Suburban Snapshots

Birthday Body Snatchers

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I don't like to whine, I swear. I admit to enjoying commiseration though. So sit tight, because people, exactly one day after her birthday someone body-snatched my daughter and replaced her with a perpetually exasperated teenager with a complete inability to end words without adding, "-UH" and treating me like I was placed on this earth to either cater to her or ruin her life. It's like living with my sisters in high school all over again.

Our day starts at sun up — shout out to daylight saving, holla! — when either she bellows from her bed, demanding that I come chariot her into the living room, or her little mop head shows up in my face whining for me to take her to the bathroom. I don't think she's had a good snuggle with us in the week since she turned three.

At the couch, more demands. This isn't really new; she wants juice, PBSKids, and her blanket. If I'm coherent enough to anticipate these three it spares me at least two solid minutes of whining-correcting-demanding-reprimanding-Mexican standoff-someone in tears. This is before the hot water has even thought about filling up my French press (we're very international here before seven o'clock).

Even as I type this she's been put in her room for whining and crying non-stop since she pulled me from my warm blankets, insisting I carry her to the couch, then spending the morning fighting with her cousin over Angry Birds, a spot on the couch, their feet touching, shared oxygen, take me away.

I try to be consistent. She gets no demands met until she asks politely for them. She gets put in time-out the second I see any portion of her tongue jut in my direction. I tend not to yell, but respond to her firmly and respectfully, though I'm sure the exasperation shows in my voice just as the tension shows in the throbbing veins on my forehead. She seems to act up regardless of whether I'm entranced by Facebook or giving her my undivided attention over Play Doh.

What saves my sanity are the moments like this, where her hilarious personality is on full display. This is my daughter, and I'm trying to understand why she seems to spend so much time and energy trying to turn me into a beet-faced lunatic instead of killing me with gasping laughter.

This is your cue, fine readers. Please send help.

In My Head I'm Tina Fey

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I've seen this prayer circulating on Facebook today while Bossypants waits patiently within the digital guts of my Kindle. I love Tina Fey and sometimes imagine in great detail the lunches we'd have together where we're BFFs; picturing people at nearby tables convulsing with laughter as they eavesdrop on our undoubtedly hilarious exchanges.

Then I snap back to reality, get my nagging kid her juice and clean up the trail of dog crap leading from my office to the back door. It's all very glamorous.

Tina Fey's Prayer for a Daughter

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her When crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.



Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hey Kiddo,

I'm right out here on the couch waiting to be sure you're asleep before I sneak down to the basement and bring up the little kitchen set we bought you for your birthday. While you dream about Dorothy and Toto and cupcakes, I'll be wiping down the three wooden pieces and neatly putting all the accessories inside, watching as your toys continue to turn my living room into a day care center.

Tomorrow you'll be three, though the date is a mere formality. You've been as smart, fresh, and tall as a preschooler for months now. You're still a lanky little thing, all kneecaps and angles, except your cheeks which are the only parts that don't jab and nudge me in the mornings when you squeeze into our bed. I still love pressing my nose against your face, but honestly baby, I look forward to whatever age it is when you'll want to snuggle just a little bit later in the morning.

You've got a pretty sizable fan club for a girl your age, especially considering your lack of any marketable skills. You are so beautiful that despite seeing you every day I still have moments of total amazement that you're mine. You get your sense of humor from both your dad and me, but I'm pretty sure your smart mouth comes entirely from him; you're going to get the hang of sarcasm any day now. You've got attitude like a girl four times your age, stomping dramatically out of a room with perfect timing and rhythm, slamming doors with an exasperated sigh. I envy your courage (though holy cow can an insect send you shrieking), and your total lack of grace reminds me that you have more of my DNA than what showed up in your face.

With you these last three years I've laughed breathlessly, silently, more than in my 34 years before, and I've yelled in frustration so loudly I've startled myself. Sometimes I need to get away from you, most  days I'm not even sure where I end and you begin.

Little Bean, I know I tell you a similar version of all these things each year, but it can't hurt to say over and over how much I love you and how despite the nine months I spent being utterly panic stricken over having to raise another human who I never actually invited into my womb to begin with by the way, you and me, well, we're both doing alright.

Happy birthday, my beautiful girl.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tonight a friend emailed asking me for advice on choosing between two day care centers for her kids. When Steve and I set about researching this particular service, we visited a handful of centers in the area, decided one was too dirty, one was too pricey, and settled on the one closest to our house with a good rate and pleasant staff. During the tour we didn't notice anyone bleeding out or duct taped to a wall, so we called it good and waited to hear about an opening. My friend is debating her decision hard, and she said to me via email, "It's weird how hung up on this I am."

But it's not weird. Because no matter how laid-back of a mom you consider yourself to be, we've all got our triggers. There are just those decisions or occasions that turn us from practical, level-headed parents into the type-a Stepford go-getter moms we couldn't imagine being friends with, let alone becoming. It's all part of the Big Crazy that comes with having kids.

My sister had a stroller obsession. She'd pretty much let her 3-year-old babysit her 2-year-old, but the woman spent hours, drove miles, road tested, bought, swapped, and sold dozens of strollers until finding the one that was finally perfect. My own husband once got mad at me when I found a free, used tiger xylophone toy for Anna and returned the exact same toy he'd bought brand new. He wanted the toy to be hers first, fresh out of the box — normally Steve would rather taste-test lighter fluid than spend money unnecessarily.

This week it's my turn. Anna's birthday party is on Saturday. I'd hoped to keep it small this year but over-ordered the invitations I designed using the images from the third-birthday photo shoot I did the day before. See? Two sentences in and The Crazy is in full effect. I planned a pretty simple appetizer menu  so to compensate for not spending four entire days in the kitchen I'm making cake pops, which will ensure I'll cry into batter at least once and have crusty frosting jammed in my wedding rings for weeks. I bought her a special birthday skirt from Etsy; on Friday I'll use my day off frantically looking for a shirt to match.

I'll spare you the details of how long it took me to find her the perfect (used) play kitchen, the way I want to have it all set up when she gets out of bed on Friday — her birthday morning — or how I may have actually researched pony rentals. At least I recognize my problem.

So tell me, what sets off your crazy?


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Steve and I have a recurring conversation that starts at random and goes like this:

"Hey, remember when I'd, like, go buy a new iPod on my way home from work?" "Yeah. We used to be so rich."

Or like this:

"Remember how we used to go to dinner, like, every Friday, just to try a new place?" "Yeah. We used to be so rich."

Those are good memories, and our current inability to drop three-hundred bucks between leaving work and catching a train isn't due to the newest member of our family — the kid hardly eats, plays happily with utensils and washcloths, and costs almost nothing on my health insurance policy. We left the city so that things would get easier and cheaper, and somehow we've managed to accomplish just the opposite.

It's true we rarely sit in traffic anymore, but it costs $10 a night for Steve to get back and forth the twenty-five easy miles to work. We live near a bargain grocery store, but because it's up the block we end up shopping sixty-two times a week. We had to get a second car, more insurance, and all of the other peripherals of homeownership you don't factor in when looking at your mortgage estimate. There are lawn mowers, snow blowers, rakes, shovels, tools, plungers, there are projects and wish lists and appliances that are barely hanging on, I didn't intend to launch into such a complainy post.

We are happy, though it's been a lean few years managing bills and expenses, alternating who's working when, hoping to find ourselves both employed at the same time, but then wondering how we'll afford full-time day care. It feels like we've done little besides work and yet we're that family the news financial segments constantly warn viewers not to become - the one a paycheck away from nothing. We were lucky enough to modify our mortgage while Steve was laid off, but the few credit cards we had got either maxed out or forced us out with astronomical percentage increases.

I feel lucky to have the job I do, with great benefits, a home office, and the best supervisor anyone could ask for who also happens to read this blog. I don't need to be able to drop three Benjamins on a whim, but I'd like to remember what it was like to have the security of a little buffer in the bank, one that we could almost forget was there.

We'll be alright and I know we're far better off than a lot of people. I'd just like to get back to the place where security isn't such a luxury.