Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Scanted Plant

Behold the unfortunate-looking symbol of one modern woman’s struggle to reconcile her inner feminist with her outer stay-at-home-momishness.  This plant somehow managed to sit on our kitchen windowsill looking like a bomb casualty for almost a year.  When I was working, I delegated “plant care” to Max in an attempt to chip away at the mountain of household responsibilities that sat on my shoulders.  While he did consistently water the plants each week (good job sweetie!), this orchid’s journey from “thing of beauty” to, well, “thing,” began under his tutelage.   However, that is no excuse for my behavior.  I let this poor, busted bloom become a victim of my identity crisis.

When I left my job, Max pointed out, and I agreed, that I should become fully responsible for the household duties that we used to share, including plant care.  It was a totally fair request since he would continue to slave away at work to fund my shopping, personal trainer, botox and bon bons.*  However there was something about being completely in charge of a long list of mundane tasks at home that made me cringe.  I feared that if I completed the list each week, and completed it well, I would morph into a soulless 1950’s zombie housewife.  My only aspiration would be making sure the ladies of my bridge club would be able to see their beehives reflecting off of my perfectly polished silver, and I’d have a nervous breakdown if they couldn’t.  So I waged a slow and quiet rebellion against the Feminine Mystique that threatened to invade my identity: I refused to fix the orchid situation, GASP!

For a while, I continued to water it but stopped short of actually separating out the orgy of plant species that so wrongly cohabitated in one pot.  My lame effort to stink at plant care led to the realization that if I wanted to be the real deal I needed to smash that potted mess to pieces all over the kitchen floor.  I’d show the world that I am a member of the free-thinking, graduate-degree-holding, badass womyn’s club. Ugh, but if I did that then I’d have to bend over with a dust pan to clean it all up and that would suck.  So I said screw it and just decided to ignore the plant altogether.  No pruning, no watering, no love. By neglecting this one plant, I was failing to completely fulfill my housewifely duties and could therefore hold on to my identity as a strong, successful, educated woman.  And so, this now brown, ugly plant stood on the windowsill for visitors and passersby to see as a testament to my feminist chutzpa.

Until, one day, I realized two things.  First, taking on all the household duties was not an affront to my feminist predecessors.  Creating a fulfilling life, which for me will include a period of exclusive family focus (and the household duties that come with it) bookended by years of career focus is, in my opinion, living out the life of choice for which these feminists fought so hard.  The second and clearly more profound realization was that I was a moron and all this dead plant did was make me look like a dirty slob.  So I threw it in the trash and bought a shiny new fittonia plant at Home Depot.  Isn’t it pretty?

*No, I am not serious.

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Momamasochists

My dear friend Kate and I have something in common besides being moms of three-year-old twins.  We’re insane.  For our kids’ birthday parties, we both decided to completely pass off the work to one of the 18,000 kiddie gyms on the Upper West Side.  They plan and run the party, they provide the space, they order the pizza and juice boxes, they make the goody bags, they clean up and all we have to do is sign the credit card receipt.  Piece of cake, right?  Not if you are a momamasochist like us.

Kate and I both could not leave well enough alone, and we decided that even though the gyms provide the birthday cakes, we would make them ourselves.  I figured it would be fun and it would probably save some money, so off I went to two supermarkets and Michael’s to get all the supplies.  Yup, three different stores where I spent over $100.  Since the cost saving objective was out the window, I said screw it and decided to make one cake for each kid.  At 8:00 PM on the night before the party, I started to decorate the cakes – a skull pirate and a princess.  The pirate actually wasn’t too difficult and came out pretty decent, but the princess…the damn princess.

As I decorated the princess cake, things seemed to be going well except for a few minor details along the way.  Here were the small issues I encountered:

  1. The sleeveless, v-neck dress I drew on her looked like it was from Loehmann’s.
  2. Her hair was poofed a la Peggy Bundy.
  3. The black icing I used for her eyes and eyelashes was a little too thick and runny.
  4. I messed up her lips and attempted to fix it by adding layers of pink until they were, shall we say voluptuous.
  5. Speaking of voluptuous, this princess needed a breast reduction.

I was so razor focused on getting all of the tiny details on this cake right that I didn’t step back and actually look at the whole thing until about an hour into decorating.  Based on my list of issues above, can you guess what I saw when I finally did take a moment to admire my creation?  You are correct, instead of a princess, I had made a cougar.  Not the four-legged, furry, lethal kind.  The two-legged, furry, 48-year-old, lethal kind.  I needed to fix this, and fast before Addy’s third birthday party was ruined by my old, slutty cake.  I did the best that I could do at midnight with my eyes crossing and my hands shaking, and shaved a few years off of the poor hag before heading to bed much later than I had planned.  It’s amazing I didn’t have nightmares that night because this is what slept in my fridge:

In the end, the kids loved the cakes and I felt I had done my part to make their third birthday, which they are sure to never remember, unforgettable.

Last weekend, we went to Kate’s kids’ birthday party and saw this homemade treasure chest cake that she slaved over as well:

Reflecting on our creations, she asked this question: is it extreme love or plain insanity that possessed us to make these cakes?  The answer is a little of both.

Negotiation Abomination

I am told that one of the many developments in the third year of life is the ability to negotiate.  When your kids turn three, suddenly your house turns into a Middle Eastern bazaar.

Kid: “Can I have a cookie?”

Parent: “Not until you clean up your toys.”

Kid: “How about I clean up one toy and then you give me the cookie?”

Parent: “No, clean up all of your toys and then I’ll give you the cookie.”

Kid: “How about I clean up two toys and then you give me the cookie?”

Parent: “No, clean up all of your toys and then I’ll give you the cookie.”

Kid: “How about I clean up no toys, scream at the top of my lungs for a half hour and then pee on the carpet, eh?”

Parent: “Fine, have the cookie.”

As this phenomenon has unfolded in my house, one thing has become abundantly clear.  My kids suck at negotiating.  I will never, ever hire them to represent me in any business deal or trial.  They will sell me down the river all day long.  If you don’t believe me, here are a few examples of what they regularly do to themselves.

1.  The Carrot Conundrum

We were sitting at the dinner table the other night at the end of the meal and Addy wanted ice cream for dessert.  I told her she could have ice cream if she ate two more baby carrots.  She replied, “No FOUR more baby carrots.” Not wanting her to feel like I was an easy kill, I replied “No, FIVE more carrots.”  “OK” she said, and that was that.  She ate the five carrots.  Such a sucker.

2.  The Peanut Potato Chips

While eating lunch at the café at school on Monday, one of Addy and Zack’s classmates came over to say “hi.”  She was enjoying a bag of potato chips and my kids instantly wanted in on the snacktion.  “Mommy, can we buy those potato chips too?” they asked.  “Not until you finish your lunch, but if you eat nicely we can get them.” I replied.  “No,” Zack said “we can’t get them because last time you said that they have nuts and I’m allergic to peanuts.”  Bam, discussion over.  Potato chips were off the table.  And what’s really nuts is that Zack doesn’t have a peanut allergy!  Just kidding, he does…but I never said that those chips have nuts in them.  He made that up for the sole purpose of sabotaging himself!

3.  The Bedtime Battle

Zack was being a “baby jerk”© at bedtime a few weeks ago, refusing to get in bed, whining, screaming and convulsing on the floor.  We tried multiple approaches to get him to calm down and go to sleep, but he refused so we entered threat stage.  “Get in bed or we’re going to take away Bla Bla.*” we said.  “No, take away Bla Bla AND my camera!” he yelled.  “If you don’t get in bed in five seconds, we’re going to take away all of your toys!” we threatened.  “No, take away all my toys and throw them in the garbage!” he spat back.  We decided to end it there for fear that his next move would be an offer to have us cut off his pinky finger.  I guess, technically this is an example of him using an out of the box tactic to win the negotiation but it was risky, very risky.

So if you see a commercial on at 3 AM advertising the law firm of Addy & Zack, Esq. do not, I repeat, do not hire them to represent you in the Verizon Wireless class action law suit settlement you just got an email about.  Knowing them, you’ll end up owing $5 million rather than collecting the $0.32 that Verizon overcharged you back in 1998.

© Z, 2011 (My friend Andrew coined this brilliant phrase and I use it at least three times a week.)

*Bla Bla is Zack’s favorite stuffed animal

Getting Engaged…Six Years After the Wedding

I’ve been hearing and reading a lot lately about the importance of being present, particularly with respect to one’s children.  Kids grow up so fast, everyone says, but you can slow the speeding bullet by putting aside the smart phone, pausing the mental list making and truly engaging with your child for a little bit of time each day.  While you engage, notice things. Look at their sweet faces, marvel at the funny things they say, really talk to them. Take some time, take a deep breath and take them in so you don’t find yourself distraught, years from now, wondering where their childhood went.

But this post isn’t about noticing our kids.  It’s about a recent dinner I had with my husband out at a restaurant on a random weeknight.  It would be cool if I told you that we totally lived it up – went to our favorite restaurant downtown, went clubbing, got wasted.  But that didn’t happen.  Instead, we went to a decent restaurant a few blocks away, talked about tantrums, budgets and work, got some froyo and were home by 10:00. While I’d like to think a fly on the wall of our dinner would have been enthralled by the analysis of our monthly Amex bills, it probably would have fallen asleep and landed in the salsa.

However, for a fleeting moment in the middle of the very grown-up dinner conversation, I was entirely present. For that short moment, I tuned out whatever we were discussing, really looked at my husband’s face and thought, “He is sweet and good and adorable and I am lucky.” My heart felt full and I was happy and grateful…and then I was zapped back into helping him figure out how much we can afford to spend on an apartment.

I’ve been thinking about that moment a lot over the last few days. It made me realize that the importance of being present doesn’t only apply to time with my kids, it applies to time with my husband too.  I make a real effort to spend quality, truly engaged time with Addy and Zack but I don’t do this as much with Max.  Sure, we spend tons of time together and have lots of fun, but rarely do I take a minute to sit and stare into his eyes.  I am guilty of devoting lots of words to complaining about the unimportant things he does wrong and few to telling him how truly blessed I feel to be his wife and the mother of his children. Most weeknights, instead of lying in bed focusing in on each other and talking about things that go deeper than budgets, we watch Homeland, talk about our plans for the week and then pass out.  None of this is to say we don’t love each other, because we truly do. We have just become victims of the parent trap – the trap that distracts us with logistics and worries and to do lists and leaves little room for just being together.

Now that I have had this seemingly simple realization, what do I do?  How do I remember each day to look at his sweet face, marvel at the funny things he says, really talk to him?  When can I take some time, take a deep breath and take him in so I don’t find myself distraught, years from now, wondering where the magic went?  Life is crazy, and it’s batsh-t crazy when you have kids, but it will fly by right over your head if you don’t take time to truly engage with what’s most important to you.  So while I’m really liking engaging with you so far, blog, I gotta go do some engaging with my main squeeze.

Waiting for the Bomb to Drop…

There are two reasons why I am counting the seconds until one of my three-year-olds shouts out the word “F—K!”  The first is that no matter how many times I look into their adorable, innocent faces and the reality and sanctity of motherhood blows my mind to pieces, I keep accidentally cursing in front of them.  I wasn’t always a potty mouth.  I think it really started in my first job after college, where I worked 80 hours a week at an investment bank surrounded by a bunch of potty mouthed men.  I think if my office was censored and a beep went off every time someone cursed, it would have sounded more like an intensive care unit than a bank.  In fact, at my going away dinner when I left that job to head to business school, my group printed me a T-shirt that said, simply, “FYYFF”.  That stands for “F— you, you f—ing f—.”  It was their way of saying we love you and good luck at school.  I swear.

The second reason why I think I will hear a tiny-voiced f-bomb any minute is that my kids are obsessed with music.  For better or for worse, they’re not obsessed with Raffi or Barney.  They’re obsessed with Billboard’s Top 40.  Normally, this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but what makes it dangerous is they know how to operate Spotify on my iphone better than I do.  Just the other day, I walked into the kitchen to find Addy and Zack having a dance party while Adam Levine and B.O.B. serenaded them with the explicit version of Payphone (one of their favorite songs in its clean form).  They were jumping up and down and giggling and having a blast, seemingly oblivious to the monsoon of foul language streaming into their ears.  If I were deaf, I would have sworn they were bouncing around to the theme song to Sesame Street.  It was then that I realized that Spotify’s gotta go.

While my potty mouth has certainly toned down over the years and I’ve since deleted Spotify from my phone, eliminating my kids’ unfettered access to a wonderland of bad words, I know the day is coming.  All I have to say is please don’t let the bomb drop at school or in front of other parents.  If that happens, I will be so f—ing embarrassed.

What Color Is Your Para-Shoot Me!

Aside from being disheartened with my nanny situation, being disheartened with my work situation was the other big reason behind my momamorphosis from working mom to stay-at-home mom.  The truth is, I have always been a big nerd.  In first grade, I put my head down on my desk and cried for an hour the first time I didn’t get 100% on a spelling test (and the gumball that came along with it).  I recently read that sad little story in a note from my teacher, Mrs. Randall, which my mom had saved.  My mom thinks my teacher shared it to show how smart and dedicated to learning I was.  I think it was a polite plea to send me to therapy.  In any event, this need to always get an “A” (and gorge on candy) has pretty much shaped my life to this day in both good and bad ways.

On the good side, I’ve always loved school and done well.  On the bad side, the only passion I developed in my 19 years of education from Kindergarten through an MBA is a passion for getting good grades.  I never gravitated heavily toward a particular subject and I was undecided with respect to my major in college for the first year-and-a-half – that’s a long time.   I ultimately chose finance and accounting because it is what my dad does, I was good at the academics of it and it would allow me to get a job that would pay enough to cover NYC rent after graduation, not because it really spoke to me.

My first job in real estate at an investment bank fell in my lap through a contact and my course was set.  Work followed the same pattern as school – it was the positive feedback from bosses and colleagues that drove me, not the content of the work.  For a long time, it didn’t strike me that there was anything wrong with this kind of value system.  Doing a good job at work felt good, I appeared to have a successful career to the outside world and somehow those things made me content.  But then everything changed when Addy and Zack came along.  Suddenly, the “good jobs”, the pats on the back and the titles meant nothing to me compared to the little smiles and giggles that awaited me at home.  I increasingly felt that I only really wanted to be leaving those sweet faces each morning if something more profound was happening where I was going.  To me, profound meant contributing a substantial share of the household income, impacting other people’s lives in a meaningful way or doing something that truly engaged me, made me feel more alive, and therefore made me a better version of myself and a better mother and wife.  Because none of this was happening when I walked out that door each morning (and because the nanny situation was less than ideal), I made the leap and resigned.

Staying at home is not the end goal for me though.  Finding that perfect, “have-it-all” state as a mom is tricky and “have-it-all” means something different for every individual.  For some, having it all means being able to stay at home with the kids 100% of the time.  For others, being able to have kids and dominate a demanding job is the end-all be-all.  For me, it’s something in between.  But before I can figure out what ratio of family to work is my ideal, I need to delve deeper into what kind of work truly deserves to be a piece of the “all” I want to have.  I now understand that the work part of my equation isn’t just about a paycheck or a breather from the kids or a pat on the back from grown-ups.  It has to be more meaningful in some way so that years from now, when my family and I reflect on the time I spent away from them to work, we can all be proud of what I was doing and why I was doing it.

In the meantime, I’m settling in to an environment where my bosses are three feet tall and the feedback I get is mostly whining and crying that I’m not working fast enough.  But that’s OK because I’m passionate about the content.  🙂