Monday, December 13, 2010

Thank You, Clinton and Stacy.

This past Friday night, I happened upon the latest episode of "What Not To Wear". I have been a loyal fan of this show for years, and I've considered nominating myself about a hundred times to be on the show. Who wouldn't want to get that $5000 Visa card? Who wouldn't want to spend three days shopping in NYC? Who wouldn't want their wardrobe to be ripped apart on national television by a tiny little brunette fashionista and her super sexy fabulous partner in crime?

This episode was about a 40-something glee club teacher who was nominated by her husband and her students. This woman had a passion for Broadway in her twenties and lived out her dreams on stage. After she got married, she had a daughter and fed her creative soul by teaching, helping young teenagers to themselves be performers. And in that time, she forgot herself. Her wardrobe was too lazy, too young, too blah. And in the middle of her transformation, something that she said to Stacy made me stop dead in my tracks. She didn't think she was beautiful.

You may be saying, well, that's no surprise. And it's not, really. We are surely our worst critics as women. We are experts in contrast and compare. Even alone in our bedrooms, looking in the mirror, there are dozens of women surrounding us, who are more beautiful, sexy, put together than we are. And sometimes, we just give up. Sometimes we concede, and we pull our dirty hair back in a ponytail, throw on our husband's tee shirts and some old workout pants (that haven't seen a good sweat in months or years), and we go out into the world, hoping to be invincible. And to most of everyone else, we do go completely unnoticed. Except for perhaps a few sets of eyes, and in my case, two very little, precious, impressionable sets of eyes look at me every day. And here's where the lesson is.

This woman, standing in front of a rack of clothes with Stacy and Clinton, had a lightbulb moment. She realized how important it is for her seven year old daughter to feel absolutely beautiful, even if there are times she might have flaws. She realized that her daughter will only learn how to express confidence in her beauty by her mother's example. And as I watched her, I looked at the sleeping baby in my arms and understood that it's not about the size of your nose, or the inches in your waistline, or the dimples and ripples in your skin. It's about what those girls see in me, and how they look at themselves as they get older. It's me doing what I need to do to re-engage my self-confidence, conquering the psychological roadblocks that keep me from my ultimate happiness and healthiness. And it's about being a life teacher to my girls.

In this life, you are lucky if you have the opportunity to be an example to someone. Not everyone looks at that responsibility with fervor or enthusiasm. But I do. I'm honored to be a mother, to teach my girls the ropes, and have the responsibility of giving them all the tools in my arsenal to help them navigate through all their personal trials and joys. I'll help them see how beautiful they both are in their own right, and hope that what they learn can be passed on to their kids.

Thank you, Stacy and Clinton. You helped me remember the legacy that awaits my girls starts with me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No Crying Over Silly Things.

As any mother of a two year old, past or present, knows, there is a stage in our child's lives that could be likened to "the Apocalypse". In short, anything that does not go specifically and precisely the way that said two year old wishes and desires will inevitably result in a nuclear meltdown.

Take for example my dearest love Allison. Anatomically, she lives in the body of a four year old - and even as the only person in the house that grew her inside her own uterus for 40 weeks, I sometimes forget that she is just now reaching the two and one half year mark. That being said, she's incredible intelligent, and unmistakeably independent. In other words, she's stubborn as all get-out and making my life three hundred times more difficult than I'd like it. God forbid you attempt to pop onto the internet for a second to check the weather, or your bank account - she'll accuse you of destroying her day by interrupting time on And asking her to peel herself away from coloring to eat dinner with you is absolutely, and by all accounts cruel and unusual punishment. She breaks into crocodile tears as big as Texas. She throws herself down on the floor, and the lower lip literally curls out in a semi-permanent frown. At this stage of the game, it's up to one of us to divert her out of this life-altering moment and into something a bit more productive.

Usually it is her father, who has the uncanny ability to speak to her in a calm, even tone, attempting to reason with her. On the off occasion that it's me that has to diffuse the bomb, I'm much less patient. I simply tell her this - "We don't cry over silly things." Then I tell her what's going to happen next. For example, when she's got herself thrown on the floor, I tell her, "HEY - LOOK AT ME. There's no crying over silly things. You will get off the floor and you will come to the table and eat now. Or there will be no crayons and markers after you're done."

I try, the best way that I know how, to make it my mission to raise smart, obedient, respectful little girls who trust in what I say and do and look to me for guidance. The general idea is that this will evolve into a mission to raise strong, beautiful, independent young ladies who have great senses of humor about themselves and life in general. And at the end of the day, I pray that I'm doing all the right things now so that when my daughters are in the midst of their senior years of college, they aren't crying over silly things, kicking their legs and wailing like wounded animals because they've had a bad moment in their long lives.

I remember when I was younger, and it was clear in our family who was the heavy, and was the refuge. Needless to say, history has a funny way of repeating. I knew even before we got pregnant with Allison that it just wasn't in him to be the "bad cop". And I knew that in order to keep our position of authority here in this home, that job was going to have to land squarely on my shoulders. I tease Geoff still about how easily he bends, how quickly those big green-brown eyes and cute little smile just play him like a fiddle. And then I remember that I'm not exactly the one that she's going to come to flirt with. I've told her a thousand times, it's not going to work. One way or the other I've made it clear that I'm not here to bend. I'm here to teach. And I have a strong feeling that when it comes to it, much like I appreciate what I was taught, she'll appreciate it too. And maybe her daughters will not cry over silly things.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What The.... November?

An entire month or more has passed and I'm sitting here on a Friday night, when I should be sleeping, to reflect and review the reality of the situation I call my life as of late. Our dear little girl is now approaching her tenth week of life and I cannot, for the life of me, remember or recall what this life was without her in the summertime. It seems somehow incomplete, those memories without Evelyn. Because, now she's here, and quite certainly not going anywhere. And our hearts are even fuller than they once were. And it all feels good, and right, and finally settled.

It didn't always or instantly feel good, and right, and finally settled. Perhaps that's the real explanation for the blog-less-ness for the last few weeks. Like most women, I've had a bit of a time pulling myself back into a routine, a schedule, a feeling of normalcy, post pregnancy. It's been a lack of sleep, a lack of privacy, a lack of anything that makes a woman feel like a woman, that's contributed to the feeling. All mothers know this feeling, and if they say they don't know what you speak of when you say PPD, they are LYING. Let me summarize with a recent conversation I had with myself while staring in the mirror, during a rare moment of silence and personal reflection:

- What the hell? Since when did my boobs look like THIS? My claim to fame is now little more than a set of deflated bags. And why is my husband SO behind me on the plastic surgery idea? (the answer was consequently staring back at me in the mirror.)
- Holy mother. Could the dark circles under my eyes be ANY more black?
- I need to lose forty pounds in the next ten weeks. Definitely before the New Year. I can totally do that. I just have to walk my ass off every day.
- I'm so tired right now there's no way I'm walking ANYWHERE.
- God, I want chocolate. I wonder what's in Allison's trick or treat bag still.
- If I turn on the hair dryer, will she hear it and wake up? If I dry my hair while I hear her crying her little head off, does that make me a shallow excuse for a mother?
- Oh my God, I miss my family.
- I need a nap.

And then, I'd just look at these babies. And I think to myself.... How lucky am I?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Evelyn Grace, and the Circadian Rhythm Debacle.

It was two weeks ago today that our newest beautiful daughter, Evelyn Grace, arrived into our world. After a lightening quick eighteen minute surgery, we heard the sweetest sounds that would ever come from her - the first breathe of life, followed immediately by the protesting cries of a once perfectly warm happy baby being flailed into a cold, sterile, blindingly white surgical room. While Geoff claims this surgery wasn't as "exciting" as the first one, I knew that the excitement was just beginning and could not wait to get my arms around that little bundle of fury.

Within an hour she was with me, and I could barely contain myself. I could also barely feel my body coming back from the paralysis of local anesthesia running through my lower half. But that didn't matter. She was happy, sleeping, and slept for the rest of the late afternoon until, night fell. And Evelyn Grace awoke. And stayed awake until the morning. Diaper changes, middle of the night bathings, tests from the night shift nurses all disturbed any chance any of us had at a decent sleep. But I didn't care. I could have stared at her all night. I held her the same way I held her sister both nights in the hospital and she was happy to sleep in my arms. And then we went home.

There's something called the Circadian Rhythm. It's basically the idea that humans naturally know that the daytime is for being awake, and the night time is for sleeping. Most people fall into this naturally; some of us have jobs or situations that mess our rhythm up, but in the end, we are not nocturnal creatures. For the last two weeks I was under the distinct impression that I had birthed a bat, or maybe an owl. Evelyn Grace sleeps, alot, during the day, but her night routine was insane. Up every three hours, without fail, and even more frequently if she had wet through the diaper, through the jammies, through the blanket. Her Circadian Rhythm clearly was not going to re-set itself.

After yesterday's two week check up, I asked her pediatrician if he knew any magic tricks. As a father of two daughters himself, he smiled and offered his advice, to which I promptly clamped onto in my memory bank. After she awoke from a long afternoon nap, every light in the house came on, all the drapes were pulled away and light filled our home. She stayed awake for about two and a half hours and then.... The witching hour came promptly at seven o'clock last night, and I let her cry. I let her cry hard. Experience tells me that this hour is filled with inconsolable wailing, and imitating billy-goat like sounds. Instead of trying to rock her to calm her and potentially put her to sleep, I cleaned the kitchen up. I took a shower, I put lotion on my legs and even brushed my hair out. At eight o'clock, Allison went to bed, and Evelyn and I settled in for a bottle and some bad reality television. She made it through the three ounces and passed out. I saw my opportunity and pounced.

Evelyn Grace might not give a repeat performance of last night's sweetest of sleeps. Sleeping from 8:30 until 3:30 for a two week old is unheard of. And continuing that sleep until 7:30 after a bottle and a changing? No way. But she'll be waking up in a little bit from that long afternoon nap. And all the lights are coming on in this house, and I'll hedge my bets that I can at least try and get things on track for good. A quiet house is a great thing, but happy wakeful baby is even better. And all the lights in the house cannot compare to the light in her eyes when she is awake during the day. :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Commitment to the Cause.

It's just after four a.m., and in about 16 hours we'll be celebrating another birthday. Here I sit, awake and alert, unwilling to put my head down on a pillow. I haven't experienced a full night's continuous sleep in about 34 weeks, and I don't expect to get another one for at least that much longer. But it occurred to me, in this waking hour, how many things we as women silently (or not so silently as of late) endure through the entirety of our pregnancies, all to show what my husband referred to once as "commitment to the cause".

1. Sleeplessness - and consequent haggard appearance. It's not easy to hold my laughter in when people tell me I'm "looking good!" at this stage in the game. I feel
like I'm ready to fall over at a moment's notice. I have come to the conclusion there's not an undereye concealer in this galaxy that will make me look anywhere near my 31 years. And the worst of it all is that this is merely a warm up round for the next few months.

2. Weight gain. Nope, no one's forcing me to eat the Taco Bell. And I realize that frozen yogurt is still sweet and delicious, even if it's not served 12 - 16 ounces at a time with Reeses Pieces adorning it. Today I will step on the scale for the last time for my final number, which my body has been telling me for weeks is probably about five pounds too many. Hips stacked on top of each other wake me up more times in the night than my bladder does. The arches of my feet cry and whine, begging me to stop trying to be a superhero and just sit down. And yet, I find myself ordering or preparing and consuming equal amounts of food to my husband. I should be so ashamed to have these confessions to the world. But take one look at me before tonight, and it's hard to deny.

3. Pain. Physical pain that is not caused by the aforementioned weight gain. Physical pain that starts in a location that was once renowned only for bringing happy feelings. The initial movements of sitting down, or standing up, or walking around causes incredible pain to shoot through my pelvic bones, out of my uterus, down my knees and into my feet. At my last doctor's appointment, the nurse practitioner who measured my belly had to reach so high into my ribs I thought she would tell me Eva's feet were resting in my throat, her head directly on my cervix, pushing it to complete effacement. The words, "you have a good sized baby in there" might as well have been never spoken, her eyes said it all. I explained that Geoff was about six-foot-four. She laughed and said, "you could've chosen a smaller sperm donor."

4. Heartburn. This has become a running joke in my life. Ask any of my friends or family what's not left my side for nine months. The family size container of extra strength Tums comes with me everywhere I go. It's in my purse, on my nightstand, in the kitchen. It's my frenemy. I hate chalky medication, but the evil became necessary almost as soon as I saw the plus sign on the stick. Everyone has their proverbial crosses to bear in this lifetime; in the grand scheme of things, acid reflux is incredibly low on the totem pole. But, is there a lesson to be learned from this kind of unmistakable discomfort? You might point out my eating habits, but rest assured, I pop Tums like candy every day regardless of what I eat. I can testify that water, yep, WATER, has been known to provoke heartburn. Running low on Tums is a death sentence. I have started thinking of a stylish holster for which pregnant women with a similar affliction can go about their day with no fear of being without their antacid. The old wive's tale is that heartburn is caused by hairy babies. My first born daughter is proof positive of this, at two years old the hair on her head is nearly to the middle of her still peach-fuzzy back. We'll see if the tale rings true tonight. I guess I could've chosen a less hairy sperm donor as well.

5. Emotional instability. Of all the things that have changed in the last few months, I would say this is the one that is impossible to keep to myself. I can say with confidence that the second time around I have at least been able to recognize when I'm about to have a breakdown, and as GI Joe says, "knowing is half the battle." I know that country music gets its bread and butter from pulling at heartstrings, so I've been resorting to hip hop and classic rock for a long period of time. I know that any movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel is kryptonite. I know that people on the road are not gunning for me specifically, especially when they ignore the yield sign as I'm getting on the freeway each morning and nearly hit me in their effort to "merge" into the onramp. And as much as I love him, I think I know that my husband's not really just sitting there, waiting for the right feeling to come over him, to get up off the couch with something that I shouldn't even be doing in the first place. I think I know that. Yeah.

Commitment to the cause. :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baseboards and Ceiling Fans: A Commentary On Nesting.

Within the short period of time in my life that I've found myself preparing for the arrival of children, I've consistently been compelled to take on large home projects, or cleaning duties. My first time around the bend, I believe that my nesting lasted into the first eight months of Allison's life, when all of a sudden I declared war on my kitchen cabinets AND her nursery a mere couple of weeks before her christening. I'm feeling somehow a bit different this time around though. Be it the heat, or keeping up with a two year old already, or the fact that I'm working literally up until four days before surgery, the will is strong, but the body is weakening.

Eva is scheduled to be here in nine days. Which means we'll be bringing her back to the house in about eleven days. My window of cleaning opportunity is very, very limited. I thought about actually staying home from work instead of going this week, in order to make sure that every nook and cranny was properly Lysol'd, dusted, polished and shining. But I'm staring down the barrel of the reality that will be an official full house, and my body's lack of physical will is actually dominating over my mental anxiety about dust and disorganization.

And so, this weekend, I am rallying the troops. And by troops, I mean my husband and a 2 year old.

I hear stories all the time about women who've steam cleaned their carpets, gotten on ladders (alone of course, not to be seen) to clean ceiling fans, hand washing their cars inside and out, two days before giving birth. It seems that most of us would rather house keep our way into labor than any other way. Walking, you say? No. Sex? Are you joking?? Please hand me my Swiffer and my toilet bowl brush, and my water will break in twenty minutes. Maybe it's only a subconscious ploy at inducing labor, or the Big Man's divine design that creeps its way into our heads at the most physically inopportune time that provokes this nonsensical passion for Pine Sol and on-your-knees scrubbing. In the argument of "Is God Man or Woman?", it'd be easy to convince anyone that He rules. No woman would knowingly place this brain lock on another woman. If She were sitting at the head of the table, She'd have made it something that a pregnant woman's partner would have eating at THEM for nine plus months. We carry the fetus, you re-organize what's hiding under the bed.

I wonder why we as women care so much. Is it really important that the grout is bleached white on the kitchen counter? No, probably not. But perhaps it's the idea that we think, or feel that the opportunity to do these incredible cleaning tasks are going to be all but completely diminished once our baby is here. We may never see the mop come out again. Who would have time to run the vacuum when there's hardly time to brush your teeth? Horror stories of going days on end without a shower or a wink of sleep permeate an expectant mother's brain, be she a first timer, or a multi-birth veteran. Then we get home. And we learn that a baby will fit perfectly in a papoose across your chest, and sleep soundly through the running of the vacuum, folding of laundry. There is time somewhere between sanitizing bottles and watching Tinker Bell with your older daughter to grab a quick shower, or go to the bathroom alone. But, hey, at least you don't have to stare at those baseboards, or wonder about all that dust on the ceiling fans anymore.

I digress.

Lists are made, plans of action are formed and as Ms. O'Hara might have said under other circumstances, "as God as my witness, I will never be defeated by a water spot again!" Here is hoping that Eva will appreciate all the last minute hard work that's about to ensue today, tomorrow and for the next eight days. I know that when I'm awake for mid-night feedings, the last place I'll be compelled to look is where the wall meets the carpet. As pretty as a clean house can be, it'll never be as pretty as when a baby comes home to live in it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Big Girl Bed.

After Allison turned two, we realized quickly that she was not long for staying in the crib. At a meager thirty-eight inches long (that's three foot, two inches people, and they don't even HAVE a percentile for her at this point), the crib mattress seemed to shrink around her legs and torso. On top of this blessed physical anomaly, it also became increasingly painful to lift her up and over the rails every morning, naptime, and night. Thirdly, we were being beckoned awake each morning, long before necessary or desired, with her reaching down and flinging her door open, calling out to us - "Moooooommy.... Daaaaaaaaddy". We conceded and purchased the first big girl bed.

It arrived on a Saturday. Our trial run was Sunday, naptime. She eagerly jumped onto the massive full sized mattress, laid her head down on the pillow, and rolled into position. I had no idea how she was going to react to this change. I waited patiently for her to get out, preparing myself for what would surely be a long, drawn out afternoon of walking to and from the bed, negotiations, and pleading. I waited. I picked up things around the house, put away toys and shoes and dusted a little bit. An hour went by, then two. In the third hour I realized that we might have very well given the entire house an amazing gift. The gift of sleep. She woke, finally, after over three hours peaceful napping; she was happy, talkative, walking around laughing. I tried not to look a gift horse in the mouth, because I knew that naptime had nothing on what night-time sleep could bring. I was grateful for the experience, and wiped the expectation slate clean.

Nighttime started out much in the same manner. She didn't peer out of her room for the first three nights. On night four, however, she realized what a fun game it would be to see how long she would go unnoticed by us, playing on the tile near the fireplace in the dining room. Her dead give away? Cowgirl Jessie's feet tap, tapping on the ceramic flooring. The pull of the string on her back: "Ride like the wind! Let's yodel! Yow-dah-ly-eeee-whooooo!" that was inevitably followed by two year old giggles. Hide and go seek is clearly a new idea to her. In a matter of thirty minutes, we took turns putting her to bed a total of eight times. Finally, empty threats to keep Jessie to myself the next time she got out of bed did the trick. And she slept - hard.

Waking up is a lot more fun, and a lot more early, than it's ever been. Long before my dear slumbering husband's comatose-like state is interrupted, I hear the shift, shift of monkey pajamas walking down the short hallway to our bedroom. I don't open my eyes, but pause for the greeting. "Hey Mommy. Hey, Mommy, get up. Time to wake up Mommy. Mommy, where's the 'mote?" By this time, I've sent her to her father's side of the room to retrieve the remote control. He's mastered the ability to, with near blindness not wearing his glasses, push buttons 2 and 8, then waiting for Disney channel to provoke her to climb in bed with us to watch Imagination Movers, or Special Agent Oso, or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, depending on what time of morning she decides to come in.

If it's especially early, and she's really not that awake yet either, I'll get up and we'll zombie-walk our way back to her bed. And some asked me why I went with a full sized mattress.... If they only knew how wonderful it is to lay next to this long-legged beautiful girl while she falls back asleep. To literally have her reach around my neck with both arms and hold onto me. To be face to face, close enough to read eachother's minds, smiling without saying a thing... a brilliant reminder that, even though she's not getting any smaller, for at least a little while longer, she'll want me to be around.