Sunday, February 26, 2012

Packing Up, Packing In

It's a rare moment when you know you are reaching a new plateau as you are arriving there, and not just in retrospect. Three things happened today that made it clear that whether we like it or not we are in a new place. The trifecta of events proves that a new chapter awaits us all.

First, and most emotionally, I packed up all the baby bottle paraphrenalia. It's been sitting on our kitchen counter in a very prominent spot, even though Simon only drinks out of a sippy cup or nurses. I have been resisting the pull to put it away, because I think it may be going away forever.

God. Just writing that makes me want to sob hysterically with my face on Jeff's pillow. (I don't want the snot all over mine.) Really? I will never shove my breast into a pump nervously checking as the ounces add up (or fail to add up)? I will never spend hours of every day sterilizing bottles, bagging up milk for the freezer, and searching the house for a clean nipple that's not attached to my body? It seems like just yesterday I gave Sadie her first bottle and sat down with the calendar to figure out how many more weeks I would have to nurse. Now, here I am doing "extended" nursing with Simon and praying each day for one more chance to share the nursing experience.

Ladies and Gentlemen, not 2 minutes after I had creased the Zip Lock bag with all the old bottles, Sadie ran into the kitchen telling me that "the poopy was coming, the poopy was coming." Then, she sat down and pooped into her potty for the very first time in my presence. Jeff joked that Sadie had been waiting for me to move through the emotions of putting away the bottles to show me what a big girl she is. He was joking, but that's exactly the way I think: My willingness to put the bottles away shifted the energy in my house enough to pave the way for her to shit somewhere besides her pants. Laugh if you want, but I believe it.

And, finally, and most relevant to you, is that I am starting a new website/blog. It's time to seal up the _____________ With Joy series. I started with Bridled With Joy, then there was Bundled with Joy, and now Swaddled With Joy. What an amazing experience to chronicle my wedding and the births of my two children and the expiration of my law practice.

The new site launches early this week, so check back here for more details.

All new beginnings entail a death of that which is passing. I do love a nice dose of melancholy on a late winter evening.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bedtime Stories

I am not complaining, but if I had to read another book about Llama Llama or Dora the Explorer tonight, I was going to lose my biscuits. Our nighttime routine needed some sparkle and some inspiration. I decided it was time to introduce Sadie and Simon to poetry.

Where better to start than with the Beat poets. I sure as hell didn't want anything that rhymes, because that's too close to sing-songy children's dreck that I wanted to step away from-- even if it was for just one night.

And even though the mood was far from lachrymose at my house, I was called to the Kaddish. I forgot what a wild ride that poem is. There were notes in the margin from graduate school, which basically track my 22-year old self's understanding of repression and Cold War politics, as well as the personal nature of the poem: Ginsberg wrote the poem for his mother, who spent most of his youth committed to the Communist party and going fucking insane. In fact, Ginsberg and his brother agreed to allow doctors to perform a lobotomy on their mother in 1948, as her behavior had grown so bizarre and erratic. And the psych meds made her fat. You can imagine that a little Catholic girl from Texas might have a bit of an uphill battle putting that all together. (In Texas, it's worse to be fat than to be lobotomized.) And because I am a giver, I figured I would spare Sadie and Simon the fate of having never read the Beats or having never been exposed to poetry at home.

On some level I hope that Sadie and Simon never know Ginsberg's anguish-- he missed his mother's funeral and later learned that because there were not enough men present, the kaddish (prayer for the dead) was not read. Two years and lots of drugs later, Ginsberg writes the kaddish. (It's never too soon to start subtly and subliminally informing your children that their presence at your funeral is a non-negotiable.)

I skipped over the parts that hint that Ginsberg's mother may have been more than a little sexually inappropriate with him. We focused more on themes of memory, forgiveness, and specific images from New York and New Jersey.

So, yes, I read them the Kaddish while they scrambled around the living room-- Simon chasing Sadie with a plastic golf club and Sadie, clad in her new Dora swimsuit, running back and forth from the living room to the kitchen so many times that her hair was matted with sweat when she finally collapsed and asked me: "Are you done reading that recipe book to us?"

Ah, the mouths of babes. I knew she would "get" Gingsberg. My wee genius.

Excuse me, have you seen my Republican son?

He's angling to elevate himself out of the 99% and into the 1%. I told him he needed to upgrade his wardrobe if he wanted to "look the part" of a business tycoon. This is what he chose: The sweater vest, which is a solid, upwardly mobile staple. The plaid in the shirt matches the plaid in the sailboat applique, which is also sartorially winning. He's got the deadpan stare and the side-swept hair line, both of which whisper faintly of aristocracy. He just might be able to pull it off as long as he doesn't let his professional peers come home to meet his mama, because when I roll up in my Marshall's spring finds and my sailor's etiquette, there will be no mistaking Simon's true roots.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stepping Out

Holy crap, I am either going to throw up or scream into my pillow for five minutes. I just did something AMAZING and happy and so fucking brave. I kind of can't believe I just did it.

I am so proud of myself.

It would have been so easy to sit on the couch and peruse the TV shows we've recorded. Hell, I have enough Rosie Shows to keep me busy until the ides of March. I also could have stuck my head into my latest book and spent the evening living the life of the mind.

But, I didn't. I just spent 2.5 hours polishing an essay that I previously spent about 15 hours writing. Originally, I wrote it as a Hanukkah gift for my therapist. I wanted him to know all the ways in which Simon reminds me of him. It was long, rambly and full of charming non sequitors.

Not anymore.

I cut it down by half, since the submission guidelines said essays could only be 1700 words. Initial versions of my essay were over 3500 words. I had a lot to say and it was painful to cut out my witty asides and self-deprecating one-liners. Right now I am so tired I don't even know if the 1700 words I left make any sense or say anything remotely compelling. I decided I would just send it off and keep moving. Keep writing. I promised myself I would do a blog entry to memorialize this feeling, which I think most closely approximates pride. And it's not the pride of having won or been chosen or having reached any particular place. What I feel right now is the pride of having just jumped.


I did it. I didn't think I could do it and I just did. What's the worst that could happen? I wholeheartedly embrace any rejection letter that may be coming my way because inherent in the rejection letter is the truth of the fact that I stepped out into the world and said, "here's this piece of myself that I think you should publish." The rejection means I asked for entry. Hell, the rejection doesn't matter one bit. To me, it's proof that I haven't spent my time plugged into the OWN network watching inspirational TV about how to live my best life. I am busy living my best life. I have spent my time making something and sending it out into the world.

I feel like throwing open my window and screaming, "I DID IT. I DID SOMETHING NEW AND SCARY AND I FEEL SO HAPPY. (Now, please tell your stupid dogs to shut the fuck up!)"

Fucking A: Yes, I did send an essay to the venerable NY Times tonight. I have a little something I want to say about modern love and what the hell? If I have to get rejected, let it be from one of the most popular and well-respected newspapers there is.

Go BIG or GO HOME (and sit on the couch and watch Dancing With the Stars)!

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that this burst of courageous joy was inspired by Sadie Anne Ellis. She's been doing gymnastics for 6 weeks. For the first 4, she wouldn't hardly do anything except tremble with fear and call my name to get her off whatever apparatus she was on. I didn't push her; I just decided we'd go each week and she could do what she felt comfortable doing. Last week, a light switch went off. I couldn't keep her off the rings and the bars that just one week before she refused to touch. To see her swinging from the ropes today asking me to push her higher with a smile that lit up the sweaty old gymnasium was sublime. She beamed at me through her sweaty curls and flushed cheeks: "Look at me, Mama, I am swinging."

Yep. Look at you, kiddo. I have no idea what the fuck changed inside of you that made you want to hurl yourself off a mat onto a trapeze, but it looks great on you and I will try a little of that myself.

So, take that, New York Times. I am swinging for you.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bronzed Beauties

Next to my stellar memory (which was recently vindicated when I learned that there was indeed a Maudie Wheatley in my sorority), I take great pride in my gift-giving skills. I love giving gifts exponentially more than I like getting gifts. I spend a lot of time thinking about gifts and bringing a unique blend of humor, compassion, luxury and whimsy to the gifts I give to my loved ones. Not every gift from me is a slam dunk-- there have been plenty of lame fleece jackets or scented candles. Like writers' block, I sometimes get gift block, which happens when inspiration fails to strike and I am left standing in the check-out aisles of T.J. Maxx with some bath gel and socks.

I find it torturous that some important people in my life do not want things. For example, my husband never really wants anything. Golf stuff? No, he would rather get that himself. How about a book? No thanks, I don't like reading. Magazing subscription? No. iPad? No, I bought one for myself. I refuse to phone it in by giving him a gift certificate, so I have had to get creative. Specifically, I have resorted to getting Jeff gifts that he doesn't know he needs and for which he has not yet tapped into his desire.

Some gems I have given Jeff include a subscription to the Meat of the Month club, which entailed a different exotic meat showing up at our house each month. That was a bit of a fumble for me since I didn't really think through the fact that I would have to eat that nasty meat myself. That was the winter that found me eating such delicacies as elk stew and ostrich soup, both of which were quite gamey.

Most recently, I took a pair of Sadie's shoes from Jeff's office and decided to get them bronzed. I had no idea what a firestorm that would result from that stroke of pure genius. It all started in mid-December when I was sitting at Jeff's desk looking for a pen and noticed that Sadie's old Mary Jane sandals were sitting there all little and precious and cute and sort of sweaty. My first thought was that it was kind of gross. Then, I decided I would turn it into a present for Jeff. I googled "bronzing baby shoes," and found a great place on the west coast where they would turn Sadie's sweaty castaways into timeless treasures.

Later that week, Sadie and I boxed up her shoes and sent them to the bronzery. I spent a long time trying to explain to Sadie why I was sending her shoes to California. Anyway, weeks passed and I decided I would give them to Jeff for his birthday in March. Unfortunately, I didn't really stay on top of the shoes' journey, because one random night in January they arrived along with some other packages from Amazon. Because I wasn't paying attention, I told Jeff to open all the packages and next thing I know he's holding the shoes asking me "WTF are these?"

Damn. Foiled. I explained that they were Sadie's old shoes that I got bronzed for him.

What followed was something akin to radio silence. Jeff's response was a mixture of amused and perplexed. My response was abject disappointment: I thought it was a great idea and here it arrived and without any ceremony or preparation Jeff opened it. Later that night, Jeff made an off-handed comment that while he knows that he is one of the most difficult people in the world to buy a gift for, he wondered if maybe I bought him gifts that I wanted for myself.

Ooooohhhhhhhhhhh Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. That was NOT the right thing to say. I couldn't decide how to proceed. I know he was mostly commenting on how hard he is to shop for because he wants for nothing. All I could hear was "so you got yourself some bronze baby shoes and said it was for me." Let me be clear, World Wide Web, this is NOT what he said. As is often the case in the sacred institution of marriage, I on occasion hear more (or less) than what is said. It was a crushing blow to my self-esteem around the subject of gift giving. Understandably, Jeff was at a loss of how to discuss the topic with me because of my adorable tendencies to over react.

The next day I started to poll my male friends, asking their thoughts on the bronze shoes as a gift. The general tenor of the comments from my male friends was outrage and shock that I would pick such a terrible gift for Jeff. Let me recap some choice quotes:

"If my wife gave me those shoes for my birthday, I would throw them back at her and tell her to 'F' off, because clearly the shoes were for herself." -- Bobby A, age 49.

"Oh, I remember when [my wife] wanted to bronze one of the kids' pairs of shoes. I was so appalled. I thought it was so middle class to get the shoes bronzed. I wanted them just as they were, not all bronzed...and middle class." Robert S., age 50 something.

Alrighty then. The comment about the "middle class" nature of the gift pretty much deflated my spirits so utterly that I stopped asking. I don't even really know what that means as an insult, but I know it's not good. I am still trying to understand what exactly someone is saying when hurling the insult "bourgeouis," so it's not likely that I will figure out the nuances of "middle class" any time in the near term.

The problem is that Jeff's birthday is fast approaching and I got nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Even worse than that, I have perfomance anxiety about gift giving. All I know for now is that exotic meat and shoes made of metal are off the table. It's highly likely that Jeff will get a vanilla-scented Yankee candle and some Addidas socks if I don't think of something magical soon.

UPDATE:  (1) For his birthday, I took Jeff to a pig butchering demonstration, which did not entail me having to eat any of the pig. (2) I started a new blog where you can read all about my gift-giving talents and the myriad things I do for love-- Come check out my new digs: (and while you are there, like my Facebook page and send me some vanilla-scented candles).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Old Age

My college roommate, Alice, and her daughter came to visit us last week. They live in Colorado so we don't get to see them nearly enough. Alice is one of my oldest friends and seeing her last week really crystalized one thing: I am getting old and losing my memory.

I have always been extraordinarily proud of my memory. I am one of those people who remembers all kinds of details that most normal people allow to slip well past the recesses of their mind. Jeff and I actually had a minor little tiff about my memory last Sunday. We were having dinner with friends and someone mentioned the Disney movie, The Lion King, which happens to be one of Jeff's favorite movies. A few minutes into the conversation, I leaned over to Jeff and said in my best stage whisper: "I know the date I first saw the Lion King. It was January 7, 2008, and we watched it on a laptop in my old condo. I was running a fever that night."

Jeff's response (which provoked the "words" we shared later) was "and why are you telling me this?"

Oh, internet, my feelings were hurt. To me, it's a precious memory and I remember crying when Simba was dancing in the African sunset to that Elton John song about the circle of life. I actually remember the date because was the night my nephew was born, so right before we started the movie I called my sister to get all the gory details on birth. (Ok, I was also really crying, not for Simba, but for the part of me that felt sad that my little sister was beating in the race to do all the cool stuff procreate.)

After hearing about my sister's contractions and epidural, I settled in for a little Disney magic with Jeff. I don't expect him to remember the date, but I do expect him to show a little reverence for the steel trap that is my mind. Remembering things like that date or what I wore when Jeff and I went for our wedding cake tasting or when I ate quesadillas for the first time in Chicago (April 2002, Harmony Grill, Thursday night, 8:00 p.m. with Coley Gallagher and Steve Nakisher, and I was wearing a cute floral top from Gap and a pink pencil skirt from Filene's basement) makes me really happy. Those memories are links to my former self, which in turn help me appreciate (and have compassion for) who I am today.

During the visit with Alice, I found myself grasping for hazy memories-- names forgotten and events erased by time, stuck in the resin of my gray matter. She mentioned a former suitor of hers (Phi Delt, a few years older) for whom I have neither name nor hometown recorded in my mind. How can this be? I then spent about 7 hours trying to remember the name of a woman in our sorority whose face I can see so clearly-- actually, I can see her hair even more clearly, because it was the thickest, blackest hair I have ever seen. (Think Adele meets Texas in the early 1990s.) I swear her name was Maudi Wheatley, but Alice looked at me as if I had just asked her to recite Jaberwocky in Chinese.


"Maudi Weatley. Remember her? She pledged during her sophomore year and she had that amazing black hair and blue eyes. I think she was a Kappa Picker."

"I have no idea who you are talking about," Alice insisted.

"I could almost swear her name was Maudie Wheatley."

Shit. Maybe I am thinking of Phyllis Wheatley, the first African-American poet and writer to publish her work. How could I confuse Phyllis Wheatley with this phantom woman I am sure was in our sorority.

Now, I am constantly thinking about things I am sure I will soon forget, which is a really sure-fire way to fuck up the present. I wonder if or when I will forget all the details around my children's births. How long will I remember that Jeff and I had lunch at Cafe Baci on Wacker the day I bought my very first pregnancy test-- we dined on the salad trio, a Baci staple, and Jeff made a face when I told him about the pregnancy test, the expression of which can loosely be translated into, "Go ahead and take the test, Miss Crazy Town, you are not pregnant."

How wonderful it felt to be right for once!

Will I remember that about 10 hours before I peed on that test I watched McCain give his concession speech and I bawled as if I was a Republican-- great big heaving sobs and tears and heartache for poor McCain who seemed so sad and ashamed during that speech. As soon as the last tears spilled I fell into a deep sleep while sitting up and trying to stay awake to see Obama's speech. Will I remember that I was too hormonally saturated to hear the first man I ever voted for accept the presidency, even though I had been hysterial only 12 minutes earlier as I raptly listened to McCain?

And, what about Simon's auspicious beginnings? Will I remember that I was in a hotel in Oxford, Mississippi for an evidentiary hearing when I first got my period after Sadie's birth? Will I remember what the hell an evidentiary hearing is? Will I ever get to tell an adult Simon that I bought him some orange and blue shoes as soon as I found out I was having a boy? Or that I got to tell most of my beloved friends I was pregnant with Simon in person because we went to a wedding the day I found out I was pregnant?

So many details that may not matter at all to anyone except for me, but I already feel a sense of grief about any of it slipping away from me. When I really want to freak myself out, I think about how Alzheimer's runs in my family so I am genetically a time bomb. But I guess that's part of the reason why I blog: to memorialize the trivia and to tell the stories that live inside of me and pump through me like blood and breath. I would keep a diary but then how could I share it with all of you? Also, if there is a fire, I don't have to run back into the house and save the internet.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

This morning, Simon, who's suffering from a cold, woke up with the crustiest boogers I have ever seen in my life. I pulled something out of his nose that was as hard and big as a stale crouton. Gross, right?
Well, I got up to throw it away and then I found my hand over the trash can and couldn't do it. Yes, I was unable to throw away my son's booger.

I am super sentimental.

You can't be too hasty with these precious childhood artifacts. I still have his umbilical cord thing that fell off when he was 5 days old. Is this really so different?

I put it on the counter in our bathroom. Actually, I put it right by Jeff's sink. And then I forgot about it.


Just now, a mere 12 hours later, Jeff was brushing his teeth, but then it suddenly got very quiet.

"Christie. Is this Simon's booger on the counter?"

"Yes. I couldn't part with it."

"What are you going to do with it?" Jeff asked.

"Um. Happy Valentine's Day, sweetie."