My besfrinn Cameron recently sent me Bossypants and aside from leaving me in sheer wonderment of the modern-day goddess that is Tina Fey, it made me think a lot about my own dad. Tina Fey devotes an entire chapter - "That's Don Fey" - to her dad and an adventure she had with him whilst renting a wet vac from the grocery store.
So, this week has been a little busy because my mom has been here visiting us and getting her fill of Cee time. Last time she was here, Cee was just on the brink of taking some steps but hadn’t made that leap of faith into full-fledged walkdom yet. That didn’t stop us from going shoe shopping with Grammy while she was here, though. Back in early March, we fitted Cee with her first pair of high-tops:
Now since she’s walking, running, and basically being a human, she’s having tons o’ fun with Grammy. The three of us have been going out on the town while B works on his summer courses for work.
My mom brought some dresses I wore when I was a Wee Eee, and they are in fantastic shape thanks to 30 years of moth balls. (And BTW, if y’all have any tips for getting the smell out but protecting the semi-fragility of the clothes, I am all ears. Dr. Google says to make a vinegar solution but I’m nervous that then she’ll just smell like an old mothy pickle.) Cee has been wearing them around town, making her the cutest little gal who smells like an attic.
So that’s what I’ve been doing. Dressing my baby up and frolicking with my mom at stores that are normally outside of my price range. Today I learned that I love Talbots because I can go a size down there. Um, hello, new favorite store. (Don’t worry, Target, I still love you too, but y’know, it’s nice to see a number on the tag that doesn’t make me feel like I ate an entire cow for lunch. And to not be tempted for once with ceramic plates with mod owls all over them.)
Another fun thing happened this week! I ordered some business cards on which I call myself a freelance writer and a blogger. (I know.) A couple months back, I pitched a column to a local women’s publication in my town. And guess what? They actually accepted it! It’s going to be based on the parenting writing I do here. I figured that now I’m kinda legit and all I should start behaving as such and order some little cards.
And spend an arm and a leg at Talbots on fancy clothes.
Emily for hire. I’ll write you some words. (Don’t worry; the cards don’t say that.)
It’s no surprise that we liken newborns to sacks of sugar and hotdogs and tacos. (No? Just me?) They are as inanimate as various foodstuffs and their toes and ears just as delicious. We hold them up and admire them, but they’re not really humans because they lack the characteristics inherent to adults and even toddlers.
Then they learn to roll, walk around, and bump into things. Their ability to move is experimental and aimless. Without hindsight and foresight, they seem to volley from room to room simply because their muscles don’t want to atrophy. They are kind of like a worm that gets cut in half but whose parts still move around independent of each other because its nerves – not its brain – are dictating its movement.
These taco worms, they are not of our kind. That’s what makes them so wonderful but also so mind-numbingly infuriating. They look like humans but their actions* basically prove that they’re not. Their human-ness is slow to appear, but with a bit of faith and the requisite patience, it will come. One day, you’ll push that baby from your figurative loins once again, and instead of announcing your child’s sex, the doctor will declare, “Congratulations! It’s a human!”
*Ie., when they throw their entire bodies to the ground when they are not allowed to lick the bottom of your shoe. Not like I’ve been there before or anything.
Wee Cee became a human over the weekend. An honest-to-God human.
In our bedroom, there is pretty much always a glass of water on my bedside table that I keep around but don’t drink because that would be logical and logic and I have a complicated relationship. C is obsessed with this water, and I’m usually able to snatch it out of her hands before she manages to splatter it all over the room and somehow make one and a half cups seem like Sea World. Saturday, though, she got the water, dumped it all out, and then had the wherewithal to retrieve my purse and deposit it on top of the wet spot so that we would not see it. That sneaky little bugger was covering her tracks. This is real human behavior, my friends. The whole right and wrong concept? She’s got it.
Then, a little later on, she was playing with B in her room when he called to me, “She just did pretty much the sweetest thing I have ever seen her do.” Truth. She had taken a rock that she had found outside, pulled out his hand, put it in his hand, and then made him curl up his fingers around it so that he would know that it was his.
Tears? Oh, there were tears. Lots.
My girl is becoming a human. Please welcome her to our complex world full of lies and love. And wish us good luck, too. I think things will only get exponentially harder from here on out because raising a human is slightly more complex than raising a hotdog.
I have always liked thinking about the relative simplicity of early humans. I imagine that they lacked the need to organize their peers into little piles like we do today: best friends, colleagues, schoolmates, hated enemies, people they drank with, people they prayed with. There was no hustle and bustle to meet with the disparate groups at dumb meetings. All the human interaction our distant relatives needed could be found within their clans.
The clan just was. In the day-to-day task of survival, there was no time or necessity to look for others outside it who you could “identify” with better or who would support your idealized image of yourself. You were too busy inventing fire, not because you wanted to patent it, but because you needed it to survive. There was no “unfriending” if someone looked at you weird or said something that ran counter to your view of the fire. You needed your cavemates, so you coped with them no matter how they treated you.
Or you clubbed them. Same difference.
The irony of my view of early humanity is that life then wasn’t simple at all. People died young because their bodies were spent from a lifetime of toil and hardship. They were busy laying the groundwork for our contemporary society. They were making fire so we could progress to a time when attending power lunches was as compulsory as awaking with the sun.
I’m not here to compete with those early humans, though. I know my life is cushier and iPadier, but there is no need to apologize for that or repent that I was born in a time when I have the option to have an epidural when I deliver the one child I’ll ever have. We modern folk get into a pattern where we like to out-hardship each other. The wars fought between working moms and stay-at-home moms come to mind; there is constant banter between who has it tougher, when in actuality each set of circumstances presents its own challenges. Parenthood is never easy in any of its forms. And thus is humanity, no matter what century you’re born into.
Unlike the cavemen, we live in a time when we have a need to venture out of the tribes we’re born into to find our people – the people who add texture to our lives. It’s now largely safe to do so (or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. And our moms.) Much like the early nomads, we travel the Earth to look for the things and people that click for us and who make sense within the personae we try to craft for ourselves. We open our mouths and talk along the way so we can see if those we meet speak our language.
In my experience, they often don’t. It’s frustrating to look for a group that I can be a part of and then just get shut out again and again because I just don’t fit neatly within it. It’s not that their tribe is excluding me intentionally; the rejection is mutual because they don’t feel right to me either. Did those ancient humans even have this luxury of choosing confidantes and allies from a large pool?
But then, through trial and heartbreak and very literal searching, we find them: the people we can pour our hearts out to safely. They help us understand the complexities of this overwhelming world we’ve created, a world that’s moved beyond hunting and gathering and instead fills its days with status updates and Instagrammed omelettes. We don’t have to apologize for our quirks and foibles to them because they just get us. They understand the parts of us that we don’t even understand ourselves, and we both grow out of the experiences we have together. They challenge us in a nonconfrontational way to be our best selves.
These are our new, modern clans: the people we find who help us keep our paltry fires flickering even when the rain starts pouring. Our people are our families, yes, but they are also the kindred spirits we meet along the way. The coworker who becomes a friend when they catch you crying in the bathroom, the classmate you barely noticed at first but who eventually becomes your spouse, the person behind the screen who reads your story and tells you they love you for it.
We pick our people up in unexpected places and somehow form a community that our predecessors would identify as a tribe, a tribe that keeps the world small even as it expands around us.
Who are your people?
Since my blog stats are already at a super low right now*, I am going to go ahead and talk about a dream I had last night. There is nothing I could do to further estrange my readership, so I figure that now’s as good a time as ever to write a post that is the blogging equivalent of showing you pictures of people you don’t even know at a fundraiser or something.
*Seriously, though, thanks for sticking around. I’m still writing through it, and I hope to be on the other side of the doldrums soon.
Last night I dreamed that I was at a hospital waiting in a reception area for the results of a routine test that had been performed on me days before. I think it was probably a blood pressure exam or something humdrum like that. While I waited, B went to a drink machine to get a Coke. In his absence, a nurse came out to me with a pink and green book. She gave it to me and told me I was expecting twins and that one of them was for sure a boy. She could tell because he had a lot of hair. (I know.) I could look through the book to find more information on my babies. She told me all this out in the open, in front of other patients and with no confidentiality, which was odd to me even in the oh-it’s-totally-normal-that-my-husband-is-Kurt-Cobain reality of the dream. I asked her to stop talking so we could both wait for B to come back before she divulged more information that I was likely to forget or possess the wherewithal to convey to him. But she just led me to an exam room and left.
The exam room was just a huge, open warehousish space that was icy blue and separated with many curtain partitions. It had low ceilings and no windows. While I waited, I opened my purse and found a huge piece of raw beef that was in a Ziploc bag. I remembered that I had put it in my bag days earlier with the intent to throw it away. The bag was now punctured and leaking blood all over the contents of my purse. I threw it away in the exam room and decided to find a way to leave. When I left my partitioned cell, I noticed that all the teal blue equipment in the hospital was covered in splotches of blood too. So, dream me decided that my decision to leave was a good one because gross.
I woke up about then. My mind immediately went to the twins in the dream and how terrifying it would be if I were indeed pregnant (just to be 1000% clear with you, I’m NOT.) with not one new baby but two. Supes practical me started freaking out about where we would actually put these new humans if they arrived. Our apartment is small and we’re busting at the seams as C outgrows all her baby junk. Big girl carseat arrives this Friday and when I ordered it at Target.com I had half a mind to buy some training bras too.
Lying in bed, I probably chose to dwell on the practicality of housing two newborns rather than affording them – which would be the real issue we’d face – because it’s not as overwhelming. We won’t live in our apartment for more than another year, but I’m not sure we’ll ever be even modestly wealthy. Seriously, I don’t know if it would even be fiscally responsible for us to have another child. C’s cardiogram last month already wiped out the prospect of us going on a modest vacation this summer outside of the roadtrip to see family in Tennessee. You may have never heard this before, but kids are expensive.
Then I worried about how C would handle being an older sibling. READ: I worried about how I could handle being the parent to more than one child. The tens of you who read my blog know that I am pretty much obsessed with her. She is the best thing that ever happened to me and her eyelashes demand my attention at all times. And while I know in my mind that if I had another child, I would not love her or the new baby any less, I cannot imagine my heart growing any more to accommodate another child. It just doesn’t seem possible.
Yes yes yes, I know it would be possible, and in fact having another child would make me love C more. Love is not something that you run out of. It begets itself. But remember that the same brain that you’re trying to explain that to is one that dreams of rancid Ziplocked steaks leaking all over Subway Sub Club punch cards in her purse. That’s what we’re up against, folks.
I don’t even know. I fell back asleep pretty easily. For funsies, I took a pregnancy test this morning just to make sure my uterus is 100% empty. It was. And because I am totally logical, that made me sad. Anyone want to swap brains for a sec? I’ll throw in some spaghetti I made in the Crock Pot to sweeten the deal.
Likey me bloggy? Likey me Facey!
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I like the things.
I like the pretty things that are made by hand or bought at the store or are cheap or are expensive. Things are nice. I like to amass them and touch them and get all Gollum-y with them.
But then I forget about the things. When we lived in Korea, we bought lots of things. Namely, DVDs. Impromptu DVD stores would open up in vacant storefronts and B and I would buy so many that we we could barely carry them home. We would carry copies of Love, Actually and Full Metal Jacket between our teeth as we lumbered back to our apartment. When it was time to leave Korea, we put our hundreds of DVDs on a boat and shipped them back to the US.
Half of our hundreds of DVDs never made the trip. We had been back in the US for a couple months when we got a letter from the USPS saying that a remnant of the box was found on a freight carrier and could we please describe the contents of the box? Erm, hundreds of DVDs? Possibly pirated?
You can’t take the DVDs with you, but you can remember the tiny storefronts that would open and shill an entire shipping container of pirated DVDs in the span of a day. You remember how you wanted to kill your husband that day because *once again* he didn’t rinse off his breakfast plate, but somehow bonding over your mutual love of Charlie Chaplin in a non-air conditioned store made you remember that your love was stronger than a congealed egg yolk.
We like the things, but the experiences are what we take with us. My mom always told me this when I was growing up and Mother’s Day and her birthday rolled around, and I’d be like fhjhgkjhkdlsahgdkjfgkjd I want to buy you the thiiiiiings!!! She’d kindly reply that things are nice but she just wanted a guaranteed moment when she could be with us.
It’s all true! I hate admitting that my mom was right (I enjoy deluding myself into believing that I am the smartest of all the people and I need no help…lulz), but those moments of bonding are what you take with you. They don’t get lost in a freighter because you chose the cheapest packing tape available.
It’s more of a lesson for me than for B that occasions should be celebrating with doing rather than getting. He’s a Spartan guy who just wants time with his best girl Wee Cee (and maybe some fancy teas and Alexander McQueen underpants. I can’t even.) The perfect gift for his second Father’s Day is a custom love coupon book from Datevitation that I made for him online, filled with outings and dates he can cash in for special C time. I picked from over 350 dates and activities for them to enjoy together, and I customized the text to include inside jokes and stuff that we imagine C to be saying. Once I was done making the book on Datevitation’s website, they printed it out in the good ol’ US of A and shipped it to me.
Datevitation is a family business committed to helping couples treasure the small (and big) moments of their lives. The illustrations in their books are completely customizable for any pairing: you can make a coupon book for your parent, your kid, your best friend, or your romantic partner. Books start at $20 so it makes for a thoughtful yet economical gift.
HOWEVS, since the lovely folks at Datevitation are so groovy, they are offering a special discount for you guys! Use the code WAITINGBLOG for $10 off your purchase in May or June. That means you can get a one-of-a-kind gift for Father’s Day (or any occasion) starting at $10! (True story: I spent $7 on a greeting card for B’s birthday last week. Let that sink in a little. SEVEN DOLLARS PLUS TAX for a piece of cardboard that I wasn’t even wild about. Datevitation books are an excellent alternative to overpriced greeting cards filled with words that are not your own.)
The order cut-off date for guaranteed delivery by Father’s Day is June 6 so make sure to get your order in before then.
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What is the best activity-gift someone has ever given you?
Tonight I am inspired by my daughter’s little shoulderblades.
B and I have been spelling out B-A-T-H so much that soon it will be a code for nothing and just another way to tell her that it’s Time. We tell her it’s time for a bath and she runs straight to the tub. Even though she doesn’t need to, she bathes every day because why not? Babies know simple pleasures better than anyone else.
I count 1-2-3-4-5 when she stands up in the tub. She’s usually down by 3. It shouldn’t surprise me anymore when she follows my rules, but I’m still awestruck when she does what she’s supposed to do. Watching her learn and retain is miraculous. Once she didn’t even exist. Then she did. Then she was born. Then she started understanding us. Then she started minding us.
Sitting alongside the tub, I like to get right up in her face and examine her profile. With her pacifier out, I can see her lips and appreciate her jaw when it’s not tightened by the constant sucking. She usually splashes me away because I get too close. Sometimes she smiles under the paci and her eyes beam.
She stretches to get to the rubber duck. Her tiny shoulderblades flex back and forth, a motion that illustrates her body working in harmony. I remind myself to change the lightbulb in the bathroom so I can have more light to see her move.
It is her custom to call out DA-DA when she’s done with her bath. He comes in and dries her while I get her toothbrush ready. She sucks out all the toothpaste before any serious brushing occurs. I act annoyed but knowing that those teeth are connected to those shoulderblades diffuses me. She runs buck naked back to her room. She just learned to run so we let her.
The running, the shoulderblades, the beaming eyes: they are all my C.
At some point, my daily well-being got tied up in writing. I have learned through this weekly exercise of keeping a blog that I feel a lot better when I’m making words. The last time I wrote nearly as much was when I was in school. As a liberal arts student, I wrote papers about literature, literary theory, philosophy, and psychology. Getting some of those papers out – namely the ones about The Pearl, which I only vaguely understood – felt like passing a very large, hard turd (sorry Mom, I know you don’t like me saying that kind of thing). At the end of each week I felt like I had accomplished something, though, even if those papers had no original or succinct thought behind them. I had basically eaten ideas and then let them pass through me. I had nothing new to say about them. Some of my papers were the equivalent of Ex-Lax.
I have had kind of a hard week. I haven’t really wanted to write anything because I’ve been overly-critical of the words I might form even before I said them. While I was out walking with C today, I thought about writing about all the stupid t-shirts I got in Korea. Then my self-loathing kicked in right on cue and I hated myself for even considering the idea of polluting the hallowed ground that is my personal blog with such idiocy. I don’t know who I’m trying to perform for; my scarily serious grad school professors are now putting the fear of Derrida into kids nine years younger than me and I have no reason to try to impress them anymore. I’m now nursing a bit of a headache that may or may not be exacerbated by the ammonia fumes I inhaled when I performed an angry floor mopping after dinner. Don’t mop the floor when you’re already feeling dopey. Do something easier like light dusting. Or eat pita chips and York Pieces.
HOWEVER, I’m writing through my malaise. That last sentence? Part of the write-through-it. It’s the roughage. I don’t want to write, but I’m going to and I need to. I’m giving myself a pass on editing my words and judging them too much. Sometimes late at night when I can’t sleep I look at old things I wrote a long time ago. I totally do. Brad Pitt may not watch his own movies but I read my old blog posts because that’s just me. Sometimes I cringe at the things I wrote and I’m not kind to the Emily who wrote them. I’m done with that for today. I’m not here to impress anyone, namely myself. I am just writing because it gives me some leverage on my sanity.
That said, stay tuned for some funny shirts from Korea. They are totally coming.
Even though Sunday was my second officially-sanctioned Mothers Day as a mom, it was effectively my first one. Last year, C was only about five weeks old on Mothers Day and I had no energy or desire to celebrate. No one was sleeping, no one was eating well, no one felt like a human. I was paying my dues in the New Baby Club and stocking up on the experiences that would make me truly relish the return of sleep. If this was motherhood, I’d take a pass on celebrating it.
I had something to toast to this year. I celebrated my survival by sipping my coffee and eating pancakes B prepared for me. I sneaked a Dove chocolate between them. It was melty and perfect. I celebrated while lounging on the sofa and watching C and B screen an episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood on YouTube. I celebrated by fighting the urge to call and apologize for my tardiness when I ran long at my solo date to the coffee shop. I celebrated by showing B how to make fish tacos for us all for dinner. He only cut his finger once when he sliced the avocados.
We put C in her crib at 6:45. She woke up around 9:15, crying from a bad dream. She rarely wakes in the middle of the night anymore so I jumped at the chance to see her and be there with her. B and I had been discussing only a couple days ago how nowadays, we simply put her away at 6:45. We go about our after-hours routines and have to remind ourselves that she is indeed in the other room sleeping and living. By the time we turn our own lights out at 11, we have almost forgotten we’re parents.
She cried out and I held her. She nestled into my chest and I smelled her head. She’s a lanky baby but she is still so slight in my arms. Mere months before, it would have taken hours to pull her together and meet her needs. On Sunday night, it took no more than ten minutes. By 9:25, she was back in her crib.
I felt sad. At some point, this all got kind of easy. It made me pine for the days where I was regularly put through the fire and earning my keep as the parent of an infant. It made me sad for my own parents that they know exactly what it’s like to be needed intensely and then, in the blink of an eye, just standing by in the other room waiting for me to cry out. All we want is to be needed longer.
Parenthood is heartbreaking.
Let’s drink mimosas.
This will be what I call a Grandmother Post, as in you may have to be C’s grandmother to be interested. We are going to talk about her diet.
I am the proud owner of a terrific eater. And yes, I own my child. I lug that incredibly leggy toddler around like an expensive purse. Only I don’t put my tube of lipstick in her mouth like it’s the little zipper pouch inside the bag.
C eats really well. She has yet to go on a macaroni and cheese hunger strike, which is good because my husband has some strange aversion to the boxed variety and starts retching whenever he sees an ad for it on TV. I don’t even know. I ceased making separate meals for her once she turned one and now she eats little bitty portions of whatever we’re having. This is a win-win situation because I don’t have to work at making an extra set of kid food, and I’m more motivated to make something halfway healthy, ie. no mayonnaise sandwiches. Not that I ever ate mayo sandwiches to begin with, but you know. Small victories and all. I also never murdered anyone.
*Pats self on back.*
Most mornings, she has yogurt with fruit and cereal. For awhile, I was buying her little readimade fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt cups because one of those super couponing people gave me a TON of coupons while I was staring at the massive yogurt selection at the grocery store. Seriously. She was one of those people who carries around massive file binders full of coupons at the store and buys like 74 rolls of Bounty and 38 boxes of frozen garlic bread and ends up paying $2.75 for her entire purchase. But who am I to judge because she gave me a fat stack of coupons for a brand I occasionally buy, claiming that she only buys the kind with M&Ms. Can’t judge her for that. Anyway, we finally ran out of coupons, and since I’m not going to clip them myself because I’m too busy thinking about blog posts I could write about Bob the Builder and how one of the little songs on that show reminds me of “Like a Virgin”, we are back to good ol’ plain yogurt mixed with Cherrios and blueberries I’ve cooked down a little into a thick, syrupy consistency. She likes it.
Lunch and dinner menus are pretty interchangeable. She usually has something proteiny like peanut butter, beans, or a little pork or beef if we have it around. She likes whole wheat bread, pasta, cucumber, tomatoes, strawberries, chickpeas, and cheese. AND BANANAS. Oh Lordy, does she like bananas! She really likes pesto, so sometimes I spread some on a piece of toast and put some sundried tomatoes on it and melt a little cheese. Yum. I may or may not totally bogart her meals those days.
The best thing about eating the same thing as her is that it gives me the excuse to buy really good, high-quality, grass-fed, free-range, ubiquitously-hyphenated meats. I’m pretty sure I’ve told you before about how we live literally 45 minutes from the largest pork packing plant in the world. And I’m not exaggerating. The entire world. So suffice it to say, there is a ton of scary cheap genetically-modified pork in these parts. We instead pay a bit more for the good stuff at the farmer’s market because you can’t put a price tag on unknowingly eating pig snouts. We talk to the guy who raises it and feel good knowing that we’re supporting him and not putting nasty hormoney animals that lead miserable existences in our bodies.
Salads have made a major resurgence in our lives as of late. B dislikes many salads so I imagine salads and macaroni got together and bullied him when he was a teen. What an after-school special that would have made. C likes salads, though, and she often joins us when we eat baby spinach sprinkled with goat cheese, cranberries, and walnuts. I put a little vinaigrette on it and she om-noms it. She also likes spinach sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic, since she’s a gourmet and all. Or a freak of nature? Let’s stick with gourmet.
Snacks are where this child really shines. Sometimes I fear that her tongue isn’t working properly because some of the things she really shouldn’t like are her faves. B and I are obsessed with wasabi peas because we like to pretend we’re exotic and fancy when we eat them. We usually class-up our feeding frenzy by dropping most of them on the floor. C inevitably gets them and goes.to.town. She licks them and swirls them around in her mouth. She is also a big fan of limes and lemons. The tarter, the better. She sucks on them and then usually comes to ask for more once she’s efficiently removed a couple layers of enamel off her seven baby teeth.
B and I don’t pretend to have anything to do with C’s very open palate. We are both equally amazed at mealtimes when she actually eats most of what is put in front of her. It will definitely be a confusing and sad day for us when she learns that Dora the Explorer yogurt exists and refuses to eat anything else.
What else should I offer to her? What are some strange foods your kids like?