Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Baby-Sitters Club

Happy Birthday to me!
This year for my birthday Eric planned a very cool evening out for the two of us. This involved a beautiful sunset horseback ride through Topanga Canyon and dinner at The Inn of the Seventh Ray afterwards. Honestly, we rarely go out without the kids, so this felt super special. I called…THE BABYSITTER. Until recently, we didn’t even have a babysitter to call. We’d used one here and there that we would steal from a friend, but for anything major, I would attempt to coordinate a visit from my parents so that they would watch the kids for us. This isn’t because I don’t trust people with our children, it’s mostly because we’re cheap, and babysitters are expensive. And that is not to imply that babysitters aren’t worth it, but I often have to ask myself if going to see whatever blockbuster is out in the movie theatre is worth paying someone $15/hr to watch my kids (that’s an extra $45 we just paid to see the latest Star Wars) is worth it, and I’ve often answered NOPE.
But recently, we met a lovely young lady named Lena who has all the qualities I look for in someone I would leave my children with. She’s energetic, she’s kind, she’s attentive, she's a great texter and responds quickly to my queries.  Cylas loves her and Aaron doesn’t cry when she comes in the door, so…she’s THE ONE.
So off we went to ride magnificent beasts through the mountains surrounding Topanga. I wore a knitted poncho, jeans and boots and felt totally rustic and amazing. My horse’s name was Jesse and although he was not particularly agreeable to my wishes and ate many more snacks then I tried to allow him, we had a good time. We walked and trotted up and down the mountains. I opted (probably stupidly) not to wear a helmet because I am a (probably stupidly) confident equestrian (I mean, I attended horseback riding camp for not one but two summer sessions as a pre-teen) and I wanted to feel the wind in my hair when we galloped. And we galloped (or at least trotted) a lot. It was beautiful, fun and exciting…until an off leash dog ran out on the trail, my horse spooked and reared up and I fell off the horse and badly injured my arm.
Jesse doesn't do photos
So I spent the next 3 weeks or so in a lot of pain with my arm in a sling, unable to lift, change diapers, get children dressed, bathed and fed, and unable to put my own hair in a ponytail. Eric was ridiculously helpful. Boy did he step up and take care of all of us. But he did have to go to work, and he works nights, so we would not have made it through if it weren’t for Lena. Lena came every day from 4 pm to 8 pm and helped me bathe, feed and get the kids to bed. She probably even helped me put my hair in a ponytail. She cleaned my kitchen, she organized the toy storage area, and I even caught her mopping the kitchen floor. She folded laundry, entertained my children with games, cookie making, and trips to the playground.  While she did these things, I rested. I actually ran some errands, I even (shhh, don’t tell anyone) went and saw Black Panther in the Theatre by myself.  In a word, she was WONDERFUL and as my arm improved and I could do more and more, I was sad that I didn’t have the excuse to say I needed her anymore. But why do I feel like I needed an excuse to admit that I needed her? Even completely able-bodied parents need and deserve help.  It takes a village and I am always telling other people that, but why (other than financial constraints) have I been limiting my desire and need to have a little help?  

When I graduated college (NOT THAT LONG AGO, DAMMIT! I’m very young!) I worked as a Nanny. I was an actress and writer so that seemed like a great job because it was somewhat flexible and left me free to audition, write and take classes etc, in a way that I thought a more serious 9-5 job would not. I was also a little scared and lazy and babysitting was fun and didn’t seem like a sad scary stress factory like the several assistant jobs I also applied for. I worked for a family in the East Village just blocks away from my apartment. When I started the job, the baby, Piper, had recently turned one and I figured it would be a great summer gig before I started working professionally as an actor. I worked for them for the next 6 years until I left NY for Los Angeles. The baby’s name was Piper (it still is, she’s just not a baby anymore) and a few years after I started working for them they had another baby, Sam, and I took care of that baby too. They were a great family to work for. They were interesting, laid back, kind and funny. They loved their kids and had a cool NY life.  The dad worked in construction and design (I think?) and the mom had been an editor/film-maker but was taking a break to be a mom and be happy. I babysat to give her more time to be happy. She went to yoga, and ran errands. I remember later she started a master’s program but in those first few years, I babysat mostly to give her some time away. They went on date nights and sometimes a friend might even leave their kid with me too so they could all go out together. It was, honestly, a great job for me. I LOVED that kid (still do) and LOVED that second kid when he came along (still do) and my friends often accused me of being a little obsessed with them. Most of my stories involved some interaction with Piper. Piper was my confidant and my main hang. She was delightful, spirited and an old soul. Piper even gave relationship advice. I remember once telling her (she was probably 3.5 at the time) about a boy who wouldn’t hold my hand to navigate a crowd at a concert he’d invited me to. I was confused about whether or not he liked me. I mean, why had he invited me if he didn’t want hang out in any intimate way? She said simply “he does not love you now, but he will love you soon. And the next time you see him you should kiss him.” Great advice! (All though she wasn’t right. He never loved me. At least, not that I know of.) She was funny, and lively and she liked me and the family liked me and I felt good about myself when I was with her. I felt like I was doing something important. I was helping her parents live a good life and I was a good influence on their little people. Piper and Sam have both grown up to be wonderful young people and talented artists. Piper has a major instagram following for her photography and Sam is a skilled fine artist. That has everything to do with their talented, attentive and involved parents, great teachers and friends, and their awesome NY lifestyle but I also like to give myself a little credit as an early influencer. 
This is an actual/un-ironic polaroid! 

Piper and I pre-digital #nofilter

Lena doesn’t come every night any more. Far from it. But I have tried to give myself permission to call her when I need a night away. Cylas gets excited when he knows that Lena is coming over, and Aaron (who is not the most affectionate kid with people that aren’t…well…me) sits in her lap and goes to sleep without incident when she puts him to bed. So when the budget can swing it, I call Lena. In fact, she’s coming over tomorrow night so Eric and I can go out on a date night. Having a babysitter still feels like a luxury sometimes, but it isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity for happiness. I think that I really know that now.
This should be a picture of Lena. but I don't have one. I better get on that. 
I think, before I worked as a nanny, and certainly before I had children of my own, I thought nannies were a bit bourgeois. I understood that when both parents worked, someone had to watch the kids, but I thought that when one parent stayed at home, they should just be with their kids ALL THE TIME.  But now I understand that life is hard. Parenting is hard. Everyone, and I mean, everyone deserves a break.  That doesn’t make you selfish, or spoiled or a bad mom. And if you don’t have family close by, or very very generous friends, then you have to pay someone to watch your children. And if you are lucky, then you will find someone to pay that loves your kids as I much as I loved the kids that I babysat.  And I feel very lucky that our babysitter seems to love our kids a whole lot.  And I feel extra lucky that she washes my dishes for me too.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Best Laid Plans

This is the happiest we looked at the Happiest Place on Earth

Cylas just turned 4 years old. 4 years old! Can you believe it? My baby is 4! So in honor of this epic birthday my sister, Natalie, (who also has a 4 year old son, Kaeden,) and I decided to plan an epic birthday adventure for the boys. Destination: Disneyland! Full scale invasion. This meant two days in the parks and staying overnight at the Disneyland hotel for two nights so we could get an early start in the morning and enjoy the resorts amenities. We looped our parents in as well to act as helpers and babysitters for Aaron (now 17 months.) It was going to be epic! It was going to be expensive but worth it! We were building core memories here, people. We were going to have the time of our lives!

And then it all went to shit! The night before we left, I got sick. That full body ache, shivering, feverish, sore throat kind of sick. But I shrugged it off. I'm a grown up and a mum and mums don't take sick days. I can take my medicine, down some Advil and make it through anything if I have to, so we all piled into my sister's mini van and drove to Anaheim. Cylas had been sick the week before but he seemed his usual self and Kaeden had also been sick recently, but we pushed right on through. These boys would love Disneyland so much that a runny nose wouldn't stop them. Our first morning, I woke up with the sorest throat I could imagine. Tearfully, I went to my sister, parents and husband and asked for help. Natalie, Eric, Grandpa and the boys headed into the park while my mum, baby Aaron and I waited for a concierge doctor (fancy!) to come to our hotel room. He came, he declared a strep throat diagnosis and he injected my (in the buttocks) with penicillin, steroids, and gave me pain killers and a ten day course of antibiotics. With a renewed sense of hope and some relief (due to the pain killers) my mum and I headed into the park to catch up with the 4 year-olds. Aaron quickly fell asleep in the stroller and we found the boys in Tomorrowland looking tired, wilted and unenthusiastic. They had ridden three rides. Enjoyed them, but weren't feeling great and needed to head back to the hotel for naps.

To make a long story short, I was sick, the boys were sick, it was hot and in our two days at Disneyland, I'd say we probably spent a total of five hours together in the park. They spent a lot more time together in the hotel room watching cartoons on the ipad or napping. The other adults were different variations of frustrated, bummed and stir crazy. The kids just wanted to eat peanut butter sandwiches and watch TV. At one point someone declared, "We are never doing anything like this again! Not until they're much older...like 10!" It was disappointing to say the least.

At least the hotel room was nice
I have always had a hard time with regret. It may be my biggest fear. REGRET. I'm haunted by regrets in a way that I know is not healthy. I wish I were actually the laid back person that everyone assumes that I am, and I am about a lot of things, but regret is my greatest obsession. "Why did I do this?" "Why didn't I do that, say that, change that?" is a constant swirl in the back of my mind. It is especially toxic when I obsess over the regret I have when it comes to my children's lives. Because pretty much EVERYTHING they do, wear, own, eat, see is something I chose for them. So if things go wrong, it is my fault. If they are miserable about a decision that I made for them, it's my fault. It is ALL MY FAULT.
Grammy and Grandpa deserved a treat.

But that isn't what happened here. I didn't do anything wrong, right? It was just bad luck. People get sick. It's cold and flu season and we all got sick. They didn't even get sick because we took them Disneyland. They were already sick, because they live in the world. And actually, when I asked each boy what his favorite part of the Disneyland trip was, they both had really positive answers. Cylas simply said "All of it!" and Kaeden said "All the rides!" (I think they did about four each.)  But I still felt devastated, because it didn't play out like I was imagining. And I felt regret about the whole trip.

Sick Kids=Poor Mickey Mouse

The other day, I took Cylas for a haircut. I love his long mopish hair, but he was starting to look a little feral and so I took him in for a trim. I explained to the stylist on duty at the kid's haircut place that I wanted it out of his eyes, and a bit shorter around the ears, but that I loved it long. She gave him a mullet. It's not horrible, but it's not great. He doesn't know. He likes it. He likes that it is different, and "not tickling his ears" but I came home feeling sick to my stomach. I've been thinking about it for days. Why didn't I describe what I wanted better? Why did I take him for a haircut in the first place? Why did I take him there again when I don't love the way she cuts his hair?

Before Christmas I planned a nighttime adventure to Descanso Garden's Forest of Light, because I had heard it was truly magical and I thought that Cylas, especially, would love it. Last year we went to the Zoo's nighttime lights and he ran around with his two little friends and had an amazing time. I'd heard that Descanso Garden's lights were even better, so I got tickets for the whole family and even one for Nana who would be visiting on that night. I had pictured Cylas running around happily through the forest of lights with his dad while I pushed a contented Aaron in the stroller as he gazed around dreamily at the lights. It was going to be magical and my children and husband would hug me later and say "Thanks for this experience. You are loved and appreciated!"  But then Eric had to work, and Cylas fell asleep on the 50 minute car ride there (which is always a recipe for disaster because he's often in a bad mood when he wakes up from car naps.) It was also much colder than I had anticipated and we were all freezing.  Instead of the idyllic Holiday evening that I had pictured, Aaron and Cylas cried for most of the 45 minutes or so that we walked around the dark and we all froze. Other visitors were dressed in snow jackets and hats and scarves. My kids don't even own jackets (we live in the Valley), and their hooded sweatshirts weren't cutting it. Even my MIL ducked into the gift shop to buy a sweatshirt and hat. Cylas barely got out of the stroller and Aaron cried like he was in pain (maybe he was? I thought maybe he was having stomach cramps, but who knows) and I felt like an utter failure as a planner, and as a mum. It took me days to recover from the disappointment and regret. Why didn't I bring more blankets? Why didn't I make sure Cylas stayed awake? Why didn't I double check the temperature? Why didn't I make sure that Aaron didn't have a stomach ache? Why why why?

But maybe my problem isn't regret, it's expectations. I have high, specific expectations for my children and my life with them, and when reality doesn't live up to them, I fall down the rabbit hole of regret. But I don't think my kids are aware of my expectations, and I do my best to hide my disappointment from them. And to be clear, it isn't them I am in disappointed in, it's usually me. My choices. My plans blowing up in my face.

If only it was always this easy

Lake Casitas Water Adventure

And this isn't to imply that all my plans are disasters. We've had a lot of "successes" as well and I should really learn to just dwell on them. I've thrown a couple of awesome birthday parties, complete with games and themed foods. I planned a surprise birthday trip to Ojai with a water park adventure (everyone in LA needs to check this place out next summer. It was awesome) that went off with out a hitch. And the other day, we did a family hike to a waterfall and there was very little crying (I didn't say no crying...but very little.) After each of these wins, I felt great. I felt confident. I felt like one of those people I'm always envious of on Instagram. I just need to bottle that feeling so I can take little nips of it when I'm feeling regretful. And I also need to remind myself that my children don't really care. After each of these "failed" plans, they still loved me. They woke up happy and smiling. They don't even remember the experiences as negative at all. Cylas has already asked to go back to the "Night Lights" again next year. And, you know what? I'm going to buy tickets and try again! Disneyland will have to wait, though. That shit is expensive!

Paradise Falls. Almost everyone is smiling. Success!

I once worked with an actor who had the words "No Regrets" and "Relax" tattooed on his forearms. He also had his initials tattooed ornately on his tricep but, you know, to each his own. I remember asking him about it and he simply said, "They are there as a reminder." He didn't have kids at the time. Since we worked together we've both had 2 children. I wonder if he values that tattoo even more now. How much does he value the reminder these days? I'm betting a lot. Maybe I need to get a tattoo as well!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

An open letter to my friend who is about to have her first baby

Dearest Friend,

Congratulations! You are very very pregnant with your first child. I could not be happier for you. I wish that we lived closer so that I could celebrate this new chapter of your life and be with you as you embark. It's more than a new life chapter, actually, it's a whole new version. It's a complete life reboot. You didn't ask for my thoughts on motherhood, but we have been friends for over half our lives, so I think you will be ok with me giving you some thoughts, some advice and some warnings. So here goes, my lovely friend, here goes...

I know you well, so I know that you have rocked pregnancy. Women like us, earthy, hippyish, in touch with our bodies and minds, do pregnancy really well, I think. The set back of aches and pains and mysterious new symptoms don't cause us to spin out in the same way that our more type A counterparts might. I really enjoyed doing all of the super yummy goddess mama stuff that pregnancy magazines and strangers in the grocery store encouraged me to do, and I'm sure that you did too. You went to pregnancy yoga, I'm sure that you played your belly music and talked and sang to your belly. You probably belly danced, and I know that you had your belly painted and blessed. Hopefully you squeezed in some epic prenatal massages and some prenatal poses to get that baby in the right position. You've drank some tea, you've stretched, you've oiled, you've partied and you've nested. You have your doula and midwives on call and you are ready to bring that little soul into the world in the comfort of your living room (that's right...home birth style) perhaps in an awesome inflatable pool or your bath tub. You are a warrior! You are a goddess! You are magical and I hope it all happens as smoothly as possible...but incase it doesn't...that's OK too.

With my first son, Cylas, I was so prepped for the natural, home birth experience. We chose a birthing center in Silverlake that was so cozy and earthy and sweet, I just knew that Cylas would love being born there. He didn't. He wouldn't come out. I was in labor there (and at home) for days and finally 68 hours later he was born in the hospital with the help of pitosin, an epidural, and three hours of pushing. I don't tell you any of this to scare you or to dissuade you, I tell you to prepare you. With babies, things don't always go as planned. That is the one thing you can count on.

Cylas first night at home

And that is OK! I thought I knew exactly what being a mom would be like. I'd been a nanny or worked with babies and kids in different capacities for so long, I thought I knew everything. I didn't. I still don't and now I have two kids. The best advice that anyone gave me about parenting was delivered to me on a bench in Central Park by my dear friend Jenn Marie, who was then three or so months pregnant with her second son. I was seven months pregnant with my first. Her first was napping in a near bye hotel room while her parents babysat, a luxury she was lucky to have on this working trip for her to meet her editor in NY. Eric and I were there on a "baby moon" I guess and just living it up before our party was about to be crashed by our tiny new roommate. Jenn said simply "You must let go of any notion that your life will not have to change completely. Your life will NEVER be the same." I understood instantly what she meant because I was still holding on to the notion that some things wouldn't need to change. Eric and I would still be the loving supportive couple that we had always been. We could still be laid back and spur of the moment, we'd just bring our little dude along for the adventure. Mornings could still be lazy, we could still go out to dinner or on a quick Costco shop whenever we wanted, we'd just bring the baby. He was small, portable, and ours and he would fit into our lives if we made him. Once he arrived, we quickly realized how many of those things just weren't possible, or fun to do with a newborn. They required planning around naps, or feedings or diaper changes. We still did a lot of stuff, but we did it differently. Life changed. It had too. And that was sad, sometimes, and fine sometimes. It was OK.
Cylas has always had great hair. Check out his big head!
The thing is, becoming a parent changes you. Priorities shift almost instantly for some parents, and with a little more resistance for others, but they shift. If you're lucky, you and your parenting partner's priorities shift in perfect synchronicity and with great communication. If you're normal, they shift with a little less cohesion. There's a lot to deal with when you have a newborn. As the mama, you are the Commander and Chief of this new operation. Your partner is there to assist you to the best of his (or her) ability, but, especially is you are breast feeding, you hold ALL the nuclear codes (am I using these terms right? This may be the best analogy.) You are about to be given the job that you may have thought you were training for your whole life, and you will still feel so unprepared sometimes, it will feel devastating. My advice? ASK FOR HELP. Ask often, ask loudly. Be as specific as you can be about what help you want. When we were prepping for Cylas' birth, I remember telling my mother that I didn't think I needed her there when we first came home. I thought we'd be fine on our own. Eric would be there. He could make us food, walk the dog, etc. I could still do all the stuff I normally did, laundry, light cleaning, and take care of the baby. Sure we'd be more tired, but that was what were signing up for. She could come visit in a week or so after he arrived and meet him, but I just didn't think we would need help. BOY WAS I WRONG! Labor is hard, even when it goes smoothly, which mine didn't. That big headed baby broke my tailbone on his way out so I  could barely walk when we arrived home. I couldn't sit comfortably for weeks. I parked myself on the couch or the bed and held that baby and nursed him and didn't leave the house for 2 weeks. My mom made my tea, prepared my sitz baths and insisted that I do them (which I never wanted to do.) She made us rich, elegant dinners, which Eric, who was recuperating from that long labor too (labor is hard for the dad's too, I'm sure) probably wouldn't have had the brain space to accomplish. Because my mom was there to take care of all of us, Eric got to rest, and hold the baby, and bond, and even escape sometimes. I think he felt some resentment at first because he thought he would be the main caretaker, and might have felt his part was being usurped by an extremely helpful Jewish mother, but ultimately he was really grateful for the time. All I remember was shuffling in the front door of our house with a new baby in my arms, looking around at the slight mess that we had left after being in labor there for a couple of days, and feeling a feeling I can only remember as doom wash over me. Life would NEVER be the same. I turned to my mother and said, tearfully (I mean, you cry soooooo much in those postpartum days) "I'm so glad that you are here."

"Can someone bring me a snack?!?"
Ask for help. Ask it of your partner often, and TRY not to be frustrated when he doesn't help you exactly how you wish he would. Oh, that man who you love so much. Who you vowed to spend your life with, build your family with because he has so many qualities that you adore. He is so sweet, so supportive, so funny, so talented, so loving...just the best. That man, your LOVE. Do not be surprised if some night soon, when the baby has woken up crying for the fourth time in two hours and you are desperately tired, and soaked from breast milk and spit up and sweat and you look over at your man, your love, as he sleeps deeply, blissfully undisturbed beside you and a thought like "I can't believe I ever loved you," or "You never support me!" flashes through your mind, or you have an urge to throw something hard and sharp at his snoring face...Just know that that is your raging postpartum hormones, and fatigue, and just not (entirely) real, and try not to confront those feelings until day light and everyone is awake and as well rested as possible. He will try. I've met your husband. He is sweet, and artistic and creative, just like mine, and I am sure that he will do his very best to be the best dad and parenting partner to you. I am also sure that there will be many times where he will question why you are "feeding the baby again" or if you are feeding the baby "too much" "wrong" or "not enough"? You will ask him to bring you some tea and he will bring it too slowly, or bring the wrong tea or ask you which tea you want (instead of just knowing that you mean the Milk Mamas lactation tea!) He will talk, sing, laugh or sneeze too loudly just when you got the baby to fall asleep in her bassinet and you will have to start all over again! He will stand outside the first shower you've taken in days holding a howling baby and ask when you will be done because the baby is upset and needs you. You will often look over at him as he strums his guitar, that guitar that you love, and love to hear him play now and think (or maybe yell) "will you put down that goddamn guitar for one goddamn second and hold this baby so I can go take a shit!" I repeat, this is ALL NORMAL. This is all hormones, and fatigue and just the nature of co-parenting. You will be ok. You still love each other. It's OK!
Eric and Cylas right before we left the hospital

And if it is all doesn't seem OK, then really ask for help. Ask your doctor. Postpartum Depression is real and serious and I feel really lucky that I didn't really struggle with it either time. But I know Mamas who have, and it is nothing to be ashamed of or secretive about. I also encapsulated my placenta because I've heard that helps keep the blues at bay. You know me, girl, I'm game for anything earth mama-ish. Maybe it helped, maybe it did nothing, but I felt good about it, and I liked grossing out my sister a little. I also liked that the midwife who made the capsules for me also dried his umbilical cord which I plan to plant under a tree in our yard someday. You know, when I have some spare time again.

I hope I haven't made it all sound too horrible. It isn't. It is wonderful! Despite a broken tail bone, a vaginal tear (of yeah girl, that can happen) and raging hormones that occasionally made me hate my mate, those first few months as a new family were some of the best months of my life. So much so that I wanted to do it all over again. And now I have two little men and I want more! I'm so jealous of you and excited for you that you will soon get to experience holding that new little wee one and feel all the crazy feelings of excitement and awe and mind blowing LOVE. It is life changing...Life defining. She will be your most fabulous, gorgeous, educational, project. Get ready to meet your new life pArtner. You are a wonderful, smart, brave and talented woman and are going to be an amazing Mama. She is one lucky little baby. I can't wait to meet her. I can't wait to see pictures. I can't wait to hear about all the amazing things that she will do. Call me anytime and often. I'm here. So are your friends and family. We are your village, both near and far. Congratulations again, sweet friend. Your life is about to get even better.

Sending love,

P.S. More unsolicited advice: Get a big water bottle that you can easily drink out of with one or no hands. When you nurse, you get very thirsty and your hands are often occupied in holding the baby. Wear that baby. Let her sleep on you. They love it and then you aren't stuck laying down. You can gently move around and use your arms.  You can even nurse while you're wearing her. It's tricky, but if you can figure it out, it's awesome. I liked the solly wrap and the moby wrap and once he got a little bigger I loved the ergo. People here love Tulas. There's a whole cultish following of Tula converted carriers and they cost hundreds and people collect them. It's wild. There's a book and a short educational film by a pediatrician called Dr. Karp called "The Happiest Baby on the Block" that is about a five step technique for calming a crying baby that is awesome and really worked for my littles. Swaddling works. She might fight you a little but it really seems to calm babies. It's one of Dr. Karp's five techniques. Don't overdue it. Fight the urge (if you feel it) to jump back into your busy pre-baby life as fast as you can. She will only be this little for a second. Before you know it, she will be crawling and then walking and then going off to pre-school. If you can, just stay at home and stare at her. It's worth it. I swear. Breast milk is magic. So is coconut oil. Put them on her skin. Put them on yours.
Having a baby was so nice, we did it twice. Aaron's first night home from the hospital

Monday, August 22, 2016

Boy Trouble

As some of you know, I am now 36 weeks pregnant with our second son. I'm in the home stretch, for realizes, and despite all the things any 36 week pregnant woman can and should complain about, all is well. Everyone I encounter likes to remind me that I could "go any time" because I'm huge, and it's close, and asks us if we're ready. I answer, "yes. I think so." Meaning, yes the baby clothes are washed, the baby bassinet is clean, the swing is assembled (well, I'm doing that tonight) and the toddler has been thoroughly prepped on the idea that he will soon be a new big brother. He seems pretty stoked about it, and he genuinely seems to understand some of what this means. He tells me that when the baby is born I will be the baby's Mama, Eric will be his Dada and he will be his Big Brother! And he knows the baby will come to live with us forever and he says that that sounds fun. He kisses my belly and tells the baby inside that he loves him. And this is all without much prompting from me. We got a book, and he's watched the Daniel Tiger episodes where Daniel's new baby sister is born and when Daniel has to deal with the fact that there's another kid in the house (how good is this show!!!) and Cylas is into it. Things are going well for Cylas.

Things are going well for me too, but not as well. This has been a harder pregnancy, both physically (more morning sickness, fatigue, pain etc.) but also emotionally. When I was pregnant with Cylas, I had only one sleepless night of wondering/worrying about exactly what I had done to us! How this baby was about to blowup our lives so spectacularly and would we survive it. But I quickly remembered how much I had always wanted to be a mom, and how excited I was, and Eric really seemed excited too and all our friends were happy for us and Jasper had no idea what was coming, so I was pretty relaxed about the whole thing. People asked us if we were ready, and I would confidently answer "Yes! Ready! Bring it on!"

This pregnancy has plagued me with doubt and worry, mostly about how, this time, I'm also blowing up Cylas' life spectacularly and he had absolutely no say in the matter. And, sadly, I am plagued with doubt about what we have done because we are having another boy. But boys are great, you say? Yes, I know. I have one, and he is WONDERFUL! But, if I'm being honest, which is hard to be sometimes...I REALLY WANTED A GIRL! And this baby is a boy. Another boy.

It's a little embarrassing to admit, because I think it makes me seem petty and controlling and possibly like a bad mom, but I did everything in my power to conceive a girl this time. There are theories, and books have been written about them, and I read the books and researched the theories and took the steps suggested to up your odds of conceiving a girl. I did this for a few reasons. I like girls. I am a girl. I already have a boy. But mainly because I think a huge part of parenting is often about recreating the best bits of your own childhood for your children, and getting to relive them with your kids, and maybe healing some of the worst bits of your childhood by purposely doing things differently from what you experienced. Eric gets to experience this a lot with Cylas. Cylas wears his old t-shirts, and plays with his old toy cars, and Eric will take him to soccer games, and recreate other memories from his childhood. And don't get me wrong, Cylas and I have a lot in common too. Cylas is very theatrical. He likes to sing and dance and has an active imagination. I used to act out the Disney movie I was watching along with props and costumes, and just the other day, Cylas turned to me and said "Mama, sometimes I watch the movie Frozen, but sometimes I'm IN the movie Frozen." To which I replied, "I know exactly what you mean."

But I am still a girl, and Cylas is still a boy and this next baby is a boy as well and now I am outnumbered, which is just never how I pictured it. I worry that my sons will grow up and move out and find girlfriends and then wives and replace me, and their girlfriends/wives will hate me and I won't hear from them etc. etc. etc. I call my mother almost everyday, I don't know too many sons who can say the same. And it will be more of a challenge to attempt to recreate my childhood memories with two boys. They may not want to read Anne of Green Gables and The Secret Garden. They may have no interest in my old American Girl's Dolls that I have kept in pristine condition for the last 15 or more years. They can't attend the all girl's school I went to and enjoyed so much. They have penises, I have a vagina. This all sounds petty, which is why I'm embarrassed to mourn it so much, but alas, I have, and I do.

This is not to say that I'm not excited. I know that once this boy baby is born and here and our life together has flow and I watch the brothers grow up together, it will all make sense. I watch Eric with his brothers and it all makes sense, but still, sometimes my disappointment is real, and thick, and occasionally overwhelming. And, as I said earlier, it's not all gender disappointment that is overwhelming me, it is the idea that we have one kid who we love, who we can handle, who we can keep relatively happy and keeps us blissfully happy and now we are bringing another soul into the house who will be a risk and a disruption to this seemingly delicate balance, and I won't even get to braid its hair and dress it in pink! Even in our modern society, this is still frowned upon.

But at the end of the day, I guess I have to say "Oh well, Bring it on!" because that is what is happening and it will all make sense. People have told me that you don't get the kids that you want, you get the kids that you need. I don't know what this means, exactly, but I know that it doesn't really matter. I do love and will continue to love all my children, current and possibly future (who knows...I hear 3 is the new 2.) I have one amazing son already and another amazing boy on the way, and this is what my family looks like. It may not have as much pink in it as I hoped, but it still looks pretty rosy.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Leaning Out

It's April (almost May) and I've been thinking about New Years Resolutions since, well, New Years. We had a busy start to our year. Cylas turned 2. We bought a new house and started prepping to sell the condo. And we got the great news that I was pregnant again. Bam! Knocked Up Part 2. It's a good thing too, since the new house will need people to sleep in the bedrooms. It seemed like I had my New Years resolution work cut out for me. Get the new house in shape, get my pregnant self in shape,  get Cylas' life/activities in shape, get my writing life in shape, basically, make our lives perfect. As always, easier said than done.

This pregnancy knocked me on my ass. If you remember, my pregnancy with Cylas was magical. I felt great. I looked great (remember my glow?) I had no strange cravings or aversions. I never threw up (well, once, maybe) and I worked my ass off, on my feet, producing a film, working my restaurant job, and living my amazing pre-parenting life. We traveled a little, we partied (safely, of course). We nested, and rested, and had an amazing 9 months. This time so far...not so much.

I'm 18ish weeks in and feeling it. Being a pregnant mom is much different than being a pregnant fabulous almost mom. That first time, you really only had yourself and that little bean you are growing and wondering and thinking (maybe obsessing) about to worry about. And, was it my imagination, or did people fall all over themselves to be helpful (and sometimes nosey) as soon as I started showing last time? At work, people lifted, carried, and excused any of my bad/lazy behaviors. People saved desserts for me and made sure my favorite snacks were readily available for me at the Craft Services table.

This pregnancy, my main companion is a very sweet, pleasant, always demanding two year old. He's a little less helpful. He never gets me my much needed snacks, rarely seems charmed by my need to sit down and rest, and seems positively devastated my lack of energy and ability to chase him around like I used to. We spent most of my first trimester in the apartment while I pretended to pack up for our move,  but mostly laid on the couch feeling utterly, miserably nauseous all day, while Cylas watched the same episode of Daniel Tiger (where Mom Tiger gets sick and lies on the couch while Daniel and Dad Tiger fix her lunch and let her rest) over and over and over again. I felt so guilty. Poor Cylas would crawl onto the couch next to me and say "Mama Sick?" and I would answer "Yes, Mama's sick so I can't chase/play with/take you to the park right now." He would nod, solemnly and watch the episode again while I would hate myself. After a few weeks, I got on a prescription medicine that helped a lot, all though, it made me super sleepy, but soon I was feeling better enough to at least handle outings, and the occasional play date.

We moved at the end of February with some help from good friends and family and Eric being a veritable super hero, painting the new house, moving all of our stuff, and doing the bulk of the unpacking as well, while I did my best not to throw up, and manage our toddler. But all of this has left very little room for my New Year's resolutions.

About a week before I peed on the little stick that told me I was pregnant with our second kid, I had lunch with two of my favorite lady writer friends. One is also a mom who writes and produces plays in her spare time and the other is finishing her master's degree in screen and TV writing at USC.  Both these ladies are extremely busy and extremely talented. We talked a lot about the concept of "leaning in." Well, actually, we talked more about the concept of "leaning out." How there are times in your life where you have to give yourself permission to lean out a little and not beat yourself up for not achieving everything on your to do list. Maybe you don't even have a to do list. Maybe you just need to lean out, look at your life and enjoy what you can with out a list of complicated intentions driving you forward and ultimately into the ground. At the time of this lunch, I was feeling good, it was early January and I did have a major list of intentions I wanted to set forth on for the year, but I also reveled in the notion of cutting myself some slack. I also get a little frustrated by the concept of "leaning in" as though it is always a choice you can make. In my experience trying to carve out a writing career, I'm not sure how to lean in anymore. I'm sure there is always more that I can be doing, and always more that I can be writing, but I have projects in development, I have meetings, I have a movie in the can, and the fellowship applications submitted yearly, and these things often feel a bit out of my hands at this point. I'm often waiting for people to buy, hire, and accept me and I'm not sure how to lean into that any further. So, as I was saying, the idea of leaning out, was appealing, and that was before this little parasite in my womb decided to exact his hormonal (yup, it's another boy...more on that in a future post) revenge upon my delicate system.

So for now, I'm embracing it. I'm leaning out people. I'm leaning way out! That means a lot of take out, a fair amount of TV (educational, of course) and a lot of quiet afternoons at home with Cylas. I'm still writing, and I still have an exciting project "in development" but I'm also not beating myself up over the fact that the new house is still not totally unpacked, not especially tidy, and that I'm not cooking a gourmet meal nightly (when did I ever manage that?) Cylas seems happy to have his mom back, albeit with a bigger belly and a little less energy, and doesn't seem to mind that he's had quesadillas and peanut butter sandwiches a lot lately. Actually, he's pretty thrilled about it. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Killin' It!

Tonight, as a mom, I killed it! Really, I was pretty much killing it all day long. It was awesome. This morning Cylas and I attended a sweet little Holiday party with my mom's group at which I brought home made peanut butter balls and home made gluten free/dairy free/sugar free cookies. Killed it! My treats were delicious, appreciated, and did I mention, home made? Cylas had fun. I had fun. There were very little tears (all his) and lots of laughs (both). It was great. We killed it.

However, I still managed to wake up from Cylas' nap (yes, you read that right. About twice a week, I co-nap with Cylas and it is wonderful!) a little grumpy. So was Cylas. Maybe we had too much sugar (or not enough) in the morning. No big deal. We rallied. We cuddled and read, and played and then I decided to make an awesome dinner.

Now dinner is tricky for me. I am endlessly impressed with people, like my mother and sister, who provide home cooked dinners for their families every night. I try. I make lists and buy groceries, but we, even as a team, have never managed more than 4 meals a week. I had one of those meal delivery systems for a while that sends you the ingredients and recipes for 3 meals a week. Those 6 weeks were my best streak, but I wasn't that impressed with the recipe selection so we stopped using them. Most nights, it is suddenly 6:30 pm. I haven't begun to cook (even if I had a meal planned) and so Cylas gets something (delicious and nurtious) that I throw together, then bath and bed by 8:30 and I stumble downstairs to heat up a microwavable Trader Joe's Indian food for myself. If Eric is home, then instead of TJ's he goes out and procures us Thai Food, or Burgers, or burritos.

Not tonight though! Tonight, I made dinner! Actually, I made an amazing dinner on Sunday night too, so it being only Tuesday and already having 2 home cooked dinners under my belt for the week is pretty impressive. Tonight, I baked chicken with a mustard sauce that I quickly whipped up from a Pinterest recipe and I also made broccoli fritters. I saw these on pinterest too, and they promised it was a great way to get your kids to eat the super food that is broccoli. Sometimes Cylas is a great eater, and sometimes he is not, but a cheesy broccoli fritter sounded delious to me too, so I dove in. All in all it took about 40 minutes. I steamed some broccoli while I dressed the chicken, then stuck the chicken in the oven. While the chicken baked I threw the broccoli, 2 eggs, gluten free breadcrumbs, and shredded cheese in my food processor. Then I pan fried them into litter fritters. I also microwaved some TJ's brown rice. Cylas watched the Sign Language TV show that he is obsessed with on Netflix. A few times he wandered into the kitchen and said "Mama nummy?" and I said "Yes, it is going to be nummy. I'm killing it."

I set the table for he and I (we were on our own tonight since Eric was working) and put our plates down. I cut his chicken into bite size pieces for him, gave him a good scoop of rice and 2 broccoli fritters that I made sure weren't too hot. He had his water cup, and I had mine. I turned off the tv, put on some music and we sat down to eat, he in his chair, and me in mine. It was 5:50 pm. I had a home cooked dinner on the table before 6:00 pm. I was killing it! Cylas took a nibble of his broccoli and pushed the chicken and rice around a little and then seemed to have a problem with his purple plastic knife (that he chose.) "Yellow!" he yelled. "Oh, you want a yellow knife? I'll get you one." I jumped up and went back to the kitchen. I didn't see one so I brought him a yellow fork and a yellow spoon. He was not impressed. He started to whine. I asked him if he wanted to try some of my broccoli fritter. He did not. He started to push his plate, then he tried to flip his plate and throw his fritter at me. I stopped him, and sternly told him that was not acceptable behavior. "You don't have to eat, but you can't throw your plate." He looked at me. I looked at him. A minute passed. His face slowly morphed from shock to a cheeky smile. I went back to eating. Then he wanted to get down, so I let him down. Then he wanted back up. So I put him back in the chair. It turned out that he did not want back up. This happens a lot. Then he wanted to sit in my lap and nurse. I told him he'd have to wait. So then he cried, and collapsed on the floor beside my chair. I continued to eat as calmly and slowly as I could while my small child wailed on the floor next to me. Then he stood and asked to sit in my lap. That sounds like "Mama Uppy?" So I lifted him into my lap explaining that he could sit with me but we weren't going to nurse until I had finished eating. He signed that he wanted to nurse (Thank you Signing Time) and I said "no." He pulled at my shirt and so I put him down. He fell on the floor, his cheek resting on the wood planks in full despair. I told him that I loved him, but he would have to wait to nurse until I was done eating my dinner. That he could eat with me, or sit with me, or play, but not nurse until I was done. He declined my offer and instead just lay on the floor and cried, occasionally stopping to laugh at the dog or look at one of his toy cars, and then he seemingly remembered the abandonment he felt and he would let out a wail and return his cheek to the floor. It was a pitiful sight and I considered abandoning my plate to console him. But I did not. I ate my dinner. I cleaned my plate. The whole thing took about 6 minutes. I'm a fast eater, even when I have someone to talk to, and there isn't someone screaming at me to stop eating and take care of their immediate need. I announced I was done and stood up. So did he. He clapped and yelled "Yay!" Then he ran to our large chair and patted the seat for me to come sit down. I did. He nursed. All was right with the World.

So he did not eat the amazing dinner I made for him. Not at all. And he screamed and cried his way through most of the dinner experience, but I still feel like I killed it. How is that possible, you might ask? Because I ate my dinner! I'm hoping that I showed him that he is not the boss of me. That, he is loved, and valued, but that other people (including his mother) have needs too. And that other people's needs are also important and should be valued.

After dinner we went for a walk in the neighborhood with the dog. Then we came home and he ate a little dinner, had a bath, and we rocked and read stories and he nursed and I put him in the crib and he went to sleep with very little incident. I didn't say no incident. There is never a night without incident. That's what it is to have a toddler, I guess. But all and all, what a killer day! And I tell you what. He's gonna see those broccoli fritters on his plate again tomorrow, whether he likes it or not. I'll try to make sure I find the yellow knife to cut them with.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Identity Crisis

When I first became a mother, my world changed instantly. Gone were the days of sleeping in, or staying out late. Gone were the days of getting out of the house quickly and running a few errands. At first, I didn't mind at all. There was nothing I would have rather done than stay at home and stare at the baby. I would wake up in the middle of the night to stare at the sleeping baby. It was my entertainment, my socializing, my food. Cylas was all I needed.

And then he got older, and Eric went back to work and I started reading FB pages that weren't baby focused and I remembered that there was a whole world out there. A world I used to live in. A world that was hard to get to between naps and bedtime and a baby that really didn't like being in his car seat.

Sometimes, being a mom is lonely.

And this seems crazy because now we really fill our days with a lot of activities. We have classes and parks and play dates with new mom/baby friends. I have a great group of women who have babies around Cylas' age who I spend a couple of afternoons a week with. We chit chat as the babies parallel play and we text each other questions about potty training, nap schedules and food advice. I know a lot about their opinions on cloth vs. disposable diapers, and how much and where their children sleep at night, but ultimately, I know very little about them. We don't talk about ourselves much. Well no, we do. We talk about ourselves in the context of our newish identity...MOM. Most of us are currently some variation of the traditional "stay at home mom." Meaning that none of us goes to a 9-5 5 days a week and has to leave the baby with a caretaker. We're the main caretaker. Taking care is the Full Time Job. So, these new friends are kind of like work friends. We met because we work at the same "stay at home mom" job and we mostly talk about work.

I also have a few dear friends who I knew before Cylas was born (if there was such a time) and we happened to have babies around the same time. We talk about the babies A LOT too. But because we don't need to go through all the background small talk of getting to know each other "before baby" it makes it easier to slip into conversation about other things. Politics maybe, or music or....who am I kidding, we mostly talk about our babies. Wouldn't you? Look how cute they are.

And it makes sense. I spend about 95% of my time thinking about Cylas, so it makes sense that I would spend the majority of my time conversing about him as well. When Eric and I do get a night away from Cylas, or after he goes down for the night, we find ourselves talking about him, comparing notes on the amazing things he did that day. After we've exhausted the subject, we collapse on the couch with only the energy to watch Fresh Off The Boat. I try to always remember to ask Eric how his day was, and I try not to fall asleep before he's told me.

But then, later, as I lie in bed, scanning FaceBook or Instagram, or attempting to read a (non child-rearing related) book, I start to think about all the things I didn't give myself time to think about...or talk about. And sometimes...I feel lonely. I look at the events that so many of my childless friends are posting about, and I feel a bit envious. They are traveling, working, acting, shopping, eating out, going to spin class, (ok, I'm not envious of spin class, I'm just envious of her abs...you know who you are.) Most of my days revolve solely around Cylas right now. He is lucky. I am lucky that I get to spend so much time with him. And then I feel guilty for being envious of spin class. SPIN CLASS?!? But then I remember that the first (and sometimes only) question anyone asked me that day was "how's Cylas" as though I didn't exist outside of him. As though, Cylas  were the most interesting thing about me. Or, maybe, the only interesting thing about me.

And of course, I know this isn't true. And they know this isn't true. Even though it sometimes feels like it is true. I think it is easy, once you become a parent, especially a mom, especially a stay at home mom, to feel like you've been handed, not only, a new little life to love and take care of, but also a brand new identity. And it replaces your old identity...entirely! I've talked about this before, I know. I think about it a lot. And for now, it's fine. I'm envious sometimes, and lonely sometimes, but mostly so deeply in love with my little Czar that I don't remember that I'm lonely or envious. And, to top it all off, I want ANOTHER BABY! I want one bad. So, I better get working on creating a new, blended identity that makes me feel good, but hopefully doesn't have to involve a spin class.