Saturday, March 08, 2014

Packing Lists

Champion sweatshirts cut and the neck with shorts that went swish when you walked. Slouch socks, dirty Keds, skin so soft. Sunburns, bug juice, endless peanut butter sandwiches on Wednesdays. Barbeques, crackling bonfires, screaming girl-fights. Plastic showers, moths, shower caddies, moldy towels, pre-dinner wardrobe changes that included spritzes of Anais Anais and too much hair gel. First kisses and fumbling exploration-- wet and hot on a volleyball court or a golf course or behind a bunk. Lights Out! Raids, jacks, a sweep of baby powder will prevent splinters. Breakups, tears, Christopher Cross or Air Supply.

I miss....

Summer nights on Newberry Street in Boston, MA

The soothing sound of the garage door opening in my childhood home while I lay in bed at night. My dad was home.

Sleeping till noon on Saturdays, awakening for a gutted bagel, iced coffee, my walkman and stroll around Gramercy Park, shopping for an outfit to go out in that night. (What I don't miss: That Night).

Being three months in to a great workout regime.

Getting my hair blown out while gorging on fashion magazines.

Fiction writing workshops.

My stinky, scrappy family dog, Oreo.

The amazing Thomas Pink cufflinks that my husband bought me.

Having a GREAT day at work.


The best thing you can ever do for someone is to compliment them on whatever you are finding yourself admiring. A great sweater that you could never pull off, the poreless repeat of their skin, eyes so blue you would wonder if they were real. A stranger, a lover, it doesn't matter. Find space and confidence in your life to tell someone else what is special about theirs. You will both bloom for it.


The freedom to choose. This is what women fought for. But it is always what we want?

Recently, after my missive on this very blog about how much I adore being at home, I went on a dream job interview. It was a news editor position at a magazine. Despite my lack of direct experience, I found myself across the table from an editor in chief, in brand new high heels and an updated portfolio, nodding and smiling and boasting.

(In case you are wondering, the job is in an adjacent city, so my mother drove me to the interview with D, and waited in the parking lot. And five minutes before I was rattling off my strengths and weaknesses, my dress was at my waist and I was breastfeeding in the backseat. But I digress...)

As the editor in chief started to unravel the job description, I floated above my manicured nails and overstyled hair and and watched myself nod enthusiastically, and tried to keep from drooling. This was everything I ever wanted....before.


I started this blog almost 8 years ago, to chronicle life as a new mom with my daughter, Chloe. Tomorrow is her eighth birthday. Looking back now, I wish I had been more diligent recording the details.  But not for memories. For clues.

In the past year, Chloe has been diagnosed with anxiety. It happened after a very long and winding journey, filled with confusion. Because when your otherwise normal child starts complaining about stomach pain, you have to believe it is - what - constipation? heartburn? gas? Gluten allergy? Lactose intolerance? Undiagnosed strep throat? Mono? These are all the things we tried, throwing our hopes against them until one would stick. But none of them did.  The physical symptoms, as real as they appeared, became mere props in the surreal performance that suddenly became our lives, where anxiety took the stage. Every day. A perpetually repetitive performance of pain.

We like to say "It came out of nowhere" because then we can believe that we could not have prevented it.  And because that's what the school psychologist said, convinced that she had some mysterious illness. Why else would a life and love-filled seven year old suddenly become hysterical every morning when dropped off at school? How can someone be allegedly nauseous, all day long, without an ailment of some sort, something that can be cured by medicine that smells like bubble gum and sits in your fridge for 10 days?

But if we are honest -- and that's what therapy at $300 for 45 minutes demands -- this did not come out of nowhere. We had constructed a normal life around her abnormal fears, and it seemed perfectly innocent, parents flexing to minimize their child's quirks. I remember noting to my pediatrician that at those maddening mommy and me classes, Chloe would not meander around with the other kids.  She always sat close on my lap, refusing to budge. "That's a good thing," he'd say.  "She will be less likely to stumble into danger. It's good she's cautious."  So you cling to that validation, and ignore your gut.  So she's cautious, that's a good thing.  And there was no real need to sleep at grandma's house if she didn't want to, and drop off playdates were just another thing for the nanny to have to deal with. Who cares if she didn't want to do those. And then it became no birthday parties. She doesn't like cake, she'd say. And that was $30 less that I would have to spend on some kid she barely knew. And at the parties she did attend, I somehow became the only mother on the sidelines, barely noticing that I was sitting alone where I was once flanked by friends and diaper bags.  So she was building a small world of security around herself, closing out the parts of the world she didn't want to see or hear. And so did I.

There was a part that came out of nowhere - a sudden escalation of the undertones of anxiety that we had grown to live with. It exploded like a sonic boom, with reverberations that have left us shaking. She won't separate at all -- and especially not for school. She screams like a feral animal, "Don't make me go!", twisting and kicking and shaking in the face of danger that only she can see. Her eyes are equally wild and blank. I can't reach her. Once she realizes that missing school is not a option, she devises her own desperate voodoo to ensure her safety - by way of questions - hundreds of questions that assault us from 5:00 in the morning until the 8:00 drop off. They are all the same, but need to be repeated, over and over until something settles inside of her for a second and then rages up again, refusing to soothe her for more than a second. With the questions come the things - things to wear, things to carry, things to eat or not eat, all in an effort to ward off a crippling belief that danger is ahead. And every morning it starts over again. Without fail.

She is loud and relentless. This is not a private disease, and she is a volcano erupting while other mothers bear witness. Their eyes are large with sympathy, concern or confusion, all of which I abhor. So we stop taking the elevator and start taking the stairs - eight flights. Though my legs ache and my hair sweats and we need to pause on each floor so I can either soothe or scream at her through clenched teeth. It sounds heartless, but sometimes all that works is my angry voice - it shakes her out of the daze. The more I soothe, the more despondent she becomes, so there are times when I look at my desperate, devastated child, and I hiss at her, begging her to stop, threatening if she won't.

So we awaken to the fact that this is a THING. And there are books that describe her so closely that bring me hope while also striking fear deep inside of me - that this is a THING that will be with her, with us, forever. It's not a stage, or a phase, or a spurt, or the things that make moms drink wine every night. And the worst thing about the THING is that while it was always around, and part of her, she suddenly seems completely different. I don't want to welcome this person, this daughter who looks like mine but acts so sick, because she's not here to stay. But as long as she's here, my Chloe is gone.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Moving On

I have lived in Manhattan for over ten years, in six different places. But only one ever felt like home.

We moved in when my daughter, now four, was only six weeks old. I found it months before, while my husband had been busy studying for the bar exam. "Its great!" I said, pushing a floor plan towards him over piles of law books. The truth was that it was quite a wreck, which he would come to learn after we had already closed on the place. He never ended up seeing it beforehand, one of the crazy stories we would tell over and over -- how he entrusted my words enough to sink our very last dime, and many other people's dimes. When he finally saw it...the cracked walls, the awful blue stained carpets, the popcorn ceiling, he grew quiet. "That place is a dump!" he would finally say, several city blocks later as he would walk quickly ahead of me, stewing in disbelief. "Well, it's our dump." I said, knowing he was too shocked to see yet what I saw -- the gorgeous view with a sliver of river, the proximity to the park, the kitchen possibilities. By the next avenue I finally caught up with him, mumbling to himself. He was devising a plan to transform this dump into the place we would call home for four years.

In the ensuing months we spent endless hours at Home Depot. I chose grout colors (did you know there was more than one) while sweating in front of a floor sample fan, nine months pregnant that July. Our daughter would come sooner than the apartment would be complete, so we stayed at my parent's place, a.k.a. every son-in-law's worst nightmare. Every tile, fixture, appliance, paint chip held infinite possibilities, though my enthusiasm waned in the face of new motherhood and my anxious need to finally settle into our new life. "What do you THINK" he would ask me weeks later, with the same cautious enthusiasm I had used when I first showed him the place. The walls were brighter than those paint samples had promised, Romper Room-esque I think we said. The ceiling was smooth. The kitchen gleamed in cinnamon wood tones offset by black granite whose name will never fail to amuse me - amazonubatuba. Light dimmers, crown moldings, brushed nickel drawer pulls. We had done it. Lemons were officially lemonade.

I would bring two more babies home to this place, totaling three in all. My first spend six months in our room before we were brave enough to move her into hers, one that was a beautiful bright green that is usually reserved for crayons. Our second baby would remain with us for 14 months, and then finally join his sister. Most kids would hate to share a room that small, but ours loved it. Both children would learn to take their first steps down the long corridor. They would delight the doormen with their antics, waiting on the stone steps for daddy to finally come home. In the summers when I was huge and pregnant we would eat popcicles deemed too messy for inside, letting the sugary, sticky mess make puddles between our flip-flopped feet while we sat on those steps.

The space started to shrink and rapidly as the children outgrew sneakers. Toys became larger, more demanding of shelves that we did not have. The bathtub was chipping, requiring our almost 4 year old to bathe in an inflatable tub. Clothes overflowed closets, food spilled from pantries once there were so many more mouths to feed. While we loved our home -- the lemon yellow living room walls, the great shared outdoor space, the friends that we could visit with a few pushes of an elevator button -- it became clear that we were stretching at the seams (much like I was, pregnant for the third time).

When the last baby arrived, we became a good joke for parties -- five people in a one bedroom apartment! We put ads in the paper and lots of stuff into storage. Strangers came, running hands over granite, opening the drawers filled with our life and slamming them closed again. I would smile and brag about the place, taking compliments for its lovely view with the slice of river if you squinted the right way. Like the desperate girlfriend, I would wait for the phone to ring. For someone to buy the home we had grown to love but that our love had outgrown.

Just when we were beginning to give up, someone left a note with our doorman. She had admired the same unit on another floor, might she see ours. Fast forward some months and we were moving out, moving on. We found a new apartment a few avenues over that was comparatively palatial. The kids room was huge, enough for all three. We were a block away from our favorite playground. In the chaos of the move, I did not have time to say goodbye. So my husband would call me over a week later while he scrubbed the floors for a final inspection. It was just me and the new baby, the one who would have no memories of the place that the other two had lived so much in, a place that they still now say they would trade it all to go back to. When I walked into the empty apartment, it looked like it had already started to shrink even more. I felt guilty for trading up, this place had been so good to us. The details my husband and I had chosen when we were only "just us" were being left for someone else to embrace or discard. I walked around, trying to breathe it all in one last time, desperate to make an imprint, overcome with memories. And then a baby's cry penetrated my thoughts. He was still new, a cry not yet familiar. He was ready to go home, make new memories of his own with his brother and sister and the swings and the slide. It was time to go, our first official home was officially now someone else's.

Its been several months and the key to that house is still on my chain. While I am sure the locks have been changed, a small part of me still wants access to that time in my life.


I have been imagining this moment - my great re-entry to the blogosphere. I imagined it like tapping on a microphone at a club about to perform, making sure everything was operative, only to find that there is no one in the audience. So it doesn't really matter if the mike works, or I say the right thing, or my voice cracks. Because even if someone sneaks in, it will be too dark to notice.
I haven't checked this blog since my last entry. Even tonight, I wouldn't read through it - too scared to check in with the past which will serve as undeniable proof of how much time has flown by. "They" tell you it will, but who likes listening to "they", anyway? Since I last wrote, I birthed a whole other child. He's three now, and we officially have a brood. An embarassment of riches on some days, just an embarassment on other days. Last time I was "here", I was really here -- present always, a full time stay at home mom with playdates and endless restaurant meals where you really make yourself believe that a child with no teeth should be in a public dining establishment, as the floor becomes their dumpster. Now I work more than I play with any one or any thing. I never stopped craving the work place, the stupid things like dry clean only clothes and steaming Starbucks at the desk. And now I have it, and more. And at home, they have me less. I will write about this more - this fallacy of balance, the answer to what is really "doing the right thing", the crushing guilt that comes when your children verbalize their joy when they think you might be picking them up from school. Just once. This month.
I have found myself thinking a lot about friendship as adults, amidst all the kids and the jobs and things like mortgages and life insurance. I spent much of my young life perfecting the art of being a good friend. This is the time when letters were written and folded into small smeared squares and mailed. When phone calls were long and tethered to a cord. I was a gold medalist in the olympics of good friend-ness. I trained for years. And I loved it - so rare did it dissapoint me, the investments and the choices and the texture that good friendships added to my life. Their importance never went away. Not even when I got married. There was somehow even more that I needed then, to unpack, analyze and validate the mind blowing phenomenon that is forever.
And now, everyone can be a good friend. Thanks to Facebook, which did not exist when I started this blog. A few "likes" and a "happy birthday!" and there you are, scoring the friend points with people you scarcely remember. But real friendships, the ones that need nurturing and status updates that are real and not contrived for Facebook sake, there is suddenly no time. How do you make time? Is it just me, who is disappointing friends on a daily basis for not being there, not knowing? You may not feel it on a day to day basis - the days are too full. But you will get a cryptic email from a dear college friend and convince yourself that it's cancer (when thankfully, it's pregnancy). Or when you find out from Facebook that someone who you know considers you one of her one-and-onlies had a son in the hospital. You find out the same way that her ex boyfriend from high school does, or the weird colleague whose friend request she couldn't ignore. So on a day to day basis, it may be OK, being to full, too frenzied, too disconnected. But will time stand still? Will these missed moments be forgiven? And as badly as I feel, knee deep in neglect, I feel equally righteous. Wouldn't a good friend understand that where I am is not a reflection of who I am or where I want to be? Are real friendships immune from benign neglect, are they supported from a foundation of irrevocable understanding that does not require constant contact even if it means missing some big things? What does it mean to be a real friend?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Shape of my heart

The first boy I ever adored was named Jeffrey. I was twelve, and he was a tiny slip of a boy with smooth looking skin and long eyelashes. Word got around, as it tends to do in seventh grade, and to my great delight Jeffrey asked me to take a walk with him at our upcoming weekend school retreat. This was a big deal at my religious elementary school, and a bigger deal to me, who lived most of my early adolescent life behind Paula Danzinger books and Sally Jessy Raphael glasses. The biggest deal was the way he asked me. He took me outside our science fair and presented me with two soap hearts, which he had made at someone's "how to make soap" booth. I was floored, absolutely ecstatic, my own heart racing with the romance of it all. But alas, poor little Jeffrey developed "inflamed lungs" (I will never forget the diagnosis) and had to miss the retreat. I was without a date to walk with once Saturday afternoon rolled around and I caught the attention of the class slacker artist, a hottie with great hair and a bad attitude. I was suddenly smitten and he would prove to be enamoured of me for as long as the walk lasted. Once I got home, I shelved Jeffrey's hearts far away, along with any interest in a "nice" boy for the decade that followed. Until I met my husband.

A and I met after we had both been battered by the "not good enough for yous". On our first date, we smoked Ultra Lights and discussed our most recent affairs of the heart. He had a seven year toxic relationship that he could not seem to kick, and I waa dating my umpteenth emotionally unavailable attorney. I was charmed by A's goodness, and finally ready to receive it, to be good to myself. Thankfully, he was too.

In our years before kids, it was easy to lavish the love on each other, to celebrate every occassion with great fanfare, to spend dinners staring dreamily at each other and reveling in our luck. Now, while our love has grown, our time has shrunk. Where we used to hold hands, someone is pushing a stroller or carrying piggyback. Where we used to share long tales of each other's day, we are interrupted by shrieks of "mommy!" or "milk" or just plain "aiiiieeee!" In many ways, we are living the Cliffs Notes version of romance.

It is important to feel courted, regardless of gender, but most importantly for women. My father, despite limited comfort in sharing emotions, readily showers my mother with gifts. When he travels internationally, he spends hours at perfumaries, inhaling coffee beans in between whiffs of various crystal bottles, trying to find the best scents. He buys her bananas, her favorite breakfast staple, before she has time to notice they are gone. He arranges her vitamins in the shape of a smiley face. He used to shop for clothes for her, until she put her foot down, down hard on a crazy Norma Kamali number that included a swimsuit that he believed was a blouse. And she has purses so extravagant with names that are totally lost on her. For their thirtieth anniversary, he proposed again, with a huge Tiffany diamond, the kind where you always wonder "who actually buys these"? I suggested he go to the diamond district, and he scoffed. "There's just something about Tiffany's", he said. And he's right.

I am a believer that actions speak louder than words. It's not the diva in me, it's the romantic in me. It's not about how much you spend, but about the thought -- the steps you take to really consider what a person would enjoy. Women often will say, "Oh, I don't need anything, really." I believe this is bad practice. I think a woman should be courted forever, and sometimes, this means getting creative, spending more than you anticipated, and doing instead of saying. For my recent birthday, my sister later told me that A sent her frantic emails, with subject lines like RUNNING OUT OF TIME - NEED IDEAS and HOW ABOUT A SPA PACKAGE? She told me that he was thoroughly stressed about the best way to celebrate me. He knows what I want, and you can't find it online. I want planning and plotting and attention to detail. I want active listening, noticing what I notice in others. It all shows that you care enough to still want to thrill me. I believe that woman should always assert her worth, or else she will be offered far less. If that makes me high maintenance, so be it. Because whether the heart is made of soap or gold, when the love is there, it is worth sharing.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


I've vacationed in Florida every year since I was six months old, so I dared to believe that, aside from a whole lotta nothin, there was not much to expect on my zillionth trip down there this past time.

Alas, any trip that starts with a plan to stay at my parents brand new house -- only to find that "brand new" in this definition meant no carpet, no couches, no hot water -- and evolves into a 12 day stay at an Embassy Suites is going to be anything but boring.

There were highs: Two perfect angels on the airplane that made even the surliest passengers salute in appreciation upon their departure, incredibly warm weather, time with my brother on the cusp on his engagement, a TJ Maxx that sells Seven jeans in reasonable sizes, kids who were so exhausted by the end of each day that they slept until 10:00, a daughter who put up with a ridiculously small travel crib, a son who finally defied his laz-boy demeanor and rolled onto his side (of course to visit me in the middle of the night, when he should be in HIS OWN CRIB), the Embassy Suites Manager's Party - where at 5:00 they have an open bar and snacks (we are instituting this at my house from now on), a king sized bed with room for four...

And the lows: A middle of the night hotel evacuation because some drunk fool pulled the fire alarm, blistering argument with my mother borne mainly of the fact that no one should vacation with their parents for this long regardless of how old they are, the awareness that if you are out of shape, wearing an out of shape bathing suit only makes you look worse, poop in the swim diaper (there is nothing more vile than this) and all you can eat buffets that pretty much kill that resolution to stop eating mini versions of things...

All in all, your typical family trip. I am glad to be home, sad to be home and just pretty much exhausted. I have some exciting topics that I would love some input on, including the topic of friendships and their return on investment and coping with the end of (spousal) courting. Stay tuned.

PS: New for 2008 - I also now blog here:
You can search me by name via the "categories" sidebar on the right, but I recommend perusing all of the entries. These are a great group of gals. This probably blows any shred of anonymity that I might have had, but after all I have shared here -- welcome to the family.

Monday, December 17, 2007


One of the million things that I currently love about my daughter Chloe is how comfortable she is just being herself -- and how she never tries to be anything different.

This became strikingly clear recently, at Parent-Teacher conferences at Chloe's school. Yes, even the academic life of two year olds require conferencing.

So A and I arrived at Chloe's class, and I sat in a tiny chair far too small for my post partum posterior (more on this later). Her two teachers faced me, and I waited for what I expected to be tons of compliments about my lovely little girl.

And I was right. They told us how sweet she was, how adorable. And then the unexpected.

"Until two weeks ago, Chloe did not speak a single word in class."

My heart sank. I could not believe it. I heard myself babbling on and on in her defense and in my own outrage. I told them how talkative and bossy she was at home, how she literally narrates the entire day. They quickly reassured me.

"She has a quiet confidence", the teacher said. "She was always busy. Even when she was not talking, she would not let anyone push her around. In fact, her first sentences in class were "No, that's mine" and "I don't want bread, I like Cheerios". Oh, and she is the best in the class at solving puzzles".

I was shocked. Every day for three months, Chloe happily went to school. She barely uttered a goodbye. She never asked to stay home. She could barely wait to get there, and immediately got to work on a table filled with puzzles. How could she be so excited to come to a place where she did not talk to anyone, and barely anyone talked to her? This would be my own private hell. I hated starting a new job, mainly because I would not know anyone and would not have anyone to talk to. I was always looking forward to the point where I knew everyone and had limitless people to chat with.

But as I listened to her teachers describe how she cheerfully, yet quietlu, goes to each activity, I began to understand. Chloe and I are different this way. While I could talk to a tree, Chloe truly blossoms only when she is completely comfortable. Where I would be sickened to go somewhere every day where I could not yammer up a storm, she is happy just doing her thing, being her independant self. Unlike me, she does not need a million friends around, she is happy doing her own thing. So she may not be head cheerleader or sorority president or all of the things that I ever wanted. She is happy just being who she is, no pretense, no apology.

I am intrigued by this moment in time when she is so carefree. I wonder if next year she will cry that she has no friends, trapped by her own independance. I try not to think about it. For now, I enjoy sitting back and admiring all of the things I never had as a child: bravery, confidence and comfort in the periphery of things.

When do we lose the ability to embrace ourselves so completely and without shame? Currently, my crisis is that of clothing. In my mind's eye, I am a size 26 skinny jean, in high heeled boots, a top that does not open for some sort of lactation and perfect highlights. In reality, I recently went to buy some jeans and demanded a "mid-rise" (they should call it "mom-rise"), I wear long shirts that are roomy enough to cover my midriff and be yanked over a screaming baby, and if I splurge on haircolor that is not applied at my sink, it is single process only. My penchant for perfume has been cast aside, for fear that my baby will smell like Bulgari. I am often in a ponytail. At a recent indulgence at a makeup counter, the saleswoman said that she was "concerned about my skin's dehydration". I nearly laughed, as I am often concerned about my life's dehydration, as I thirst for who I once was, at least on the outside.

I should be thrilled. I have lost almost all of my baby weight, the crows feet have not yet landed around my eyes and at least my breastfeeding boobs are perky. And yet, I am somehow embarassed, that the life I have chosen, which is largely without time for indulgence or interest in bettering my body, is so much less than it was - or should be. There are moments when I am ashamed to admit that sitting on my bed in stained sweatpants, kissing my children's bare feet, feels better than the best moment in the office. And then I am equally ashamed when I long for a reason to wear my new heels, to spend four hours at the salon, to call a meeting when the participants are not in Pampers.

My new year's resolution is to embrace my new life, and the body that I use to travel through it, without such constant critique. I can be doing better, and I hope to make time for some crucial self improvement (or at least some crucial cardio)! But until then, I will take a chapter from Chloe, throw caution to the wind, and enjoy the puzzles right in front of me.

Wishing all of you a year filled with self acceptance. (I'll be back in 2008)!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Green mum

In my world, the only granola around is the kind I mix into yogurt. I am not the earth-mother type. I leave that to some of my friends who are much more enviornmentally aware, and socially conscious. I learn from their time at the Food Co-Op and I try to "co-op" some of their green ideas, but basically, this urbanite does not have a whole lotta crunch.

But if motherhood has taught me anything, it has been to be more caring, overall, of the world within and outside of your home. So I am sharing my two most recent findings that have given me pause and lead me to make smarter choices for the health of my children and the world around them.

1. MDF: Medium Density Fiberboard. Basically, it is faux wood. Particleboard. Looks like wood. But it's not. Many styles of children's furniture is made of MDF (including almost EVERYTHING at Pottery Barn Kids!). MDF emits formaldyhyde gases which slowly enter the air and cause health problems, especially for children. There is much written online about this:

In all fiberboards, formaldehyde resins are used to bond together the constituent parts. This is usually urea formaldehyde, but some fibreboard including exterior or marine quality board will use stronger glues such as phenol formaldehyde.

Even at a low level, exposure to formaldehyde though inhalation can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and mucous membrane. Formaldehyde can also affect the skin, leading to dermatitis, and the respiratory system causing asthma and rhinitis. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organisation, quoted evidence that even short term exposure to formaldehyde, at far below the legal limit allowable in Britain, could cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat.

The IARC's findings also stated that wood dust is a carcinogen' (cancer causing) and that 'formaldehyde is probably carcinogenic to humans'. IARC was also concerned about the reproductive hazards of formaldehyde'. "
To add insult to injury, real wood is hard to find! Especially when it comes to children's furniture. I am trying to replace all of my MDF furniture, which is thankfully only my kids table and chairs and changing table. The best way to find real wood is by googling "Amish furniture". Who knew the Amish were so busy creating all of this non toxic furniture? I am thrilled to have found this. I will buy something untreated to avoid the whole lead paint issue, which means it will likely be ugly but at least it will be safe.

By the way, if you find a furniture company that you like, don't just ask "Is this real wood?" because they will say yes, even if it includes particleboard and MDF. This happened to me at Pottery Barn Kids and finally someone printed out descriptions which are not available to the public which listed MDF as the "wood". You need to be specific.

2. Bisphonal-A: Bisphenol A is a chemical found in almost all baby bottles. When heated, bottles can leach this chemical into the liquids inside. Bisphenol A has been linked to cancer, diabetes, immune dysfunction, hyperactivity and an alarming range of other disorders.

With Chloe, I used Dr. Brown's bottles which contained Bisphenol-A. This time around, I found Green to Grow bottles (, which are Bispehenol A-free and overall have a great mission and products (also phthalate free).

Aint it nice that I can package my neuroses in an eco-friendly brown bag?

Monday, December 03, 2007

From mother to mother

I lay awake last night, thinking about you. I was wrapped around my infant son, who was suffering from his first fever. As endless heat emanated between us, you entered my mind, chilling me briefly.

It has been a long time since I thought of you in this way, and I have to admit, it has been a relief. Last month marked 14 years since your son's death, and the first anniversary of the accident where I did not think about him. Last May, at my 10-year college reunion, I sat at a small memorial service for him, surrounded by the friends who had also surrounded me at his funeral. They cried softly, but I remained remarkably still. In a terrible way, it felt good that I could not exactly remember, even though we were walking the grounds where he lived.

The last time I heard from you was five years ago, a month past my wedding. It was right after September 11th, and you had sent a letter to my office. You had enclosed sunshine-shaped sequins, your trademark. They bulked the package in a way that made it appear suspicious at a time of high alert. It was torn apart, and then restored. Much like you, I hoped.

Your letter wished me well for my marriage, the news of which you had read in the paper. "I'm sorry I did not respond to your last note," you wrote. "It's just hard to find the words sometimes." We had traded words in letters for years on and off since your son, my friend, was killed in an accident just three months into his college career. I was by no means the closest to him, but I had been the newest, a romance just beginning to bloom. "He told us how you had watched a movie together," you had written in your first letter. I remember thinking how amazing it was that he had shared that with you, the hours we spent entwined in darkness, hearts and hormones racing. I would write back in an adolescent attempt to soothe a mother's wounds that were unreachably deep. You called me once, left a message, wanting to talk. I am ashamed that I never returned the call. I was too scared to hear your voice, to embrace the full measure of a pain that I could never understand.

Last night my mind returned to you, to a nuance that I had forgotten from that time. I needed a black dress for the funeral, and I had claimed that I had nothing to wear. Days before I had worn a black dress for Halloween, when friends and I dressed as slutty witches. This is what you do in college, when you are young and silly and carefree. That was the very last time we could be classified in those terms, as we were immediately aged and hardened by death. I would borrow a friends dress, and it would prove too tight, as I remember standing at the funeral, unable to breathe.

So I thought about that dress, and then it all flooded back, the music of that time, the searing emotions, your letters, the pain. These images entered me in the dense darkness of night, in that vulnerable place when you are neither asleep nor awake. I did not understand why now, of all times, I was back there again.

In the light of day, as my son's fever has come down and the sun has come up, it is clear to me now why I thought of you then. Now, I am a mother too. With a girl first, then a boy, just like you. I have never handled my children's illnesses well, yet there is something even more terrifying about my son when he is sick. He embodies a vulnerability that my daughter has never really shown, a neediness from the very core of him. I am his protector, in every sense of the word. And as he gripped my finger in his fat fist, burning up beyond belief, I dared to imagine losing him. And with that thought, came one of you and of your son who I barely knew. I wish I knew then what I know now. When the sunshine of your life was gone, the fact that you went on breathing, much less writing, and remembering, is miraculous. And just like my teenage words on looseleaf paper, I know my admiration does not dilute the pain. But from mother to mother, you are my hero.