Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Frumpilicious

I may not have the sexy moves of the Pussycat Dolls, the booty of Beyonce, or a hit record to show for my nascent solo career (think Fergie), but I have loads of Mama Attitude, especially that grungy not-quite-enough-sleep attitude. Therefore, I feel I deserve a "-licious" as well as any other diva.

Did I say diva? Oh, let's just blame that on lack of sleep. I am not the Queen of Soul or Pop...more like the Queen of Poopy Diapers. But I digress...

The idea for Frumpilicious actually started last Saturday, on one of my few outings without the wee one in tow. I met my friend Jen downtown at her new place. She's managing an old building, let's call it "vintage", that I actually wanted to live in once upon a time. I love the charm of anything built before WW2, and this place has it in spades. Walking around her new digs made me reflect on my "olden days" in old apartments, having my own space with my books and cds and not much else except some peace and quiet. Bonding time with the curling iron, or soaking in one of those old clawfoot tubs with a book and a glass of wine. The feeling that my old life was far enough away to feel some fond nostalgia for itonly made me feel more settled into my new life as a parent.

Jen and I walked up to Northwest, talking of places we might want to check out. "Oh, we have to stop by Lush" she explained. "What, do they sell alcohol?" I jibed. (Yes, I jibe. I'm just that kind of gal.) No, they didn't sell drinks, they sold skin products.

Walking into Lush was when I discovered the essence of my sheer frumpiness. My frumpicity, if you will. Here I was, thinking how great I looked that day--I'd showered, rigged up the ponytails, had on my cute sweater and a new purse!--and the shiny, fresh, well-rested faces from behind the counter told me that I had deluded myself. Here were pretty girls who had done more than just scrub their face with a squirt from the soap pump and a washcloth. No, they had exfoliated. They had slept for more than a handful of hours and had clothes that didn't show off the fact that they lived with a cat. I looked at the candy colored soaps-- Ice Blue! Bright Orange!--singing off the shelves and read the most hilarious word next to each of them: Massage. This was Soap for Other People, but not me. Massage my skin in the shower?! My morning Five Minutes in Paradise Alone is not a nice stem-to-stern sort of cleansing affair, but more like Let's Hit the Highlights, and there are six hotspots which I will not list because I may be frumpy but I am not vulgar. In any case, the idea of paying $9 plus for a pretty massage bar I would look at wistfully every morning as it slowly disintegrated from neglect and a drippy showerhead just seemed torturous.

I also checked out the masks, which my Jen swore by. I believe her; she always has great skin. But let's say I put on this mask and scared the baby, what then? He's already got a case of stranger anxiety larger than a Vuitton trunk show. Last thing I needed was to freak out the baby and deal with scraping the mask off while he's crying because "where did Mama go"? I was beginning to wish they did sell alcohol, because a stiff drink would make these revelations all go down so much more smoothly.

While Jen was calling her mom, who she was also shopping for, I ducked outside. Two hours without nursing and I was starting to get sweaty, what with the two steamed milks on the front of my chest. I took off my sweater, folded it neatly to hang it on my bag, when I noticed that the peas and brown rice puree I'd fed my son last night had dabbed a bit of itself onto my sweater and dried, nice and crusty. So there I stood, cursing a little under my breath, scraping off said spill with my thumbnail and turning it into a fine green powder before it disappeared.

Sweaty, tired, and now feeling unremarkable (let's not forget the pulverized green peas under my thumbnail), I now had to laugh. I looked at Jen, just emerging, who has always been one of my fashion icons, and then had to laugh at myself. I was such a MOM.

Most of us have seen that Suave commercial where the woman starts out gorgeous and then has one, then two, then three children and somehow you get to see the tired hair, the bags under the eyes, the stained sweatshirts and then, the words, "95% of Mom's say they've let themselves go"...well, I've got a question-- Let themselves go Where? Not to the bathroom to shave their legs and shower in peace (most of my mom friends are amazed I shower everyday!), and we don't go to the salon until we just can't stand it anymore, and we hardly ever go out shopping to buy ourselves new clothes. Then, of course, we see that Commercial Mom shampooed with Suave (apparently, it comes with childcare) and she's wearing a lovely black wrap dress and her hair looks lovely and she's knocked up again, so she couldn't have looked that bad. Ahhh...what a lovely fairy tale.

I'm sitting here typing, sweaty (again), in my jeans and a plain shirt, and all I can think about is how we as mothers don't let our selves go nearly as much as we just have to Let Go. Let Go of expectations that our kids are going to nap or that we are going to get the dishes done or even have a chance to type on our blogs. I have had to let go of the things that mean the least to me, and even many things that mean a lot to me. My sense of independence and freedom to do as I please are entirely on hold; my financial independence is on indefinite hiatus; my ability to create whenever and however I choose is pretty much out the window in deference to that little person sleeping in the stroller right now. He could wake at any time and my mind would not be solely my own again, for who knows how long. But letting go seems right, and I do try to be gracious with it. I fail miserably sometimes. But it's so much better than Holding On and being miserable all the time, which is what would happen for me if I did grasp all things formerly dear to me with white-knuckled determination.

So I laugh, revel in my plainness, in the interruptions and the soil and grubbiness and lack of glamour that my life holds right now. Hence, the attitude. Hotcha! Watch out! Comin' at you with babyfood spills, drool, and Eau de Baby Wipes! I am Frumpilicious! (coming soon, my hit single "My Frumps"...sure to be a sensation!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bad Habits Are Hard to Break...Here's How Not to Start

As busy parents, we all get into habits with our children that probably aren't the best. How many times have you heard about someone's baby playing with adult items and then putting their parent in a pickle? I've been thinking that it might be worthwhile to write a little something to help new parents, namely, Habits You Don't Want To Start. If you are a wee bit (or even incredibly) guilty of the practices listed below, don't beat yourself up. Instead, just try to start anew. Being the understanding person that I am, I do know that you can't take anything away from someone without giving them a substitution (this is what we call "a trade" in the kid biz), and so I'll be offering some ideas on what you might want to do instead of that other thing that might not be working out so well for you.

You may choose to file this post in the "Unwanted Advice" part of your brain, but really, just take a minute to read it. It might actually be for your own good.

Big Numero Uno Bad Habit:Handing Over The Keys.You wouldn't let a drunk hold your car keys, so why would you let a child? I have so many reasons and stories that could illustrate the folly of this action, but let me just say that simply put: keys are keys. They are adult items. They get dirty with lock lubricant and then kids, being prone to their own bad habits, like sucking metal, put them in their mouths. They hide them and can't tell you where they are because their brains are like seives and are often pre-verbal. Or, heaven forbid, they lock you out of your car with that little black dangly fob that makes a great squeaky noise when they push it...over and over and over while you're wrapping up your conversation after getting baby into the car seat. Once you've shut the door, you've got a 50/50 chance of actually getting into your car. Bad odds. So, when Baby is crying and you want a quick handy something to entertain them, consider getting something together that looks like your keys: a keyring with some plastic fobs is great; they can chew on it, it fits into a purse or diaper bag, and you actually make it home without calling for a locksmith. Or keep some toys in your car...hey, they are all over your house, so what's a little overflow?

Number Two:The Cell Phone.They will one day hound you for it, but please, save yourself a headache and keep your cell to yourself. Once again, this is an adult item, and while your cell or Blackberry may be your favorite toy, it is an expensive toy indeed, and expensive to replace. Trust me, the story you will tell isn't worth the money you'll have to shell out when your kid drops it in the toilet. Cell phones do not float. Plus there's that whole "oral" thing the kids do with everything. Electrical charge, hello!? Yeah, the little ones think the phone is too cool for school...that's why toymakers make toy cell phones. They ring, they chime, they talk-- in fact, they are just as annoying as yours. Part with $5 and get them a piece of cheap plastic crap that you are okay with them breaking, hiding, etc. If your kid is older, let them decorate their phone with stickers they pick out. This will make it "theirs" and keep yours out of reach. Or expect a phone bill from Trinidad.

Number Three:The Diaper Bag of Junk Food. I know it's convenient, but if you keep that huge ziplock of goldfish in the bag, guess what your kid's going to want to eat? All the Goldfish, before anything else. This will result in serious meltdowns...I've seen it happen. Children don't understand "let's save it for later". They live in Here and Now Land, where a giant bag of Goldfish is heartbreaking to say goodbye to. If you like to pack ahead, get some small, snack size ziplock bags and pack a Reasonable Amount of a Goldfish/Cheerios mix in each one. Remember, their stomach is the size of their fist. This generally works for any starchy snack. Try having a couple snack bags of apple slices prepped, or carrot coins. Some kids like frozen peas, even if they don't like the cooked ones. If you don't have tons of junk food in your diaper bag, they won't get used to eating junk. Also, as a rule, Beware of Go-Gurt and other tube yogurts. Loaded with sugar and food coloring, they are a mess in a plastic tube. String cheese is a better, portable protien, as are nuts and trail mix when they are old enough to eat them.

Number Four: "I'm Just Running In". I just can't be nice about this one. I don't know how many people I have seen "run in for a second" to my local Starbucks to grab a latte and leave their baby in the car. I don't care if your kid is sleeping, if your bucket car seat is a hassle, or if the car is locked, I hope a cop comes along and slaps a big fat ticket on your sorry ass. Leaving your child in a car is negligent, plain and simple. Nothing you can get in a store is worth your child's life. Nothing. And if you need a latte, find out where the drive thru Starbucks are. It's all well and good until your hurriedly park in a tow-away zone or some idiot slams into your car in the parking lot. Seriously, if this is you, get your priorities straight.

Number Five:Baby and the Bottle. In this so-called Age of Irony, you might think it's pretty cool to let your child play with glass bottles. Nothing is more hilarious and ironic than a toddler walking around sucking on an empty bottle of PBR, right? Grab the camera! Hey, hipster, um, what the hell are you thinking? If a baby falls with a glass bottle in their mouth it can break off in their throat and potentially kill them. We all like that our kids have great party skills--"Look at her chug that soda!", but really, if you want your kids to drink something, put it in a sippy cup. Better yet, make it a practice in your family of sitting to eat and drink. This will eliminate the risk of choking and teach your children some socially appropriate skills. This will also help you avoid an unnecessary emergency room trip and follow-up visits from State Child Welfare workers, which are not ironic, but tragic and a pain in the ass. So, if this is you, cool it with the Coors bottles already!

Well, I'm sure I'll come up with more things to warn you about, but I think these should be enough to start us off. If you thought I was being a little harsh, please just keep in mind: I love kids. Really, truly. Being a parent is hard enough without feeling horrible guilty about accidents that can easily be avoided. They'll give you plenty else to feel guilty about...just you wait.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Messy Messy Messes

In the kitchen this morning while making breakfast, I stopped my work to prise a pair of green plastic glasses from off my houseslippers. Sorry, Mr. Potato Head.

Our house used to be such an idyllic little setting to raise a baby. Each room had a blanket or a Moses basket where Joaquin would play, sedentary, and toys were pretty limited to those cozy parcels of kid space. But now we have a ten-month old, and with the onset of all this new mobility--crawling!! standing!!--those days of tidy and order are over.

Or at least they feel that way. Never in my life have I felt so pulled to keep things picked up. Just the sheer amount of space the toys take up in one's scope of vision is nearly alarming. "Try not to trip on the toys" is right. Everywhere I go in this house, it seems something is underfoot: a whisk, a maracca, magnetic blocks, a kazoo. (Yes, my baby can play the kazoo.) It's like the toybox had a war in our house.

I know this is a dilemma a lot of mothers must contend with: We see the mess instead of the life. Life is messy. We all know that, to a certain degree, and most of us have some inner gauge of sorts that allows messiness up to a certain point. We each have a different limit of how much messy we can sanely tolerate, too-- I know that my gauge is far more generous than that of a, say, self-proclaimed "neat freak". But we all have a certain point at which our surroundings, and even independent of that, our personal lives, reach a criticl mass of mess.

Truth be told, sometimes it's easier to dump a bad boyfriend than it is to to keep a house free of the cat-hair tumbleweeds that drift over the floor and hold conventions behind the rocking chair. I'd much rather go through some rather unpleasant moments in my personal life than have to sort through years of paperwork that I never seem to get filed. And the scrawled notes, bits of writing and poetry and unfulfilled to-do lists lying about-- we are talking volumes here-- just the thought of it makes me want to pack Baby J up in the stroller and flee the house. "Hey, it's a sunny day, perfect time for a walk!"

I suppose it might help if I tried to think of our house as user-friendly. All the functionality, right where you can see it. Crock-Pot? Right over there. Cuisinart? Check. Which leads to a question: all of my toys are in view, so why not his?

I have no answers, other than this one thought: I'm simply going to try and let us live in our house. I'm going to try and participate in the life and the mess and not be so concerned about trying to have a house that looks like no one lives there. And if I step on Mr.Potato Head's glasses, well, I guess I'll just have to get him a new pair. Or better, some lasik surgery. That will be performed with a penlight and a sense of humor. Or just let him go blind, and then at least he won't see the mess.

Once again, sorry Mr. Potato Head.