The SAHM Dress Code

Have you ever looked on meetup.com at all the different social groups in your area?  If you are looking for a resource to help you find those crucial Mommy friends that you need to help you survive motherhood, then you should check it out.  They have groups of every variety – Single Moms, Moms Over 40, Moms Who Exercise, Moms of Multiples, Crafty Moms, Moms of Blond Girls Whose Names Start with P…  You get my point.  There are groups for everyone.  

When I moved to New England I searched through all the various Mom groups on meetup.com in my area in search of one (or more) that I wanted to join.  I came across one that sounded pretty good.  The description talked about playdates in the park, museum outings, girls’ nights out, and even couples events.  Then I got to the bottom of the page and saw this line:

   There is nothing wrong with jeans and sneakers but this is a group for moms who like to wear lipstick and yes, look put together. (Please do not join if this is not you)

I laughed out loud.  These were not my people.

The dress code for being a SAHM is truly one of my favorite perks of the gig.  Who’s with me? 

Back in the baby days I would put “take a shower” on my to-do list and be proud of myself if I managed to cross it off the list.  You are so tired that you can’t even function.  You are dealing with every bodily fluid there is – one time my baby actually managed to spit up into my mouth (yep that really happened).  Mothering a newborn is disgusting work.   

Even as your kids get older motherhood is still a dirty profession.  You crawl on the floor chasing and playing with your kids until you wear holes in your jeans.  It’s impossible to carry an umbrella while you are toting a little one, so if it’s raining, you just get wet.  When the weather is nice you spend your days sitting on the sidewalk coloring with sidewalk chalk.  And it is almost impossible to get through a day without getting food of some kind on your clothes.  Why in the world would you want to wear something that you were worried about messing up?

So for those of you moms who look polished at the playground – more power to you.  But that is not for me.  I save my “fancy” clothes for date nights and girls’ nights.Image

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Ordinary?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gigi-ross/what-mom-wants-for-an-ordinary-kid_b_2713463.html

One weekend, my husband and I were taking a long walk to a park when a group of ethnically diverse students from a local (very prestigious) university ran by us at a brisk jogging pace.

Me:  I wouldn’t mind if Lemon Cake goes to (name of this university). I would want him to have the determination and will power to wake up early on a cold weekend morning to go jogging.

Hubby: What if Lemon Cake just wants to lounge around in the morning with pajamas on?

Me: …

Hubby: I like doing that. What’s wrong with that?

Me: …

Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s not like I am willing to jog a hundred million miles on a cold weekend morning, or any morning really. It just stems from my insecurities and what I (not so) secretly want my children to become, mistakenly seeing them as an extension of myself. Despite my education background and all the parenting books I read, I just can’t help it sometimes. Interestingly, my husband doesn’t have that problem. I am sure part of it is cultural, but that topic is for another blog another time.

It’s not that I have any specific plans for them, like Lemon Cake should be a doctor or successful businessman, and baby Banana should be a brilliant scientist or college professor. My mom has asked me a few times now what my plans are for my children’s lives and futures. I don’t know how to respond. I don’t even know what they are going to be interested in. I just know that for now they like to play and move a lot. How could I “plan” anything? I do want them to be both successful AND content with their lives, whatever success means to them. What I really want for my children are specific personality and temperamental traits, and I so want to believe that if we only parent “correctly”, they will become what we want them to be.

A lot of what I want for my children is what I perceive to be lacking in myself. I want Lemon Cake and baby Banana to be very confident and self-assured, and to not always worry about what other people think. I want them to be able to think critically, to stand up for themselves and for those who are weaker, to be strong in their bodies, to be even keeled, to be courageous and to want to make a difference in society. If only my husband and I can instill these qualities in them, they will be fine in life. They will end up making the right choices for themselves. They will be able to stand up after failures and learn from their mistakes. They will be good to their families and their society.

In my opinion, the mom in the article linked to at the top of this post does not have an ordinary child. An ordinary child would not stand up to bullies or make speeches to an unfamiliar crowd of peers. I am so happy for this child and his mother that he was voted to be vice president for student council. He will no doubt make a positive impact on the school environment. He is definitely no ordinary child.

I, on the other hand, was an ordinary child. I just wanted to be accepted and not cause trouble.  I wanted to be nice and blend in. I wanted to be popular, but in a way that didn’t stand out. As for my kids, I don’t want them to be popular or to seek popularity. I want them to stay true to themselves regardless of the circumstances, and feel free to make eccentric and unusual choices without worrying what everyone else is doing. I don’t ever want them to feel compelled to conform, or confined by opinions and expectations the way I did (and sometimes still do).

In discussing this topic with my husband, he pointed out the contradiction in trying to parent in such a way as to mold a child into a person who would break free of external constructs. Perhaps there is a lesson in this contradiction.

Cats

I can’t stand my cats… please don’t tell anyone.

I have three. They are big, long-haired, bushy-tailed creatures, and much too healthy.

Cat One is a cross of a Mackerel tabby and a domestic long-haired. She has wickedly long and thick fur. She fears all things that move, especially children, and is generally unfriendly, unless she wants to be rubbed, in which case she harangues you for caresses. She looks dumb but isn’t; she has refrained from scratching my young daughter. On some intrinsic level, she must understand that she is one-scratch-on-my-kid away from being homeless again. About her fur, I do mean wicked; it is long, tangled and dirty, and it covers my floors in shed and fur balls. Cat One never learned how to keep herself clean. She was probably taken too young from the litter, where she might have learned some basic self-care skills. I adopted her from a veterinary clinic. They warned me that she was unfriendly… but, she was so pretty and, more importantly, I had always wanted a long-haired cat. (What was I thinking!)

Cat Two is a bona fide silver classic Maine Coon. He’s gorgeous. He was a gift from my beloved mother, who accompanied me to a cattery in Maine to get him. He is mild-tempered and very sweet. He’s a good self-groomer, too. Come to think of it, he might be a little obsessive about his self-care… His fur is long, silky and clean, and it covers my floors in shed and fur balls. Back in the day, when Cat Two was young and likely coveted by cat lovers, or thieves seeking to turn a profit by selling to cat lovers, I foolishly kept him indoors, in order to protect him from both. (What was I thinking!)

Cat Three is another domestic long-haired. He eats fast and without chewing, so he pukes after each meal. He spots my floors with chunks of regurgitated food every day. That makes him a food-waster on top of a puker. As for his appearance, he is white with gray ears, a grey bushy tail, and a large gray heart mark on his side. He is another really good-looking cat. He wasn’t adopted for his looks, though; he was adopted because he has hutzpah and inordinate agility. We (I was married with step kids by this time) thought he would be a great addition to our family. (What was I thinking!)

Pre-Papaya years, I groomed them all the time and oohed and aahed over their antics. “Awww what an itty bitty cutesy, you are!” I would say, and really mean it. I showed off their photos and took pride in their appearance. It didn’t feel burdensome to change their litter box every morning and night. I barely noticed their long hairs all over my floors, furniture, and even my clothes. As for hair balls and regurgitated food, according to my memory, they didn’t puke back then. At my baby shower someone warned me that I wouldn’t love my cats after the baby was born. Preposterous!

Well, Papaya arrived, and my relationship with my cats changed dramatically from the minute I brought her home. The cats were freaked out by her presence. They avoided her for days before cautiously approaching her, when she was on the floor in her car seat. They sniffed her, as their tails beat back and forth on the floor. I worried that they might hurt her. This fear was allayed by the passage of time, but then I started feeling resentful about their noises. They make so many, and they seem to always do it when someone is sleeping. As you may understand, nothing quite inspires Q.U.I.E.T. like a new mother’s desire to protect her child’s sleep (and thereby her own sanity).

Have you seen the movie “Premium Rush”? It came out last year. I really enjoyed it. There’s a scene where the main bike messenger, riding at break-neck speed, comes to a major intersection in NYC traffic. In a split second, he has to decide where to move. The camera brilliantly depicts his split-second decision-making process by routing every course available, and showing that no matter what he will get hit. The protagonist’s spatial relations are so excellent that he is able to choose a path that avoids a fatality kind of hit. The scene reminds me of the mental exercise I do regularly, when I am trying to decide how to throw something at Cat Three without waking Papaya.

Cat Three thinks it’s amusing to somersault over a soundly napping Papaya, who these days will only nap (infrequently) on the couch (making those naps all the more precious to me). Cat Three enjoys somersaulting over her and jumping the gate near the couch. It is a gate that was first put up to keep Papaya from going up the stairs; now it is used for keeping the three cats from going up the stairs. Cat Three is not deterred by any gate, no matter how high. He comes and goes as he pleases. If that weren’t annoying enough, he likes to make a game out of running up and down the staircase, jumping the gate repeatedly, and, worst of all, jumping back and forth over a sleeping Papaya. I could kill him.

This morning I saw a photo of a cute cat staring into a camera lens. The caption read, “I did the math. We can’t afford the dog anymore.”

Cat One, Cat Two, and Cat Three, I did the math. We can’t afford YOU anymore.

Opposites Attract

My husband and I are not at all alike.  We fall into the category of “opposites attract,” when it comes to romance.  Yet, somehow, before we had children, it didn’t seem to come up as often as it does now.

Mostly, where we run into problems, is in deciding what activities to do as a family.
 
Let me give you some examples:
  • My ideal vacation spots would be Hawaii (at an all-inclusive resort so that the kids could be entertained as well), Disney World, or Europe (when the kids are old enough).  His ideal vacation spot would be anywhere away from everything (no electricity, no problem!).  And he feels that the kids are ready for this at any age.
  • My idea for a morning weekend activity is something along the lines of the Science Museum or Zoo (if the weather is decent).  His is hiking, no matter the weather or age of our children.
  • I really only want to take the girls to kid-friendly restaurants.  He feels we should take them wherever we want to go, and they can deal with it.
All of these opposite ideas leads to a lot of conflict, and it seems that someone is always unhappy.  It’s proven quite hard to find a middle ground.  Often the “compromise” is that he takes our older daughter out alone to things that he wants to do with her, and I stay home with the baby, or go run errands.  I don’t think anyone is quite happy with that arrangement because it means that our family is split up during the precious little time that we have together.  However, I’m not quite sure how to fix the problem.  I really, truly don’t like being outdoors unless it’s above 70 degrees and sunny.  (I know everyone is rolling their eyes at me, but what can I say?  Some things are the way they are.  My husband knew this about me before we got married.)  I also don’t really like to do things that require physical stamina (kayaking, swimming, climbing, etc).  I don’t mind walking/hiking, but again, it has to be good weather, and we don’t live in San Diego, unfortunately.
 
Conversely, my husband doesn’t really like to go to things that are geared toward children.  Nor does he like shopping/the mall or eating out.  
 
I have a hard time remembering what we did about this “opposite” problem before we added two extra humans in the equation, but I do know that we both really like ethnic food and hole-in-the-wall type establishments, so we frequented those for meals/drinks.  Obviously those are the sorts of spots where you almost never see anyone under the age of thirteen, and many of them don’t even allow anyone under twenty-one to come in.  So that’s not really a valid option for a family outing.
 
Of course we could continue on as we’ve been doing and either separate the family or always have one of us unhappy, but I am hoping to change course and find some things that we’d ALL like to do.
 
So, dear readers, if you have suggestions, do tell!  (As a reminder, we have two girls.  One is three years old, and the other is 10 months.  We live in the Pacific Northwest.)
 
Can any one of you prove that opposites really do attract?  I hope so!

Two Sides of a Rare Coin

Well, dear readers, this is what I want to say to you:  Little Miss Jr.’s infection is healing well, she is happy, healthy, strong, fever free and we got her blood test back and everything is normal!  Unfortunately that is not what I have to say – everything is true (and wonderful) except for the last part.  We got her blood test back and her neutrophils are way low – severely low, in fact.  What did I do when I heard this information?  I broke down like any good mother and barely heard what the doctor had to say from there.  It was a good thing Hubby was there with us.  We are dealing with an issue bigger than I wanted it to be and have abruptly switched gears to day by day mode.

After her blood test results on Friday we have decided to treat her again with a medicine called G-CSF.  Experimental in the 1970’s (when I was born!) it is now the drug of choice to boost neutrophil production and it works like a charm for Little Miss Jr. right now.  I can learn how to give the shots on my own at home but this week I will be going to the pedi on Mon, Wed and Fri to learn how and have a set of eyes on her.  We have a blood test every Friday.  If this problem persists for five more weeks she will meet the criteria for a chronic rare blood condition.  A chronic rare blood condition.  That sounds really bad so I try to turn off the neon light in my head displaying these words as much as possible.

My strength during this period of time has taken me by surprise.  I don’t know why.  I consider myself a strong person but I guess you never really know until you are put to the test.  And this is how I feel in this moment.  Four days ago when I started to write this blog I wrote this:  “People tell me I am doing great, holding it together so well, but they don’t see me hand off my baby in tears because she fussed the tiniest bit and my anxiety went through the roof.  Only those closest to me get to watch me fall apart when her axillary temperature is 97.9 just to test her rectal temperature and have it be 98.4.  My heart rate increases, my breath shortens and my hands shake as the thermometer numbers rise and I am literally dismayed by the number 98.7.  I am terrified of her 4 month vaccinations and just thinking about the results of her genetic test are enough to make me puke (sorry to be so graphic).”

So there you have the two sides to this very rare coin.  Please allow me to tell you some true things:  I have never loved my family more than I do right now – my husband and my two girls.  I appreciate, yes I really mean that word, the clarity these moments provide to cut the crap from my life – separate what really matters from what doesn’t at all.

I am not a religious person (but those of you who are please keep praying for us – I honor, respect and envy your ability to do so).  I draw my strength from human compassion in all its forms.  I thank you for taking the time to read this, think of us, and send us all the love, strength and positivity you can muster.

Happy Birthday!

I apologize for the late timing of this post!

We had a busy, non-stop day celebrating my husband’s birthday, including breakfast in bed, homemade birthday cake from scratch, a tasty baked ziti and a kid-friendly potluck lunch for 20. Followed by party clean-up, tubby time, including a lengthy stain-sticking session of Peanut’s party dress (white was a poor choice of color), nighttime walk in the snow, bedtime stories and off to dreamland. To say that I am wiped out from the day’s activities (and an oncoming head cold) is an understatement, but it is the kind of wiped out feeling that fills you with so much gratitude, because of all you have to celebrate and be grateful for.

Birthdays are always a nice time to reflect on the year past and the year ahead. Peanut has given that reflection a whole new meaning. Our year is not only measured by our successes and accomplishments, but by hers as well, if not more so.

We may have taken that new position at work, but Peanut took her first steps.

We may have reached our goal to keep a clean house, but Peanut learned how to clean up after herself.

We may have found more time to knit, read or engage in a favorite hobby, but Peanut is just beginning to develop her interests through continued engagement with her surroundings, beginning to become her own person.

Reflecting on my husband’s birthday and the past year with Peanut, I realize that the support we provide to our children is perhaps our greatest accomplishment of all, as it provides an environment that allows them to succeed and grow.

I apologize for the short post (see my previous comment about feeling wiped out), but I suppose that the overall message is short and sweet. BIrthdays are a time to celebrate and reflect on yet another year, but children give us a reason to celebrate everyday (even in white, baked ziti, birthday cake stained clothes).

Surprise Used to be a Four Letter Word

Being a planner, our pregnancy and birth had very few surprises. Sure it was all new to us but given the research we did and the fact that we were lucky we didn’t have any complications along the way, each step sort of happened according to plan. Even our birth plan. I do realize this is a small miracle. Now that we have our little baby, I can’t say the same has been true during the past 2 months of her life.

Everything feels like a surprise…in a great way. Somehow, my planning skills have been tossed out of the nursery window, perhaps along with my time to read any of the books lining our shelves about childrearing. We know the basics, our family helps to fill in the obvious gaps and when we hit little hiccups, we do the necessary research to get back on track. This process works for now. And it means that each new ‘trick’ our infant learns and each new alteration in her schedule feels like a huge surprise gift. I have to say it is more fun to see her bat at toys for the first time and feel like she is genius than to have anticipated it for days or weeks. When she smiled I wasn’t watching the clock waiting for it and when she giggled at me, I was completely caught off guard and did what any new mom would do…started bawling with happiness! I’m not completely off the grid so I know vaguely what is coming but it has been really nice to just watch it unfold. And Rose really is a genius. Obviously.

One thing that has been a huge surprise is my husband during the past 2 months. Now my husband really is the greatest guy I’ve met and my one true love. He is handsome, kind, patient, funny, and full of love. Plus he is British which will always feel like the icing on the cake, especially now that reading aloud is part of our daily routine. I won the lottery with him and thank my lucky stars all the time. Especially now.

He has been such a source of entertainment and so good at pointing out the hilarity of a newborn. From imitating her grunts to naming her cries (the “seagull” is a frequent one you might relate to), giving her sweet nicknames and of course…mocking me. The lightness this adds to those stressful moments has created an undercurrent of fun that makes me enjoy it all in a great way. Sure there are some serious moments like when she got a bad rash and there are some times when the jokes don’t help like at hour 3 in the middle of the night. But all in all, it is necessary for us and for me. Plus, this is such a fun time! It is a happy, silly, creative, and super lovey-dovey time for us as a new family. The cooing, smiles, pudgy thighs and cozy afternoon naps are what happiness is made of.

Kids are hilarious and given what a kick we get out of her when she is a mere 2 months old, I can’t WAIT for when she is walking, talking, and joining in the mockery herself.

If there is one thing I won’t be surprised about, it is that this little one is going to be a very funny little tyke. Especially if she takes after her dad. Don’t worry, I’ll be writing down all her best one-liners….