Thursday, August 22, 2019

An artisanal, bespoke Victorian preschool experience

         After being at home for three years with a combination of her beloved "Nona" and a series of amazing sitters, our daughter is enrolled for her first preschool experience.  Shopping for said school was very similar to the time the husband and I went couch shopping for our current home.  A sales rep approached us on the floor of a local furniture Mecca and asked if we were looking for anything in particular:

Me: "Yes, I'm looking for a sofa with an English rolled arm."

Sales rep:  ".... Oh, so we like nice things." 

          You should have seen the husband's face just fall...

          So I went through the gamut of emotions with regard to choosing this preschool.  At first, I was certain that most of those early education statistics meant to study disadvantaged populations are completely over-inflated by status-obsessed upper middle class parents who think that these arbitrary decisions make or break their child's chances of getting into Harvard, (and to a large extent, I still do believe that).  I thought that surely the well-regarded, local public pre-K was going to be more than enough for our progeny, but after the husband toured one local academy, I decided that I should proceed with some due diligence and we should tour a few more school programs.  Well, I shall describe them and you can guess which one I chose.

      Option A: Our city's public, pre-K program (subsidized, though still not at all free.  Don't get me started on a culture that churns out studies on the importance of early childhood education and yet doesn't fund it and barely provides enough funding for the public school system already in place that starts in kindergarten.)  Its local claim to fame is a highly-regarded principal often compared to Mr. Rogers in temperament 

     Option B: The Y Academy, with the rave reviews of the bougie residents of the town next door, and with a wait-list to match

     Option C: A Montessori program several blocks away, situated in a beautiful sun-lit Victorian mansion, and with a curriculum focused on the environment and multi-culturalism

          If you chose Option C, you are correct.  If you guessed that Option C is also the most expensive, you would also be correct.

          What can I say?  Much to the husband's chagrin, I was enchanted.  I have fond memories of my own pre-K experience at Cabbage Hill Country Day School.  It was an old farmhouse with a playground set into a grove of pines run by an older, but vibrant community member whom even the chief of police referred to as "Miss Ginny".  (Yes, it remains in my memory as magical as it sounds).  And when I walked into that renovated Victorian and saw the kids working quietly with wooden toys, doing advanced math, and reading in corners surrounded by romantic mosquito netting, they had me, hook, line, and sinker.  Then they showed us their multi-cultural corner, that morning's presentation on nature, and told us about their afternoon arts programming, including yoga, capoeira, and violin lessons... well, you know the rest...  I toured the other two schools with just Fiona and was given rather perfunctory summaries of everything.  No children ran up and gave the head mistress spontaneous hugs like at the Montessori school.

          And would Fiona thrive at any of these places?  I absolutely believe so.  But there is also this strong desire I have, (which I more than suspect I got from my mother.  If you've visited this blog, you've likely read about all the Historical Society Teas at which she had me serving cucumber sandwiches), to raise a 19th century child, which the Montessori modeled school seemed to reinforce.  It is the right combination of "old school", (quite literally) and "woke" to both shield her from and awaken her to our time.  If that sounds like an oxymoron, it is, but this is also a complicated time we live in.  She'll do "work" within a limited structure in a home-like environment to ease her transition from being full time, and without a zillion multi-colored, speed of light options.  I feel she has so many years of a conventional, desk-bound academic classroom ahead of her, she may as well have a different experience now.

          There is an important piece of the puzzle here for me, that sold me on this place which I didn't even consciously realize I was looking for.  And that is that I want our daughter to have a foundation that involves a broad look at history.  And yes, the part of me that knows that she still can barely get her own pants on without assistance can laugh at the part of me that also knows this context is important for her and her future learning; that "new and improved", though a highly American value, does not always mean better.

          Aside from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Fiona has barely seen anything onscreen that was created past 1970.  There are reasons for this: 

a. Limited screen time in our house

b. Parents who are more fond of classics than "the latest thing", (we are opera singers, after all)

c. The fact that a bunch of contemporary childrens' shows are edited to be super fast, choppy, and manically brightly colored.  We noticed right away that exposure to even newer episodes of Sesame Street made our toddler super irritable afterward.  This is just one reason Fred Rogers is so revered in our time- the pace of his programming.

d. Our distinct ability at this age to cherry pick what she is exposed to before she does go to school and the husband is plunged back into his years of teaching the music of Disney's Frozen to a bunch of obsessed middle-schoolers.  Yes, he truly does want to Let it go.

         While the themes in more contemporary films may strive to be more enlightened with regard to feminism and diversity, we find the musical styles of the latest fads that haven't stood the test of time are infinitely more annoying.  And we still have plenty of options in retro culture to introduce her to a wider swath than solely the perils of princess culture.  And while representation in media is important and hard fought for, nothing is going to make up for parents talking explicitly and frankly with children about race and ability at a young age.  

          If this all sounds like controlling parenting, that's because it is.  Because she is three years old.  We're allowed to filter before she's relinquished from the metaphorical nest.  I sing old camp songs, non-creepy nursery rhymes, and yes, opera to her, because they are a part of our broader lineage.  I sing the "My little girl" section of Carousel's Soliloquy to her as a lullabye with lyrics that I changed to be more feministShe, like myself at her age, has seen snippets of The Sound of Music and her namesake, Brigadoon.  Right now, her favorite characters for dress-up are Tigger and Herme the elf from the 1964 stop motion Christmas special of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  That's right.  The one who wants to be a dentist.  You just never really know what they'll glob onto.  And she has no idea that either of these characters are just not the absolute coolest.

          And if she gets to school and immediately discovers Moana and My Little Pony, then so be it.  (Are those even cool anymore?)    And if she thinks her mother is pretty lame, then that's ok too.  They say the most important values instilled in you at a formative age come back to you as an adult.  As much as I rolled my eyes at my mother's black and white movies as a tween, I have maintained an ardent love for classic films as an adult.  Fiona will still eventually have a long view of our cultural history, or at least I hope.         

Wednesday, February 6, 2019


           Yesterday was the Victory Parade for the Patriots' Super Bowl win. I am only vaguely aware of these sorts of things now because the husband watches some Sportsball and because I have to commute to my office job amidst all this nonsense. I find football generally pretty snoozy, but Sunday's first half was exceptionally boring, so when our daughter needed to go to bed, I used her as an excuse to leave our friend's Super Bowl party. After getting her to bed, I proceeded to then watch a replay of the Mark Twain prize ceremony honoring Bill Murray. During that, I heard some fireworks so I figured the Pats must have won.

            With regard to the parade, one would think; "Ok, we have won a dozen of these in the last twenty years so it won't be any more packed than say, two years ago, right?". One would be wrong. Oh so wrong. You see, yesterday was an exceptional championship parade because it was an unseasonable 60 degree day in February. Word of the practically tropical weather summoned everyone in Massachusetts this side of Route 495. I had a concert gig yesterday evening, so please imagine me on my way to work in a dress coat, carrying a gown in a bag on the Orange line while rabid middle schoolers in Brady jerseys yelped colorful suggestions about what the Rams could do that day. (P.S. The Rams were in L.A. and then they were in St. Louis and now they're in L.A. again? This is something I learned yesterday and people wonder why I question the arbitrary nature of team loyalty...) But that's right, it wasn't enough that I, as a regular commuter wearing my faux fur trim black coat, was in the minority in this sea of blue and red sportsing attire, but also that day, I had to be that a$%hole, trying to keep my floor-length gown from wrinkling on the train.

           I haven't felt so markedly urbane since my friend Rita and I had to call AAA in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina when my car broke down on our vacation. This was around, I'm guessing 2005? We were in said parking lot to rent a movie, so that should give an idea of timeline here. Whatever year it was, she and I were both rocking jersey resort style skirts and metallic purses, because that was obviously a thing that season, when a somewhat surly-looking Outer Banks native with long hair and some missing teeth came to get us in his tow truck. My car was as dead as a doornail and did have to be towed. We had the usual talk about AAA policy and how we were going to have to ride to the mechanic's and also get home that day, and he nicely said he could take us back to my parents' place, (no Uber then, not a bustling cab business on the Outer Banks and a car rental at the beach wasn't really necessary for the two days). This of course meant that we had to ride in the tow truck. Our first hiccup was that neither Rita nor I could manage to open said passenger door and he had to assist us. Then we had to be helped into the cab because it was quite a high climb, especially in our somewhat precious outfits.

           Upon seeing the inside of this tow truck cab, the inevitable happened. I knew this would happen because Rita and I have been friends since elementary school. She, being a fastidious person, grabbed her antibacterial hand gel from her silver purse and squirted a generous portion into each of our hands. Did she care that this might insult our driver? Possibly. But though Rita is a generous and polite person, I also know her well enough to know that the appearance of the inside of this cab would outweigh any possible insult or further embarrassment. There was no question spoken aloud of whether I wanted the hand gel either. And having grown up with my mother, I know that it is often best to accept the inevitability of these types of compulsions, so I silently and compliantly held out my hands. When we then couldn't open the door to exit the truck, our driver shook his head, and I swear this is a direct quote, said: "Y'all are gonna get captured."

           Back to yesterday. I could hear from thirty floors up exactly when the parade of duck boats began because that's how many people were adorning the streets of our fair city. Later that afternoon, I just wanted a chai. I had avoided the streets for the first half of the day, but damnit, these fans were not going to ruin a walk for me on a rare warm winter's day. I realize the chai latte part is super bougie, but bear with me. I'm a busy mom with a full time job and side hustle. I'm tired basically all the time and occasionally just want a $4 beverage in the guise of self-care. The streets looked and smelled like hot garbage in a way that I have not even experienced after Marathon Monday. And of course, a giant gaggle of Pats jerseys just beat me in line at the local coffee shop, where they loudly deliberated their purchases and unwittingly continued to block me from the straw wrappers. I succeeded in being tolerant of the suburbanites, who were seemingly incapable of lowering their voices for other patrons, but I also just wanted my chai.

           I finished the work day and schlepped my gown around some more to the concert location. I sang a concert of art song with good friends. It went well and we had an appreciative audience.

           After the concert and heading to take the T home, I was looking forward to the relative quiet that the 9:30pm trip home would offer me compared with the chaos of the morning. That's when we got to North Station and a raucous crowd of drunkenly victorious Bruins fans joined our car. As they whooped and hollered, I clutched my gown, grateful in the knowledge that the following day, I would just be another commuter again.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Is this Boho or Hobo?

          Given that my personal style has always tended toward emulating something in an Anthropologie store window, I do have to be careful.  I have coined the very useful phrase; "Is this boho or hobo"?  That's right; in an effort to make sure that my look is more "free spirit" than homeless person, I have put this question to the husband and other family members on more than one occasion.  Sometimes admittedly, an outfit of mine might resemble something a septuagenarian would wear in the Sundance catalog, and for this I blame my mother and her hand me downs.  And also, serious question; why do I keep getting the Sundance catalog?

          I will never forget another unfortunate outfit that my roommate and dear friend told me I couldn't leave the apartment in because it was bordering on "too costumey".  I can only imagine the times in my 20's that I left the apartment with no one to stop me.  And yet, let's be real; the only thing separating a mid-20's and mid-30's me is  perhaps budget.  This particular sartorial bent of mine was actually quite helpful when donating costume pieces to a production of Carmen years ago.  I had more gypsy skirts than any one person should own and the opera company reaped these benefits.  

 What I think I look like

What I actually probably look like

          Recently, a co-worker told me on a casual Friday; "Katrina, you look like Stevie Nicks today.  And that's a compliment!"  Actually, I'm totally cool with that comparison.  

         My current state of motherhood presents fashion problems all their own because it exacerbates every extreme of my wardrobe.  I now face risking not only the homeless look, in flowing garments from head to toe, but in keeping my professional wardrobe updated for my office job and for performances I attend, my casual weekend outerwear has become last priority.  This means that on certain days of New England weather, I take my daughter to the playground in my only lightweight jacket, which has a leather belt and faux fur trim at the collar.  The day I realized I was wearing this with rhinestone earrings and all the other mothers were wearing Patagonia puffers, I felt like one of those assholes on the Housewives shows.  Don't get me wrong; I felt comfortable and all but it was as though I had a mission to bring a slice of plastic Jersey to the playground.  (I am never that meticulously manicured of course.  Ain't nobody got time for that).  The truth is that my over-formality in cases like these is both genetic and learned behavior.  

          I used to laugh at my mother for never wearing or even owning a pair of jeans, and now I fully admit that every weekend, I just want to put on a casual "schmata" as my Jewish friends would say- a rag of a dress to throw on- instead of a pair of those leg prisons the rest of the world knows as casual weekend wear.  It's summer for crying out loud.  Who's idea was it to make jeans a year-long thing?  Also, all the cool jeans these days are "mom jeans", which are sort of updated takes on the high-waisted looks of the 80's and early 90's.  I fear this would be all too real on me and I would actually look too much like the ignorant women they jab at in that SNL sketch. And though shorts have come back in vogue in the past few years, it is very tough to find a pair that doesn't ride up on one side and give me an asymmetrical crotch full of short.  Don't even get me started on the whole romper trend.  I have a long torso, a large bust, the tiniest shoulders known to man, and a c section incision lump to hide, so finding one garment with actual pants attached that fits all my bizarre requirements could take literal years.  And for what?  I then have to strip naked in a public bathroom stall for the approximately dozen times a day I have to use the toilet?  No thanks.  

          Then there's that waist cut-out, spaghetti strap trend that seems to have just come into style at the point in my life when it would be most impossible for me to wear.  Despite my Bohemian look, I have never been the type who could go bra-less in public without public censure, but I think after nursing an infant, with those wait cut-outs, that if I attempted it, I might actually get arrested.

          So, I'm marking my calendar.  Age 35 is officially when I seem to have lost touch.  I lost touch a long time ago as far as music is concerned.  If I happen to listen to something actually written in this century, it is inevitably before the year 2004.  My friends always joke at our parties that I seem to have heard that Outkast album and thought "nothing can top this" and haven't looked back since.  But it seems that having a young child further freezes the mind and now it is with regard to fashion.  The intern at work was showing a few of us what people wear out to clubs in L.A., where she is attending college, and I was like; "Oh no, that's underwear.  A dance leotard at best."  I emerge from my house and I have so many other questions:  

1. When did dying one's hair pink stop being edgy and start becoming mainstream?  Don't get me wrong; I love it, but it's still not appropriate for my day job.  

2. Are we really continuing to take the return of the bodysuit with the snap-crotch trend seriously?  I thought onesies were for my toddler.

3. Prairie Chic.  I thought I made up this term, but when I google it, actual images come up.  I have been so confused lately when I see groups of teens on the train platform dressed up like slutty Laura Ingalls Wilders.

                       On the shelves of Urban Outfitters right now

4. These.  

5. What's with all the unicorns?  I mean, really, they're everywhere. 

          I remember my mom saying that she always thought her cousins looked very sophisticated dressed in black and brown but that she and my grandma did better in pastels so "We always show up to family parties donned like heliotrope flowers".  But as the kids say these days: "You do you."  

Photo by Leah LaRiccia Photography

                                           Photo by my dad

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Is Parenting for you?!

Let me broach an important topic, knowing that approximately half of my readership is in their 30's and wrangling with the big questions of career, life, and of course, procreation.  (The other half of this blog's readership is made up of my parents' friends, of course).  The question you may be asking at this crossroads in your life: "Is parenting for you?"

Parenting may be for you if you want to enjoy the finer things in life, like finishing cups of tea while they are still hot or showering.  

Parenting might be for you if you want to keenly savor moments like using the toilet without an audience, and eating a meal that you don't have to cut up into small pieces for someone else.  

If you look good in hats, try out parenting, because you may only be able to wash your hair once a week.

If you truly want to rediscover the joy that is driving alone in your car like the day you first got your drivers' license, parenting could be for you!  

If you want to find new zeal in mundane trips alone to the grocery store, again, parenthood.  
Nothing can make sure a 30 minute trip to the store means that you open all your car windows and blast Beyoncé as though you've just been released from prison quite like parenting.  

Do you enjoy absurdist literature at all?  If so, parenting could be for you!  Never before will you have said with such regularity turns of phrases like "We don't put apple slices up our nose" or "No, we don't lick the toilet brush".

If you want to ponder the big questions like "Is there a German word for "Desperately hoping your child falls asleep and then immediately looking at pictures and videos of her with longing once she does?", then consider parenthood.  

If you want to sincerely appreciate the sheer, unmitigated joy that is a deep, trance-like, session of sleeping in on the weekend, then I suggest parenthood, a very sympathetic spouse, and some excellent ear plugs.

I was brushing my teeth in preparation for passing out into a deep, coma-like series of naps for the night the other week when the husband thought he would join me at the sink.  I startled him and said "No.  Nope.  Get out."   I was completely serious.  "What? You want to do something by yourself without an audience?  I can't understand why..." he said, facetiously, because he too, can truly appreciate the finer things in life.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

I believe the children are our future dysfunction

          Our daughter is about one and a half now and the husband and I are really loving this age.  You see, she's reached a phase in her development where's she's just rife with opportunities for screwing her up.  And we really feel up to the task.  We feel we can bequeath her with a good amount of dysfunction to serve her future therapist well.

          In all seriousness, a friend and I were recently discussing our thoughts on the newborn phase.  She, like many others I seem to talk to, hated it.  I, on the other hand, (my horrible birth recovery aside), loved it.  Once we were home from the hospital, I so enjoyed all the baby snuggles, lounging about in my robe, watching movies, and greeting a revolving door of visitors that I didn't want it to end.  This really speaks to my skill set.  I am flipping great at receiving visitors and serving as a mattress for a wonderful-smelling newborn.  I am also great at sleeping around an atypical schedule.  It's one of my gifts.  I don't need 8 hours of consecutive sleep at night because I can pretty much fall back to sleep in the middle of the night any day of the week.  As long as I can get plenty of hours of sleep, I am good, and newborns sleep 16-20 hours a day so I can totally get down with that.   I am not one of those people who can't rest if the dining room table needs dusting or the dishwasher needs emptying. The 9-5 schedule is actually way more daunting to me because I'm such a night owl.  And we were lucky in that my baby and I took to nursing quite well and had a lot of help in the beginning for things like making meals and emptying said dishwasher.  I also liked the phase where she would fall asleep in her car seat and we could just stick her under the table at restaurants.  And the 6-9 month phase is great, when babies are mobile, but not that mobile yet.

          On the scale of typical toddler behavior, our daughter is actually extremely good-natured and does have a healthy sense of danger.  She hasn't tried to scale the staircase or swim in the toilet or any of those potentialities, but when she learned to walk a few months ago, she face-planted approximately three times a day and got her hands in front of her, probably only 50% of the time.  I think I've been pretty clear here that at least one of her parents is not a natural athlete, ok?  But additionally, she never crawled and instead scooted everywhere on her butt, so I think that contributed to her center of balance being off, (though it was extremely high on the adorable scale!)  On the first day of our family vacation this summer, for example, our daughter fell once in the house over a broomstick, once outside on concrete and lightly scraped her head, and then fell again while holding a picture frame and got a bloody nose.  They don't make picture frames that say "Baby's First Nosebleed", as far as I know so it wasn't a milestone we were hoping for so soon.  Even though she is very skilled now at the whole walking thing, the jumpiness of that phase has been wearing off quite slowly.

          And I know we are supposed to enjoy parenting, and I do.  In fact, according to this one article, "parenting" is even an aggressive term, since not too many other generations thought of it as a job in the way contemporary society does.  Children probably weren't starting to be seen as intellectual receptacles for all our worldly knowledge until recent decades.  And now science has found even more ways to remind us every two seconds the myriad things we could do to make sure our children get into Harvard.  Thirty years ago, our own parents researched only to the point where they chose one child-rearing philosophy and thus, one or two books on early childhood.  For my mother, it was Dr. Penelope Leach's Your Baby and Child.  She felt she was particularly sympathetic to the needs of young children and that the book was so detailed, she could be in the Outback and still survive with only that one volume.  (She means the Australian Outback, not the steakhouse.  I don't think many parents could survive the steakhouse with young children).  This was her parenting Bible and it was a good one.  Of course, nowhere in there did Dr. Leach tell my mother to make sure I had dance lessons, which remains her biggest regret in my adulthood.  I lamented this once, possibly twice, that they would have been useful during my musical theater performing days and she brings it up at least twice a year with regret.

          These days, there is just so much information out there, you can find anything to justify your beliefs and your mercurial child's whims.  You were a sleep-training advocate before your baby was born?  Well, when your baby screams with or without your reassurances, you can find any number of articles on the merits of co-sleeping.  Nursing isn't for you?  You can find a million articles on how formula-fed babies do just fine, because they do. My friend in Ireland, who I'd say has a very similar parenting style to me, asked if I'd heard of RIE parenting over in the States.  I hadn't but asked if it was similar to Hand-in Hand parenting?  She didn't know, so I responded; "But we have to choose a method!!!"  I was being facetious.  We do not.  There really are no wrong answers here- just ones that work for your family.

          I just try and tell myself when I'm losing my patience that exploring is how our little one learns and discovers the world.  And I really didn't know how much patience I had until she came along.  I tell myself that as long as she's well-attached and she knows she's consistently loved, that she gets a new operating system and is a totally different child every few weeks.  Most of the rest is just noise.  We are incredibly lucky and have a healthy child, and so far, that means that most things I worried about just went away and were never a problem again; like how she refused to eat any food with a texture for a while except lemons.  To quote the husband: "We have an odd child".  

          Of course it's challenging, but I try to think of her childhood as something for us all to live in and enjoy instead of always thinking of it as just a means to the ramifications of adulthood.  This is all easier when we're having a dance party in the living room, (some of the fondest memories from my own childhood), compared with the times she is trying to stick her fingers in my eyeballs or see what happens when mama's arm skin gets pinched between her fingers.  Or worse, the times she forgets that 4am is actually still night time, which of course, was never a problem in the newborn phase; this only happened once I returned to work.  But don't worry!  I found an article about how that's actually a thing!

          So, I don't doubt that by the time she's a teenager, we'll have given her some stuff to be angsty about.  I know the problems only get bigger from here and that someday the times my daughter refused to eat her eggs will pale in comparison.  In the meantime, I will strive to be as unabashed and embarrassing as my own mother was and maybe we'll skip the dance lessons too.

Friday, July 28, 2017

"Did I shave my legs for this?" ~Deana Carter

I haven't shaved my legs above the knee in weeks.  I'm blonde so I can just barely get away with it, but I think I'm partially fooling myself here. And because I'm so blonde that I generally look like one of those Renaissance portraits where the women were into shaving all their eyebrows off, I just got my eyebrows and eyelashes tinted professionally.  (The aesthetician also offered to perm my eyelashes into a curl, but upon examining them more closely, laughed out loud, grabbed my hand and said she was sorry but they were so short it would not be worth my money.)  This is about the most bourgeois thing I have ever done, but this way, I don't have to think about drawing them in every morning and thus not looking like Tilda Swinton upon leaving the house.  This is all because I have a toddler.  And this toddler is in a severe separation anxiety phase right now.  To date, she has cried two separate times when I have put her down on the floor next to the toilet so that I could use it.  So I now prioritize things in my general maintenance.  My toddler, for example, tries to snuggle with me while I am wielding a curling iron, which is, unfortunately, only terrifying for one of us, so I have basically had to forgo that entirely for the time being.

A friend recently said that were she to write a parenting memoir, it would be titled "I should have peed first".  Just visit any mom forum and find any number of threads on how to make oneself a presentable human on a regular basis when one can't even finish a cup of tea.  I have seen entire threads on online mom forums just about dry shampoo, which, by the way, is my new best friend.  Contrasted with the husband's routine, the standards of appearance to which I am held seem to take an impossibly long time.  Trust me when I say I don't want to take the time to style my face or hair, but I like the result.  And the husband does take care in how he looks, but as long as he is wearing pants to the grocery store, he's pretty much good.

To make it all worse, there is what I will now call "should culture" all over the internet.  A brilliant marketing strategy, "should culture" includes "articles" with headlines like "10 Things Every Woman Should Have In Her Closet By Age 30", (I'd better get on finding that perfect trench coat soon since I'm a few years too late already...)  Then there are titles like "5 Simple (but amazing) Hairstyles Every Woman Should Master" or "10 Shoes Every Woman Should Own".  Well, I've knocked a good seven of those essentials off of that list because of my foot arthritis.   I just saw a an ad for "30 Things Every Boston Family Should Do This Summer".  "Should" according to whom?!  30 things?!  Really, 30?  If I complete four fun family activities this summer, I will be more than pleased with myself, because other activities will include flopping on the couch while my toddler does laps and you know, things that have to get done, like making dinner and emptying the dishwasher.  Don't even get me started on when Pinterest figured out I was pregnant.  "20 Items Every First Time Mother Must Have in her Hospital Bag".  Newsflash; you need some stuff for sure, but those lists will be the most elaborate pack lists you have every seen.  I didn't even take that much on my two week honeymoon.

The newest trend that I find paradoxical though, is what is most recently coming up in my internet ads.  I seem to get an increasing number of targeted posts telling me that I'm missing out on "the most comfortable sheets you will ever sleep on", the "world's most perfect bra crafted by MIT scientists", (which, P.S., does not come in my size), and the "the world's most perfect yoga pant".  It seems that when the internet doesn't have me confused with a plus sized, pregnant,  Jewish grandmother, (which is not often), the marketers have pegged me as a millennial.  And though I consider myself more of an "xennial" or member of "Generation Catalano", one thing I do see as a distinct generational shift is that millennials are more concerned with streamlining.  They are not interested in filling up a suburban home, (which they couldn't afford anyway) with a bunch of seemingly useless crap.  Because now, you can have the ULTIMATE pair of jeans, for example.   So at the same time our culture glorifies American excess in things like perfect gender reveal parties, bridal and baby showers, first birthdays, hospital bags, kids' activities,  the list goes on and on, we must streamline only our household?  

So, I am mostly trying to "let it go", so to speak.  (And no, I haven't seen Frozen yet, because my daughter is still really little and we have plenty of time before we are forced to watch it with her ad nauseam.)  I don't need the perfect yoga pants, because they don't exist, because newsflash; everyone has a different body to put into those yoga pants.  Also, I'm laughing out loud at the idea that I have time for/interest in yoga right now- hilarious!  My bras and sheets are just fine and my kid doesn't need to be in Mommy and Daddy Day Camp everyday.  The world is still so big to her right now that the occasional dog being walked on our street is just about as exciting as Disney World would be.  I do struggle with my hair and makeup standards, because I don't want to become one of those stereotypical moms who lets go to the point of not caring anymore, but here's hoping I can relinquish the time spent more often and just be happy with myself.  Extra baby snuggles should make up for a little hair frizz.

My daughter and me at the playground near our house.  It turns out, she hates the swings.

Friday, January 27, 2017

On "Stuff" for Babies

          I remember years ago, our friends warning us that if we thought registering for our wedding was tough, then just wait til we registered for baby stuff.  And, yes, registering for our wedding was tough, mostly because we didn't need too many things to create a new home together, but every time we had put anything on it, my mother insisted we needed 17 more of the same thing, for "just in case".  Most times, we did not actually need all those duplicates, but if you don't understand why my mother in particular would say this, please reference virtually any other post in this blog.  

          So, back to our friends and the baby registry.   I remember saying to them at the time; "Well yeah, a baby registry seems hard because you haven't even met the kid yet."  This is certainly one reason.  Not only do you have to do all this research on what all the things are, but some of those things are great for one kid but are not for another.  Example:  Everyone raved about a certain kind of swaddle and said we needed to have six of them, but they essentially swallowed our petite daughter whole until she was nearly two months old.  At this point, they declared that swaddles were no longer considered safe for anyone over two months old because these babies could roll over and not have access to their arms.  The pervasive they are always making new proclamations like this on PBS and NPR.  Thus, we promptly ditched the swaddles she'd just grown into.  Said friends with children only a few years older than ours had their heads spinning that the recommendations could change so quickly on that one.  It's impossible to keep up with all this stuff...

          But the other reason it's difficult to create a baby registry is that, well, babies are little.  Little things should not, in theory or in actuality, take over your house with a burden of crap.  To quote The Princess Bride; "... anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something."  And you'd better believe they really sell it.  When I first got a phone call from someone at our baby registry site, just to see if I were satisfied with their services and if I were open to their suggesting more products, I had to quickly come up with a nice way of saying; "Oh my God, please don't ever call me again for something this trivial."  I'm still not certain I fully succeeded on the "nice" part of that. 

          When I think back on the first few months of our baby's life, if we had nothing more than a car seat with stroller base, a co-sleeping bassinet, a sling, some onesies, diapers, and Butt Paste, (yes, that is a brand name), we would have been totally fine and prepared for several weeks, if not months.  The "rock n' play" chair hand-me-down and bath tub we received were totally great bonuses.  And we love her "sleep sheep" that creates nap-inducing white noise.  You also have to take as much free shit as they will give you at the hospital; their swaddles, those little baby kimonos, diapers, etc.  But really, our grandmothers didn't have all this other gear and our babies don't demand it either.  I checked the safety of our car seat on Consumer Reports, but I'm not the type to research every trendy piece of baby gear for the perfect one for us.  We didn't try out strollers ahead of time and we didn't do any online registry surveys or anything.  If that's your thing, you do you- it's just not for us.  In fact, better yet, go ahead and do it and we will be happy to yoink all your research and copy your purchases!  For better or worse, we found that many people ignored our online registry anyway, because we didn't have a baby shower and because well, kids clothes and books are just more fun to shop for than, say, bottle sterilizers or breast pump attachments.

          Now, I may not be into the most trendy baby items ; the ones that denote some sort of baby social status but we do have some standards.  When I was still pregnant, my mother took us up to their attic to show us a bassinet we might want to use.  The husband had never been up there, but I think I can safely say, he will never forget the space.  My mother is not actually a hoarder, so everything is organized and labelled and sectioned off.  Most people, however, don't have several sets of 100 year old shoes or a section of clothes marked "Polyester pant suits: 1970's" in their attics, so the images are remarkable and can certainly make an impression.  My mother was our tour guide into this vast land of family heirlooms and elementary school art projects, as only she can really know its intricacies.  (Every once in a while, she goes up there and says she is doing a big purge, but she mostly just gives away a few items and then re-organizes and moves stuff around.  This is also true for the basement.)  We crouched across the low-beamed space and were taken to a covered mound just spitting distance from the absolutely enormous Bonnie and Clyde poster that I cannot figure out why we still own.  When the bassinet was unveiled, the husband and I noticeably shuddered.  It was a 70 year old, (at least), faded wicker piece resembling more a dilapidated rickshaw than something we would ever imagine putting a newborn in.  My mother tried to insist on the soundness of its structure by shaking it around, which proved in no way reassuring as ancient, (possibly lead paint?) dust mites went flying.  We politely declined.  Let me correct that.  The husband politely declined and I probably said something to her to the effect of; "Are you high?  We're not putting anyone in that."

          I was reminded of all this today when scrolling through Pinterest, which yes, I do like to do, because all this being said, I do revel in decor projects.  I love a good "before-and-after" blog, photo series, TV show- you name it- I'm on board.  I did eventually have fun when our girl was about 6 months old, and outfitted the nursery, which was previously a guestroom, all ready for her to spend nights in and for us to play in.  For a while, I just kept saying; "I wouldn't have picked this green, but it's fine.  She's a baby.  People are ridiculous with these nurseries; she doesn't care what the wall color is."  Later, the husband loved that the wall color, previously deemed "fine" for a nursery was suddenly deemed "unacceptable".  "I tried to live with it, but I can't!" I said.  The wall color was then changed to another more acceptable shade of... you guessed it... green.

          I thought of all this "stuff" for babies when reading a style blog I found today.  This particular post was about an admittedly beautiful nursery, but the writing on the subject had my eyes rolling immediately.  The mom, who had designed the space, was quoted as saying; "I have a deep passion for wallpaper, so finding the perfect one was very important to me. "  I honestly didn't know one could have a "deep passion" for a paper that gets put on a wall, like just the paper itself and not the idea of creating a space.  The paper... that goes on a wall...she has a deep passion for that...  She felt so passionately about this paper, in fact, that finding the PERFECT one was of tantamount importance.  I mean, what would have happened if she hadn't found the PERFECT WALL PAPER?!  I can only imagine the despair of knowing that maybe your kids could have gotten into Harvard if only you'd found "the one".  I can tell you what else this woman has a passion for; putting her children in overly twee winter hats indoors and awkwardly posing them for professional photos on a perfectly white carpet that will be surely soon be covered in snots and Gogurt, (yes, that is a brand name).  But it's all good, because the wall paper behind them is perfect.  It is literally the best thing she could find; superior to all the other wallpapers.

          Personally, my very favorite thing about our girl's nursery is this antique mirror from my parents' house.  As a child, my mom had it hanging in the garage and I could never understand why.  I thought it was so beautiful and deserved a place in the house.  It is beautiful in its way, but as an adult, I can understand why it never made it inside.  It's cherry wood with a mirror in the center and two flowery paintings of Victorian moms and daughters.  It has four coat hooks and one is half broken off.
  It's worn-looking and mildly ridiculous in its ostentatious formality bordering on kitsch, but several weeks into the fog of having a little girl, I called my mother and asked if she still had it in the attic for me.  "Now that I have a girl, will you send me my mirror?" I said. She still had it, of course.  It was wrapped up in the attic and a Post-it was attached with my name on it.  And with all the new stuff out there, for this room, this antique is perfect for us because it speaks of my childhood.  Just like the husband's teddy bear sits on top of our girl's toy chest, I hope she looks at these objects with the same wonder that we did as kids.  That is the real magic of "things"; the way they make us feel.  And we get to relive our own feelings watching our daughter make memories with them.