Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Wow Factor

I have written before about the fact that I have always loved infants. Their delicious smells, their needy lump figures that melt perfectly into your chest, their cherubic cuteness - big eyes, rosebud lips and mounds and mounds of smooth skin. But lately, I am all about toddlerhood. And it's largely due to The Wow Factor.

There are so mant stories I would like to tell about Chloe but I am afraid they will seem less magical to anyone else. The fact that she has started to pick out her own clothes, and this morning opted for the strappiest camisole and mini jean shorts (though she would have preferred a skirt). That she packed a shopping cart for a walk down Park Avenue (after a day inside with a cold) and filled it with lipstick, a business card holder, keys and Thomas the Tank Engine. She has taken to carrying a purse. And since my friend Tamar came over, and said "Oops!" it has become Chloe's new favorite word, pronounced "Oopth!" Chloe is fastidious and hates when things are out of place, like the blueberry interrupting the golden plains of her pancakes, or the tiny scratch on her tiniest toe. These "problem" always elicit an "Oh Nooo!" (complete with chagrined hands to cheeks), an "Uh Oh..." (usually said in accusation in conjunction with chubby pointing finger when a playmate had held behind a shaker that he was supposed to return to music teacher), and now..."Oopth!"

So yes, these things and more have made me a huge fan of this delicate state before the terrible twos rain down on us. But what surpasses all of these mushy moments is the fact that life, to Chloe, is one big WOW.

I can say most anything, "We are going to buy a banana", "Daddy is fixing your bike", "Do you see the taxi?" and she responds, "Oh, WOW!" It can be the most banal thing, a line of ants (she calls all bugs "bees"), a sprinkler in the park, an ice cream cone. They all delight her in a manner that can only be described as sheer amazement.

I remember when she was a few days and weeks old, and books would mention that I should expect newborns to sleep alot, because life is so new and overwhelming that they need to recuperate. I never understood this, because Chloe never slept more than a brief clip during the day. She was always staring, eyes wide open, likely seeing little more than a gray haze and shapes of her exhaused parents looming over her, begging her to take a nap. I think she was waiting for life to get more exciting. And now it has, and I feel so lucky to be reminded of the joys of the little things -- things I take for granted, or ignore altogether. It's the reason, I suppose, that some friends say a blessing upon waking up and before every meal. It's a pause to remember that when all is said and done, it's great to be alive. We are damn lucky.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Welcome to Mink Coat and Velvet Sweatpants (see blogroll). Even tho her belly looks so much better than mine, it's great to have another (likely better dressed as well) mama-to-be in the 'hood, with her own share of dramas. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Call Waiting

The phone has always been a symbol of independance. Remember the desperation with which you wanted your own "line" in your own room? The first phone I remember coveting was called "Private Call". It had some sort of lock and key, and what could be more important to the oldest of three kids who was regularly throwing her sister and brother out of her room with a force that sometimes drew blood?

I still remember those nights on the phone, after my parents finally gave in, lying stomach down on my carpet, feet in the air, stereo playing, ankles locked, talking to a best friend or boy friend (two words). I had limitless energy for the phone. One would call me at midnight to watch Headbangers Ball, and another regularly phoned at 6:00AM to ask what I was wearing to school that day. I would chat until my cheek got sweaty, my mouth dry. Sometimes a friend and I would not even speak on the phone, but hold the line while we watched TV in order to quickly comisserate at the commercials. I liked to play mood music in the background. It was a multi media experience, at least for the late 1980s.

In my single years in NYC, the phone maintained its appeal. Boys you met at bars either sank or swam based on if they gave "good phone" (later replaced by "good email"). Date nights were analyzed with girlfriends while we sipped wine across town from one another. I remember calling my sister the morning after my first date with now-husband, babbling for hours about my fears that he was just not that into me. I loved coming home to the blinking answering machine light. This was before I had a cellphone, which later only served to enable my vice.

And then I had a baby. And I feel like my entire life is now filled with unfinished conversations, unreturned and uninitiated phone calls. At work, where the walls are thin and time limited, calls to friends and loved ones are hushed and sparse. At home, they are nearly impossible. Chloe whines and orders me "Off, Off" as soon as I get on the phone. She glares at me from beneath her trademark heavy eyelids of discontent. And she's right. It's rude. I am somehow sending a message to her that our time together does not warrant my undivided attention.

And the rudeness does not only extend to Chloe. If I am able to multi task, I run the risk of an annoying and obnoxious simultaneous conversation, one with my friend, the other with my kid. I am not a fan of this. When I am on the other end, I find it confusing. Do I want a peanut butter sandwich? Wait, you aren't talking to me. When I have to engage in a chat with Chloe while amidst another conversation I try to pause and apologize -- but often, like when my sneaker is dangling above the toilet in a passive aggressive threat, I don't have time and find myself abandoning my friend mid-sentence. It's wrong. I just can't lift the rules of phone etiquette because I am a mom. I would never have a dual conversation with another adult while on the phone, why should I do it just because someone who is only three feet tall is demanding that I shift my attention? What am I teaching her about manners and patience and "just a minute"?

So I avoid the phone when I am with Chloe, which leaves me the evenings. The only time that I have to collapse, reunite with my husband, watch mindless TV. And by then, I am so tired, I can barely dial. So what does that leave me? I don't miss the casual conversations. But there are times when I need to deconstruct an issue, to really hear someone who is reaching out to me, to catch up until there is nothing left to say.

The only silver lining is that this conflict has forced me to redefine quality time, and chase it. Friendships are built less on good phone sessions and more on terrific in person time, no matter how hard it is to arrange. I use the phone for catch up in between, when I am alone and can really contribute to a conversation. I leave longer than appropriate voicemail messages. I make the most out of every moment, and try to manage these moments in a respectful and valuable way. It's not ideal, but at least it's real.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


This blog has been malnourished as of late. I have no real excuse, except that I have felt so busy, and yet so lazy. Mother's Day finally kicked my ass into gear - the need to pay homage to this Hallmark holiday which this year, I greatly appreciate. Maybe it's the fact that I finally don't feel like such a newbie and the mother title finally kind of fits, or the fact that I am well (or should I say, "swell") on my way to #2, and therefore, can't really pretend that I don't own this persona any more.

But it's a constant inner battle. The other day, on a day home with Chloe, I text messaged my husband and asked him if he remembers which sandbox toys were ours. The politics of a sandbox are for a whole other blog post - but suffice it to say you want to be sure you leave with what you came with. My husband wrote in response: "Get back to the office", meaning, how is THIS the crisis of your day. So there's that -- and then there's also the growing joy I experience from just watching Chloe grow. There is something amazing about toddlerhood - the mini-adult attitude, the surges of personality and independance. I had always loved the musy gushyness of infancy, but I am just mesmerized by the impending twos. I am afraid to miss a moment.

I recently read a blog entry written by a newish mother of twins, who is plagued with the crisis of creating balance, of prioritizing herself within motherhood. I do not diminish these struggles, but I have to say, this answer has come easy to me. I actually embrace my place, and it is behind my children. Not in their shadow or even as their crutch, but as their cheerleader, their cultivator, their caretaker. I have this weird theory that we are biologically at our best for motherhood in our twenties and thirties for a reason. Because after two or three decades of me, me, me, the universe says - enough about you! Enough about the size of your jeans and the fun of your nightlife and the indulgence of your whims. It's time to move on, to care about someone else in a way that sometimes even eclipses your own primal needs to sleep or go to the bathroom. It feels good to be selfless for a majority of the day. It's a relief, after so many years of self absorption. I only wish I had more time to coddle and cuddle my husband, who has redefined selflessness in this whole process, and makes every day feel like Mother's Day.

This is not to say that I don't miss sleeping until my eyes open naturally, getting my hair blown straight, long dinner dates and a life without free floating anxiety that at any moment, something terrible can happen. My to-do lists are long and never ending and rarely about me. But to give of myself in this way, even when the returns are uneven, hard to realize or not there at all, has undeniably made me a better person. When time is constrained and I have merely minutes to focus on me, the things I choose to do are priority and necessity. I no longer wonder what is important.

I often laugh at the fact that in my home, nothing material is sacred anymore. My most expensive shoes, the ones I was queasy paying for, are tripped around in by feet that are swathed in GAP socks size 18-24 months. My makeup bag has been ransacked, every item licked and sampled. My jewelry is tugged on to the point of near breakage. My vanity mirror is smudged by someone's loving kisses. When a recent incident forced me to evacuate my apartment in minutes, I ran outside with my purse, my daughter, her stroller, a diaper bag and a sippy cup. I did not remember to put on a bra or even socks. I was less concerned about what I was leaving behind and more concerned with where I would be able to find eggs and bananas, the promised breakfast - while looking like a street urchin. This is my life now - the bare essentials, the unimaginable rewards that can't be bottled or bought. It feels good live so light, even in my heaviest moments.