t drink two bottles of wine in one night and I shouldn’t lather myself in baby oil and lay out in the sun and nothing good comes from wearing vinyl pants. But words of caution don't always translate into proper actions.

Again and again I try to forgive and forget, but just the other day, in a fit of anger (really, hurt and rejection/dejection) I almost made a phone call to someone to deliver a very passive aggressive speech. While this particular person may have deserved it (toxic, toxic, toxic), I had to admit I wasn’t angry, I was hurt, or perhaps, more to the point, betrayed in the most minor sense of the word. Yet my words to said person wouldn’t reveal this. How confusing for the other person and myself.

For me, like many people, when I am hurt or sad, I usually either withdraw (I surrender, I can’t fight this anymore) or I lash out. Just letting things be, accepting what I can’t change, going gently into that good night (yes, I know this is not what Dylan Thomas meant in his poem but I am purposely misinterpreting him here), that is hard for me and is not my most natural path.

But I am getting better. I am learning to acknowledge and accept my own flaws and my own weaknesses, which we all know if the first step to changing them. I’ll never be perfect, since no one is, and I will always have issues to work on. These days, though, I find I don’t have the time to carry two babies along with a suitcase of grudges so I am trying to drop the grudges and keep the girls.

Maddie still sleeps her twelve-hour night but for the past week or so she has usually one episode a night when she cries. Instead of letting her cry it out, I have been getting up, changing her diaper and cuddling with her until she goes back to sleep. When I hold her I can feel her muscles relax and feel her just melt in my arms. She caresses my face with her little hand and drifts back to sleep, comfortable and secure. I have no words really to describe how that feels. I never thought I would have her and Avery and Nicole and all that I have, and sometimes in the middle of the night when I am holding her on the couch, when it is quiet and calm, that is when I remember all that. That’s when there are no grudges and no judgments and no hurt or pain and when I can let things just be.

Pictured above, Madeline in her cozy mode with Nicole. Also pictured is Madeline in her new high chair with her tummy showing! Notice the wall color behind her. Here is a memory I DO recall: Nicole and I receiving the huge five-inch-thick paint color thingy from our contractor. And Nicole was in charge of picking a color. And out of the millions of colors, which included soft oranges and sunny yellows and beautiful blues and toasty taupes, she chose Elephant Tusk, which I think of institutional white or The Most Boring Color In the World. Perhaps I can start a campaign to get her to reconsider.

Oh, and in the category of new colors, why oh why can’t there be plain white diapers? Why do all disposables have a little Grover or a little Big Bird peeking out? Am I the only person who would pay a premium for plain white diapers? Or, if there has to be some sort of character on them, can we at least have diapers with themes, like maybe a Politicians of the 19th Century theme or Power Players from the Algonquin Round Table theme? I’d rather look at Dorothy Parker than see another picture of mini Elmo.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

All Roads Lead To Liza Minelli ** edited to add video!

* I added a video that showcases Screamy McScreamalot, otherwise known as Avery. That screaming is what she did all through the museum yesterday! The video is at the end of this post!

Somehow last night in an insomniac haze I ended up youtubing Liza Minelli and Judy Garland. It may seem random, but if you looked at my web page history you would see how one page begat another until it all sort of lead to Liza Minelli. My evening ended with this gem
which is three-and-a-half minutes of jaw-dropping, cringe-inducing camp. I have never seen anything like it in my life. I wish I could erase it for Liza, so that she might sleep better at night, knowing that embarrassment is wiped out.

If the internet existed when I was in high school or college, I don’t think I would have graduated. In college, I can see myself sitting in classes with a laptop, surfing the web off of some non-password protected wireless connection while pretending to be listening to the professor. Or texting bad influences to make later-day plans. Clandestinely watching movies on my iPod while ignoring a slide presentation. Going back to my room and youtubing music videos all night long, or until I went out. I would have been so distracted that I wouldn’t graduate.

College for me was internet-less and practically computer-less. I had a giant desktop Mac LC with a 40 MB hard drive, I think. My iPod is bigger than that. I played Kid Pix on it, which is the most basic of all drawing programs. I had a phone in my dorm, no cell phone or Blackberry, and I never got a pager, which was all the rage back in the go-go 90s. If I wanted to make plans with someone I had to go to the dorm room and knock on their door. If they weren’t there, I left a note or told their roommate to pass on my message. I kept in touch with friends with letters that I retrieved from a mailbox. I had stationary. I was an editor at the college paper and layout was literally just that: Cut and paste and lay out the boards that were picked up by a printer ‘round midnight.

I can’t argue that progress hasn’t been made and many times for the better but it makes me a little sad because 1.) I feel ancient and 2.) sometimes the old way is the better way. It makes me sad that my girls won’t know what a phone ring sounds like. The bring-bring, honest-to- goodness, old-fashioned phone ring sound. They’ll think all phones sound like My Humps or In Da Club. They won’t know Donkey Kong or Pitfall or King’s Quest or Ms. Pac-Man, the world’s greatest game ever. On the other hand, I am glad they don’t know the horrors of smoking sections on planes and trains and in theaters and bars and restaurants. And they don’t have to live in a world without Jet Blue or Tivo.

Speaking of Tivo, I don’t think we have had the television on for about two weeks. I watch the morning news and then it is off till the next day. There is nothing on. Nothing.

Today I took the girls to the Museum of Modern Art and it was a success, if you consider two babies not screaming a success. First of all, I don’t know what crack I was smoking but I thought the city would be empty, ergo, the museum would be empty. I walked over to the museum, about a ten-minute walk from home, and was shocked to see a line to get in. It was drizzling and a little windy and some MOMA worker saw me and took pity on me and told me to just go inside and buy my tickets at the information desk. She even walkie-talkied someone to let them know I needed help with the door. The lobby was packed with hundreds of people waiting on line to check their coats. Suckers! What they needed was a stroller, a.k.a personal valet.

We’ll go back again because it was fun (for me) and very stroller accessible. And the girls probably liked looking at something other than the carpet in our living room. Avery used the entire visit to practice her Scream. We would be in a little gallery, looking at a picture with twenty other museum-goers, and Avery would let out a loud, random, high pitch scream. And the just look around the room and smile at anyone who made eye contact with her. It was cute, but maybe not so cute to others. I have The Scream on video, but I have to figure out how to upload the damn thing to Blogger.

The day before, my sister-in-law and I took the girls and Leif and Skye to Toys R Us to ride the giant ferris wheel. Another ridiculous experience. I don’t know where my brain is these days, thinking that these will be stress-free activities. Apparently, the entire population of Rhode Island was in the store and there was an hour and a half wait to ride the thing, so I had to break it to Leif that we wouldn’t be doing it because that is too long to wait. This, of course, after building up the ferris wheel and telling him on the walk over how fun and special it will be. This will probably be his first memory, my broken promise.

The lesson here: NYC is mobbed after Christmas. Mobbed. Packed with people traveling in packs and walking four abreast. Don’t people want to spend Christmas at home?

Has anyone read this book? I read it years ago and picked it up again because it has such a powerful narration and an unforgettable main character. I like the title, Pretty Is As Pretty Does. The voice it unforgettable. I can't put it down. It is about small towns and racism and a love affair. I am pleasure delaying the last few chapters because once it ends, all I have on the top of my reading pile are books I don't feel like reading. I can totally visualize this book as a movie. I wonder why no one has bought the rights?

Pictured above, a portrait of the three of us on a blue screen….look at Avery’s hair! So spikey. And a picture of Avery and I in the reflection of an Airstream. And my favorite piece in the museum. Don’t know why, but I loved it. Two simple lines, a little askew, on paper. You might see four lines, but I see two lines that make four. Just my perspective. Yes, that old adage applies, the one that you hear in modern art museums around the world, the one that makes artists everywhere cringe: My child could have done this or I could have done it myself. But I didn’t do it and maybe that is why I am so drawn to it. So simple and obvious but no one did it till the 1950s. I wanted to take it off the wall and hide it in the stroller.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Perspective is Everything

One of our doormen works two jobs. He works days in another building and nights with us. He’s in his sixties. So when he doesn’t rush to help me with packages or to open the door or get the elevator for me, I am usually fine with that. He is working hard for his family and I can open my own door. What’s the big deal? But there are days when I forget that he is a person with a life outside of my lobby and dwell in my own pity pit and get pissed that he isn’t opening the door.

I can always tell how my day is going by how I look at him and the other doormen. If they are hard-working, charming and going-out-of-their-way helpful, then I am in a good mood. If they are lazy and conversationally-challenged, then I am having a bad day. Obviously, I strive for the first day.

Today we gave him a Christmas card and his tip. He gave me a giant kiss (the old shake-your-hand-then-use-that-hand-grip-to-pull-the-person-into-a-kiss move) and wished me a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Today he was hard-working, charming and going-out-of-his-way helpful, even though her barely moved when we pulled the car up front and struggled with packages and bags and cases of Dr. Pepper and babies and such.

In other words, it was a good Christmas. Which is not to say that it wasn’t without its own mini dramas, but the big picture was great. When I don’t focus on every single little detail, life is much, much smoother.

But now it’s over, and I want the tree out of my home and all the decorations down! We are stuck with the tree until the designated tree street-collection date. Which is like a week away.

We got a Flip Video camera today by accident. We got it for my brother not knowing he got Mina a new ultra fancy hi-def video recorder. Sort of makes the flip look flippant. But I am excited about the prospect of having a small video camera to tote around! Which is strange, since we already have a small video camera that we can tote around. Clearly I am such a sucker for new electronics, especially ones that plug into USB ports.

Behold, a video! Actually, it’s a slideshow with a title set to music. Spielberg I am not. It’s a long one, almost seven minutes. I made it for Nicole with dreams of burning it to a DVD that we could keep for years and years and watch again and again. Alas, my technical skills are not up to snuff. Turns out it requires a bit more effort than merely pressing the “Burn DVD” button.

Part of me think there might be pictures on there that I don’t want other people to see but whatever. Besides, if I were really brave I would post pictures of me taken this morning in a tie-back tank top with no bra.

The video has a soundtrack of two songs. Bizarrely both songs are country-ish. One is by Carrie Underwood and the other by Martina McBride. I am not a country fan, meaning it is just a genre not in my repertoire, not that I have anything against it. A friend told me about the second song and I loved it, and the other song is off of a CD I bought for Nicole, who likes Country Music Lite. In other words, she likes the Dixie Chicks and Carrie Underwood and Sheryl Crow. Anyway, the two songs pretty much summed up the year.

Pictured above, the two best presents ever!

Edited to add: The video won't upload. : ( I'll have to try again later.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tea & Sympathy & Loud Talkers & Avery Strategy No. 1

On Saturday night, after the girls were in bed and surely minutes before Nicole high-tailed it to bed, drunk with choose-your-own-bedtime power, I left the apartment alone to see Juno at 7:45 on 42nd Street. This is crazy because:

1.) Times Square and the blocks leading up to it are insane this time of year. They are packed with so many people that I often times resort to walking in the street alongside traffic, which makes me think that I am silly thinking I will die in a plane crash when it is way more likely I will die right here on the streets of New York a block or two from my home.

2.) I left at 7:30 for a 7:45 movie. I don’t mind missing the half hour of previews, so I timed my journey to ensure a few previews were missed. Yet, even though this film already has Oscar buzz and is only playing in two theaters here in the city, for some reason I didn’t plan on it being sold out two minutes before show time. Obviously I have lost all common sense. I ended up getting a ticket to the next showing. Thank goodness there was a next showing that wasn’t sold out.

3.) But I almost didn’t get a ticket to the next showing. Apparently I still don’t know how to use the fancy ticket machines. I spent a good five minutes swiping my card—first cavalierly, then maniacally, then violently—to no avail. So I called Nicole (who was probably pretending that she wasn’t in bed already when I know she was) to complain and, in the spirit of multitasking, moved from machine to machine and touchscreened “today-Juno-7:45-credit card” more times than I care to remember. My panic of ineptness reached a fevered pitch. I declared loudly (to Nicole) how these machines were stupid and how I didn’t want to wait on line and how I was coming home. And then I figured out that I swiped my card 78 times backwards.

I loved the movie. The dialogue was a little self-conscious at first and the music made me feel very uncool but in the end it all worked for me. Nicole says she looks forward to seeing it on Demand.

On Sunday, Auntie Annie and Auntie Nancy came so Nicole and I could venture to Tea and Sympathy for our 5th annual Eve of Christmas Eve lunch. They came bearing gifts for the girls, including a coupon for unlimited babysitting services until year 2025! Since Maddie and Avery prefer gifts they can chew on, they brought those two.

We were nervous because Avery is definitely going through a YOU ARE NOT MY MOMMY GO AWAY! Phase. We are anxious about leaving her with anyone, even their aunties. You need to follow a specific strategy with Avery. I’ll number again:

1.) Come into the apartment and settle immediately on the couch, floor or chair. Your goal is to blend into the room like furniture. Do not move or attract attention to yourself. Let Avery discover you as she is pursuing her activities on the floor. Do not look her in the eye or engage her.

2.) Once she is intrigued/curious/enchanted with you, look at her and give her a big, big smile. She needs to see all of your teeth. Still do not touch her or reach for her.

3.) Once she has looked at you more than three times without screaming/crying, let one of her mommies pick her up and bring her over to you.

4.) Still don’t try to touch her.

5.) After she has watched you for a period of time that she decides that you are not evil, we will then attempt the hand off. Hand-off attempts are usually aborted several times before success.

6.) If hand-off is successful, Nicole and I will hang around for a moment or two so Avery still thinks we are around. After that, we will disappear and she is all yours.

Lunch was great, despite the Loud Talker with the high, nasally voice, who sat next to us and who insisted on narrating everything. “If my tea is too hot I like to add cream. See I just added cream. Now it is cooler.” And then “I like crumbles. I like apples crumbles. I like rhubarb crumbles. I like blueberry crumbles.” My train of thought was interrupted so many times by his ridiculous little comments. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to live with him. This place is so small (23 seats) so annoying neighbors are really annoying. But that is part of the Tea and Sympathy tradition. And part of its charm.

What is rhubarb anyway?

This weekend also included a visit from my father, who is here visiting from China (where he lives). He brought with him about 30 oil paintings that he bought for us. On canvases. Rolled up. What in the world are we going to do with them?

Pictured above, another picture of Maddie at the playground. I love this picture because it shows scope and scale: I look huge and she is this little peanut in a rubber swing. Plus, it proves just how adept I am at clashing my coat and my headband thingy. That’s talent. Maddie's mittens look so cute. I think they perplex her, though.

Below that is a movie that shows Maddie saying Mama! Even though it looks otherwise, I swear Nicole does not have Farrah Fawcett Feathers in her hair. Or a perm. But her hair does look extra poofy. Also, you get to hear grown people chanting Ma Ma and talking about BBQs. It starts around the 12-second mark. Just a small sliver of life. Isn’t it glamorous! Nicole kind of looks like a mad Gephetto (is that his name?) holding her Pinocchio. Watch how she starts to bounce Maddie once Maddie gets started on the Ma Mas! It makes Nicole look maniacal. But she is not maniacal and, to be clear, she doesn’t have feathered hair or a perm.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Every [Sexist] Kiss Begins With Kay

Maybe it’s just me, but those commercials bother me. Not only is it perpetuating the commercialness of Christmas/holiday season, it also portrays women as one-dimensional, superficial beings who exchange affection/sex for colorless forms of pure carbon. Or those ads that imply that a man will get laid after he gives his wife/girlfriend a diamond anything? I like diamonds perhaps not as much as the next person, but regardless, I am insulted by the insinuation that I am so base that I will offer my body no-holds-barred if you give me an expensive gift.

My basic litmus test for sexism, can the roles be reversed? Would we see a commercial of a man opening a box to reveal…something…and seeing his eyes open wide, maybe well with tears, and launch himself into the arms of his wife/girlfriend? Would we see an ad in a magazine implying that a woman will be sexually satisfied if she gives her husband/boyfriend an expensive watch? I sincerely doubt it. Yes, I know, my test is flawed, and there are a thousand ways that it can backfire, but it works for me. Another one of my tests, swap the players with a mother/son or father/daughter combo. It kinda makes you realize how much we still use sex and sexuality as a society to sell shit.

Nicole is home now till the day after Christmas, which is very exciting, because she doesn’t get to see the girls much during the week. Today we are taking the girls to a playground today for their first experience in a swing! I am so excited! For anyone who lives in New York City or plans to visit with a stroller, here is what took me seven months to learn: Not all subway stations are wheelchair accessible. Meaning, not every station has elevators. So unless you are willing to lug a stroller up and down the stairs, you need to find the stations with the elevators. I can lug a single stroller up and down, but the double, no. Anyway, the handy official subway map shows little wheelchairs next to some stations. Those are the stations that have elevators. No little wheelchair, no elevator. Really, it took me so very long to realize this, and I have lived in the city for almost two decades. It is also really disturbing to think that people in wheelchairs or those that can’t make it up and down the stairs are screwed. How did subway stations get out of compliance with the American with Disabilities Act?

Pictured above, Avery and Madeline with presents that arrived for them in the mail from the adorable Riley . I am very excited for the girls to open the gifts because I happen to know that at least one of Riley’s moms is pretty crafty! So there is potential for a homemade gift! Which, to me, is the best kind.

* Updated to add: Playground was a success! The girls enjoyed the swing. A brilliant woman there suggested that we put them in the swing back-to-back. Leave me in a room for 60 years with two babies and a swing and I bet I would never come up with that! We would have stayed longer but their little legs were getting cold.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Can I Get a Bucket of Ambien Please?

What is up with this insomnia? It is three in the morning and I am wide awake and ready to start my day. Yet this is a disaster, being up this early, and can only lead to awful things, including, but not limited to, too much coffee, too much Dr. Pepper and too much grouchiness. I knew this was going to happen when I crawled into bed last night, coaxed by the I-can-sleep-12-hours-a-night-and-still-want-more-sleep Nicole, at the too ripe hour of 7:51. I did read for a while, but still, it was early. I can’t be all tired during the day. Having children is like having a job in the pre-union and pre-rights days, when you would get fired from if you called in sick.

I am afraid to take sleeping pills because I feel like I should be alert in the middle of the night. Am*bien is a wonderful, wonderful thing. It erases my insomnia and let’s me sleep through the night. A good, solid, restorative sleep. It also produces some of those crazy side effects, like temporary amnesia. I have no idea what I do sometimes after I take it. None. There is a period of blackout that I experience where anything goes. During this special blackout time, I tend to make phone calls and send emails, because nothing says “I’m thinking of you” like a rambling, nonsensical note or call from a person who will not remember what she said or did in the morning! But for a good nights’ sleep it is worth it, truly. Besides, it could be worse: I could be that person who wakes up and makes and eats scrambled eggs in the middle of the night or drives a car the wrong direction on the highway.

Maybe I wouldn’t go to bed so early if there was anything to watch on TV. For weeks now, we don’t even put it on at night anymore. There is nothing on. Even with Tivo. Every once in a while, I desperately scroll through the channels looking for things to record. This leads to such gems as “Christmas in Washington” and crappy, even for my low standards, Lifetime movies. The other night, desperate to watch something, anything, Nicole scrolled through our sad, sad list. Survivor was on the list but I wasn’t ready to commit to a three hour finale, even with fast forwarding through boring parts, which is like the whole show.

We both go through periods when we feel the need to streamline the list immediately to make room for, well, nothing. We have 100 hours to fill! Yet I have called Nicole at work in the middle of the day and asked “Are you done with “Killer Quakes? Can I erase it?” Nicole came across Christmas in Washington and was desperate to purge it from the list, so she started playing it at fast-forward level four (the fastest). The following ensued:

Nicole: I’m embarrassed to have this on the list. [This coming form the woman who will record hours and hours of Weather Channel documentaries.]
Me: Then why are you watching it?
Nicole: Because I don’t have any crap to watch so that makes me go through the list and think "what’s this crap?"
Me: [drawn into the festive DC celebration] Who is that singing?
Nicole: Two unknown, tone-deaf individuals. I guess if your not going to watch Survivor I’m going to watch Decoding the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Seriously, it feels like a chore, watching TV. Damn writers strike. I want my The Office. However, the lack of television has helped Nicole cultivate two armchair hobbies: She is now a birdwatcher and a star gazing. She has done neither of these really in the wild (though she did take a falconry class in Vermont last year and looked at starts at her parents’ house over Thanksgiving) but she reads about them online and in books and researches accessories she can buy to support these hobbies that she doesn’t really pursue outside the walls of our apartment. Yet. I’m sure she would but living in NYC means no real bird except pigeons and the stars are occluded by the gazillion watts of lights coming from the city. We once looked at a house in Massachusetts that had bird feeders outside and she spent maybe 10 minutes standing there, watching the birds, like a cat, while I sat there awkwardly chit chatting with the broker.

Speaking of cats, Maddie is a like an old sick cat who drags her body around the rug in the living room, leaving little piles of vomit everywhere. I have never seen a child spit up as much as she does. The doctor says it is all fine, so we don’t need to worry, but her clothes are ruined and the carpet is starting to look not so nice. What I need to go is move her onto the couch because, while I do find the couch comfortable, I am no longer in love with it like I once was and would really, really like an excuse to buy a new, chocolatey brown leather sofa.

Before I forget: Avery’s nicknames include: Averys, Aves, Aviator, Captain von Wigglesworth and Cutiecantor, the last one, once again, being Nicole’s bizarre creation.

I can’t believe the girls are almost 7 months. This means I have officially no longer hear “Wow, you look great for someone who gave birth to twins (insert umber less than seven) months ago.” But more about that in another post.

Pictured above, notice the blanket I toss on the floor for Maddie to use as a target for spit up. Isn’t really working. Notice how Maddie (in the blue stripes) is already poised above the carpet, ready to leave another pile of surprise. Also pictured, Avery taking possession of the bizarre British bus. She is definitely beginning to go through a stage where she takes toys and once she has them, sometimes, she doesn’t play with them. For her the fun is in making sure Maddie can’t use it. Is she too young to be that sinister? Sinister or not, she is still the cutest thing.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

All The News Not Fit to Air

I find myself woefully, pitifully, sadly not conversant in current affairs. I read papers less, for certain, but I do try to read the news online and watch cnn from time to time. I catch the news at the gym in the morning and then again when I get home, distracted by the girls and breakfast and coffee and all that, but still, some of it seeps in.

Recently in a bout of insomnia (like now!) I was looking around some website like The site had a quiz: Can you name that actress based on her dress. It showed ten actresses in dresses, but their faces were blocked. I got ten out of ten. I was proud for a minute and then I thought, this is not something to be proud of. I don’t know who the president of China is, but I can recognize Reese Witherspoon in an Oscar dress.

Is there still a war in Iraq? Is there a news embargo on it? What’s Al Gore up to? Iran? How about that sleeper country, North Korea?

I really don’t think it is entirely my fault that I feel so out of touch with what is going on in the world. The news covers the sensational and likes to beat dead horses. They also run the SAME stories again and again, wasting precious chunks of time on every morning news show. Here are a few stories I would like to see banned from the morning news:

1. What to eat when you are on the road. This story is covered 5,000 times a year. Apparently we, as a nation, fall to pieces when it comes to making food choices when we are away from home. Ten miles away from our own kitchens and suddenly we are like we are starving bears, putting down two Cinnabricks buns for breakfast, a pound of bacon and Milkyways for lunch and a supersized fast food meals for dinner. And we can’t get away with it because there is some nutrionist/editor/food expert on TV who is going to offer such inspiration nuggets as “Plan ahead. Bring snacks with you on the road so you aren’t tempted to stop crappy food” and “Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets.” Personally, I love breakfast buffets, which is where invented my vacation special: Syrup and bacon soup.

2. How to exercise on the road: I don’t care how many times they tell me, I am not going to buy an elastic cord to do elastic exercises in my hotel room. Yes, I get it, they are portable and easy and oh so effective. But it’s not going to happen.

3. Health stories that really don’t tell us anything new: Less carbs, more fruits and vegetables. Exercise more/daily. Reduce stress. Try yoga. Try working out with a friend. Less salt. Go to your doctor. Do they have anything new to tell us.

4. Who to tip during the holiday season: Every year. The same story. Your doormen and hairdressers and babysitter/nanny and personal trainer and cleaning person and garbage collector and mail carrier and lawn specialists and newspaper delivery person and anyone who provides services for you throughout the year. The equilivant of one “service” or whatever you deem appropriate. Done.

5. Preemptive strike: We all heard that Little Sister Spears is pregnant. Big news this morning. Big, big news. Much bigger than war and war crimes and even the power outages in the Midwest. Are we really going to have to watch this story over and over and over again? (One tidbit: When this girl is 32—which is around the age I started trying to have a baby—this girls will have a 16 year old.) She’s 16. She’s pregnant. She is related to Britney. This shouldn’t be news.

I could go on and on and on because it is almost 2 in the morning and I have insomnia.

What happened that now every politician must say "I'm [politician's name} and I approved this ad" at the end of every televiosn spot. Did someone do something smarmy a few years back?

Pictured above is our Christmas tree “star.” Last year, we had a whole seaside theme, so we used a starfish as the star. Very fitting. But the tree was infested with spiders and some of them decided to make the starfish their home. So the starfish was tossed. And this is all we had.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Jen Convention

Here’s a snapshot of life with twins in New York City:

My friend Jen (and her two kids) and other friend Jen (with her little girl) (and yes that means that there were three women all named Jennifer) came into the city to go to the Childrens Museum and then to lunch. I was planning on joining them. I was planning on taking the subway. I was planning on a smooth commute. We all know what happens with best laid plans. I change out of my stained white tee shirt into my nonstained, cashmere trying-to-make-it-look-like-I-always-look-polished sweater, pack a bag, pack up the girls, put on lip gloss and head to the subway station. Dare I say there was a bounce in my step.

I ask the ticket seller which subway stop on the Upper West Side has elevator access, and she politely informs that there is no elevator access to any station on the Upper West Side that I can get to from that station. I could go into details here but suffice it to say that the only way I was getting up to the mid-80s was by walking. I live in the mid 50s. This works out to a 30-block walk.

By the way, a cab with infant twins is out of the question. I am not holding two babies on my lap while we barrel through city traffic. A cab with two infants and two mommys is fine. I feel it is safer when there is one lap per baby. Yes, I know my logic is faulty, but let’s let me live in my bubble.

The 30-block walk isn’t that awful, but pushing about 80 pounds in cold, cold weather and wearing 2-inch-heel boots adds its own particular challenges. But the cherry was I get to the museum only to find out that ALL strollers must be checked. No exceptions. Not even for infant twins. So the only way I can go in is if I want to carry both babies. That isn’t going to happen.

So I waited on a bench in the lobby. Silver lining, it was a nice way to relax after the long walk.

Lunch was less eventful, but it did take an inordinate amount of time to arrange seating. My double stroller was too wide to park next to the table. And my kids are too little to sit up by themselves at the table. Two little seats that attach to the table were brought over and the girls sat in those. A first for them! Avery spent most of the meal grabbing anything within reach, so we had to create a half-circle safe-zone around her. Then she learned that if she leans, she can reach out of her safe zone. So we had to come up with new borders. A lunch with three adults and five kids (and one more in utero). We survived!

I got home and put the girls on the carpet and scatter a handful of toys around the room and call it playtime. It gets tiring talking to them all day because I run out of things to say. “Who’s a big girl?” and “Look at you, standing like a big kid!” only goes so far. I don’t know many songs, other than boring ones about frogs that go a-courting and shooing flies that bother me. So I sing them Nicole-style songs, which basically (merely) describes the object. Deluxe versions include scatting or interesting phrasing. Examples:

“I’m a green cup. I’m a gre-he-he-he-heen cup. I’m on the car-car-car-pet. Yay.”
“I’m a turtle with a mirror in my belly. I’m a tur-hur-hur-hur-tle with a mirror in ma be-he-hell-y. Mere-mere-mere-rur in ma ma ma ma ma ma ma be-lehehehe. Bell-lee-leee-leee-leeeeeeeee.”

Nicole’s most famous songs are:

“My name is Avery and I got a belly that’s like an old man
My name is Avery and I got a belly that’s like an old man
I’m standing tall and I’ve got my pants hiked up to my chest.
I’m standing tall and I’ve got my pants hiked up to my chest”

“My name is Madeline and I’ve got the car seat blues
My name is Madeline and I’ve got the car seat blues
I’m a fussy baby and I make a lotta noise
I’m a fussy baby and I make a lotta noise”

The girls love it. LOVE it. It is the song we sing to calm them down. Reading the words doesn’t do it justice. It is the way it is sung, in a low, low voice, very s-l-o-w-l-y. Very bluesy. The girls always stare at us, wide-eyed with mini mouths opened in little ohs, as if they are wondering if Barry White is possessing their mommys.

Time to go Christmas shopping….

Pictured above, Avery in her seat getting a kiss from Aunt Jenni and the girls during playtime. That bus Avery is playing with features a bus driver with a British accent. But the driver is on the left side of the bus. Strange.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Weakness in Me

Last night Maddie started crying because her pacifier fell out. It was 3:30 am. Nicole spent the day with girls while I was gallivanting with other girls (and boy) on Long Island so I turned off the monitor and went into the living room to assume Baby Morning Duties. Now I was suppose to let Maddie cry it out, of course, but after spending the day away for her, I had to pick her up. I know I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help it. her cuteness is just that overpowering. Besides, that child has bionic hearing. She heard me tiptoe into the living room and lay down on the couch. She silenced her squawks long enough to ascertain that I was nearby and then comfortable on the couch and then started crying with force. She knows when we are close. Like a shark, she can smell blood from great lengths.

So I scooped up Maddie and took her into the living room with me. I’m weak, I admit it. I laid on the couch and nestled her in the crook of my arms. It felt good to feel her little feetsy-pajamed body. I though she would drift back to sleep peacefully, now that she was in the arms of a giant person. Instead, she used this valuable vampire time to Explore Textures/Faces with Her Little Fingers and Practice Vocalizing. After about 15 minutes we had an episode that can only be described as OMG Is That A Couch Cushion??!!! Frenzied touching and poking ensued. Once the thrill of the cushions subsided she did indeed drift to sleep, which is when I transferred Her Madieness back into her crib. And then, of course, Avery woke up. (Nicole refers to this as passing the sleep baton.) Alas, no sleep for me.

A nor’easter came and went but it wasn’t bad at all. All that weather worry for nothing. Even a trace amount of precipitation brings this city to its knees. We are that wimpy when it comes to weather. Auntie Annie came today to baby-sit while we had a nice brunch down in the village. And then we went for cookies. Alone with Nicole and no babies. As much as they are woven into our lives, during moments like that, I almost forget that they exist. Not in a bad way, but that old paradigm of the two of us lingers. We talked mostly about the future. It is overwhelming, trying to figure out what the best move is. Stay in the city. Move to Long Island. Move to Northampton area. Move to Westchester or Rockland County. Move Somewhere Else. All options have tremendous pros and cons. Huge. And each day I lean toward something different.

Or, as we decided, do nothing for now but sit tight. I’m glad we have options but still, I wonder where our story is heading.

In amazing news, Avery is starting to crawl! The army crawl. She shoves her hands out and drags her little body behind her! I’d like to call her Advanced For Her Age but there is no real rule when it comes to crawling. So babies do, some don’t. And the age range seems to indicate nothing, delayed, advanced or otherwise. But still, our little girl is starting to crawl! I’m enchanted and charmed tonight. By tomorrow I’ll be worried about baby-proofing, steps to fall down and walls to bump into.

I think the girls are going to grow up with an identity crisis. I rarely call them by their names. Instead, I call them by a huge list of names, including but not limited to:

Her Maddieness
Captain von Fussypants
Cutie-canator (Nicole made this up and I have no idea what it means)

The random nature of this post indicates that there are more important things that I should be writing about but I am not. Ah, avoidance. There always tomorrow…

Pictured above, Maddie McMaddystein and Aunt Mina. And meta pictures, the stocking holders. Even pictures of pictures of them are cute!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Silence is Golden

So Madeline, the baby previously knows as I’ll-sleep-thirteen-hours-straight-no-problem has now started to wake up randomly in the night. She has learned a new wrist bending move that she practices during the day (we call it her doing “the motorcycle” because it looks like she is changing gears on an imaginary motorcycle) and at night she uses said new move to pop the pacifier out of her mouth. Once it is out, clutched in her little hand, she immediately regrets it. And while she tries her hardest to get it back in, she doesn’t succeed. So she cries. And cries and cries.

Heretofore we have been going in, popping the pacifier back into her mouth and enjoying the immediate result of her sucking herself back into a deep, cry-free sleep. But it can’t continue, this pacifier tuck-in service. The last few days, we are letting her cry it out. I hate this, I really do, listening to her cry. And now, she wakens Avery, who went through the cry-it-out phase never hearing a peep from Madeline because Madeline just never cried it out. Madeline took so quickly to sleeping without waking that it was ridiculous. Now Avery is adjusting to the fact that sometimes her sister makes noise. And Avery is not thrilled.

The worst is when she cries and then she stops for like three seconds. And you think she is done but she is just recalibrating. Or adjusting her volume. Or listening to hear if we are approaching. Or recasting to hit a different pitch.

Right now it’s going on thirty minutes of her crying, on and off. This is my shift so I inexplicably have rise from my comfy cozy bed, retreat to the living room and stay up and listen to her cry. I try to convince Nicole that we should just turn the monitor off in our bedroom and let her cry, but Nicole is uncomfortable with that. She thinks if we do that then we will wake up and find both girls all twisted with their limbs stuck in the spindles (yes, we have bumpers). I understand where she is coming from, but I am such an awful sleeper that any interruption in it pretty much guarantees that I will feel like a train wreck tomorrow. And right now it seems like a silly trade-off: Me up, listening to her cry and eventually sob herself to sleep and then me not being able to fall back asleep myself.

So tomorrow [today] is going to be rough.

The thing with babies is that even when they have a schedule they don’t really have a schedule. I am addicted to organization and structure. Like crack-addicted. Children do not lend themselves to this sort of life. I guess having children is going to teach me to be more go-with-the-flow, but for now, in the here and now, it is just so hard.

These days, they go to bed between 5:00 and 5:30 and wake up between 5:00 (not fun) and 6:30 (more fun) on the flipside. They usually take a brief half-hour nap about two hours after they wake. They take a longer nap around 10ish and then an afternoon nap between one-ish and two. In between they are up to three meals a solids a day and bottles in between. So there is some structure and order, but if it is not 100 percent reliable (and obviously it is not) then it doesn’t qualify to me as structure! Yes, I am that all-or-nothing. Can you imagine living with me?

Here’s the great thing: Because they go to bed so early, we have our evenings back. We actually can sit at the table and eat together. It is a wonderful thing. We can linger over food. And then take baths. Or read. Or write. Or web surf. Whatever. A girl could get used to this.

She stopped crying. I’d breath a sigh of relief but that would be jinxing us, no?

Pictured above is Avery on the go. She seems so ready to crawl, which both delights and terrifies me. She gets up on all fours and rocks back and forth. That’s the first stage, right? That rocking? Lifting her giant tummy off the ground?

Maddie is not doing the all-fours thing yet, but she exhibits MUCH more control in her rolls. Her rolls in both directions are fluid and graceful, almost ballet-like. She twists her leg, then trunk and then her head and viola, she is on her tummy. She can practically hear her saying “Ta Da!” Avery throws herself from back-to-front and front-to-back, whacking her little head on the ground. She’ll cry sometimes but is so easily distracted by anything, be it a toy or some crazy stupid noise coming from my mouth.

Below that is why we need to fix our wireless! Our wireless has been broken for a while. I think we need a new router. In the meantime we have resorted to (gasp!) using landlines again. But they prove to be a very attractive nuisance to both girls. Let’s just say this isn’t the first time I have taken pictures of the girls tangled in wires. I send these images to Nicole in hopes that she will put wireless-fixing on the top of her to-do list! So far, she just laughs at the pictures and talks about other network interference.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Pithy Ramblings on Careers and The Future

Dual napping is a beautiful thing. Both babies in their cribs and [sort of] sleeping makes me feel like I have accomplished something, even though it has little to do with me. A success already and it is barely 8:30!

It’s funny how my definition of success has evolved since staying at home. It’s bizarre to think of this as my career. In the middle of the whole trying to have a baby ordeal, I truly thought it wouldn’t happen. I would never have a baby so this whole staying home thing would never happen. I felt like I was being punished for drinking too much in my 20s or ingesting way too much diet coke or ruining my body in other original and creative ways. Regardless, here I am, against the odds, with two babies, happy as a clam for the most part but filled with all sorts of curiosity but mostly dread and confusion about my career future.

I miss seeing my name on a masthead, my tangible proof that I made something of my life. I could point to it, literally. See? Right here? That’s me and I have a career. Here’s the proof. My name, written down, in order of importance. No more mastheads, and now I drift in a sea of what-will-I-do when the girls go to school? What will make me happy? What will make a difference?

Several times in the past few months I’ve been asked what I do. I stay home with two babies, I say. I spend 11, 12 hours a day dealing with their every need. I feed them and bathe them [on occasion] and change them and burp them and comfort them and love them and entertain them and lay with them. I keep the house somewhat neat and send out stacks and stacks of Christmas cards. I cook sometimes and order in too. I manage to do the laundry several times a week and iron on occasion. But what some others seem to hear is I do nothing.

All that discourse about “If you paid a stay-at-home parent they would earn 175K a year blah blah blah” is all well and good but that will never happen, obviously. And in this society, unfortunately, you are judged by the salary you make. Hypothetical salaries don’t count. So while your job of raising children and creating a home might be one of the most important in the world, it almost has a street value of zero. Social workers and teachers get next to nothing while people in corporate America make their salaries times five/ten/twenty in bonuses alone.

I realize that I am lucky because it is Nicole’s Superstar Career in the Corporate America that I have disdain for that allows me this very indulgent dilemma of wondering what I will do with my own career. Staying at home to raise these girls is such a luxury, and the concept of that doesn’t escape me. It’s almost as if I hear echoes of “This family dynamic is brought to you by Nicole” as she heads off to work each morning. I am proud of her and what she accomplishes. She is such a great role model for our girls, succeeding in a male dominate industry and dealing with corporate stress day in, day out without falling apart. Our girls will most certainly look up to her and be proud of her, especially if she buys them ponies. But will they look at me as a good role model too? I wonder. There’s the mom who is the Superstar who makes the Money and who has the impressive Career. And then there is me. I make chocolate chip cookies.

In the meantime, I still need to figure out what path I will take once the girls are in school. It’s disconcerting, to be in my mid thirties and still feel like I haven’t found the career path that gives me satisfaction.

Sometimes I just want to give up trying and give up caring and just float float float through life and careers. Give up on trying to find something that satisfies. Everything is easier when you blow up the bridge connecting your heart and your brain.

Oh well.

Pictured above are Maddie and Avery in their happy after-morning-nap moods. They are so excited to see me when I go in to get them. Makes you feel like a star. No one in any office or at any job has looked at me like that!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Home[ward] Bound

I need to banish the image of Celine Dion singing Shook me All Night Long from my head. Every time I hear this song, as sung by ac/dc, as I did at the gym this morning, I immediately recall a VH1 Divas concert that featured Celine in Vegas gyrating and dancing and singing this song. I kind of ruined the whole aura of the song for me. Nothing against Celine, of course. I just prefer her more subtle songs, like when she is singing about her indefatigable heart.

Regarding yesterday’s real estate post, both places cost the same, about 1.3 million. The house, which is in Western Massachusetts is amazing. It’s about two and a half hours north of New York City and right near Northampton, a beautiful and liberal and cultural nook of Massachusetts. If that house were here near NYC it would cost easily between two and three million with outrageous taxes. Taxes are insane around suburban New York. My friend’ mother pays $60,000 a year in taxes. A YEAR!! That’s 5K a month. It boggles the mind.

Two bedrooms in NYC average 1.3 million; three bedrooms average 1.8 million. Studios—one room in which you live your whole entire home life—average around half a million. What college graduate (or high school graduate) can afford $500,000 in their 20s?? New York really is becoming a city for the rich and the poor. Middle class need not apply. And when you look a what you get for your money, it seems even crazier. Looking at that apartment and that house, doesn’t the house seem like a much better choice? I know it comes down to lifestyle and all that, but sometimes I feel so ready to leave the city. I’ve been here for almost 20 years. It will always be my home. But now more than ever I feel the need for grass and garages and lawnmowers and space.

Today I need to clean our home, as it is teetering dangerously on the cliff of disaster. Here is one of the biggest disappointments about being at stay at home mom: There are no medals for cleaning or, say, putting away a box of matches. After several days of looking at said matches in the living room, I finally put them away in the kitchen drawer. And I expect an awards ceremony.

Did I mention that they were Nicole’s matches? From a fancy dinner out that she had while away in san Francisco for work? A dinner, I might add, that included no children and happened to be at one of my favorite restaurants ever? While she was eating here I was having my ninth meal in a row of leftover root vegetable gratin. I’m bitter like the celery root in my gratin! Well, not really, it was a business trip, not a week away for fun, but a dinner at Boulevard would be quite nice.

Seriously, when your job in life becomes Household and Child Management, you want accolades and acknowledgement for the simplest things. Perhaps even expensive gifts. At least, that is how it is with me. There are days when I wait anxiously for Nicole to come home to see if she notices what I did. I am practically giddy. Will she see that the toilet is shiny and clean? Did she note that the towels are hung up all nice? The recyclables were taken out? The bed is made? Will she leave a diamond bracelet under my pillow as thanks?

That’s an exaggeration but the point is, I need praise. And if you are me, you need a lot of it! This is my job now, and just like working in an office, when you want your manager to notice that you did a good job or you want a good review, you similarly want that at home. You also want lunch hours and coffee breaks. This is not to say Nicole is my manager. I guess colleague would be a more accurate description, if I were to keep the metaphor going. But still, you want your colleagues to say great job too.

And now that I have said all this, I have to say that Nicole does notice this stuff all the time. Maybe it’s hard not to: When the kitchen floor goes from having food-centered dust bunnies back to spotless clean, how can she not comment? In the early days of parenthood, there are times when our apartment looked like it was attacked by a pack of hungry bears. So it is hard not to appreciate it when it is even slightly organized and clean. Nicole acknowledges even my smallest household accomplishments, for the most part, which goes a long way to making me feel like I am doing an okay job. So all of my whining here is because I want medals too.

I completely glamorized what staying at home would be like. I didn’t think it would be like the Sound of Music (sans Nazis) but I did sort of think that it would be more ritualized and rewarding. Perfect little babies on a perfect little nap schedule, during which I would lounge about or nap or read for pleasure. They would laugh and giggle as I vacuumed around them. Sit happily in there play stations with me in the kitchen while I whipped up a standing rib roast and homemade creamed spinach. It’s not quite like that.

Let’s just say that I don’t exactly excel at the homemaking thing. I can admit it. I don’t want to dust each slat of the blinds. I don’t want to clean the stove again. I do not want to vacuum the damn moldings on the floor. Housework is boring and seemed, ironically, easier to do when I had less time to do it.

What I do like to do is play with babies. Take them on walks. Take pictures of them while they do anything. I am grateful to be able to stay home and take care of the babies, I really am. The alternative—that I am still on the TTC roller coaster and still trying to stay pregnant—is awful to consider. And while I do love it, wow, it can be hard. You forget who you are sometimes. You neglect to see the worthiness in what you do. You get lonely because the only other people in your home can only communicate through screeches and crying and smiles and giggles, the latter which I really enjoy. You feel like you are failing because the ironing isn’t done or the carpet needs to be vacuumed or the chairs need new little felt bottoms or your children smell a little vomit-y. By you I mean I.

I used to make a lot of phone calls to Nicole at work, little sanity breaks for me, because why wouldn’t she want to field forty phone calls from me each day? Eventually the conversations went a bit like this:

Nicole: This is Nicole. [rushed, business-like tone]
Me: Hi!
Nicole: What’s up?
Me: Nothing!
Nicole: How are the girls? [typing in the background]
Me: Fine!
Nicole: I have a meeting in ten minutes that I need to prepare for. [always managing my expectations; and if I had a dollar for every time she said that to me, I would have several new Anthropologie skirts]
Me: OK. I’ll talk to you later.
Nicole: Bye.
Me: Bye!

It’s better than the phone calls I used to make, which included me crying and saying I can’t handle taking care of the girls by myself. Those must have been phone calls to get in the middle of a busy work day. Those were tough days.

The highlight of my day is when Nicole gets home. That energy shift, of having another adult at home, it makes a huge difference, even when the girls are sleeping. Plus I just like having her around.

Pictured above is me and my turtleneck. I tend to cover my face with the turtleneck. I try not to do it in public, but it is such a reflexive thing. Bizarre. Anyone else do this? I can’t be the only one.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rainy Days and Mondays

Why are clementines ONLY sold in boxes of about six dozen? Is there some sort of Clementine cartel? Try as I may, and I really do, I never manage to eat them all before a layer or two become rotten, the skin separating from ball of citrus meat which then rattles around inside. Who needs a couple dozen clementines at once? Why can’t they sell then like EVERY other and vegetable and fruit (other than berries), in such a manner that let’s you decide how many you need. Every year I look forward to Clementine season and every year I toss out about half of which I buy. When people come over I end up pushing clementines on them…no, really, please take twelve home with you.

I can’t believe that Christmas is around the corner. We don’t even have a tree yet, which is infinitely disappointing since I am the type that puts up a tree on Thanksgiving weekend. But the weekends are just flying by, and all we have done is place a few snowmen around the house. I will consider this holiday season a success if we can get a tree up before Christmas and if I can make it through to January without hearing the damn barking jingle bells song.

In a move that can only be chalked up to denial, I am buying books like a person who has time to read them. Unless I am sentenced to a few months in jail (always a possibility) there is no way I will get through my stack of books. Fiction, nonfiction, how-to guides, cookbooks. I can’t stop buying them and stacking them up on my nightstand. This is akin to my magazine addiction. I have loved magazines since I could read. As a child I was a regular reader of such journalistic wonders as Sticker Magazine, Teen, Seventeen, Young Miss-turned YM, Mad, Crack’d. Nothing made me happier than having a neat little stack in my room, to be read while eating gummi bears. It’s no wonder that I ended up working at magazines as an adult. If you believe the theory (and I do) that you read magazines that represent the you you want to be, then you can tell a lot about me based on my stack: Martha Stewart, Runner’s World, Country Home (a new addition to my list), and the Pottery Barn catalog.

Anyone see that article in Newsweek on fertility and diet? I bought this issue, lured in by the promise of some groundbreaking discovery, like raw potatoes increases fertility by 70 percent or something else bizarre. Instead it was yet another rehashing of eat more fruits and vegetables, eat less carbohydrates, limited fats and oils and go easy on the meat. How is this groundbreaking? That was pretty much my diet anyway and it still took me years to conceive. When will this be moved to the old news file?

A friend of mine said to try to be the parent you want your children to be someday to their own kids. I keep turning this around and around in my head. It’s really great advice and makes me look at my day-to-day life in a different way. But, like all things, great theory; difficult to execute. Today is stretching before me and it is overwhelming. I feel like I overuse that word to the point of diluting its meaning. But it is overwhelming on a day like today, when it is raining so going out with the babies is out of the question. It should be outlawed, rainy days and mondays at the same time. I totally get that Carpenter song now.

Speaking of bad moms…Avery is watching the Today Show while I am sitting here with my computer (Maddie is napping). And a magazine editor who shall remain nameless is on TV defending the theory that there is such a thing as being too clean. A segment on how to shower and takes baths and deodorant soaps. Meredith Viera’s journalist credentials just dipped as she asked “How often should I wash my towels?” This is why I ended up leaving the magazine world, because things like this don’t deserve segments on the morning news.

Here's a fun real estate game, for anyone who is interested in these sorta things. Look at these two places. One is a two bedroom, two bath condo on the Upper West Side here in NYC. Here is a link to the NYC listing The other is a four bedroom, three bath house in Massachusetts with 650 feet of riverfront. Here is that link to the Massachusetts home. For the NYC place, try to scroll down and look at the pics and the floor plan. Skip the middle section where the price is listed. And for the Mass place, the price isn't listed on that site so browse away. I'm curious what you think these places should cost? Which is more expensive? How much would you pay to live in either place?

Above, Maddie and her's both food AND fun.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Deconstructing Goodnight Moon

Warning: It’s been a long day and a long night before and I am facing another long night followed by two long days and nights so this post may make no sense. Click away now, while you can.

I brought the girls in for their six month appointment for shots and, apparently, fevers. They were fine all day but then Avery developed a high fever (104.5) at night. Maddie had over 102. This, of course, lead to a certain amount of panic, complete with doctor calls and tepid baths and New Sleeptime Rules for the night, which basically meant anything goes. Both fevers came down, but not without a lot of worry and loss of sleep on our part. Then, this morning Nicole left for San Francisco for work. I begged her to take one (ha!). Alas. She is gone till Friday and I am home with both girls alone.

They were better today, as their fevers gradually got lower and lower until they were almost back to normal. But they were both a little tired today, and a little sad. (See above pictures).

They were in bed and asleep by 5:45 tonight, so I got to sit down and relax, happy to have the chance to finish re-reading an article that I found online. It is written by a professor from my journalism school, a profile of Jacques Derrida, that I read way back in the day during college. It is such a great profile, probably assigned during a features writing course. It makes me miss good writing. Anyway, in the article Derrida defends his “diabolically difficult theory” of deconstructionism, which is a literary construct that really fascinates me. Literally can change the way you think about any book you read. Or even movies you see.

I was thinking about the article while going through the nighttime routine with the girls. I am now on my 60th – plus reading of Goodnight Moon, thus beating my reading record of Little House on the Prairie series (maybe 12 times) and the Grapes of Wrath (maybe 6 times) in the category of Books I Have Reread the Most. Goodnight Moon, unlike those other books, gets very redundant after maybe three readings. Not too much to pick apart. Or is there?

I have never really been a fan of this classic that has captured the hearts of apparently millions and millions of readers. I also don’t like parades and a lot of other things that apparently the entire universe likes.

The girls are mercurial about the book. Some nights, Maddie will grab the book and even try to turn the pages, looking at it in that way that babies do, eyes wide and slightly crossed, mouth open, drooling. Other nights she will catch a glimpse of her waiting bottle and will scream until the bottle is in her mouth, refusing to even look at the book. Avery tends to be overwhelmed and astonished at this magical creation, which is new to her night after night. When she sees the book, she kicks her little feet and juts her hands out like Frankenstein, trying to grab the book from Nicole’s hands. It is as if she is thinking “What IS that amazing thing in mommy’s hands??” She’s like a goldfish. Sometimes they both just cry and cry, egged on by each other, and trying to outs-screech the other, prompting us to power read the entire text in under 20 seconds.

This book was written sixty years ago, written in the feminine rhyme, of which I am not a fan (I don’t really enjoy Dr. Suess), with black AND white and color illustrations. I would love to deconstruct it in that poststructuralist/Derrida sort of way, but right now all I can muster are a few observations:

• The book clearly utilizes the third person narrative, in the objective style, but there are not enough words to rule out omniscient or limited. Who is this masked observer? What is he doing in Bunny’s room?
• The bunny in the striped pajamas, the one going to sleep, starts his bedtime routine at 7:00 pm. That’s the time shown in the clock on the mantle in the beginning of the book. He does not go to sleep till after 8:00. He spends an HOUR saying goodnight to shit in his room. He is all over the bed until the last scene, when he is seen tucked under the covers, the ends of the sheets tucked under the mattress. This is clearly done by another person, this tucking. But we don’t know who. The narrator perhaps?
• There is a quiet old lady whispering hush who I can only assume is the bunny’s grandmother, as it would be rude to refer to the bunny’s mother as “old lady.” Grandma Bunny shows up around 7:20 and stays till the bunny is asleep. While the bunny child tosses and turns and talks to inatiminate objects around his room, she sits quietly knitting. She doesn’t address the poor restless bunny at all, except to whisper hush. Strange that a book designed to read to children to help them sleep includes a character who apparently will not read to her grand bunny to help him sleep.
• The Grandma Bunny’s refusal to read to the Bunny is further compounded by the fact that there is a copy of Goodnight Moon on the Bunny’s nightstand. Yes, there is a copy of the book in the book’s illustrations. Boggles the mind.
• There are kittens playing in the room. Illustrations also reveal a menacing mouse ALL over the room. Warming his paws in front of the fire, balancing on the bookshelf, playing within feet of the frolicking clueless kittens. One of the last illustrations shows the mouse hovering over the bowl of mush. Perhaps this is all seem as whimsical and cute, but I live in New York and find it disgusting and horrifying. Also, those cats should be fired because as far as I am concerned, a cat’s job is to keep the mice away.
• The narrator makes it a point to say that there is a telephone in the room, but does not say goodnight to said telephone. And what is the bunny doing to a telephone in his room? What is he, seven? Why does he need a phone on his nightstand? My 11 year old niece just got a cell phone recently, and I was very opposed to this, until today, when she used it to call me for help on her Spanish homework. Now I am a fan of her phone. But I digress…
• The picture of the three little bears sitting on chairs looks like a picture of the three little bears at a support group meeting. They all look somber, with their bear arms crossed and their faces looking down. This is not the best art choice for a little Bunny’s room.
• Is anyone else disturbed by the fact that there is a blank page that says “Goodnight nobody.” Am I the only one that thinks it is weird?? And there are lights on in the doll house (a.k.a. the toy house). That is just creepy.

But what is this book really saying? What does Margaret Wise Brown trying to tell us in her sparse prose? What does it all mean??

Ok, I need to just unwind with some mindless television or something before my head explodes…..

Pictured above are Madeline (almost 17 pounds) and Avery (almost 18 pounds, with messy bed head), both looking a little worn around the edges. Or maybe that is just me. Normally they love the computer camera! They can stare and laugh at themselves for hours! But not today. On the bottom are our four Christmas stockings. Four! I still still still have to pinch myself sometimes!

By the way, am messing with the template because I am bored to tears with my old template. And jealous of all those fancy templates at The Other Blog Site. Is this why people make the switch??