Wednesday, December 31, 2008

You Better Be Good To Me (Why Can't You Be?): 2009 Edition



Edited to add: I'm doing the 365! I started a new blog for it, and will update it daily. http://www.365matters.blogspot.com/

You know those light-trail pictures? Like the one posted here? That it what this year feels like. It is all a blur. I could go on with all the clich├ęs about how fast time goes by and all that, but I won’t. Time goes by at a steady speed of one second at a time. When I am enjoying myself, those seconds go by very quickly. And when I am not enjoying myself, those seconds seem like an eternity. Luckily this year had a lot of good seconds.

Despite the gloomy financial forecast and despite the recession and despite the oncoming so-called Terrible Two’s times two, I am optimistic that this is going to be a productive and focused year. Within the first or second month, I think I am going to have some exciting news to share! Something I want to talk about now, but can’t, for reasons that will be clear. And no, it has nothing to do with fertility or babies or trimesters. How’s that for a cliff-hanger?!

So good-bye 08! And here is my end-of-year round-up:

Things I Am Happy To Leave Behind: The whole political season. And the word Change, which is so overused and logo-ed and gimmicked that it has been diluted of any true meaning for me. I think we should leave “change” in 2008 and adopt “action” in 2009. Action is the new change.

Biggest Holy Crap Moment: We bought a second home and became, I essence, my mother’s landlord at the same time. At maybe the worst economic times of my life. Holy crap.

I Never Thought It Would Happen, Part 1: After months and months of trying, I finally got the girls to tune into television. This seems counterintuitive, because isn’t limiting television a worthier goal? Yes, it is, but I need to have some pockets of time during the day when the girls are engaged in something so I can do things, like write about them on my blog. We only let them watch Sesame Street, and it used to be once a day. Then it became once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. Now it can be once in the morning, once in the afternoon and anytime Momma needs a break. (just kidding, sort of.) Now, of course, I have created monsters. They bring me the remote all the time and demand ABBY! They are the consummate Abby Cadabby fans.

I Never Thought It Would Happen, Part 2: The girls go to bed at 6:30 p.m. and sleep a good thirteen hours and they take three-hour naps in the day. Not bad, considering we started the year with them waking almost every morning at 4:30 a.m. to start their days, followed by intermittent and unreliable nap schedules. Having regular sleeping times makes me much saner. I’m sure it benefits the girls too.

Best Movie: Slumdog Millionaire and Frozen River were my favorites, both seen solo at the Lincoln Center theater. But Revolutionary Road is a close third, mainly for the last ten minutes of it. Amazing how much was said in those final, final moments.

Best Book: I read 26 books this year, which averages one every two weeks. Not bad, but still about twenty books behind President Bush. How is it the leader of the free world has so much time to read? I read an article about all the books that all the presidents read and it is much more than anyone I know is able to read. Olive Kittredge was the best written one I read, followed closely by what I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I really loved Edgar Sawtelle too. Great themes and some solid wring but a little long in parts.

Personal Pride Moments: I published the first two years of my blog into a real hard cover, dust jacketed book; a gift for the girls. And I edited a book and made some decent money doing too. Most valuable was that I remembered that underneath my oatmeal-dotted shirts and milk-stained jeans and sometimes ragged mommy appearance, I am a thinking woman who has certain skills.

Biggest Musical Surprise: Some of the Sesame Street songs are pretty catchy (“….and if I’m not mistaken, there’s an “i” in “thigh.”). And now, thanks to that show, I have an interest in Keb Mo.

Healthiest New Habit: Continued the running thing. It is amazing to think when I started I could barely run a quarter mile without having stop. And now I can do a good four miles plus at a solid ten-minute mile pace. And I can do a good nine-minute mile if I have some energy reserves. And I can even sprint for short bursts. My goal this year is to kick the gym treadmill to the curb and embrace outdoor running, rain, snow or shine. Also, I kicked my coffee creamer habit and switched to soy creamer instead. Baby steps.

Unhealthiest New Habit: Unfortunately, I have stopped my regular water drinking. I began to decrease my consumption because I found that when I was out with the girls it was impossible to use a bathroom. And drinking water guarantees hourly visits. I also tapered down when I found out my Nalgene was going to kill me. Transitioning to the Sigg was difficult. I do not like change. Regardless of why, the ramifications are terrible: I can see a difference in so many things, like how much slower my skin heals and how dry my skin gets. Ragged cuticles. Weaker nails. Lackluster hair. Water really is the miracle cure-all and I need to start drinking it again.

Biggest Computer Addition: Facebook and its time-sucker, Scrabble. I have played something like 60 games of Scrabble online this year with friends. My highest points for a word was 99 points for wraiths. I am mastering my parallel play skills and hope to break my high score this year.

Best Home Improvement: We painted the red entryway and hallway linen white. It makes a huge difference. I no longer feel like I live in some sort of bordello. That was fine when we were living the go-go life (ha!) but with kids, and spending a lot of time in the home now, the red was very claustrophobic. We also finally started to hang pictures, after five years of living here. When Nicole hangs a picture, it usually takes a ladder, several writing instruments, hammer, nails, a baseball cap, a level, tape measure and about four hours. Now that she has lowered her standards considerably, things are getting done much faster. Thank goodness. She hung up three pictures and several things in the kitchen in about five minutes.

Brush with Fame: I was on the Today Show, and Al Roker asked me the girls’ names on national TV. Hello, fifteen seconds of fame! And then Nicole and I and the girls were on this segment quiz called Who Knew. Hello, 15 more seconds. My ridiculous goal for ’09 is to be selected for a makeover. Yes, it has always been a dream of mine to be an After. Nicole said I am — and I quote — too beautiful to make over. She, as my wife, is required to say things like that. Still, a girl can dream of a haircut and color and new make-up and clothes. And if that doesn’t happen, maybe someone out there can just do my hair one day.

Most Played Songs on my Running iPod: Sugarbaby, So What, How Far We’ve Come, Heart of the Matter. Top album played is the new Pink album. But since I run on a treadmill with a TV on it, I spend most of my time watching the morning news. Weather and traffic on the fours! Darlene, back to you! Da-tails coming up! I want to transition back to mostly music, though. Forty-five minutes of redundant morning news makes me a little robotic

Wildest Animal Seen: We saw a bear crossing a windy country road in Northampton. I made Nicole stop the car and begged her to turn the car around, but she merely indulged me with a glance in the rear view and sped right along. Now I guess I know why she was in a rush. (See relationship highlight, below.)

Relationship Highlight: Engaged (proposed to at Paradise Pond on Smith campus) and married (in Look Park in a gazebo on a perfect fall day) in the same year! You can now call me Wifey McWiferson. Included in the Matrimonial package are a few rights, but none of those oh-so-coveted federal ones. Obama? Are you listening? Remember all that change you spoke of? This is where that change should become action. Oh wait, you don't believe in my marriage, do you? But you support my happiness. Gosh, what a difficult position for you to be in (ok I will stop being snarky. Yes, I used the word snarky.)

Relationship Lo-lights: A riddle: It seems that someone has a hard time sharing stresses and worries with someone else because someone else absorbs said worries and makes them her own and runs around the apartment yelling “We’re doomed! We’re doomed” even when we are not, in fact, doomed. Sometimes someone needs to just listen and stop turning it back to her. I think we all know who someone is in this scenario. And here’s another one: Someone needs to sometimes stop thinking about work and doing work and work work work and sometimes just sit down and listen to her wife talk on and on and on about nothing in particular. Just saying....

When Did I Become this Person?: Apparently in 2008 I became susceptible to infomercials. Yes, after viewing infomercials (at the gym, on the treadmill) I have purchased two random products: The Magic Bullet (an amazing blender system, for all of you with dirty minds) and a hair straightener (which works really well). Next up, a thighmaster and a real estate buying program. Just kidding. Perhaps this is a drawback of running. Yet another reason to get out on the gym and onto the streets. So to speak.

When Did They Become These People: Madeline and Avery are growing, and not just in their bellies. They eat three meals a day, sitting at the table. They climb by themselves into their seats. They are using spoons and forks (in a messy way) and drink from a cup if I feel like supervising them. They love playing in the tub. If you tell Avery to hug Maddie, she will run over to her and grab her and give her a bear hug. The run and climb and Avery can jump and get both feet off the ground. They are good eaters: For dinner they had chicken cutlet and broccoli and potatoes and blueberries. Maddie loves blueberries and yogurt and grapes and most fruits. Avery loves pasta with sauce. They both have acquired a taste for my favorite snack, pretzels. Madeline loves Nicole to the ends of the earth and will chose her over me almost every time. They call her Ammy, even though they can say Mommy. They call me Momma. Avery loves to dance and Maddie loves to sort and organize And they both love to climb into our laps to read any book. They say Abby, woof, moo, meow, doggie, shoes, duck, quack, sock, ammy, momma, nana, and are just starting to explore the word NO. All words are said in this funny little accented way. Avery said her first sentence: NO MOMMA! And she meant it. Avery is starting to try repeating words said to her. Maddie calls everything she doesn't know ZiZi. Who could ask for anything more?

Pictured above, the girls a YEAR ago.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

If Only All Crises Could Be Solved With Sticky Toffee Pudding




I think the holiday season drags dormant depression and angst and sadness out of everyone. Why? What is it about this time of year that has everyone a their wit’s end? Through catching up on everyone’s blogs out there it appears that I am not the only one going through this holiday madness.

But I have been doing a lot of thinking. One of my issues is that I define success through the eyes of others. How messed up is that? In my own eyes I have several accomplishments that I am proud of: I have a stable, healthy relationship with someone who I truly can call my best friend. I succeeded in quitting drinking and smoking, which was no easy feat. I finished college and two Masters degree programs. And, of course, my two girls. Most people might think having children is a gift or a blessing or whatever term you want to use. But considering how hard it was for us, and how many miscarriages and chemicals and rounds of IUI and IVF we endured, how we bent our relationship to the almost-breaking point as I dipped in extreme depression, and how lucky we were to make it to the other side of infertility, yes, I consider Madeline and Avery an accomplishment. Perhaps the biggest one.

My lesson in life is to learn to not care what other people think. Is that even possible? Can anyone do that?! Please pass on the secrets to me.

There is so much about my life that I love. Nicole, the girl, my family, my friends, my home, my life in general. I feel so lucky in so many ways. I AM lucky in so many ways. But the reality is, the truth is, the heart of the matter is I feel a bit lost sometimes on the career front, and that really can make me feel worthless and loser-like. I’ve said this before, but it doesn’t help being married to a Career Super Star. I also think I am a victim of changing focus too much: From passions to security to money to relationships to, sadly, drinking. I knew, for example, the career path I should take, but my priorities were way out of whack. Instead I poured a lot of my energy and focus into my relationship, because I feared I would not survive a broken relationship (a legacy that many people from divorced families suffer from, I think). I had to make that relationship work, no matter what. Talk about unhealthy. In the end, I never focused on anything long enough, which is why it all sort of fell apart in my 20s.

Now I am in my mid-thirties. In many ways, I have more than I ever even dreamed I would. But I still wonder what I am going to do when I grow up. I try to remember my own advice and counsel, how I believe we all have to stick our hand into the trouble bag and pull out a few misery marbles. Some people have amazing careers, but awful marriages. Some people have awesome marriages, but awful health. Some people financial security and then some, but no true friends. We all get checks in the plus column and checks in the minus column. We all have issues and crosses to bear and challenges in life, reasons to throw our hands up in the air and scream “I give up.”

This career thing is mine. And I am still trying to figure it all out.

On a bittersweet note, I am a published writer! I say this tongue-in-cheek, because really, I am a self-published author, via lulu.com. But I think it is funny, how my first dream, my only true career aspiration was to be a writer, and I am, but not in the way I thought. I cut and paste every blog entry and compiled it into two volumes. The first volume, 2006 and 2007, is almost 250 pages! It is my Christmas present to the girls, and will be every year. I am excited because I want the girls to know who I am and know how hard I try to be a good mother to them. It looks and feels like a real book: Hard cover and dust jacket and all that. I had to design the cover and flaps, so it looks a bit amateur, but still. The book is for sale on lulu, but I imagine I will be the only one buying copies. I wanted to include all the pictures, but that would make the books cost almost $150 PER copy!! And it could only then be printed in soft cover, and I am a hard cover snob.

I think all of you out there with blogs should do the same. Having everything on the computer backed up somewhere in cyberspace is great, but having it in a book form is even better. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to talk you through the process and forward templates, etc. And I will post pictures of the book when it arrives. You can see the cover and a little bit of it here.You can also read my copyright page, which in retrospect, seems like it was written after a few too many egg nogs.

Thanks for all of your comments. I think we should all commit to making 2009 the year we are really start working out some of these deep issues. Which means we all have to commit to being really really honest.

Pictured above, pictures from Nicole’s and my annual eve of Christmas eve (or eve of eve of eve of the eve) dinner at Tea and Sympathy, this tiny British south of Chelsea but just north of the West Village. I got the macaroni and cheese and she got the chicken and veggie pot pie and we split sticky toffee pudding for dessert. You might call the picture of Nicole out-of-focus (wow, how fitting for me!) and over-saturated, but I’d like to think it is a bit artistic! And wow I so want to fix that crooked picture over her right shoulder!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Anonymous Commentors, Start Your Engines



I still am stuck on the statistic I read a while ago that stated the average couple engages in meaningful conversation for only 15 minutes a day. Chats about what’s for dinner and adjective-free recaps and calendar updates don’t count. That is horrifying, yet completely plausible. There is a certain comfort in being able to share space without having to fill it with chatter or small talk, but, at the same time, it is so easy to slide from that comfort zone into relationship distance. That transition from family of two to family of more is difficult. I can totally see how couples can grow apart after raising kids, and divorce after 20 years or more of marriage. As parents we all become a super-sized, overextended version of ourselves. And our focus is immediately divided. What’s best for a family isn’t always what’s best for a couple.

I bought a book once about important questions that every couple should discuss before they marry, and Nicole and I used to read them and answer them over dinner. Questions like “How do you see the division of household duties” and “what kind of retirement do you envision.” It was a great exercise and I really enjoyed it. I wish we could do that more, but dinner these days aren’t conducive to meaningful conversations. That said, I think we do okay with the whole talking thing, maybe better than this 15 minute average. But I think we could do a lot better. Or, more to the point, I wish we could do a lot better. Life always gets in the way.

And it is not just abut talking: It’s about listening too. I have to work hard all the time to be a better listener. Usually, I am the talker and Nicole is the listener in this relationship. I can talk for hours; she can sum up her thoughts in four words or less. This dynamic can implode at times, because sometimes the listener needs to talk and feel like she is being heard. So when Nicole is talking about how sad she is that her sister’s dog just died, I have to literally stop myself from talking about how sad I was when my dogs died; about how I read an article about how pet grief is treated by therapists; etc. Instead, I tried to just listen and not bring it back to me. Novel, no?

About a week ago (maybe more) I had a mini breakdown. I think it was hormonally enhanced, but I just had one of those Future Attacks, when I worry about who I am and where I am going and who I am going to be in five years, ten years and twenty years. It is a familiar refrain for me and I have a feeling I will be struggling with this for the rest of my life.

It is very easy when you are a caretaker to lose sight of who you are and what you want. Yes, I wanted to be a mother, badly, and yes, I want to stay home with my children, and I am happy with all of the choices I have made in my life (with a few notable exceptions) but, at the same time, the me who I thought I was seems like such a distance memory and the me who I thought I would be seems like a pipe dream. Stopping drinking adds a dimension to this too because for years, the bar-hopping drinking girl was imbedded in my identity. Part of me will always be the girl who will drink you under the table. And now I am the girl who cleans up food scraps under the table.

Nicole handled the crying jag really well, and even devised a project for me designed to help me clarify where I want to go, which I should be working on now, instead of writing this. It’s all about balance balance balance. I need time for me and time for us and time for the four of us as a family and time with friends and time with family. I need time to write and create and read and relax. And all of these things need to be smushed in between taking care of the girls and the house.

Writing really is a great barometer as to my mood and disposition. These days I am struggling to write new posts because, once again, I am trying not to write about what I need to be/should be writing about. And a play-by-play of my days is just not interesting. Who am I am? Where am I going? Do I define myself by my relationships, my accomplishments or a combination of those two things? I am really good at burying things inside me and avoiding them. And when I do that, I can’t write; at least, I can’t write anything of meaning. Coming up with sentences that string together in paragraphs that make sense become impossible. But I can still be a mean bullet list!

I have a couple of intenser-than-just update posts that are digging deeper into this issue, but don’t want to get into them now, since it is the holiday season and there is so much to do and so many places to be. And besides, you people are busy with your own lives and I need attention and suggestions and ideas and guidance, which you may not be able to provide since you are wrapping presents and all. But please stand by, because I will be needing the Internet wisdom very soon.

Or, if you feel like it, leave another anonymous comment sharing what you are struggling with in your life or your relationships. I feel like the more people talk about issues, the more we all realize we are not alone and the more chances we have to surmounting said problems. At least that works for me.

Pictured above, a green, earth friendly toy (kind of). I froze a couple of plastic toys from a sorter set in a chunk of ice and let the girls go to town with it the kitchen floor. They played with it for a half hour! It was very cute, watching them explore this ice with most of their senses. They were kicking it back and forth between themselves. And it ended as play sessions usually end: With the toy (ice) in their mouth.

Monday, December 08, 2008

If Your Name is Nicole, Do Not Read This Post


I woke up on Sunday morning with that awful twitch/throb feeling in my lip. I turned the bathroom and linen close upside down, looking for my magical cold sore cream, to no avail. All I could do is wait wait wait (tick tick tick) for the inevitable to happen. Which it did, in mere hours.

This is the worst cold sore I think I have ever had in my entire life. Actually it is two cold sores that are slowly merging together. Nice. My upper lip is so plump at it curls up my lip a little and exposes my front teeth, like a chipmunk. It hurts terribly. I haven’t had one in a very long time. I think this monstrosity came because I just got my flu shot, and even though my doctor told me to up my Vitamin C to compensate for my temporarily-deficient immune system, I didn’t. So I imagine my immune system is slightly compromised and boom, this thing blooms. Good thing they only last for a week or two (yes, I am being sarcastic).

In other health news, Avery’s hand surgeon appointment went well. The doctor confirmed that her cyst is of the safe variety. He said it will most likely get bigger and bigger, so we will need to remove it at some point. She would indeed need anesthesia, but he was very reassuring about that, saying that there was zero risk of side effects. Yes, he said zero risk of anesthesia aside effects. I thought there were no absolutes in medicine? He said Nicole and I just had to decide when we were comfortable doing it. That could take a very long time.

So Christmas is 17 days away and I am still wondering what to get Nicole. She is a very difficult person to shop for. I am so easy: You could buy all of my gifts at the drug store and I would be thrilled. I have hobbies that require many accoutrements, so there is always an endless list of things I will covet. And, of course, there is always diamonds and pearls and the Mac store.

Nicole is not easy at all. She typically buys what she wants and needs, and that said, she doesn’t want and need much. I am trying to think of the last recreational thing (besides clothes) she bought herself and I am drawing a blank. Probably a book, and I most likely bought it for her. In addition, Nicole has few gift-able hobbies. She watches football, but that doesn’t require accessories. She plays golf, but her golfing days are limited, between work and the girls and life in general. She likes to read, but books as gifts lack that wow factor. She doesn’t wear jewelry, and I have already indulged in her cuff links desires over the past seven years of birthdays and Christmases and anniversaries. How many pairs of cuff links does one girl need?

In a bold move of originality and way-out-in-left-field ridiculousness, I have been thinking about getting her this mainly because she has shown an interest of late in this and I am so desperate for her to develop an interest in something that can be useful in gift-giving occasions that I am willing to jump start it. But I am not sure she will be thrilled to bits, and that is what I am going for. And this product has a very interesting return policy, so I need to make sure she will like it if I buy it (if you send it back, unopened, you still fork over 50 bucks just for the honor of having it in your home).

I know the holidays are not about gifts and all that, but all the same I wish I could think of something spectacular to get her. She goes out of her way to find amazing presents for me and I just want to be able to do the same.

I have been a crappy blogger of late. I need to update more.

Pictured above, the weekend. I have a whole series of pictures of Avery running into Nicole’s arms. Too cute. And Avery with her newly older cousin. Also pictured, my crazy lip, taken with my computer camera. Yes, I posted a picture of me with cold sores. Hopefully the other pictures balance the ugliness out. Be glad you aren't me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Challenged by the Idea of Some Challenging Challenges



I guess most people wait for January 1st to make big changes or enact resolutions, but I am starting early this year. I never much liked the artificiality anyway of the concept that JUST because it is January 1st, suddenly so many things are going to change, that I will wake up a lean, mean change machine. It smacks of “I’ll start that diet on Monday,” which means the weekend will be a bingeing free-for-all setback that usually doesn’t not bode well for Monday’s new start. Personally, I am not motivated to start a new way of eating after eating a box of Oreos, a few pints of ice cream and Junior Mints. But that is just me.

Anyway, somewhere in my internet travels I came across The One Hundred Challenge and I am going to do it. It is a program that promises to get you doing close to 100 push-ups in six short weeks. I took the initial test and I am proud (ha!) to report that I can do two whole good-form push-ups! Go me. All those years at the gym are paying off! (please note I am being very sarcastic.) Not an auspicious start, but regardless, I supposedly will be significantly increase the number of push-ups I can do in the next 42 days. It seems to follow the marathon training philosophy of build and rest and taper. Perhaps I am not doing this in the spirit in which the designers intended, because I feel like there is no way this will happen, so part of me is doing this to prove it will never happen. But I am willing to give it the college try anyway and will faithfully follow the program and continue with my daily runs, etc. and not sabotage myself.

If it works, I am going to do the half-marathon training program. And then I am going to do the 365 days of self-portrait challenge that Cali told me about. And I really really want run a half marathon and work on my photography skills so I am going to work hard to make this push-up thing work.

I feel like a train wreck this morning because the girls had not one but two visits to mommies’ bed last night. It was a bizarre night in general, which included a visit from the fire department to our building because there was a weird smoky smell. Nothing like three big shiny fire trucks out front to remind you that your precious life rests in the hands of a building-full of people who might smoke in bed, burn their Hamburger Helper of misuse space heaters, all resulting in mass incineration and insurance bureaucracy. The girls then woke up, most likely from the sirens or maybe the alarms going off, so we brought them to our bed, which they took as an opportunity to practice jumping. After we settled them a little we put them back into their cribs. All was fine until midnightish when Avery cried again. It might have been because her bedroom was the temperature of a rainforest (we suffer from the NYC apartment issue of too much heat or not enough). We went in to get her but Madeline heard us, of course, and, not one to be left out of the fun, insisted on joining us in the bedroom too for another fun-packed episode of jumping, laughing and battling to sleep on Mommy’s chest (not mine).

When the alarm went of at 4:45 this morning I had to convince myself to get up. And you know what the incentive was, besides coffee? That stupid 100 push-up challenge! I WILL build arm strength, dammit! I will run a half marathon! (in one day, that is.)

Avery has added a new word to her vocabulary: Up. She also says Mina, which her aunt’s name and her sister’s middle name. Both girls says Nana and Pop Pop and ball. They still call Nicole Ammy, but they know how to say Mommy, so we are thinking this is their first nickname. Madeline likes to carry a purse now. If this persists, she will be the only one in her immediate family who carries a purse.

Avery has an appointment with the hand surgeon today to look at the growth on her finger. It is the same hand surgeon that removed that disgusting pyogenic granuloma from my left hand when I was pregnant. I really liked him and his colleagues. So far other doctors have said that it is not serious and can be removed for cosmetic reasons, but that would require full anesthesia because she is to young to keep still for and use a local anesthesia. To which we respond, no way. Not putting our second-born under to remove something for cosmetic reasons. She will have to wait till she is old enough for a local. But we are having Mr. Hand Surgeon take a look anyway because he is awesome and if he saws just wait, it’s fine, I will feel a hundred times better.

Any read the surrogate article in the New York Times on Sunday? I am not really a fan of the writer who wrote it (I find her a little self-absorbed and her articles and subjects a little shallow) but I did like that the infertility world was given prominence. I had a hard time getting past the annoyingness f the writer. It was filled with telling contractions and the picture of the author and the baby nurse? That spoke volumes, but probably not the volumes she wanted. And I can’t help but think how a (minimum) 25K solution to fertility issues is not exactly viable for 99.99 repeating percent of the infertile population. I feel sympathy for a woman who had four miscarriages and 11 failed IVF cycles. I am still thankful for my two girls and literally think that almost every day.

Pictured above, if you look at the picture of Avery with the cup, you can see the growth/cyst/thing on her left hand. Thank goodness it isn’t vascular.