Monday, August 28, 2006

The Stockholm Syndrome

So the hubby and I just returned from our first trip "away" without Chloe, celebrating our fifth anniversary of wedded bliss. Chloe was with my parents in the "country", replete with home grown corn on the cob and what my father calls "country air".

We returned to a child glowing with over-attention, smelling like my mother's perfume and wholly unimpressed to see us. She sat in the corner, sobbing, and for the first time, would not let me hold her. She was clearly stricken wth what I have always called, the feeling, that empty autumn feeling that sets in after a vacation, or a wedding, or an amazing summer at camp.

I have since plied her with milk and her favorite veggies - but my ego is pretty bruised. Did I mention that she called my parents "mama and dada" all weekend? Apparently, the holder of the cheerios and hugs is the one who ranks highest in Chloe land.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Sun In and lemon juice. Kickball counting as sport. Champion sweatshirts and ugly Umbro shorts. Boys who smell like heavy cologne swiped from their fathers. Moldy swimsuits drying on the line. Fights with girlfriends that made you cry.

This was camp. It always amazes me how many rich, textured emotions can be conjured up from camp memories. Some of my best friends are from camp. So are my worst fights, heartbreaks, and overreactions.

I often wonder when and if I will send Chloe to camp. I recently alerted a co-worker, whose 13 year old was going to camp for the first time, that alot of kissing goes on there. That was not so nice of me. And not so true, either, since camp for me at 13 was a whole lotta jacks playing, pizza eating and frizz sporting, and no smooching -- yet.

When I graduated Brandeis and thoughtlessly landed in NYC, I dated a few of acquaintences from camp. While these relationships went nowhere (nowhere bad, just nowhere), I realize now how badly I hungered for a "summer boyfriend" all year round in the huge new city where boys at bars seemed terrifying and Brandeisians were just as unappealing as ever. I was young and very afraid of the City, replete with nightmare bosses and fights with roommates and nothing I could afford. The camp boyfriend seemed like an ideal way to create comfort within madness.

And it worked, for a while. Dating a guy from camp felt as good as a worn in sweatshirt. Even if I did not know him well then, he created an instant connection with an understanding of a shared social sphere from way back when, and what the hebrew words for "garbage" and "porch" were. The camp boyfriend had immediate equity with me, and instead of starting at "one", often started at "six" or "seven".

Which left more room to fall from, I guess.

Inevitably, the camp boyfriend was much more appealing in small doses. The shared history did not hold up in the face of more current obstacles, like ex girlfriends and commitment issues. And sometimes, we were just too different, despite the fact that our best memories took place at the same place. Yet when I look back upon a landscape of ex-boyfriends and one night stands and crushes of my young adulthood in Manhattan, those camp boys still stood out as the ones who I can reflect upon fondly despite the outcomes. As if we both handled each others hearts a little more carefully because of that childhood connection.

Or maybe we were just afraid of running into each other forever -- cause that's also what happens with camp. Somehow, whether it's the crunch of kool aid crystals underfoot, or the sound of a whistle...there's just no escaping.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Love The One You're With

From today's NY Times:

Women who feel anxious during pregnancy should not worry that their feelings will affect their babies, a new report suggests.

The report, a review of 50 studies, found no significant associations between feeling anxious and negative outcomes in pregnancy or birth. The findings are online now and will be printed in a future issue of The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
There are hypothetical reasons to suspect that stress in pregnancy might harm the baby. Anxiety might lead to unhealthy behavior like smoking or drinking alcohol, increase stress hormones that could limit uterine blood flow or cause changes in immunological function that could bring on preterm labor or the high blood pressure and excessive swelling of pre-eclampsia.
But the researchers found little evidence for any of these effects in the data from all the studies. Anxiety was not associated with any of the negative pregnancy outcomes examined: length of labor; birth weight; use of analgesia during labor, which can indicate great pain; gestational age at birth; or the Apgar score that rates the general health of a newborn.
The authors acknowledged that they had looked only at these five negative outcomes and that there might be others they did not examine. In addition, the studies they covered recorded only anxiety symptoms, not psychiatric diagnoses like panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder.
Still, said Heather L. Littleton, the lead author and now an assistant professor of psychology at Sam Houston State University, “If a woman is experiencing increased anxiety in general or in relation to pregnancy or parenting issues, that worry alone is unlikely to have an impact on the health of her baby.”


Well - that's good to know!

My sister and I have been laughing over the dispositions of our respective children vs. our own. Leslie is calm, irritatingly zen-like, and was throughout her whole pregnancy. Dubbed a "cold fish", she shuns physical expressions of affection (except from her husband), opting instead for meaningful yet somewhat distant forms of love and adoration. Her son, on the other hand, is happy only if nestled tightly in someone's bosom, screaming bloody murder if you dare place him down in his bassinet or even hold him a bit more loosely. I, on the other hand, am a crazy co-dependant, known for arm tickles with friends, hair stroking of loved ones and the need to be intwined in my husband whenever possible. I need kisses and hugs. I have cuddled friends of the same sex. My daughter, however, was a baby who never cried, who nuzzled only as long as a nursing session, and now that she is weaned, darts away playfully when I desperately cling to her soft ever-fleeing form. She does not look back in even brand-new social situations, and will only re-appear for milk or Cheerios. My sister claimed yesterday that after witnessing a year of what she dubbed my "Joey Parenting" (my need to carry Chloe close to my chest at every moment) she is amazed at the independant toddler I now have.

And yet neither of us would want it any other way. Ok, maybe I would like a few more fragrant post-bathtime kisses, but when she waves goodbye to me each morning, non-plussed and entranced with her nanny, I am happy that she can stand on her own.

Mad issues

Hate is a strong word. But feeling a little too touchy feely on the blog lately, here is a list of the recently high ranking stuff that I really...dislike.

In no particular order:

1. Mailing letters. I never have addresses or stamps.
2. Washing pots
3. When my nanny puts my daughter in a loser outfit
4. When my hair products stop working
5. Anyone who works at Duane Reade prescription counter (future post to be titled "Duane Reade-Rage")
6. Cheap people, of heart or wallet
7. Along the above lines -- thinly veiled hints from those waiting to be paid back
8. People who come to work sick, tell you they are fine, and then proceed to sneeze in your presence. You are then sick for two weeks. Husband and I call this being "Gribitsed", when co-worker named Mark Gribets (not his real name) came to my husbands office with unnecessary documents, "Grimetsed" him, and he was immediately ill thereafter.
9. The stale coffee smell of the walkway from terminal into airplane (I know that this place has a name).
10. When impossible-to-replace-but-very-visible-buttons pop loose
11. Finding and preparing nutritionally appropriate foods for my picky kid
12. Passive aggressive anything
13. The hot breath of eyebrow waxer in your face
14. The word "nipple". After a year of breastfeeding, I still hate it.
15. The smell of cow's milk
16. How someone you hate can ruin the smell of fantastic perfume/cologne
17. Reading bestselling books when you know you could have done it better
18. The endless commitment of shaving legs, dying roots and annual pap smears
19. People who feel that gay couples will destroy the sanctity of marriage. Because heterosexual couples are doing a great job preserving it? What's the divorce rate, again?
20. Feeling too tired to do what I really, really want
21. The laz-boy size of toddler carseats, and legal necessity to use them
22. People who email for business with no attention to sentence structure/spelling/capitalization, etc. There is no better way to send the message that you really don't give a shit.
23. The air conditioner drip that lands on your bare skin
24. "Crepe-y" post partum abdominal skin
25. Men who don't wear their wedding rings

Monday, August 14, 2006

There's a new boy in town

It was about 16 hours of pain, anxiety and excitement. A baby one week overdue, making his complex and vacuum-assisted descent down the birth canal. Emotions ran high, and after what seemed like forever I was greeted with a high pitched scream. I cuddled him close, trying not to notice the blood stained floor, promising lots of delicious meals ahead full of exotic foods that his daddy loves. We had a "moment". And then, legs aching, mind twirling, heart soaring...I left.

Being an aunt of barely a week has already been a fantastic and fear filled experience. My sister's firstborn son has already proven to be much like her - warm, intense, loving and a little bit late. As a mom of a whole year, I hold back from delivering my expert advice , trying hard not to espouse the benefits of Lansinoh and perceived dangers of co-sleeping. They are doing great in their particular brand of expert parenting. My sister is a natural, having parented me on many ocassions from her passenger seat as a little but sometimes bigger sister. She intuits his needs and what works as if she has been doing this forever. She does not fear the worst - even in the face of a benign yet stressful visit to the pediatric ER. She has always had a sense that all will turn out okay, in sharp contrast to me who has asked my husband repeatedly if my daughter's bedroom can somehow fall off the side of our building from a gale of strong winds. She streamlines her accessories - a lone diaper placed in her purse amidst her wallet and lipstick with the hopes of locating some wipes. I have a diaper bag the size of a duffel with various emergency outfits and backup Cheerio stashes.

It's hard not to reflect back on my own experience caring for a newborn. My stint with the blues felt like forever but I am assured it was only a week. Those recollections haunt me, even today, as I was so unprepared to feel anything but bliss and was instead left with an hormonal yet overwhelming sense of impending doom. Caring for my nephew has already healed those memories, as it feels good to expertly change a newborn diaper without panic and soothe hysterical cries without questioning if I am cut out for this. And I watch my Chloe toddling about one year later, flourishing and perfect in my eyes, proof positive that I have done something right.

I am incredibly excited to watch my sister blossom as the best mom in her own definition. I know that I will learn alot from her, I always have.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Blues traveler

My husband has been on the road for days (and feels like weeks). The deep loneliness and longing that ensues in his absence is a mystery to my mother, who thinks that I should be enjoying the smattering of independance. She is undoubtedly the product of a husband who has traveled far and long for too many years to count, and a personality that prompts her to fill the time alone with fun outings with her children, discount shopping and late night reality TV watching.

Don't get me wrong. It has its perks. I can eat frozen yogurt for dinner without worrying about what to feed my strapping spouse. I can leave the bed unmade without a hint of guilt. I dye my roots and sleep in deep conditioner. I watch "What Not To Wear" marathons. And yet when the time finally comes to get into bed, despite all of the extra leg room, I sleep fitfully, if at all.

Before I met my husband, I was always single. Despite many offers, I never met a boy that I liked more than I enjoyed my freedom, my girlfriends, my sushi-for-one. Where some friends were serial monogamists, I was addicted to my independance and could not imagine factoring in someone else with equal importance.

And then I met him and everything changed. I missed nothing from the outside world. Calls went unanswered. Sitcoms unwatched. It was a crash course in relationships -- my first "real boyfriend" complete with shared plans for the Jewish holidays and space in his closet. It was quite a shake up, especially due to the fact that I fell in love at first sight. Five months into our relationship he invited me on vacation to Antigua. I could not imagine what we would talk about alone together for a week. I went out to dinner with my friend Candice and unloaded my anxieties, ranging from "how much should I pack" to "should I offer to pay". "What if we get bored with each other there?" I wondered to her. "There's no TV!" I had also spent some time revealing my fears that He was somewhat commitment phobic. The first night we on the island, he proposed. We spent the rest of the week planning our lives together and Candice, who already knew what he had planned, had kept a list of all the dumb things I had worried aloud about at dinner with her. She gave it to me at my bridal shower.

But I digress.

I am not sure when, over our five years of marraige, I started needing my husband as much as air. When I lie in bed alone, I feel like I am quietly gasping, twisting in the sheets. My worst fears invade my head, from plane crashes to my daughter falling out of her crib. I eagerly await daybreak, knowing that it will bring me one day closer to our reunion.

I have spoken about this at great length with my friend Leigh -- the risks we take by being, to quote Beyonce, "crazy in love". Leigh is just about to embark, and I am in up to my eyeballs. Elise and I have discussed at length that every time our husbands leave, we can't help but let our minds go there. And there is their funerals, after our husbands board flights to places like Chicago/San Francisco/Orlando for hours in stale conference rooms and bad restaurants, we are convinced for a moment each time that they will meet with disaster. Elise is concerned with shiva platters and I wonder where the hell I would find a decent rabbi, but it all comes down to the same thing -- being positive that we could not possibly go on without them. But what's a few sleepless nights when compared to loving and being loved in a way that keeps you up all night?

I have always found great solace in this poem by e.e. cummings, and the rich complexity of loving so completely.

[somewhere i have never travelled]

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain, has such small hands

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

An image of the little bookstore biddie. Who could turn this down?