Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I'm finding that the more I take time to really pause and appreciate what I have, the happier I am, and then the more I find to appreciate, and so on and so forth. It's a vicious, but delightful, cycle.
I think I spent a disproportionate amount of my youth feeling like a victim, worried about all the things others had that I was lacking -- a peaceful home life, more money, a better body, a boyfriend, better clothes, a larger and cooler circle of friends -- that now I feel it's time to make up for that and start basking in what I have.
And I have a lot.
When my 4th grade students have trouble coming up with ideas, I urge them to write it all down -- no order, no judging, no worries. So that's what I shall do for you now. Randi's Thankful List, great and small, trivial and important, in no particular order. Here goes!
I'm thankful for:
- An amazing kid. The best kid I've ever met. A kid who makes me laugh constantly and awes me daily. More than I dreamt about -- and boy did I dream.
- An amazing husband. Kind, loving, sexy, smart, hilarious. More than I dreamt about -- and boy did I dream.
- A wonderful family, a family that's been through so much and is only stronger because of it. Renewed, changing, adapting relationships with each of them -- Mom, Dad, Kerry, Jason, Nora.
- Nieces and nephews and cousins who push the boundaries of adorable. Daniel, Claire, Bethany, Sophia, Samantha, Kaitlyn, Gunner, Zander -- I love them all so much!
- Wonderful in-laws -- loving and funny and accepting of their crazy daughter/sister-in-law.
- A dishwasher. A dishwasher that's working just in time for Thanksgiving!
- An apartment that has no crazy moron living above it. And new landlords that are decent human beings.
- A job. A job I adore and will always adore. Let's call it a career, then. A career about which I'm passionate.
- Opportunities to write and perform, and the confidence to do so.
- Being in my 30's, surviving everything that came before and finally feeling comfortable in my skin.
- My health and the health of those I love.
- Pumpkin pie. Which will be consumed tomorrow. In mass quantities.
- Having a husband who's a talented financial planner, so even though he's unemployed I know we're secure.
- Stella's improved sleep. It's not perfect, it'll never be perfect, but after what we endured, we'll never take it for granted again.
- Incredible friends who are there for us -- there to celebrate, there to lend a hand, there to lend an ear, there to babysit.
- Stella's daycare. Lovely workers, sweet kids, Stella loves it.
- Flannel sheets.
- Bourbon. Zinfandel and cabernet sauvingnon. Stouts, porters, and amber ales. Coffee. Spiced apple cider. Hot chocolate, when I'm feeling particularly naughty.
- My chef's knife. My food processor. My new, very sharp grater. The growing repertoire of delicious, easy, cost-effective recipes.
- Facebook. I love Facebook. I love spying on others' lives. Especially their pictures.
- My neighbors and their adorable offspring.
- The ability to visit my family in Kentucky and escape New York.
- The ability to have family visit me and show off New York.
- Having a husband who picks me and Stella up in the car now that he's not working and on crappy days like today.
- Not having to travel on Thanksgiving!
There are so many more, but I worry I'd be pushing the boundaries of schmaltz if I go any further. I will post pictures of our food-stravaganza tomorrow at a later day. I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving with you and yours!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
So, today I sat down and typed it up. It was an incredibly easy story for me -- flowing like river water -- and I knew I'd be able to commit it to memory in a snap.
Unfortunately, when I told Dave of my grand plans, he reminded me that tomorrow night he'll be busy fighting against our old landlord, Kensington Imperial, in small claims court. We're hoping to be compensated for moving and realty fees after the nightmare we went through with Douchebag Upstairs Neighbor (among other things).
So, yeah, that takes priority. But since I think this is a fairly interesting story, I'm posting it here for you all. It's not necessarily related to motherhood, unless you think about what it must have been like for my poor mama. (Oh please oh please oh please, Stella, have more sense than I did.)
I do plan on going to the November 30th Moth StorySlam, though, as the theme is "Cars" and I've already written a great piece about my old ex-boyfriend, best-friend, eventually de-closeted gay buddy, Jamie. I really hope they pick my name out so I can tell it!
For now, enjoy! Oh, and DON'T try this at home!
Lost by Randi Skaggs
"Are you lost?"
It was a question I was used to hearing. I was a fresh-faced, lily-white girl from Kentucky living in the sketchiest part of Newark, New Jersey. I looked like I didn't belong.
But I was used to hearing the question with either faint sarcasm or genuine concern. The way this man asked it, I knew it was meant to be threatening.
"No, thank you, I live here. I'm just waiting here until it's time to catch my bus."
To get home from the city, I had to take a train to a bus. The bus that took me to my apartment boarded in front of a homeless shelter where drug addicts gathered to call me an assortment of names reminding me of my race, my gender, my weight, my newbie status in the big, bad city. I had decided that, although the train station could be deserted at night, it was a safer bet than crazy-land.
This night, I discovered that I bet wrong.
It was close to midnight, and I had just come back after a night of unpaid, gorilla feminist theater in the East Village. All I wanted was to go home, eat a little mac and cheese, watch a little TV, and crash on my full-sized mattress which was the only furniture I owned. I frankly didn't have time for this guy.
But he had time for me.
He plopped down next to me on the bench, and I could smell the scent of cheap alcohol, cigarettes, and body odor. He stared at me so intently that I knew he would not be deterred by my pretending to read the latest issue of Time Out New York.
"I need some money." It wasn't a request.
"Um, let's see." I dug out $.58 from my purse and handed it to him. I might as well have slapped him the face.
"What the fuck can I do with this?" His disgust didn't stop him from putting it in his pocket.
"It's all I have. I'm sorry."
"Do you have an ATM card? There's an ATM right over there." He gestured toward the dark oblivion past my sketchy bus stop.
"Um, I don't feel comfortable going with you to the ATM. And I really don't have enough money to give you denominations of 20."
Denominations of 20? How stereotypically nerdy did I sound?
"Oh, I bet you do. I think we should go find out exactly how much money you have right now."
My heart began to pound. This was the situation my mom swore would happen to me, the reason why she begged me to come home every night when she phoned. There was absolutely nobody else on this platform, and this guy was huge. I could scream, sure, but I'd be yet another voice pleading for help in the stark, Newark air. I was trapped.
Making matters worse, the guy leaned in close to me and whispered, "you wouldn't be the first person I killed." My life flashed before my eyes -- my short, ill-spent, overly-academic, still-a-virgin-at-age-23 life, and I knew I had to do something.
I searched through my bag, looking for any weapon at all, but all I could find were my apartment keys and my playwright's notebook. I considered trying to gouge his eyes out with the keys, or maybe bore him to tears with my ideas for my one-woman show, but I feared that I'd just piss him off further.
It was then I realized I had no other choice.
I began to pour my heart out to him, as if he were my best girlfriend and not my potential murderer. I told him how I moved to New York City from a small town in Kentucky with $1,000 in my pocket that was gone in less than two weeks. I told him how I worked for a tyrant of a boss at a French-speaking theater, making $250/week. I told him how my family had no money to help me out, that I put myself through college with scholarships and hard work, that I came to New York because of a dream to be something, and this is why I lived alone in Newark, New Jersey. I told him how lonely I was, that maybe this was all a mistake, that maybe I could never cut it in the big city. I told him how scared I was, that I didn't want to die before I'd actually accomplished any of my dreams. I told him, yes I did, how fucked up my family life was, and that I couldn't bare the thought of both giving up on my dream and having to back there again. I told him that even if he did force me to drain my account, he'd find that I only had a little over $7 to my name, which is why I ate ramen for lunch that day. I told him that I thought God had a purpose for me here, but I was beginning to question it, seeing how fucking difficult everything was.
When I looked up, expecting to be raped or punched or shot in the face, I saw that the guy was crying. Big, wet, slobbery tears running down his face. It made him smell even more alcoholic.
"God bless you, honey," he said, handing me back my $.58. "Don't give up on your dream, OK?"
I started to cry, too, out of relief, disbelief, profound melancholy from the complicated life I'd been living, a thought that maybe this was all fate, kismet, serendipity. He gave me a stinky, sweaty hug and walked off into the night.
I ran to my bus stop, relieved to find the crowd of drug-laced, rowdy folks, and boarded the bus home. The next day, I purchased a canister of mace and started a cab fund for the nights I arrived home after 8pm.
And while I didn't give up on my dream, I did give up on Newark.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Mere hours before I went into labor (with my momma).
Trying to love where I am now. (This is my friend, Katie. No, I don't hate her for being tiny and cute.)
The thinnest I've ever been in my life was the week leading up to my wedding and about three days afterward. I weighed 138lbs, and was a size 4. My boobs, once the most ample part of me, were down to a 34A.
How did I go from 230 lbs in 1999 to almost a hundred pounds lighter a mere 6 years later?
At first, it was the Atkins diet combined with intense work as a first year teacher in the South Bronx and grad school. I dropped a good 50 - 60 lbs within a few months that way, mostly because I didn't have time to worry about food whilst writing 20-page term papers and designing lesson plans for 1st graders who threatened suicide and punched each other in the face.
Then, of course, it got harder. I found the Atkins diet almost impossible to maintain (there's only so much mozerella-wrapped bacon a girl can eat), so I switched to the South Beach diet and started exercising more often. I discovered that I could actually run and that, somehow, I enjoyed it. That got me to a healthy 155 lbs and a sexy size 8.
Of course, though, begin the perfectionist lunatic I am, I decided that wasn't thin enough for my wedding. I mean, this was my day to show that world that I, Randi Lane Skaggs, could be a skinny bitch, too! It was my day to make all those boys who turned me down in high school and college smack themselves, then plop down on their beds and cry. It was my day to make all the pretty girls who'd found a way get a dig in on me (like expressing surprise that those pants came in my size) feel like the old, fat hags they'd become.
Ah, how enlightened I was!
So I cut down on my eating. Way way down. Like salads and fruit only, with absolutely no food after 6pm. I didn't drink alcohol or caffeine at all. I nearly drowned myself with water. And then, when that didn't work well enough, I resorted to incredibly unhealthy, teenager-esque eating disorders to make sure my calorie intake was as minuscule as possible. Yep, you know what I'm talking about.
I went from running a couple of miles three times a week to running 4.5 miles 4 to 5 times a week, with intensive weight training on the days between. I watched my weight slowly crawl down to 150, 145, 140, and finally down to 138 lbs.
Was I happy? Nope. My dream was to be 125lbs and a size 2. I had become clinically insane, you see. People in my family just can't get that little.
A week into our honeymoon, I abandoned my weight-loss program. I drank delicious Scottish beer and indulged in blood sausages and fried everything. I put on a few pounds and although I was a bit disappointed in myself, I realized I was much happier to be a bigger size and actually live life.
And then I got pregnant. I was overjoyed when I peed on that stick. But I did feel worried. I knew that gaining weight comes all too easily and getting it off does not. I sternly told myself that I would NOT go crazy and gain too much weight.
And, at first, I didn't. I had to start eating at night, just crackers, to combat my mild heartburn. And I had a weird revulsion to vegetables in my first trimester that caused me to eat more carbs than normal. But I stayed more or less on track.
As my pregnancy progressed, though, I fell back into old habits. Bowls of cereal at night. Bread with nutella as a snack. French fries with my sandwich rather than steamed veggies. I kept telling myself that I was eating for two, that I was burning 300 extra calories per day, but I knew I was fooling myself.
And I just stopped exercising altogether. I had some weird fear that I would hurt the baby by bouncing too much, that I would actually give my fetus shaken baby syndrome before she was even born, so my prenatal yoga video gathered dust and the folks at the YMCA gradually forgot my face.
And, by the time Stella was born, I'd gained a whopping 60lbs. When they announced that her weight was 7.1lbs, I called them liars. I was certain she had to represent at least 30lbs of my weight gain.
But some of the weight came off, slowly. The miracle breastfeeding weight-loss that La Leche League promised me never materialized. Although Stella ate nearly constantly, morning, noon and night, the only thing that got the weight off was dieting and exercise.
Some people told me that I'd probably be one of those women who loses tons of weight after she weans, but instead I gained 10lbs. I really don't know how to break it to people that weight doesn't just come off me -- it takes focused and intense work.
I do accept responsibility for myself, though. From time to time, I fall into terrible eating habits. I can eat compulsively when upset, and we've had more than our fair share of things to be upset about in the past year. Can I just tell you how I wish I was one of those people addicted to exercise? If so, I'd be running my first marathon by now.
Speaking of exercise, I am finding that incredibly hard to work into my day. I was running in the mornings, but now that it's cold, I find myself making every excuse in the book not to. And we don't have the cash for a gym membership at the moment. I guess I have to suck it up and go running in my sweatshirt and hat and scarf and mittens, dreaming of the steaming cup of coffee waiting for me at the end.
Why do I bring up weight? Because I'm appalled at how happy I was to find that I'd dropped 5lbs in a week this morning. Sure, part of that is we're eating healthier, but most of that is attributed to the fact that I've been crazy sick and have just stopped eating.
I mean do I really want to be one of those predictably morbid women who celebrates when a virus causes her to drop 5lbs?
Although I have a target weight and a target size, and although I think eating a healthy diet and exercising are important, I really want to find a way to be happy with who I am right now. I want Stella to see her mom as a confident woman who loves herself and exhibits good habits. I never want her to overhear me lamenting my jiggly thighs or pondering the cost of Jenny Craig. Because it'll break my heart if I ever overhear her saying the same.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Look how she savors that ice cream. Gah!
Is it illegal to kidnap your college roommate?
Look how good she is with Stella! Wouldn't she make a natural babysitter?
This may come as a shock to you, but life isn't fair. No, seriously. It isn't.
If life were fair, the more cooking you did, the less cleaning you'd have to do. I love to cook and hate to clean, so I'd create homemade goodies from morn-to-night, just so I could get out of doing the dishes and scrubbing the toilet. And if you were one of those crazy people who doesn't like to cook, you could clean all the time and your food would magically present itself on the table. Instead, the more cooking you do, the more cleaning you have to do, which makes you bitter toward the Moroccan Chicken and Couscous when it's time to scrape the pan.
If life were fair, my doctor would tell me to eat ice cream, just like Stella's did. Her weight had fallen a bit, so the doc said do what it takes to get it back, even if it means letting her eat ice cream. Meanwhile, I don't eat ice cream, or fast food, or snacks, or much of anything it seems, and yet my weight doesn't budge.
If life were fair, my best friend from college would live here, not Florida. We would see each other at least once a week, not once a year, if we're lucky. She might even offer to babysit for us for free every once in a while.
I'm really not bitter. I just wanted an excuse to share some crazy and cute photos. Life is way more fair for us than for others, since our health is good, we have a roof over our heads, and we still (for the time being) have health insurance.
And life will be a hell of a lot more fair next week when our dishwasher is installed, and I can officially tell Mt. Dishmore to suck it.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Stella goofing off at the Big K.
I couldn't resist.
The Brooklyn Baby Daddy and his sister.
Stella and Aunt Barbie (and Bubbie in the background) playing.
For the first time in her 18 1/2 months on this planet, Stella met her Aunt Barbie.
The part of Kentucky where I grew up is not known for its diversity. Almost everyone is white, and a common question is "Which church do you go to -- the Baptist or the Methodist?" But I'm very proud of the fact that different levels of mental ability was something I was exposed to as a kid, and I'm sad that not everyone has that experience.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
The fact of the matter is, I can do a lot of things now that I'm a mom. I can carve jack-o-lanterns, make three Halloween costumes from scratch, bake pumpkin bread, try not to eat the pumpkin bread, work a few days a week, and meet friends for frozen yogurt and beer in the East Village. I can even - get this - write and perform again.
I'm just excellent at looking for reasons to procrastinate. Excellent at finding ways to undermine myself. Excellent at being my own worse enemy.
In fact, that awesome show I was in in September -- Expressing Motherhood -- I almost didn't do it. I was told they wanted me, I wrote the date on my calendar, I printed out my piece, and then I searched for excuses. How would my daughter go to sleep without me? What about the nights when Dave couldn't get home in time for me to hop on the train? How could I stay up until midnight five nights in a row? How would we ever find a sitter so Dave could come watch me perform? And, GULP, how could the sitter actually get Stella to sleep?
But I firmly told myself to shut the freak up, Dave and I figured out the sitting situation, and I had a ball. An absolute ball.
So then I performed in the Moth -- a storytelling show. My piece had nothing to do with motherhood, was incredibly racy, and was written and memorized in one day. I felt empowered by my gumption. I felt addicted to performing.
So, here I am again, in another mom-inspired show. I feel confident enough to be performing a very candid, honest piece about motherhood that is still funny and irreverent. I am excited and honored to go back on stage. And yes, I am addicted.
So...come see me perform in Mommy Needs a Cocktail at Melt in Park Slope Sunday, November 8th, 4:30-7pm! It's a fabulous night for moms to kick back, relax, have a cocktail, eat some snacks, and listen to performaholics like me spin our nutty yarns. You can buy your tickets (reasonably priced at $10 online) here.
I really hope you can make it. I need people to enable me to get off my rump and stop using motherhood as an excuse.
However, I still think motherhood makes a fabulous excuse for not doing dishes.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Secondly, the weather was crappy. Saturday was OK, cloudy and cold but dry enough, but Sunday was filled with torrential downpours and general suckiness. It's a good thing we bought all the apples, pears, pumpkins, wine and cider donuts on Saturday, isn't it?
But the worst thing is that both Stella and Dave came down with something over the weekend. To be truthful, I may have given them something, as I'm somewhat of a carrier. Now that I'm a teacher, I'm exposed to every germ in the world, but my immune system is strong enough to either fight it off or only let me experience a mild version of the illness, allowing me to pass it on without even knowing it. Don't you wish you were married to me?
So, both my babies were sick on Monday. Dave got better throughout the day, and it seemed Stella did, too, although her temperature went up to about 101.5 that night. I took her into the doctor the next morning, and she said it seemed Stella just had a rotten cold. I was ordered to make sure she ate, even if I had to resort to bribing her with ice cream.
Consequently, I ate a lot of ice cream on Tuesday and Wednesday while Stella watched. She just didn't want to eat. I also tried bribing her with muffins, chicken fingers, french fries, chocolate, and a $5.00 strawberry smoothie. She refused them all, I ate them all. Have I ever mentioned how I stress-eat? Stress plus decadent food = trouble for yours truly.
I thought she was on the mend yesterday. She'd slept well and seemed to be in good spirits. But as the day wore on, I could tell something was amiss. She just wanted to snuggle. Constant snuggling. She'd burrow her head into my chest, snotting all over my Centre sweatshirt, watching WordWorld on PBS out of the corner of her eye. I tried to take her to the playground, but she just wanted to snuggle. I tried to read her a book, she only wanted to snuggle.
Have I ever told you how Stella doesn't like to snuggle?
On some level, I revelled in having that delicious, warm body curled up on mine. I smelled her sweet hair and stroked her back. I sighed deeply, remembering the days when she was a newborn and slept on me almost constantly.
But then I felt guilty. The only reason my active, independent girl was resorting to such behavior is because she felt like crap.
She's still feverish this morning, and is upstairs sleeping. We plan to call the doctor as soon as the practice opens. I really hope it's not the flu.
And I really look forward to the day when I try to snuggle up to Stella and she pushes me away, all before gobbling up a dish of ice cream.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Stella ate dinner at 6pm, feeding herself for the most part. From about 6:30 - 7:10, she had naked play time, during which she aired out her sensitive tush, played with her toys, got tickled by yours truly and was read some fabulous books (also by yours truly). Then we had a lovely bath, including a reading of the Care Bears Bathtime Bubble Book, one of her favorites. I took her up to her room, dried her hair and body, massaged diaper balm and lotion into her flawless skin, diapered her and dressed her in her warm flannel PJ's. I kissed her, lay her in her bed, handed her her blue bunny/dog (Dave and I disagree over its species), turned on the white noise machine, told her I love her, shut off the lights and closed the door. I came downstairs, turned on the monitor, got myself a beer and settled in for some TV. It was 7:30 pm. Aside from checking on her before I turn in, odds are good I won't hear from my girl until around 7am.
Now, if you're a parent to a kid around Stella's age, I want you to ask yourself the following question: does this evening sound a)completely normal or b)freakish and strange, making you want to come over here and strangle the living daylights out of me, thereby destroying my cushy life?
If you answered a), you have what Dave and I would call an easy sleeper. Bedtime doesn't make your stomach tie up in knots, you don't flinch at any sound that might resemble a baby's cry (including feral cats, neighbors' tv's, cell phones and sirens), you're used to at least 8 hours of shut-eye a night, and you might even be ready to try for another kid (assuming you don't already have a litter).
If you answered b), however, you have what I call a "spirited" sleeper otherwise known as a "difficult" or even "bad" sleeper by people of our mother's generation. If you're the mom, you might have suffered post-partum depression from all the stress; if you're the spouse, you might have had to pick your partner up off the floor and cart her to the nearest psychiatric ER. Whoever you are in the family, you're probably still shell-shocked, still recovering from lack of sleep, still skittish about celebrating any kind of success you might have regarding sleep, and possibly NOWHERE NEAR ready to go through all this again with another sprout.
Stella's been remarkably easy lately. She wants to go down for naps and nighttime sleep all by herself. She doesn't cry, she doesn't wake prematurely, she gets plenty of rest. Consequently, Dave and I are also well-rested, have plenty of time to hang out together and on our own, can get things done during her daily naps, and find that life is generally pleasant and nearly stress-free.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Ah...this is actually happy Randi -- crappy hair, PJ's and all!
Many of my friends have either recently had babies are expecting their sprouts within the half year. Every time an old friend reveals that she is pregnant or planning to adopt, I am elated. Having a child is such an incredible experience, after all, but I'm also selfishly happy to have another old chum in the Mommy Club. You know, a friend to whom you can discuss explosive poop but who can also laugh until dawn with you remembering old, ridiculous, possibly scandalous, pre-baby times?
However, this elation is usually followed by a moment of trepidation and worry. What if this mom-to-be whom I love so much goes through what I went through? What if she stubbornly acts like everything is OK, refusing help from anyone (including me) while suffering alone? What if I miss her depression the way others missed mine? What if she spends the first year of her beloved baby's life flustered, frustrated, possibly even suicidal while I chase after Stella, blissfully unaware?
While there's not a whole lot those of us lacking psychology degrees can do, I do think that choosing our words carefully when speaking to a new mom can be incredibly important. Part of the reason it took me so long to recognize my problem and seek help was that I was constantly being asked about how much I loved motherhood, not IF I loved it, so I felt completely alone and abnormal. I was afraid of what others, including a therapist, would think of me. I felt ashamed.
So, I'm going to start with a list of things I think you should NEVER say to a new mom. I'm no expert, so you might disagree, but these were the statements that exacerbated my feelings of isolation.
1. "Aren't you just loving it?" This question assumes that you are in a state of bliss, and if you answer to the negative, it will seem strange. How many times was I asked this question and I wanted to reply, "No, in fact. I realize that I wanted a baby, worked hard to conceive, and now I should be grateful. However, since I've slept a total of ten hours in the past two months, have raw nipples that leak milk almost constantly, and spend my days carrying around a writhing kid who seems to scream a good 4/5 of her waking hours (and almost all of them are waking hours), I pretty much want to bang my head against a brick wall most of the time."
2. "Have you tried ________ to help her sleep?" If you know someone whose kid is really sleep troubled -- and no, I'm not talking about a 2 month old who wakes three times at night or a 7 month old who takes short naps -- I'm talking about a person who is on death's door because her child almost never sleeps -- please don't offer advice. I know that seems counter-intuitive, so let me explain. If that person is suffering to that degree, they've almost certainly tried every conceivable trick you can think of. Also, if the baby is truly that sleep-challenged, he/she most likely will not respond to the nifty trick that caused your baby to go from 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep to 12. This will make that mom feel even worse about herself and her mothering skills, because why on earth would someone else's baby be that easy to pacify if hers isn't? The best thing to do is offer sympathy -- TELL THEM ABOUT ME AND STELLA FOR GOODNESS'S SAKE -- and offer to help. This brings me to Number 3.
3. "Let me know if I can do anything." New moms are completely overwhelmed. Trying to take care of oneself and keep a helpless human being alive is hard work. When someone makes a statement like that, it puts it in the mom's hands to come up with a way for you to help. I remember being so exhausted and unhappy when a dear friend, Jess, wrote me an email saying, "I'm coming over on Tuesday. What time is good?" I started sobbing upon reading that email. Had she asked if she could help, I would have said no. Have I mentioned that I'm stubborn? Well, I am. But she insisted she was coming, and come she did. She took Stella and pushed me out the door -- forcing me to go on a solo walk. This is what you need to do for new moms. Insist that you help -- bring food, take the baby so she can nap, whatever. Take the ball out of her hands.
4. "Wow. You look really tired." Those first few months of a baby's life, most moms look like crap. Especially moms suffering from baby blues or PPD. We know we look like crap, but there's not much we can do about it in our state. Please don't remind us of that, and especially don't remind us of how little sleep we got last night. Because we can't forget about that. Stretch to find a compliment. Maybe you like our ratty flip flops, or maybe that greasy, stringy ponytail looks incredibly punk. Whatever -- just tell us we look good. And if you can't do that, pay for a spa day and some childcare so you can make a sincere compliment! (This goes along with #3.)
OK, now for a list of positive commandments. Here are the statements that I think you should say to a new mom, statements that either helped me tremendously or would have.
1. "How are you doing? No, honey, not the baby. I can see he's gorgeous. How are YOU?" The minute the baby comes into your life, it seems that's all anyone wants to know about. Hell, that's all you seem to care about. But when someone asks about you with genuine concern, it can cause you to confront those negative feelings and open up a portal for communication. If a mom looks unhappy, don't be afraid to keep asking her this question in the hopes that she'll open up to you.
2. "Did I ever tell you about the time my kid _____________ when she was a baby?" If you have hellish infant stories -- PLEASE SHARE THEM! Especially if you were depressed or if your baby had sleep problems. So much of PPD is feeling isolated and misunderstood, so just knowing that someone else's experience was less than peachy-keen can be incredibly helpful.
3. "Just because you love someone doesn't mean they can't drive you crazy." So many times I'd be in my mommy groups, listening to women share frustrations about their spouses/partners. The people whom we've chosen to be with, the loves of our lives, can drive us to the brink of insanity. But I often find that it's a big taboo to complain about your baby. Especially if you waited until a, um, certain age to have a baby and if that baby took some work to come by. In that case, your baby should be next to holy, or so it seems, and if you complain about her, something's wrong with you. Remind the new mom that, just because she's in love with her new addition doesn't mean the baby won't drive her crazy. It will. Possibly often. Remind her that that's normal and that accepting herself and giving herself a break will actually help her to handle those feelings in a healthy way.
4. And, just as a reminder from above, the following: "I'm coming over on ____________ to help out" and "You look gorgeous." It can't hurt to reiterate.
I hope this helps. If any new moms think of any other helpful/NOT helpful remarks, please add them to the comments. And if you think you might have made one of the "offending" remarks, please don't sweat it. I'm a Sagittarius, after all, so I'm sure I've offended you sometime in our past.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Got a haircut
Got an eyebrow waxing
Purchased and applied makeup
Purchased and wore a new dress
Squeezed myself into my Spanx like a fancy, homemade sausage
Why all the trouble? For my awesome show, Expressing Motherhood, of course!
Now, having lived in NYC for a 11 years, I've taken part in and witnessed a fair share of sub-par shows. Comedy shows, one-woman/man shows, straight plays, musicals, reading series -- you name it. With a city this prolific, it's pretty easy to witness live theater. It's not always easy to witness GOOD live theater.
But I have to say, this show is AMAZING. I am humbled to be among such talented, honest, brave women. And the creators of the show did an incredible job finding such a varied group of ladies who have so many entertaining, profound and unexpected things to say about motherhood.
Yes, I'm in the show. Yes, this falls under the umbrella of shameless self-promotion. But I really do highly recommend this show for anyone who's a parent, is expecting a child, or is thinking about having a kid one day. I also recommend the show for dearest friends of mine who'd like to come LAUGH HARDILY at my piece about Park Slope.
Tonight and tomorrow -- that's it, baby! I hope to see you there!
And I'll try to remember to get Dave to snap a photo of me -- all cleaned up with no snot, poop or smushed banana to be found!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I just want to clarify my meaning, as I was writing after a long, intense day of parenting (no naps and a scary fall on the playground) and an exciting, unusual night of Manhattan and theater rehearsals.
I honor and respect the decision to NOT have children. Our world is over-populated, and the last thing we need are people who procreate or adopt for the wrong reasons. If someone does not want to be a parent, it is a great thing for them to refrain from doing so. (Although therapists may disagree, since this might cut down on their future patient pool.)
And when I spoke of friendships not being able to survive, I realize it's not just a debate between does that person have kids or doesn't she. It's more about how they view kids in general and specifically, do they see my kid as an individual or do they lump her into a category?
For example, many of my friends do not have kids for various reasons, but they love kids and are amazing with Stella. These friendships will survive and thrive, despite my shift, because those friends understand the new me and know that loving my kid is the way to my heart.
But there is a new breed of childless folk, especially here in New York. Folks who not only choose not to have kids, but also seem, for lack of a better word, offended by their general presence. I used to find such people vaguely amusing. But now, since my kid is viewed as one of the "rugrats," I can't see eye to eye with them any more.
Does this clarify? Perhaps this is even more confusing, as I'm writing this in my PJ's on a day before scrambling to get to work.
Perhaps I should always take my mother's advice and stop digging my hole the minute I realize I've dug one.
Whatever. It's my blog and I'll shove my foot in my mouth if I want to.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
When people looked at me, I found myself wondering, as I often do, "can they tell I'm a mom?" Stella is such an enormous part of my life now that I often assume people can see her imprint on me, even when we're apart. I almost feel offended if people assume I don't have a kid, like they're assuming I can't read or something.
I remember reading an article in New York Magazine a few years ago about how being in different economic brackets can destroy a friendship. For example if you become friends with someone while you're both broke college grads, your bond may not survive it if that friend goes on to make a robust six figures at his job if you're still barely making five. You eat at different restaurants, use different forms of transportation, perhaps even have different priorities and values. How much in common can you really have if your lives are that startlingly different?
Now that I'm a mom I'm finding that the same can be true if one member of a friendship is a parent while the other isn't. Of course there are exceptions: my two best friends in the world are both currently childless. However one definitely wants kids one day and the other one adores them and is great with them, even if she's not sure if she plans on sprouting one of her own. This makes it easier to stay close with them, despite this major difference in our lives.
But what of the other friendships?
Before I had kids, I swore that parenthood wouldn't change me. I'd still be funky, I'd still love going out all the time, I wouldn't view my kid as the Messiah to whom others had to bow down. I knew I'd love my offspring, but I didn't want to alter the entire order of my life. I kind of assumed everything would stay in its place and I'd just squeeze this new addition into my structured life, like a new book that you add onto your crowded bookshelf.
But parenthood never goes as you plan. Stella completely shook the foundation of my life, reordering everything, eliminating some priorities altogether, inflating others to monstrous proportions. My life barely resembles the life I had before her. It is, in many ways, much more strenuous and exhausting than before.
It is also better that it ever was. And it honestly gets better every day.
The love I have for Stella is so intense I can feel it in my muscles. It's almost an ache, almost painful, but also ragingly sweet. She surprises and delights me daily. I think about her almost every moment I'm not with her. I crave her.
Which is not to say I don't value my time alone. No, I'm still a separate person with a brain, and I still like being Randi. Randi who's a good, dedicated teacher. Randi who is a raging, outspoken Democrat. Randi who is an irreverent goofball. Randi who is a writer and performer. Not just that woman at the playground, what's her name?, you know -- Stella's mom.
But I have almost nothing in common with people who don't have kids, don't want them, and don't necessarily like them. I know there used to be a Randi in this world who could have had a beer with those people, laughed and joked with them, made a plan to have a meal at the new Italian restaurant in the neighborhood. But this Randi just can't do that. Because this Randi can't get over the fact that this person doesn't see the miracle that is my daughter. Because this person lumps the child I adore beyond measure with a group of nameless, faceless, snotty masses of whining and tears.
So, yeah, maybe friendships can't survive this huge a lifestyle gap. And although I'd planned on staying the same old Randi, just with a mini-me, that's simply not what happened. I'm a completely different Randi.
And that's just fine by me.