Leaving on a Jet Plane

I didn’t think I could look forward to vacation as much now that I’m not working as I did when I just needed to unplug from the corporate world. But man, I’m looking forward to our trip this week.

We’re headed to New England to visit the family. In some circles, this type of family “reunion” of sorts would not be considered vacation. But my sister and I grew up in the South, far away from my parents’ parents and their siblings. So every summer we packed ourselves into the car for the 13 hour drive or pinned on our airline wings to fly alone (now that I’m a parent, I don’t know how my mother ever did this) to visit the family for a few weeks. There was a pool, a pond, cousins, the best coffee ice cream in the world, beach trips, water skiing, tubing, hide and seek, clam cakes, clam boils, dress-up plays my cousin, sister and I would put on for Grandma and Grandpa, tire swings, movie nights, endless afternoons with a good book, shopping with the aunts and the comfort of family.

These yearly trips taught me that distance between family is not defined by the miles that separate you, a lesson that has been especially helpful now that the hubby, peanut and I live more than 350 miles away from our parents and siblings; that quiet spaces can lead to quiet minds; that food, moments and time deserve equal amounts of savoring; and that crazy ain’t so bad when it’s shared through a bloodline.

And so we head off this week to introduce peanut to the family. Although, the closer the trip gets, the more I fear it won’t be much of a “vacation.” With a baby in tow, I’m packing a lot of extra baggage, both physical (how could one little guy need so much stuff?!) and mental (routine outlines in my head, worries about peanut ruining something valuable, worries about how peanut will adjust). But I know that he will love the wide open spaces, playing in the pool and getting loved on by family.

And after a few deep breaths and a glass of wine, so will I.

The Time of Your Life

Not since Dirty Dancing has a summer been so full of “Baby!”

This winter, I realized that between April and Labor Day, I knew 8 couples who were expecting. That’s a lot of babies! So far, beautiful Natalie, little Lexie, adorable Liam and cutie Charles have arrived. In the next few weeks, two more munchkins are expected to join this brood.

All this pregnancy is making me crave ice cream again. At this time last year, I was three weeks away from my due date and feeling pretty good. Sure, there was the rib peanut liked to use as a foot rest, checking the mail was the most exercise I could handle, and did I mention I was nine months pregnant in the South? As some of these mommies are approaching their due dates and experiencing those first few weeks of motherhood, I thought I’d share a little mommy wisdom, you know, the kind you don’t get in the books.

What the books don’t tell you about the emotional roller coaster that you’re on the last few weeks of pregnancy:

Week 37: I am really enjoying pregnancy. I think I’ll miss being pregnant once peanut arrives. It’s been such an exciting time.

Week 38: Honey, we can’t leave the house because nothing fits anymore but this one shirt and I’ve already sweat through it twice this week. I think if I wash it one more time it might fall apart. Do we have any more ice cream?

Week 39: OHMYGOD I am so not ready to have this baby. What happens when he’s 16 and misses curfew? How will I handle that? Dammit, I can’t even have a panic attack without having to pee. Help push me out of bed.

Week 40: Any second now! I’m so excited! What do you mean I’m not really dilating yet?

Week 40 and 4 days: My house is immaculate, I’m trying every trick in the book, including eating the eggplant parmigiana at Scalini’s, my bag is packed, why am I still pregnant?

Week 40, 4 days and 10 minutes: How will I know how to take care of this child? If he stays inside at least I know he’ll be fed and taken care of. I can’t possibly mess that up…I’ve been doing a pretty decent job the last 40 weeks, 4 days and 10 minutes. Maybe I don’t want him to come out.

Week 40, 4 days and 11 minutes: Seriously, when is this baby coming out? I’m going to be pregnant forever. It will be discovered that I’m not really pregnant, that this is some unique, freak disease where I will feel, look and behave pregnant for the rest of my life. I will be a marvel of modern science…and permanently pregnant.

Week 41: We’re getting induced! We’ll have a baby soon…

Week 41 and 2 days (yes that translates into 30 hours of labor): PEANUT’S FINALLY HERE!!

What the books don’t tell you about labor and delivery:

* Labor can be REALLY boring.
* It’s only magical and wonderful when it’s over and a slimy little bundle is screaming on your belly (before that, it’s LABOR – it ain’t called that for nothin’).
* Make friends with your nurses so that when the epidural has been turned down too low and you’re screaming at your husband that you in no way wanted a natural childbirth and your midwife is in with another patient she will physically find the anesthesiologist for you.
* After several hours of labor and more internal exams in a day than you’ve had through your whole pregnancy, pooping on the table will start to rank low on your list of worries (so stop worrying about it!).
* Hospital food tastes damn good after 30 hours of labor and no solid food in 48 hours.

What the books don’t tell you about the first few weeks:

* Lanolin cream should be used right away, before you need it. Please ladies, trust me on this one.
* Your belly will be foreign to you. This bump that had become so beautiful to you, that you and your family touched non-stop, that had a life of it’s own will suddenly be big, flabby, squishy and altogether strange. I refused to touch mine for several days.
* You won’t (and if you do, please keep it to yourself) fit into regular clothes for awhile, but your maternity clothes will all fit differently based on the new squishy belly.
* The swelling gets worse in the first few days after delivery…as if I thought my ankles could get any bigger. Don’t worry it gets better. The day I realized my feet looked normal, I hiked up my pajama pants and tried on every single pair of heels in my closet. My PJs never looked better.

And to think we’re now approaching the one year mark — I can’t believe it. Peanut will be 11 months old next week and the whole pregnancy thing seems so long ago. So I suppose that’s my biggest nugget of wisdom — in a few months/days/weeks (depending on where you are in this crazy cycle), you won’t remember your life without your little one. Okay, you’ll remember it and miss some things, but you wouldn’t trade this absolutely wonderful being that looks at you with such love and joy for any of it.

Plus, you’ll finally be able to drink again and due to your 9 month+ alcohol abstinence, you’ll be a really cheap date, even if you’re still in your PJs, unshowered and on your couch at 8pm.

Good luck, mamas! Welcome to the club!

Martha, Martha, Martha

I have always enjoyed a good craft project. I blame it on my years in Brownies, summer day camp and my mother. There wasn’t a sleepover or party my sister and I hosted as kids that did not include a craft project. There was my birthday sleepover when I was in the fifth grade where we made sachets that could be hung on your closet door. There was the Christmas we made our friends and teachers make-up bags out of cloth place mats. There were the hand-made Christmas ornaments. I was always slightly embarrassed by this — we didn’t do crafts at other people’s houses — but then many, many years later, I ran into an old classmate who commented that she always loved coming to sleepovers at our house because of the crafts.

During college and those early adult years, I didn’t have time for hand-made gifts, and after all, I had a real job. I could just BUY a gift. The slippery slope back into craft world began when my sister got married a couple of years ago. As a shout out to our childhood party past, I created craft time at the bridal shower I threw — make your own wine charms while I pour you a mimosa. Now that I’ve had a child, it appears that the crafting gene is kicking in hard core.

A few months ago, I had this “brilliant” idea to make for Christmas gifts (which I can’t disclose here since some of you who read this may well be receiving them!). And now, with peanut’s first birthday quickly approaching, I’m in full on craft mode making decorations. My dining room table is buried under construction paper, pipe cleaner, glue sticks (that my mother still puts in our Christmas stockings (that she made) each year) and scissors. I even made a special trip to Michael’s this morning.

Why? Will my peanut remember them? No. But I will. Perhaps it’s a mother’s prerogative to control the commemoration of a day where we had absolutely no control just a year prior, where we were simply following the lead of our bodies, our doctors and our midwives. Perhaps it’s my way of focusing on something else for the next month instead of the fact that my little peanut isn’t so little anymore. Perhaps it’s my way of having the party I want while I still can (you know, before peanut is old enough to demand a Spider Man cake that I’ll attempt to make (badly) or all things Thomas the Train). Or, heaven help me, maybe I just like crafts (gasp!).

Well then, just call me Martha (my gal pal I’ll call “Queen Bee in DC” has for years). Better yet, just call me “mom” after the woman who taught me everything I really need to know about this gig, including that you can’t really have too many glue sticks.

Mommies Don’t Get Sick Days

How being a stay-at-home-mom is different from working (this is certainly not a complete list):

* I don’t have to look nice for my boss. He appreciates my work no matter what I’m wearing.

* The hours are much longer now – if you think a Blackberry doesn’t give you peace, try the Ferber method.

* The commute is much shorter, but leaving the house now requires one extra hour for packing the diaper bag, changing the baby’s diaper one more time, loading him into the car seat, remembering you left something on the counter, unloading the baby from the car seat to bring him back in to pick up what you left on the counter, running back out to the car, loading the baby back into the car seat, remembering you left something else inside and debating whether it’s worth going back for, deciding it’s not, then finally leaving because you only have 1.5 hours before peanut needs to eat AGAIN!

* No annual reviews, just daily kisses to let you know you’re doing a bang-up job!

* Lunch hour — hahahaha!! And liquid lunch has taken on a whole new meaning.

* No paycheck, no commission, no benefits. (Daily kisses, giggles and new “tricks” make up the new payment package.)

* No sick days

And so it was yesterday that I had to call the hubby to come home from work to sit with peanut while I went to the doctor’s office for a tetanus shot courtesy of the nice slice to the finger I gave myself the night before making dinner. Between a terribly sore finger (no stitches, but I think that’s because the liquid bandage we used on it after an hour of bleeding simply glued the sucker shut) and a sore arm from the shot and the relief after spending all morning worrying whether the finger was infected or the shot would be bad for the baby since I’m still nursing, I was ready to call it in for the rest of the day.

But no rest for the weary. Hubby headed back to work and peanut and I went about our business. Luckily, he took a longer nap than usual, so mama indulged a bit and had one herself (ah, naptime, add that to the SAHM benefit category). In the beginning, naps are a necessity for mom — you’re up all night, you really do need to sleep when the baby sleeps because life is unpredictable. Now that we’re in a pretty good routine of morning and afternoon naps, I use those times to get some work done around the house and spend some quality “me” time. But every once in awhile, you have a day like yesterday and you just have to take a nap. Boy, did it feel good, too!

Today is back to business as usual – I have a very demanding boss!

If Life’s a Beach, I Have Nothing to Wear

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

I did it. I went on the dreaded bathing suit shopping expedition. I’m happy to say I made it out alive, but I think I left my dignity in the fitting room at Macy’s.

I know swimsuit shopping is dreaded by most (okay, ALL) women, but let’s keep in mind that I haven’t had to buy a new swimsuit in a couple of years. I was HUGELY pregnant last summer and since we didn’t belong to a pool I had no real reason to buy a maternity suit. Well, we’ve recently joined a gym with an outdoor pool that I’m eager to take peanut to and a family vacation coming up that requires a swimsuit, so off I went. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it, but I’ve worked hard this year to lose the “baby fat” and have been feeling pretty good about myself, so I was, at the very least, hopeful.

Now someone please explain to me where real women buy swimsuits? Apparently not in major department stores. Nearly everything was a barely-there two-piece, and although I might be feeling good about myself, I’m not feeling THAT good. And the “tankini’s” I tried were definitely not meant for women who have borne children — that little strip of exposed skin is the exact area I’m trying to hide people. Ick. Even the one-piece suits had their problems. My nursing-ravaged boobs apparently need a roman shade pulley system to stay where they should — or so it looked in the suits I tried on (and trust me when I tell you I tried about 30 to 50 suits on…I stopped counting on my second trip to the fitting room). And to the makers of the Miracle Suit (promising to make you look 10 pounds thinner), anything that makes me feel like Shamu trying to put on a tube top is probably not going to make me feel good about myself once it’s on.

Eventually I found one that looks nice, it fits (meaning all the parts end up where they are supposed to) and will stay put in all the right places when being pulled on by a squirmy ten-month old. But it’s a total mom suit. Black with white shoulder straps. I suppose I could try to tell myself it’s the little black dress of swim suits, but it’s boring. Could someone please make some tasteful one-piece suits with upstairs support in a cute pattern? At least it was on sale.

I took a stroll through the shoe section on the way out to make myself feel better – my feet were first in returning to pre-pregnancy size. Hmmm…maybe I should get a pair of strappy heels to wear with my swimsuit to jazz it up a bit?

Or maybe not.

America’s Got What?

I have a sad, sad addiction to reality television. I’d like to think that I have standards, but when the award-winning “Amazing Race,” “American Idol” and “Project Runway” aren’t on, I still find myself tuning in at the end of the day when my mommy-fried brain has read the first paragraph of Fareed Zakaria’s latest Newsweek column five times (and each time it seems new).

And so I find myself watching “America’s Got Talent.” This week featured a Shakira impersonator…wait for it…named Louigi. Yes, this self-called Boy Shakira shook his booty, flipped his blond wig and jiggled his tatas in true Shakira style (thankfully there was no singing to this impersonation). Strangely, I found myself entertained because he actually had Shakira’s moves down pat (hey, the hips don’t lie). The judges must have just had their happy pills because they passed him on to the next round. But even more amazingly was Boy Shakira’s mama backstage telling Jerry Springer that her son was most certainly the best Shakira he could be.

I thought that mama really loves her son. I mean, what mama gazes into her infant’s face and sees that down the road? But I realized that he seemed to be happy doing it, and isn’t that all we really want for our kids? I started to wonder what might become of my peanut and came up with a few potential professions based on what I know of him so far:

* Lion Tamer – Since learning to crawl, peanut could spend hours chasing our poor cat around the house. Strangely, the cat sometimes seems to enjoy this and I can’t help but think that she has fallen under the spell of our little guy.

* Professional mover – When not chasing the cat, peanut could spend the remainder of his day simply moving piles from one location to another — these books? So not in the right place, they’d look much better one foot over. These stuffed animals? They definitely need to be behind me (oh, wait, I turned around? I better move them again so they are behind me…). This laundry? Clean or dirty, doesn’t matter. It will all look better in a big pile over here.

Of course his skills at moving items and pulling anything and everything from shelves, drawers, hampers also qualifies him to be a professional ransacker or TSA agent (I should get him those little fliers they leave in your suitcase notifying you that your bag was searched that he could leave on his piles).

* Elvis impersonator – oh yeah, he’s got that lip curl down!

* Dentist – he has a fascination with looking inside hubby’s mouth.

* Orchestra conductor/baseball player/drummer/sorcerer/golfer — anything that requires the waving around of a stick-like apparatus.

* Guacamole maker — loves squishing up some avocado when he’s eating it. There’s nothing cuter than a green guac-goatee!

So we’ll see. The possibilities are endless. And I know I’ll love him no matter what the future brings (but luckily Boy Shakira is already taken!).

Thanks Big Papi!

High Heeled Mama has a confession to make. I wear socks with my heels. Well, not really. But I am a die-hard Red Sox fan (hopefully that won’t turn any of you away). So it was with great anticipation that we took peanut to his first Red Sox game (thank you interleague play).

Considering the game started at 7pm, which is normally peanut’s bath time and therefore the start of the slippery slope to bedtime, peanut did very well. We have quite the observant peanut. He’ll typically watch and assess any given situation before deciding whether to participate. Last night was no different, but he adjusted quickly and soon began flirting with just about anyone in a three row radius.

It has been to my great consternation that peanut is not clapping yet. He is a happy baby who shows his excitement in many other ways. He crawls, he laughs, he is certainly an “on-track” baby, but he just isn’t into clapping. No big deal, right? True. But for some reason, a clapping baby is just so adorable. No matter how hard I try or how many rounds of patty-cake we play, peanut has not been interested in slapping his hands together. Until last night…

Down six in the top of the eighth, the Sox brought in David Ortiz (more fondly known as Big Papi) to pinch hit. The crowd, which was probably half Sox fans, went crazy. Flash bulbs popping and lots of cheering. I was clapping with my own excitement when I turned to see peanut clapping away in hubby’s lap!

At the time I wasn’t sure if I was more excited that he clapped or the fact that he clapped for the Sox which just might confirm that you’re born being a Sox fan, that it runs in your blood, that each victory and defeat is genetically passed from generation to generation.

Hard to say. But it was a moment I’ll cherish and always remember. Even if the Sox lost the game.

Lull in the Conversation

It’s happened. I’ve become that mother. Oh, you know the one — and probably because you’ve done it, too. Yup, in a social gathering I talked about peanut’s poop. I swore I wouldn’t become that mama, and then, like an out of body experience, I watched in horror as the words escaped my mouth. Thankfully, it wasn’t details and I suppose it was in context (my little peanut had just been handed off to the hubby for a change after making a stinky), but did the poor, unsuspecting, non-moms at this barbecue need to know that he makes the cutest face when he’s pooping? I’m cringing just thinking about it. When did I run out of things to talk about?

Working in public and media relations, I learned a lot of random (sometimes pointless, sometimes groundbreaking) information and had to keep my finger on the pulse of the media environment, both of which proved helpful when making small talk at an office party or neighborhood gathering. Now that my regular haunts include the swings, the grocery store (who knew a 10-month old could eat SO much?) and a Stroller Strides work-out with some fellow high-heeled mamas (although I only see them in sneakers!), my conversational repertoire has become severly limited to statistics (age, weight, length of labor), sleeping patterns, transition to solids and baby’s new tricks.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy these conversations, I initiate these conversations. How else would I know what to do for teething or that rice cakes are a perfect starter solid for baby? But what happened to my party conversation?

I recently traveled back home to see the family and during a family dinner I realized I said three sentences the whole evening — and two of them were telling the waitress what I wanted. Granted, I was there sans hubby, so I was busy feeding peanut his dinner for a good portion of the chat time, but later, everyone was busy complaining about their jobs, sharing tidbits from a recent trip, and then doting on peanut. I felt like a glorified babysitter, afraid to chime in, afraid I’d lost touch with the outside world, afraid I wouldn’t have anything worthy to say. How is it that the most important job in the world sometimes makes me feel like the least important person in the room? Was a part of my soul living in the placenta that I lost after delivering peanut? I doubt it. And I don’t think I can blame it on the fact that I was wearing flats that night. I think it’s my own hang-up that because I’m not paid, and therefore validated, by an outside source, I’m just not that interesting.

The fact of the matter is I can share a lot. So the next time you see me, here are a few things I can talk about:
* the Annie Leibovitz photography exhibit I recently viewed
* what I’m reading (that isn’t “Goodnight Moon” or Parents magazine)
* my thoughts on why any presidential campaign that is longer than a pregnancy is entirely too long
* how the Boston Red Sox will probably blow their first place spot in the AL East after the All-Star break

And of course, I’m always willing to talk about my peanut. And I promise, I’ll try to leave his poop out of it.

Parental Advisory — Contains Some Violence

When I was pregnant and found out that we were having a boy, I decided that I wouldn’t want him to play with toy guns. It seems to me that child’s play should model positive behaviors. I am feeling a bit hypocritical, however.

I, like many other loyal viewers, was eagerly awaiting the series finale of The Sopranos. Granted my little peanut is only 10 months old and isn’t watching television with us, but shouldn’t I be leading by example? I find myself justifying my Sopranos-addiction in my head — I watch because of the storyline, the conflict, the characters, and I tend to cover my eyes during any whacking scenes anyway — but they sound like hollow excuses and any pre-teen boy would easily be able to expose the holes in my argument.

I know I won’t be able to isolate my peanut from violence — we live in a violent world. We’re a country at war, our media still adheres to an “If it bleeds, it leads” strategy, and the movie industry has come so far with its special effects technology that we practically congratulate them for creating realistic looking explosions and gun shot wounds. As a parent, I hope I can create a safe environment for my peanut to grow up and learn compassion, feel hope and experience joy to balance the reality that surrounds us. I hope that the most violence he encounters is a raucous game of dodge ball.

Just as I crawled through the house on my hands and knees looking for any potential dangers to my very curious baby, I suppose I have to take a hard look at my own habits — what I eat, what I say, what I watch. At least I don’t have to worry about The Sopranos anymore. David Chase took care of that for me. Now if only David Chase could do something about my sweet tooth…