Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mommy's First Christmas

How I fear for my second child....who isn't even born yet.

So much attention, praise, admiration and general awe has been showered over my firstborn by friends, family, and admittedly, his own parents, that I know not if there will be anything left by the time #2 arrives.

How many of you out there got multiple "Baby's First Christmas" tree ornaments, onesies or footie pajamas? We also got "Baby's First Thanksgiving" bibs replete with goggle-eyed turkeys and and Baby's First Halloween t-shirts festooned with a variety of spooky bats, cats, and creatures. And earlier this year he was a "First Valentine" and "Favorite Irish Boy" for St. Patrick's Day (he's about 25% Irish). Oddly, we received no clothing or trinkets celebrating his first Labor Day, Columbus Day, or Veterans Day.

Here's my question. What about Mom? It's also MY first Thanksgiving / Halloween / Christmas as a Mom, and dammit, we should be recognized. I don't know about you but I could have benefited greatly from a festive bib and stretchy footie pajamas this holiday season. And the "Mommy's First Christmas" tree ornament should serve as nothing less than our new star. By the time number 2 comes around, neither of us will be very special anymore, the new baby suffering the indignities of worn and stained hand me down bibs and onesies and me probably only dreaming of fitting into last year's celebratory threads.

So here's an idea for budding mom entrepreneurs out there - "Mom's First (fill in the blank)" gear! Nalgene water bottles for Mom's First Walk post partum! Chic ski jackets for Mom's First Outdoor Excursion! Sexy (albeit stretchy) nighties for Mom's First Weekend Without Baby! Bathing suits with "Mom's First Bikini" emblazoned across the ample butt material. The possibilities are endless, ladies.

Go get some!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Bitch with Children Goes to Brunch

We’ve heard from the Childless Bitch (in fact, er, some of us may have been her at another time in our lives, ahem) but have you seen the Bitch with Children? You know the one who publicly / beats / humiliates / screams at her brood, reveling in her power?

I saw her this weekend, which was ironically, my childless weekend getaway. I’d jetted (okay, bussed) to New York City to eat and shop my way through the Big Aple for two days with a long lost girlfriend who also left her three tots at home. Baby and Daddy were home bonding and hopefully, repairing the downstairs bathroom.

We were halfway through our second gluttonous brunch in as many days when we heard a terrible voice hiss, “How am I supposed to spread this butter?!” We looked across the counter. She was redheaded and fatigued, not unattractive. Her daughter, no more than four or five, was breaking apart a blueberry muffin the size of her head (that’s how they serve them at the Brooklyn Diner on 57th Street.) The Evil Mother was snapping her question at the poor waiter as she snatched he muffin from her daughter’s tiny hands.

“What did I tell you?!” she growled at the girl. “If you’re not going to eat it, why did you order it?!” The girl picked at the giant baked item, accessorized with two large squares of frozen butter pads (that’s how they serve them at the Brooklyn Diner). “If you don’t stop it, I’m going to beat the crap out of you!” And she wasn’t talking to the waiter.

My friend and I stared at our smoked salmon benedict in disbelief. The Evil Mother reached over to knock the little boy, who was sitting next to his sister, on the arm, telling him, “And you better eat yours!” The father was seated next to the boy (as far from his wife as the counter seating would allow) and wearing a pained expression and a sweatshirt that claimed, Life is Good! My friend and I exchanged another glance.

By the time I got back from the bathroom, the little girl was crying in her father’s lap. Then I heard him say something hideous. In a soft voice, he asked his daughter, “What did she do to you now?”

How does a family get here? And what should we, the viewing public, concerned parents, do when we witness such a scene? I know, I know - we all have our moments, and all of our kids are uncontrollable brats at one time or another. But to threaten your child that you’re going to “beat the crap out of them?” And it’s not like the little girl was having a meltdown or even doing anything really awful. If I got a blueberry muffin the size of my ass, I’d pick it apart before eating it, too.

Evil Mother and family collected their things and left, jerking on coats and hats and shoving their way to the door. And we thought, what happens when they get home? Should we have said something? Have you ever been in this situation? Tell me this is a rarity and not commonplace. Is the Evil Mother only present in New York during Christmas shopping or does she lurk in all parts of the country…?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Then & Now

Today my son is 11 months old, almost a whole year, and as I changed another poopy diaper and wiped smeared avocado from his smiling face, wondering why his father had dressed him in a rugby shirt for bed instead of actual pajamas, I thought again, as you all do, surely, daily (perhaps some of you hourly) of how my life has changed in the last few years.

For a real eye opener, I decided to read some of my old journals to see what I was doing a few years ago on this date. For those of you who keep a journal, you know this experience can be like shopping for bras pre and post pregnancy/nursing: either a real lifter upper or a super shocking downer. For example, who knew that weighing in at 128 pounds would classify me as "a fat pig" (December 13, 1998). Or that I'd eventually rally against all odds ("I'll never get married and have a baby; I can't even pay my rent I'm such a loser!!" (December 13, 1994). But here's my favorite comparison:

Six short years ago I was a publicist in Hollywood, promoting Guy Ritchie's second movie, "Snatch," starring, among others, Brad Pitt and Benicio del Toro. And oh, Guy was getting married to someone named Madonna....

December 5, 2001
Today was perhaps the most stressful experience thus far of my career in the movie business. The Academy Awards submission forms for all entries were due on Friday (it's Tuesday) and so I made a casual call today to check that the submission forms for all our division's releases had arrived. Somehow, the forms for "Snatch" were missing. My stomach dropped. Was it possible Guy Ritchie and Brad Pitt might not get nominated for Oscars because I forgot to send in the form with their names on it??? What would Madonna and Jennifer Aniston think of me if they found out? Would Guy have me "offed?" What about the other "actors" in the film - Guy's mates are not all exactly classically trained Shakespearan thespians...

I'm hoping it's the fault of a woman in the legal department named Olive, who normally submits the forms, but as the PR person handling the campaign for "Snatch" it might actually be my fault. My boss is going to kill me. She already has a burst blood vessel over her right eye because of this. I think one of us may get fired. During lunch we raced over to the offiecs of the Academy and re-submitted the forms in a plain, unmarked envelope. We also had to let the head of the studio know that "the forms had been lost." I did not say, "because I forgot to fill them out."

Later, the Academy called to say they had in fact, received the application. I gleefully told my boss, who suggested I check on the submission forms for the rest of our movies. Twice. I did so happily. What a day. I'm exhausted.

Luckily this one turned out ok. Please share your THEN & NOW stories, whether not your journal is depressing or electrifying. I want to hear them!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Brenda DiGiacomo's Nikes

Remember these? Do you have a pre-pubescent daughter? How about a daughter who may be 6 months now but one day will be 144 months? Or perhaps you were a pre-pubescent yourself once, as ugly and awkward and skin crawly as the word itself.

Take heart. We were all there. Some of us had the right Nikes and some us us, well, we shopped at K-Mart for the Irregular irregulars.

Here's a story to make you laugh during this difficult time for your daughter, or to help you prepare for it. Enjoy...

“Who is Brenda DiGiacomo?”

I’d mentioned the name; it was only natural for my therapist to ask the question. She was wondering if I felt it increased my value as a person to spend over three hundred dollars on a pair of shoes. Yes, I’d replied. It had started in junior high. With Brenda DiGiacomo, I tried to explain.

“I never felt so ugly in my entire life,” I began, remembering Brenda and the gaggle of gorgeous cheerleaders and - even worse - majorettes who ruled the school with their Sasson jeans and Farrah hair.

“Everyone wanted to be her. I remember she had those perfect Nikes – the red, white and blue ones.”

A hideous memory shot through me. “I smelled them once,” I said.

My therapist looked up. “Why?!”

“Because…” but there wasn’t one sentence that could explain.

Brenda DiGiacomo was the reigning queen of our junior high. She had dirty blonde hair that rolled down to her shoulders in two perfect seventh grade sausage curls, flawless olive skin, and the body of a 20-year-old stripper. She was a cheerleader. She was also our brother’s girlfriend.

Our brother was captain of the football team and the baseball team. Back then he had a lot of hair and looked like Matt Dillon on steroids. He was very popular. He and Brenda had been going out since the beginning of the school year. She would come over after school and they would slink off to his room, where they’d listen to Boston, Journey and Steve Miller Band records and presumably earn the reputation the school had secretly bestowed upon them.

We didn’t know for sure of course, my sister and me. Not that we had any idea what third base was aside from being a very big deal. I was 12 and spent most of my time at the horse farm down the street. People often mistook me for a young lad with a budding weight problem. I was somewhat plump and had unfortunate bangs. I had no breasts and no hips, facts which were glaringly apparent in my hand-me-down Levi’s corduroys. My brother and I could not have been at more opposite ends of adolescence’s ruthless sociological rainbow.

In addition to being a cheerleader, Brenda was on the softball team, even though she didn’t play much. She looked cruelly beautiful in her polyester blue and white uniform that was unforgiving at best for the rest of us. When the team had physicals at the beginning of the school year, we were lined up in the nurse’s office wearing nothing but paper johnnys with a plastic string belt. Brenda’s body made her johnny look like Prada had made it. I remember wanting to look as good in my best dress as Brenda looked in her paper johnny.

When Brenda came over to “hang out” with our brother, she would take off her sneakers and leave them in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs. When I came home from the barn each afternoon I would pass by them, sitting there smugly on my carpet - the podiatry perfection of Brenda DiGiacomo personified in these particular Nikes.

The Ladies Cortez, in red, white and blue, was the most sought after athletic shoe in the entire school. If you ever hoped to have a boyfriend or get asked to the dance you’d better have a pair. You simply had to have them. You had to. God forbid your parents couldn't’t afford to shell out $42.99 for sneakers. Desperate, baffled parents would try to reassure their kids that footwear didn’t matter, a sneaker was a sneaker. Perhaps you too, were once told, “it’s what’s on the inside that counts!” Right. When you’re ninety.

For us, the answer was Kmart’s Jox. A sorry substitute, Jox spelled certain social doom for anyone foolish enough to don them in 1982. You were better off going to school with plastic bags on your feet. An early candidate for fame, Brenda DiGiacomo knew this. The rules only came to me a few years ago when I first started therapy.

There they were. Neatly removed from her princess feet, one leaned up against the other, cuteness oozing from every stitch, every lace hole, each perfectly wrinkled bit of nylon down to the beaming red swipe that said I am pretty and popular and you’re NOT!

I stopped in the hallway and looked down at the shoes. I was in my riding boots, covered with wood shavings from the barn. Behind my brother’s door, Journey blared.

One love feeds the fire...
She was so perfect, what was it like? What could it possibly feel like to be the most popular girl in school? What was it like to have the prettiest clothes, to have a new outfit every day for two weeks straight, to have every girl want to be you and every guy - including my brother - want to be with you? Did she have any flaws at all?

Two hearts born to run...
Did she have any self doubts? Did she worry about ANYTHING? Did she have the problems of normal people? Did HER FEET SMELL?

I had to know. I had to be assured that there was one normal thing about her, a single simple detail that made her human. There had to be something she could be vulnerable about. Otherwise life was unbearable.

I picked up one of the shoes. I glanced toward my brother’s room. No one would know, and I’d be so much happier if I knew that Brenda DiGiacomo had smelly feet. I could write it in my journal over and over again and be reassured that no matter how many times a mean kid whinnied in my direction, I knew the truth.

I held the unsuspecting footwear up to my face and looked deep into its cavernous arch, the space that carried Brenda DiGiacomo through her sunny world every day. I looked both ways and sniffed deeply.

It smelled just like my Jox.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A letter to my 10 month old son...

One of the things that changes as you get older is your relationship with your parents. I saw it happen with my parents and their parents and now I’m filled with a sort of melancholy resignation that it is happening to me and my parents. And someday, it will happen, as it is bound, to you and me.

“Your parents get left behind,” my mother said one Christmas, when we were talking about family. I didn’t know then if she was talking about herself or her own mother. Now, years later, I know she meant both. She said it without sadness or bitterness. She can be very sensitive, your grandmother, but also very matter-of-fact.

When you are very young, your parents are everything. They are like God and can do no wrong. They are your leaders, your protectors, your caregivers, your fun providers, your sunrise and sunset and they give order to your world. There is no universe without them for they ARE your universe.

Then you become more independent, and eventually, a teenager, God’ cruelest creation and karmic revenge upon those parents who were themselves teenagers once. You question them, defy them, resent them, hate them even, doubt them, mock them. Every force in you bears the opposite of when you were a trusting child. You feel in your bones that only if they weren’t so stupid and naïve, if only you could free yourself from their maddening, relentless oppression, your life could be everything you imagined. You are not right, but you are not necessarily wrong, either.

But then, a funny thing happens as you approach the twilight of your fiery youth and slip gracelessly into early adulthood. Either you go to college, in which case you learn to think in a new way while prolonging your adolescence, or you grow up quick by getting a job and living in what we like to call “the real world.” You roll your eyes at this. You may begin yearning for your lost childhood adolescence which you never before, it is suddenly clear, appreciated.

And you begin, slowly, to understand your parents a little better. You start to appreciate everything they did for you. You may even begin to see the sacrifices they made - perhaps are still making - for you. You get this nagging feeling that you want to make them proud. You can’t possibly repay them with money or material goods, not yet anyway, so you try to reimburse them in spirit. With kindness, thoughtfulness, maturity. A good job, health insurance, or a spouse with a good job and health insurance. You might pick up the check when you all go out to dinner. You might put more care into selecting their birthday or Christmas gifts. Maybe you now call them regularly, not to ask for permission, money or advice but for no good reason at all.

And you realize, this is the time in your relationship with your parents when you are almost, but not quite, peers. They are your friends. You are a young adult and they are…we’ll call it, maturing adults. They are middle-aged. (My parents’ generation all had their children in their early twenties. At that age I was privileged enough to be traveling Europe, learning French and throwing up cheap red on the Metro but never mind.)

This period - the peer period - is a wonderful time. You feel comfortable and maybe even proud that they can hang out with your friends. You do stuff together – plays, dinners, trips, bike rides – and laugh at other people and gossip about other families.

And you help them, as best you can, which admittedly isn’t much, deal with their own aging parents. You’re still living in the imaginary world where this will never be them, this will never be you, this sad scene in a nursing home or hospital, that frustrating helplessness passing through everyone like a virus. Your grandparents are not your parents, after all, they’re…old. A different generation. You can not picture your parents ever being as doddering or vulnerable as their parents have somehow tragically become. You try not to think about it. You don’t.

Then as you slide toward middle age, grow in your career, maybe start producing a family of your own, your relationship with your parents shifts again. You’re suddenly aware of their politics, and it confuses or even frightens you. You seem to have less in common and you don’t always believe in their advice, though you still ask for it. You are able to see your parents, for better or worse, through the eyes of your spouse. Family holidays and vacations take on the strain of too many preferences. You don’t love them any less but you don’t understand them anymore. Maybe you don’t like to do the same things, and this at first makes you sad, then annoyed. Don’t be.

They might want to get home early and watch the news and not spend money in restaurants. You watch movies and television shows they can’t follow and your kids play with things they find absurd. You can’t bear their choice of music. You don’t understand the car they drive and they marvel in horror at how you grocery shop. Laugh, don’t dwell, on this.

And, a quiet realization is sneaking up on you, year after year. They are getting older. And so are you. You want them in your life but it is increasingly difficult to accommodate everyone’s preferred eating times. You struggle and worry and wonder whose needs to put first, because you have your own family now.

And your parents get left behind. But you know what? They don’t mind.

I understand now, and I won’t blame you for growing up, older and out. But for now we have lots of time. Remember, you don’t have to have it all, you just have to get some.

Love, Mom

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Far West Peace Talks

With all the brouhaha surrounding the Mideast Peace Talks (a one day meeting of speeches where leaders of various nations decided there will be peace by the end of 2008), I was reminded of the daily struggles for peace between men and women, husbands and wives, selfish jerks and cranky bitches, in the never ending quest for balance in what we call "family life."

There are two sides to every story, unless you're in a marriage, where there are seventeen, depending on the day and who's in therapy. So herewith, straight from the Navel Gazing Academy at Happy Lane Estates, a list of demands - I mean resolutions - from each side:

The senior representative from the Selfish Jerks rises, straightening the tie his wife had dry cleaned and laid out for him last night because he'd otherwise never be able to find it hanging in front of the bathroom mirror:

"We come here in the hope that our differences may be resolved, that we can work together to better understand each other's needs (he struggles with this last word; having difficulty reading his secretary's writing) and live in harmony together, sharing the land known as "our home," in peace."

Several coughs and sighs are emitted from the rows of Cranky Bitches.

"We hereby list, in order of preference, our dema -- (he squints at the paper, frowning at something) "-er, resolution requests:"

One - We request the right to buy whatever we want when at the grocery store, especially if the packaging appeals to us, whether or not it's on the list, on sale, and whether or not the household has a specific and timely need for it.

Two - We request at least a fifteen minute grace period when being called to a meal, unless the meal is held outside the home at a steakhouse.

Three - We request that all pink razors be removed from the floor of the bathtub. We are not stupid, and we know a booby trap when we see one.

Four - We reserve the right to archive select newspapers and magazines in the bathroom for up to one year.

Five - We move to submit the motion that calling to say we'll be late is just as good as being on time.

Six - We request that when dressing the children, outfits are not scrutinized for cleanliness or "matchy-matchyness."

Seven - Finally, when initiating conjugal relations, we respectfully request that the response, "I guess so but can you brush your teeth first?" be stricken from all records.

Polite applause as the lead delegate from the Cranky Bitches rises, smoothing her inappropriately expensive Anthropologie skirt.

"Thank you delegate Hot Stuff. Nice tie. We too come in the hope that in the spirit of our children's futures we can and will work together to resolve our differences, even when it's obvious someone is right and someone else is just being a selfish jerk."

Uncomfortable shifting in chairs is heard, one low whistle echoes across the chamber.

"And so, herewith follow our requests:"

1) We humbly suggest that you do what we ask, when we ask it, without debate or confrontation, and without offering "options."

2) We request that when household flowers / plants appear to be, or are in fact, dead, they be thrown away by the first person who sees them and has in fact, noticed they are no longer alive.

3)Ditto with visible, recent cat vomit, dead spiders and accidents committed by the dog.

4)We hereby move to limit any and all pretense of sleep and excessively loud snoring when a child is crying / whining / asking for a puppy.

5)We humbly suggest that when you ask us how we feel about something and we tell you, that you assume the response is true and non-negotiable.

6)We reserve the right to be emotional, weepy, cranky, tired and generally bitchy at any certain or uncertain time for any and all reasons, due to hormones and various planetary alignments.

Loud cheering and applause by the other bitches; while the Selfish Jerks roll their eyes and exchange knowing glances.

The participants exit their chairs, find their partners, and embrace in one giant though imprecise group hug.

Hot Stuff stands atop his chair, stoking his tie and gazing lovingly at his smartly tailored wife.

"Here's to Getting Some!"

Monday, November 26, 2007

MomWear, Part I

How should I dress, now that I’m “at home?” I’m still working, part time, from home as a consultant, but not many people see me all day. My son’s daycare, the local coffee shop, the lawn guys. My husband occasionally. It’s a peculiar dilemma. You have your work clothes of course, the chic, the conservative, the daily staples from Anne Taylor Loft (a real bargain for corporate wear that’s not necessarily sexless). You have your fun-night-out wear, which doesn’t really fit anymore but whatever. You have your public weekend J. Jill catalog look. That’s it! It must be.

MomWear. The good yet sensible jeans, snug (but no so snug as to accentuate the UGL - Unexpected Gelatinous Layer - where your abs once summered) long sleeve T-shirts and a cute fall vest or sweater, reasonable suede boots of some sort, perhaps. Matching belt – more of a benefit to your fashion sense than a device to actually hold up your pants but whatever.

Still, you can’t shake the feeling that you’re dressing up, sort of. But for whom? Your infant or toddler? The women in your playgroup? The UPS guy?

A recent New York Times magazine article (one of the funniest things I’ve read in ages) reviewed a series of wardrobe changes for the author. He described what each outfit said, since clothes do make the man and have a way of well, talking. I happen to agree. Your daytime MomWear can’t scream, Look at me! I’m LEAVING THE HOUSE! HUBBA! nor should it mutter shamefully, That’s right, I never leave my neighborhood and have forgotten how to dress myself. In fact, I don’t even know what looks good on me anymore. Pass me that Mumu.

I had been going for coffee (just me and the baby) in yoga pants, imitation Ugg boots and a large hooded sweatshirt. No, I haven’t been to yoga in months and yes, an old fashioned, bulbous sweatshirt, not a cute, fitted “hoodie.” This even after I’d managed to lose the baby weight. One day I realized I hadn’t put on a pair of earrings in weeks. And why not? Just because there’s no one to see them? If a stylish mother falls in the forest of diapers and onesies and there are no women or gay men there to check out her shoes, is she still stylish?

Yes, I say. Because she is the only one that matters. After all, we dress for ourselves, right? What I mean is, we do and you should. Put those diamond or cubic zirconia studs in, give yourself a good blowout and use a handbag you love to go to Stop&Shop, dammit, not the plastic coated diaper bag that’s cool but not a purse. Put on an outfit that makes you feel happy, even if it’s imitation Ugg boots and yoga pants.

And if your clothes don’t fit, you have my permission to buy new ones. At least a good pair of jeans. And once piece of cashmere. On sale at Marshall’s or Loehman’s.

Take Mr. Kanye West’s advice: Go on, girl, go’head, get down. Here are a few more suggestions to get you started (or finished as the case may be).

1. Check out other women. Come on, admit it, you’ve been doing this your whole life. Whose style do you admire? Whose could you afford? Whose could you reasonably mimic, without seeming like a Single White Female?

2. There’s nothing wrong with Loungewear, but there’s everything right with quality loungewear; it lasts longer and doesn’t look cheap. Remember Carmela Soprano’s sweatsuits, so elegantly accessorized with heaving mounds of gold and diamonds? The woman never worked a day in her life, yet she was masterful at fashioning the right outfit for every occasion: therapy session, sons’ suicide attempt, rival family wake, dysfunctional in-law weekend on the lake, etc.

3. The right jeans. I can’t tell you what they are for you; there are thousands of options. But you know what you look good in, what’s comfortable, what’s in your budget. They don’t have to cost $200. You’d be surprised what the Gap has to offer these days. Magazines like In Style are always running articles on how to find the right pair. Invest.

4. The right jacket – Cropped or long, denim or cotton, this gives the long sleeve T or fitted sweater a stage. And the UGL (see above) some much needed confidence.

5. Accessorize – Especially if you’re not at your ideal weight and don’t want to spend on clothes that might not fit next week / month. Earrings, scarves. Even fun hats in fall or winter. Belts can make an outfit. And we’ve already discussed your favorite handbag. If you don’t have one, find one and put it on your birthday / Christmas / Valentine’s Day / I’m-just-an amazing-wife-and-mother / list.

6. Makeup – It’s not an indulgence if you feel better wearing it. Drugstore varieties (i.e. reasonably priced) abound. Allure magazine is fabulous at listing them, with fun photos of crushed powders and smeared lip gloss. Call me shallow, but I always have a better day when my lashes are coated and curled. There, I said it.

7. Layers – can divert to attract or detract the eye from our “special areas.” (I don’t call them “problem” areas, that would give them a complex and they have enough challenges.) Long tank tops from Old Navy under fitted shirts, crisp (or not so crisp; they have stretchy ones now) oxfords under a V neck (try Eddie Bauer), even the right scarf can update any exhausted mom. French women know this. And some of them do get fat, so there.

You don’t have to be a fashion rock star. You just have to rock your own world. Remember, you don’t have to have it all. You just have to get some.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Poo Also Rises

Have you been here? Sitting in your car in the driveway 1) reading 2) eating 3) sleeping or 4) writing because your baby is asleep in the back and you stupidly made the move from removable carseat to non-removable carseat because you were thrilled your baby was ready for it? You didn't stop to think if you were ready for it, did you?

Not to worry - we've all made this mistake and now here we are, imprisoned in our cars in our own driveways, waiting for the baby to wake up and feeling idiotic. Use the time to do something productive - like take a nap. I'm serious.

When this happened to me yesterday, I reflected on the morning's events, the Morning of the Infinite Poo...

It all started when I assumed I could take 23 seconds to review the life insurance policy I'd just opened which had arrived three weeks ago. Standing in the middle of the kitchen with my 9 month old happily entertaining a plastic potato masher at my feet, I made the mistake of focusing on what I was reading. When I realized that nearly half a minute had elapsed without my looking at the baby I glanced down to see...a slump of brown matter near the fridge and several, smaller islands of brown surrounding it. Fearing at first it was a dead rodent family of some kind, I put down the policy and bent over the baby. He was staring wondrously at a smear of the substance on his finger and another the size of a Nike swoosh on his left thigh. I breathed a gasp - Poo! But how? When?! He was fully clothed and diapered. Then I remembered - he's a baby, he can do anything.

It was a regulation "backupper" - that is, an overflowing diaper that releases excess contents "up the back" although in this case it was more like a "neck upper." I'd never seen anything so monstrous come out of him (since the first, tar-like poo in the hospital but let's not). It reminded me of Poltergeist.

In these situations a mother makes choices. Clean the baby or kitchen floor first? If I took seven seconds to wipe the floor, said baby would waste none of them in further exploring the delights of his own hideous creation, spreading it on his hands, face and eventually, mouth. Am I right, o tired moms of the world? I scooped him up and at a complete loss, deposited him fully clothed into the tub.

Things were progressing in a generally forward direction in the tub when the spouse re-entered the kitchen. "What happened here?" came the bewildered cry. Then, "Is everybody allright up there??" God bless him, he actually sounded genuinely worried.

"A slight accident," I reported, wondering anew whether to clean the newly poo-spackled bathtub or dry the baby, who was now headed for the door / hallway / emergency room.

Guess which I did?

Please share your favorite back-upper story. I know there are worse ones out there.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Shorter, Darker, Colder

Shorter, Darker, Colder

If you live in the northeastern section of the states, you've set your clock back, reveled for a few days in the extra hour of sleep (even though the baby didn't quite get it despite your explanations) and watched the curled, brittle leaves raining down in blustery gusts that have arrived like a mother-in-law post partum: here to stay.

Fall is finally here, really here, and the holidays are gathering steam. Maybe you'll delight in shopping and prepping a big Thanksgiving dinner at home, maybe someone else is cooking, maybe you're gearing up for the trip from hell complete with lugging strollers and carseats down the jetway while on the cell phone yammering your flight number to your drunk brother-in-law while having to pee really badly. Or maybe you're still arguing with your spouse about whose family gets to spend Baby's first Thanksgiving / Christmas / other PC holiday with you and why can't you just stay home and watch football?

The days are shorter, darker, colder. It's a time of year, despite the festive glow launched by the pumpkins and skeletons of yesterday (yes I'm still dutifully polishing off the bite size Snickers and Milky Ways, you?) when some people get depressed. Some suffer from SAD syndrome - Sun Also Disappears. Some of us just get the blues. Most of us just feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Joyful yes, but resigned to being exhausted and overwhelmed until January 2, when we start a new anxiety over taxes and losing weight.

If you're a first time mom, maybe you're remembering fondly the year you abandoned Christmas in favor of a romantic getway to Hawaii or Chile. Seems like a lifetime ago doesn't it? Sister, it was.

Not to fear - there's a new lifetime ahead. One where you get to gloriously re-live all your bizarre holiday traditions through the eyes of your child. If you're like me and put off having a baby til the last chime of the clock, you might wonder sometimes if you really have the energy to do this. You do. You can.

Bring the baby to the early parties and start thinking right now about getting a sitter for the ones with spiked punch and late night charades. For God's sake, shop online, unless you're one of those creatures immune to mall rage. Give. As much as you can, without draining your reserves of cash /kindness / compassion.

And don't forget to panic about unsafe toys from China. Consumer Reports has launched the "Get the Lead Out This Holiday Season" campaign. Check it out here.

Speaking of safe toys, click here for something proactive and positive you can do

If you need more tips on how to calmly launch yourself into the storm of the holidays, read one of those helpful yet overly ambitious articles from Martha Stewart Living or Real Simple or watch the Food Network. Or book a trip to Hawaii or Chile - you, the spouse and the baby - and leave it all behind.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What the Breast Pump Said

Why did I start this blog?

First the orchid died.

It was a parting gift from my supervisor who left the Company the week I returned from maternity leave. “It’s yours,” she said after I commented how gorgeous it was sitting on her window ledge, observing downtown Back Bay from its comfy perch in her corner office. A week later, relocated to the desk in my windowless box under fluorescent lights, it was shriveled, drooping forlornly like a used penis toward the floor, its stem brown and leaves withered. Dead. I wondered vaguely about the effect the office had on me after four years. I was thirty-nine and my new baby was four months old.

A few weeks went by, the “transition” back to work which everyone said would “get easier” even though it “was awful” at first. It stayed awful. And I thought, does this really “get easier” or do you just get used to it, like insomnia, cheese and crackers for dinner and the brand new roll of skin over your jeans?

Oh, I tried. I tried to settle into the “normal” routine: Up at 5:30, feed and dress and try to interact with the baby before showering, dressing (and for the first few days, redressing, after he puked on me as soon as the power outfit was assembled) and getting us both out the door with the pets fed by 7:45 a.m. Drop him at daycare, then stop at the corner store for the breakfast of champions (pastry, coffee and a granola bar) which would be gobbled navigating the morning rush hour traffic while tuned to NPR (thinking, somehow, that if I listen to the traffic reports it might actually improve my commute), and hallucinating about all of the things I could alternatively get done with the 75 minutes of sitting in my car that lay ahead.

Two weeks of this and I’m sitting on the floor of a takeout Mexican restaurant outside San Francisco, plugged into the Pump In Style Medela Breast Pump. Yes, it is actually called Pump In Style, as if there were an alternative to being unstylish when pumping out one’s breasts. Whirr umpahhh, whirr umpahh, it says to me. We have a pitch meeting with a potential client. The rest of the pitch team are next door lunching at Panera Bread Company, but their public restrooms had no electrical outlets so here I am on the floor of El Coyote, my pitch outfit - a combination of chic and deeply competent - on a hanger leaning against a box of industrial paper towels in the corner. It was a six hour plus flight, and American Airlines has no outlets in their bathrooms. Like so many moments of my new working motherhood, this one involved a choice: eat my lunch or empty my breasts. There wasn’t time (ah, that four letter word) to do both, and so, fearing an embarrassing and inappropriate leak situation (and I don’t mean confidential corporate information) mid-pitch, I opted for the latter.

Whirr Umpaah, Whirr Umpahh.

Wow, look at me. Glamorous six figure working mom, on her way to a big pitch meeting with a sexy entertainment client. Whirr Umpahh Whirr Umpahh. I’m one of them, now. Working mothers. Those women who have it all.

Whirr Umpaah, whirr umpaah!

There is a knock (or is it a kick?) at the door. “Hola?! Jesus, is anyone in there? How long you going to be?”

Should I shout, about ten minutes per breast? I wonder what my son is doing right now. Drooling, perhaps. Peeing. Wagging him arms like the Lost in Space robot. Wondering where I am. The floor here is not very clean. I think of the movie star Will Smith and his son, spending the night on the bathroom floor in a subway station in last year’s film, “The Pursuit of Happyness.” At least I’m not homeless, I think. I’m getting like my husband, who chooses to see the bright side of a situation. “It could be worse,” he is fond of saying.

Yes, I think, I could have a two hour commute and one leg, I suppose, but its hard to muster up sympathy for the hypothetical when you’re busy feeling overtired and sorry for yourself and your breasts are in danger of exploding in front of your colleagues…

“Hey! Hello? Come on, man!”

Whirr Umpaah, Whirr Umpahh.

The sound of the familiar Pump In Style is oddly comforting. But after a long while, its chugs and hums assume the shape of words, a special message that only I can hear, a dog attuned to the high pitched whistle of its master. It sounds like this: What are you doing? Is it worth it? Why are you doing this? What are you trying to prove? Is it about the health insurance? Cause you know that’s not a reason to be trapped in a job that’s not right for you. But it’s your choice. It’s your life, and your motherhood. You do have a choice you know. You don’t have to have it all. You could just get… some. You know that, right?

I detach myself from the cone shaped receptacles and pour the milk my body made down the sink of El Coyote. I coil the plastic tubing and zip closed the case of the pump, so that now, in its discreet state, it could be a large briefcase full of case studies and not the substitute for my infant that it is. I squeeze myself into the pitch outfit, careful not to let any drops of milk touch the freshly dry-cleaned blouse. I exchange my clogs for pumps, reeling at the thought of my bare foot touching this floor, and pack up. Another knock.

“Hey, Brady, you in there? We’re getting ready to go.” It’s John, the creative director with three kids back home. John is talented and exhausted. “Be right out,” I chirp, sucking in my belly and zipping my skirt. I look into the mirror, greasy and steamy from the hot water rinsing the pump parts. My face looks more determined than confident. I sling the device over my shoulder, grab my bag and open the door. Showtime.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Welcome to "Getting Some"

A blog by new mom, writer and former corporate achiever Tracy McArdle.

“Getting Some” is a chronicle of a new life stage for first time moms over 35, who have come to realize it’s an existential joke to “have it all” and who have settled for just getting, well, some. Bold indicates links for articles or sites for more information.

We were hot, hip and had careers. At least, we thought so. We had mocha lattes and conference calls, Jo Malone and Treos. We flew business class. Yes, we were privileged. Fortunate. Lucky. All that. But now things are different. We have thicker middles and shorter energy. Someone else comes first now, and although we love that little someone with the entirety of human existence, it’s so consuming that sometimes we forget to brush our teeth or insert a tampon.

Occasionally, we secretly think things suck and we long for our old life. Getaway ski trips, weekends that started at noon and $200 jeans. We have been humbled. Sometimes we are lonely and frustrated. Confused. Feel like Meryl Streep in The Bridges of Madison County, a desperate housewife of the other kind. We’ve thought about buying an apron. We’ve thought about antidepressants.

But somehow, we are also secretly delighted to discover the unexpected nooks and crannies of this new life. Music classes and the local library, first teeth and the delirious joys of Target. Buying groceries in sneakers, in the company of your child instead of everyone else in your city doing the 6:30 what’s-for-dinner panic. The surprising fun of floor play. The shaping of a little soul that’s yours – for a little while.

We struggle with guilt and entitlement, identity and self worth. Money, of course. Relationships. But as long as we can laugh at ourselves, it’s all going to be ok. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. As songwriter Ben Lee said, we’re all in this together.