Saturday, December 31, 2011

Adios, 2011

2011, you have been very good to me and my family. The highlight of the year was the birth of Simon, who has brought all of us so much joy. It's been a delight to watch our family grow. I can't believe these two wonderful beings belong to me. I love them so much. Another highlight was having the courage to let go of my firm job, which was an agonizing decision. It was also one of the best decisions I ever made. Our family weathered the blizzard of 2011, the departure of our first nanny, the welcome of our beloved Sabrina. We set our gazes on the horizon and look forward to finding a school for Sadie and (hopefully) a little less travel for Jeff. I hope to find my way back to a professional existence in God's time.

In the meantime, we are rocking the new year with a bowl of cereal for dinner and a bedtime of 10:00 p.m. sharp. Don't tell me that parenthood isn't exciting. I tried a new cereal for dinner: Barbara's Toasted Oats-- no corn syrup.

By the end of this year I will either be vegan or on the paleo diet. I am in the mood for some dietary extremes.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ask me why I hate Steve Jobs.

I have spent hours reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs. It's riveting. I have never learned so much about computers or microchips or innovation. I was willing to forgive Jobs for his tyrannical business practices, his ruthlessness in negotiations and the harsh manner in which he enforced accountability at Apple. I read with awe and incredulity how Jobs bent reality to fit his purposes and drive his teams to produce greater products that have actually improved my life. And putting aside the fact that it's actually none of my business what his personal life was like, I still couldn't help but think about his relationships: the one with his oldest daughter whom he initially abandoned and then maintained a rather stormy relationship with for the rest of his life or his subsequent three children.

Because Jobs fully cooperated with Isaacson in the writing of this book, I felt invited to think about Jobs' personal decisions, including those involving his children.

I didn't really start to hate him until I finished the book and saw the picture on the inside back cover. It's a picture of Jobs in his signature black mock turtle neck, jeans and Keen shoes. He's leaning back in his chair with his head cradled in his hands. His gaze appears to be focused on his computer screen: a large Mac (of course) with a picture of his wife and son, Reed, smiling on what appears to be a happy day. That sealed it for me.

Throughout the book Isaacson made several passing references to how Jobs tended to ignore his daughters, Eve and Erin. There are hardly any references to Jobs' actual interactions with his daughters in the entire 571-page book. His disinterest in them was especially alarming in light of his interest in Reed. Reed was allowed to attend a weekend of board meetings in June 2010, when Jobs and his Board were trying to decide how to deal with the technical glitches in the iPhone 4. "Jobs also decided to bring his son Reed, then a high school senior, back with him from Hawaii . . . [Jobs told Reed] 'You're going to be in the room with the best people in the world making really tough decisions and get to see how the sausage is made.'" According to Issacson, "Jobs got a little misty-eyed when he recalled the experience. Jobs told Issacson, "'I would go through all that again just for that opportunity to have him see me at work . . . He got to see what his dad does.'"

Well, that was no doubt wonderful for Reed. Do you think maybe Eve and Erin might also like to see what their dad does for a living? Might Eve and Erin also want to sit in on historic meetings with the "best people in the world"? Might they want the opportunity to be exposed to the rarefied air at an Apple Board meeting? Yes, his girls were younger than Reed, but if you are going to let a 16 year old sit in on top secret Board meetings, why not a 13 year old?

So, here's Steve Jobs, this west-coast innovator, "genius", and "visionary", but he won't give his daughters the same access he gave his sons to his beloved company. It's one thing to read about large sociological patterns and glass ceilings, but it's quite another to see one of the most powerful businessmen of my generation obliterate his daughters. Surely, of any of the young women coming of age today, those with fathers or mothers who are CEOs are at least slightly more likely to rise through the business ranks because of privilege, connections, opportunities, and because they have been parented by CEOs. A CEO parent has a rare opportunity to give his children a portal into the pressures and joys and politics of running a company.

But not if the CEO parent is only interested in imparting that knowledge to his sons. I know that no one, including Jobs himself, holds up Steve Jobs as a paragon for parenting. It's awfully old-fashioned to value sons more than daughters, isn't it? I thought he was supposed to be cutting edge. What's so cutting edge about giving your son a front-row seat to history but leaving your daughters at home to prepare you a vegan dinner? Ok, so he left his daughters in Kona, Hawaii, but still. They weren't invited to the Board meeting and Isaacson suggests that such an idea would have never occurred to Jobs.

How could it occur to his daughters if it never occurred to him?

Isaacson also noted that Jobs solicited input from Reed about the new Apple campus, but ignored Erin-- who was sitting in the same room during the conversation-- who is an aspiring architect and already showing promise in design. (Reed hopes to be an oncologist.) "[I]t seemed not to occur to him to call her over as well." She also really wanted to go to the Oscars with her dad, and while Jobs' wife was game to give up her ticket for her daughter, "[Jobs] dismissed the idea."

Here's a man who may be placed in the pantheon "right next to Edison and Ford." What does it mean for future female executives that "the greatest business executive of our era," brought his son to meetings to show him what Dad does, but left his daughters at home like pets or invalids? Jobs himself liked to see himself as perched at the intersection of science and humanities. He said that "the reason Apple resonates with people is that there's a deep current of humanity in our innovation." Last time I checked, daughters were part of humanity.

While I was reading the book, I tempered my disgust for his treatment of all three of his daughters by reminding myself that he was sort of an asshole to everyone. He was probably an asshole to his son as well. His true legacy is Apple, his company, not his children who can presumably afford any therapist in the world to help them work through any lingering father issues.

But that back cover. I just can't get over it. I am annoyed that it looks like his screen saver is a picture of his wife and his son. I feel like screaming at this dead man that I don't even know, "HEY, HAVE ANY PICTURES OF YOUR DAUGHTERS SAVED ON YOUR FANCY MAC?" Really, at the end of the day, Steve Jobs was just one more man who values boys more than girls. It so happens that he is also became very successful and created an iconic American company. All dads who fail to value their daughters as much as their sons piss me off. If Steve Jobs can't see the value in his own daughters' minds and imagine their contributions to a host of enterprises, then how can he (or any other male executive) see the value and potential in women he did not father?

I can't wait for the day that fathers understand that their children don't have to have a sausage to have a desire and a right to see how the sausage is made. Maybe when there are more females among the top-ranking officials in public companies we will be able to move beyond metaphors that invoke the most phallic cut of meat to something more gender-neutral, like pot roast or brisket.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Parenting

The holiday cards are rolling in, and they are my favorite part of Christmas. I love seeing each family's personality reflected in their cards and pictures. I have noticed that they have gotten very elaborate this year. Half our cards were fold outs with multiple pictures of each children from trips to Hawaii and Disneyland and all manner of adorable poses. It reminds me of the saying that parenting is a competitive sport.

And, you know what, I am sort of sick of it. I am sick of measuring myself and my kids against whatever random measuring stick is laying around at the time. I really just want to be kind to my kids and do my best. I guess we'll also get them a good education and some fresh air, but really, I just don't know if I can also eat locally, and get special music tutors, and expose them to the arts and wind farms and worm composting. It's also really hard to be continually nice and kind to a demanding 2-year old who wants her milk cold. No hot. No colder. No, how about juice? Maybe water? Only if it has ice. Two ice cubs, Mommy. Wait, it's too cold. I want an orange. And some macaroni and cheese. And a pear. And 3 figs. And a date. Here, hold my pit. No, Daddy should hold the pit. Mommy, you should get me some artisanal pickles to go with my grilled cheese and my macaroni and cheese.

Are you kidding me that I have to be nice and obsequious to my toddler when she acts like this? And, if you are reading this, don't assume she was using her nice, cute, innocent little kid voice. Assume she was screaming and petulant and angry and surly and coy-- all at the same time. I find myself in those moments wanting to scream my head off. I hear messages that I should be patient and treat her with respect because, after all, she's a little person. The thing is that she doesn't act like a little person. She acts like a little tyrant going through withdrawal from caffeine and having just endured a breakup and a layoff. The drama is high and so is the pitch and the volume. I know I am the parent. I know I chose to have a child who was one day going to be 2 and have to learn autonomy. But, God lord, expecting myself to show up for all of it with nothing but a serene smile and an endless repertoire of cheese-based dishes is too much.

It's just too much.

No more expectations that dealing with this is supposed to be fun or easy or intuitive. If I did what was intuitive, I would lay down on the kitchen floor and beg her for mercy or just to shut up for 5 minutes while I tell her all the reasons why her life is 45 flavors of totally awesome. Then, I would remind her that she asks me for frozen yogurt and figs every single day and has yet to digest either. Ever. So, no, she can't have either one and she's going to get a beverage in the temperature of MY choosing and she's going to drink it, like it, and be well hydrated. I haven't done this. I have stood there stupidly wondering what is wrong with me that the yelling grates on my nerves and pushes my buttons.

Nothing is wrong with me. I am human. 2 year olds are doing something wonderful and hard; so are their parents.

So I am going to be nice and kind and keep the expectations a little more realistic.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Denim Day

I used to love those specialty days during grammar and high school where you got to dress in creative ways: school spirit day, picture day, character fair day. It was a big deal at my Catholic schools because otherwise we were all wearing the same plaid uniform day after day and year after year. I never lost my love of thematic dressing and now Sadie and Simon have to endure my flights of sartorial fancy. Pictured above is our homage to denim: Sadie in her little denim dress and Simon sporting the Oshkosh overalls. If there is something cuter than a chubby baby boy wearing overalls I have never seen it.

I haven't been able to post much during December, even though I thought I would be so above getting sucked into holiday frenziness. Turns out, celebrating both Hannukah and Christmas is actually more work. I didn't see that coming. I was too busy buying blue Hannukah wrapping paper and Christmas tree ornaments. I am also toying with the idea of figuring out how to make a latke a little less...well, fried. It's so damn fried. I want to enjoy the holiday and the traditional food but a plate of brisket and a fried ass potato is gonna set me back a bit on the old health front. I think it's probably rude to mess with a tradition that has worked for Jewish people for many, many years, but I may be brash enough to tackle the latke. We'll see.

Other December highlights include extra time being a super model parent. Ask Sadie about what happened when Jeff and I let her lick a serrano pepper on Saturday? Be careful if you bring it up, though, because she may start to cry and talk about how "spicy" it was. In our defense, she kept asking to taste it and we let her just barely lick it. I honestly didn't know that her whole chin would turn red and she would cry for 30 minutes. After she licked it, we fed her milk and cheese and chips and water and anything we could think of to get the "burning" to stop. I am pretty sure that little exercise qualifies as tough love.

Other than that, it hasn't been easy to buy a bunch of presents for myself, wrap them and put a card on them that says, "To Mommy / Love, Daddy." I am so overwhelmed at Jeff's generosity. He has no idea what he got me, and he's going to be so excited to see it all. I can't wait until Christmas morning.

I also took a night off to go to see A Dangerous Method with a friend. Ah, a movie date with a girlfriend. It's better than a week of therapy, which is a good thing, because guess who's therapist took off for two weeks during the holidays. Don't they tell therapists to stick around during the holidays because of the whole suicide thing? I am pretty sure that people get depressed during the holidays and could use some therapy. I am not asking him to miss the high holidays, I just want him around so I can complain about feeling fat after I eat those latkes. Actually, his absence really just interrupted my running schedule because I run to therapy and that's a nice long 4.5 miler for me. With him gone, how do I get that run in? Nothing says attachment like "you fucked up my running schedule."

Anyway, I am working on my vision for 2012. It's going to be the year of the risk. I am going to push out of my comfort zone and dream big this year. Either that or I am going to keep doing what I am doing and risk feeling more shame about having such a fantastic life.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Magic

We have our iconic Christmas Magic photo captured above. We usually get some good Hannukah ones as well, but we were both too busy trying to keep Simon from catching fire to snap a photo. Good thing we have 7 more nights to try!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

This says it all

Here's how we wind down before bed: we turn Sadie upside down and run around in circles. She loves it; we are convinced it helps her sleep. There have been no long-term studies on the effects of this on small children. We like to call it "fun."

Actually, both the kids are very physical these days. Simon can walk about 3 steps before falling and Sadie likes to jump on our stomachs and backs and legs. It's all quite cardiovascular and as soon as there is a Groupon for full-body physical therapy, I am signing up. I didn't realize how physical this was all going to get. We are all covered in bruises, but at least I think my kids are getting plenty of my physical attention.

In other news, our friend the mouse is back in the house. I have seen her and so has Jeff. I am sure the little critter is just trying to escape the cold, but I wish she would take up with our neighbors. How much do I NOT want to have to kill one of God's creatures during Advent? On the other hand, how much do I want to be able to come and go into my kitchen without fearing I am wrecking the set of Ratatouille? I have to say that if I was a late-night grazer and wanted to stop, I would get myself a mouse because it's really no fun to eat peanut butter standing up wondering if a mouse is about to run across your feet. So that's my diet tip for this New Year: Get a mouse and you will stay out of the kitchen.

Other causes for celebration:

  • Simon has slept past 5:55 a.m. on more than 3 occasions. Praise Allah!
  • The holiday shopping is almost done and neither of my kids understand presents, or holidays or Santa, which means no long, annoying lists of Disney crap they want (and won't get).
  • Jeff's travels are winding down for the year, which means I don't have to put both kids to bed alone again during 2011. Better than Louis Vuitton.
  • We are narrowing down our school search, which means the home schooling, as Plan B, has moved to Plan C.
  • We surrendered on the topic of getting the perfect holiday picture and made a perfectly lovely holiday card that is en route to our house presently. We will get those out before Arbor Day after all.
  • We have taught Sadie how to say prayers at night, which we have defined as sending good thoughts and kind words to people we love or those who might need it. It's my favorite time of night. She loves to say her prayers and then we put our hands together under our chin and say, "Amen," together. Cutest. Thing. Ever. It gives me a chance to remind her how big of our world is, how full of love it is, how easy it is to send love to others and how thinking about other people we love at the end of the day is a very soothing ritual. Next year we can work on praying for the people we don't like very much.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Card

We have tried three more times to get a holiday card picture and everytime Sadie ends up in meltdown mode and Simon craps his pants. At this rate, we are going to be sending out a holiday card for the ever auspicious Arbor Day 2012. How hard could it be to get two children under the age of 3 to look at a camera and smile at the same time? Maybe I will post the outtakes. Hell, maybe we'll do a card full of outtakes and we'll have the theme of "Keeping It Real," and we can let people know that they shouldn't feel bad that their children are messy and uncontrollable, because, hey, have you seen the Tate-Ellis Christmas card?

Yuletide

Sadie and I went on a little excursion to the Loop yesterday and we ducked into a couple of buildings to take some snaps of my favorite little elfette.



She wears a size 2T clothes, but her hats are extra large, for obvious reasons. Sadie is enjoying having a Christmas tree in our house and I am sure she will enjoy lighting the Hannukah lights. (She's pretty in to fire, which is only slightly concerning to us at this point.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Award Season



They should award Nobel Prizes to moms. To moms like me who do such selfless acts to further peace in the world, such as letting the nanny go home 40 minutes early. I should totally be in the running for this prize. Because what I think my motherhood experience is missing is the dazzling bit of pizazz that comes with awards and honors and ribbons and glory and recognition.

Wait. There is none of that for moms. Maybe I am in the wrong line of work.

I guess I will settle for having a wonderful experience spending time with my children on a daily basis. My dividends will pay off when I don't have to visit them on family day at the Cook County jail or spend their college savings on The Promises in Malibu so they can get sober with Lindsey Lohan or Brooke Mueller.

Actually, there is no guarantee for that either. I don't think science has figured out what makes someone addicted to drugs or alcohol, but if all it took to prevent that was having a semi-sane parent staying home during these formative years, I bet more people would do it if they could financially. They may end up at Ivy League colleges pounding beers and escaping pain that I know nothing about. Then again, they may skip those annoying 4 years of college to pursue a passion like culinary arts or ski instruction. The point is that I don't know what the future holds and 15 years is a long way away.

What I do know is that today was a great day, full of all the connections and activity beyond anything I could have dreamed of when I was toiling away at my former law firm (or staring out the window while "doing" document review or preparing interrogatories). Sadie and I went to visit my friend Trish for a little playdate, which Sadie thoroughly enjoyed as she sampled every single starch in Trish's pantry. On the way home, she kept asking me why she had flax seeds on her hands. I tried to explain that one of the many, many crackers she nibbled on during our visit was full of seeds that she could eat off her hands if she wanted. How there was any room in her stomach after eating cheddar bunnies, aramath crackers, water crackers, rice puffs, flax crackers and her own stockpile of raisins and peanut butter crackers is beyond me.

Then I took Simon to have his follow up appointment to verify that his ear infection has healed and followed that up with a lunch with another friend, Joyce. Simon is a really great 10-month-old dining partner. He likes to look around, take a few bites of food and smile at everyone. That he knocked over a big glass of ice water was really my fault.

I got to put both kids down for their naps. They are napping now. (Hence, the nanny early dismissal.) I am watching the sun start to sink down its wintery path that will leave us in darkness at about 4:30 p.m.

And, it's ok. We are going to have a quiet night here. We are going to play and have dinner and read books. Mommy will probably lay on the floor and see if the kids will just play nicely and quietly around her prone body. Then, they will be in bed and I will have had this day. This day, the prize that is all mine. It could all go to shit later and both kids could cry and whine from 5-8 p.m., but right now, as they lay sleeping and gathering energy for their afternoon assault, I can see a kind of perfection in this day that is what I was hoping to find when I left my job 10 months ago. As everyone else already knows, I only get today, so whether my future holds Swarthmore or DeVry or a stripper pole or anger management classes -- and let's be clear, any of those could be for me or for them-- I have today in my hands and am grateful for the chance to pause and appreciate all that I have.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bad Romance

When I hear Lady Gaga's Bad Romance (and for those of you who frequent spin classes, you cannot avoid it), I think of my breast milk. And my breast pump. And, we are in a bad romance.

Let's review: "I want your ugly, I want your disease/I want your everything as long as it's free."

That's me with the breast pump in a pop music nutshell. From the beginning, I was pumping like mad because I thought I was going back to my firm and I didn't want to worry about supply issues. Then, I kept pumping because of habit, duty, psychosis, the calorie burn, and fear about supply. Even when I decided not to return to work, I kept on pumping at least twice a day because (1) I knew I had the milk so why let it go to waste and (2) I often missed feedings when I was out with Sadie so I had to come home and pump for those missed feedings.

Well, let's just say that I was a little OCD about it. Every now and then my friends or Jeff might casually inquire about why I was pumping so much when I was pretty much a stay-at-home mom. I couldn't articulate it (probably because it's hard to make crazy sound sane), but I knew I couldn't stop. The whole enterprise took on moral and Biblical implications. I felt it was somehow immoral to not pump those extra 5 ounces I got in the morning. They were just sitting there in my breasts and everyone knows breast milk is like gold. How could I just stop pumping? What kind of mother does that?

I kept pumping. Soon, our reluctant sleeper, Simon, started to sleep through the night, which meant that the 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. feedings were consolidated into his 5:00 a.m. feeding, which we still do to this bleary-eyed day. I had a vague idea that my milk stockpile was pretty large, but I never really concentrated on that part of the freezer. I was more interested in the part of the freezer where I kept the ice cream and the frozen brownies.

About 4 weeks ago, I realized that some of my milk is going to expire. I have very carefully dated each bag of milk in the freezer and some of them bear June dates. The guidelines for keeping breast milk in the freezer vary, but generally six months is the outer limit of when it's still considered good nutrition for a baby to have defrosted breast milk. A friend told me about a young mother with "supply issues" (meaning she wasn't producing enough milk for her baby) and I decided to donate my milk. I felt afraid about letting my precious milk go, but the thought of it expiring and going to waste when a little baby out in the world could have it literally make me ill. I spent some time in the milk area of the freezer and separated all the milk by month. I had roughly 100 ounces I was willing to donate to my friend's friend, who actually ended up declining the milk because she was wary about the anti-depressant I am taking.

I tried not to feel rejected or ashamed that I take a low dose (I had to throw in there that it was "low" to mitigate the shame; and it really is low) of an anti-depressant that I started taking when I was a few weeks post-partum with both kids. I don't drink caffeine or alcohol or any non-approved FDA substances, but understandably some moms are nervous about medications. Another mother passed on it for similar reasons. I wish the well and feel grateful that I didn't have supply issues. Well, I do have supply issues, but the issue isn't low supply.

The issue is now I have about 100 ounces of milk in my freezer and it's going to expire soon. All year long Jeff has said that Thanksgiving weekend I can stop pumping. By his calculation, with our extra supply and Simon approaching the one-year mark (when babies are allowed to drink cow's milk so we won't have to rely on formula), I won't need to do that extra pump in the morning. I have been willing to let that go, and it feels really good. With those extra 40 minutes, I have spent more time dancing with Sadie, cuddling with Simon and hiding from both of them in the shower when I wanted to be alone.

But I am still addicted to the pump and sense of control I feel using it, which has been the irresistable draw of the pump in the first place. Why? Because breast feeding is so fucking hard, mostly because even after my boobs no longer hurt through every feeding and I accepted the fact that I couldn't really cavort around town with no sense of time because I would need to feed Simon, I still couldn't control one god-damned thing about nursing. I, like every other breast feeder, never knew if Simon was getting enough. Yes, he was in the 90th percentile for weight, but I couldn't measure it and tell feeding after feeding and day after day. I never knew if a day's fussiness was because of low supply or because I had extra brussel sprouts the day before. I didn't know anything. I hated that most of all, so I enlisted the pump give me a sense of control. I can measure what comes out of the pump. Every bottle has little hatch marks to show me each half an ounce. I can sit on my bed and listen to the wheeze of the pump and watch the drops turn into ounces turning into a bottle that Simon can drink. I have no idea what really happens when he's hanging out on my breast every morning from 5:00 a.m. until 7:00 a.m. In part, I don't know because I am half asleep, and many times, so is he.

I couldn't have done the breastfeeding for this long (and I intend to keep going, one day at a time) without the pump. It afforded me opportunities to sleep and to go places with Sadie while Simon got to nap. It helped me endure some of the tedium that is having a newborn baby. And an infant. It helped me take bottles of breast milk in the few places where I wasn't comfortable nursing.

It's a seriously miraculous invention of the modern world.

And, when I look at my freezer I can see that I quite possibly took it a little too far. A stay-at-home mom does not need a freezer full of 200 ounces of milk, the bags of which will expire one by one starting Sunday. I am not sure I could have forgiven myself for NOT pumping had I encountered supply issues, but I am finding it hard to forgive myself for pumping like a maniac and ending up with milk that will be thrown out.

NOT Coming to a mailbox near you

We tried. We had the matching outfits. We had the camera ready to go. We all had naps. But this photo shot was not meant to be "the One." We were working on the holiday card, but at the end of about a 12-minute period, both kids ended up in their diapers chasing each other around the living room.
We have to try again this weekend. I was hoping to be mailing out some photo magic as soon as Monday, but the train has been delayed. By god, if it takes me until May, I will get my picture. There's nothing wrong with a sweet little Memorial day greeting from the Ellis family.
Yes. It was just wasn't happening.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

That's a Whole Lotta Baby

We tried for several hours to get a good holiday picture of these two bundles of joy this past weekend. Let's just say, "epic fail" and leave it at that. We had fun though. There's a reason why we call Sadie "hilarious" and she did not disappoint this weekend. And you can see that Simon is sporting the cutest little pot belly on the planet.

I love these two wiggle worms.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Say what?

Sadie's art project this weekend consisted of coloring Simon's cheeks pink. He's just about over it. I tried to get as much avocado on his face as possible so we'd have a little Lilly Pulitzer prep thing going with the pink and green. He was about over that too.

"Can't you people just feed me and then leave me alone?"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Holiday Energy

It's possible that I am bringing the wrong energy to this holiday weekend. Namely, my sentiment is generally, "Thanksgiving is gonna be my bitch." Maybe it's a tad hostile. But, I keep finding myself saying it over and over. You give a girl a stuffing recipe and next thing you know she's talking shit to the most American of holidays.

I actually really like Thanksgiving. It's way better now that I am in recovery for my eating disorder. I guess that kind of goes without saying. Even when I was busy polishing off pecan pies and swearing off the dinner rolls before eating a fourth helping (Frank Bruni wasn't the only person born round), I always like that it was everyone's holiday. I guess I liked that it wasn't religious. Being thankful was beyond religion so it was a holiday for everyone I knew, including my Jewish ballet teachers and my Baptist grandmother. So I especially like that aspect now that Jeff and I come from different religious traditions.

It also got better when I accepted that I probably won't ever be part of a family that plays touch football in autumn leaves before eating turkey around a large farmhouse table. I accept that I hate football (I am looking at you, Penn State) and that I don't really want to do anything more with autumn leaves than look at them from the warmth and saftey of my mini-van when I drive to the suburbs. We are usually in LA visiting Jeff's family during the Thanksgiving holiday, which is a raucous good time and a double celebration because we celebrate Hannukah during the weekend. I am not sure I have seen any autumn leaves in Southern California, but I have seen and experienced lots of love, and some damn fine fried potato pancakes to boot. This year we were not brave enough to do the holiday travel with our two junior members, so we are going more low-key (except for the part where I am going to make this holiday my bitch) and having some friends over for an early dinner. It won't be relaxing because the children are invited and nothing ruins relaxation like children.

So, here I am almost 40 years old with a fridge full of things that I made while holding Simon and holding off Sadie. Most of it, I don't even particularly like. But I am leaning in to the holiday and waiting to welcome home my husband-- the one with the bad back who told me that he won't be able to pick up our children for a few days. (So much for my plan to have him change all the diapers for the weekend.)

It's good. I feel grateful and alive and realistic. And that's the best recipe I have.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kisses!

Awww. Look at Mommy's little 27-month-old baby giving her a kissie-poo! It's too cute. It almost makes Mommy forget that that Sadie has a rather tenacious case of diarrhea right now. Let's just say Mommy needs all the kisses she can get.

Did I mention Jeff is out of town?

In his absence, Mary Poppins has inhabited my soul. Last night I baked a pumpkin pie, and this morning I baked not 1 but 2 kinds of stuffing: one is quinoa-based and the other is traditional (with the requisite 2 sticks of butter). I don't even like pumpkin pie or stuffing, but here I am in all my glory. And you better believe I am bragging about this.

And through this cooking binge, I have discovered why I am not a good cook: the chopping. Oh good lord, the amount of chopping is insane. Onions, celery, garlic, leeks, more onions, another celery stalk, more garlic, sage. I would be an awesome cook if it wasn't for the chopping. In addition to how long it takes and how my hands now smell like a deli, I had the inprecision of chopping. It makes me crazy when some of the celery is shaped like a cresent and some is shaped like a half-cresent. So, then I chop it all so there are only half cresents, but I spy a few that were double-chopped, so now there are quarter-cresents and my OCD screams at me to make them all quarter-cresents. On and on it goes and next thing you know it's noon and all I have done is chop one measly stalk of celery. And I started chopping at 6:23 a.m.

Not cool.

So I think I did all the chopping today. Jeff says he threw his back out in D.C., so I am going to have to focus on my heavy lifting for the next few days. I hope Jeff can life Sadie's full diapers, because I am done with that the second he gets home.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Great Works of (He)art

Please feast your eyes on this, the most amazing and generous gift I have ever received. I am serious. This is right up there with the gift of life. Last night, bedraggled as we all were, our friends Frank and Joyce came over for Chinese food and frolicking with the children. I am not sure I had even brushed my teeth-- we were running our weekend that close to the edge.

Joyce walks into our kitchen holding a cardboard Amazon.com box with a red string around it, announcing that she had our wedding gift. Well, how's that for a surprise for us (who were married almost 3 years ago). I personally was of the opinion that sticking by me as I prepared for my wedding and showing up in hundreds of countless ways as my matron of honor is present enough, but who am I to argue someone out of giving me a gift?

So, I thought it was a joke.

This was no joke. Jeff and I opened the box and found two oil paintings of our children, which Joyce had painted. This is no recreational, paint-by-numbers or sell on Etsy project. Joyce is a real painter with real shows and a real studio and real models who pose nude for her work. These are capital P paintings of my children. I gotta say I was a little speechless when we opened the box. Jeff had tears in his eyes. It was such a great and thorough surprise to see those two oil paintings staring back at me. She perfectly captured Simon's cheery Simonness and Sadie's impish focus.

Jeff's been asking me where we should hang them. My real answer is that I want to buy a new house to display our paintings of the kids because I want it to be on a wall with lots of natural light and a place where people can get up close and admire the work of the Master. Jeff thought I was kidding, but I really wasn't. So now when people ask us if we are moving for schools I will say, "no, we are not playing that game . . . we are moving to find some good walls for our paintings of our children. They are original Polances."

So, yes, next to the gift of life from my parents, these are my favorite presents ever. Better so because I got to share them with Jeff. I am telling you, befriend an artist and your life will be richer than you can ever imagine. They give so much better gifts than lawyers.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Has anyone seen my zebra?

Oops. After a little puking on his dinner tray and some fever and some major sleeplessness, we took Simon to the doctor today and found out that he has an ear infection, which means his earlier ear infection probably never healed. I am not sure how I feel about my baby having an infection that 10 days of antibiotics couldn't heal. Actually, I am sure: I feel like it sucks.

But, we got new medicine today and Simon is starting to be his old self. I sent Jeff into the pediatrician with Simon today, but I gave him a list of questions: Is Simon a sickly child? Is my breast milk broken? Why is he sick all the time? Do I have breast cancer? Does he hate me? Is this all my fault?

Jeff's report from the doctor's office confirms that it's too soon to be labeling Simon as "sickly," because all second siblings end up sick a lot because older siblings bring lots of germs into the house. The doctor did not think that my breast milk is broken or that Simon hates me. (What the hell does she know?)

We've had a rough couple of nights and poor Simon is trying to sleep while his fever spikes and makes him feel horrible. We are doing our best to comfort him. I can say that when Simon is up for good at 3:40 in the morning and I want to be a mother who embraces him and gives him what he needs, I sometimes fall short of my ideal because it's so fucking early. But then when he falls asleep on my chest sleeping with his lips all puckered up and snoring his little piggy snores, I think that it's worth all the sleeplessness and that it's one of the sublime moments of being a parent to experience the capacity to comfort and hold a sick child.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Zebra or a Horse?

Simon has been in a bad mood since Monday night. Actually, it was Tuesday morning around 12:49 when the call went out. I am referring to his call of searing pain that he sent out for about 2 hours on Tuesday morning, with a repeat performance on Wednesday morning for about an hour. Both mornings he followed that up with a prompt 5:00 a.m. wake up call. Needless to say, Simon wasn't the only one in a bad mood this week.




I worried about my sunny little baby. Was he sickly? Did his ear infection recur or worsen? Was he mad at me? Was it all because I am a bad mother?-- Just kidding I never thought that. Ok. Yes I did.




Around the same time I developed a weird burning feeling in my left breast, so of course in addition to Simon's woes, I was now dying of mastitis or breast cancer. One of the two. My house was falling apart and I assumed we had made some mighty god very angry because he was smoting the hell out of us.




Then, today, I saw that Simon has a little tooth coming in on the bottom. Hmmmmmm. That sort of explains the searing pain and the sleep issue and the seriously assholery he's been dabbling in during meal time. I can't believe I didn't think of it. I mean, I think maybe I did, but I was too hysterical to look closely enough into his mouth. In my defense, he's not really one to sit quietly while I paw around in this sore mouth.

So, it reminds me of the saying in the medical field: if you see a footprint, look for a horse not a zebra. I take that to mean that the most common answer is usually the right one. Which means that I must have breast cancer and Simon has a new tooth. Right?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Suiting up and showing up

Here's Mr. Handsome all dressed up on a Tuesday morning in November. He looks like he is sitting in the lobby of a nice boutique hotel waiting for me to come so we can stroll through the streets of some charming European capital.

Doesn't that sound quaint?

But this Tuesday did not find us in Europe or even in a hotel. Jeff is sitting at the B school on the University of Chicago campus because we are thinking I might enroll in the MBA program.

Just kidding.

Actually, we were down in Hyde Park for an interview with the University of Chicago Lab Schools. It was a stressful morning trying to get out the door and down to the south side in rush hour traffic. My jaw was clenched and I was blaming everyone for making us late, even before we had missed our appointment time. We literally walked into the office at 9:00 on the button and the administrative assistant looked at us, puzzled, and when we told her who we were, she said we were on the schedule for 10:00 a.m.

Oops.

Well, we certainly weren't late. With an extra hour on our hands and a beautiful morning unfolding all around us, we strolled through southern Hyde Park and thought about what a life for us down there could look like. It sure has changed a lot since I lived down there. I saw a few Starbucks and heard there was a Dominick's down there. There were some gorgeous houses around the campus on Woodlawn and Kimbark. It's hard not to fantasize about the great life we would have when we were handed a stunning autumn morning with nothing to do except daydream. Then, I had to pee so we ducked into the B school, which is a simply amazing atrium building filled with all these bright minds thinking of ways to solve complex financial woes.

It was a great morning.

It's pretty weird to interview for your 2 year old to go to school. I actually had so much fun. The interviewer asked us probing questions about our family time, our relationship to technology and all about Sadie. There are 20 slots for 200 applicants so it's a long shot and we aren't even sure we want to go to school there. I am sure that I am determined that my kids get an amazing education. I will work my ass off so they can have a play-based pre-school to prepare them for experiential middle school and independent study high schools. I feel so happy that's where Jeff and I have our priorities. We may never set foot as a family in Europe, but that's ok, because I hope I am giving my kids an education that will allow them to take me and Jeff before we are old and feeble. I am willing to buy my clothes at Costco (especially since they have been carrying Joe's Jeans there) or go back to work in a less than perfect job so these two little kids can have the keys to all paths in the future.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stats

  • Has 7 teeth at age 9 months
  • Took a poop on the bathroom rug last week (picture NOT shown. You're welcome.)
  • Will not be attending Penn State for anything, ever.
  • Will probably not be allowed to play sports. Ever. (I kid.)
  • Loves to grab Sadie's hair.
  • Loves to thrust his head backwards into mommy's nose.
  • Can't sleep past 6:05 a.m. unless he has had a flu shot and only 1 nap in the past 23 hours.
  • Laughs more than he sleeps, talks or crawls
  • Second to laughing, this kid loves to wave. Always the waving with Simon.
  • Looks like mommy but is all Daddy. (See the part where he loves to laugh.)

Starting to see myself


Hmmmm. Where does she get it? Where does my baby girl get her enthusiasm for the phone? It's going to be hard to pin this one on Jeff. I think it's pretty much me. I love watching Sadie play on the phone, and now that she has more verbal skills, it's a lot funnier to hear her get on the phone, pretending, of course, and say, "Um, hi. Yes, I'll be right there. Goodbye." I think we can all blame Steve Jobs for this.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Whew.

Jeff just returned from his longest stint away from home: 3 nights. I know some families do this all the time, but I am still finding my sea legs on solo parenting when Jeff is gone. It's actually not really solo parenting, because I still discuss things with Jeff and keep him updated on all the developments, but the morning routine and the nighttime routine, well, that's been all me for 3 nights.

Could you hear Sadie's glee when Jeff walked through the door? She was so excited and yelling so loudly that I think she burst my eardrums, which is fine, because I can just start taking Simon's earache medication.
Aside: If Jeff was not bald, would his hair be this curly? I need to check out a web program that will let me put Sadie's hair on Jeff's head. You know, in all my spare time.

Anyway, we all survived the big business trip of November 2011. I only cried once and that was last night. Ok, twice, but once was for a totally, objectively, bona fide appropriate reason. First, I cried because I sometimes think Simon doesn't like me. It's a weird, mean trick my brain plays on me, but when I get especially tired or overwhelmed, I sometimes hear a voice telling me that Simon doesn't like me that much and that we are not close.

And, then I fucking hit the roof.

It's so upsetting and I can't exactly explain why I can't brush the thoughts aside. I tried. They wouldn't budge; they had taken root in my brain and flourished into full-blown shade trees that barely swayed when I tried to get rid of them. Part of it is that Simon is such a smiley, laid back baby, the likes of which I have never known. He smiles at me, he smiles at the lady in the elevator on the way to the pediatrician, he smiles at Sadie. I kept hearing for months that little boys love their mamas like no one else in the world. So far, Simon has lots of love for pretty much everyone. There is nothing I can see that is special about me. Can you imagine that a grown woman is chasing her infant son around trying to light a spark between us based on my random fantasy about what it "should" feel like to have a baby son?

If you can't imagine it, let me just inform you that it's painful. In addition to feeling like I have done something wrong or that I haven't been available enough to Simon so that he could adore me like "all other sons" adore their mothers, I also feel heaps of shame about the whole subject. Who does this? Who obsesses that her son doesn't love her? Is the subtext of this some implicit criticism of Simon for not taking care of my feelings or fixing my need to have him demonstrate his attachment in some way? Am I so determined to find something deeply and irrevocably wrong with my mothering that I have to invent something that is at once totally pedestrian and also totally devastating-- this "problem" that Simon doesn't adore me?

So, yes, there were tears last night when I finally opened my mouth and told my friend Trish all about my fears about my relationship with Simon. Actually, I started crying in the living room in front of both of the children: Sadie came running over to me and cried a little herself because she's a sympathetic crier like that; Simon looked over his shoulder at me, flashed his $1 million smile and went on playing with the blocks he was engrossed in.

And there it is. They are so different. Sadie and Simon are so fucking different. I can't think of two more different people. I haven't really heard anyone talk about this subject, which I would define as "reconciling the different personalities that your children have and embracing all possibilities therein." I guess I got used to Sadie's ways and memorized them and decided that "her" way was how it was: Babies cry when their mothers leave the room. I thought this because that's what Sadie did. Simon is not one to cry when I leave the room. So, my fear-based brain thinks there is a problem. I assume that if Simon came first and didn't cry when I left the room, I would have confronted a crying Sadie and wondered, with foreboding, "is she insecurely attached? What the hell is with all the crying?"

I have to let go and it gets harder and harder to do in parenting. I have to let go of all the fantasies I had about who my children would be and how they would make me feel and what it would look like. I had a great pregnancy book that talked about how some mothers had to mourn their fantasy baby in order to embrace the baby they actually brought home from the hospital. I feel like I have to do that dozens of times every week. I still can't believe that my children -- both of them-- don't want to just climb in my lap and snuggle with me for hours at a time. I can't believe they don't want to curl up under a blanket and watch The Rosie Show with me. Who are these children that want to run and play and explore and pour yogurt into their spaghetti sauce? Freaks. They are both freaks. They are our freaks. I pray-- honestly, and not just a phrase, I am praying to a higher power-- that I can love them and meet them where they are continue to let go of fantasies and projections that have nothing to do with these two remarkable little beings.

That, and I will keep contributing to their therapy funds. It's the least I can do.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Daily Tip

For my law students, during every class we meet, I give them a "real world" tip for surviving in a law firm. I have no idea if they are even helpful tips or if they will be dated and quaint by the time they graduate in 3 years, but I do it anyway, because it's good for my soul to share what I have learned.

Initially, each tip I shared was about the mechanics of surviving at a big law firm. I imparted such gems as 1) never give an original document to someone senior to you; give senior people copies of originals and give the actual original to your paralegal. I based this tip on my personal experience that the more senior someone is in the law firm, the LESS likely (exponentially so) he or she is to keep track of "very important" documents, such as, say, a signed contract or an original deed. Do I really need to explain why that could be disasterous for a lawsuit? By the same token, the paralegals I worked with were well trained on this same theory, so they knew not to give me (or any other attorney) an original unless we had a really good reason as to why we needed it. I never got any originals from a paralegal; I am led to believe that I would have had to explain that Justice Souter wanted it for my oral argument in D.C. if I wanted an original.

I also told my law students to get to know their professors. Any of them. Why? Because inevitably somewhere down the road law students (or former law students) need reference letters and or recommendations from law professors. While they may be bogged down in final exam preparation or making outlines, they should be warned that they will be very sad if they miss this chance to get to know professors who will be the only ones who can help them get judicial clerkships, fellowships or scholarships down the road.

On and on, I have regaled them with advice and little mini-war stories (don't save your angsty love letters on the firm computer system AND do not close the door and throw your stapler when you are angry if your next door neighbor is a psychopath who hates other women). But, there is one thing I want to tell the 5 women in my class that I haven't found the words for. (I actually don't know if I am allowed to give advice just to the women of the class, but I am DYING to give them a semi-precious gem).

Here's what I want to tell my female students:

Look. I know you may not like volunteering to talk in my class. You think I can't see you hiding behind your computer screen, staring intently, hoping that I will call on someone else. You know, you are only about 4 feet away from me. You can't really hide. I know you don't want to tell me the facts of the CBS case or explain the reasoning of Tumbarella. I get it. You want to just sit and listen to me and your classmates for 2 hours a week and then go home, write a great paper for me, and earn an A to match all the A's you made when you were in undergrad at UCLA or University of Michigan. I see your body language, and it says to me: "Don't call on me. Don't look at me. Let me just sit here, take my notes and not have to speak. Please. Call on her over there. If we all wait long enough, John will say something because he is in the National Guard and speaking in a law school class is nothing to someone who leads 30 soldiers in his spare time away from Con law."

I know. I was there too.

And, then I found myself at a Big Law firm and on a daily basis my superiors (the partners, the senior associates) were asking me what I thought about our case, or what I thought about the SEC's latest letter to our client, or what the documents suggested about our next strategy. Mr. McPartner looked at me during every team meeting (which, in the heat of an SEC investigation occurred on a thrice weekly basis) and said, "Christie, what do you think?" There was no hiding. I couldn't possibly hid behind my computer screen, especially since my computer was in my office, which was down the hall from McPartner's office.

I had to think and then I had to speak. I had to tell him and my team what I had found in the documents I was reviewing. For 18 months, three times per week I would sit in a room with McPartner (male) and 5 other male associates and 1 other senior female counsel member and use my voice to explain to them all 1) what I had been doing, 2) what I was seeing, 3) how 1 and 2 fit in with our overall case strategy and 4) what I thought the SEC's next move would be.

No one else could speak up for me because no one else was doing what I was doing. No one cared that I was scared of speaking up or that I felt unprepared because I didn't know I would be on the spot. By month 3, there is no way I could pretend that McPartner surprised me when he put me on the spot by asking for an update from me.

I wished that I had taken the very cushy 3 years in law school to practice speaking up and talking about my ideas and legal theories in front of my peers. I want to tell my students that if you are too scared (or bored or lazy or indifferent) to speak up during your 2-credit writing class, then you better find a way to get over it before you practice because people paying your salary 3 years from now won't care if they are boring you or keeping you from your riveting Angry Birds game (is Angry Birds a game? I have no idea. whatever it is, I suspect some of my students do it during my insightful lectures) or your IM session with your long distance boyfriend who is studying public policy in Boston.

Here's the real dirty secret: If you don't speak up, someone else will. It will probably be a man. There's lots of research out there about gender and class participation. Let's just talk about this little corner of the legal landscape. The men talk about 10 times more than the women in this class. Guess who my best writers are? Yep. The women. My top 4 writers are women. My 2 worst writers are men. By far. This is including the young man for whom English is not a first language.

There are only 10 people in my class.

The men aren't talking because they know more about writing. Because, after grading 5 papers, I can tell you that they categorically do not know more about legal writing. They also are not talking because they are kissing up to me, because class participation is not part of the grade. Now, granted, I am a very hot teacher, but that hasn't provided an incentive for the men to write better papers, so I can't conclude that winning my affections motivates class participation.
I can't say exactly whey they talk so much more than you women do. I assume there is a cultural expectation or social pressure or plain old habit that contributes to the dynamic. The reasons why are not as important to me as how simple it is to alter this reality.

Ladies, you need to start talking. You need to practice speaking authoritatively, even if you think you haven't prepared enough. Listen, it hasn't stopped the men. They speak even when they are not prepared. I can tell. Can't you? Stop waiting to be perfect to open your mouth. Stop expecting the fear to go away before you can speak. Build that muscle. Jump to the edge of the limb and see what happens. I know there are invisible, potent forces that make it seem impossible to open your mouth and contribute to the discussion. Guess what? Too bad. Talk anyway.

I am coming for you. Next semester I am going to call on you one by one, over and over again, because now I am mother and I can't inflict things on you in the name of "your own good." I am going to get you talking even if it's to say, "I don't know." That's better than hiding behind your stupid laptop or staring at your Tory Burch sandals. Yes, they are cute, but look at them on the train home, not during my class.

Don't miss this chance because the stakes get higher from here.

More Halloween Snaps

Here is the first of many, many looks that our children will give to one another with the subtext: "WTF is up with these weirdo parents of ours?" Thank god they have each other.

You can see here that it's not easy to wrangle two children into the Halloween spirit and keep them steady and smiling on command. That didn't stop us from trying for about 30 minutes.

Awwwwwwwwwww. Look at our little moo cow drinking a bottle. Is there any cuter? I discussed the irony of a little baby cow drinking human milk with both of the kids and neither of them felt like it warranted the amount of discussion and analysis that I did.

Sometimes it's lonely being a mom who went to graduate school in English.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Our Shadow Selves

On days like today, when it's gray and rainy and about 50 degrees, I crave sunshine like I craved edible food when I was in St. Petersburg. I was perusing some pictures from our glorious fall to remind me that the sun, indeed, has shone before and it will shine again.

Patience, Grasshopper.

Simon went in for his 9-month doctor's appointment and the doctor informed us that Simon has a double ear infection. Of course Simon was smiling through all of it, so I felt terrible when the doctor gave us the news. He's on antibiotics and even more smiley so I think we caught it early. I did not know that cold and flu season started right after Labor Day. Next year I will plan ahead.

Sadie has taken to potty training herself, which is a marvel to me. She spends some QT each night sans diaper running around and playing, and then suddenly she will ask to go to the potty. Luckily, we have a growing collection of porta-potties in the house so she's never too far from them. She hasn't had one accident. While I have, on occasion, invited her to take her business to the potty, she has always declined and I have never pressed her. As with just about every other thing, it works best if Sadie gets to direct the pace and timing.

In the meantime, when not scrapbooking or looking for lost items that invariably end up in Sadie's play kitchen, I am really working up a mental sweat over the upcoming time change. I mean, if I have to get up everyday at 5 am again, I think I am going to need more than sunshine. A lot more. And it will need to be an over-the-counter dosage. I won't lie: I am nervous about the winter with its bitter chills and unflattering layering of clothes. It's hard enough to get two kids out the door during summer when no one really needs shoes and socks. What am I going to do with two unwilling snow suit wearers? Oh my god, I shudder to think. I keep reminding myself that it will only be about 4 months and some of those days may actually be nice, or balmy, or not more than 10 degrees below freezing. It will be ok. Millions of families do this every year. I think I need an Alaskan pen pal to give me a good dose of schaedenfraude for the winter. Nothing perks me up like a comparison wherein I come out on top.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Switch Witch

We had a very delightful, if a tiny bit brisk, Halloween. It felt like we lived in the suburbs for several brief moments as our court yard was swarmed with dozens of kids dressed as Woody from Toy Story, lady bugs, gnomes, lions, giraffes, and the cast of Harry Potter. I bought 4 huge bags of candy thinking I would have to donate the leftovers to my law students, but we ran out by 6:15 p.m. I will say it was a little disconcerting to hand out candy to very large 16-year-old "children" who were NOT in costume and who shoved their backpacks onto our porch to ask for candy. Honestly, I was too scared to refuse them. I also had a moment when an extremely obese 3 year old Batman asked for some candy and I wanted to scream that what he really needed was a good night's sleep and some real food.

I held back. Since, I am just a neighbor and not the surgeon general.

Yet.

Simon held up well considering he didn't know what the hell was going on. I just put him in the baby Ergo in his little cow costume and paraded him around. Sadie, too, was in great form. We didn't have a bag for her to trick-or-treat with so Jeff gave her a piece of Swiss Army carry-on luggage. Every single person we encountered commented on her giant bag. I told everyone she was taking a plane to Mexico as soon as she got enough candy. She really got the hang of it by the 5 house. By the 6th house, we were done. She and I handed out candy to all our little neighbors and friends, which was great fun. She sat imperiously on the porch next to me and held out the candy whenever someone walked up. It was funny, because she wasn't willing to lean forward or stand up or move at all. She held out her little 2 foot arm and if the person wanted the candy, he would have to move his back to her arm because she wasn't going to put forth any more effort.

By about 6:15, I noticed that my candy stash was diminishing at an exponentially greater pace. Turns out that when we got a rush of customers, Sadie, seeing I was distracted, would siphon off the Tootsie Rolls into her luggage. She didn't appreciate it when I tried to get it back. When it was all over, our very last customer gave me the greatest gift of the season: She told me about the Switch Witch.

What's that, you say?

The Switch Witch comes to your house the day after Halloween (All Saints Day for the Catholics out there) and takes all of your candy and leaves you with a toy you have really been wanting. When my neighbor Ashley told me about the Switch Witch I told her I was going to write her a check for 1,000.00, because that's brilliant. Oh my god, such a great idea.

I tried to talk that up to Sadie, but she's a little young to grasp the concept (of her parents totally trying to manipulate her with some freaky fantasy) so we may just resort to hiding the candy and emphasizing life's other great pleasures: reading books, listening to Mother Goose songs, screaming at the top of your lungs. You know, the little things.

Either way, I am passing along this idea to people whose children may be in the perfect strike zone for the magic of the Switch Witch.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Confession

There is something about Jeff being away on a golf trip this weekend that really makes me want to shop on-line. For presents. For myself. The delicious taste of justification-- it makes my eyes water. You should see my virtual shopping carts.

Minus 2 for my anti-consumerism project goals.

So Much To Celebrate



First, our little Simon O'Brien is 9 months old today! It's not easy to snap a picture when a 23 lb baby is sitting on your chest taking a wee snooze. This week Simon is in the habit of falling asleep on me when he's nursing, which I absolutely love. He usually faces away from me, so I can't see his cuteness all wrapped up in sleep. Every now and then he faces me, but I usually take that opportunity to pick out his buggers so I can't say I blame him for turning his nose away from me. I can be a little relentless when it comes to hardened snot.


So, we celebrate Simon turning 3/4 of a year old. I can't believe it. I remember last November: We were about to head out to Arizona for a holiday trip and I was pretty pregnant and Simon was double dutching in my stomach all the time. Now, he's here and damn, he's about to start walking. He can stand on his own for about 2 seconds right now. Sadie and I were trying to teach him how to walk this afternoon and he thought it was so funny. Every time I let go he would laugh and laugh, which would throw him off balance. Someday I hope he can tell me what's so freaking funny, because he's clearly in on the joke.


We are also celebrating the 200th post for Swaddled With Joy! Sounds like one little mama has been cured of her commitment phobia and her lack of consistency.


Oh, wait, that's not true at all.


I have stuck with this little venue for collecting memories, insanities, and snippets from our lives. Is now a good time to say that while I was out this morning, Sadie went pee-pee in the potty twice and also managed to go #2 in the potty as well? Why not. She did. I couldn't decide if I was happy or sad that this took place when I was away from my post. I guess it doesn't matter. I still got to change many poopy diapers today alone and will probably get another chance as soon as tomorrow.


I would write more witty and wonderful scenes from our madcapped days, but I am exhausted. I am actually more exhausted than usual, as my beloved is in Las Vegas for a tournament with his dad and brother. I enjoy getting the texts from Jeff complete with a picture of the perfect weather at the tee box, especially when I am pumping, feeding Simon and keeping Sadie from impaling herself in the fireplace (all at the same time). Not exactly as picturesque as the bucolic 4 par at hole 8, but we manage to keep ourselves in gratitude for our humble vistas back here at home. I had great plans for doing projects around the house while Jeff was gone. Turns out that the only project I could really manage on my own was keeping the children fed and relatively unsoiled. The closets and the laundry and the countertops full of crumbs will have to wait until Jeff comes home (and he finds time to do them).


It's a good, good life, but damn, it sure makes me tired.


Here's to hundreds of more posts about love and growth and mess and crumbs and poop and milestones and heartbeats down the road.


Oh, and I can't wait until the post about my weekend away . . . even if it's in 2013, there WILL be a post about mama's weekend in some far flung locale wherein I will detail the exquisite, uninterrupted sleep, the shopping, the delicious food, the breast-pump-free nature of the excursion and the utter joy of both going away and coming home.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hell-oween Candy


I don't give a sh*t right now about Wall Street or the protests or Libya or menopause or the size of my stomach. You know what I do care about? How Halloween candy is about to ruin my life.

I really care about that right now.

To make a long story short, Halloween candy and I have never gotten along. When I was a kid, there was never enough, my brother always had more, my sister's always lasted longer, and I felt like I got hosed by ending up with all the nasty candy corn. So, I guess it's not entirely a surprise to me that I experiencing some drama around Halloween candy (hereinafter "HC") now that I have children.

I don't want to be the wacky, black-and-white thinking mom that refuses to let my kids participate in any activity where they might come in contact with sugar. I don't want to suck all the joy out of life just because I, myself, had a little struggle with candy and weight all my freaking life. I also don't want to watch Sadie (or Simon once he gets past pureed sweet potatoes and avocados) to maim their bodies or minds or afternoons because they ate too much candy. On an empty stomach.

And that's sort of what happened when Sadie was first introduced to HC this week. She didn't eat a big breakfast on Wednesday, because she was busy being sure that Simon didn't touch a single thing in the house she might ever want to play with. Then, she was walking around in my leopard skin flats (not real leopard skin-- and don't judge; there was a moment in 2009 when those shoes were really fashion forward). When she got ready to go to her regular Wednesday appointment for story time with her friend Rhys, Sadie was game for dusting off her chicken costume and festively joining the other costumed kids.

The only way to describe what happened next is to picture nuclear meltdown at my house 2 hours later when Sadie came home with 2 kit-kat bars down the hatch and she was hungry for more. Lots more. She couldn't talk about anything besides HC. She wanted that kit-kat with a fervor she reserves for the iPad and Elmo. It was lunch time so I pulled out all my culinary tricks: chicken nuggets? Mac 'n cheese? Pumpkin risotto? Truffle oil on a corn cake?

Nope.

It was all about the HC. HC this and HC that. I made Sadie lunch anyway and set it on the table, explaining that there would be no more HC until she ate her lunch. She sat down for .8 seconds and then declared she was done and ready for her HC. It was the single-mindedness of it. The tenacity. She was like a little Bernie Madoff.

I was scared.

I told her if she ate some of her lunch we would go upstairs with her bottle before her nap (not really a bottle, but a sippy cup full of warm milk, because that's how Princess of the Universe likes it) we would eat her candy together and read a book. My theory was that she needed to have her candy with company (me) and that she would be so filled up by my loving and stimulating maternal presence that she would forget all about the candy.

Right. And, then we ate biscuits on the moon.

I felt really dejected. We don't use sugar as a reward around here. She's getting potty trained through stickers and happy dances done by her parents. She's never had an M&M. She thinks yogurt is ice cream and is happy to have a fig for dessert. What the hell happened with that Kit-Kat? If it was a dark chocolate snickers I could understand, but a Kit-Kat? That's practically just a graham cracker.

Needless to say, when I ended up having to capitulate (because I am afraid of conflict even with my children) and eat the Kit-Kat with her (I didn't really eat any), it went so far downhill from there, I can't even tell you. It was time to hug her and put her down for a nap and she turned 1000 shades of Exorcist child on me. Screaming. Oh, the screaming. She was kicking her crib and then hurting her foot which made her cry more. I would pick her up and rock her and get her calmish and then it would start again when I would mention our primary purpose for the whole excursion upstairs was for her to get her nap. She has really never screamed like that. I would say she was downright apoplectic.

It was only October 26. We haven't even started the bona fide Halloween festivities. How can I keep her from getting sidetracked by the HC? (What if she fails out of highschool because she's a sugar addict? Me-- always in the moment.) I have asked around and haven't really heard anyone else with a good plan for dealing with kids around the HC. One person said 1 piece of candy per day. I like that idea, I just don't want to fight the battle of MORE MORE MORE everyday with her. I don't want to create taboos around food, but I think her reaction to the Kit-Kats was an indication that she needs my intervention. The hell I am going through that again.

She did end up sleeping for 3.5 hours after her cardio temper tantrum. We didn't deal with any HC today so I am one day closer to November, that sweet, sweet candy-free month. I am open for ideas. It's a little too late to convince her that broccoli is a kind of HC. But, I just may try that tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Elegy

The other night after a very long arduous day keeping my children alive and molding their little characters to be citizens of the world (like the Jolie-Pitt children without all that pesky international travel), Jeff and I sunk into bed ready to shut down the day and escape into the arms of a sweet, sweet slumber. (Did you think I was going to say we sank into each others' arms? Silly. Does that sound relaxing to you? After a day of being mauled by my two children, I am not really in the market for more physical contact. I know, I know, Jeff is so freaking lucky.)

Even more lucky for Jeff, just before he started his initial snoring (think little piggie snores that are cute until he hits the REM stage and it's more like wild hog bellows), I told Jeff that I was having a growing feeling that a primary, significant relationship in my life was hitting the rocks. I was scared to even say those words outloud, which is why I started the airing out process with Jeff, because, while he loves me, he doesn't really listen to me.

I told him that I needed to process the end of the relationship and mourn the fantasy I had been holding onto, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, the relationship could start over on a stronger basis: one of honesty, vulnerability and reality.

If he had been listening, Jeff probably would have thought that I had acquired a boyfriend in all my spare time. But, no, it was nothing like that. I was talking about a relationship I had been involved with since I was 13. There had been ups and down and of course there were the college years and the years when I was aloof and distant, but through it all there was a pulse, a heartbeat, however faint, that kept the relationship viable.

I was talking about my relationship with Oprah Winfrey.

Here's how it went down:

When she first came on the air, I would come home from my all-girls Catholic highschool and watch her show at 4 p.m. while eating an ample snack and wearing my little plaid skirt. I usually fell asleep on the couch after her show (that's what an "ample" snack consisting of fat and carbs will do to a girl), and my parents would leave me on the couch until dinner time. In college, I didn't really watch Oprah. In graduate school, I would not have been caught dead watching network TV, let alone Oprah. Good lord, I couldn't begin to harmonize Derrida, semoitics and French post-structuralism with fucking Oprah Winfrey. But, I never spoke ill of her, even when she became known for collecting angels or singing her own theme song. (We all make mistakes.) In law school, I wasn't much of a daytime TV watcher, what with all the outlines and res ipsa loquitor to memorize.

But, we had those weeks I was on maternity leave, before I was properly medicated, when I could do nothing but sit on the couch nursing my baby/ies looking for tips on living my best life, since I didn't think living with my breasts in another person's mouth would necessarily fit that description. When the snowstorm of 2011 hit and I was housebound with a (second) surgical scar, a newborn baby, and a somewhat highstrung and angry 18-month-old, Oprah's inspired 25th season was a balm for all my jagged scars-- physical and emotional. Listening to Paul Simon sing her theme song about 25 years left me and Simon covered in salty tears everyday.

I was riveted by her Behind the Scenes show. I think if I taught a management course I would show some clips of her leadership style to my students. I was surprised at how funny and intentional Ms. Winfrey is. I also thought it was hilarious how she had no idea what REI was and seemed so proud of never having to drive a car. Her dressing room was a marvel: stacks of perfectly folded cashmere sweaters. Shelves of fancy shoes I can't spell or walk in without having my calf muscles spasm. Her loves for her dog, the way she fixes her lunch in the morning and how impressively hard she works. Say whatever you want about Oprah and her message or her meaning, she undeniably works her freaking ass off. I am not entirely sure what she does, but it was clear that she put in long hours preparing for shows and her staff, working equally long (or longer) hours, would clearly do anything for her.

All of this is impressive as an American success story, even if she wasn't a woman or of color or a woman of color from the poorest state in the country. Even if she wasn't abandoned by her mother and raped and cast aside by more than one trusted person in her life. I will admire her until the day I die. Period.

I cried when the show was over. I cried when she said the show had been "the love of her life," and she walked off the stage in that perfect petal pink dress. I cried when the staffers got all choked up on Behind the Scenes, bemoaning that they would never be together again. I know it's not hard to make me cry, but the tears are still meaningful even though they fall frequently.

But, the other day I was perusing OWN, Oprah's network, and there she was. And, wait, there were many of her staff members. I guess they are called producers. There was Sherri Salata and Jill, and Dana and they were producing a show for Oprah called Lifeclass.

Wait.

I thought Oprah was leaving. I thought the producers were all crying because it was over.

It's not over. I can TiVo here 5 times per week if I want. There is even a behind the scenes show for Lifeclass. What? I feel like it was all a tease. I feel duped. I know it's a different show, but it's still Oprah 5 days per week with virtually the same cast.

So, skeptically I watched these Behind the Scenes and started watching Rosie on Own. Last Friday Rosie showed footage of a surprise party that Oprah threw for Rosie and her staff. At first blush, that seems like a kind and generous and supportive thing to do, right? Oprah pulled out a tequila bottle as big as a satellite dish and "make" Rosie do shots. Of tequila. In front of her staff. On camera. Rosie introduced the clip saying that Oprah loves the tequila shot and that Rosie herself hasn't done a shot in about 30 years.

Let's see. If your boss and the owner of the Network on which you have a brand new show that is billed as your resurrection and "second" chance to host a show calls you over to do a tequila shot, what do you say? One guess: Where's my lime, Oprah?

As a non-drinker who was in a heavily alcohol-friendly profession (is there one that's not, besides Mormon bookseller?), this was painful to watch. I know that drinking is social and makes people happy and loosens people up. I take it from her comments that Rosie imbibes at least occasionally. But, that's different than being cajoled by Oprah to take a shot at a party she has thrown in your honor. In her old studio that you just took over for your fledging talk/variety show. Rosie was a good sport about the whole thing and later said the shot felt like drinking liquid Ben Gay. What's the big deal, right? I am sure if Rosie had an objection to drinking Oprah would respect that and present her with a keg of Tang or a bucket of Fresca for the celebration.

What I saw in that interaction was my own recollection of how hard it is to say no to bosses, especially in situations that are not directly related to work. In the social arena, it's hard to tell your boss that you freaking hate baseball, but will be happy to take clients to Cubs games, even if it's raining and you are 5 months pregnant. It was hard to be the only person at the big table not drinking and have a partner ask me over and over again why I wasn't drinking. What answer was he looking for? I have no idea. I tried to get creative over the years so everyone could just laugh and move on. Someone told me to say that my parole officer won't let me drink. Is there anything cool about saying "I just don't drink. I would rather put those calories towards chocolate or samples from Costco." What about, "you know what, boss? You make me incredibly anxious and I hate socializing at work so I am not going to add alcohol to the mix because it will probably make me projectile vomit all over these stupid crab legs you ordered." Sometimes I would mix a little bit of truth: "My dad's a recovering alcoholic and I have an addictive personality." Then, I would give my listeners a knowing stare. Usually the drunkest person at the table would then say, "so, that's it? THAT's why you don't drink? The hereditary thing?"

Anyway, I was annoyed that the most powerful woman in media had to resort to shots. It seemed like it was a performance for the staff and for Rosie and for the viewers to see this fun-loving, party-girl-for-the-people side of Oprah. How could a person who does shots and invites others to so shoot be anything but fun and young and full of joy and vitality?

I didn't like it. I felt for Rosie who was in a tough spot but had to play along all the name of "fun." Her staff is incredibly young and driven so I imagine the atmosphere is very "work hard; play hard." I may be the only person in the world who cares about this or is still thinking about it. One day I will be a boss again of someone besides Sadie and Simon and I will think long and hard before I ask anything of anyone in a public, social setting because the whole point of power is that people will do what you say, even if it feels like drinking liquid Ben Gay.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ahem.

Everyone has parenting advice, right? Sleeping, eating and discipline advice. Also there is advice about schooling and activities and moral development. On the one hand, this is all fertile ground for conversation when meeting new people who also have children. On the other hand, I wish someone would tell me something truly relevant.

Such as?

How about warning me that my children's worst smelling diapers and foulest GI issues will commence as soon as Jeff goes out of town? I could have used a head's up on that one.

How about telling me that every single snack I will ever fix for my 2 year old will end up on the floor, no matter how much money I spend on "snack traps" from Amazon.com? (Snack trap my ass. Sadie reached in the second I handed her the alleged traps and took the top off threw it on the floor (along with the rest of her snacks)).

Could someone have mentioned that kids don't like to wear their coats? Remember, I am not from around here. No one cared if I didn't wear my coat when I was a kid because I grew up in Texas, where crazy shit goes down all the time, but the temperature has the decency to remain well above freezing all "winter" long. Do I need to beg you for tips on how to deal with a distraught toddler whose hands are frostbitten, yet she refuses to wear her coat?

What about a little reminder that once a child knows how to say "mama," she or he might stand next to you and scream it at the top of her vocal range 1,000 times a minute, just because she knows it annoys you? What the hell are you supposed to do with that? What does the venerable Dr. Sears say about that? Hell, if co-sleeping will put an end to that, I say, "Jump in my bed, kiddos."

And, that was sort of uncool of the veterans around me not to mention that I would be unable to have a conversation with another adult while my 2 year old is in the room, unless the conversation revolves around the child? I have grown weary of watching Sadie fling herself off a high stool or bang her head on the table, the minute I engage in conversation with anyone who is not Sadie. I am bitter, but I would accept some tips on how to talk to Sabrina about Simon's nap schedule or discuss dinner plans with Jeff without Sadie having to concuss herself in the process? It sure is hard to convince myself we are such amazing, enlightened, loving parents when we have to buy Sadie a helmet to discuss the news of the day.

She looks so innocent.

She looks so demure.

DO NOT BUY IT. This little girl has an emotional intelligence so far beyond me that I probably deserve to be played like her little bejeweled princess fiddle. She probably has emotional intelligence beyond you too. You may think you have the upper hand, but before you know it, you will be living in Sadieland where you have to read the same Dora books over and over and over and you have to give her a bite of whatever you are eating (even if you are making meatballs with raw ground turkey) and you have to give her your heart, because she will accept nothing less.

Could I be more proud?