Monday, October 26, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion, Part Deux

It's funny how many times I've used motherhood as an excuse. An excuse not to exercise, an excuse to look crappy, an excuse to buy pre-packaged snacks, an excuse not to call people, and an excuse not to do the things I love.

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

Sick Stella Snuggles

I'm pretty sure our trip to New Paltz, NY, last weekend was cursed. First we found out, last minute, that the B&B we'd booked doesn't allow kids under 12 to stay on the weekend. Whatever you think about such a policy, we were pretty perturbed that their website said nothing of this, nor did they discuss it with us when we called to book. So, Dave had to scramble to book us the one hotel room open in the area during peak tourist season.

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

Kvelling Corner - Restaurant Edition

The Oak and The Iris Cafe, Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, NY

Stella with her favorite toy in the play corner

Lots of yummy and affordable things to eat!

I call this Temptation Island.

Miss Katie leading her fabulous sing along!

I bet you thought I forgot about Kvelling Corner, the section of my blog where I rave like a lunatic about awesome baby-centric things. Oh no, my friend, I just was lacking for things to rave about for a while.

But now I want to sing the praises of a local cafe that has been, not to sound dramatic, my saving grace these past several months.

You see, once you have a toddler, your options for public places in which you can consume anything edible dwindle. Especially if your kid, like Stella, has problems, um, staying in one place for long, there are not many places that will welcome you with open arms or have nooks and crannies to occupy your kinetic offspring.

Except for places like The Oak and The Iris. I wish they had a website I could direct you to, but for now I'll just give your their info the old fashioned way. Located on Ft. Hamilton between E. 4th and E.5th Streets in Windsor Terrace, two blocks off the F train at Ft. Hamilton, 718.288.2217.

The Oak and The Iris is a cafe. They make your standard lattes and hot chocolates and have yummy, tempting baked goods for sale. But they also have an expansive, affordable menu of sit-down hot breakfasts, lunches and dinners, including a delectable, $8 Fettuccine alla Carbonara I consumed the other day. Stella's favorite is the $4 mac and cheese from the kid's menu, an ooey, gooey homemade version of the comfort food fave, served in a bowl that could feed three Stellas and with a side of either juice or fresh fruit.

And The Oak and The Iris, unlike some other Brooklyn restaurants and cafes who make false claims, is actually kid-friendly. Not only do they have a great menu of food and drinks for your rugrat, they also have a corner in the back filled with books and toys that will keep a normal child occupied for up to 30 minutes while you enjoy your snack and beverage (it works a whopping 10 minutes on Stella, a world record by any unit of measure).

And, much to the chagrin of some single folks who want to cozy up to their laptops, The Oak and The Iris hosts wonderful sing-alongs a few times a week. Here is the current schedule:

Mondays, 3:45, Yoshi and his ukulele
Tuesdays, 3:00, Joanne and her interactive music class
Thursdays, 4:30, Katie and her guitar

Each sing-along is a mere $5, so much less than other music classes, and we love them all. We can't go to Mondays anymore, due to my work schedule, but Stella is addicted to both Joanne's and Katie's classes.

Joanne brings a huge xylophone, drum and auto harp that she lets the kids experiment with, creating songs on the fly about whatever's on the little ones' minds that day.

Katie has an ever-growing repertoire of fun, hip kids songs, including her personal adaptations of the Beatles, Elvis and Willie Nelson. Stella is, to be honest, a little in love with Katie. She can't leave the poor woman alone during her set and afterwards wants to sit on her own little chair with the play guitar at The Oak and The Iris, singing the beginning to Baa Baa Black Sheep to her own invisible audience.

So, I salute you, The Oak and The Iris. You give me a place to buy coffee, a place to have a dinner out with my kid (without nasty stares from singletons), and a place to nourish the music-lover that is my child. I wish you much continued success.

Oh, and I'll be by later for the usual: Veggie Booty for Stella and a latte for me. On the house, right?

Oh, and if you want to hear more from Stella's favorite singer, check out:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sibling Spacing and the Spirited Baby

Here is how my night has gone, so far:

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.

I'm enjoying this stage immensely, but sometimes it dawns on me: this is what life has been like for months for many of our friends and acquaintances. Although babies vary greatly and sleep problems are by no means unusual for new parents, Dave and I know a remarkable amount of folks whose babies have been sleeping through the night or close to it from at least six months on. Even for people whose babies still wake a few times during the night past that age, very few people we know had an experience even approaching ours, with a baby that literally screams almost the entire night, wanting to either be nursed or be walked around the room or both at the same time. Think I'm exaggerating? Read Dave's blog* from back in the bad old days.

Look, I honestly don't begrudge those who've had an easier experience. Such is life, there's nothing you can do about it. And as long as that fellow parent is not self-righteous, assuming we did something to cause such turmoil via our terrible parenting, we harbor no ill wishes against them.
However, I do feel like this explains why, when people ask me if we're ready to "start trying" again (I would honestly prefer it if people would ask if we're going to have unprotected sex again, because I've grown so sick of that phrase), I want to give them shaken baby syndrome. I want to scream in their faces "NO NO NO! I AM SLEEPING AND IT IS WONDERFUL! BACK THE F*** OFF AND HAND ME SOME BIRTH CONTROL, BEYOTCH!" I want to throw a drink in their faces. Well, after I drink most of it.
If we'd had this same night every night for the past year, we might be ready to try to reintroduce some sperm to some eggs. But for now, screw the research on sibling spacing: if we have anything to do with this (and I think we do), Stella's flying solo for a little while longer.
I must reiterate: I adore Stella, she was worth all the sleepless nights, I'd do it again a million times if I had to. But, by golly, if I don't have to, I won't. So that means no second babies...for the time being.
*If you read that entry, just know that we thought my cessation of egg-ingestion had settled the issue, but that was just the first in a seemingly endless series of false successes. Other times we thought we'd found the answer to all our problems (but really hadn't) include the following experiments: pacifiers, taking dairy out of my diet, taking soy out of my diet, taking spicy food out of my diet, wearing Stella in a Moby/Ergo/Bjorn for walks, driving Stella around the block, taking Stella for walks in the stroller, blacking out all the windows, trying different white noise machines, playing different music, trying long and elaborate pre-bed routines, trying to get her to drink a bottle of expressed breast milk from Dave, and eventually trying Ferber-type sleep training. The only thing that worked was time. But I'm fully aware of the fact that the heavenly period we're in now may just be another false success. Whatever, honey, I'll take it!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Punch Drunk Mommies

Ready for the brisk day!


Yep, I'm pretty proud of this outfit.

See that upper arm? Tell me you don't want to munch it!

This one just hurts. It hurts.

I was speaking with an awesome neighborhood mom the other day about how cute our daughters are. True, our daughters are blond-haired, blue-eyed doppelgangers of each other, but they each have their own brand of "Oh dear God I almost can't stand to look at you" adorableness. (Is adorableness a word? It is now.)

This mom (who shall remain nameless) expressed her fears that her daycare might call ACS on her for the bite marks on her daughter's butt. Now, she was kidding (I think), but friends, this is a real problem!

What do you do when your child is so freaking cute you have trouble resisting her? When you want to bite her little thighs or munch on her cheeks? And worse -- what do you do when said child is constantly too busy for affection, so you have to settle for a pat on the back here or a seat in your lap while you read Count on Clifford for the 15,000th time that day?

I'm thinking about setting up a non-profit to help mommies like me. We suffer in silence.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Love Letter to My New Neighborhood

I just got off the phone with a completely unhelpful, mildly disgruntled employee of the NYC Department of Education who told me that my paycheck will most likely NOT go to our new address because it takes two to three pay periods for the system to log in address changes.

Only a few months ago, this sort of phone call would have sent me over the edge.  Tears might have appeared, my heart would have started to race, obscenities would have been slung across fiber-optic lines.  Today, I just assured myself that the trusty Post Office would speed me my money, wished the pissy woman a lovely day, and made a joke about the  whole affair with my coworker, Laura.

While proper medication and therapy definitely deserve credit for my personality shift, I do also have to credit our new apartment and our new neighborhood -- South Windsor Terrace/North Kensington, or SoWiTerNoKen, as those of us in the know call it.

So many battles had to be fought in our old apartment -- battles to get the management to fix lead paint properly, battles to get our a-hole upstairs neighbor to stop doing construction at 3am, battles to get people to stop throwing their trash into the communal courtyard, battles to get people to stop airing out their nicotine-ridden apartments into the common lobby.  I constantly felt on my guard.  Many mornings I awoke to find my fists clenched, as if ready to punch someone.  I guess Dave is lucky he didn't make any sudden moves in the middle of the night.

It's hard to take things in stride when you're living and working in that environment.  While Dave got to escape Little Russia 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, there I was, surrounded by surly neighbors and bullyish management.  I had to walk a mile to the most decent playground, I had to cross the Boulevard of Death (aka Ocean Parkway) to get a coffee.  I was in hell.

Now we're in a smaller apartment, a 2 floor walk up with no laundry.  On paper, we've been demoted.

But I can't tell you how much happier we are.  The apartment is sunny and happy.  Can an inanimate object like a residence be happy?  You betcha!  

There's ample parking on our street, a fabulous playground a block away, the library two doors down, a cafe with sing alongs down the street, and Prospect Park a mere five minute walk away.

While all of this is fabulous, it's the people that really make the neighborhood.  The fellow moms and dads and their adorable offspring, people who say hi on the street, people who offered to take Stella when my dad was sick, people who'll laugh with me when I'm feeling frustrated, people who are real and normal and friendly (and don't do construction at 3am).

So, SoWiTerNoKen, I salute you!  Thank you for helping me refrain from calling a DOE employee a four-letter-word that starts with a "c!"