Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The party in pictures

We jetted off two weekends ago for a fancy party held in my mom's honor. She retired after 15 years as a VIP. Some other VIPs offered to host their party at their VIHouse surrounded by 10 acres of VIGardens scattered with VISculpture. To set the scene:

Here are a few of the sculptures (guess which one is for you, Julie):

Yeah, really. And here is what the table setting looked like:

So you can imagine how nervous I was about having Jo and Opie at this party. Did I mention it was a sit-down, five-course meal for 150 people, most of whom were still more VIPs who are big donors to the organization for which my mom works/worked? And let's not forget that this was the day that Jo suddenly developed the barfing flu.

But they looked really cute, and charmed everyone, and did not throw up or throw tantrums. The tables were set up outside, which helped a lot. I got to tour the gardens, eat at least some of my dinner, and hang out with family (15 of us all together, including a cousin who I haven't seen since he was about 4, who turned out to be a real mensch and fit right in as if he'd been at every birthday and holiday dinner since time began).

I wish I had a shot of the waiters parading down the hill with covered dishes on their trays before each course. But you'll have to settle for:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A mother's work is never done

(With apologies to Laura Joffe Numeroff.)

If you’re having guests for dinner, you're going to have to wash the tablecloth.

Before you can remove the cloth, you'll have to clear the stacks of magazines from the table.

When you move the magazines to the family room, you’ll find a puppet that belongs in the basement playroom.

When you ferry the puppet downstairs, you might discover dog poop all over the floor.

After you pick up the poop and vacuum the rug, you’ll need to empty the garbage.

When you pull the bag out of the garbage can and set it on the floor to tie it closed, you’ll see that the bag has leaked into the can and onto the floor, where you stepped in the puddle.

After you take the offending bag outside, you’ll need to scrub the can, the floor, your shoes and your hands.

When you go to the sink to wash your hands, you’ll realize it’s full of dirty dishes.

When you open the dishwasher to load them in, you’ll find out that it’s full of clean dishes.

When you’ve emptied and filled the dishwasher, you’ll be hungry for a snack.

When you sit down at the dining room table with your snack, you’ll realize you never did wash that tablecloth.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Many posts brewing (if I can get to them before I go back to the airport yet again), but here's a quick fashion report from the streets and subways of New York:
  • The bee's knees: I thought it was a silly rumor, but it's apparently true that knee-length, skinny, cuffed shorts are back in style. I saw them all over. Word to the wise: This is not the best look for everyone.

  • The spelling bee: To the woman spotted wearing a t-shirt bearing the message "You're boyfriend says hi": You're ostensibly snarky witticism loses all of its punch, and then some, when you're punctuation is so distractingly wrong.

  • Be all you can be: It takes a lot of confidence (or perhaps insanity) to wear a three-piece lavender suit, then bring it up a notch with a matching shirt and tie. But it's all for nothing if you don't have the coordinating lavender snakeskin cowboy boots. Then you're really ready to take on the A train to Lefferts Blvd.

And this just in (non-fashion news): Our butterfly party was cool, but this really takes the cake.

Monday, June 12, 2006


June 10, 2006: First time I sensed that my child was about to throw up, grabbed a towel, held it under her chin, and caught every ounce so that not a single drop landed on her fancy party dress, my fancy party dress, or the leather interior of my mother's (leased) car while it was going 70 mph.

Aside from the fact that I felt bad for poor Jo, I was pretty proud of myself.

More to come re the fancy party (celebrating my mother's retirement) but I'm home for just one day before Opie and I take Manhattan. I'm headed to work for a few days of meetings.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Compare and contrast

MayberryNY Metro
Grocery cashiersCheck my eggs every time. Upon finding a broken one, cheerfully call for someone in the dairy department to bring a replacement carton to the register. When thanked, respond brightly, “Just doing my job!” These are 16-year-old boys, not some middle-aged person who’s decided to make a career out of working the register at PikNSave (motto: “We’re picky, you save”).Act as if they are doing me a huge favor by ringing up my order and taking my money. When encountering a jar of artichoke hearts, make disgusted face and exclaim, “Ewwwww! Those are really hearts?!”
Leaving the car running while you dash into a storeCommonplace (when it’s sub-zero and you’ve warmed up the car, you don’t want to have to start over again a few minutes later)Not recommended
Rush hourHappens from about 7 to 7:30 a.m. and 4 to 4:30 p.m.; barely discernible from so-called “traffic” occurring at other times of dayLasts for 3-4 hours every morning and evening; trips of a few miles take an hour or longer; causes rampant gray hairs and cursing
Manicures, pedicures, and waxesExpensive indulgenceAffordable necessity
Dinner time5:30 p.m.8:00 p.m.
Starbucks penetrationSpotty. I think there’s one out by the mall.Total. Can always find one within a 2-block radius.
Real estate. Have $250,000 to spend?A lovely home with 3 to 4 bedrooms, at least 2500 square feet, and plenty of outdoor space.If you’re very lucky, a studio apartment in the city ... with 250 square feet. In the burbs, a teensy ranch on the wrong side of the tracks.
Medical careAll about the bedside manner. I’ve bumped into our friendly family practice doc at restaurants, the pool, the Y, and the grocery store.The technology may be the latest, but my doctors didn’t recognize me or my kid unless we were within sneezing distance of our charts.
WildlifeAside from the usual squirrels, chipmunks, robins, sparrows, etc., lots of rabbits, ducks, geese, and the occasional fox (seriously—a block from my house). And the best news: no pigeons. Damn things used to hang out in the airshaft outside my bedroom window chrrrr-chrrrrr-chrrrring right in my ear.Rats (winged and sewer-sized); waterbugs

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Terrible Twos

The shock of new motherhood is the feeling that launched a thousand mom-blogs. All over the world, overwhelmed women crept online to vent their feelings, seek help, find fellow travelers, lament "Why didn't anyone tell me...?"

And I've always felt like something of a mommy-blogger fraud because of it. As I mentioned in my 100 things, my transition to motherhood was pretty smooth. Because of my job as an editor for a parenting magazine, I had read millions of words of advice and BTDT tales before I ever got pregnant. I did know what to expect. There was nothing that anyone hadn't told me or that I hadn't read about. I thought it was going to be sheer hell. But—thanks to that combination of low expectations, an easy baby, a generous maternity leave, nursing success, Strollercise, and few hormonal mood swings—it was not, at all. I was a happy mama. Probably annoying to all the other mamas around me.

Well, you know what they say about payback. She's a bitch. Fast-forward three years to when my darling little Opie arrived. I still had the nursing success and an almost-as-generous leave (and only a part-time job to return to). What I didn't have were low expectations. Becoming a mom to kid #1 was a breeze; everyone must have been exaggerating about how tough this newborn thing was. Sure, I figured we'd have some big-sister jealousy, maybe some regression. But the baby himself? No biggie.

Ahem. You can imagine where this is going. Those first several months—5 or 6, at least—sucked big time. I wanted to take the baby and run away from everything else: my daughter, my house, my husband. I saw them only as impediments to what I was trying to do, which was simply get through each day (and night, oh the long long nights) with my needy, gassy, wakeful, sensitive, stubborn little boy. As I think about this now, I can't believe I didn't want to run away from him too, but I know I didn't. I knew how much he needed me and that's a powerful motivator. I just wanted to focus on our tight little twosome, to the exclusion of everything and everyone else.

Why didn't anyone tell me that would happen?

Even though we're over the worst of the transition now, with Opie nursing less and sleeping more and walking and playing on his own, I still find it very difficult to balance the two kids' competing needs. One cries in the high chair while the other dawdles over her dinner. One has to zone out in front of while the other takes 30 minutes or more to settle down to bed. One has to be hauled in and out of the carseat and wait around in a toddler-unfriendly space while the other takes a swim lesson or visits a friend. One wants to laugh and sing but has to shush so the other, light-sleeping one can take a nap. It really doesn't seem fair and I hate being caught in the middle.

I hang on tight to the moments when they both cuddle on my lap, or when Opie lights up when he sees his big sister, or when she showers him with kisses. I try so hard not to wish away these days. Because if there's one thing that moms of grown kids have told me, it's that you can never go back. I don't want to miss the good stuff because I'm so busy trying to get beyond the bad.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Saturday Non Sequiturs

I think Opie may have said his first word (beyond "mamamaMA! MA!" and "dada"). He looked pointedly at a bottle of bubble solution and said "Bubb." I'm not sure what the diacritical mark is for "vowel sound so vague and faint as to be nearly imperceptible, yet present enough to separate two consonants." That's what the "u" was. Still, it sounded like an intentional word to me.


Am I the only one who always thinks everyone around me is the exact same age I am? Whenever I find out that a friend or acquaintance is more than a few years older or younger than I, I am always stunned. How egocentric is that? To believe that everyone in my orbit was born within the same brief timespan? It must stem from all those years of high school and college and even my first job, during which time everyone I hung out with was my age-mate. More than a dozen years later, though, I still feel the same way. Especially, of course, with you young'uns. Because then I start thinking "I'm 2/5/10(!!) years older than she is and I haven't..."


We adopted a caterpillar yesterday, a small, thin, green, inchwormy thing. It dropped onto the stroller's sunshade as we walked to the playground, and when I pointed it out to Jo she immediately wanted to keep it as a pet. We put it in a bucket with a stick, a pinecone, and a bunch of grass. Jo named it "Sweetheart," then quickly decided "Strawberry Shortcake" would be even better. But Strawberry's time with us was, well, short. She was not at all interested in our bucket abode and inched her way out in no time flat. Jo searched high, low, and in vain for a replacement. No other inchy green things wanted to take her up on the bucket condo offer.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

What's in a Name?

Originally posted at Motherhood Uncensored as part of the Blog Exchange.

The moment of truth came not at the altar, when I said “I do.” Nor did it come during our honeymoon, or when we crossed the threshold for the first time as husband and wife.

In fact, Jeff was miles away when it happened. The Moment was between me and the desktop support guy at my new job. It was my first day, and he was there to configure my computer and set up my email account. He asked, innocently enough, what my name was, so he could create my username and address.

I froze and fumbled for an answer. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t sure I could go through with it. It was three weeks before my wedding, and I still hadn’t decided whether or not to take my husband’s surname. Now, suddenly, my feet were to the fire. It was time to make my choice.
I’d thought about it a lot. Way too much, probably—for years before I even met my future spouse. On one side, my feminist beliefs. Why should I change my name, sublimate my identity, just for some archaic, patriarchal tradition? Why should I have to go through the hassle of getting a new social security card, changing my passport, alerting every friend, relative and creditor I’d amassed in the previous 30 years? Plus, I already had an eight-year career as a writer and editor. I had a stack of clips with my maiden-name byline. Plus, it is a nice name—alliterative, easy to pronounce and spell.

But there were compelling arguments the other way too. If I chose not to change, I’d always have to correct people when they called me “Mrs. Jeff’sName.” I might feel like being married was no different from living together, as we’d already been doing for over a year. And what would happen when we had children? I wasn’t about to give them a five-syllable, hyphenated last name. They’d get his name, and then I’d be the odd woman out in my own family.

I pondered it day and night. I envied my friend Laurie, who married a man who happened to have the exact same last name she did. I thought about using my maiden name for work and his name for everything else. I wished I could fall back on my college-era plan, which was to marry someone with a one-syllable last name so I could use both mine and his (2 + 1 = manageable; 2 + 3 = not).

When I landed the job, fairly unexpectedly and so soon before the wedding, the balance started to shift, ever so slightly, in favor of making the switch. I was at a new company in a new industry, meeting a lot of new people. No one knew or cared about my byline. But in the end, the winning argument was the thought of my future children. I very much wanted to share a name with them. So in my first act of Mommy sacrifice, I gave up my maiden name. There in my cubicle, the die was cast, and I’ve been Mrs. Jeff’sName ever since. I don’t regret it, but I still miss my old name.

A few weeks after the wedding (conveniently after the email address was up and humming and all the other bureaucratic paper had been chased), he told me how much he liked my maiden name. And that if I’d wanted him to, he would’ve taken MY name instead. Now why didn’t I think of that?