Sunday, September 30, 2007


Some people hate advice. "Assvice", it is called, by those who feel irritated upon hearing it. They believe it holds judgement, an insinuation that something they are doing could be done alot better. Or even a little bit.

I love advice. Pearls of wisdom, opinions, what-have-you. Maybe it's the writer in me, seeking inspiration from the ordinary. Even if I don't heed it, I like to hear it - words that are important to those that I love and even those that I don't.

Here is some great advice that I have received, or thoughts that are strung together in a manner so succinct and interesting that I can not help but remember. Please share yours too, as I mentioned, I love to hear it.

"It's better to be liked than to be right." - my husband, in terms of finding peace in the workplace. Wish I had heeded this one more.

"Confidence is critical." - my friend Regina, on a porch of a boys bunk when we were 16 years old. She was effortlessly confident and quirky, in all the places that I was shy and safe.

"Don't wear blazers or any jacket that is longer than your waist." - My sister Leslie, who has a keen awareness of what fits a woman best.

"Never hesitate to make your husband feel a little jealous." - My mother, who routinely drives my father crazy with this. But they have been married for almost 32 years.

"Don't let a boy touch anything inside your reverse triangle." - My friend Denise, via her mother. The triangle is the route drawn from the top of your boobs down to your crotch. I may not have lived this one, but my daughter sure will *right?*

"You are not important enough to be this stressed out" - Suzy, a co-worker senior to me when I was a lowly scrub in beauty PR.

"Where you can't find a mensch, be one." - My dad, paraphrasing his dad, and a talmudic quote.

"Don't take that Percocet. You may never stop." - My sister in law after my C-secion. A psychologist who was quietly assessing my shaky emotional state and gleefully filled prescription.

"People who are secure with who they are have a special glow." - Ross, a boy I dated for a minute or two.

"Learn to play tennis or ski. These are social sports." - My dad, again. He may have been channeling the 80s corporate culture, so perhaps insert "golf" here.

"Love is not a feeling, it is a decision" - The rabbi who married A and me.

"Floss." - A variety of dentists.

"Nothing is harder than being a first time mom" - My friend Adina, after her birthing her third boy in five years.

"Good public speaking skills are crucial in life." - My dad, again. This one I listened to.

"They hyperbole of often used to fill the vacuum left by a personality." - A writer who had the balls to comment on the ridiculous outpouring of grief that occurred after the death of a celebrity who I will keep nameless here.

"Don't brush curly hair." - I wish I could remember who to thank for this one.

"Close female friendships are the best dress rehearsal for what it takes to make a marraige work." - I read this somewhere and could not agree more.

"When it comes to kids eating habits, look at a week, instead of each day, to assess nutritional success." - Dr. Sears.

"Everyone likes to be asked about something they enjoy doing outside of work." - my husband

"Your body is pre-programmed to be a certain weight. Unless you take extreme measures in either direction, you'll keep staying pretty much at where you were meant to be." - Recent NY Times article. I always had a hunch this is true.

"Your children are like a videotape, recording every move that you make." - Commercial

"No talk!" - My daughter Chloe, when I chat on the phone while playing with her.

"The state of a person's towels is a good indicator of the state of a person's life." - Oprah

Thursday, September 27, 2007

We are stronger...when we are giving up.

Back in the day, when I made mix tapes as frequently as I now make peanut butter sandwiches, I would give each tape a title, a quote from a song within. One of my favorites included "We are stronger...when we are giving up."* I was pretty taken with the concept, which seemed to be an inherent paradox of sorts, but these words seem to soothe me at those times in life when saying goodbye to something takes more guts than just hanging on.

I have been slowly giving away my babies' clothes, Dylan's too. Even he has his own stash of "too smalls", the things he once swam around in with skinny limbs and slackened skin. Now he is all husky and chubby and vibrant, and he leaves behind heaps of teeny tiny. I have not been giving it all away, just some, and I have been giving it to my nanny. Not because she is needier than anyone else who could receive them, but because I know that if I give them to her, I can't ask for them back.

Dylan is the kind of baby who makes me want to have 100 more. He is beautiful and sweet and smiley and so easy that I almost forget him from time to time. He is my prozac, the picture of tranquility and light. He lifts me up.

So I look at him, and I crave more of him. More delicious little miracles. And I think that I might even be able to convince A to spin that wheel one more time, to stretch our emotions and our strength and our finances. I don't feel done yet. I want more.

And we could do it, I think. If I was not me. Because when I am not gazing blissfully into my children's faces, I am freaking out. I am a worrier of the worst kind. I fear the worst, always. The internet is not my friend. I guess and second guess my decisions and how they will affect these priceless little people who have entrusted me with their lives. While I have become pretty good at living in the moment, when night falls and I am finally in bed my stomach twists with worry. How is it that Chloe watches TV during dinner every night? This is definitely a bad thing, right? And Dylan's head is becoming flat from all of the time that I need him to lie down away from his sister's busy hands. He will definitely need a helmet. I watched Larry King Live last night - all about Autism. Should I split the MMR vaccine? What about flu shots? Will Chloe choke on her Flintstone vitamins? They look awfully big. And when what about my marriage? Will A and I ever be able to spend a quiet evening alone, ever again? Will he someday crave his freedom, or at least a momentary reprieve from my expressed and repressed agita?

So you can understand, that despite the fact that I have been told by friends and strangers that I am a wonderful mother, parenting is hard for personalities like mine. Nothing slides off of me. It all sticks, and sometimes erodes. I can't help it. This is what love does to me.

I truly don't have the stomach for another child. And I am not talking stretch marks. I am talking the deep cramping of concern, when fever is not breaking or milestones are not met. It's so much already with only two. The pleasure far exceeds the pain, but the pain can be debilitating. And I desperately miss my husband, who I barely have time to take in before we both pass out.

I may regret this one day, when life is easier or I have become more accustomed to all this questioning. But for now, I take solace in acknowledging my own weaknesses, that which I can not change. The right thing for me, is not be greedy -- to accept my limitations and to rejoice in what I have, and not worry about what I am giving up.

*I am ashamed to admit that this quote is from the song "Meet Me Halfway", which I believe is by Kenny Loggins. Please do not allow that to diminish my sentiment here. I am an 80s kid, after all.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Nature Vs. Nurture

When I was a child, I had a recurring dream. I was in a daycare center, filled with kids. I was holding a boot, and I left the room to find its pair. When I came back, everyone was gone. I was alone, terrified.

It does not take Freud to analyze this one. Yes, it may have been a foreshadowing of my shoe obsession, but really -- I was always a child who was terrified of being alone.

My mother blames this on the year she spent home with me, attached by the hip. I never wanted to be without my parents. I cried hysterically with other caregivers. I did not even want to lose one parent to the other, sobbing at their feet if they dared to dance at a wedding. Even as an older child, I had problems separating. I spent my first hours at sleepaway camp sitting on the wet sink, tears streaming down my face, begging to go home.

Much of this went hand in hand with a shyness that I never really got over -- which readily evaporates once I get comfortable but can paralyze me in the beginning. It's a formidable obstacle to manage as a professional fundraiser, and wreaked havoc on my dating life. At the office, I was regarded as a cold bitch, when really, I just had trouble making elevator conversation. Thankfully, this discomfort lasts only as long as it takes to make a stranger into an acquaintance. Once hands are shaken and pleasantries exchanged, I ease right into my chatty, effusive, smiley self. But the ice needs to shatter first.

I met my husband on a trip that I was running. He was one of the participants, one of 200 singles who were ready to party. While they hooted and hollered in the back of the bus, sweating out last night's cocktails and and groping each other, my husband sat in the front, listening intently to the tour guide providing historical reference about the landscape we were rolling over. His roommate was the veritable king of the party, one he chose because he knew it was his best chance to be thrown into the mix, where he would have otherwise sat somewhere closer to the sidelines, taking it all in.

Even my attempts at flirting were received awkwardly, and I still cringe when I think of the two of us, shy by nature yet quite attracted to the other, trying to make conversation. I was the bolder of us two, since I was actually "at work" on this trip, but I still felt the full measure of his discomfort around me. Months later when the trip festivities were gone, and it was just the two of us, sparks flew, shyness abandoned and it perhaps it was the keen understanding of the other's initially quiet nature that gave way to the boistrous banter that ensued and has never lapsed since.

Once married, and even before, our similarities became even clearer. I am the more outgoing of the two of us in social situations, but he is the business barracuda. And we can both "turn it on" when we want to, we really just love to be at home, with each other. I loathe his travel for work, as does he, and neither of us can imagine taking a vacation without the other. We enjoy our tiny apartment, our kids in our bed, sharing a space to the point of a smother. He does not relish "guys night out" and my idea of an ideal girls night is just a few of us, some great sushi and being home and in bed beside A by 11:00.


Day two of preschool proved worse than the first for Chloe. It started out deceptively well, and I bid her a chipper "bye byeeee!". I sat in the hallway with another mom, a lovely woman whose son did not bat an eyelash when she disappeared. As the minutes ticked by, I allowed myself to relax and believe that this was working. I even allowed myself to discuss plans for next year's school, overly confident that Chloe was blissfully building towers, creating clay sculptures, feeding doll babies -- my amazing, well adjusted kid.

My daydream was shattered by a loud "ahem!" It was one of her teachers. "I think you need to come back inside", she said. I looked around, and it became apparent that she was talking to me. I saw the back of someone who looked like my child, sitting on the teacher's lap. But her shoulders were shaking in a way I had never seen. When she turned around, she was even more unrecognizable. She was purple. Her face was soaking wet, mucus dripping down her nose. She was gasping and shuddering, so upset she barely registered my presence. "Mama sit!" she wailed. "Home! Home! Home!"

This was not good. All of the other children were happily absorbed in some project, or at least not crying. I remained for the rest of the class, much to the teacher's irritation, I am sure. It was starting to feel as if this was never going to happen. Yet, it really has to.

This situation is keeping me up at night, and annoying the hell out of A and everyone I talk to about it. What had I done wrong? Chloe has always had a nanny, I was always working part time. She has been left in the care of my mother, sister, brother, best friend and countless others with no problem. Was I too smothering? Did I not provide her with enough playdates? Enough independance? Why was this happening? Why did 11 other children scamper away without a look back?

My parents were quite opinionated on this topic. "She needs to be with other people...she is with you too much...," my mother chanted. "I knew a girl who could not separate from her mother in Kindergarten," my father said, "and its 40 years later and she still has not separated!"


As I tried to connect the dots, they all lead me back to one place...the mirror. And not in the way I expected. It was not something I had done or not done. It was not that I am just so irresistably great to be with. It was who I am, and the pieces of me that I see in her. The shyness that eventually gives way to loud and lively friendships. The need to be close to the ones that I loved. I live less than a mile from my mother, and talk to her several times a day. Same for my sister. I guess I never really separated, did I? And all the ways I have already explained that A and I are one and the same -- what some may call co-dependant but I like to call just being crazy in love -- all of these factors have spiraled their way into Chloe's DNA.

I have always envied those who are instantly comfortable in new surroundings or fake it well -- my friend Gail is like this. I have known her for more than half my life and she glides into any situation, as if on skates, shattering the ice as she dances on through. I remember that before my 16th summer spent in Israel, there was an orientation meeting for parents and participants. I had to miss it, so my mother went without me. There had been some reason to ask for volunteers to act out something that evening, "and guess who was the first to raise their hand?" my mom asked. Gail, of course. It's just her way. I remember thinking, "I could never have done that." And I know my mom was thinking "Amy would never have done that." Because moms know their kids, their frailties and their strengths -- perhaps because they are oh so familar.

We spend so much time worrying about what we should do to keep from messing up our kids, or to enable them to be their very best selves. When really, there is only so much nurturing we can do to overcome nature's strong hold. We need to embrace our children for who they are as well as what they do, and come to terms with "that which we can not change". I hope this gives me an edge in trying to salve Chloe's growing pains - to provide her with the things* that I cling to in order to embolden myself: deep breaths, a big smile and a belief that I am stronger than I think.

*and in Chloe's case, a Hello Kitty backpack.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A lump in the throat

My Chloe started school today -- and by school, I mean overpriced sand table and finger paints. I was told by the teachers "Don't expect them to come home READING. This is PLAY."A pretty idiotic thing to say to a group of crazy Manhattan parents with delusions of MENSA. Me being me, I volunteered to be Class Mom. I have no idea what this entails, but I already plan to wield my power to veto the lame snack offering -- Cherrios and water.

The hardest part of being and adult is acting like one. Chloe and I rode the bus together, arriving early. We sat on the benches outside a local university. As if time was not flying fast enough. She looked divine -- brand new dress, bursting with excitement (over the cookies I had brought, not the school). I felt a lump form in my throat, and I swallowed it quickly, along with the Nilla wafers. No crying allowed.

Her first days of school involve a phasing in process, where the parents slowly disappear. I watched her play blissfully amidst dilapidated toys, all new to her. Every few minutes she would remember and call to me, wanting me to join, tears filling her eyes when I encouraged her to keep going it alone. "Mama sit!" she would demand, handing me a dump truck. "All the kids earlier separated easily", one of the teachers commented. Already a "Needs Improvement"? I thought we had time before the red pen came out.

Somewhere in the middle of the hour, my phone rang. It was my husband. He had been seeing a doctor for a lump in his throat that had not gone away. At this morning's appointment, a CAT scan was recommended. I know it is nothing -- because it has to be. I fear even recording it here, infusing it with importance. And the doctor was sure it was nothing too, but wanted to be positive. And I had to be positive, upbeat...whispering "It's fine"s and "I'm not worried"s amidst "The Wheels on the Bus". I had to swallow the lump in my throat yet again, because the one in his is the one that matters.

The mommies are being ushered out the door, and it closes with a soft thud. It's time for everyone to be brave, I am thinking, and mentally instructing my little girl whose whimpering I hear behind wood. I am not sure who I need to soothe first. Just at that moment, my mom appears. And I unload, grateful to be a child first, and a little less brave, if only behind closed doors.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

LABOR day...

...what a fitting name for a long weekend vacation with a 2 year old and a 6 week old.

First, a shout out to my hometown of Jersey, and specifically Long Beach Island, which I highly recommend to tri-staters looking for a tropical experience. I found myself regretting that the only time I had been to the Jersey shore was after the prom, when my highschool friends and I could have had some serious fun there when we were young enough to not care about SPF or hearing damage from the bar DJ.

I also found myself thinking about beaches. Being a mother at the beach is a surreal experience, kind of like being a mother at the pediatrician, or at new parents night at school (tonight!) These are times when I can't help but feel like I am just playing a part -- that the name "Mom" still does not fit quite right, I keep searching behind me for my own.

I have a multitude of beach memories -- as a child, my father flipping me into the waves with his hands in a tight and painful grasp under my bony a teenager, writing the name of the boy I liked in the sand and watching my secret get washed away...standing under a waterfall in the Galilee as a 16 year old, surrounded by friends, totally ignorant of how we had it all for just a 24, watching my then boyfriend now husband kneel in the sand on a perfect beach in Antigua, offering a promise of limitless happiness...

And now I was watching my daughter frolic with her father, my husband of six years, against a glittering ocean that I could not believe was reached via the Garden State parkway. My son, who continues to amaze me with his angelic quality of complete complaceny, lay in a netted sun dome beside me under an umbrella. While I had moments of missing -- the romantic quality of the beach, the time to smooth scented lotion on sunkissed skin -- I am now a mother, whose fun very much comes last. And yet, I finally truly understood the meaning of living vicariously.

And now, a few important lessons learned for those of you who are yet to embark on such a journey:

1. Always bring pool toys that are as cool as the other kids will have.
2. Do be surprised when your exhausted toddler happily sleeps in the hotel pack and play.
3. Newborns and sand do not mix.
4. Nursing and sunscreen do not mix.
5. Get a wax -- you will have no time to shave while on the trip if a toddler is busy washing your feet with her filthy washcloth.
6. Your car can fit more than you ever imagined.
7. Expect to have a totally separate vacation from your spouse. The one with the toddler will be frolicking on the beach and collecting shells. The one with the newborn will be worrying about biting flies while reading In Style under multiple umbrellas.
8. Splurge on the suite unless you enjoy taking naps all together and going to sleep by 9:00 (we have never been so well rested!)
9. Dine early -- kids eat free before 6 PM!
10. Saying "I won't order anything, I will just share (kids)" is the surest way to gain 10 pounds. Leftover fried nuggets, the end of an ice cream cone and soggy fries do actually have calories.
11. Nothing is grosser than #2 in a wet swim diaper.
12. Don't pack anything nice...for anyone...
13. You do need that many diapers and wipes.
14. There is no good way to bring a newborn to the beach -- stick poolside.
15. Don't buy that huge sand shovel unless you are prepared for it to become a weapon at any moment.
16. Try and find a hotel with an elevator. You'll have lots to lug.
17. If you only have stairs, it is a great opportunity to teach someone to count!
18. Find a wonderful friend with a gorgeous beach house to stop at on the way to your destination. Bonus points if she makes her own cookies.
19. Expect many a boo boo.
20. Allow for multiple ice cream cones in one day. It's worth it.