Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Sandy's Trees

Our neighborhood in Brooklyn was left relatively unscathed by Sandy and her wrath. But even here, she claimed her fair share of trees.

Clinton Avenue, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn / October 30, 2012

Willoughby Avenue, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn / October 30, 2012

Willoughby Avenue, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn / October 30, 2012

Linking up with other Wordless Wednesday participants here:

I had to ditch my terrible commenting system, but I didn't want to lose the comments, so here they are:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Hater, Candy Lover

I admit it. I hate Halloween. While everyone else is ransacking Ricky's for costume ideas, I'm usually at home swearing I'm not going out, until the last minute when I hastily throw a lame costume together.

The unfortunate thing about being a Halloween Hater is that I'm a hopeless Candy Lover. Capital L-O-V-E-R. This year, however, Henry is simultaneously providing the perfect excuse for avoiding Halloween parties and a foolproof path to free candy. Double score. Thank you, sweet vampire baby.
You're welcome, Moo Cow. I love you.

I don't know the origin of my disdain for Halloween. Perhaps I don't like to be frightened, and Halloween is all about the spooks. As a child, I would strain each year to recall which house to skip. You know, the one with the guy who answered the door in a super-scary mask and stared at us silently until we were scared silly. Then, apparently satisfied, he would give us one piece of candy each. Douchebag.

Or, how about the razors-in-candy urban legend of the 1980s, when my mom (along with every other parent in the free world) would cut all my Halloween candy into small pieces to check for razors and pins. Way to take a fake holiday centered around costumes and candy and turn it into a lesson on domestic terrorism. To this day, I eat candy by breaking off pieces instead of biting into the bar.

Then there's the basic sexism of Halloween that irks me. I remember my mom dressing up for Halloween parties as a Playboy Bunny, a leotard-clad devil or a French maid, while my dad got to be Zorro, Superman or a Crayola Crayon. Witness:

My parents, October 1982
My mom made that crayon costume. But the greatest thing
about this photo is my dad's hipster mustache and sneakers.

As an adult, I am consistently frustrated by my inability to buy a regular witch costume; it has to be a slutty witch. Or a slutty nurse. Or a slutty pumpkin, with apologies to How I Met Your Mother. It's hard to find a costume that is comfortable and not revealing without dressing up as something dorky and unattractive like, I don't know, Yoda's step-sister.

Slutty Devil, a classic
Photo credit: DivineLegs000
Slutty Umpire??
Photo credit: DivineLegs000

My favorite childhood Halloween memories include dressing up and going around with my sister. When we returned home, we would painstakingly divide the stash.

I think I liked cataloging the candy more than eating it. We would go up to my room -- with the pink walls and red shag carpet -- and spill the contents of our bags onto the floor, picking through the Smarties, Dots, Butterfingers and the occasional apple, which we, of course, weren't allowed to eat in case it had been poisoned.

Me (Halloween slut-in-training), my sister and my cousin, October 1984
Me (slacking in the slut department) and my sister, October 1985

Two years ago, Halloween got a little better. My niece was finally old enough to understand the holiday, so we all dressed up and drove out to New Jersey, where she lives, to trick-or-treat.

Rayne wore the absurdly expensive real lederhosen he had purchased in Munich for Oktoberfest to amortize the expense over every Halloween or costume party for the duration of his life, per my instructions. (But I didn't buy the hat! he had protested.)

I went as a rockstar, using guitars from my Xbox 360 Guitar Hero and Rock Band sets (nerd alert!). I bought Hudson a rocker t-shirt and a pair of doggie jeans and strapped two drumsticks to his back, which he promptly ripped off.

And now, Super-Franken-Double-Probation-Storm Sandy has arrived, threatening to ruin one of the first Halloweens I've actually been looking forward to. The plan is to dress Henry as a monkey and go trick-or-treating in the Jers with the cousins.

What's worse, I may not get to exercise a mother's prerogative and steal his candy while he slumbers. (I know you did it, Mom. No use denying it.) Divine retribution, perhaps, for all those Halloween-hating years.

Am I the only Grinch who dislikes Halloween?

Friday, October 26, 2012

There But for the Grace of God Go I

I continue to perseverate over the stabbing deaths of two children by their nanny on the Upper West Side.

I can't stop. I try not to read the articles, yet I find my fingers typing "nanny stabbing UWS" into Google search. My heart flutters downward; I feel the slow creep of nausea coat the lining of my stomach. My breathing rate increases ever-so-slightly.

I don't know what I would do.

The family's blog, Little Miss Lucia, was pulled from its host. I breathe a guilty sigh of relief. I don't want to look at pictures of a family now irreparably shattered.

In some places, like Urban Baby, people are actually blaming the family for not recognizing that the  nanny was "crazy." I've also caught whiffs of the old Mommy Wars -- "should" a woman work or stay at home? As if somehow that matters one iota in this situation. As if such a despicable act could not have occurred in one scenario versus the other.

I know people are simply looking for ways to explain why this horrific scene could not have happened to them. I understand the psychology. The longing to believe that your own children are safe in your caretaker's hands. That such anguish would never be yours to suffer.

But such self-centered drivel is quite sickening to read in the face of true heartbreak and sorrow.

And then there's a lingering discomfort: Why don't I (we?) get this worked up when a three-year-old is shot in a Brooklyn project or a four-year-old is killed by a stray bullet on a Bronx playground? Why don't I obsess uncontrollably over the children being killed in Syria?

The truth is, I do hover on these articles and news clips longer than I probably should. Rayne sometimes has to pry my smartphone out of my hands at night. I cry over a lot of these stories even as I try to push them out of my head.

How else to move forward in this world but to assume tragedy will not befall your family?

But this... this feels different. It's so close. Literally and figuratively. As my friend Kate said, "I know kids die every day in every horrid way but this feels so uncomfortably 'there but for the grace of god...'"

I kiss my sweet sleeping baby, and my breathing becomes shallow again. My throat constricts; I drop tears onto his clean sheets, his new cotton sleep sack. I turn and leave his room, knowing in the depth of my soul, at the crux of my being, that something inside of me would have died, too. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Breaking Sadness

Two children, aged 3 and 5, were stabbed to death, allegedly by their nanny, this afternoon on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (a rather posh neighborhood), according to Gothamist.

NBC News writes, "Neighbors said they heard the mother's screams from her apartment as she called 911."


My heart and soul go out to the family. I hope some day they can find peace.

I am not sure I could ever bounce back from something like that.

Suddenly, the smoke in my apartment doesn't seem so earth-shattering.

[Update 10/26/12: The children were a two-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl.]

This Apartment Reeks

You'll recall, perhaps, from my earlier posts, Toxic Shock Syndrome Part I and Part II, that one of the big reasons we moved to Brooklyn was to escape the obnoxious second-hand cigarette smoke that poured into our apartment on a daily basis from the two apartments across the hall.

Well, I'd been smelling smoke again -- marijuana mixed perhaps with the faintest dabbling of regular old death sticks cigarettes. It was always near the foyer and by extension, the desk where I sit this very moment.

I have a super-sensitive sense of smell. I'm rarely wrong. It's a curse, really, especially for someone living in New York.

Rayne, who has nearly no sense of smell or taste (thus his fondness for coating every food known to man with Sriracha), at first did not believe me.

Then he said he believed that I smelled it. (Read: But not that it exists.) I wanted to scream. It became my mission to prove to him that smoke was, indeed, seeping into our apartment from an unknown source.

Every day I would make him come over and stand in the exact place I was.

Now, inhale. I would say.

Nada. Maddening! Almost as maddening as the fact of the smoke. (Almost.)

Finally, it got so bad -- every morning and every night -- that even Mr. No-Nose could smell it.

I took to the stairwell like a sleuth and identified the culprits (one floor down) by sticking my super-schnoz into the crack of their door. Sure enough. Since the weather has turned cooler, I bet they have closed their windows and stopped smoking on the roof. That's just my guess.

Look, here's the thing. I do not give a flying fishtank if you or anyone else smokes weed. Knock yourself out.

But I have a child. And a not-unfounded preoccupation with second-hand smoke and air pollution from the highway 200 feet from my window.

Also, I loathe the smell of smoke. Any kind. My coats are starting to smell. My writing area reeks. Even my babysitter remarked on it.

I feel so defeated.

Has anyone had any luck with devices that clear the air of the smell of smoke (either for us or for our lovely neighbors)?

No smoking, please.
(Read: I hate you so much.)

Photo credit: David Hegarty

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How to Feed Your Melon

My sister sent me this hilarious link to a post going around the UK "mummy" blog circuit. It's a series of "tests" to take to decide if you are ready to be a parent.

Rayne, my sister, her husband and I all had different favorites, depending, I suppose, on which level of Dante's Baby Inferno we were on that particular day. Mine was Test 9: Feeding a 1-year-old.
1. Hollow out a melon
2. Make a small hole in the side
3. Suspend the melon from the ceiling and swing it side to side
4. Now get a bowl of soggy cornflakes and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon while pretending to be an aeroplane.
5. Continue until half the cornflakes are gone.
6. Tip the rest into your lap, making sure that a lot of it falls on the floor.
Test 9 resonated, because feeding Henry has become, shall we say, a challenge.

Whatchu lookin' at, Moo Cow?
Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to announce here on my blog that I have a solution.

At first I thought we simply needed a table big enough to prevent my darling child from throwing everything on the floor. Rayne came up with a better idea. The table should be slanted, like a cone of baby-eating hell, so that whatever said baby throws just rolls down the walls back to him. Spoons, food, puffs, this toy that he is obsessed with yet keeps throwing overboard:

"The animals have something to say!"
Here, let me show you what I think the whole contraption should look like. Please note that this diagram represents a cross-section of the table; in reality, the cone would surround the child.
In order to feed your child, you'd simply roll food down into the cone, and let him eat it, smash it between his fingers, smear it in his hair, throw it and so on. No swinging melon with which to contend. No mess on the floor. No bending over again and again and again and again to pick up his spoon.

Problem solved.

I think this idea is genius and don't know why it has yet to be invented. So far the only dissenter has been Hudson, who has taken quite a liking to Happy Baby puffs.

Please oh please don't take away the puffs!

Monday, October 22, 2012

This Apartment Rocks

Last week Rayne and I put some finishing touches on our apartment.

It can be a bit of an uphill battle, but once I get Rayne going on cleaning and organizing, he is a machine. My personal Dirt Devil. And Roomba. And MacGyver. And Alton Brown. It's quite fabulous, actually, given how much I despise housework.

My hubby, he even uses a tape measure to put pictures up on the walls. So they're perfect, you see? What more could a girl ask for?

Anyhow, we had a few square glass vases that once housed flowers from our baby shower. Rayne suggested we fill them with colored glass beads and place them on the window sill for decoration. Cute idea, right?

It was late at night when I went online to find something suitable. On Crate and Barrel I happened upon these River Stones, and through some inexplicable short circuit in my mommy brain, I actually bought them.

From the website: "Hand-gathered natural river stones are sorted, tumbled and waxed by hand to provide a natural accent for candle displays, vases and fountains."

Sorted, tumbled and waxed by hand. By hand! Obviously they were perfect.

A few days later, my bourgeois folly arrived in the mail: a cardboard box containing a plastic jar of rocks. The rocks had broken the cap off the jar. Because they were rocks. In a plastic jar.

Rocks! I bought rocks. I BOUGHT ROCKS. I paid money for rocks. R.O.C.K.S.

I live in a building in Brooklyn filled primarily with artists and hipsters. My contribution to the neighborhood is gentrification via the online purchase of hand-gathered ROCKS.

Please make me feel less bad about myself. What have you recently bought that makes you shudder?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Perfect Visit

Last week I went to visit colleagues at my former place of employment, an excellent suburban hospital about 40 miles north of the city.

In some ways, it felt like yesterday that I left; in others, it felt way longer than the year it's been.

It was really nice to see everyone and catch up. Henry enjoyed it, too. Here he is with the Chief Financial Officer. I think they were going over the latest financial statements.

I think your interest rate assumptions might be too aggressive.
Let me eat the paper and see.

Photo credit: Jen DiChiara

Yet when I returned home from the three-hour visit and the two-plus-hour drive up and back (shades of my former commute), I felt like I'd been hit by a fast-moving freight train. A half second too long of a blink, and I might have passed out on the couch. Way. Too. Much. Stimulation.

How on earth did I do this before?

Part of the fatigue, I realize, comes from no longer being used to an office environment. But another (big) part is that I am an introvert by nature. I need solitude to recharge, as opposed to some people (ahem, Rayne) who are energized by being around people.

I've generally come to understand my limits in social situations. I know when my social cup runneth over, and I leave before I lose my patience and say something snarky or, just as likely, fall asleep at the party.*

It's never occurred to me, however, that this basic need might be a big reason why I've not found peace in my professional life. I have taken countless Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests (INTJ for those of you familiar) and other personality assessments. None of these tests has ever suggested I become a manager in a bureaucracy. Like, for example, a hospital.

One of my work friends commented that it must be frustrating to be good at a job yet hate it. "Hate" is way too strong of a word -- I really liked the people I worked with (thus the visit) and was proud of the work I did while there. 

But it's true, the hours, the commute, the job itself left me decimated, deflated, depressed. I was always stressed out and frustrated. In fact, that's how it's been for all my corporate jobs, for-profit and not-for profit alike.

Being in a business setting brings out my worst, most perfectionist, most aggravated and aggravating side. In my work life, I always let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I can never seem to demand anything less than perfection from myself and those around me.

It's exhausting. For everyone.

When writing, in contrast, I rarely take such a hard line. I view writing as creative, expansive, exploratory. It will never, can never, be perfect, and I knowingly accept that truth. 

Nay, I embrace that truth.

And I'm way happier for it. 

Now, how do I pass this tiny nugget of wisdom on to Henry?

* I once fell asleep at a dinner party at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Yep, that was me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Housework Makes Me Want to Scream

I'm still working on a longer post about my visit to the hospital where I used to work. It will probably benefit from a little distance and pondering. Because in this post, I need to rant about how much I effing hate housework.

"The Magazine of Home Service"

Photo credit: alsis35

I really like the quotidian work of motherhood. I like taking Henry to the park, cuddling him when he's tired and reading him stories, even the same ones over and over. I don't even mind changing diapers, giving him a bath, feeding him and cleaning up his messes.

I know some women find the little tasks of motherhood distasteful, even disdainful. Who can blame them? Everyday mothering can be banal and menial, even mind-numbing. But I personally don't mind.

What I despise is housework. Dusting, watering the plants, making the bed, cleaning countertops. Hate, hate, hate, hate.

Unloading dishes from the dishwasher, folding and putting away laundry, cleaning pots and pans, cleaning the tub. Hate, hate, hate and MEGA-HATE.


Photo credit: lobstar28

I like to cook, but I hate having to clean up afterwards. I might like Swiffering if it didn't make my dog turn into a spastic Swiffer-attacking machine. Really, he goes berserk. It's maddening.

I can't believe that it took until the 1960s for women to start to reject their assumed role of unpaid housekeeper. How did the rage not bubble over sooner?

Photo credit: Luke Fritz

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sent to Bed Without Dinner

Rayne is sending me to bed at 9 pm. I am working on another post about my visit to the hospital where I used to work, but he won't let me finish. He says I'm tired, and I need to sleep. He says he is going to turn off my computer in two minutes. He's timing me. He's watching me. He's mean.

Good night.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hall Pass

Last week I found out that a college classmate of mine had passed away. I'm not sure what she had been suffering from. I just know that a 37-year-old woman departed this world, leaving behind a husband and three little girls.

It is a heartrending and horribly unfair turn of events. As my friend wrote on Facebook, "I feel like young moms should have a hall pass on mortality." A simple and elegant idea that we all know to be painfully untrue.

I wanted to write something eloquent, but it turns out I am speechless. So speechless, in fact, that I haven't even discussed her passing with my husband, sister or any of my friends. I'm too overwhelmed with sadness for her family and too filled with the rushing sound of my own mortality, like blood pumping in my ears. 


I have always been a little preoccupied with the eeriness of looking back on someone's life and realizing you know how it ends. (Is it just me?) I remember hanging out with Kim in college -- Homecoming, sorority parties. I didn't know then that her life would be cut short, too short. No one did.

I can't begin to imagine how I would handle the knowledge of my own imminent death, leaving my young family to pick up the pieces. No one likes to think about her own mortality, but with a child in tow, living has taken on an even greater urgency.

That untimely loss occurs all the time the world over does not soften the sting of injustice. I know people deal with bereavement differently, and I truly have come to respect those differences. (I admit that I didn't always.) But in times like these, my first thought is always to doubt the idea of an omnipotent God.

If I sifted through the dusty college photo albums that now live in my parents' attic, I know I would find a photo of her. But I took this one from college off her Facebook page and cropped out the other person. (I hope she doesn't mind.) I just wanted a photo of her as I remember her. Rest in peace, Kim.
RIP Kim (Bal) Sloper

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Slaying the Guilt Snake

My foot hurts.

The pain started several weeks ago and was exacerbated by my unexpected performance in the Staten Island Half Marathon last weekend.

I tried to get an acupuncture appointment that worked with my (and Henry's) schedule, but Deborah, my very excellent acupuncturist, is always booked. I've tried bringing Henry with me for appointments, but he's too big and busy to sit in the stroller for an hour. Those days are o-v-e-r.

Deborah had one appointment Thursday at 12:30, right smack in the middle of our baby swim class.

Anyone following this blog will know how I feel about baby swim class, but I think this post sums it up pretty well. In short, it's a lot of effort for a half hour of splashy splashy. Henry loves going, though, and it makes me happy to see him all soggy and smiley.

I couldn't very well skip baby swim class for an acupuncture appointment just for my foot. Or could I?

We moms are so "liberated" these days, criticizing the notion of self-sacrificial motherhood as unrealistic, passé and masochistic. There are a half million self-important articles on parenting sites and mom blogs about making time for yourself, ensuring that you are healthy and happy enough to take care of your kids.

But for all our grandstanding, the guilt still slithers in. Even for something as small as swim class for a 10-month-old baby. The question lingers: Do I have the right to do something for myself instead of doing something for him? Not just while he's napping or when I organize for a babysitter?

I went to acupuncture. To practice what I preach: that I'm still a woman whose needs sometimes supersede those of my baby. Sue me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Puppy of Sister of Destructo

Klutziness runs in my family.

My sister is the worst offender. The number of times she spilled her milk at dinner when we were kids defies logic. Her husband calls her Destructo for her tendency to break things and hurt herself, basically all the time.

I'm only slightly better. I have black-and-blues all over my legs from knocking into furniture and walls. When I cook, it's like a C-4 plastic explosive went off in the kitchen. One time when we were leaving a Broadway show, my heel caught the cuff of my jeans and I went unceremoniously down on the pavement, face first, in front of a mass of theater-goers. Need I belabor the point? Suffice it to say, Rayne started calling me Sister of Destructo not long after we got together.

And then, in January 2008, we were joined by Puppy of Sister of Destructo:

Baby Hudsy, 12 weeks

True to form, here is some of Hudson's handywork during the first five months he lived with us:

Loved these Reefs...
Teething wall

Tug o' war
Favorite slip-ons

Another teething post
Rug corner
Coffee table
One of many dead toys

Eventually he (mostly) outgrew the shoes and furniture issue, but every now and then a stray card or piece of paper gets ferociously destroyed while I'm not looking.

Which brings us to today's post.

Hudson is finally starting to make the connection:

Henry + Highchair = Food for Me

I encourage this, because I want Hudsy to love Henry as much as Henry loves him. At the moment, Hudson tolerates Henry's free-range crawling all over the apartment, but I can tell he's thinking Can you just put that back in Jail where it belongs?

When Henry is eating, however, Hudson is sure to snag some sweet potato thrown on the floor, puffs dropped off Henry's sticky palms, a tablespoon or more of fruit puree packets poured down the leg of the highchair. Et cetera.

And then, there's this:

Ladies and Gentlemen, Puppy of Sister of Destructo is back. Let the games begin.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Land of Tickle

When our babysitter arrived tonight, Rayne was tickling Henry, who was giggling and gasping for air. She commented how ticklish he is, even for her.

"I'm not ticklish," I said in my best Henry impersonation. (Other parents talk to each other in their children's and pets' presumed voices, right? Right?) "I'm American!"

"What?" Rayne asked (in his own voice).

"You know, American. Like, not from Tickle Land."

He stared at me blankly. The babysitter remained mercifully silent.

"Like, not Ticklish. American," I persisted.

Rayne laughed out loud -- at me, not with me. "That is the worst joke I've ever heard. That's a joke a three-year-old would tell."

I laughed, too, because, well, he was right. It wasn't funny. Either my brain is regressing in preparation for little boy fart jokes, or I'm a lot funnier on paper. Or both. (Probably both.)

"I still think it was a funny play on words," I insisted as we were changing for running practice.

"It wasn't a play on words."

"Okay, you're right. I guess I could have said 'Irish,' and you would have at least gotten the joke."

"But he's not Irish. He's American."

"I know, that's why I said it!"

"Still not funny. Plus, that's, like, the only nationality that ends in 'ish,'" he scoffed.

Finally it was my turn to scoff.

"What? No it's not."

"They all end in 'ese.'"

"Oh yeah? What about British, English, Polish, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish...?" I rattled off.

He looked sheepish. (Ha-ha! Sheepish! Get it? Anyone? Wow, tough crowd.)

"And Italianish," I added.

We were still laughing our heads off as we walked out the door, a nice problem to have after being together for six years.

Then again, I should have known it would be like this. After all, our relationship was founded upon a gaffe exchange.

When we first met, I spent ten minutes carrying on about the stupidity and immaturity of the 25-year-old finance boys in my office before finding out that he was a 25-year-old investment banker. (I was 30.) I tried to pull it back, but my foot was stuck so far down my throat that I tripped over my leg.

When we met again a couple of months later -- after having trained for three months with our marathon team -- Rayne spent the whole night flirting with me, only to call me Diana.

"I know it starts with a D!" he insisted at my incredulity.

Oh, well, that makes it okay, then. We should get married.

Indeed, our relationship was born in the Land of Tickle. At least it's a land full of laughs....

Photo credit: Mike Renlund

Sunday, October 7, 2012

P(retty) R(ad)

"What's wrong with this picture?" Rayne asked, holding up his running sneakers.

We had gotten up before the crack of dawn to go run the Staten Island Half Marathon (13.1 miles), arriving to the parking lot at 7:15 am. The race, the start of which was only about 50 yards from our car, was at 8:30 am, so Rayne had gone to get our souvenir t-shirts while I had curled up in the front seat to sleep.

(It sounds uncomfortable, but any uninterrupted sleep these days is miraculous.)

Forty-five minutes later, I was groggily trying to focus my eyes on Rayne's sneakers.

What's wrong with this picture?
"Oh no!" I gasped, as reality set in. "I don't think you can run the race with two right sneakers," I added unhelpfully.

"Yes, honey, I know."

And with that, I was running solo. The last time I ran Staten Island was with Rayne in 2006, when we'd only been together for four months. That race was my personal record (PR) for a half marathon. Since it was only the second I'd ever run, I've had a lot of personal "worsts" in the last six years.

Here I am before the race.
The gun went off. I was practicing a version of the Jeff Galloway run-walk method, which I had recently written about for Travlete, a website for endurance athletes.

So, the morning hadn't gone perfectly. I was wearing a new sports bra (a no-no for races), new running pants (huge no-no) and Rayne's nutrition belt, because the water bottles on my new hydration belt had spilled all over my bag and the belt in question. And my running partner was sidelined with a case of the colossal oops.

Despite all that, I was feeling pretty good. At the half-way point I knew I was going to have a good race. By mile 10 I knew I was going to beat my old time.

In the last 0.2 miles, I opened up my stride and finished with a bang, 2:11:20 (10-minute miles) a full five minutes (and three seconds) faster than my original PR.

All I have to say is:

SUCK IT, skinny, in-shape, well-rested, 31-year-old me. I'm faster than you!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hello Gift Horse, May I Peer Into Your Mouth?

Maybe it's because it's a sunny, beautiful day.

Maybe it's because I made it to the gym and had my first successful workout.

Maybe it's because Henry napped fairly well. (And I showered.)

I'm feeling rather optimistic today.

I know the crappens* is the funny, emotionally charged stuff; it's the easiest to write about. But my life is pretty good, and I'm probably the happiest I've ever been during a sustained period. I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Consider this post, therefore, an expression of general gratitude. Hopefully that will make up for all the past and future snark.

Happy Friday.

Photo credit: Paula Steele

* Crap that happens. It's a new term I just made up.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

It Doesn't Matter That You're Sick -- Crazy Street Person Edition

My first clue should have been that I didn't want dessert.

On my way to dinner with friends last night, I needed to make a detour to lend another friend my Graco Snap-n-Go stroller. I strolled it like an old shopping cart, with my tote bag and a crumpled up plastic rain cover in the basket.

The humid air grabbed a hold of my windpipe and squeezed. My mascara started running; my hair frizzed. In a misguided attempt to look cute, I was wearing a skirt and knee-high black leather boots. Instead, I looked like a schizophrenic hooker -- I swear, there's a baby in here, can't you see it? -- which I suppose is fitting, since I had learned earlier in the day that the street I now live on used to be a hooker highway. 

And not the good hookers, he added. The crack-head hookers.


By the time I carried the babyless stroller down the subway stairs, I was drenched. Beads of sweat rolled down my back and nestled between my butt cheeks. (That's what happens when they are a shelf.) I got quite a few odd looks. Like a perspiring woman with an empty baby stroller is the craziest thing these people have seen on a New York City subway? Really?

Dinner was fun, but by the end of the night, I was dragging and my throat was beginning to hurt. 

It could only mean one thing: Baby Germs

The night sped downhill. Henry awoke inconsolable at 2:10 am. I tried nursing, rocking, lullabies, nursing again, bringing him into our bed -- all to no avail.

Delirious with fatigue, my throat screaming for a lozenge (or an ice pop, which I did have while letting Henry scream in his crib for ten minutes), I decided to sleep on the floor of Baby Jail and let him play until he exhausted himself.

Baby Jail. Not as bad as it sounds, right?
Here is the convict trying to eat his way out.

At which point I stepped, with the full force of my considerable weight, on this enlightened wooden baby toy:

It hurt. A lot. I screamed as I went down. My instincts kicked in and I saved Henry from smashing into anything. Sadly, I can't say the same for myself. Rayne sprang out of bed at the sound of my fall and Henry's ensuing shrieks of fear. Hudson sprinted from the living room to his safe place (the foyer). He's no dummy.

And with that, nary a soul was asleep in the Moo Cow household. 

Eventually, I did fall asleep in Baby Jail with Henry playing quietly next to me. At 4:40 am, Rayne carried our angelic bundle of sleeping joy back to his crib and guided me to bed as well.

This morning I woke up with a full-blown head cold. And a black-and-blue the size of a dime on the underside of my foot. No biggie. It's not like I'm running a half-marathon on Sunday or a marathon in 30 (!) days.

I dragged us to swim class anyway, because, like I've said before (and again here), you can't call in sick mom.

After class, I crouched on the (I'm sure very sanitary) locker room floor and changed Henry. (Believe it or not, this is the best strategy I've come up with.) He was tired from a sleepless night and, inexplicably, having skipped his morning nap. He was hungry for lunch, pawing at my shirt and banging his face futilely against my chest. He screeched and flailed as I tried to stuff him into the Beco carrier.

An older woman paused a few feet from the spectacle. "Oh, poor baby!" she exclaimed.

"Poor mommy!" I responded.

Seriously. Henry was fine three and a half minutes later. I was the one sweating, sick and exhausted. And limping. And mumbling to myself like a deranged bag lady.

Did I mention exhausted?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tethered at the Heart

Rayne is away on business tonight; I am primed for melancholy.

I read this lovely post from one of my favorite bloggers, Liz Gumbinner at Mom-101. In it, she talks about caring for her cold-ridden 7-year-old daughter, wondering how much longer her daughter will want to snuggle.

It hit me hard.

Henry is only nine months old (nine and a half!), yet I feel the pull of time slipping away. I love him so much: so much more than anticipated, so much more than words can describe, so very, very much. My love for him is somatic; I am tethered at the heart.

We birth these beautiful creatures, and every day they move further away, however slowly, from needing us. With each minute that passes, the synapses in Henry's brain form connections allowing him to scoot, crawl, cruise, walk and eventually run out of my arms.

That's my job -- to help him become his own man, to send him into the world a whole person. How odd and poetically unjust that this responsibility conflicts with my own infinite desire to hold him tightly to my chest, to kiss his soft baby cheeks, to rock him to sleep, for always.

Henry, Day 5

Photo credit: The incomparable Beatrice Moritz Photography

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I'm Not a Stay-at-Home Mom


Rhymes with GAH. And BLAH. And WAAAAAH.

I'm none of those things.

When I was single and hungover, I stayed at home. When I was a grad student with a paper to write, I stayed at home. When I was sick in high school, I stayed at home.

These days, I do not stay at home, as much as I would sometimes like to. I go daily to the playground. I schlep Henry to music class. I schlep him even farther to swim class. I go to the library for "Baby Story Time." I walk the dog. I carry a baby-filled umbrella stroller up and down subway stairs to go to doctor appointments. I do long runs with a jogging stroller in preparation for a marathon.

I do not stay home.

Rain or shine.

In sickness and in health.

Look, I'm not complaining about not having to go to a full-time office job anymore. I'm thrilled to death -- positively tickled pink -- about being "home" with Henry. For real. I'm not asking for pity. I'm just asking not to be called a SAHM, like I am a countess from Downton Abbey with half a million servants dusting the floor before me as I walk, like so many Canadian curlers.

To recap:
Single and hungover: Not my life.
Downton Abbey: Not my life.
Canadian curlers: Not my life.

This is my life. And I love it. But notice, I'm not at home:

Photo credit: The Moo Cow's Crapberry

Unless you thought I happened to have an indoor swimming pool in my home. Which I don't.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Photo credit: Tim Perdue
I'm thirsty. I'm always thirsty. It's one of the little known "perks" of nursing. No matter how much (or little) water I drink, I always feel like I'm about two breaths away from death by dehydration. My stomach might be filled with three liters of water (is that possible?), yet I am still thirsty.

It occurred to me in the wee hours of the morning that my plants may be bearing the brunt of my thirst envy. Maybe it's not that I'm afraid of over-watering them, Zoe the fig tree (who died a sad death by drowning mere days after arriving at Rayne and my first apartment) notwithstanding. 

Perhaps deep down, I am taking revenge on the only animal, vegetable or mineral in my life that can't talk back. Why should my plants be well hydrated when I am constantly army-crawling along in a desert of my own desiccation?

This weekend I put a very sad-looking potted mum in my shower, mainly because it lacks a plate underneath, and I didn't want it to soak the end-table it was on. The shower is better anyway. Because water sprinkles down on the plant like spring rain instead of my flooding it using an old plastic milk carton, all the while distracted by Hudson's barking and humping my leg. Add that to the list of things Hudson is afraid of.

It truly depresses me that I'm not cut out for taking care of plants. Oh, were I the earth mama who knew how to cultivate plants. 

Keeping these plants alive has taken on a particular urgency, because I bought them after doing research about reducing the impact of pollution from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. These plants are supposed to clean the air and save my son from contracting some rare lung-based disease brought on by all the pollutants in the world, which currently reside on the BQE just waiting for me to open a window so they can swoop in and destroy our lives.

Go to bed! I yell at myself.

It's times like these that I want to move to the suburbs. Then I could drag all of my indoor plants outside and nourish them with water from a gently sprinkling hose attachment. Maybe I wouldn't feel the need to have ten (!) indoor plants and the accompanying gnat-like bugs because the whole world would be filled with happy little trees (with apologies to Bob Ross) and a complete lack of major highways 200 feet from my window.

But then I'd be living in the suburbs, and I'd have to kill myself, sort of defeating the purpose of moving in the first place.


I'm sorry, droopy plant.