Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Are The Tiny Holes In The Middle Of My T-Shirt?

Today I looked down at my shirt and saw another cluster of tiny holes centered just above the button on my jeans. "WTF!? I screamed inwardly while shifting my weight around so no one else in the meeting would notice my unseemly appearance.

The origin of these little holes in cotton shirts, the crop circles of domesticity, has eluded me. Eluded me that is, until today.

When this first started, I thought it was caused by some strange Texas bug that I'd rather not know exists. After a thorough search of the internet and exposure to photos I can never "unsee" I was pleased to learn no such gun-slingin', boot-wearin', cotton-eatin' vermin exist.

I developed a new hypothesis that involved the washer and/or dryer. Yes, I now realize some other datapoints, such as other household members experiencing the same thing or crop circles found in other pieces of clothing and fabrics, would have strengthened this hypothesis but rage clouded my scientific approach. You know what I did, though? I bought a new washer and dryer. Not for this reason alone, but it was a strong supporting point.

Today, with bugs and faulty appliances removed from the equation, I wondered if I am just the first in the world to emit a cotton-disintegrating hormone from my belly-button. Before phoning The New England Journal of Medicine, I took to Google. What I found made me wish I was a freak of nature.

Turns out, this problem is not mine alone. Many people, especially women with small children, find navel crop circles in cotton shirts.

This strange phenomenon occurs when two hard surfaces rub against your t-shirt. In most moms' cases, the hard surfaces are the button of her pants and THE KITCHEN COUNTER. These little holes are now more than another ruined shirt. They are scientific evidence of my unfair plight.I spend too much time in the kitchen. Oh, and this is not fun "let's experiment with cooking" or "I found a great new cookie recipe!" time. This is time spent making meals that will never be eaten, engaging in verbal battles that will never be won, and cleaning messes that will never go away.

I'd rather be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen than up against a counter that is destroying my sense of self-worth and wardrobe at the same time. Thanks navel crop circles. I wish I'd never solved your mystery.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mediums and House Concerts.

Several weeks ago I went to a medium. Despite my general skepticism when it comes to things I cannot see, Long Island Medium has made me a believer and, more than anything, I wanted to hear from my friend who died four years ago. There is still rarely a day that goes by that I don't think of her in some way and, of course, with my son named for her, this will be the case for the rest of my life.

I was incredibly disappointed when she didn't arrive. My grandfather did, and while it was fun to hear from him, I desperately wanted that last conversation my friend and I never had. Oh sure, we had a last conversation, and looking back I know there was something profound about it, but it still ended like this:

Me (walking past her desk on a Friday afternoon): "We're heading over to Jack's. Come meet us when you're done."
Her: "I'm going to the airport. Remember? I'm going to New Orleans."
Me: "Oh yeah; you told me that like two minutes ago, didn't you?"
Her (laughing): "Yep."
Me: "Ok. Have fun! See you next week."

And that was it. There was no goodbye, just a phone call 72 hours later.

I thought the medium was the way to closure you can never have in this situation. I thought I'd hear that life, if you will, is pretty darn good up in heaven. I thought I'd laugh with her again. I thought for 30 minutes it might feel like she never really left. I thought she'd show up, but she didn't. Not then anyway.

This weekend we went to a house concert. This makes me sound much more hip than I am so lest you start imagining me making my own cheese and honey over here, picture someone's living room filled with a mish-mash of chairs and a lady with a guitar serenading us at the front. This type of event is not the typical way I'd spend an evening, but we had a babysitter and an invite so I went along with it.

Toward the end the singer told us her next song was about a funeral she attended where she and her friends could not help themselves from inappropriately laughing because they didn't know what else to do with their grief. The song told the story of losing a dear friend unexpectedly, feeling badly about laughing through her funeral but believing the inappropriate response was a sign her friend would live on.

It took less than 20 seconds of that song to transport me back to my own friend's funeral. I saw the casket, heard the eulogy, and listened to the priest. I looked down and didn't dare look at my husband.

I could only think about her and to avoid melting into a puddle on the lovely floor in front of me, I focused on the math. "Four years," I thought, "has it been that long?"

To remove myself further from emotion, I began calculating the exact date. It was a complex equation involving the date of her funeral with where I was when I heard the news and all the days and events in between. There was the drive back home, the inability to dress myself, the work-sponsored grief counselor, the heavy reliance on packaged goods for calories, the arrival of out-of-town friends, dinners, dinners, drinks, and the funeral day itself. When I emerged, I was fairly confident that day was the anniversary. I whipped out my phone to check a calendar. My husband nudged me and strongly suggested with his eyes that I put my phone away, but I couldn't. I was on a mission.

It was the day.

She was there! It would be just like her to show up at a random house concert to say, "Hey, I'm ok. What are you doing at this house concert??"

So now, I own a CD with a song about a funeral and know my friend is laughing almost as hard as me about house concerts and encouraging me not to remember the casket, but the bottle of champagne six of us shared at the end of our own funeral day.


Friday, January 23, 2015

I Was Supposed To Have Girls.

I was supposed to have girls.

I love my boys, but I was supposed to have girls.

I would not have it any other way, but I was supposed to have girls.

This assumption comes not from a desire for princesses, pink, or peace; but rather, from the frightening realization that I am not trained in boy. For 35 years I dutifully avoided any fact or event that would be useful in the raising of boys. I say dutifully because I have three brothers. When they chased and ran and tumbled, I played with Barbie. When we went to sporting events, I read a book in the stands. When they spouted facts about baseball and football, I checked out until the conversation was over. When they played poker, I went upstairs.

This is not an insurmountable problem, but it is one with a steep learning curve.

"Mommy, who is Iron-Man when he's not in his costume?" 
"Mommy, why is the Joker a bad guy?"
"Mommy, can we wrestle?"
"Mommy, why is the Hulk almost naked?"
"Mommy, can we play chase?"
"Mommy, let's play catch!"
"Mommy, I would like a story about Spider-Man, The Green Lantern, Iron-Man and Christmas. In it, Spider-Man is sad." (Character traits must be accurate and the plot must develop slowly to its climax and then end happily. Any probing questions such as, "Why is Spidey sad?" are met with a "I don't know. Tell the story.")

I am ill equipped for life with boys. I was prepped for Barbie's Dreamhouse, Babysitter Club reading sessions, and the Care Bears. Instead, I have the children my brothers were supposed to create. If there is any justice in the world, all three of them will end up with little girls who prefer cute shoes to baseball cleats.

My silver lining is that I am learning and I've always reveled in new knowledge. I know why Bruce Wayne became Batman and that Iron-Man is Tony Stark.  I know how to wrestle safely on the couch. I can play a good game of Chase that leaves everyone in hysterics. I can catch a ball like a JV softball player. I can take random plot elements and weave a short story together on the spot. (Turns out Spider-Man was sad because he heard Santa had been kidnapped by Juggernaut and so he enlisted his superhero friends to save Christmas.)

So while I will have to borrow my brothers' future girls when I feel like some shoe shopping, I will spend the rest of my life learning about the male topics I worked so hard to avoid and end up a bit more well-rounded than I aimed. 

Meanwhile, I will keep Wikipedia ready to go. Today from the shopping cart he asked, "Mommy, who is Captain America when he's not in his costume?"

"Steve Rogers," I answered once the Captain America page loaded and we both smiled, happy to finally know.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Second Changes Everything.

There are thousands of posts written about the difference between life with one child and life with two children. Most of these demonstrate, in a self-deprecating manner, all the ways the unlucky second child does not get quite the same care the first received.  I can tick off 80% of the differences on each BuzzFeed or BabyCenter list and laugh through tears at their honesty.

My first was fed homemade organic fruit, vegetable, and chicken purees; my second is sometimes placed on the floor at snack time to forage for food.

Our house was thoroughly baby-proofed for the first; we rely on my three-year-old to alert us if my second one is heading for the stairs.

Naptime was a sacred ritual requiring a quiet, darkened room for my first; my second can sleep in the back of a Costco cart if necessary.

I brought my first to the doctor if he had a fever for more than 12 hours; I didn't bring my second until he'd been coughing for two months.

These scenarios make me squirt my wine out my nose when I consider how Three Years Ago Me would react if she saw the future. Surprisingly, I ran into her a few weeks ago at lunch.

We bravely took our children out to dine and hid in a corner where food-throwing and screams of, "No!!" and "I don't wanna eat that!" would go unnoticed. Next to us was a couple with a baby. I had a chance to watch them for a few minutes while we waited for our food and my husband took our three-year-old to a grassy knoll, concrete pad, or empty parking lot to burn off some energy. They could have flown to the moon for all I knew.

Anyway, I knew from my non-creepy, innocuous observation that parenting was new to the couple. Their baby's carseat had a rain cover to protect her from the day's light sprinkle. My baby had a thin blanket thrown over him to absorb/protect.

They both looked a bit shocked to find themselves at their table with a baby. The sheen of their pre-baby life baby hadn't yet turned to a matte gray. I was toting the parental badge that arrives from Amazon when your child turns two as well as a general air of defeat and exhaustion. My old life wouldn't remember me if it saw me.

I heard the parents talking about work; it seemed that they were both lawyers but she wasn't working anymore. "Uggggggg," I thought to myself, remembering that awful time when I was flailing, trying to get a handle on how being a Mom fit in with my life, "I do not envy her."

After our meal, we started a conversation with them because our babies were smiling at each other. We had only been chatting for a few minutes when the mom asked, "Because he's your second, are you much more relaxed about germs?"

I looked at the baby. He was gnawing the table. The germ-laden table (I never wiped down) in Dallas (a city which recently made national news for Ebola). Then I laughed. "Yes," I answered, "I am."

I have never loved my sweet second baby more. Because of him, I am Elsa on the damn mountaintop letting it all go! I know why she whips here hair out and dons a thin, sultry outfit in an ice storm. She just doesn't care anymore. Wow! This is liberating!

My first could moo and quack by his age. My second can't, but I'm confident he'll figure it out before the SAT.

My first drank brand-name formula. My second seems to love Target's brand and will outweigh his brother soon despite the two-year gap.

My first was sleep-trained and on a strict schedule at 12 weeks. My second rarely sleeps through the night but he is the happiest baby on the block.

My first tried new foods when BabyCenter suggested them. My second gets anything I can find in the fridge and has never refused anything.

Sweet little bug, thank you for making me relax a bit. I know the time and attention equation is off between you and your big brother, but in return you get a Mommy who feels more and more like herself every day.  I would never have believed another baby would bring me back there.

So there you have it, folks. The biggest difference between your first and second child is that your second makes you feel like you again.
There he is! And I have no idea what he's into. Tacks? Knives? I'm sure it will be fine.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Mom Versus The Toddler.

I've been quiet. Eerily quite for the five people who read what I write. Did anyone think I'd given up? Gone into a coma? Gone back to work full-time?

While I wish it were due to any of the peaceful sounding explanations above, it's because my life is currently a competition against a precocious three-year-old. For 12+ hours a day we face off in the Mental Olympics and when those hours are through, I have nothing more than a grunt and a shameful shuffle-to-bed left to give. Any former wit or spark of creativity is suffocated by the enervating task of making it through the day with a child who wants to do nothing I suggest.

Workday, work-at-home day, or weekend, it starts like this:

6:20am
Me: "That [effing] owl isn't green yet, sweetie pea."
T: "I KNOW [it isn't green and I don't give a shit, Mom] and I still want to get up. Can I just play on the floor?"
Me: Dreaming, not daydreaming, but truly dreaming because I am asleep standing up in his room, "Sure."

6:50am
T [30 minutes later]: "It's green! Get up! Can we play?"
Me: From the fetal position and barely audible under the pile of stuffed animals, "You get up, I'll rest."
T: "No Mommy, the owl is green and when the owl is green you have to get up. Can we wrestle now?"

7:00am
Me: "You have to wear clothes downstairs. You'll get cold without them."
T: "Nooooooooooooooo!!"
Me: Conceding battle 1, "Fine, but I'm bringing some downstairs."

7:20am, downstairs
T: "I'm cold."

On the glorious days that I work, I exit stage left around 8. On the other days, we proceed as follows:

9:00am
Me: "Time to get dressed!"
T: "Noooooooooooo!"
Me: "But you can't go out naked in your PJs."
T: "When are we going out? Now? Is it now? [It can't be now, the baby's still asleep, MOM. How stupid do you think I am?]"
Me: Deafening silence. He's called my bluff.
T: "Now? Is it now?"
Me: Thinking about the alligator wrestling ahead. Down go the Superman shirt and Batman undies. "Nope."
He marches off, triumphant in his nakedness.

The next few hours drudge by punctuated with 387 nos, 7 attempts at getting dressed (3 are my attempts), 11 time-out threats, 2 time-outs, and before either of us is ready Battle Royale is upon us: Lunch.

Like any competitor trying to convince the crowd she has a chance, my voice is sugared with faux cheer, "Time for lunch! How about a turkey sandwich?"

I brace for the loud "Noooooooo," strongly wailing from his tiny mouth and wait for the calamitous cries for a snack, some goldfish or fruit snacks would be preferable, if we have any. Once complete I curtly respond, "Fine. But I'm having lunch."

Within ten minutes he has eaten all "my" lunch and I've eaten another string cheese. Onto naptime.

It used to be that when the remains of feeding time had been erased from him and still lay slaughtered on the table and floor, I'd move in for the nap. Alas, here too, I've been defeated. Many three-year-olds don't nap and many happily substitute in quiet time. Not time. He senses my euphoric freedom while he's shuttered away in his room and instead chooses to scream, "I AWAAAAAAAAKE!"

Worried I cannot hear his 100 decibel roars through the thin door, he then lowers his body to the ground and yells under the gap between floor and door so it is as if he is next to me. Persistency always pays off. I can take this for less than seven minutes before releasing the beast.

"Oh?" he'll say, a slight question in his voice that is usually reserved for surprises like running into an old friend at an airport, "Hi Mommy. Can I watch Frozen?"

Me: "Yes."
T: "Can I have a snack?"
Me: "Yep."

And for the rest of the day, Elsa and Anna mind my child.

These kids (plural because I have two and I manage to care for a baby while being bludgeoned on the battlefield by a three-year-old) are lucky they're cute.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Travel God Beat Down.

I don't believe there is a correlation between the day of the week and the shape that day will take unless you fly from New York to Texas with two small children on a Monday. If this occurs, as it did to us this week, then place your head on your cozy pillow Sunday night with the certain knowledge that Monday will not be a good day.

I no longer consider myself an expert on flying with children.

Do you hear me Travel Gods? I admit hubris and defeat and rightly recognize that all good travel days are a gift bestowed from your Blade of Aeronautics, mightily forged from WWII fighter jets.

I know you read my little book 'o travel tips and I know you weren't much past Chapter 2 when the plan was hatched. The first suggestion, I'm fairly confident, was thrown out by your leader, "Let's strand them at O'hare! Muhahahahaha!" which was met with vengeful mirth. In a few hours time, however, the smarter in the group learned I have survived an airport stranding. As not to offend your leader a wily one said, "That would be fun, but it's so obvious. Let's plan a small attacks that last for 12+ hours!"

After a side-by-side analysis you aligned that small blitzkriegs would cause maximum harm. Your creative mastermind, most likely a woman, must be commended. We never expected seemingly small events to take us out at the knees!

A plane without a changing table? Genius!

A seat that ate our three pacifiers? Innovative!

My three-year-old's screaming hysterics about leaving Grandma in NY that exploded at random points in flight like tiny little firecrackers? Brilliant!

Not enough diapers in my bag? Earthshattering!

A baby who refused to nap and had to be wrestled for over four hours? Character building!

Seating us in the very last row? Excruciating!

Not seating us together on the longest leg? Malicious!

Seating the baby and me next to a 19 year-old boy? Awkwardly amazing!

An iPad that hadn't downloaded Frozen? Wicked!

A husband who was somehow able to snooze through many of your shenanigans? Just plain mean!

So guys, I will not ever head to the airport, kiddos in tow, believing it will all work out. Thanks for getting us home. Perhaps next time you will choose the "Stranded at O'Hare" option.

Oh yes, there will be a next time. You've demoralized, not completely defeated me.