Monday, March 29, 2010

Hyperconnected: Somedays I just want to be unplugged

I love this blog. It's become a part of my life and who I am. It has given me an outlet for the words swirling around in my head all the time. And through it, I've "met" other women who also dare to put themselves out there...sharing their thoughts, their fears, their triumphs, and sometimes (oh frivolity!) their latest shopping loot. These blogs have helped me realize I'm not the only one in this whole "Motherhood-can-sometimes-suck" situation, and have made me a better writer. Being exposed to a lot of different voices has helped me refine my own.

But somedays, I just want to quit. I want to turn off the computer, delete my website address, and never read another post again.

I don't like the self-inflicted pressure to constantly be connected.

A couple of weeks ago, Kristen decided she was going on a Digital Diet. She realized that although her blog and its readers were not "empty calories," but part of her "nutrition" and "sustenance," she still needed to set up some ground rules and find some balance. Here's my problem: I think I'm already pretty balanced. I don't post more than a couple of times a week, I limit my reading to a handful of really fantastic blogs, and I try to keep my comments coming but controlled. Yet I still feel overwhelmed sometimes.

I just can't keep up.

I started blogging simply because I wanted to write again. I didn't realize that blogging is not just writing. It's reading. It's following. It's commenting. It's connecting. And I love all of that. But it takes up a lot of time, time I don't have, and quite honestly, time I'd sometimes rather spend doing something else. I am not too happy sitting behind a computer. If it were up to me, I'd write all my posts with a pen and a paper and mail 'em out to you all. I know. I'm archaic. And the Twitter thing? Not for me. I just don't want to be that connected. Because every second I am connected, every second I'm typing or reading or commenting or (God forbid) tweeting, is a second I'm disconnected from the real stuff: my kids, my husband, my friends, my job, my home, my books, my Life. I'm always scared that if I get too caught up writing about life, I might actually miss out on some of it.

I do think part of my problem simply comes from the fact that technology is not my pastime of choice. I'd rather be reading a book, flipping through a magazine, or watching E News than surfing the web. I've never been into chat rooms or instant messaging or Facebook. It's just turned out that in today's world, the online version is the best way to get yourself, your words, out there. So here I am. I went from having absolutely no idea how to even start a blog to using the term "Mr. Linky" around the house. I've resisted most of it. I've tried to learn "just enough."

But it's a struggle I'm finding myself battling more and more as time goes on. I have days when I think: Maybe I'll stop. I'll just stop writing.

But I can't. I can't because this is the most I've felt like my old self again...the self who grew up believing she was going to be a writer.

So I suppose I'll continue to struggle...struggle to keep up with everyone else...struggle to find the time to read and comment and reach out and write my own posts...struggle to find the balance where I can continue to enjoy it and not always feel that pressure to keep up. Because really, who has made up those rules? The ones that say I have to keep up at all? Keep up with who, exactly? The only person measuring and counting is me. The only person beating me up is, as usual, myself.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010



Today is our wedding anniversary.
We don't have any big plans. We don't have babysitting. We didn't buy each other any expensive gifts.

Instead, we woke up together, hugged sleepily in the kitchen, and got ready for work. We dressed our boys. We fed them Cheerios. In the afternoon, we will take the boys to swimming class, then to McDonald's, and come home to watch a little "Snow White." Then we will put them to bed. We will open a bottle (or three) of red wine. We will huddle in our love nest of a room. We will exchange traditional anniversary gifts (bronze or pottery for the 8th year), and we will just be.

Usually, I like a lot of pomp and circumstance. I like big. I like loud. I like a fuss.

This year, a fuss was not possible or practical. And I was okay with that. Because when we embraced this morning, Hubby mumbled a sleepy "I love you," followed with "I'm happy."

"I'm happy."
So simple. So major. And I realized, at that moment, that I am, too.
Blissfully happy.
Our lives are hectic and busy and exhausting and stressful. We do not run away to New York or Paris like we used to. We do not have money to blow every weekend at expensive restaurants. We do not go to Happy Hour on a weeknight and get a couple of hours of sleep before going in to work the next day. Sometimes, we don't even have the energy to speak to each other at the end of the day.

But we are Happy.
We've made these little boys...these two little rascals who drive us nuts almost every day.
We've made a family.

And even on the worst days, on the days when we wonder why we even wanted any of the grown up stuff, why we didn't just keep traveling the world and living our carefree lives, we're in it together. We're a team, the 2 of us.
Solid. Lucky. Grateful. In love.
Photography by

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's in my bag?

So when Gigi tagged me with a little blogosphere game of "What's in your bag?", my first thought was...

No way. There is no way I am letting the world (okay, maybe like 100 people in the world) see what's in my purse (at least not without editing the contents first). Uh-uh. Who the hell knows what's in there on any given day?

But then I thought: Why not? I spill my guts out on this blog, why not spill the contents of my purse?

And actually, after dumping it all out (and of course, rearranging it all ever so neatly for photo op), I was relieved to see it really wasn't that bad. So without further adieu, for frivolity's sake, I present you with...What's in my bag?

First of all...the bag: My beautiful purple messenger Marc by Marc Jacobs bag was a birthday gift from Hubby while on our recent trip to Savannah. Cute, huh? Up until pretty recently, I never ever owned any bag over $30 bucks...I'm more of a shoe whore. But I do admit that I'm digging this one. Big time.

Now its contents, in a sorta clockwise direction, sorta random order from the top left corner:

1. One thong underwear: I'm not really sure why this is in there. I was quite surprised to see it, and admit that I highly debated leaving it out of the photo, but I guess a girl never knows when a girl might need a spare pair of panties. I can assure you they're clean.

2. My classroom keys: I used to refuse to carry these around except while at work, because I am a big believer in completely "punching out" while not at work. I don't even like work reminders while I'm off the clock. But since I kept losing them on a daily basis, I had to give in and find a secret slot for them in my bag, where I never run into them until I need them.

3. My pink planner: I am absolutely, completely, utterly lost without it.

4. Maxalt Prescription Migraine medication: Suffered from these since I was in 4th grade. Try to avoid taking these unless absolutely necessary, since they work like magic on the pain but make me slur my words and bloat like I drank a jug of soy sauce.

5. Hand lotion: You know how most people feel about nails scratching on a chalkboard? That's how I feel about my cuticles catching on fabric.

6. My Kenneth Cole black lacy wallet: It's a little bit dominatrix, a little bit rocker chic. Perfect.

7. Altoids: I carry around lots of them...sometimes for my breath, sometimes just to get me to stop thinking about eating chocolate.

8. Origins Stress-Reliever Peppermint Ointment: Does wonders for the migraines when I can't afford to sound drunk or look puffy (see #4).

9. My gold-ish bird dangly earrings: When I poured out the contents of my purse, I discovered, much to my dismay, that these are both completely and possibly irreversibly tangled together.

10. My tube-o-pills: Excedrin and Tylenol are always with me...again, part of my migraine arsenal.
11. Make-up: One kohl smudgy eye liner, leftover from my South Beach weekend ('cause date nights always require a smoky eye). The rest are lipsticks in varying shades of pink and coral. You all have seen a glimpse of my make-up collection, but the only stuff I carry around without fail is lipsticks...usually a few, and always by MAC.
12. Elementary school pictures of Hubby and myself: Let me explain...the school we work at is having a yearbook thing with teachers' pics. That's why those are there. I swear. I am not a weirdo who carries around pictures of myself in 3rd grade (although I was quite cute, dontcha think?) and Hubby wearing an E.T. t-shirt.
13. Hubby's chain: His has a charm with each of the boys' names and a charm with my name. Mine has a charm with each of the boys' names and a charm of his name. I know. We are mushy. It's better than Angelina Jolie's vial of blood, though.
14. Weight Watcher's book: For those of you who are not familiar with the program, this book basically contains every food choice imaginable and its corresponding caloric points value. The battle never ends.
15. Mini journal: This is the one I carry around to jot down blog ideas, songs I want to download, books I want to read, and let the kids doodle in when we're doing groceries.
16. Pen: This is from a bar complex in Key West called Rick's and Durty Harry's. Hubby and I have had some good, goooood times there. I stole it from the bartender. I carry it around and treat it like it's a gold Montblanc. I've misplaced it a couple of times and freaked out over it. It just makes me smile every time I use it.
17. Disposable preservative-free eye drops: I wear contacts and I'm a tad high maintenance.
Thanks, Gigi...this was fun. And now I tag the following ladies to post what's in their bags:
*Sarah and Jen (EACH of your bags!) at Momalom
*That Girl39 at Forty Not Out
I picked based on whose bag I'd most like to snoop through in real life. I know. I'm a nosy bitch, but at least I'm honest. Plus, every once in a while it's nice to stop trying to solve the world's problems or discover our true selves and just post something silly. Have fun!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It takes a village to screw up a child...

Disclaimer: I know I am incredibly lucky to have an entire network of people who help me raise my kids. I know that without these people, I would be lost...or at least, completely and utterly in despair. I know that it is because of these people that I am able to go to work and not worry about who is caring for my baby. I know that without these people, I would not have any of my Date Nights or Getaway Weekends. I know. I know, but...

Sometimes having family that involved can make things complicated.

What is it about grandparents that makes them absolutely and completely clueless about important things like discipline, follow-through, tantrums, and candy as a food group? I would not have an issue if they told me, straight out, that they are grandparents now and they do not need to worry about those things. I would not have an issue with them telling me that their job as grandparents is to spoil and love and provide M&Ms for dinner. I would embrace this. But this particular group of grandparents (on both sides, mind you) really, truly, absolutely believes that it is okay to have the child rule.

They seem to think there is absolutely nothing wrong with a four-year-old yelling "I was not talking to you!", complete with eyebrows furrowed for dramatic, angry emphasis.

They seem to think it is absolutely acceptable for the child to determine when it is time to leave the park/playground/any place of fun.
Me: "Hey Mom, how did it go today at Chuck E. Cheese with the boys?"
Grandparent: "Oh, it was great. They had a lot of fun. The only problem was that we had to keep getting more tokens because every time we ran out, Ben got upset and demanded more. And when it was time to leave, he refused, and kept saying 'No', so we had to stay an hour longer than we had planned."

Aforementioned boy does not pull any of these stunts with us, ever (at least not these, in particular). When he responds rudely, he goes to Time Out or loses a privilege or has to repeat the sentence in a "normal voice." When it's time to leave wherever we are, we tell him he has 5 minutes left, and at the end of those minutes, we go; no exceptions. He knows this. He knows what we expect. And it's not just that we demand this because it's the "right thing", but also because, quite honestly, it makes our lives easier. I would dread going anywhere fun if I knew the minute we had to leave, all hell was going to break loose.

I have tried to explain this to the grandparents, who spend a great deal of time with the kids. It would just be easier for everyone concerned if the kids learned to respond appropriately at least most of the time. But they don't seem to get it. It doesn't matter that they see it work when they're around us. It doesn't matter that we both have master's degrees in education and work with children all day long, 26 years of experience between the two of us. It doesn't matter. Their responses are always the same: "That's just how he is" or "That's how kids are" or "He's not controllable" or, the absolutely most frustrating of the responses, when they simply laugh it off, like it's a cute personality quirk.

I know what you're thinking: What do you care?

And you're partly right. If they don't care, why should I care that my kids run all over them?

But when the grandparents complain to me that one of the boys gave them a bad day because of this kind of lack of control, or when Hubby and I have to spend 2 days re-teaching our expectations because the kids spent a weekend being allowed to do and say whatever they want, we care. And how can we expect our kids to keep track of who allows what, all of the time? Sometimes, I can tell: he snaps or reacts inappropriately and then catches himself, realizing he's not with the grandparents.

And then there's the other aspect of all this: They seem to think it is perfectly all right for a child to, say, punch another kid on the playground, and that any consequence more severe than "Don't do that again, honey; now have another lollipop" is bordering on abusive. It just makes the hard parenting decisions all the more stressful when you know the rest of the family members who are involved day in and day out in the children's lives are not going to be supportive. Few things have frustrated me as much as the day my dad asked me if "maybe it was possible" that the teacher "just doesn't like Ben" and is "making up lies about his behavior."
Yes, Dad, that's it. The preschool teacher sits around all day, plotting how she will set up the 4-year-olds in her class who she doesn't like. That's why she got the low-paying job at the Christian preschool, after all: to mess with the kids.

I don't want the grandparents to be parents. I know that's our job. I want them to enjoy being grandparents.

But I can't help feeling that sometimes they make my job that much harder.

Even writing that, it's difficult. I feel like I'm betraying them, because they do so much. Their biggest crime is wanting the kids to be happy. But things can get volatile when you mix the inevitable dysfunctionalities of family with the complications of raising two small children.

I don't mind, really, that the kids eat Sour Patch Gummy Bears for lunch most days. I don't care that they are allowed to watch endless hours of TV. I don't care that they (literally) spoon-feed them although they are both able to feed themselves. I don't care that they wipe my 4-year-old's butt when he goes to the bathroom even though he's been wiping it himself quite successfully now for quite a while. It's all good: spoil away. But when it comes to the parenting stuff, the hard stuff, the actual shaping of human beings, I just wish it'd be a little easier to all get into it big happy family.

Maybe I'm asking for too much. Maybe I should just shut up, drop the kids off for a night of babysitting, and go have a drink.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I think I need to go on hiatus

During our recent getaway weekend to South Beach, Hubby and I were enjoying over-priced calamari and even more over-priced cocktails when we were distracted by a sudden frenzy of slightly important-looking people whizzing by, stopping to set up cameras, lights, and generally techie-looking equipment at a table a few feet away. Since stuff like this is quite the norm on South Beach, we weren't too surprised by the activity, but were curious as to who this was all for. That's when we saw Khloe and Khourtney Kardashian, along with Baby Mason, strolling down the sidewalk, all glammed up and shiny-looking, pretending to spontaneously select a table at a sidewalk cafe for lunch.

I know a lot of people can't stand the Kardashians, but I find them slightly amusing (and, due to my own childhood traumas, have a particularly soft spot in my heart for Khloe, a.k.a. "The Fat Sister"), so I stood around for a few minutes when I was done eating and watched them film.

The two of them mostly chatted while adjusting their hair, but every once in a while, they'd pause and look over at the crowd that had gathered. I could be wrong, but they seemed almost surprised by us gawkers. And every time they'd look over at us and turn back to each other, each one would fidget a bit, adjusting her blouse or sitting up just a bit straighter.

I read in a recent US Magazine article (Yeah, so? I read Jane Austen too, okay?) that the Kardashians are in the spotlight so much that every once in a while they tell their people to "take them off the books for two straight weeks."

Even the Kardashians, queens of fame without talent, lovers of all things Hollywood, who've made a career (sorta) of getting attention, need a time out. Even they get overwhelmed by it all.

Sometimes even all the good stuff is too much stuff.
Recently, I mentioned to a friend that I thought I might have a vitamin deficiency. When he asked me why, I explained how tired I felt all the time, how it didn't matter if I slept 4 hours or 12, how every day I needed at least 4 cups of caffeine just to make it through the afternoon. His response? "You don't have a vitamin deficiency. You have two kids under the age of 5 and you still try to do everything you used to do before you had kids."
It's true, I guess. I refused to stop living my life when I had children, so that means that I somehow had to figure out how to squeeze in the raising of 2 human beings into an already pretty full life. Date nights dancing 'til 5, working out at least 4 times a week, reading the stack of novels on my night stand, hanging out with girl friends, spending quality time with my family, a full-time teaching career, general household duties....all of this has to be smushed in with turning two little boys into happy, wonderful grown men (and enjoying it while I'm doing it!).

There is a lot of good stuff in my life. Adventures, activities, and play. There are a lot of wonderful people around me who need (and to whom I want to give) my attention. When I am advised to "cut back" or to "do less," I can not find one thing that I am willing to give up. All of it makes me a happier, more fulfilled person. All of it is required for me to feel like Me. And to be honest, there is a whole list of things and activities (writing courses! mountain biking! girlfriend night outs! belly dancing classes! play dates!) that I wish I could add to my Must-Do's.

But sometimes it all gets to be too much. Even the good stuff.

This week has been one of those weeks. I have nothing to really complain about: I had an amazing weekend "away" with Hubby, my 4-year-old had a successful and relatively painless surgery, my students completed their state tests. But I feel spent. Burnt out. Raked over coals. I feel like the noise and the chatter and the excitement and life in general is drowning me. I feel out of sorts and I just want everything and everyone to stop.

Stop the world; I want to get off.

But I don't have "people." I can't tell anyone to "take me off the books." And the truth of the matter is, I don't think I'd really want to. I like the stuff my life is filled with. I like the people I'm surrounded by. I like planning and doing and playing. It's what makes all the hard stuff easier. And so, I guess, Khloe and I have more than our weight issues in common...we both sometimes fidget with all the attention, but we can't really get enough of it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

365 days + 109 posts = One Revised Me

One year... I started this blog one year ago! I don't think I ever really believed I'd keep it up, and I certainly never thought it'd become such a big part of my life.
When I started this blog, I really just wanted to find my voice again. I was always a writer. I used to sit at my older sister's typewriter (the kind you had to manually return when you heard the little bell and wait until the glob of white-out dried when you made a mistake) and write stories...a million stories started but never finished when I was just 10 or 12 years old. I still have them.
I used to walk around with wrinkled napkins in my purse, covered in notes...notes for nothing specific, really...just words, phrases, sentences, ideas. I was always inspired.
Words have always been a tangible thing inside of me.
But then I had kids.
And although having these two little miracles running around can certainly serve as inspirational fodder, most of the time I was too exhausted and overwhelmed to be inspired. Find the right words to express a thought? Write a poem about a passionate kiss? Fulfill my dream of writing for a living? Who cares?!? I just wanted to sleep!
Suddenly, years had gone by, and I realized that I had stopped. Stopped thinking about words, stopped dreaming about being published, stopped writing, stopped even feeling like a writer.
And I have to admit, I was relieved.
I was relieved that I no longer had this fire inside of me...this burning need to get my thoughts out there, to be heard, to be read, to express myself. It was simpler this way...I didn't feel like I had given up on a dream. I didn't need to carve time out of an already busy day to write in my journal or look up a magazine's submission guidelines. I didn't even miss it.
And then, the kids started sleeping through the night (most nights, anyway), and I started getting restless again. Restless for the magic of the perfect word, the perfect phrase...restless for that voice of mine (it's pretty damn loud on a daily basis, so you can only imagine what it's like when attempting to silence it inside my own head).
And just like that, the need was back. I almost cringed. "Oh no. There it is again. That dream. That need to write."
How was I going to write again, though? Where was I going to even begin? I hadn't scribbled a sentence on a napkin in years, much less sat down to write out a complete idea, musing, poem, story. And how could I go back to writing about love and emotions and angst and all that wispy stuff when I was faced everyday with the constant struggle to figure out how I was going to continue to be Me while being Mama?
So it hit me. I know. It should've been obvious, but when you're caught up right there in the middle of it, you don't always see it.
I would write about just that: the boys, parenting, motherhood, the bad days, the good days, my struggle to continue existing within it all.
I thought a blog would be a great place to start...there were no rules, no guidelines, no editors. Just me. My voice. My thoughts. I didn't even think anyone other than my husband would read most of it. I just needed to get back on it again: thinking about words, about writing, about feeling like that little girl sitting at her big sister's typewriter again.
So now here I am, a year later. Through this blog, I have made connections, friends, and realizations. I have remembered who I was for most of my life, and felt again the feeling I would get when i finished a piece...whether it was a chapter, a poem, or a journal entry. When I finish a post, I feel like I've made something. There is something out there, in the world, that I wrote, that I created, that is solely and thoroughly Me.
So I want to thank you...those of you who have come along with me on this journey thus far.
Thank you, Hubby/Chris, for reading every post, every word, every comment. Thank you for loading the dishwasher (even when it was my turn) on the days I just needed to get something written. Thank you for caring enough to learn who these people are out there in my blogging world who have become like friends. Thank you for checking my blog (I've caught you doing it sometimes more than once a day) just to see if I have a new follower or a new comment. Thank you for being proud of my "talent," as you call it, and for never caring what I put out there, for the world to see. And that drunken post we did together? Yeah, thanks for that, too.
Thank you to the personal friends who come here to read my words, who then make it a point to tell me something about it in person, who have supported this from day one. You know who you are. You have no idea how much it means to me.
Thank you to my blogging buddies (Blog Roll Ladies? This means you!)...the ones who inspire me with their honesty, their images, and occasionally, their appropriately used curse words. Thanks for the comments, the emails, and even the wake-up-call text messages. I truly wish we could all meet on the playground, find a sitter, and go out for drinks.

Friday, March 5, 2010

It's getting better

I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And by "tunnel" I mean the infancy stages of parenting.
I know, I know. A lot of you just looooooove the newborn stage. I know, I know. A lot of you would trade the suddenly-stinky-armpit-8-year-old-stage for the yummy-baby-powder-smelling-6-month-old-stage any day. I know, I know. Those of you with nearly-grown children miss the days when they couldn't talk back and wore diapers instead of jeans that threaten to fall to their knees.
All of parenting is hard.
I know.
But for us, the baby stage...well, as yummy as they smell, as cute as they are, as sweet as it all can's just not for us. After two kids, we've figured this out. Give me the terrible twos, give me potty training, give me (even!) punching on the playground. I'll take it all over the absolutely endless and exhausting and repetitive days of diapers, bottles, 4:30 a.m. wake up calls, and nearly round the clock Small-Object-In-Mouth-Watch.
Last night, we played Hide-and-Go-Seek. All of us. The four of us! We ran around the house in teams of 2, and we played! 18-month-old Aidan was my partner for most of it, and I revelled in his attempts at staying quiet as we hid behind the living room curtain. My whole body shook as I struggled to keep my own giggles in as he held his chubby little finger to his lips, copying my "Shhhh's!" And when it was our turn to seek, and he pressed his fat little face to the wall and grunted loud, repetitive sounds which were his attempts at counting, I can admit that I melted more than a little bit. And the look on 4-year-old Ben's face? Delight. Absolute, delicious delight.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the beach. And we didn't have to carry Aidan around the entire time. We didn't have to keep him from eating sand. We didn't have to take turns "watching the baby" as the other parent got to play with the older brother. We actually all interacted, at the same time. We built sand castles together. We tossed the football around. We chased each other. We laughed. We played! The four of us!
And lately, a peculiar thing has been happening at dinner time: the high chair has been pushed to a corner, the flying green baby food has been replaced with real people food, and all of us are actually able to consume our food at about the same time. About 50% of the time, the baby does not fall out of the "big boy chair," the brothers do not fight, and the adults can even sip a glass (or two) of wine. I think I even remember a night recently when Hubby and I actually talked (to each other!!) at dinner.
It seems that something has shifted. It is very subtle, but we feel it.
There are no more babies for us.
We have a boy and a toddler. Two boys. Two boys who are finally playing together, laughing together, and even starting to conspire together. And we feel more like a family now than ever before. Hubby and I can breathe just a little bit more. We can sit a little bit more. We can sleep a little bit more. And we can with both of our boys, all of us, together, as a family.