Thursday, February 25, 2010

So Long, Fairwell

When I started this blog, my only intention was to have an outlet to express myself and document my experience as a mom. In some ways by writing, I am realizing that I am also talking to myself, and trying to appear that I have it together. Sometimes, I don't.

Last week was a really crappy week for me. Right after I wrote about how grateful I was for everything, I started to fall apart over everything. I'm the kind of person that when things are good they are really good, but when they turn a bit I manage to pull everything down. I guess the definition of that might be moody. Perhaps.

One intention I don't have with this blog is being sanctamonious. My experience is only mine. My opinion is only mine. I will express it here but I am not preaching. I haven't met one mother out there who does anything exactly like anyone else. I don't judge anyone for the choices they make. Sure, I may disagree and do things another way but I try to respect their individual choices. If I feel someone is judging me though, that is when it gets tricky. That's when my inner Queens (as in New York) comes out and I start referring to certain women as materialistic, catty bitches. That's a bit harsh, but I feel as if I have been crossed. It's amazing the instinct as a mother that I have to protect my daughter and myself from tricky women.

I live in Los Angeles, so it's not ridiculous to find that people here can be shallow and materialistic. What is ridiculous is that I became friends with some of those people. When you have a baby, you make friends with people that also have a baby, despite that being the only thing you have in common. Some women escaped this "mommy group" phase and kept all their real friends from their past life. I love my friends, but I still got sucked into the clique crap. It served a purpose at a time to surround myself with women going through the same thing at the same time (at least that is the theory behind it). The reality is, two people rarely have the same experience. Not only were these women going about this life change differently than I was, I also had no idea who they really were.

Since I have a daughter, I especially don't feel right about exposing her to conversations about the latest designer, and that now they are making baby clothes. Or listening to them while they talk about other women who have things that they want. Even worse, hearing them judge the other women who aren't there that day (even though they are "so close"). I felt I was back in Junior High.

It took me a long time to get to this realization. From the outside, my husband and my real friends were wondering what I was doing spending time with these people in the first place. I know now that it was to fill the void -- to feel I had a community. I have that in my true friends, though it can be a challenge in LA to feel physically close to anyone at times. I do have an amazing group of people around me. I gave myself a gift by finally letting go of the wrong people. It feels really liberating, and really good.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Taking It Easy

If there is one running thought I would like to remind myself of these days, it would be to keep my expectations low. I am a perfectionist, and when things don't work I think I'm a failure. I set myself up for that all the time. Having a toddler definitely requires a schedule, but there is a lot of stuff that needs to happen in one short day. If I am off by even 20 minutes, she lets me know. If she is hungry or tired, she will make herself heard. But, because I'm human, I cannot do it "right" everyday. Today, I am allowing myself to screw up.

Recently a friend and I were talking about expectations. We were sharing the usual banter of how hard it can be at times. A few minutes into talking we started realizing how much of this crap we put on ourselves. The society we live in puts a lot ideas into our heads about how things should look. We constantly want (and think we need) to acquire more, bigger, and better things.

A study was done not that long ago that showed that Denmark as a country had the happiest people. The biggest reason for that is that they don't have such huge expectations. When they buy houses, they buy for life. They don't buy it and consider how much it will resell for, or how in a few years they will upgrade to a nicer one. They live in the moment and are content with what they have.

I'm not saying we shouldn't all have high standards. I enjoy nice things. I love my high thread count sheets, my expensive sunscreen, and will only use the "best" diapers on my daughter, but if I couldn't have those things I wouldn't suffer. If you ask a lot of friends of mine what their best childhood memory was, they would probably say summer camp. A few weeks away in the woods with nothing but fun and friends. No phones, no computer, no shopping and yet it was the time of their lives.

I am going to try and take a few minutes everyday and lower my expectations. When it all hits the fan, I am not going to hit the fan too. When my daughter had a meltdown today, I simply observed and then acknowledged her struggle. I didn't rush to fix it and put her back together. We fall apart. We are human. It's nice to expect a little less than the best. I think if I can end my day saying I did what I could today -- that is a success.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Cup Runneth Over

Recently, I have felt a bit overwhelmed. My daughter is in a stage where she is testing her boundaries. I was making her dinner last night and she was playing next to me. I was putting food on her plate when I heard her saying, "Mama, mama, mama." I looked up to find her drawing big blue circles on the wall with crayon. Even bigger than the circles was the smile on her face.

I was starting to feel like every day began with a race. From the minute I woke up, I felt I was falling behind. Get her up, feed her, change her, dress her (most of the above, a wrestling match at times). Get her snacks prepared and our water bottles filled, clean up from breakfast, get myself dressed...and poof, I am late to our first outing of the day! Then when we're finally out and about, I started to feel like I had to be so cautious of the time so we could race back for lunch and a nap. I would put her into the crib for a nap and remember that a human actually needs oxygen to survive. I should probably take a breath here and there.

I know not everyone has anxiety like I do. I have suffered my share of panic attacks. Anxiety is something I would like to say is foreign to me, but it is not. We are very well-aquainted. But what's interesting is that I wasn't having any of it this time. There simply wasn't any room for it. It also isn't warrented this time. Life can be overwhelming, but it is also so incredibly rich.

I wanted this little girl for so long. I dreamed of being married to a man as good as my husband. I wake up everyday and have my health. I cannot take that for granted. Those three things are huge, but wait: there's more. So much more. I get to go in and see her smiling face each day (and granted the first word out of her mouth every morning is dada). She is so happy to see me. I have the privilege of getting to spend everyday with her right now. I witness every new thing she says and does. Every new spin, song, skip, jump, word -- I get to experience with her. It is magical. It is magic.

I have a husband who listens while I talk about how I "feel" and doesn't roll his eyes. He encourages me when I am down. He is my friend. He calls me during the day to say hi and tells me what is happening with him at work, what he had for lunch and where he ate it. I love his calls. Are we perfect? No way! At times we bicker, pick on each other and sweat the small stuff, but this past week really made me take pause. The things I freaked out about. Come on! Simply not worth it. My cup runneth over. I am a lucky woman.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Good Stuff

A friend recently told me she was pregnant. She wanted to get pregnant for so long, and her circumstances weren't the most condusive to having a new baby until recently. She had some problems with her cycle, so she expected they would have to try a long time before getting pregnant.

She was very wrong. First try! She is very lucky -- and very shocked.

So yesterday she met me at the park and said, "So, what's good?" She was watching my daughter play with such intent. I thought she meant baby products, soaps, etc., and then she clarified: "Not what's good for the baby -- what's good about
having a baby?"

I remember feeling that the reality of knowing you are pregnant created in me a huge amount of new anxiety. I also remember how it can cloud your ability to remember how painfully you longed for this moment, excitement and fear together. So, I decided to put together a little list for her. A short list of "what's good."

The first view of a heartbeat on an ultra sound.
Finding out the baby is healthy.
Seeing hands and feet, eyes, a nose and a mouth on the ultrasound and realizing that's your baby.
The first time a stranger notices your baby belly and asks when you are due.
The first time you feel a flutter and know for sure that you just felt a kick inside you.
Putting a nursery together and realizing your baby will go in it.
The closeness you feel with your partner when you are learning birthing positions and breathing exercises.
The deeper closeness you feel when you are using those tools in labor.
The calm between contractions when you know all of this is going to soon lead to a baby in your arms.
The final push when the doctor says he can see a head.
When your baby is out and placed on your stomach.
The feeling of warmth and awe.
Touching your baby.
Feeling your baby's ears, head and looking at the fingers.
Kissing that head.
Looking at your partner, watching in amazement at what you two just created.
Seeing how moved he is.
The first time your baby nurses.
Sleeping with your baby nestled on you.
The first coo, and the first smile.
When your baby clasps it's hand around your finger.

That's my list, and that is only for the first 2 months or so. It just gets better and better. Nothing I could write though will ever do justice to the actual feelings that each person alone will feel from their new little baby. Your experience will be yours, and yours alone. Hold on to your hats though -- it's quite a wonderful and wild ride.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lemon Zucchini Cookies

To go along with my story on balance, here is a recipe that I think is a tasty complement. I adapted this recipe from a cornmeal cookies recipe published in "Everyday Food."

This one I put together partly because I didn't have all the ingredients for cornmeal cookies. The other reason was because I wanted to serve them to my daughter, so I cut the sugar down and added whole wheat flour. The confectioners sugar makes them light and airy, and the lemon adds that nice little tang.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter
1/2 to 3/4 cup of natural confectioners sugar (evaporated cane juice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon packed lemon zest (finely grated)
1 teaspoon course salt
1 cup of graham flour
1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1 medium zucchini, grated fine (about 1 cup)

In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until pale and fluffy. Stir in vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Add flours and mix until crumbly. Add zucchini and stir until a thick dough forms.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons , 2 inches apart on to two parchment-paper lined sheets. Press down until slightly flat. Bake until cookies are light golden at the edges, about 25-30 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 25 or so cookies.