Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Suburban Mom Blues

Life's so damn confusing.
Used to be amusing.
No more carefree musings
Or parties, late-night boozing.

Before responsibilities,
Was proud of my abilities.
No worrying 'bout utilities
Just workplace capabilities.

But these days I feel so lazy.
Wasting whole days doesn't phase me.
My identity is hazy.
Maybe I'll do something crazy.

What if I dye my hair blue
Or another shocking hue?
Why not get a new tattoo?
But what good would that do?

Should be cleaning but I'm not,
Cuz I'm on Facebook quite a lot.
And our dinner's rarely hot.
Need a Jetson's maid-robot.

I entertain but it's for shit.
I'm just no damn good at it.
I've misplaced my charm and wit.
Should hang it up for a bit.

Getting old's a losing race.
I've become a big disgrace.
What's happened to my face?
Lines deepen; they won't erase.

Forever moisturizing.
My reflection--analyzing.
Toning and exercising,
Yet my body's still capsizing.

Grasp Mommy's little helper--a lie.
A temporarily brighter sky,
But when at last the bottle runs dry,
Time to face reality, and try.

Try to be less demanding,
Not quite so reprimanding,
A little less commanding,
And way more understanding.

The self-doubt, I'm confessing,
Is ever present--oppressing.
It weighs heavy, so distressing,
And I'm struggling, stressing...

Whether things will stay the same,
If my confusion will remain.
But there's no one else to blame.
This trouble bears my name.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer Breeze Makes Me Feel Fine

I came back from a trip to the Cape with the kids to find a pile of back-to-school catalogs on the counter, delivered while we were away. And store circulars are advertising Glade's new autumn scents (Fall Hayride, ewww), and summer clothes are about 75% off by now.

The end of summer is around the corner--on a cool day like today it's almost palpable--and it totally sucks. I am absolutely against it.

To all those people who love to trill, "Summer doesn't really end until late September and the weather that month is so glorious!" I say, "Bite me."

Summer ends when school begins. Period. The end.

I love summer. Yeah, I know everyone says how much they love it, but I really, really do. Like really. As in I despise winter with every particle of my being; I believe autumn is a mere prelude to certain agony and is only made bearable by Halloween; and while spring is often lovely (but just as often winter lite), it makes me antsy because I just want summer to hurry up and get here already.

So, yeah: REALLY.

I will miss this.
This summer in particular has been extra fun, probably because my kids are finally old enough to be real pals. There are no more potty issues, no more naps. Fewer meltdowns, fewer tantrums. They are my partners in crime (and by "crime" I mean spoiling our appetites with ice cream before dinner and tracking sand all over my parents' beach house).

By mid-August, it's true that many SAHMs are counting the minutes until they can pack their little (or not so little) ones onto the bus and finally BREATHE. Hear themselves think. Finish a cup of coffee while it's still hot.

I will super-duper miss this.
But not me. Especially not this year. Because this year, my baby is starting Kindergarten...and for the first time in over 7.5 years, I will have HOURS to myself. Which sounds like a good thing--a great thing, even--until I really think about. Then I realize: September is going to be super, horribly, terribly lonely.

Luckily, I have freelance work lined up. Otherwise the situation at our house would be Code Red by Columbus Day.

But there will still be times when I won't know what to do with myself.

I will be restless.

I will have time on my hands to ponder the reality that my kids growing older means so am I.

I will pine.

I will cry.

And then I will breathe deeply. I will listen to my thoughts as I finish my hot coffee.

And it will be okay.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Who Needs Friends When You Have Kids?

I've written before about how difficult it can be to make new friends once you become an adult, and how it's even harder for stay-at-home moms.

It's now two years after that initial friendship post and unfortunately, not much has changed on the friend front. In fact, things are even worse. While I've made exactly ZERO new real friends in the past two years, at least two of my mommy friends have moved away...to a different school district, maybe, or a different county, a different state.

Luckily, my kids are now two years older and therefore much better conversationalists. They are my new(ish) friends! And if I want adult conversation, I have my DH to turn to. Pathetic? (Well, honestly, they are way more fun than most of the people around here anyway.)

My husband encourages me to be friendlier and more outgoing. He does this because he knows I wouldn't mind having more friends. He wants me to be happy.

But it's not as if I can change my whole personality. Right? I mean, people don't actually manage to toss off their introverted tendencies and become outgoing types with suddenly packed social calendars, do they?

And it's not like I'm horribly lonely or wallowing in self-pity: I love my life, I'm happy. I don't think about my lack of friends on a daily basis.

Probably because I actually do have lots and lots of friends. Tons! They just aren't local. They are pals from childhood, high school, college, my 20's. They live in Chicago, Seattle, England, Israel, Australia, and so on and so forth. They are scattered around the world--pretty much everywhere except within 30 miles of my house.

I rarely (never?) see my far-flung friends. We don't speak on the phone. Hell, we don't even email anymore. It's come down to the occasional Facebook comment or message.

With some of my "friends," if you break down our communication over the past few decades years, it boils down to the equivalent of "LOL" or " :-) ."

My friendships have been reduced to emoticons and acronyms.

These are the people I used to spend HOURS talking to--either on the phone when we were teens, in our dorm during college, or over coffee (or beers) in the city during our single days.

Yeah, it's sorta sad. But it's also life. I'm pretty much okay with it.

People move on. Priorities change. It's not just about us anymore. No one has time for hours-long conversations anymore.

And discussing ad nauseum the strengths and weaknesses of your and your friends' children will JUST NEVER EVER be as exciting as dissecting what it could have possibly meant when Johnny looked at you in 10th-grade social studies class. Sigh.

What to do?

For now I'll just bitch about it in my blog.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Without Warning

It comes without warning: without sign, signal, or symptom.

Then, BOOM! One brief phone call and you go from not having a care in the world to feeling the weight of that same world on your shoulders. The sunny summer days that you've been looking forward to for months seem to cloud over in an instant.

When the rain comes, it feels expected, familiar. The chilly, gray bleakness echoes your current state of being.

It seems incomprehensible that your entire world can change just like that. It takes your breath away. It fogs up your brain and can make the most mundane tasks seem impossible. It even makes you nauseous.

You snap at your kids, burn their grilled-cheese sandwiches, and space out behind the wheel.

The worst is how it sneaks up on you: you wake up in the morning, ready to face another day, happy the weekend is finally here, then the haze of sleep clears and you recall your new reality: all is not well, after all.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Goodbye, Grandma

This Memorial Day weekend, we buried my beloved grandmother. Needless to say, there was a lot of memorializing going on. My grandma was a strong and opinionated woman, especially considering that she was born before women were even allowed to vote in the U.S. But since she spent her childhood wandering from country to country with her family after being forced to flee Marash, Turkey (historic Armenia) as a result of the Armenian Genocide, the inequality of women was the least of her concerns. She was too busy trying to stay alive.

My gorgeous grandma with her three sons
at her 100th birthday party 
My grandmother was warm, generous, and vivacious. She would do anything for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She loved to laugh and have fun. She was a great cook who also loved to eat, and she was always trying to feed us. "EAT! EAT!" was the soundtrack of my childhood.

She was also extremely stylish, took great care of herself, and was concerned about her appearance. Up until the very end, whenever she posed for a photo, she would make sure to take her glasses off for the picture. She got her hair done every week, her nails were always painted, and she never went out without putting on makeup and jewelry first--all this when she was ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD.

She was a force to be reckoned with.

Just as she was concerned about her own appearance, so too did she feel that others should put some effort into how they looked. She was not a fan of sloppiness. Even during the last few years of her life, when her eyesight was failing, she would somehow still notice what I was wearing. If I happened not to have any lipstick on, sure enough I'd hear about it: "Honey, why don't you put on a little lipstick? It looks so nice." She was almost blind yet she could tell I wasn't wearing lipstick from across the room? Hmm...I never quite figured that one out.

Even in her late 90s, my grandma was still willing to get
down on the floor to play with her great-grandchildren.
Whenever I knew that I was going to see my grandmother, I would put extra thought into my outfit. So on Thursday, as I was packing and getting dressed for the trip up to Massachusetts for the wake and funeral, I chose what I was going to wear carefully. I wanted to pay my respects to my dear grandma by looking the way she would have wanted me to look.

(I wish I could believe that she was watching us from above, but I don't--not really. It's a nice thought, though, and who knows.... So I made sure to look nice just in case.)

And you can bet that I most definitely wore lipstick.

Grandma, you are still in my head...and you will always be in my heart. Forever.

I miss you.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Come as You Were: The Return of Grunge

Grunge fashion is back, doncha know?

Yeah, yeah, we've been hearing about the return of grunge for ages, but apparently, the fashion houses are ratcheting it up a notch these days. In yesterday's Style section, the New York Times featured an article about grunge fashion that really went deep into the way early 90s trends are finding their way into high fashion: "Subversion in myriad forms was being commodified on the catwalks....in recent months, the era of Nirvana, Starbucks and heroin chic has been exploited with a rarefied twist."

Ugh, don't you just hate pretentious fashion mumbo-jumbo?

So, despite the fact that actual grunge fashion was basically about wearing old flannel shirts you bought at the thrift store, patching (and re-patching) your ancient ripped jeans until they could be patched no more, and then finishing off the "look" with Doc Martens (usually the only new item in the whole ensemble), various high-end designers, such as Helmut Lang, Dries Van Noten, Jil Sander, 3.1 Phillip Lim, and Saint Laurent are co-opting grunge styles.

Designers have always looked to the past for inspiration. In the 90s, flared hippyish pants (stolen from the 70s) were in style, while more recently, fashion houses tried--and failed, thank god--to bring back 80s day-glo.

But with the resurgence of grunge era fashion, it's the first time that the clothing of my young adulthood--the styles I (supposedly) wore when I was first on my own and trying to find my place in the world--is being co-opted by the fashion houses.

Not surprisingly, they are getting it completely wrong. The fashions they are copying--the layered, plaid, flannel shirts, the ripped black outfits--are what people think was worn back then. But it wasn't really. Maybe the icons of the era--Eddie Vedder, Kurt Cobain, etc.--wore stuff like that, but normal, everyday young women sure didn't.

Here is the heroin-chic grunge look as romanticized by 3.1 Phillip Lim:

Note the plaid shirt tied around the waist, the ironic (or is it meta?) T-shirt, Doc Marten-esque clunky black boots, and short skirt. A short skirt in the early 90s? Uh-uh, wrong.

In reality, girls just weren't this cool back then. Mostly we wore ill-fitting floral prairie dresses with tights and Doc Marten rip-offs. Or overalls. Let's not forget the lovely Farmer Jane look that was so popular then. Our jeans were stone-washed and high-waisted, and our hair was full of split ends.

Here is what the early 90s actually looked like:

These are authentic photos of actual young adults living the dream in 1991. The photos were taken in Missoula, Montana--where many kids from the Northwest went to college, bringing their "grunge" fashions with them.

(Interesting story: the guy with the long hair was from Spokane, Washington, played guitar, and actually KNEW the dudes from Alice in Chains. He had been in Montana for a while and was living without TV, so when I informed him that "Man in a Box" was on heavy rotation on MTV, he almost pooped his pants.)

Do you see any plaid flannel? No. Do our outfits scream HEROIN CHIC? No. White shirts, jeans, sandals--that was pretty much it.

We wore old clothes because we couldn't afford to buy new ones. We all definitely had Doc Marten-type shoes and even a plaid flannel or two, but it's not as if we dressed like Kim Deal every day of the week.

When I see the models strutting down the runway wearing their fake-grunge get-ups, it makes feel like I'm mis-remembering the era.

Was it really that sexy and dangerous? Did we really have such a laconic, jaded, f-off approach to life? Did I miss something?

No, I didn't miss anything. Because I was living it. It just didn't actually look like that. Besides, it was the music that was interesting, not the fashion.

Regardless of how much over-priced designer plaid flannel is bought by the naive masses, the feeling of excitement upon hearing, for the first time, a brand-new song called "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is never coming back.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mama's Gonna Help Build the Wall

You hear a lot about attachment parenting these days. I'm all for it: I carried my babies on my body more than I pushed them in a stroller, I breastfed both kids until they were old enough to ask for it using four-word sentences and perfect grammar, I co-slept with my youngest until she was one, I never let my babies "cry it out," etc., etc. I'm no Mayim Bialik but I truly believe a parent cannot "spoil" a baby.

With my babies in 2008--
safe and sound
The problem with attachment parenting, however, is that you can spoil a toddler. And that's when things get difficult. At some point, you have to begin detaching.

Some kids will separate on their own. They'll strut into the classroom without looking back (and break your heart in the process). But most kids need a little push.

A push to go off and explore on their own, without mommy or daddy holding their hand. A push to make their own discoveries, accomplish their own feats, and, yes, make their own mistakes. They need to get hurt, because unless they learn and understand on their own where the dangers lie, they won't be able to protect themselves as they get older. They also need alone time to learn how to amuse themselves, and soothe themselves, too,

It's a fine line. Too much coddling and they might end up clingy and insecure. Too little coddling--too much detachment and "tough love"--and they might end up, well, clingy and insecure. 

I think I've established a good balance. My kids are reasonably confident and independent, yet they also have a healthy awareness of potential dangers. They are happy to go off and play or explore by themselves but they know not to venture too far, do anything too risky, or talk to strangers. 

Non-helicopter parenting can be scary. In addition to worrying about the Big Horrible Things that could happen, there are the everyday smaller-but-still-scary moments to deal with. For example, at this moment my kids are playing outside. They've been out there for hours while I've been doing some much-needed spring cleaning. I think they're in the back yard--at least that's where they were 20 minutes ago when I last checked--but I don't see or hear them. Am I worried? No. Well, a tiny part of me thinks they could've gone off and gotten themselves lost, run over, or abducted. While my rational side knows that's ridiculous, it doesn't mean I don't worry.

I imagine it's only going to get harder as my kids get older and the dangers become increasingly likely to actually occur. After all, the chances of a toddler sustaining serious injury while on the playground, or running off and getting himself kidnapped are slim. But it sure seems like the odds of an older child getting into real, serious trouble are much more likely. When I think about all the potential dangers that lurk down the road, I break out into a cold sweat.

I'd do anything to protect them.

And then Pink Floyd pops into my head:

Hush now baby, baby don't you cry
Mama's gonna make all of your
Nightmares come true
Mama's gonna put all of her fears into you
Mama's gonna keep you right here
Under her wing
She won't let you fly but she might let you sing
Mama will keep baby cosy and warm
Ooooh Babe Ooooh Babe Ooooh Babe
Of course Mama's gonna help build the wall

What sounded atrocious to me when I first listened to "The Wall" back in high school doesn't sound quite so awful now. I get it. It almost sounds appealing.

And that's the scariest part of all.