Friday, June 24, 2011

Miserable Failure

This has been sort of an off week for me. In my life I strive for a balance between doing all the obligatory grown-up things I have to do, such as keeping the house clean(ish), paying bills, grocery shopping, and doing the fun things in life like taking my daughter to the pool or going out with a friend. Writing doesn't fit neatly into either category, but it is also a very big part of the equation.

Basically this week I accomplished the fun stuff with zest and let pretty much everything else slide. I went out and sang karaoke with a friend on Saturday night and maaaaaybe got a little carried away. I sang about a dozen songs, either solo or with a group, and drank three margaritas. So, I spent most of Father's Day hungover. I know, I'm a real catch, right? In my defense, I still made him breakfast and dinner and presented him with gifts. I just did it all with a splitting headache and a general sense of malaise.

I took Charlotte to the zoo this week and to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles where we FINALLY got in to the Noah's Ark exhibit. If you are in the L.A. area and have kids, do this! It's very cool. Everything is made from recycled material, and the kids can touch, play with, and climb on it all. Just don't make the same mistake as I did and wear a skirt. If your child is under four, you will have to accompany them up the rope ladders and crawl around on your hands and knees on suspended wooden planks.

The front of the ark

"The snake is eating my arm!"

In the midst of all this fun, I neglected know what? No. I was going to say that I neglected some of my responsibilities, and then I was going to wrap it all up with a, "Well, maybe I am being too hard on myself" sort of thing. But, I can't do it. I'm done beating myself up. I don't even want to wait until the end of this blog post to stop the flagellating. I sent Chris to work with dinner every night, I did laundry, I baked (twice!), I even managed to go to the gym once. So, maybe I never sent that form to my student loan company, and maybe there are more crumbs on the floor than there are in my vacuum, and maybe I can't even remember the last time I dusted, but I think what I have accomplished is much more important.

I played with my kid. I took her to places that she enjoyed and where she got to spend time with her cousins and her "fwiends." I hung out with my husband during Charlotte's naps. I left the television off at night after she went to bed and actually read a book (Have I mentioned I'm reading Lolita? I've never been so simultaneously impressed and disturbed.) I spent time with friends. I am constantly having to remind myself that just because I'm enjoying my life doesn't mean I'm not doing it right.

The only thing I regret from this week is that I didn't write. Plans were foiled by a power outage, a couple of late naps/messed up bedtimes, and a scary train thundering past our apartment right after I put Charlotte to bed last night, which somehow resulted in her being WIDE awake until 11 P.M. But, hey, there's always next week. And I wrote *this*, right?

I guess I'm not such a miserable failure after all!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Table For...?

If you live in Southern California and have recently noticed a creepy, blonde woman staring at you while you are out with your family, well, I'm sorry about that.

See, ever since all of this went down, and I'm uncertain about the future of our family plans, I've become a little preoccupied with the dynamics of other families. So, I find myself watching families interact to see how people function with one kid, two or more kids, kids a year or two apart, kids who seem to be three or more years apart, and so on. I'm especially interested in what will necessarily be one of the only possible scenarios for us at this point: kids three or more years apart or an only child. I've come to terms with the former option. I've even embraced it. I ask myself frequently if I would really want to have another child right now, and the answer is always "No." Up until recently, I couldn't really imagine Charlotte functioning well with a sibling. Does that mean we wouldn't have been ecstatic to welcome another child into our lives before this point? Of course not. It would have been great. I just think it will be even better in a year or so.

Lately, I've even started wondering if I could be satisfied with having Charlotte be an only child. Or rather, could we possibly choose that path voluntarily? Sometimes I am just so exhausted by the all-consuming fervor of loving and raising this child. She is a FORCE. It can occasionally feel like too much. How could I possibly find the energy to laugh more, love more, worry more, feel more aggravation, more awe, more staggering wonderment at this fiery little creature who loves and needs me?

But, of course, I could. It happens every day. Every day there is a parent worrying about not being able to find room in their heart for another child, and then when the time comes, they do it. And, I want that. I want another child to love this deeply. The prospect is as exhilarating as it is terrifying.

And, maybe I will have that. Maybe in a year. Or two. Or three. I have no way of knowing. So, I study the siblings out there to try and prepare myself for all the possibilities. A few weeks ago I watched a girl of about seven hover over her sister of about two the pool. She was very maternal, very bossy, and very concerned for her little sister. It wasn't the relationship I had always envisioned for Charlotte and her theoretical sibling. I had hoped they would be peers, and that they would play together, tell each other secrets, make each other laugh. But, it was also very sweet to see the adoration in the younger girl's eyes for her big sister and the tender way in which the older girl fussed over her. And who is to say that they don't play and make each other laugh? I think I could get on board with that scenario.

I wish I had a crystal ball that could tell me exactly what the future holds for our family. Because that's really the worst part for me: the not knowing. If I could know that our kids would be exactly 4.5 years apart, I'd say "Great! Can't wait. I will continue to enjoy my life as a family of three until it's time to get knocked up, and then I'll start raising two kids!" I would even welcome the absolute knowledge that Charlotte will be our only child. I would grieve the loss of the family of my dreams, but once I accepted it, I could go on with my life without worrying about getting pregnant and staying that way. I could start solidifying my career plans for when Charlotte starts school. I could start planning international trips for our permanently small family. I could make it work.

But, I don't know what will happen. If I am able to get pregnant again, I won't know that I'll be able to stay that way. I'll worry. I'll panic. I'll assume the worst. If I see even a hint of blood on my toilet paper, I will KNOW that it's all over. It won't matter how common spotting is because experience has taught me that it's the end for my pregnancy. And I will waste no time in rebelling by eating all the lunch meat and sushi I can find, drinking a couple gallons of coffee, a bottle of wine, and snorting coke off a hooker's stomach.

Okay, maybe that's a tad dramatic. I'll skip the coffee. Just in case.

In all seriousness, I am enjoying not trying to get pregnant at the moment. I have been trying to make the most of this stage by going out with friends, planning trips, and arranging date nights. It's freeing to not be obsessing about a potential pregnancy and just enjoying life in the moment. I am looking forward to taking my daughter to the beach and splashing in the waves with her with nothing to distract me. But, it's looming, this unavoidable preoccupation with expanding our family and all the doubt and uncertainty that it entails.

I just hope that these months spent healing will pay off and I'll handle it better than I expect.

I'll drink to that. BECAUSE I CAN RIGHT NOW! There's always a bright side.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What's on YOUR Face?

I'm in a makeup phase right now. I put it on most days before leaving the house. Even if I'm not going anywhere particularly exciting. I have a sort of complicated relationship with makeup. And, I'm telling you this because Clara told me to, and I always do what Clara tells me to do.

Okay, so this is probably the first time Clara has ever told me to do something. And, she didn't so much *tell* me as suggest that I write about my on-again-off-again love affair with the face paint when I alluded to some complicated feelings in the comments of this post.

I don't always wear makeup. At least not the way I have been lately. Sometimes it's just a bit of pressed powder and some lip gloss. Or some eyeliner if I'm feeling particularly crazy. These days I can be found strolling the aisles of Target with a face full of the stuff: foundation, blush, eye shadow, mascara, and my old friend, lip gloss. And by "these days" I mean the last four or five days. In a few more days I'll probably be back to wearing...chapstick. And, I'll continue to go back and forth for probably the rest of my life. I have Multiple Makeup Personality Disorder.

As a little girl I loved dressing up, painting my nails, and those rare occasions I was allowed to play with my mom's or my babysitter's makeup stash. I remember one day my babysitter, Linda, was putting makeup on me, my sister, and her daughter, Jennifer. Jenny and I are blonde, and my sister is brunette. I remember Linda telling us that blondes should wear darker makeup to contrast with our light hair, and girls with dark hair should wear lighter makeup. This pretty much contrasts with my current, though admittedly limited, knowledge of makeup rules. But, hey, it was the eighties! So, somewhere there exists a picture of my sister in a yellow sundress with the most delicate and "barely there" makeup on her face, standing next to what appear to be a couple of underage hookers. It's hilarious. Ah, I miss those days!

I spent most of my adolescence trying to figure out how to wear makeup properly. I endured lectures from my friends on how I wasn't following the curve of my lips with the lipliner. They helped me pick out shades of powder that would supposedly match my skin tone. I can't tell you how many times I have attempted "smokey eyes," only to have to wipe all the shadow off my lids immediately afterwards. Because when I do it, "smokey eyes" translates to "punched in the eyes."

And then there's the nail polish. I don't think I'm alone in this because otherwise we wouldn't have manicures, but I cannot for the life of me paint my own damn nails. And much like the eye shadow, there have been many occasions where I have no sooner put the stuff on when I'm wiping it all off due to a messy application. I once painted my nails black in a hurry to get to a goth nightclub. I hastily painted them while crouching behind the counter of the retail store where I was working. I got in the car before they had even dried, and by the time I arrived, it looked like I had just finished changing the oil in my car. Chris used to be really good at painting my nails neatly, and let's face it, that's pretty much why I married him. But, the other day I handed him some fuchsia polish, and the end result was DISASTER. Clearly grounds for divorce.

After twenty years or so of experimenting, I finally know how to look like a human when I walk out the door in makeup. More specifically, a human NOT dressed as a clown. But, I have found myself so conflicted about it lately. It isn't a feminist thing. I don't worry that shaving my legs and wearing lipstick makes me any less empowered than other women. After all, if we believe the mantra, feminism is about choice. So, there shouldn't be anything wrong with choosing to get dolled up if we feel like it. Of course, one could argue that I only *think* I want to do these things because I have been TRAINED BY SOCIETY, DAMNIT! But let's not swim in those murky waters right now.

I think my struggle comes more from the fact that I tend to gravitate to the more natural side of things. I try to clean with and bathe with as few chemicals as possible, generally. I buy as many natural and plant-based products as I can afford. And sometimes I get a little idealistic about wanting to look authentic and unencumbered by artificial cosmetics. Until I start to really examine my acne scars. Or the red splotches all over my face. Or my teeny, tiny eyelashes. Then I start rethinking how "authentic" I really want to look.

Or else I'll just see someone with really pretty makeup. And, I want some, too. Or I'm confronted with the rainbow of lipgloss shades. Good GOD, do I love a good lip gloss. Or sometimes I'm a five year old, and I just want to cover myself with pink sparkles from head to toe. These are the times my idealism goes out the window, and I start cruising the cosmetics aisle.

I may never commit to one style, one makeup philosophy. I may continue to be as indecisive and impressionable as I am today. But, maybe I'll just continue to hold cute babies next to my face, and no one will ever now the difference.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Tales of a Traveler

I've been meaning to blog about my trip since I got back. But, it's sort of a daunting task since there is, in a way, so much to say, and yet also so little. I mean, a lot happened in the eight days that we were gone, but how much of it needs to be said? Let's find out, shall we?

So, Charlotte and I survived the red-eye flight to JFK. That is big news in and of itself. She slept for about four hours of the five-hour flight. The first hour she was far too excited to sleep. As we were preparing to take off, she bounced ever so slightly in her seat and proclaimed "Here we go!" every few seconds. Then, once we were in the air she chattered happily about being in an airplane and asking questions about her surroundings and where we were going. Once she finally fell sleep, I tried to do the same, but the turbulence popped up and was all, "Hey! Hello there. I see you are trying to sleep, but I would just like to remind you that you are thousands of feet in the air in an airplane that may or may not fall out of the sky. So, keep alert. Constant vigilance!"

So, I didn't sleep until after the hunting for the bags, finding my sister, (who graciously picked us up from the airport at a perfectly ridiculous time in the morning) and finally arriving at her apartment. The next few days were marked by periods of leisurely sipping wine on the back porch, taking Charlotte to the park, and visiting with my sister's friends, permeated by episodes of panic, planning, making wedding favors, arguing, packing, laundry, and getting Charlotte to sleep in an unfamiliar environment. The madness was unavoidable. Weddings are joyous, but stressful times. I tried to remind my sister and her now-husband of that fact, but no one wants advice (however sage, if I do say so myself) when they are in the throes of wedding angst.

Charlotte hangs out with her new uncle

Stress mounted as the big day drew nearer, but we also managed to sneak in some fun times. We took my sister out for dinner, and then her friends took her dancing as a sort of tame bachelorette party. Though, I did hear a rumor about a veil lined with little, plastic penises. Unfortunately I do not have a picture to show you of that. We also took a midnight swim in the indoor pool the night before the wedding.

I woke up on the morning of the wedding to a text from my sister telling me that she was nervous and could feel it in her entire body. I rushed over there to find her two best friends already taking good care of her. The day seemed to lull as we had our hair done, played with the kids, ordered pizza, and put together the finishing touches on our outfits, when all of a sudden it was time to go, and we were scrambling to get out the door on time.
My kind of bride!

My mom gets Charlotte ready to go

I'm one of those people who always cries at weddings. Always. Sometimes I don't even know exactly what is setting off the waterworks. But, as I watched my little sister being escorted down the aisle of the palatial church by our father, I knew exactly why I was crying. She was just so damn beautiful. The most beautiful bride I have ever seen, hands down. And, all of a sudden we were kids again, walking down the hallway of our house with veils made of pillowcases, arguing over whose fake wedding was the more elegant and whose imaginary husband the most handsome. I was overwhelmed by the sight of the little girl I once knew transformed into a gorgeous bride, now a wife. I can't explain it, really. After all, we are only two years apart. And, I don't see her as a little girl in our everyday lives. She is my peer. My confidant. My friend. But, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia the day of her wedding, and it was nearly impossible to keep from weeping all through the ceremony.

We're not exactly dressed as brides here, but you get the idea.

And here we are post wedding. Gorgeous, isn't she?

But, I made it through, and we all enjoyed the lavish reception and coming together the way we do best: on the dance floor. Charlotte danced all night. She danced with her daddy, her grandparents, and with anyone who happened to be near. But, mostly with her daddy. She even protested when Chris tried to walk away from the music with her after we thought she had fallen asleep on his shoulder. I'm sure we looked like incredible parents, what with the comatose child that we seemingly would not take off the dance floor.
All. Night. Long.

The next day Chris, Charlotte, and I ventured to New York City with Chris's mom, sister, Janay, and her boyfriend, Josh. We had a really nice hotel in Times Square and spent a day and a half just wandering around, braving the subway, taking Charlotte to an awesome playground in Central Park, and ending the trip with seeing "The Lion King" on Broadway.

So, you know how that particular show is famous for its opening number? You know how during "The Circle of Life" all the animals approach the stage from the back of the theater, and it's really incredible? Yeah. Well, I don't. Because my husband was in charge of the tickets.

We all kept asking him what time the show started, and he told us over and over again that it started at 7:30. So, imagine our surprise when we were drinking wine in our hotel room, chatting with my sister and her husband who had come to watch Charlotte, when Chris looked at the tickets and announced that the show started at 7:00.

It was 7:06.

We kissed the baby goodbye and sprinted the two blocks to the theater, where we were escorted to our seats as the opening number was ending. I was crushed. And, Chris felt so guilty it was almost impossible to be mad at him. Almost. But, after profuse apologizing and promises of tickets to future shows, I had to forgive him. And, the rest of the show was phenomenal. We'll go back and catch that opening act when Charlotte is old enough to see it with us. And I will be in charge of the tickets.

So, that's about it. We came home the next day, and I've been doing laundry ever since. And Charlotte has been making up for lost time with her toys. And Chris is going to work. You know. Business as usual.
We'll miss you, New York. You and your kick ass playground.