Monday, April 25, 2011

Have Boat, Will Travel

Easter has come and gone. Ours was great. Despite a freak mini snowstorm the day before (an hour and a half of snow, people!) it was a beautiful day up here. We had a pancake breakfast (Nana’s Famous Yeast Pancakes!), went for a hike to Picnic Rock (that’s what I named the quarry pond, because I like to name things) and ate a late lunch in town at a restaurant that was just barely appropriate for the girls (i.e., all crystal glasses, no children’s menu, lots of cloth and two kids who think it is funny, no, hysterical to yell out POOPOO DIARRHEA). All this, followed by ice cream and a relatively smooth bedtime for the girls, which meant Nicole and I could watch not one but two episodes of Modern Family. Easter miracle: she actually laughed out loud a few times!

I was having some Easter insecurity. Last year, my niece and nephew were up here with us and their absence this year left two little holes in my heart. I did not spend nearly as much time this year basket planning as I did last year, and I wonder if this is in part because all Easter prep work made my thoughts turn to Leif and Skye. Avery asked several times if they would be with us again this year. It was so hard to tell her no, they won’t.

This year, I didn’t even have a theme. I know, the horror. Nicole reassured me by saying how many themes can there really be, without getting redundant. But still. Bugs would have made a really get theme. Our eggs were sloppy (is there some sort of trick to this? Mine were awful!) and our house decoration almost nil, though I must say that is because I am not a fan of pastel or overly cutesy decorations. And I even waited uncharacteristically to the last minute to finish up basket shopping. Still, the girls seemed happy and I can always save my “bugs” theme for next year.

While we were all about chocolate bunnies and jelly beans, a friend of mine celebrated her 40th birthday on Easter. All I could think was, wow, what a great thing! Turning 40 on Easter, a day that celebrates rebirth and renewal. Imagine focusing being ‘reborn’ on your 40th, instead of feeling ennui and dread “the end is near”, as many do? Imagine thinking, this is a new day, a new start, a new birth?

When I was younger (yes, this means my 20s) change was elusive. I was more likely to float along and see where the tide took me instead of actually steering my boat. That lead to all sorts of chaos and interesting situations. By “interesting” I mean not good. This is not a recommended nor beneficial course for one’s career, social life, or romantic life. By 30, I patched up my hull, started steering, navigating by both stars and GPS. There was wind in my sails, a back-up engine to boot, and even a pair of emergency oars to help me push out of particularly murky, sludgy spots. I still take wrong turns and sometimes spend a little too much time in Toxic Coves, but eventually I remember, oh yeah, I don’t have to wait here for someone to tow me out. I have my own engine, and I am getting the hell out of here. And I’m really trying to remember this good advice I got: You can be upset for the next hour, then move on. Because, really, life is too short.

The older I get, the more cliché I am. To wit: It really is ALL in the journey. How often are we focused on that end goal and forget all the work that leads up to it. There are lessons in that work, and value in it, and fun. And that the decision to make a change in itself, that split-second moment when enough is enough or your back is against a wall or you are just ready, carries more weight and importance then the goal itself.

Like running a marathon. The reward is usually said to be crossing that finish line and getting that foil blanket. But really, what about the hundreds of miles of training? What about all the effort and time and dedication put forth? What about the lessons one learns about prioritizing? What about the days when you pound out a bad day with a good run? What about the bonds created by sharing this journey with others? So really, is the finish line the reward? Or just the start line to a new goal?

All things I need to remember: Boat, engine, stars, power, change change change and one hour, people, just one hour.

Pictured above, look closely at Avery in that top picture and, I hate to say this, but doesn’t Avery look a little…. possessed? But so cute in her little dress! I am destined to NOT have one good picture of me with my children!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Top Nine-and-a-Half Surprises About Parenthood

Arts and Crafts? What Arts and Crafts?: I am generally a crafty person. For me, the urge to craft can be acute, and if I don’t get a glue gun and some sea shells in my hand, I will explode. I always imagined myself as the mother who would idle away hours at a table with children coloring, gluing, stamping, creating, building, folding and lots of other verb gerunds. I imagine children with sticky fingers, gluey fingers, wearing Nicole’s old button down shirts as smocks. That didn’t quite happen. My girls are lucky if I toss a bunch of crayons on the floor and grab a couple of pieces of paper from the printer. OK, maybe that is a slight exaggerations (who, me?) but still. I am not nearly as creative as I should/could be.

In The Case of an Untimely Death: And I thought choosing a sperm donor was hard. Choosing a guardian for the girls spins me into a panic. I know this is because I set unbelievably high standards, higher standards, in fact, then I set for myself as a parent. I figure if Nicole and are gone, then the girls might as well upgrade in the parent department. So instead on focusing on figuring this mess out, I will instead focus on vigilantly guarding the continuation of Nicole’s and my lives. Which brings me…

Health Panic: Is it just a headache, or a slow-growing brain tumor? A slight cramp, or the beginning of uterine cancer? I’ve never been one to worry much about health (See: My 20s) but since having children, I feel particularly concerned about health and wellness, both mine and Nicole’s. Sure, I have my lapses, like that whole biopsy thing, which seemed easier to ignore than to deal with, but in general I am more apt to visit a doctor than I ever was.

Up Next, More Spongebob Squarepants: Before I had kids, I was convinced that television was The Devil and I would not let my children partake in it and its evil doings. Ha. I have since embraced television as the companion, babysitter and teacher that it is. The girls watch more television than I want them to, and I am okay with that. It is such a slippery slope: It started with “Just Sesame Street, and that’s it,” and I comforted myself with its overall educational message and alphabet teachings. The next thing I know, they are complaining that they already saw that episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (just kidding…). That said, they watch significantly less TV when we are in Massachusetts. But on a day like today, rainy, windy and chilly in NYC, we are stuck inside and well, I already wrote about the whole crafty thing so what else I there but TV?

Food, Glorious Processed Food: Oh, the food plans I had. You know how they say God laughs when you make a plan? Well, He must have been doubled over breaking ribs with laughter when he heard my food plans. To wit: I will breastfeed for a year, and not a drop of formula will pass these girls’ lips. The Reality: Madeline and Avery were happily drinking formula before they celebrated their 12th hour on earth. To say breastfeeding was not a successful venture is an understatement. I rallied when they started solid foods, blending and pureeing most of the food that they ate. But that stopped once they started eating finger foods. I say with pride that they have never eaten a hot dog, but they have eaten their weight ten times over in chicken nuggets. All those organic, healthy balanced meals that I vision in my head and just that: Visions. A typical meal is the aforementioned chicken, ketchup, carrots and cut-up apples. Keep in mind this is what is offered to them. What they actually eat: Usually just the ketchup, which they shovel to their mouths with a carrot stick. I am a very picky eater, so I give them wide berth when it comes to these things. When I whip myself up into a panic state I tell myself I will not be worried until their doctor tells me I should be worried. That works most of the time. But other times, I fret. Are they getting enough Omega 3s for brain growth? Am I stunting their growth by not enforcing a strict, organic, locally grow diet?

Braveheart: I killed four stink bugs the other night and didn’t even flinch. Believe me, ten years ago, I would have gone running from them. This new found bravery isn’t an instant thing. It’s not like I had kids and suddenly –POOF— I erupted with courage and fearlessness. It was a gradual onset of fortitude. I can’t stress this enough: The fact that I can sleep alone in Massachusetts with the girls is huge. Huge! It is one of the few things that I am really, really proud of. And yes, I know we have an alarm system, but let the record reflect that I started the whole sleeping there alone thing before ADT came to our house.

Now, With More Cynicism!: I think I became slightly more cynical the second those little embryos adhered themselves to my uterine wall. Politics, the planet, human rights, gay rights, war, big business, banking: Everything seems to be going downhill. This was especially obvious this past presidential election, when I refused to get on board the Obama fan train. Yes, I voted for him, but I was cynical (there’s that word again!) that change would actually come. I will admit that he has checked off a few things on the list of Good Deeds Done, but it doesn’t seem like enough. Sometimes I wonder if this is just a by-product of aging. After all, people in their 20s can be so passionate about politics. But the older we get, the more jaded we are, the more we start thinking “What’s in it for me?” Will this eventually landslide into indifference? For now, I cleave to my cynicism, as it is better than being blasé.

Who, me, Paranoid?: This is a conversation I have imagined that my children will have when they are 22 years old:
Avery: Maddie, do you ever wonder about our sperm donor?
Madeline: Yes:
Avery: I hate Momma!
Madeline: Me too!

Again with hyperbole, but it gets the message across: I worry more than ever. I wonder all the time, am I a good mother? Am I doing a good job? Am I affectionate enough? Firm enough? Loving enough? Doing enough? Are the girls going to look back and say “Yeah, we had a really good childhood?” thus setting them up to create really good childhoods for their own children. This paranoia goes beyond my parenting skills. I worry about making the best educational decisions for them, too. But that truly is another series of posts.

I Make A Lot of Sound Effects/I Scat: Jewp. Scoodely Bop. Eeeps. Dingu dingu. Jeep. My children are almost four and I still say the most ridiculous things to them. This surely will lead to malnourished, TV-addicted, uncreative, hot-dog eating teenagers who speak sound effects.

And now for one thing I do better than I thought I would: We have all been inundated with studies that say how important this reading to your child is. I have written papers about this in grad school. I would spout statistics to anyone who would listen, even way before I had kids, which I’m sure wasn’t annoying (ha!). So I always thought I would take my own advice and read to my children, but I must say I read more than I thought I would. And believe me, this is not an easy task. At this age, Madeline points to EVERY person, animal or thing on a page and asks “What’s that guy saying?” and expects me to tell her what that guy is saying. And Avery likes to trace the letters. One book of, oh, 200 words and a very limited plot could take twenty minutes to get through. And after I finish a book, Madeline likes to "reread" it for Avery and me. It can be exhausting.There are times I want to snap the book shut and flip on the TV. But I don’t, and I am proud of that.

Pictured above: I wonder if my Facebook friends get tired of seeing me post the same pictures on my blog as I do on Facebook. I am Lady Redundant Woman. There’s Avery with her Do-Do-Do-Do-Do Dora “ice cream” pop. Yet another thing I swore my kids wouldn’t eat! And Madeline and Avery sitting on a bench. Do you think Avery will hate me for posting pictures like this some day?