Friday, August 19, 2011

moving on up!

AHEM!  Last night, at the casa de Fueger, two very important events occurred.  Now, the first of these events had previously (numerous times) been attempted, albeit unsuccessfully.  And the unsuccessful attempts lead to tears, gnashing of teeth and flailing of hands... followed by a Real Housewives of  X-city marathon and some ice cream on the couch.  However, last night, none of that was necessary because....

I pulled on my pre-pregnancy jeans....

                                                              and they zipped up.

As in, I was able to wear them while dancing around yelling excitedly for John to come bear witness to this most amazing of all feats.  I literally spent nothing short of 2 minutes parading around my bedroom, congratulating my reflection in the mirror on getting 'er done (almost 10 months post-baby, but who's counting, right?)  I also spent a full 2 minutes calling, then shouting, then screaming for John to come see.  I meandered out to the hallway and stood at the top of the stairs, only to discover....

Jack had scaled three steps and was staring proudly up at me (important event #2).  It is now time for BabyGate2011 to descend upon us.  And so, this weekend, I will don my pre-preggo jeans and install gates on the top and bottom of our stairs. (And then afterwards, I'll probably settle in on the couch for a nice long Housewives marathon + Raspberry Sherbet ice cream.  C'mon now... Jack will share a few licks, too!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

intervention: episode one. crack-whore redo.

Welcome to the first installment in a four part series entitled Once Upon a Time... I went to Goodwill to find funky picture frames to spray-paint for a project and discovered FOUR chairs instead.  Yes, you read that right.  Last week, I headed on down to the Rescue Mission Thrift and emerged the proud owner of not one, not two, not even three, but four chairs.  (Actually, I bought three chairs... went to work and tried to ignore the nagging voice in my head that told me I should have bought that fourth chair... finally gave in to that evil voice... drove back to the Rescue Mission and bought the last one to add to my collection... but c'mon... let's not let facts or the truth get in the way of this story). 

Now, just a quick disclaimer.  You might be thinking that I bought a set of chairs, as in four pieces of furniture that match and will be used in conjunction with one another.  Ohhhh no sireeee!  These are four very different chairs and I intend to clutter up four different parts of my home with them.  Ohhhh, I sincerely wish I had had the foresight to capture on film John's face when I arrived home, my little Ford Escort jam packed with these new purchases.  I brought them in one by one and lined them up in the living room, while John watched silently, his brow furrowed in a quizzical expression.  See, I don't need the gratification of John's seal of approval (because rarely are my "ideas" or "projects" met with anything except an eye roll, a stern warning or a lecture about past mishaps).  Anyway, my captive audience (John, Jack and the canines) seemed collectively underwhelmed in regards to the new furniture, but I hardly let that deter me.  Peeps, I've been scouring Pinterest for weeks searching out all sorts of inspiration for these chair re-do's and damnit if these four chairs aren't going to be the cutest little things you ever did see... someday.

So anyway, specimen one.  Do you watch the show Intervention on A&E?  You know the sad one about the addicts at the end of their rope who are screaming for help?  And 2/3 of the way through the hour, they're whisked off to Palm Springs or Ft. Lauderdale for 90 days at some posh resort rehab facility only to emerge looking well-rested, tan and happy, rejoicing in their new sobriety?  (Yeah, it's totally a feel-good moment, until the credit music starts, and some white script rolls across the screen informing viewers that "Doug left rehab early against the advice of the facility.  He relapsed three times, and is currently living on the streets of New York.  His family has not had contact with him since September 14, 2008".)  Well, anyway, specimen one was a hot mess, crack-whore in need of a visit from a furniture-style Candy Finnigan/Jeff VanVonderen (my favorite interventionists, fyi). 

the "rock-bottom" BEFORE:

Please note that ripped cushion.  It pretty much smelled like a homeless crack-whore, if you sniff my drift.  Forrrr riiiiilll.  

When I brought the coveted collection home, I did not intend to start my project with this chair, but Jack started climbing all over it, which I proudly announced to John meant that my purchases were a grand success... and didn't he feel silly for ever doubting me???

John decided to head over to my parents' house for a guy's night with my dad and brothers, and after Jack went down for the night, I cued up my DVR'd Jersey Shore and gave my little Snooki-chair the beating she deserved.  (Wait, are we talking about the chair re-do or is this a commentary on my guilty pleasure/reality-tv watching?)  But in all seriousness, crack-whore had several layers of tanning bed on top of an otherwise solid wood frame, so I sanded down the nastiness and primed the heck out of her.

A few coats later... the AFTER:

If this really were Intervention, I suppose that music would start, and a disclaimer would flash, something like "Jack later broke that chair, and John hauled it out to the yard for a weekend bonfire," but luckily enough that chair's made a genuine turn-around.  I'll keep you posted on any developments, though.

Stay-tuned for the sequel to this story, coming soon (give me a week or two) to a big screen near you!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

a big thank you to the support staff.

recently, some minor staff changes were made at work, and i found myself with a new secretary. and she is lovely, and amazing, and cheerful, and kind. she's the kind of person who asks you about your day and genuinely cares to hear your response. it's really nice. but this post is not about her, even though she makes my days that much more pleasant. it's really about some other supporting players in the theatre of the absurd (a.k.a my life) and how grateful i am to have them in my cast of characters.

but as they say, you have to experience the rain to get to the rainbow, so let's dissect the not-so-nice, so i can wrap this up with a proper shout-out to a few choice people who deserve a big thanks. are you thoroughly confused? i'm reaching the end of what has turned out to be a harrowing work week. too much coffee, not enough sleep... i apologize in advance if none of this makes much sense.

very few people read this blog. which is perfectly fine with me. i rather prefer it, to be perfectly honest. in fact, the only people (i assume) who read this blog are people i've generally shared all of this with anyway, so i don't feel all awkward about anyone reading this. the older i get, the more i realize that i have a terrible memory, so mostly this is a diary of things i want to remember or document. and not that i necessarily want to document what i'm about to type, but i just want to put it out there because i do feel strongly about it.

ok, enough with the suspense. today i'd like to talk about... (DUN DUN DUN) mean mommies. and, before you come to this conclusion anyway, i'd like to issue a full disclaimer: i do believe that the reason the following bothered me is because at the time that each of these comments were made, i was not in a place where i was secure enough or confident enough in my abilities as a mother to brush off what was said. in other words, i was bothered because i was bothered, if that makes any sense at all. it took awhile to get here, but i do feel like i'm in a completely different place with myself as a mother, and if these scenarios were to happen now, i hope my reaction would be different. i hope that if you're feeling the way that i did, that maybe you will know you're not alone. maybe you'll have the courage to stand up for yourself to the mean mommy. either way, here goes....

mom guilt sucks. i wish i could put it more eloquently than that, but the truth is, it's major suckage. as a mom, you've automatically opted into the lifelong worry club. you worry about everything. if it's been a busy day and everyone's exhausted, and you breathe a sigh of relief as you gently tuck that sleeping angel into his crib, you are immediately consumed with guilt over the fact that there wasn't enough time for a bedtime story. damnit it all to hell. will my baby excel if i forget to read him "the very hungry caterpillar" at the end of a tiring day? if we lay around all afternoon on a sunday, watching tv while jack plays on the floor with his blocks, are we bad parents for failing to engage our youngster in interactive activities that stimulate brain development? if i let jack have a few licks of my beecher's praline cream ice cream cone, am i a bad mom?

and then the more emotional questions: if i stop breastfeeding and give my baby formula, have i failed my son as a mother? if i'm out the door before my little peanut awakes, am i prioritizing work over family? if i have to prepare for trial and i don't have time to eat dinner with my son tonight, am i a horrible mom? i mean it, you pick a day, you pick a time, and one of these queries is floating around in my head. i swear.

most days, i am pretty good at applauding myself and commending me and john on being good parents. i mean, jack is alive, happy, learning, growing... we must be doing something right. but then there are the days where i doubt myself. i doubt the choices i'm making, and the routines we've chosen. i feel guilty, horrible all-consuming guilt that threatens every part of me. it is on these days that i reach out, that i need a friend to tell me that i'm doing okay, that i'm doing my best, and that perfection isn't possible.

unfortunately a few too many times, i've been met with an absolute wall of... (again, sorry for the lack of eloquency) bullshit.

here are some of the honest-to-god comments i've gotten in response to my (maybe too veiled) "hey, i need some mommy support:"

me: yes, i stopped breastfeeding at 8.5 months. mean mommy: i thought you were actually going to try to make it to a year. i just couldn't imagine quitting like that.

(cue all-consuming vein-popping anger) I DID NOT QUIT BREASTFEEDING. i breastfed my baby, and then i decided to stop when he was 8.5 months old. all things being equal, i would have loved to continue breastfeeding. i went through a rollercoaster of emotions with it that ended on satisfaction and acceptance. i fed my baby exclusively breastmilk til he was six months old (and was introduced to some solids). i continued to feed him breastmilk and solid foods until he was over eight months. i did damn good. and i am now at that place of righteous indignation where i want to slap anyone who makes me feel anything but proud about having breastfed "for only eight months." because i think breastfeeding and PUMPING is completely different than feeding on demand, and anyone who has been where i've been (pumping in abandoned alleyways, pumping in the car, waking up in the middle of the night to pump and keep my supply up, pumping in between clients) knows what i mean. stupid, insensitive comments are so unnecessary. ultimately, we all try to do the best we can. and my best was 8.5 months. at one point, i had something like 800 oz. of stored milk in my freezer. i busted my ass and i gave it my all. i am at peace with having stopped.

mean mommy: wait, you're not dressing jack in organic baby clothes? i mean, we did because it's really the best thing for a baby's skin.

umm, are you out there weaving a tiny shirt made of corn tassles to pair with a grass skirt fashioned from your yard clippings? first of all, a baby is a tiny human. yes, babies have sensitive skin, and i don't want to over-simplify the complex skin conditions that some children have. however, using gentle laundry detergent (or even 1/4 the amount of the regular stuff) is just fine. as long as you're not out there soaking baby clothes in pesticides, he or she is going to be fine. besides, i think it just as important that baby has a roof over his head and food in his belly, and if we were forced to purchase organic-only clothing, we'd be homeless. i guess you pick your battles.

mean mommy: wait, jack isn't in [x class]? you really need to sign him up so he can interact with people and learn things.

here's the thing: i'm not opposed to socializing my child. i think that's super important. and for the record, i do that. i take jack out places, and john and i have taken jack to weddings (3, in fact), restaurants, vacations, stores, etc. jack is happy and good-natured. at some point we may sign him up for swim lessons or maybe see if he'd like to play an instrument or a sport. we also live in iowa, where classes and activity groups and weekly "come look at how awesome my baby is compared to yours" classes are not as frequent, so i'm perfectly okay with not having enrolled jack in anything of the sort. the insinuation that my son will not be as smart as yours, or as socialized because i am not paying $100+ a week so he can sit in a room and listen to music playing loudly with a just-a-little-bit-too-happy instructor shouting and clapping is just OFF BASE.

mean mommy: you shouldn't have your tv on when your jack is in the room. he shouldn't be watching tv when he's under one.

SO TRUE! i totally don't want jack getting addicted to certain tv shows and then trying to cramp my style by insisting that he should watch them when i want to veg and catch up on real housewives! do i think it's appropriate to park an infant in front of a tv and let the television babysit him for hours upon hours? no, but i don't think that's appropriate at any age. do i think i'm a bad mom because i let jack watch 21 minute episodes of "bubbleguppies" on nick onDemand (because he bounces up and down and claps, and i think it's adorable watching him enjoy it)? no. i think it's all about moderation, people.

mean mommy: are you going to let jack play hockey when he's older? me: if he wants to, sure. mean mommy: you think that's smart? we would never let our kids play hockey because it's so violent and dangerous. i mean, you really have to prioritize your child's health... but that's just my opinion.

and thank you for it! by the way, that's bullshit. there, i said it. i have a dad and three brothers who played hockey and have developed wonderful friendships and the kind of strength that comes from conditioning one's body and mind to excel at an athletic undertaking. i suppose hockey can be dangerous. but so are knives. so are electrical outlets. so is getting into a car and walking down stairs. i will support jack if he wants to play hockey... even if it is a touch more dangerous than playing the piano. you can't keep your kids locked in a room all day. afterall, children are not flowers in an attic (yeah, i'm totally in a v.c. andrews phase right now...)

mean mommy: do you walk around naked in front of jack? me: ummmm, no. mean mommy: well, when i first had kids, i didn't either.... but you realize over time that you have to introduce kids to the naturalness of the human body. you really need to make an effort to be around a child and show them that being naked is normal and not wrong.

thank so much for sharing your superior mom knowledge with me! first of all, let's talk about the message that using a towel after one has showered sends. do you assume that people put towels on after showering in an attempt to cover up their sinful bodies? i don't. i generally think that people are using the towel to dry their wet body and not puddle water all over the floor, but maybe i've been wrong all these years. i am not trying to teach jack any "lessons" when i wear a robe. i'm simply comfortable wearing a robe after i shower and as i get ready for work. i suppose i could strut around naked and teach jack about having a crazy, nakey mom, but that's just not me. and i do believe that being naked is wrong... in certain settings. for example, being naked outside of a bar at 2 a.m. will get you an indecent exposure charge and, depending on your proximity to a school, maybe the obligation to register on the sex offender registry. while i don't think the human body is anything to be ashamed of, i do think that it is important to teach my son: no shirt, no shoes, no service. if that makes me a horrible mommy, so be it.

mean mommy: why aren't you buying jack dolls? by limiting the toys you buy him, you're asking him to assume a gender role... and that's so old-fashioned especially in this day and age.

to be quite honest, i don't really buy jack many toys. he receives his fair share of blocks and other things that are scattered about our living room from generous family and friends. regardless, he seems altogether fascinated by spatulas, laundry baskets, empty boxes and water bottles, so i don't see the need to spend a fortune on things he couldn't care less about. however, when i do decide to purchase a toy for him, i am not making a social statement for the world to see. i'm buying an over-priced piece of brightly colored plastic. and please, people, let me do this in peace.

the thing is: i already worry about lots of shit! i don't need you to add your two cents to the pile of loose change i have floating around in my brain. i'm already there. maybe this post demonstrates that i am super sensitive or super insecure or super hormonal. and i wouldn't disagree that i've been all of those things at various points since jack was born. but i will say that i have gained confidence as a mom and i like to think that i'm more in control of my reactions to other people's opinions of me as a mother.

i try to learn something from every experience that i have, and in these instances, i've made sure to commit to memory the way these comments made me feel. because i never want to do that to someone. i never want to come across as judgy mc judgerson. one of the hardest parts of being a mom is learning to trust yourself and your instincts. if i can help a fellow mom feel better about herself, i absolutely commit myself to that task. because (cue the ben lee!) we're all in this together!

and now for the good stuff. i was actually prompted to write this post because i got the sweetest e-mail from a friend, who also happens to be a mom, so full of support and love that i cried (what else is new?). regardless of the crappy moments i've experienced during a few (thankfully isolated) encounters with some meanies, i am blessed to have some wonderfully supportive mommies and soon-to-be mommies in my life. and to them, i dedicate this post. thanks for sitting with me and allowing me to "let it all hang out" (quite literally) with you. thank you for sending those text messages at the appropriate moments. thanks for accepting my tearful phone calls and meeting my desperation with advice, empathy and understanding. you have helped me to be a better mom, and i can never convey my gratitude for that.

and, on a final note, to the mean mommies: my hope for you is that you are afforded a little break today, perhaps ten minutes or more, to stop, look in the mirror and honestly tell yourself: you're doing just fine! you're a good mom! i believe, more than anything, that these comments were borne of insecurities, maybe mixed with a little guilt or frustration, too. i think the inadequacies swirling around in a mean mommy's head surface as criticism of others. and i mean this from the bottom of my heart: i don't want that for anyone. i wish all mothers and soon-to-be mothers of any age all my best.  when we worry too much about what we're doing, we miss all the magic being made by the little ones.... and life is too damn short for that.