Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Meaning of Art

(An Original Ismaeel Creation.)

For years, I struggled whether to pursue an artist’s journey or a career in law. Somewhere along the way, I dabbled in mysticism and documentary film but settled upon specialty pharmaceutical promotions. Don’t ask...

However, that doesn’t mean that I cannot color my heart out with Ismaeel or fiercely debate (and win) why he needs to wear pants before leaving the house. So, you can imagine I take great pleasure in seeing his artwork and channel my inner hoarder by refusing to throw away any of his perfectly deliberate and meaningful “scribbles”.

As an infant, he would crane his neck to marvel at ornate ceilings and tall skyscrapers. We were so pleased to be living in NYC knowing that we were doing our very real-estate best to nurture his budding architect self. Then came the finger paints that just screamed super-genius. Even the paste on his craft was thicker and gloppier than his peers’. Before he was even crawling, I could always proudly pick out his passionate work.

That said, every once in a while a piece of his makes me wonder if this is a good thing.

One of my favorites is a two-color stamp collage. Most of his friends chose two bright colors and complementary shapes. There were pink hearts with purple butterflies. Next to that were blue stars with yellow moons. Down the line were white ducks with green umbrellas. And then there was Ismaeel’s. Sometimes I don’t know why they bother writing his name in the corner. Could any other parent mistake the orange houses being trampled by tar-like black dinosaurs as their child’s work !?! Surely, this is my solitary glory.

Sometimes, the children are allowed to “freestyle” their art and the teachers will write the intended subject in the corner of the piece. For example, a collection of red frantic lines labeled “fast car” shared a similar style to the wobbly green circles titled “big bugs”. Today’s artwork was even more wonderfully warm than usual and I immediately tried to picture where I should hang it in my office. That is, until I noticed the caption in the corner...

“Flames of Fire.”

Oh boy. Why didn’t they just write “Cry For Help” next to his name !?!

As I was about to talk to his teacher - I noticed many other activities regarding fire safety hanging on the walls. Phew. Hopefully, as long as I can keep the killer-home-crushing-dinosaurs at a distance then art can remain a healthy outlet for Ismaeel.

In the meantime, I think I’ll keep “Flames of Fire” at home on the refrigerator. Some conversation pieces are just a little too high-brow for Corporate America.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Quadrants of Insanity

(Photo courtesy of Lunch in a Box)

There are times when my husband hints that I have taken on too much. When he says this – I typically don’t reply other than to exchange a bewildered look. After 11+ years, he knows me right !?! What exactly on my Type-A plate is optional !?! But here is the brief summary of my plate: I am a wife of one, a mommy of two under three, a promotions manager of six brands, and a grad student of one mere class per each semester. I don’t even dare put amateur photographer or wistful poet on this list. So in my defense, culling myself down to four states of being is quite conservative. Right !?!

“Wife” and “Mommy” are clearly requisite roles. “Manager” and “Student” could be debatable until the moment we realize how questionable (psychologically rather than financially) my offering as “Wife” or “Mommy” would be without them. Beyond any grand ideas of self-fulfillment - it is very important my boys know what work ethic is and have examples of educated women in their lives. And so it seems, I remain fully committed to my quadrants of insanity.

So, at what point do I need to recognize that I am “falling short”? And what help is appropriate to ask for? It is a lot easier at work to identify the things that fall outside the scope and value of my role and simply outsource those tasks. Is it because I have a clearly defined job description? Or does it matter that I have an objective criteria that my job performance rating and compensation is based upon? Or is it simply having access to resources that I can delegate certain items to?

At home it is safe to say that I am not as aware of the nuances of my job description. That’s if there even is one. And as for job performance – whose evaluation matters most? My own? My husband’s? My kids? Anyone else’s? And I think this is the very crux where I begin to fall short.

You would think my own evaluation would be the most compassionate but I have always been my own worst critic. So yes, while each morning I prep fresh bottles and lunches for the boys – I sometimes feel badly that I am not packing them into fun little bento boxes with radishes shaped like mice. I think about how the house should be cleaner or better decorated. Rather than takeout, I think about the elaborate dinners and homemade desserts that I should be planning for the week ahead instead. I think about how if I were only exercising more, I would be slimmer, better dressed, and healthy enough to keep up with my life. I think about how much better my school assignments could have been if I only started earlier. And despite being in an Ivy League graduate program, every once in a while I pause to consider if I am failure for not pursuing my MBA. But I quickly comfort myself that there is still time to look into that Yale program after graduation. And as for work, am I even where I am supposed to be? Is this a career I simply fell into or one that I truly choose? Is this the best work that only I can do? And most often than not these answers fall on the shoulders of no.

While my husband can respect at least what I try to do everyday – I think he is still baffled that I do things a certain way. He says I need to stop aiming for perfection and I ask where the corners I can cut are. We talk about how to make my load easier but we never find anything too ripe for dropping. Is the only solution to adopt lower standards? Yes, Ismaeel and Siraj seem to have their basic needs fulfilled but do they feel their allotment of playtime is adequate? Or are my days too long or filled with more emails than time for “angry dinosaurs”. Would they even notice shorter and less fragrant bubble baths?

As for anyone else’s assessment – the relevance of judgment becomes pretty murky pretty fast. On one hand, it is nice to sound off and get advice on structuring your days or how cooking every night is even manageable. But what does it even matter when the things someone else does well are simply because those are the areas that are most important to them? It is very easy to not understand why something is on your plate. Or to assume that the buckets of your life are nothing more than selfish pursuits. Perhaps I don’t need to give myself a glowing evaluation each day but at least I can commit to knowing what is on my plate and the reason it is there. And hell, maybe a cleaning service isn't such a bad idea to look into after all...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

28 Days and Counting

Loveless Motherhood

Before motherhood, I had no clue what to do with a baby. As the youngest of my immediate and extended family, I was never really around anyone littler than myself. I have never babysat nor held one without wincing or from the safe (but socially awkward) distance of a long-arm extension. I didn’t even know where to begin making those ridiculous googling noises in return. And their wobbly bobbly heads… I wondered why parents didn’t simply keep them home until their little necks were strong enough.

Thankfully, there was a wealth of resources to get up to speed during my pregnancy. My parents showed me how to place a diaper on Mitchell, my Fabulous Frog, with the warning that my own baby would not be as compliant nor still when changed. And essentially everything else came online. BabyCenter provided me with pregnancy tips long before I had to search for bathing instructions, growth charts, or vaccination debates. How to nurse and store my milk came from Medela. And scattered far and wide across the web, were endless product reviews to inform me about the various gear my baby simply couldn’t live without.

I was appreciative that so much information was available. I couldn’t imagine if I had to shamefully ask each and every one of my queries out loud. I took immense comfort in anonymously trolling through the messages of advice, exhaustion, pride, and even rage. I figured if I only read enough - I could muster the confidence to at least not drop my baby. The only lingering question was: would I be able to love him? Despite already relishing every little kick along my pregnant way, I feared that if I were to need a c-section I wouldn’t release enough oxytocin to properly bond. I feverishly worried I would be a cold and mechanical mother.

These ideas made my husband think I was insane. He thought it wasn’t possible to not love your own child. And he seriously couldn’t understand why I would waste energy fretting about this. I didn’t think it was so far-fetched. You feel a connection or you don’t. And even more frightening, if you don’t, there is no online tutorial to help. I imagine plenty of women suffering from post-partum depression (PPD) struggle to feel closer to their babies. How many of them would admit this to themselves let alone their families? Would I? Would I simply pretend to be a great and loving mother until the day I snap?

On June 14, 2007, Ismaeel was born on a sunny afternoon in NYC (without the help of an epidural or c-section). It was uncanny how much he resembled my own baby photos. We couldn’t stop staring into our matching brown eyes and as he clutched onto my pinkie with his entire little hand, I had no doubt that I deeply and truly loved him. I was relieved to see the same feisty moves from his ultrasound days and laughed that I didn’t realize I have known and adored him all along.

Still, I don’t regret my pre-natal paranoia. While I didn’t suffer from PPD or a lack of bonding with my son, I now realize motherhood will require me to put my ego aside, often and without hesitation. Even though there is plenty of online support, it doesn’t absolve me from asking for help or speaking to my partner about the things I fear and struggle with. I can only hope that embracing this newfound accountability will strengthen my marriage as much as the bonds between me and my sons.

And yes, even on the days I snap, I love them all without question.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Burger Time

I make a seriously mean burger. Are any other words even needed ?

Please see photographic evidence above and try to ignore the fact that yes, we are still enjoying the disposable luxuries of left over birthday party plates. I’m sorry Captain Planet

With a home filled of ever hungry boys, it didn’t take long to realize making a bowl of cereal or a grand salad (with light dressing) for dinner just wasn’t going to cut it. The boys simply crave their meat. Even Siraj, who is only slurping down one pureed ingredient at a time, squeals and hollers to try a piece of steak. If only his toothless gums weren’t always in his way… But yes, I am handling more raw meat than I ever imagined - which is just another reminder that motherhood is not for the squeamish.

As for my burgers… While my spontaneous recipe is not in the archives of The Best Hamburger Recipes or Best Burger Recipes - I humbly offer it to those who are suffering from a less than burger experience (of their own doing).

We regularly buy our meat from a Halal butcher in Astoria so I start off with some pretty fresh and high quality chopped meat (often a mix of ground beef and lamb). I lightly season the ground meat with black pepper, garlic flakes, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and an egg. I mix everything with my hands and roll into ball-like shapes. I am not overly-concerned with making them the same size nor perfectly round. The most important thing is that the meat is room temperature before I start grilling. On a non-oiled frying pan set to medium high, I place them down to sizzle, and touch them as little as possible. Before flipping them, I drizzle some balsamic vinegar to start creating a little gravy. My husband likes his meat well-done, but I still take his burgers out when they are warm and slightly red-pink. I do this because they will continue cooking from their own heat on the plate and if I left them on the stove they would get tough. As the meat “rests” – I make a gravy sauce by adding some mushroom broth and lemon juice onto the hot pan where the burgers just were. Once thickened, this is poured over the resting burgers. The burgers soak up the sauce while I lightly toast the hamburger buns with aged swiss cheese and roasted red peppers in my beloved DeLonghi Convection Oven. I place some feta cheese crumbles inside the toasted buns right before adding the oh-so-saucy burgers and they are ready to eat…

One important note is that Ismaeel sees absolutely no value in eating bread and will eat his burger bun-less and with a fork. So, don’t panic if you want to go anti-carb as well. It is all about the protein anyway…

Buon Appetito!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For…

While it is hard to see Ismaeel’s babyhood fading fast – it is thrilling to see him mature into a wonderfully exciting little person with his own ideas. Granted, his best thoughts involve some sort of dessert or monsters with terrible great big claws but they are nonetheless his very own ideas.

Today, he asked my husband and me if we would like to share ice cream with him. The image of him “treating” us to ice cream is simply charming on its own. However, compared to the dinner of leftovers we were trying to garner enthusiasm for – it was more than easy to agree that Ismaeel’s stroke of super-genius was the best detour home.

Rather than waste our time with Mister Softee we went straight over to Soho for the Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Truck. Seriously supercalifragilistically good. My husband and Ismaeel choose to share a double-scoop of chocolate in a bowl, and I went for peppermint & chip in a sugar cone. All the while, poor little Siraj stared at us with a sense of wide-eyed injustice.

I am a fierce ice cream purist. I could argue for hours unapologetically about how ice cream should be forever soft and never chewed. Even at home, I mash our ice cream to a creamy bowl of fluff before serving. So the whole premise of adding chips to peppermint should have negated the possibility of my order. But this is Van Leeuwen where organic peppermint is complemented by ultra-thin Michel Cluizel 72% chocolate chips. The chocolate nearly melts within the ice cream and certainly doesn’t need to be left behind as sugary chocolate grit in your teeth. Imagine a York Peppermint Pattie grown up as a refined frozen cream with an even cleaner and more natural mint. The sugar cone was perfectly crispy sweet and so good it seemed downright cruel not to let both my husband and Ismaeel try it.

They are already talking about the flavors (pistachio? hazelnut? strawberry?) that we will try next time. Though, I suspect Ismaeel will remain loyal to his sweetheart chocolate. The whole excursion was a refreshing end note to a warm summer day. If only every day was filled with such toddler spontaneity!

And now on to those uber-thrilling leftovers. Sigh…

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Daddy-Oh !!!

Here's a not-said-enough-gratitude-list for my husband...

Thank you for:

  • Sharing in the trust that our family would grow with God’s will.  
  • Being so pleased to hear about both our pregnancies that you were in a state of pure disbelief for days. 
  • Patting my back and still carrying on a conversation despite me kneeling during one of my many bouts of morning, afternoon, and evening sickness.
  • Supporting me during each and every wild pregnancy craving. I know it was tough keeping the refrigerator fully stocked with lemonade and having to share in all those “I-must-have-a-tres-leches-doughnut-right-now” moments.
  • Waiting patiently as I stood in (yet another) too-long line for the bathroom.
  • Not only not fainting but being such a trooper during labor. No one delivers the perfect cup of ice-chips quite like you.
  • Falling in love with Ismaeel and Siraj utterly and completely.
  • Cherishing being able to nourish the boys by simply holding their bottles and stroking their hair.
  • Being such a warm and compassionate father.
  • Sleeping on the lambie rug next to the crib while Ismaeel fought to go to bed without his pacifier for the first time.
  • Waking up with me at 4am just to enjoy listening to Siraj’s cooing.
  • Staying up late to decorate the boys’ room with glow-in-the dark stars.  
  • Buying a set of home theatre speakers so we can watch Pixar movies with the boys in surround sound. 
  • Trying to help with the morning routine even if it means Ismaeel winds up with his shoes on the wrong feet.
  • Letting me take two and a half years to build up enough nerve to have Ismaeel’s hair cut for the first time.
  • Helping Siraj get settled into slumber while Ismaeel and I read “just one more” story.
  • Introducing a voice of calm while the whole house seemed overwhelmed by the trials of potty training.
  • Getting just as excited as Ismaeel does when a helicopter is nearby. 
  • Cheering for Siraj’s early crawling skills even if it means we have to race to baby proof the house again. 
  • Making sure the boys never miss a good night’s kiss.
Happy Father’s Day !!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

21 Days and Counting

Friday, June 18, 2010

Black, Never Let Me Down

Other than to share the occasional link or video clip, I rarely update my Facebook status. However, I realize this is one of the fastest and effective digital communication tools at my disposal. And so today, at the height of my motherly and fashionable shortcomings – I felt it appropriate to broadcast the following:

Lesson Learned:  A mother of toddler and infant boys should never wear white. Never.
And here goes the whole sordid story:

Getting dressed in the morning is probably one of my least favorite activities. Truth be told, I miss my smaller sized wardrobe and pre-motherhood privacy to try on enough outfits until I am satisfied with my appearance. Instead, I typically grab whatever is clean and vaguely matches. And I try to look back as little as possible in the mirror. As I am easily bored with this technique, I save aside a few pieces of new clothing for particularly low self-esteem days. And so, today seemed like a wonderful day to bolster my confidence by stepping out in a brand new white cardigan. I remember buying it and thinking I have to remember not to drink cranberry juice in this one. Little did I know that Ismaeel would find a way to get tire grease and toddler fingerprints on my backside or that my poor new summer sweater would fall victim to Siraj’s spontaneous bout of intestinal mayhem.

Before motherhood, I never knew such messes were even possible. We are talking a serious comedy of errors here. And I am sure there are some sort of decency standards that preclude me from going into any further details. Basically, my cardigan was pristine until the world started to move and rumble in slow motion and the words soiled or ruined wouldn’t even come close to describing the aftermath.

Funny enough, I wasn’t really upset about it. While I hope that he stops touching grease to point out how messy tires are, I am pleased Ismaeel still enjoys giving me such heartfelt hugs. And little Siraj looked enormously refreshed after his own incident. What mother wouldn’t be relieved to know their baby shouldn’t be suffering from a tummy ache anymore?

Luckily, I still dress in layers and being in NYC means there are plenty of clothing stores within t-shirt walking distance. I am also particularly grateful that they are open before 10:00AM. I was soon flipping through the sale rack at Gap and was delighted to find several replacement cardigans in my size. However, just as I rejected pastel pink and was about to walk to the cashier holding light baby blue – I realized I didn’t want to watch history repeat itself. At least not today. So, I promptly stepped out of line, past the sale rack, and grabbed a full price sweater in black.

Oh, my sweet slimming, matchable, and stain-camouflaging black, promise me you’ll never let me down. You do, after all, cost twice as much...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Happy 7-Month Birthday Baby Siraj !!!

Baby Siraj's toes.

  • At 7 months, Baby Siraj is pleasantly settled into the chaotic existence of NYC babyhood.
  • He is wonderfully sweet and curious about the world.
  • Despite his slender weight and lack of teeth, he is a voracious little eater who constantly tries to steal our table food.
  • He attempts to keep up with his big brother’s exuberance by mastering the fastest crawl I have ever witnessed just to chase him from room to room.
  • He will happily and intuitively play with anything given to him but has a particular weakness for trying to tear important mail.
  • He is contemplative yet loves to be near everybody.
  • Essentially the only time he cries is if we break eye contact or happen to walk out of the room at the same time.
  • He knows his name and enjoys hearing it exclaimed when we discover he has created some sort of mischief.
  • He is able to remain calm throughout the loudest of his friends’ tantrums and will partake in a full slumber in his crib as long as everyone kisses him goodnight first.
  • He makes us consider ourselves lucky every day.
  • And he is absolutely worth every bit of the constant fatigue, heartburn, and nausea that his pregnancy brought me.

Here’s to celebrating the special day by introducing some blueberry YoBaby organic whole milk yogurt to Siraj’s diet. Now if you could only see his delighted legs kicking and spinning wildly as the spoon comes near…

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

14 Days and Counting

Countdown: Days Until Ismaeel's 3rd Birthday...

The Calm Before the Storm

(Photo by Dawn Shurmaitis)

Bleary-eyed, I sit here (yet again) in the wee hours of the morning cradling my infant and his beloved bottle. Each day, Siraj wakes up playfully, kicking his legs, and babbling for sustenance. He is not a big crier but his alley-cat squeals tend to wake his big brother so I always race to pick him up. Something about my messy-hair-frantic-monster-arm-shut-eye-grunt-and-grab makes him giggle like a loon. And despite my need for just another hour (or so) of more sleep, today was no exception to our ridiculous routine.

I cherish these moments. I really do. Being the baby brother of a mischievous toddler doesn’t necessarily provide Siraj with many opportunities for solitude. It is a sacred time where I get to hold him and stroke his humble fluff of hair without screaming at someone to stop stabbing the furniture with a fork. Or without yelling how someone is running around with a pointy-edged eating utensil in the first place. Have I really become someone who openly frets about someone poking their eye out !?! But I digress...

This is the part of my day where I get to hear my own thoughts and give myself a temporary reprieve from household chores. Last night’s dishes wait to be placed in the dishwasher and the fresh pile of laundry lays unsorted and unfolded. It is the only brief time where I don’t feel guilty about ignoring them. I can watch the sunrise flooding the city with light. As the buildings begin to shimmer I see the Staten Island Ferry make commuting as seemingly glamorous as the cruise ships heading to Red Hook. The street carts begin to assemble along the sidewalks and a wave of yellow taxis splashes through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel (I-478). The longer I linger, the brighter it gets, and the less hope there is of getting back into bed. Still, even without a warm caffeinated beverage, the morning has already been savored. Each day, exhaustion aside, I am reminded of how motherhood in the city has its charms.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Monday, June 7, 2010

Epic Fail

After Picture Day with the boys, I went into the office with my outfit wrinkled and stomach rumbling without breakfast. Along the four block walk I tried to figure out which of my meetings in my triple-booked calendar I should attend in person. I chose the ever popular and anti-social answer of none and decided to dial in to my most problematic brand’s status call from the passive aggressive comforts of my office. While booting up my laptop, I discovered that my burning-hot-clickety-clicking-whirling-dervish-hard-disk decided to commit suicide. Seriously !?! Most unfortunately, yes.

Now I must brace myself for a maddening call to help-desk and think again about that breakfast I didn’t have. My company’s technical support representatives are based in Costa Rica. Their accents and friendly banter make them actually quite charming. And it is always hard not to imagine that the call-center is inside some sort of super-wired grass hut on the middle of the beach. When I am put on hold, I assume they are merely adjusting their towels and sipping their coconut drinks. I pause often to think that I am in the wrong line of work. Unfortunately, calls rarely take less than thirty minutes. And that is just to get the spelling of your user name correct to document your problem. An actual solution will take even far more time. Think days.

So, as something about inefficiencies makes me what to eat my feelings, I always enjoy having something to snack on while I re-spell my last name and first initial for the umpteenth time. And a call like this would be best served with doubleshot caramel macchiatos and a heaping stack of buttery blueberry pancakes. Nothing like a new way to make your emergency box of office Cheerios taste even blander…

And so I repeat, “M as in Mary, A as in Apple, N as in Nancy…” until they finally pull up my account. Most of my data was already backed up but the idea of losing weeks of productivity by leap-frogging between relic loaner laptops makes me want to cry. Since NetMeeting won’t work on a dead computer, Juan-Carlos opened a ticket to page someone local to come and verify that my laptop has indeed expired. Once I receive my digital death certificate – the procurement process can be initiated for my new machine.

Computer-less, I went from meeting to meeting trying desperately to follow email chains on my BlackBerry. But with six brands this is nearly impossible. I have class tonight with a midnight deadline. My husband will be out of town for the next three days and Ismaeel’s 3rd birthday party is less than a week away. Wow, who knew all of this could bubble up so quickly !?! The day hit an excruciating new low point as I needed to actually talk to people in person to keep my projects moving. I had no idea technology had become such a crutch for my hermitic tendencies.

In the afternoon, the local technician came around to certify that my laptop has passed on and drop off a loaner. It was old and full of crumbs but I still embraced the behemoth, knowing that the night ahead would be spent together chasing emails.

If not, I would have to talk to more people live tomorrow. The horror!

Countdown: Days Until Ismaeel's 3rd Birthday...

I Am Not a Pageant Mother

Today is Monday. This is the day where I not only race to early business meetings but prep the boys’ weekly supplies and lunches for daycare. Baby Siraj needs his lambie blankie, a clean crib sheet, a generous allotment of diapers, wipes, back-up clothes, and three bottles of his formula, oatmeal, and pureed fruits packed. Regardless of the menu, Ismaeel requires his own bag of “snacks” aka a full back-up lunch (vegetarian “chicken” tenders, cheese sticks, red grapes, strawberries, SIGG of organic chocolate milk, and a spare granola bar), his supply of just-in-case-clothes, and a handful of Pull-Ups. As if this isn’t enough – add the stress of prepping for Picture Day. Yes, Picture Day.

As I may have mentioned before, I like to dabble in digital photography. My beloved camera is a Nikon D90 but even this won’t guarantee a decent shot of the boys. There are indeed many aspects and challenges of parenting that people won’t admit to. Photographing a toddler and an infant together without someone breaking into fits ranks pretty high on that list. And this pertains just as much to the one behind the camera. Today, I figured I could let the professionals try their luck.

Ismaeel and I have been practicing his picture-day smile for the past week during each and every tooth brushing. So, all I needed to do was iron semi-coordinating outfits and get both boys to daycare stain and tear free. So far so good (as long as you conveniently ignore the part where I went to bed sometime after midnight and woke up four hours later to begin my Monday).

We let Ismaeel pose first and I was relieved he didn’t try to entertain the photographer with his “angry dinosaur” or “chubba wubba” routines. While his tendency to squint and over-smile made me want to shout something nearly-expletive-filled about our early morning and late night smile practice sessions – I quickly reminded myself: “I am not a pageant mother”, “I am not a pageant mother”, “I am not a pageant mother”, “I am not…”

The next few shots were of the boys together. We placed Siraj on the ground and asked Ismaeel to hug and hold him steady. While Siraj has already impressed us with his super-genius crawling skills at a mere six months – the task of sitting still reduces him to a mere weeble-wobble. He was absolutely perplexed that we were entrusting Ismaeel to hold him and kept staring at us with his little toothless mouth gaping wide open. I seriously broke a sweat trying to make him give us his usual happy-go-lucky grin - but no dice. If Siraj was smiling, Ismaeel would be busy sticking out his tongue or randomly poking at his own eye. At some point, you just have to cut your losses and promise to find these unscripted moments forever endearing.

We moved to Siraj’s solo pictures. Again, with no one to hold him – sitting alone was a major challenge. I think the best (upright) shot included a great big gummy smile but a chin full of his trademark drool. Go figure.

All in all, no one bled, cried, or fell so I consider the morning an overwhelming success. Now I just have to count down the days until the prints arrive.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

7 Days and Counting

Thursday, June 3, 2010

All About Mii

("Trailer Trash Beauty Queen" by Ricky Gagnon)

I am a former homecoming queen. That’s right, a proud tiara wearing and red convertible riding homecoming queen.

So, it is with great humility and pain that I admit to the following…

  • My Wii Fit board called me obese.

That’s right obese. I never thought I would know this word so intimately. For years, my doctors complained about me being unhealthy for being underweight. And now my Wii Mii has junk in the trunk! This cannot be happening…

I know, I know, I know... I just had a baby and it took 9 months to gain the weight so I should give myself some time to lose it but I have truly never been this heavy without being on the verge of labor.

During maternity leave, I took Ismaeel for walks every day in the park and lost nearly all of the weight relatively quickly. Since it was coming off on its own I didn’t worry about dieting or additional exercise. Sure, I was still heavier than my pre-maternity self but I could live with it.

This time around just isn’t the same. A month after Siraj’s birth, I was proudly fitting into my pre-maternity jeans but then the weight-loss party was over. Not only were the rest of the pounds not going anywhere – I think I actually gained some more. I kept waiting for it to come off but wound up scrambling to buy pants in a larger size the weekend before I had to go back to work. I felt absolutely horrible about it and to this day won’t admit what number I wear to my husband.

Life has me in a state of absolute exhaustion but I realize the more I exercise the better I should feel. So after losing a household bet about the lyrics to Route 66, my husband ponied up a Wii Fit Plus at my request. Admittedly, we have a gym in our building but I thought this would be more fun for me to do alongside Ismaeel. I’ve heard so many great stories how everyone loves it. I even know someone who lost over 20 pounds using it.

I just didn’t know it would humiliate me with such gusto in front of my entire family.

Every other day for two weeks, I tried exercising for at least 30-45 minutes. I was only that much more tired and my weight kept hovering at the same gateway pound to obesity. Figuring that I need to step it up, I started paying even more careful attention to what I was drinking and eating and tried to exercise longer for a non-negotiable 60 minutes. But that blasted gateway pound wasn’t going anywhere.

Incredibly frustrated, I am taking a break from my Wii. Between work, school, and family life - I have a lot going on. And budgeting aside 60 minutes to embarrass myself on a near daily basis really isn’t working out so well.

I think it will be good for us to take some time apart. You know, to see if we miss each other or to realize for once and for all if it isn’t going to work between us. I really know you can be great and I don’t want to lose you but maybe I just bring out the worst in you. Let’s reconnect at the end of semester. I’ll be watching what I eat but promise not to work out with anyone else… xoxoxo Me

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Royal Flush

And so the cliché’s say, “motherhood is its own reward” and in general this is true. But after successfully potty training a defiant toddler, I think I deserve something more than just a pat on the back. I’m not looking for anything expensive. Just a mere token to tell the world that I am a survivor. Perhaps an embroidered toilet badge that I can wear proudly on my sleeve or a jeweled brooch in the shape of toilet paper. And, funny enough, if you google it – it exists.

Surely, I should be given something like this (or this) to let people know that I have lived through so many months of torment.

Thankfully, Ismaeel has always preferred to wear a clean diaper and around 12-18 months he was definitely self-aware and able to communicate when he needed to change. But it was always after the fact. We bought board books and a BabyBjorn Potty Chair but he only liked to sit on it with his diaper and pretend to read. If you tried to get him to actually use it – he would burst into a fit of giggles and “no no no’s”. We took this as a clue that he was not quite ready.

So we spent the next few months reading up on other potty training techniques and trying to explain to concerned relatives that we were confident he will get the hang of it over time. But in reply, we just kept receiving (albeit well-intentioned) stories of so-and-so's child mastering elimination communication before the age of 1. It was hard to graciously smile and thank people for their “advice” while repeatedly hearing that we were failures or imagining that Ismaeel would go to college psychologically scarred and wearing Depends. And as we became pregnant with Siraj, there was an even louder urgency and extended family pressure to get our toddler out his diapers. Not to mention, Ismaeel was already wearing the largest available size of Pampers. The crux of the argument was that it would be easier on me to not have to change two children in diapers. Perhaps this was true but I don’t know if anyone could appreciate how many times a day I was already kneeling down on the tile floor with nausea. Did I really want to spend another minute in the bathroom trying to build up the merits of flushing with my toddler?

I just simply couldn’t do it. Maybe if I wasn’t pregnant it wouldn’t have seemed like such an uphill battle - but I was and it did. Even though daycare tries to introduce potty time around the age of 2 – neither Ismaeel nor his friends seemed to have grasped the concept yet. I felt daunted to spend energy on something that would unravel during the day because there was no peer pressure or consistency. After a long day of work and school, I just couldn’t ignore the need to make dinner or start the laundry to be yelling about bodily functions and bathroom habits. I just tried to relax and let his friends take the lead.

Within a few months, the girls were considered potty trained. At this point, Ismaeel was now embracing his “individuality” and a new state of radical defiance. We felt we definitely missed a sweet spot but also knew we couldn’t have done anything more or earlier. And once Siraj was born and settled into a manageable routine - we began “no mercy potty training boot camp” at home.

It started with a loud declaration from my husband that “we don’t change poopy diapers anymore”. Ismaeel and I were both stunned by his serious tone while my husband tried not to giggle over his out-of-character stance. We also enlisted the help of Mitchell, a Build-a-Bear Friendly Frog wearing his own white briefs. Productive moments on the toilet received a new sticker to be placed on Ismaeel’s calendar. And while we bought backup supplies of Pull-Ups and Kandoo Flushable Wipes, Ismaeel was especially thrilled to receive his first pack of big boy underwear and use the bidet. We didn’t leave or enter the house without using the toilet first. Once we repeated the routine a few times, the stickers seem to multiply, and it became just another comforting toddler ritual. So far, so good.

Indeed, there were a few moments of horrific non-compliance and a lot of Resolve but we made it to “officially potty trained” before Ismaeel’s 3rd birthday. Granted, having only one child in diapers is definitely helping with the family budget but the issue of convenience is debatable. Absolutely, it is more hygienic for Ismaeel to use the toilet but the amount of time it takes to assist him only aids the years of my youth from circling the drain of our porcelain throne. Likewise, the whole netherworld of navigating public restrooms in NYC provides enough fodder for an entirely different blog post.

But today, I’ll just bask in the long-awaited success of telling people he’s gloriously out of diapers. Consider my back patted.