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Marriage vs. Parenthood

March 31, 2011

One of my besties (known henceforth as Doc) recently turned me on to a great blog, And Nobody Told Me.  This is a team effort, run by two very different but equally cool moms along with a handful of regular contributors.  Topics range from hilarious to heartbreaking and everything in between.  All of the posts on this blog are about things that nobody told us/them/you about being a mother.  The goal is that maybe we can all stop feeling so alone on this wild ride called parenting.  After reading a few dozen of these posts I started to think about what my biggest surprise was when I had kids.  I hope the awesomely, cool women at And Nobody Told Me don’t sue me for stealing borrowing their idea.

Nobody told me that I would have to work so much harder at marriage than I did at parenthood.

I have never been accused of being conventional, as I rarely do things the way people think that I should. Indeed, I do get there eventually.  Starting a family was no different for me.  Instead of the “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage” routine, I got it a little out of order. A little.

As I’ve mentioned before, The Hubs and I had a whirlwind romance.  It started fast and the momentum just continued to build. Our first date was February 6, 2005, and we moved in together on May 1, 2005. It was love AND logistics. Those of you who live in the NYC area will understand why when I tell you that he lived in New Jersey and I lived in Brooklyn. Though our respective homes were only about 20 miles apart, 20 miles in NYC/Jersey can easily be a 3 hour trip.  The Hubs would work from 7 to 4 in Jersey, take a bus into Manhattan to meet me after work, take the subway with me out to my house in Hell and Gone Brooklyn, stay there until about 4AM and then take the reverse trip back to Jersey to be at work again by 7AM. I remember him saying his life was like a crazy mix of “Groundhog Day” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” for those first few months.  Since we were still in the throes of the “we have to be together all the time” phase, we decided the best thing was to get an apartment together.  Due to the logistical nightmare that is apartment hunting in NYC (I know people that have had to live with their exes long after the relationship ended because the renting process is slightly shorter than that of getting a doctorate), I went to him.  That, friends, is how I ended up living in New Jersey .

Those first few months in Jersey were a dizzying combination of wonderfully new, scary experiences. The one experience I would like to touch on today is cohabitation.  It is true, I had lived with male roommates prior to this move,  but I had never lived with anyone I was in a relationship with.  As someone who had been on my own since I was 18, the essence of cohabitation came as quite a shock to the system. “What do you mean popcorn and Diet Coke isn’t dinner“?   We talked about kids (both yes) and marriage (him for, me against) but we decided  there was time to figure that all out and we would take things as they came along.  What came along was Thing 1, I became pregnant with her almost a year to the day after our first date.

We were totally over the moon. Though I had been on the fence for most of my adult life about having children, I was now 100% ready to become a mom.  We were both in our early 30’s and The Hubs had already been married once. Our parents were less than thrilled with our unmarried status now that we were breeding, but none of them put up too much of a fuss.  I think my mom was too excited to finally be a grandmother to take anything but what she could get at this point.

I really feel like motherhood came very naturally to me-not to say I was instantly transformed into a perfect parent.  I made a lot of mistakes and still do on a daily basis but I’d like to think my Mom instincts are pretty solid.  The wife instincts, not so much. When Thing 1 was about 6 months old, The Hubs (he was still the Baby Daddy at this point) and I decided we wanted to have another child sooner rather than later so maybe we should make it official.  There was no romantic proposal or 3 carat diamond, it was more like “we probably should do it, huh?”.  Don’t take our nonchalance about the wedding to mean we weren’t in love and committed to each other, as we loved each other very much and still do. We’re just kinda laid-back about such formalities.

My mom and I planned our very non traditional Vegas wedding in an afternoon.  When Thing 1 was 10 months old, the BabyDaddy officially became The Hubs.  Two months after that, I became pregnant with Thing 2. We had very little time between becoming a couple and starting a family. I wonder if our problem is that we never got a chance to just be husband and wife?

As far as husbands go, I could do a lot worse-he loves me almost unconditionally, thinks I’m sexy as hell (this  blows my mind) and tells me how great I am on an almost daily basis.  Despite that, the same things that I accept as a natural part of being a parent drive me crazy as a wife.  I can wrap my head around these cute little people being totally dependent on me. They can’t read yet, which understandably makes fending for themselves difficult.  Why then is it so difficult for me to do some of these same things for my husband?  Picking up after the kids all day, while not exactly fun, is just a part of what I have to do as a Mom – picking up after The Hubs makes me want to kick him square in the baby maker at times.  Where is my patience for this person I love and chose to spend the rest of my life with?  Why do I have to work so hard at being understanding with him, when I seemingly have infinite patience and understanding for my kids?  Why is being right so important to me?   Why does he always get to be the “fun” parent, playing and being silly with the kids, while I have to be the one who makes them eat their vegetables and clean their room?  Why does he see a bag of candy as a fun treat and I see it as a potential dentist bill?   How do I stop expecting him to think like I do and start letting him be the person he is?  The things that attracted me so much to him in the beginning are the things that at times make me want to scream.  He’s the dreamer and I’m the practical one (who would have thought?).  It sucks having to always be the “bad cop” to my husband with the kids, but I know it is something I have to do. Thank you for letting me rant. Whew.

People tell you how hard it is to raise kids, but I never expected marriage to be so much work.  Am I the only one?


Real Clothes Make Me Crabby

March 16, 2011

When my very funny friend Meg started a FB status with this phrase, I knew instantly that I had to steal borrow it!

I have always had a love-hate relationship with clothes.  I love them in the store, on the mannequin, on other people, even on the hanger-I hate them on me.  Before I started working from home and running board meetings in my pajamas, I actually had to wear real clothes everyday.  Don’t get me wrong, I have never had a job where I had to “dress up” daily-that is my idea of hell, but I did have to wear something  other than  flannel or cotton drawstring pants and a threadbare Packer t-shirt to work.

I have worked in both a day care and elementary school, these positions required a lot of crawling around on the floor as well as dealing with all things messy and gross (i.e. finger paint, paste, disgusting kid fluids, etc…), so the more comfortable and stain resistant the better.  I was very excited when I started working in a hospital,  I thought it would be like E.R.(this was way before McDreamy ever entered the picture), those pale blue cotton surgical scrubs looked both comfortable and cool.   Come to find out my position required me to wear purple scrubs, bright purple at that-I looked like a cross between Barney and Grimace.  The best thing about scrubs is that they are virtually indestructible, they should make airplanes out of this material, 12 hour shifts of wear and tear, throw them in the wash and they are just as purple and obnoxious as the day you bought them.  I just realized I have spent far too much of my life covered in puke, pee, poop and blood, as the mother of two kids I don’t foresee that ending anytime soon.

When I moved to New York and began working in Manhattan I mistakenly thought I would be magically transformed into some hip, fashionista by way of immersion alone.  The streets of NYC are full of people who sacrifice comfort in the name of fashion and every single one of them in horribly uncomfortable shoes.  I think I bought a pair of shoes a week for the first 3 months I lived there, I have never walked so much in my life and my feet constantly hurt.  Khakis and cotton oxford shirts or sweaters and boring loafers became my uniform, I skated the thin line between business casual and waiter at Dennys.

The fact that I never liked how I looked in clothes may have contributed to my general crabbiness when forced to wear them.  I have come to find out many of my friends who look great in real clothes would rather wear stretchy, workout wear any day than pull on a pair of tight fitting, albeit stylish jeans.  Could it be that unforgiving waistbands are just as painful when they dig into slim, toned waists as they are to those with considerable more padding?  This is a concept I have never considered!  Now I do know a handful of people who actually get dressed in completely coordinated outfits all the way down to makeup, shoes and stockings, even when they are not going to a wedding, funeral, job interview or court.  Part of me wishes I had that drive to always look so put together-then I look at my comfy yoga pants and decide that they kick SPANX ass every time.

The Great Pacifier Debate

March 7, 2011

Thing 2 is kicking an addiction.  There are no 12 step programs for her problem, no Anonymeetings, no awareness raising campaigns. Thing 2 has a monkey on her back, and that monkey is a dark mistress whose name is pacifier.

Thing 2 loves her pacifier, for clarification she calls it her pacifier – not a Nuk, Ba, Paci or Dummy for my kiddo.  The Hubs and I have been enabling her addiction for almost two and a half years now.  Thing 2 is a very strong willed child, if she wants something or doesn’t want to do something you ask of her she is very loud and unrelenting.  It is so much easier to pop a pacifier in her mouth than it is to reason with her.  Was this the best child rearing technique? Probably not… I never claimed to be Mother of the Year, but sometimes I just want peace and quiet…is that so wrong?

Around her 2nd birthday I began thinking it was time to start getting rid of the pacifiers.  Why the arbitrary number two?  She was starting to talk a lot more and I was worried it would affect her speech.  We also got Dopey the dog shortly after her  birthday. What does Dopey have to do with Thing 2’s pacifier?  Puppies, much like babies, put EVERYTHING they can find in their mouths. Thing 2 was generous in her “sharing” with the new pup… toys, dolls, food, and yes, even the Dark Mistress of Suck.  Now remember, I am far from being labeled a germaphobe (see previous post) but that  grossed even me out.   The Mistress had to go.

Thing 1 stopped wanting hers around 5 months old and became a thumb sucker instead.  When this started, the Hubs and I freaked a bit.  Of course, the visions of buck teeth mixed with flashbacks of braces and retainers had us both in a tizzy.  The Hubs suggested taking her thumb away but I thought that would pose a problem with, say, writing her name come Kindergarten.  A year or so ago, my Mom and Aunt came out to visit us in New Jersey, where they treated Thing 1 and I to a lovely girls day in NYC. After manicures and shopping, we decided to refuel with some lunch.  Thing 1 was pretty tired by this time and started to put her newly pink and bedazzled thumb into her mouth,  suddenly she made the same face she did when trying peas for the first time and said “Mommy it tastes yucky”.  When I offered her the choice to take off the nail polish or stop sucking her thumb, my lover of all things girlie, slave to fashion,  opted for pretty nails-she never sucked her thumb again.  Forget my previous statement- I am Mother of the Year!

I had no idea where to start the process of ditching this thing, so I did what every modern mommy does, I combed the internet for articles, tips and suggestions.  There were a myriad of different ideas out there.  There was the cold turkey methodology, you take them away and the kid just has to deal it.  I’m not an overly coddling parent by nature but that seemed kind of cruel to me.  What if someone tried that with my coffee or Diet Cokes?  There would be hell to pay for sure!  I pictured my cherubic 2 year old strung out on the mean city streets trying to score “just one suck”…not a pretty picture.  The pacifier fairy was another popular option-kind of like the tooth fairy but the kid trades her pacis for a toy of her choice.  Good in theory but it turns out that Thing 2 isn’t very materialistic, yet.  To every toy I offered her in exchange for the pacifier she simply replied “No thank you”.  There are numerous books and videos on the subject, from professionals weighing in to happy little stories of pacifier free barnyard animals.   I too got sucked in and shelled out $16 for “No More Pacifiers for Piggy” – a cute story about a pig and a duck who are playing hide and go seek and the pacifier keeps getting in the way of their good time, Piggy finally decides he would rather play with Ducky than have his pacifier (let me tell you it was a nail biter).  The last page shows Piggy with a huge non-pacified smile with the caption “No more pacifiers for Piggy!”.  I read Thing 2 the book, theatrically building the excitement till the climax when Thing 1 and I cheered  “No more pacifier for Thing 2!”, she looked at us as if we just offered her a spinach flavored cupcake  and said “No thank you”.

Next stop on the advice train was my mother.  Now I pointed out that I don’t coddle too much, my mother makes me look like an overprotective psychopath-she is hardcore no nonsense.  Her advice was “She will scream for one night and be over it”.  I pointed out that Thing 1 and Thing 2 were supposed to be sleeping at grandma’s and grandpa’s house that night-to which my mother exclaimed “Are you freaking nuts!?  I’m done dealing with such craziness.  I finally get to play good cop”.  So much for taking one for the team Mom.  I researched and debated and bored my Facebook friends with status updates such as “three hours without the pacifier-I’m so proud of you Thing 2!”.  I can’t confirm but I do believe there was a lot of “un-friending” going on that day.  And then one day something magical happened.  I ignored it and it went away…

Thing 2 had a particularly long day and fell asleep on the living room floor.  I carried her to bed and tucked her in without the pacifier.  She didn’t wake up in the middle of the night looking for it, she didn’t ask for it the next morning either.  I mentioned this to The Hubs and told him I was just going to try and go with it…he called me mean.  I told him to bite me.  If all these types of decisions were left to him our kids would enter college with pacifiers, bottles and in diapers.  Thing 2 asked for the pacifier a few times but mostly we just ignored the subject and gave her something else to do or play with-thank the baby Jesus for short toddler attention spans!

So the kiddo has 14 days in now, and it looks like we may be home free-another superhuman feat of parenting accomplished, by doing absolutely nothing.

Now if the same idea would work for Mommy and chocolate…

Confessions of a Hot Mess

March 5, 2011

My name is Jodi and I’m a hot mess.

We love you Jodi.

There it is, I have taken that very important first step, admitting I have a problem.  I have never been a tidy, organized person.  Is it laziness?  Apathy?  Carelessness?  Rebellion?  Let’s delve a little deeper into this issue, shall we?  My mother is an uber organized, at times obsessive compulsive, neat freak.  Her house is always pristine, a dust bunny wouldn’t dare reside under her furniture, she has a label maker and knows how to use it.  Growing up my brother and I would fly into a panic every time she stayed home from work because it meant she was “CLEANING OUR ROOMS!”.  Before you scoff and think I am overdramatizing the situation let me point out that neither my brother or I were allowed to have “our own space”, our rooms were in her house, she paid for the house and they would be kept clean.  I kid you not when I tell you that she used to take a white paper towel and run it along the bookshelves and door frames to assure we hadn’t missed a spec of dust.  When she was cleaning our rooms, it was code for throwing things away, nothing was safe: sports trophies, childhood keepsakes, books, toys, etc… I was always so jealous of my friends who had rooms that were complete disaster areas-ahh the freedom that represented to me.  I think having always been forced into such “neatness” has made both my brother and I total messes, I’m not blaming our mom, I’m just saying.

I wish that I could just embrace my hot messedness but I really want to have a house that is perfectly clean all the time.  I love the feeling of having everything in it’s place, all our clean clothes hung neatly in the closets and folded perfectly in the drawers.  I have spent countless hours and dollars on various methods of organizing myself and our household.  Most recently I shelled out about $25 at Office Max on a pretty pink binder, clear page protectors and tabbed dividers.  I did hours of research on the internet for instructions on creating a household manual, a veritable Bible of running our house.  This was the answer to my disorganized prayers!  I made lists, schedules and charts, printed them on brightly colored paper, decorated them with stickers, it was beautiful.  We used it for 3 days and it is now collecting dust somewhere in the mess that is my storage closet/laundry room/home office.  Before you judge me I will tell you that I am not “dirty”, dishes are done daily, toilets and sinks scrubbed, floors washed and vacuumed, etc… the problem is stuff…our family of four has a ton of it and it’s everywhere: mail, papers for work, fliers and newsletters from school, happy meal toys, hair bows, spare change, books and on and on and on.  Once or twice a month I will go through and purge all the piles of stuff lest the producers of Hoarders come a knocking but within a few days it starts to pile up again.

My flakiness does not only extend to my house, I always have 100 different projects in the works, all at various stages of completeness.  The Hubs jokes that my hobby is collecting hobbies-I don’t just dabble in things, I jump in whole hog-go big or go home is my motto.  About of year ago I decided to start knitting, I spent hours on looking up patterns and techniques, I ordered books, bought every size needle known to man, collected all the gadgets and accessories I could get my hands on, combed the sales bins at craft stores for a rainbow of various color yarns; to date I have finished 3 dishcloths.  I have enough cake and cookie decorating supplies to rival a professional bakery.  The cabinets in my laundry room are stuffed with coloring books, markers, pens, crayons, paint, play doh, games and books.  Ironically I love office supplies and boxes and bins, an hour at The Container Store is like Mardi Gras for me.

I know, I’ll start making a list of what needs to be done, write down everything we own and where it all belongs…this is the key to getting me organized…now if only I could find a pen.

Tough Nut to Crack

March 4, 2011

I met my husband a little over 6 years ago, it was a whirlwind romance to say the least.  I had found the man of my dreams, he was smart, funny, sensitive and attentive.  Our budding relationship was set against the backdrop of New York City; our first kiss was in Times Square, our first Valentines Day was celebrated in Central Park, it was the fairy tale.  Every fairly tale must have a wicked step mother, little did I know that she would be me.  My new beau had a two and a half year old daughter from his recently ended first marriage.  I foolishly thought it would be a piece of cake.  I had always loved kids and they loved me, I worked in a day care and elementary school when I was younger, not to mention the slew of younger cousins I had been babysitting since I was eleven.  I thought that older kids would be more difficult to win over as they would understand that mom and dad were no longer together and feel resentful of another woman in their father’s life, but a two year old-how hard could that be?  I had no idea.

The first time I meet OO she and her father came to visit me at my office in the city before heading off to a daddy/daughter outing at the circus.  She was simply breathtaking, she looked like a china doll with huge light brown eyes, round rosy cheeks and thick, gorgeous brown hair that fell almost to her waist.  She spoke clearly and articulately and of course proud Daddy had to show her off, encouraging her to impress me with her knowledge of the alphabet and numbers 1 to 20.  After that first meeting I had visions of taking her to the park and the mall, of tucking her into bed at night with hugs and kisses.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to be her mom, she had a perfectly good one of those but I was serious about her father and planning on being around for the long haul so I thought we could be like a niece and a close aunt.  OO was having none of it-she was cool to me from day one.  I wasn’t her mother and had no business with her Daddy-she never said as much but that was the feeling I got from her.

I remember our first dinner out together, just the three of us.  We were sitting at the table and the Hubs got up to use the rest room, OO was dipping her pacifier (BA) in a glass of water and then putting it in her mouth, I thought it was gross and making a mess so I asked her to please not do that.  She leveled me with one of those “who the hell are you” stares and waited for her Daddy to return.  Once he came back to the table she looked at him with those big brown eyes and started to dip her BA into the gross water again and he stopped her, I secretly rejoiced that I had made the right decision in asking her to stop, but no-he handed her his glass so she could use clean water.  OO smiled sweetly at her Daddy, thanked him and gave me a look of “that’s right lady, I’m the boss around here”.   This battle of wills went on for about six months, with me alternating between feeling foolish for wanting the approval of a toddler so badly and not wanting to let said toddler “win”.

The Hubs and I got an apartment together and OO came over once a week for an overnight stay-I went to great lengths to make her room special: painting it the perfect “Under the Sea” blue, decorating it with all things girlie and filling bins with dolls, games and toys.  I so wanted this kid to like me but felt like she needed to know that she couldn’t walk all over me.  We have certainly had our ups and downs but I love being a part of her life and watching her grow up, especially when she excitedly took on the role of big sister when Thing 1 and Thing 2 were born.

It was a long and rocky road but now it is six years later and she has matured into a very cool eight year old. She loves music, clothes, video games and finally….hopefully, me.

The Same But Different

March 3, 2011

Today Thing 1 asked me who I loved more, her or Thing 2.

Of course I gave her the standard “I love you both the same” answer that most of us have heard at one time or another from our own mothers.  If I’m being 100% honest, I don’t love them the same at all, I never have.  Now before you judge me, please let me plead my case.

From the second I found out I was pregnant with Thing 1 I was head over heels in love with her.  I obsessed over every symptom and milestone of my pregnancy-I read baby books obsessively and basically made her into my full time job before I ever saw her beautiful little face.  Speaking of beauty, she is one and has been since the day she was born-even nurses in the hospital commented on how “pretty” she was (it didn’t hurt that I had her via C-section, no birth canal trauma or cone-head).  By the time we left the OR she was in my arms and latching on, our bond was instant and strong.  She is four years old now and that bond is still there-I joke that if she could crawl into my skin to be closer to me she would.  She is such a easy child, she is smart, sweet, funny and still breathtakingly beautiful.  As my mother said “she has something special about her, a sort of ‘spark'”.

Fast forward 21 months and along comes Thing 2.  Chasing around a toddler gave me little time to obsess over this pregnancy.  Besides a case of gestational diabetes, the second time around pregnancy was way easier so Thing 2’s due date kind of snuck up on me.  There was very little belly rubbing or singing and talking to the bump-since we were having another girl in less than 2 years I didn’t need to prepare much for her impending arrival.  We had pushed off getting anything ready for her until the last weekend before our scheduled section-last OB appointment and we are told “the baby hasn’t grown in the last two weeks, you need a section tomorrow”…I was suddenly in a panic-I wasn’t ready, I didn’t have enough one on one time with Thing 1-how would the center of our universe deal with this new addition, how could I love anyone else as much as I loved my first born?

Thing 2’s arrival was much different-she was taken quickly, I barely got a glance at her before she was whisked to the nursery to be weighed, measured and tested due to her small size and my gestational diabetes.  The doctors went about putting all my insides back and sewing me up and I kept waiting for my baby to come back down…I needed to hold her and feed her-but no, that wouldn’t happen for 36 hours.  Two hours after major abdominal surgery I was wheeled into the scariest place on earth for a mother-the NICU.  She looked so tiny, just barely 6lbs, but she had some glucose issues so she had to stay and I had to go back to my room empty handed.  The Hubs had to go take care of Thing 1 so I was alone and baby-less, there was no rush of closeness or contentment I felt after Thing 1 was born, only worry and fear.  When we were finally reunited the next day we settled in and got to know each other-I was in love once again but I still felt guilty that it didn’t feel the same as with Thing 1.

Thing 2 was the most laid back, content baby-and then when she hit 5 months old she started having breathing/asthma issues.  One scary night I drove white knuckled to the ER while she wheezed and coughed in the back seat.  It was just her and I in the hospital for 4 agonizing days.  Those 4 days were the longest of my life but it was then that Thing 2 and I finally figured each other out and those indescribable feelings settled in and I knew that though my love for her was different than that for Thing 1-it was just as strong and fierce.  She is now a crazy, funny, independent whirlwind of chubby mischief.  She has such a strong personality and stubborn nature she completely reminds me of myself as a child.  She makes me laugh every day and I can’t imagine my life or our family without her.

So do I love them the same?  No, my love for them is as different as they are but who do I love more?  How do you compare immeasurable to immeasurable?

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