Every once in a while on a Friday or Saturday night, when Matt and I are yawning on the couch feeling kind of ready for bed even though it’s only 10:30, we look at each other and laugh a little ruefully. We love our new life, but when you live in a place as expensive as NYC, it helps to feel like it’s worth it to live here instead of, like say, living some place where you could afford to buy a house. Last week, we managed to get out and about and actually do a few things that reminded me of how much I love living here. Behold, some excerpts from my excellent week:
The Saturday before last, we took Milo to his first rock show. Ted Leo played a special free show down at the South Street Seaport. To mark the ten year anniversary of both his album Tyranny of Distance and the Seaport’s free summer shows, he played the album in its entirety, in order. (Although the nerd in me noted that he played the album in the order it appeared on the CD version, not the LP version, which is slightly different.) I love, love, love Ted Leo, so Matt very kindly offered to be on baby duty that evening. Matt sent me up front and stayed in the back with the boy, taking him home about 3/4 of the way through the show. I hung out with a friend who is also a huge fan and we reminisced about seeing Ted shows over the years, including the original Tyranny tour. (OLD PEOPLE UNITE! Our nostalgia and yearning for the days when the East Village was still kind of a shit hole and Brownies was still around cannot be stopped.)
After the show that night, I headed to my friend’s place in Greenpoint. We climbed onto the roof, set up the projector, laid out some blankets and couch cushions, and watched movies reflected on a wall until the wee hours. I drank a few beers and looked over at the Manhattan skyline blinking at us from across the East River. As the breeze picked up a bit after midnight, we pulled some blankets over us, five of us snuggling together and cracking one-liners, fighting to stay awake. (Having fallen asleep several times in similar situations over the years, I can tell you that waking up at the crack of dawn by the blinding summer sun reflecting off the silver rooftop paint is a terrible way to greet the day.)
On Thursday, Matt and I went to see Superchunk, my favorite band of all time. The Vans sneaker company has a huge skate warehouse/show space in Greenpoint, and they’ve been doing free shows there all summer. Keith Morris and Mario Rubalcaba’s newish band, Off! was also playing, so there was a funny mix of skate punks, Williamsburg beardos and aging indie rockers. Superchunk were amazing, as they have been at each show I’ve seen in the last 15 years or so. Keith Morris came out during the encore and sang “Gimme Gimme Gimme” and “Where Eagles Dare”, which….what can I even say about that? If you know who Keith Morris is, you get how awesome that was.
I offered to babysit my friend Bridget’s little boy tonight so that she and her husband could go out to dinner for her birthday. I had a little time to kill on my way over, so I stopped in at a Connecticut Muffin to get an iced coffee. There were two young men working the counter.
Me: Hi, may I get an iced coffee please?
Kid 1: Sure, miss. [Miss?! Ergh.] (Hands me coffee.) Yo, that’s a dope shirt. There’ve been like 5 dope ass shirts rollin’ up in here tonight. Who made that shirt?
Me: Thanks! Um, I don’t know, some chick named Emily Lerner, I think?
Kid 2: Yo, that’s a cool tattoo. Is that a turntable?
Me: Yep. Record player.
Kid 2: That’s fucking cool. Are you a DJ?
Me: Nope, just a record collector.
Kid 2: Huh. Cool! Is there, like, a word for that? Like a word for a person who collects records but doesn’t DJ?
Me: [Pause] Um, nerd?
Kids 1&2: Hahahaha. Yes. Nerd!
Two weeks ago, he started walking. He’d manage a wobbly walk across the room before falling. He needed assistance to get back on his feet again.
Two weeks later, he climbed up the steps of the jungle gym and walked into this tunnel all by himself. He stands up by himself.
These days are going so fast.
There have been times - days, weeks - over the past several months when I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through Milo’s babyhood. The sleep deprivation was so intense that I didn’t think I could survive it. The resulting exhaustion, forgetfulness and crabbiness was unshakeable for the most part, and there were many times that I would put on Sesame Street or something for Milo because I just didn’t have the patience to interact with him lovingly and playfully.
But now, oh my. These days, these days are so golden. I cherish each of our days now. He’s sleeping, mostly, all night. He goes down for a nice, long nap each day without a fuss or hassle or long routine. The eating is a little messy, with lots of wasted food tossed over his shoulder and smooshed into the tray, but when I stumble upon something he loves, he eats with gusto.
Our days aren’t perfect—there are still tantrums and whining and crabbiness and he is seemingly hell-bent on destroying everything in our house—but I’m able to handle it all so much better. I can accept these moments of chaos for what they are, the natural by-product of raising a child. I can shrug them off, deal with them as best I can, move on to the next moment. Our days aren’t perfect, but they have moments of total perfection. It took 13 months, but it looks like sleep is back on the menu, boys. And thanks to sleep, I can appreciate these moments again.
Let her be bored. Let her have long afternoons with absolutely nothing to do. Limit her TV-watching time and her internet-playing time and take away her cell phone. Give her a whole summer of lazy mornings and dreamy afternoons. Make sure she has a library card and a comfy corner where she can curl up with a book.
Give her a notebook and five bucks so she can pick out a great pen. Insist she spend time with the family. It’s even better if this time is spent in another state, a cabin in the woods, a cottage on the lake, far from her friends and people her own age. Give her some tedious chores to do. Make her mow the lawn, do the dishes by hand, paint the garage. Make her go on long walks with you and tell her you just want to listen to the sounds of the neighborhood.
Let her be lonely. Let her believe that no one in the world truly understands her. Give her the freedom to fall in love with the wrong person, to lose her heart, to have it smashed and abused and broken. Occasionally be too busy to listen, be distracted by other things, have your nose in a great book, be gone with your own friends. Let her have secrets.” —
This pretty much describes my childhood. (Minus the cell phone and internet references because those did not exist until I was in college because I am that old.) I hope I can give the same to Milo.
Yesterday, I noted that Milo’s appetite has returned with a vengeance. This is true, as far as quantity and number of times a day he would like to eat, but the list of things he’ll accept is rapidly decreasing. Today he had eggs and cheese for breakfast (thumbs up), whole grain crackers and blueberries for mid morning snack (somewhat begrudgingly accepted), and for lunch, mac n’cheese and peas and corn (mac n’cheese, thumbs up, corn was less enthusiastically eaten, peas were thrown on the ground in an apparent fit of rage). For dinner, I tried every type of vegetable I had in the house (green and yellow beans, carrots, shelled edamame, and cauliflower), some lentils, a slice of cheese, and some of those fruit/veggie foil pack mixes, all roundly rejected. I finally threw my hands up in frustration and gave him peanut butter and fruit spread on whole grain waffles. He licked off the peanut butter and fruit spread, then tried to throw the soggy waffle bits on the ground. He also refuses to drink milk, so I can’t even add any calories that way.
(A familiar sight around our house these days)
So, parents of toddlers, a question for you. What kinds of things are your kids eating these days? I need some new ideas. And of course, in true toddler fashion, he is mostly only interested in things he can feed himself.
Fun ways to pass the time indoors when it’s blazing hot outside and the pavement seems like it might melt beneath your shoes:
Dance parties to King Kahn and BBQ records.
Pull out your Make-Up, Cupid Car Club, Nation of Ulysses and/or Weird War records, teach your kid to make his monkey sound when you point at Ian Sevonius’s picture.
Letting your kid eat the peas off the floor that he threw down in an earlier fit of rage. After all, he made the mess, he should clean it up, one way or the other. A little lint on peas isn’t going to kill anyone, probably.
Watch, amused, as your child uses a rectangular block to have a very serious and involved conversation “on the phone” for about 5 straight minutes.
Retrieve from your child’s mouth the empty airplane-bottle of Jagermeister that your child dug out of the recycling bin and is now happily sucking on. Remind yourself that a more toddler-proof recycling set up is a priority.
Email the Amazon help department to figure out how to get a refund because, as you were considering buying a YGG dvd to take on vacation, your child managed to hit the keyboard at the exact right moment/spot to order, via 1-click, Season 2 of Yo Gabba Gabba on Amazon Instant Watch. You have Apple TV, which Amazon Instant Watch is not compatible with.
Trying to avoid the temptation of turning on the tv for your kid, you, in a fit of desperation, break out your flute. You have not played the flute in possibly 5 years, so it is tarnished. You realize, much to your chagrin, that you have almost forgotten how to read music. You play simple nursery rhyme songs and traditional ballads. Your child is enraptured for about 5 minutes, when he spies the flute case. He then devotes his full attention to shoving this case under various pieces of furniture and tight spaces, his momentary interest in your half-assed musical ability completely forgotten.
Give up, turn on Sesame Street. Count down the minutes until 5pm, when it seems respectable to have a cocktail.
Since 2011 is my year of finding the silver lining in as many things as possible, I found the bright side of being in a funk: as you come out of the funk, little things that may have seemed just ok before now seem so much shinier.
The kid and I have been having some awesome days. He’s taken to walking with aplomb and is quickly working his way up to running. His appetite has come back with a vengeance, which means I’m down to only banging my head against the wall 2-3 times a day instead of, well, constantly. He’s sleeping like a champ, taking a 2-3 hour nap in the middle of the day and mostly making it through the night. He’s started a new thing where he wakes up around 5am, cries a little in a wah-wah I woke myself up and now I don’t know what to do with myself wah-wah (instead of his old YOU GUYS I AM AWAKE AND YOU MUST COME GET ME NOOOOOWWWWWWW AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH), then usually puts himself back to sleep and sleeps until 8am. This is major. I mean, 8AM! (Sure, yeah, 2 years ago I would still have considered 8am an ungodly hour, but now that I have my little demon spawn, 8am is luxurious, indulgent.)
I love watching him explore things on foot. He’s really stepped up his menace game, working hard to be promoted to Super Menace level, but tempers these maneuverings with so many voluntary cuddles and open mouth kisses that I laugh way more than I frown. If you say the word “monkey” to him or show him a picture of one, he goes “oohhh ooohhh aaaahhh aahhhh”. It would be nice if he tried to say the word, but I’ll take what I can get. But whatever, one look at those eyelashes and that one freckle on his nose and my heart melts each time.
We were at our friends-who-are-expecting place the other day, and she was showing me the progress they’d made on putting together the baby’s room. She pointed to the bookshelf and said her mom had sent her some books from the attic. “I don’t know though, ‘Under the Lilacs’ by Louisa May Alcott? What is this stuff?”
I squealed with excitement. Literally, squealed. I looked at the other books her mother had sent—’Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates’, ‘The Five Little Peppers’, ‘Wind in the Willows’ and a few others of that old-fashioned ilk—and had a quick flashback to my childhood. One of the few good things about the little tiny town I spent a lot of my childhood in was the town library. It was in a converted Victorian house in the middle of town, and it was very small. I spent a good portion of my childhood in this library, reading books over and over and racking up untold amounts of overdue fines because I took out so many books each week that I’d lose track of what I’d have out (Caddie Woodlawn, I’m looking at you).
The children’s section was especially old-fashioned. Most of the YA books were from the early 60s - Rosamund Du Jardin, Anne Emery, etc - although there were the more “modern” books by Judy Blume from the ’70s. They didn’t just have all of the old, classic editions of Nancy Drew, they had a pretty complete set of Judy Bolton mysteries and the Dana Girls books. (Does anyone else out there remember these books?) What I remember most vividly were the beautiful hardcover editions, complete with color plate illustrations that were popular in books printed in the early 20th century. Books by Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Margaret Sidney, Edith Nesbit, Kate Douglas Wiggin and others all had beautiful illustrations and covers and smelled deliciously old. It was there in that old fashioned room with its dusty red carpet and sunlight streaming through the bay window that I learned to love books about hardships and orphans, pioneer girls and intrepid souls bent on exploring their surroundings. For an eight year old in the mid 1980s, I knew an awful lot about wartime food rationing in England during WWII and how impossible it was to run or climb trees wearing a hoop skirt in the 1860s thanks to books by Noel Streatfield and Carol Ryrie Brink.
My friend had two copies of “The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew”, so she gave me one to take home with me. I’m putting it with my other old editions of children’s books, waiting for the day I can read them to Milo. I just hope that in this age of ipads and anime cartoons that there’s still a window of time for these books to be read and enjoyed.
ETA: anyone else have problems getting their “read more” function to work, especially in queued posts? Or is just me?
I wanted to thank everyone who left me a reassuring comment or sent me an encouraging message last week when I was having my little pity party for myself. It’s always nice to be reminded that most parents go through periods and phases where we feel inadequate or just a bit down. I know that people on the internet at large sometimes make fun of parent bloggers and question our need to share the minutiae of our children’s lives with total strangers. People question why anyone would care about whether your kid takes a nap or sleeps through the night or throw her peas down on the floor. I know it’s not for everyone, but reading about the minutiae of daily parenting through the eyes of so many others has helped me feel less alone and given me a lot of inspiration. You guys rock.
We drove out to Jacob Riis Beach on the Rockaways yesterday and had a wonderful time. Milo continues to love the ocean and runs right into the water, very devil-may-care. Matt and I took turns taking him out into the water, and he screamed with laughter each time the waves broke around us. He consumed what seemed to be an enormous amount of sand over the course of the day as he poured it into various cups and containers. He sat in his baby tent and stared out at the waves while Matt and I sat in our chairs and read.
I would have loved to take some pictures of yesterday and a few things we did last week. I could not, however, take any pictures because our camera got left behind in DC last weekend and it was still in postal transit as of yesterday. How could we be so careless as to leave our camera behind, you ask? Well, this is the thing. We always do a pretty thorough visual check of each room before we leave, a task made easier by the general orderliness of my in-laws’ house. We did not, however, think to look inside the bag of potatoes that sits in the corner of the kitchen, the bag of potatoes where our camera was eventually located by my father in law a few days later.
I don’t want to point any fingers, but…I only know one person around here who has a bad squirreling habit. He’s about 24 inches tall and has a secret cracker stash in several drawers throughout our house (and probably squirreled some away at Nana and Oxjo’s too). Ahem.
A few photos that I like from our trip to Nantucket a few weeks ago:
In more cheerful news, Milo is officially walking! He took his first steps-in-a-row on Father’s Day, had done it a few times after that, but hadn’t really seemed too interested in pursuing it further. We were down in Silver Spring at my in-laws house this past weekend, and Milo decided he’d maybe give this walking thing another go. I guess I can understand where he’s coming from on this one - it’s probably a lot more exciting to walk when you’re in a place where you can take more than 6 steps in any direction before hitting a wall. He started off pretty slow, taking 5 or 6 steps here and there before squatting down and taking a seat. Soon he was up and drunken sailoring it clear across a room to retrieve a toy or beg for a snack or hug. By Sunday afternoon, he’d not only learned to pick up the pace a bit, but also to pivot so that he could turn corners.
He’s pretty excited about all of this, and wants to be up and moving now as much as possible. I have to laugh at how exhausting it is for us, trying to stay one step ahead of our little rascal now that he’s on the move. The independent walking combined with his always increasing skill at climbing and tip-toe standing means that it’s time for the next phase in Milo-proofing the house. You’d think that all this movement would help him to work up such an appetite that he’d stop turning his nose up at all of the food we offer him. You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.
I know I’ve been pretty absent from here lately. I find myself in a little bit of a funk, which always makes it hard to find the motivation to post. It’s not the kind of funk that results from being overtired/exhausted, it’s just the kind that has no real rhyme or reason.
Part of it stems from feeling like I’m doing a pretty piss poor job in the mothering category lately. There’s a Tumblr I started reading right after I had Milo, and I really liked it because she and I seemed to espouse the same ideals and methods of parenting and household lifestyle. Lately though, I mostly feel bummed when I read it because she seems to have actually put these ideals into consistent practice, while I’ve just kind of thrown my hands up in many ways. She’s not obnoxious about it, she’s not some kind of Super Mom/Woman, she just seems like a nice, conscientious woman who has the will and energy to practice what she preaches.
Me? I feel like I’ve thrown in the towel. I’ve gone from “no processed foods, ever” and “no sugar besides birthday cake until age 4” to feeding my 13 month old child Nilla Wafers as a mid-morning snack because he’s decided in the last 2 weeks that he hates almost all foods and rejects all the nice, healthy, organic snacks I offer him. I’ve gone from “no tv before age 3” to turning on Barney in the late afternoon because I’m tired and don’t know what to do with him and mostly just want him to please.stop.whining. (N.B., I turn on Barney because it holds his rapt attention far longer than Sesame Street or Yo Gabba Gabba, and has the benefit of being easily tuned out by me, unlike YGG which I find to be akin to having a strobe light flashed at my face.)
I know that in the large scheme of things, I’m not a bad mother. It’s not that I’m feeding my kid cheetos and diet soda for breakfast while I smoke a cigarette in front of him. He is very loved. I just sometimes feel like I should be doing more with him. I know that staying home with him is a privilege, but honestly, sometimes I’m really bored. I guess I thought that motherhood was the one thing I wouldn’t screw up; it was going to be my chance to put things right in my life. I was going to be such a great mom that it would make up for all the times I didn’t study as hard as I should have in school, all the times I didn’t give 100% at my job, all the times I shirked on my household responsibilities. Lately though, it just seems like yet another thing that I’m half-assing my way through.