Monday, October 29, 2012


I creep into the room to check on Claire.

The door squeaks.

Through the dim light, I see her eyes open. She looks at me without lifting her head.

“Mama," she says and smiles. Her eyes close again.

I feel fixed to my spot by the weight of my full heart.
A love this abiding. The sun around which a planet spins.  For each of us.

For Claire and me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Young Frankenstein

I spend way too much time pondering this toy: 

It’s a bug on human legs, two very long human legs, wearing very long circus pants. 
A triangle hole is the void where its private parts should be. A half bug/half man creature that has been castrated by its maker.

It came as part of a musical set. The rest of the instruments are normal enough.

Why does the bug stand out so from the others? Who made it and was his or her inspiration Mary Shelley? 

I wonder what it must be like to work for the toy maker. I imagine a place like Willy Wonka. 

Or an office in which 95% of the personnel would fail a drug test (I'm referring to a different kind of "doping"). 

The toy would definitely make more sense to me if I weren't so sober.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Because I said so

We begin with the best intentions as mothers. Only to find ourselves, then, doing things we swore we’d never do.

I also lament the things that I don’t do…

“Oh, today looks like a lovely day to take Claire to the park…Ah, we’ll go tomorrow.”

Or…“My daughter looks like she can go another day without a bath."

It’s hard to admit. Makes me feel like a horrible mother.

Equally cringe-worthy are the things that I thought I wouldn’t say. I find things flying out of my mouth that a) are just plain ridiculous, b) make me realize I’m becoming my mother, and/or c) are probably over my 16-month-old daughter's head right now.

Indeed, she’s ignoring me anyway. But I often wonder what she would say if she had the words (my homage to ‘honest toddler’ on twitter, @honesttoddler):

ME:                                                            CLAIRE:

Why did you just do that?                         Because

Where does this go?                                  I’m guessing…on the floor?

That doesn’t go in that hole.                     Why? It fits.

Stop whining.                                            Don't count on that happening.

You’re too loud.                                         I don’t know the opposite of loud

Eat your food.                                            Maybe

Try it; you’ll like it.                                   If I don’t try it, we’ll never know.          
You're giving me a headache.                    And your point is?                                                                      
Calm down!                                                Why?

We don’t hit!                                               I just did.

I’m only going to say this once.                 That’s good.

You’re not listening to me.                         What’s your point?

What do you want?                                     If I knew, I’d tell you.

That’s not a toy.                                          And your point is?

I’ve just read over the list. It’s long! I’m embarrassed. And I’m glad I don’t live with an honest toddler.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hidden Treasure

toddlers housecleaning mess

Claire has turned our home into a scavenger hunt of sorts. An Easter Egg Hunt without the eggs, if you will.

When I find a random ball or blocks under a chair or table, it’s barely worth a yawn. I’m much more surprised when I open the door to the hall closet and happen upon a piece of apple. Or when I’m booby trapped by a trail of Cheerios crunch, crunching under foot, as I walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

I’m most intrigued when it seems that Claire has specifically placed things in certain spots…The half of a cracker that’s perfectly wedged in the small round hole of a toy… The square piece of cheese that has come to rest exactly in the middle of the metal coaster on the side table…The sippy cup straws and primary colored crayons that seem made to go together in a cup on her easel.

I have weighed the idea of keeping her in the highchair to eat. But then I would be more concerned about how I look as a housekeeper than Claire. Really, she’s a toddler. I’m  happy to get food in her, even if it means she’s on the run and food ends up elsewhere.

Plus, I remember reading the truism that the creativity of youth is rarely tidy. Her various hidings are evidence of how she engages with and transforms her environment. Her serendipitous, little presents are like interior decorating, toddler style.

On the other hand, I am less happy to find a piece of food that’s been hanging around for awhile -- like a desiccated old man calling out for cockroaches and/or mice. Likewise, my patience wears thin when she’s hidden my keys.

I draw the line at hiding keys. Unfortunately, like most toddlers, she remains completely undeterred by this line in the sand!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Accidents Happen

I get hit with the astounding responsibility of having a child at random times during the day. My daughter doesn’t need to be with me either. A solo trip down slick subway steps summoned the terror recently. Behold my spiraling stream of consciousness below:

“SLOW DOWN! You’ll break your neck…

"What if I broke my ankle? I was single that time I sprained my ankle. I was ALONE then. NO ONE took care of me. But I did get to put my feet up and relax while laid up! I’m a mom now – FORGET the luxury of being laid up…

“What do injured mothers do?! It must happen EVERYDAY! Those subway steps almost got ME...

“WORSE, what about single moms? Or no family nearby? No safety net. I’d probably tie myself up in bubble wrap or something…

“There’s that Visiting Nurses Service. They visit old people when they’re hurt. How about a Visiting Nanny Service for moms? Same acronym, anyway. Insurance should cover it. Or the government! In Sweden, they’d pay for it…

I wish we lived in Sweden!”

By the time the C train arrives, I’ve imagined myself walking around in bubble wrap and/or living in Sweden. Any old irrational contingency plan helps keep my fears at bay. 

If I’m lucky, my plotting just might hold me for awhile…at least until the next chance happening occurs…

Monday, October 15, 2012

Soul Search

The Homage, Marc Chagall, 1972

I stare endlessly at my daughter and marvel. Her face is compelling, purely because she is mine. Sometimes, my purpose is to see how she’s grown and changed. More often, I simply wish to behold.

Lately, I’ve been looking for my father. I search for him in the shape of her eyes, the set of her mouth, the way she furrows her brow. No trace of my dad is evident there, at least not yet.

I don’t know which I fear more...that my daughter will never come to resemble him...or that I have lost the ability to recognize him altogether.

My dad died when I was eleven. I am now 45. Much of my life has been marked without him in it. I have come to identify more with his absence than his presence.

Sadly, this space only grows larger as I grow older. Tragically, I no longer miss my dad.

I long for him, though. I search for him, too. Lately, I’m searching for my father in my daughter’s face.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Underblog is Here!

I feel like Cinderella. Toiling away in obscurity at my computer, a few fairy godmothers have come and whisked me away to the blogger’s ball.

The fairy godmothers are the women behind Project Underblog, “a submission-based, collaborative writing project honoring the smaller voices in the blogging community”. It’s a cool idea, right? Cooler still is that my writing is featured on their site today!

Enough said. I’m trying to make this brief. I’m hoping that you will hop on over to the Underblog site and get some serious reading underway (the one and only time I will attempt to shoe you off of my site). Click here to have a look.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tales from Tinseltown

Kristin Cavalierri can’t wait to have another one. Jesssica Simpson changes her daughter’s outfits ten times a day. Guiliana Rancic is “loving every minute” of motherhood.

In the land of tinsel, postpartum depression and colic have been eradicated like Polio. Babies latch onto the breast with the greatest of ease. The Hollywood script says that sleepless nights only happen in Seattle. Or so the story goes. You rarely hear differently.

I want to hear how celebs would mother without nannies, assistants, personal chefs and trainers – kind of like seeing stars without makeup. And without their publicists serving up half-truths to the media and public.

Richness and complexity are missing in this fabricated fable of family.  Motherhood stretches you in unimaginable ways. Yes, it's a unique and special love. Also, a terrifying shock to contemplate the weight of responsibility for a small, fragile creature. Helplessness takes hold when you can’t stop your child’s cries, no matter what you do. Deep, in your bones exhaustion is brought on by the one-two punch of sleep deprivation and a baby who's still on the move like the energizer bunny. Just the beginning of the story, too.

I might envy the luxury of a celebrity’s life in the moment. When it comes down to it, I don’t. I've learned about myself by embracing some of the challenges of motherhood.

I am grateful for different things, like sitting down on the couch at the end of the day after Claire’s asleep. Or going out for dinner with my husband and having a conversation about something other than Elmo.

I’ve gotten over my bad self too. When I toiled in the kitchen making Claire an apple/sweet potato tart and she immediately spit it out, I moved on to the next thing. No applause there.

I’m not trying to make myself out as a hero here. I’m trying to say I’m an ordinary mom, ready to wear my triumphs and my struggles on my sleeve.

It's unclear whether celebrity moms really don’t have the same struggles as the rest of us, or if they're just keeping them under wraps. Either way, they’re making regular moms look bad. I don’t like that very much.

This post is featured as one of the Top Twelve Funny Posts of 2012.

Connect with: FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"What is it, then, between us?"

- Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

A dark urn of walnut wood sits on the carpet surrounded by plastic, furry and felt toys. It’s a somber piece that looks strange alongside the jumble of bright, primary colors. Children’s toys scream out for attention. The urn, on the other hand, draws you in with its quiet energy, like a fetish.

It has drawn Claire in. She pulls off the top by its bulky knob, puts blocks inside. Closes it, again and again.

I had mixed feelings about letting her play with it. She’s rough, dinging it up. She has yet to learn its significance to me. The piece sat on a bookshelf to be contemplated; I thought it remained out of her reach. Or maybe that’s what I pretended to believe. Perhaps, I secretly wanted her to find it.

My grandfather made this urn. He died in 1996. I miss him, and Claire will never meet him. When she touches the wood, I like to believe that somewhere in its oils rests grandpa's DNA and that Claire is coming under his influence.

Grandpa and Me
She has his eyebrows. I wish for her his gentleness, his love of God, his good singing voice. He would have loved Claire so.

As I watch her, my mind drifts to my grandfather in his “wood shop” (really the garage). He would start with a block of rough wood and turn it on a lathe, until it took on a refined shape and burnished surface. The work required patience and concentration. Not unlike the work required of a good relationship too.

I am honored to be a witness to these two lives. I am sad that they will never come to know one another. The dark walnut urn becomes the hand that reaches across the divide of generations and connects the two.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Ghost of Halloween Past, Present and Future

Ah, Fall. The snap in the air is the first harbinger of the season. Then, the light takes on low, slanting glow. Life settles into a more ordered routine. My favorite time of year, sullied only by one day…Halloween.

I have been boycotting Halloween for a long while. The titular reason is that I want to avoid women dressed like ho’s and their male moron counterparts. Indeed, this statement is true. But the real reason is that I don’t have an ounce of creativity when it comes to costumes.

Opting out of Halloween as an adult has been no big deal. Now that I have Claire, it’s been on my mind again. When you have a child, you benchmark her experience growing up against your own. As the saying goes, we relive our childhood…

I remember my mom bent over the sewing machine with a knitted brow. I stood by her side, just about the height of her hands feeding the fabric through the needle. I watched what seemed a miracle transformation. She was turning one of her shiny, sequined 70’s disco numbers into a fairy princess costume for me. Come trick or treat time, I felt like the best shiny, sequined princess on the block. Later, the same piece became a tin man costume for my brother. One year, my brother and I both went as Raggedy Ann and Andy. That costume was so authentic; mom even made the wigs!

Mom, Brother Ben and Me (circa 1978)

I felt sorry for the kids who had to wear those Woolworth generated plastic items, complete with suffocating masks and an unseemly smell. They looked scratchy and uncomfortable, and made a weird rustling sound going up and down the street. But, worst of all, they lacked the hand of a mother’s love. I am haunted by the fact that Claire will now be one of those children.

I have warm feelings in my heart thinking about the love that went into the costumes mom made for us. I feel emptiness in my heart for Claire, because she will not have the same experience as me.

But I know I don’t need to be all things to her. Teaching children that we have limitations is wise. At some point, I will have to tell her that the craft gene has skipped a generation. This fact bodes well for her. Maybe one day, she will carry on the Halloween costume tradition with her own kids.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Boob Police

I was suspicious. A relative was taking a curious interest in Claire’s breastfeeding habits. Her queries came at me with a jagged, little edge. I wondered about the subtext. Non-committal retorts like “uh-huh” reinforced my hunch that disapproval lurked just under the surface. As she was saying one thing, I was hearing another:

She says: When do you plan on stopping breastfeeding?
I hear: You should stop breastfeeding.

She says: Has she started asking for milk?
I hear: When she’s old enough to say “milk”, she’s old enough to eat ‘real’ food.

She says: Doesn’t she bite you with all those teeth?
I hear: When she’s cut a mouth of teeth, she’s old enough to eat ‘real’ food.

She says: Do you also give her cow’s milk?
I hear: When she’s old enough to have ‘real food’, you should stop breastfeeding.

She says: What if she won't stop?
I hear: That baby's gonna be five years old and still on the tit.

She says: What do you do when you’re outside?
I hear: You should be ashamed of yourself for breastfeeding a 16-month-old in public.

I wanted the interrogation to stop. But I just calmly provided answers to the ‘questions’. Really, I'm an unlikely ambassador for breastfeeding. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. If other breastfeeding mamas want to make a statement, they have my blessing. I just want to feed my child.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...