Saturday, January 26, 2013

"Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful"

beauty pageant contenstants standing on stage

I was not, am not, nor will I ever be a South American beauty queen. My husband married me anyway. But a nagging question remains in the back of my head: Did he chose to marry me? Or was it because the South American beauty queen wouldn't give him the time of day?

I'm not willing to risk it to find out the answer. I'm sticking with the belief that he made the right choice rather than court that kind of temptation.

Of course, George tells me he picked me above all others. Of course, he's going to say that! He's smart enough to know what to say. And he probably actually believes that he actually had a shot with the South American beauty queen (insert eye roll here).

A woman sparked the rant above. Her name is Gabriella Gabriella*. I saw her on Facebook. You know, she's the one who's so beautiful you're compelled to say her name TWICE. When you click on her profile, you notice the name that's double the fun first. Next, you contemplate another set of twins -- two round, buoyant, FAKE boobs.

There she is in her cover photo taunting me…all twenty-something, tanned and bootylicious in her bikini like a Sports Illustrated model on some exotic beach somewhere with a trucker hat on instead of the requisite crown.

Gabriella Gabriella. She's the one Frank Evans* recommended to my husband as a BABYSITTER!

Did your jaw just drop like mine? Was your next thought, "Yeah, that's not happening"? Funny! So was mine!

Why in the world would I hire her? Would IBM hire someone if they presented themselves at the interview in their underwear? How about an applicant without a last name? I picture a giant, red, corporate rubber stamp on the front of that resume that reads "NO!" Can anyone give me a "MOM VETO"?

No! She's NOT babysitting my daughter. Her look screams that babysitting is a back-up plan on the road to larger pursuits. rush to judgment is not lost on me. Really, I'm not worried about my husband and Gabriella Gabriella. He and I love each other til death do us part. My judgment is because of her appearance, plain and simple. I admit it. Didn't I just write a post about wanting women to support one another more? I really had every intention of including women who've had boob jobs in my post!

I'm a hypocrite, guilty of reverse discrimination. Possibly, I'm passing on the best babysitter ever, because I'm not willing to give her a chance.

Luckily, I won't have to engage any deeper with my hypocrisy. Gabriella Gabriella is looking for a full-time nanny position. Not something we need here at Chez Demas. If we were looking for a nanny, though, I'd prefer to click on a picture more akin to Nanny McPhee than Giselle Bunchen.

In my superficial defense, I will leave you with this image to ponder:

Giselle Bundchen

*Names changed to protect the innocent

Photo Source: Khanh Hoa newspaper's reporter, Wikipedia

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Art Imitates Life

At 20 months old, Claire is a breastfed toddler. My goal is to continue breastfeeding until she's two. Once we reach that mark, I may reconsider and continue. Claire happens to be a child who loves to breastfeed. I don't have a problem obliging her something that seems relatively uncomplicated for me to do. 

But I'm not trying to make a political statement. Nor am I trying to tell others what to do either. I know many people find my choice offensive. After all, I wasn't living under a rock when the controversy surrounding the Time article on extended breastfeeding happened. Really, I'm not the type of person who openly courts conflict. It doesn't make me happy that people feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or offended by my decision. 

Lately, I've noticed more dirty looks from people when I breastfeed in public. What surprises me is that 100% of the looks come from women. And that they express their disapproval by staring long enough to make me want to shout, "Take a picture, why dontcha!"  Honestly, I do my best to be discreet (you see more boob on the red carpet, actually). I want to respect other people, but I don't deserve to feel ashamed either. 

When it all starts to get to me, I remember a time when I felt a calling from above. A higher power touched me on the shoulder. The Virgin Mary seemed on my side.

Mary and Jesus

Mary and JesusThis summer, I was walking in a Northern Renaissance gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I looked around and counted. Ten out of 30 paintings showed the baby Jesus breastfeeding. And we're not talking "away in the manger" baby Jesus. Many of the images were of a big, tall, cherubic baby Jesus, who had clearly mastered the skill of walking. In some of the paintings, the Madonna was shown bare-breasted, as the Son of God reached for sustenance. 

In truth, it's probably more accurate to say that breastfeeding a toddler was well and good to the Northern Renaissance painters of those images than to the Virgin Mary herself (after all, who can say how long Jesus was breastfed). 

But that's fine too. It reminds me that beliefs about breastfeeding are culturally constructed and shifting. I realize that people's offense today is not an absolute. If I were living in the Renaissance, rich patrons of the arts would be sharing their living spaces with paintings in which breastfeeding is exalted. 

Of course, it's not the Renaissance. And I don't need these kinds of images in homes to justify my choices. The Met can keep their paintings right where they are. 

But I do have a wish for the world in 2013: I wish that people would let others do what they think is best for their children. I wish that women supported one another more. I wish that we could all be tolerant of one another's personal beliefs. 

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Foodie Meets Mommy

I heart New York City cupcakes
I'm a New Yorker. It took me awhile to say it, since I'm a transplant from Kansas. But after 20 years, I have more in common with cabbies than corn fields. 

In my opinion, to consider yourself a true New Yorker, you need to be a bit versed in its restaurant scene. Food culture is huge in New York City. You will have a better conversation with a New Yorker by asking him or her "Have you eaten at (fill in the blank with a restaurant)?" than "What do you do?" 

Restaurants with celebrity chefs are a dime a dozen in New York City. Sure, I can boast that I ate at Momofuku years before I witnessed Martha Stewart standing outside on First Ave. waiting for a table. But George and I aren't made of money. Restaurants with four or five dollar signs next to their name in Zagat's are special treats. To be sure, though, I would rather save my money for a meal at a Danny Meyer establishment than spend it on the latest fashion trends. 

Martha Stewart and David Chang
Martha Stewart (duh!) and David Chang, chef at Momofuku

For me, the bigger adventures in New York are finding the hole in the wall joints with cheap eats and international fare. Take a sublime and steamy bowl of miso ramen from Rai Rai Ken in the East Village. They don't have tables, so you sit at the counter and watch them cook your food -- part restaurant, part experience. Then, there's the Romanian Gardens in Sunnyside, Queens, that serves creamy polenta with sour cream and eggplant spread that takes rustic to a whole new level. 

In case you're wondering, I'm not turning Tao of Poop into a food blog (I should hope not, given its title). It's just taken me awhile to get to my usual mom bit. I needed to reminisce, to get my food adventures out of my system. 

Here comes the mom part: my priorities in food have changed since becoming a mom. I will sum it up in one word…"Chevy's". We went on a family outing to Chevy's yesterday.  I can now add another new food experience to my time in New York City -- eating at a chain. 

Chevy's restaurant Times Square
Chevy's Times Square, NYC

Before you start thinking that New Yorker are food snobs (well, a little), it's not that chains are beneath us. It's that why eat at a chain restaurant, when you can try something new and exotic for just as cheap? Why put up with New York City's dirt, loudness and incivility, if you're not enjoying what makes it unique? I could go straight to the source for a Mamoun's Falafel on St. Marks or go to Vanessa's Dumpling House in Chinatown for fried sesame bread with beef or tuna (oops, I'm talking about the glory days again).

But my priorities in food have changed. Instead of the white tablecloths and fine china of a Mario Batali restaurant, we need a high chair and plates that will withstand being tossed like frisbees. It's no longer cool to rub elbows with the downtown scene in a cramped and loud restaurant. We look for comfortable and spacious booths with wide swaths of real estate to contain my child while giving her ample room to do the toddler spread. We put a premium on durable, plastic surfaces that can withstand artwork made of food smears and flatware used as musical instruments. No more leisurely tastings; we seek out short order cooks and the bill presented before our fork and knife are crossed on an empty plate. Forget the hour long ride to Queens on the seven train; we choose close and convenient.

Indeed, yesterday, Chevy's satisfied on all of these accounts. It was a perfect lunch. We will be back again. 

I'm reminded that I'm not just a New Yorker anymore. I'm a New Yorker who's a mom. That makes New York City a new world, and me a different person in it. At least, it didn't take me 20 years to admit it. 

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gone Viral

Claire's my canary in a coal mine. When the invisible vapors of illness hit her in the form of a fever, cold, or vomiting, I know I'm doomed. It will soon be my fate to suffer a similar sickly state. I'm about 9 out of 10 for catching whatever she's got.

I fought these odds when I was an elementary school teacher. It didn't always work, but I had my germ-fighting, immune-boosting strategies down -- teaching kids the vampire cough, strict hand washing policies, an arsenal of zinc lozenges and vitamin C, as well as maintaining a safe distance from infected children without revealing that I viewed them like leper pariahs.

It's the "safe distance" part that's the catch-22 for moms. It's impossible to avoid the germ-ridden coughs, saliva and mucus of your own child. In so many beautiful ways, mother and child are like one. Unfortunately, what follows from this conclusion is that their germs become yours too.

When I'm not engaging with Claire's runny nose in a vain attempt to wipe it, she's coughing in my face without heed to the concept of personal space. If she's not handing a booger to me to hold (sorry for the visual), she's demanding a drink from my glass or some of my food (since, of course, whatever I'm eating is infinitely better than what she's eating, even when we're eating exactly the same thing).

It's unfair. I suffered through these garden variety illnesses as a child. It's Claire's turn to catch germs, not mine. Don't think me callous, either. Of course, I feel horrible when my child's sick. That's exactly the point. I want to spend all of my faculties nursing her back to health, not have them compromised because I'm taking care of me.

The worst part is that all of the railing in this post won't help me to avoid the inevitable. We are both going to continue to get sick. At least, I'm no longer suffering in silence. Thanks for listening!

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Name Calling

parent advisory

My friend Kate gets up in arms when people teach their children the correct anatomical names for their private parts. She fears that her daughters will be exposed to them at school or on the playground. A world full of pee-pee's and wee-wee's would suit her just fine.

I told her that her impulse to shield her children from perceived bad influences is admirable, but that it's like trying to keep them from catching a cold. Sometimes the odds are in your favor, sometimes not.

I also offered her the unsolicited advice that, when faced with this situation, she could use it as an opportunity to explain how all families are different and that we need to be respectful of other people's beliefs, while maintaing our own. 

That just made her mad. I understand. I don't like unsolicited advice either. We did restore harmony to our conversation, though. We agreed that it's really cool to watch your child learn to speak (private parts aside). 

Personally, I'm fascinated by speech and language development. Why is it that when Claire says "helicopter", it sounds like "belly hooper", but she can say the word "clementine" clear as a bell?  

But, as Claire starts connecting the things in her world with words, I am realizing that there are whole classes of words that we have to decide what to call or whether to use at all. Until recently, I hadn't begun to contemplate my role as Maoist censor in her life. I find it more complicated than choosing her name at birth.

Clearly, we have tried to whitewash curse words from our vocabulary. And we don't want her to use words like "hate" and "stupid". Much to my dismay, certain words have already entered her vocabulary. Claire seems to find the word "butt" extremely funny. I live in fear of the moment when she screams "Mama butt" in public, or something equally embarrassing. I know it's going to happen. She's also very fond of the words "booger" and "fart". My husband and I hadn't developed a sound philosophy about what to call things like these, which are a part of everyday reality and need to be named something.

We did agree that Claire should learn the words for her body parts, "vagina" included. Mainly because they do have names. I haven't gotten up the nerve to tell Kate about this decision. I'm hoping she will still let us play with her daughters. I'm counting on the fact that she will find some consolation in our other decision, which is to teach Claire the difference between words that are public and those that are private (after all that's why they're called "private parts", right?) 

Right now, though, my 19 month old will have no grasp of this concept. I'm thinking I should start plastering her with parental advisory stickers to give people a heads up that my daughter may display behavior similar to someone with Tourette Syndrome. Since that strategy is clearly impractical, we'll have to get used to the fact that we are in for a long, booger butt ride.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Exorcist Meets Munchausen

Claire crawled into my lap, curled herself into my chest and fell asleep. I wriggled my body into a prone position on the couch, pulled a blanket over us, and we took a nap together.

She hasn't rested on my chest like that in a long time. I miss it. She's growing up.

Lately, when she comes up onto my lap, she has a demand. "Read book!" or "Row, row your boat!", she implores, like a little tyrant. I try to kiss her, and she'll make her body rigid and arch against me. Then she yells "DOWN!", and is off me and onto the next toddler task on her agenda.

Yes, our nap together was delicious. Is there something wrong with me?

It's just that Claire was recovering from a bout of late night vomiting. The kind that reminds a parent of The Exorcist. Her impulse to climb in my lap was because she wasn't feeling well. I'm guilty of benefiting from my daughter's misfortune.

I fear I'm relishing in her convalescence too much. I like the extra cuddles and closeness. I like being needed by Claire. I like that she's moving at a slower pace. Hell, I like getting a bit of sleep after the night's hysterics.

I know moms are designed to nurture, but it's a little creepy to feel good when my daughter feels so bad. I'm surely a long way from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, but it did cross my mind...

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Good-For-Nothing Husbands

George and I have a real beef with how men are often portrayed on television. The good-for-nothing husband hatches a screwball scheme that falls apart at the get go, only to be rescued by the super competent, no-nonsense, hardworking mom who rolls her eyes and enlists the help of some consumer product or service to restore peace to the household.

The gender pendulum seems to have swung from the cliche of helpless, airhead girly-girl to hapless, hair-brained man child. Most likely, because mom is the one who controls the household purse strings.

Hotdog Commercial Tagline: "Men, easier fed than understood"
Of course, I'm dying to share ways that George does fit this stereotype. The most priceless one being that George was shocked to learn that the sun comes up earlier depending on the time of the year! Before Claire was born, his bachelor self hadn't been up in time (I'm rather jealous, really). Or that he had to check with me to make sure that he had the right date for Valentine's Day. And, yes, I've taught him what Cream of Tartar is and how to pick out a bunch of asparagus.

But these things certainly don't make him inept, and they don't show the complexity of our relationship. He also makes a mean Marinara sauce. And, while he does a manly man's job of taking care of the electronics in our home, I'm the one who brought a power drill to the marriage as part of my dowry (no, I didn't really have a dowry).

Our marriage is a partnership. We strive to work together as equals, while contributing based on our strengths. Some of our strong points may conform to gender stereotypes, while others may not.

I think that this picture is both truer to reality, and the way I want Claire to see men, women and relationships in her life. Also, there's a payoff for me. If George is constantly portrayed as the incompetent one, I'll have to do most of the work. And I certainly don't want to do most of the work!

I'm thankful that my husband does as much as he does for our family.

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Not Bringing Sexy Back

Mark Wahlbert
NOTE: This image marginally fits the post. But how could I resist?

The low point in my pregnancy was when I would sit alone in front of the television each night at 3AM and watch late night poker, because nothing better was on and I had nothing better to do.

Insomnia set in during my third trimester, at which time my nose decided to shut down operation between the hours of Midnight and 6AM. The instant I fell asleep, I would wake up with the sensation of being suffocated. I also felt like an invertebrate. An overabundance of the pregnancy hormone Relaxin made my body conform to whatever surface I was lying on, rendering sleep extremely uncomfortable.

Thinking back on it now, there isn't much about pregnancy that I would care to retain -- not the sleeplessness, nor the forty pound weight gain that went entirely to my backside, nor the ill-fitting, over-priced, and unfashionable clothes. 

Don't get me wrong, I loved feeling Claire grow in my body and getting to the other side of pregnancy. I would endure such suffering again in a heartbeat to have her.

But when I hear someone say, "I just loved being pregnant", I want to punch them in the face (apologies ahead of time if you are one of these women).

One remnant of pregnancy remains, however. My choice in underwear. I was ignorant of the splendor of granny panties before I was pregnant. Now, it's hard to imagine abandoning their comfort. Sure, Natori, Victoria Secret and the occasional La Perla have a place in my underwear drawer. But they sit at the back of the drawer neglected. Really, I contemplate going back to them, breaking my new habit.

But who knew large swaths of cotton fabric could be too comfortable to give up?

I feel a little funny picking up a pack at Walmart. I mean, come on, a pack? Men's underwear come in a pack, not a lady's lingerie. Even the brand names aren't sexy for women. Hanes and Fruit of the Loom scream out man shorts and tighty whities to me. They're even called "briefs" to add insult to injury! 

But by the time I get to the register, I want to tell the checkout lady or anyone who will listen that there's no reason to  be ashamed of feeling comfortable. After all, I wouldn't endure the pain of a brazilian wax in the name of sexiness. Why should my philosophy about undergarments be any different?

Plus, I sacrificed enough comfort during pregnancy and labor to earn the right to wear whatever the hell underwear I want!

On the home front, I feel a little less sure of myself. I haven't been able to bring myself to ask my husband what he thinks of this turn of events. I'd love to think that he'd tell me he finds me sexy in a potato sack (I mean my man looks pretty hot in long underwear, to my eye). Unfortunately, even if he did give me a compelling argument about why I should bring sexy back, I doubt I'd listen to him. 

To repeat, granny panties are just too comfortable to give up. 

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Five W's of New Year's

New Year's Eve is pretty uncomplicated as a single person. Each year, many things about celebrating remain the same. You know the why and when of the holiday. You simply decide where to go, who to go with and what to wear. 

Being married with a kid, New Year's Eve is easy in one respect. Chances are you won't care what you're wearing. Beyond your sartorial choice, the holiday becomes much more strategic. The where to celebrate becomes contingent on a who: "Who will watch the baby, if we go out for New Year's Eve?" The why becomes fraught: "Why in the world would I want to drink when I  have to take care of a child bright and early in the morn?" And the when is worst of all..."Are you kidding me? Stay up til midnight when me daughter will be the first one in the Western Hemisphere to wake up on New Year's Day?!"

Last night, George and I threw caution to the wind (well, we didn't actually go anywhere) and made it to the countdown and beyond, in spite of this cautionary tale. We had a lovely bottle of champagne (popping the cork quietly to ensure our daughter's continued slumber). At the stroke of midnight, I got to kiss my husband on the lips, like most couples do around the world. "Let the morning be damned", I thought. 

And here's the kicker. Claire decided to SLEEP IN ON THE FIRST MORNING OF THE NEW YEAR!  When her cries intruded upon my dreamland, as they do every morning, I looked up and the clock said 7:40!! Unheard of…priceless…a gift from above!

If you don't have kids, the hour on the clock may not seem like such a great deal. The moms and dads among us will surely understand the majesty of the scenario. 

So, thanks, Claire. I begin this year with an extra spring in my step! Tomorrow morning….be damned!

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