Baba/Cool

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The other day, my Brooklyn-ite brother sent me a photo of a local cafe, knowing it would be right up my alley. While I have no idea why they call their place “Baba Cool,” I was more than happy to assign the label to myself, regardless of how true/aspirant the title might be.

It got me thinking about whether “Cool Parent” is an oxymoron or something one can actual attain – and does it really matter?

Is it cool that I love my shiny rocket ship of a minivan and will proudly talk it up to anyone who will listen?  Cool that as parents, we sing loudly in the car, cranking up Roxette’s “Dangerous” as O oh-so-seriously sings along? That we consider the public library an exciting destination or that I believe in instilling in my family the virtues of the perfect slice of pizza? Is it cool the kids and I Viennese waltz around the basement or play by the light of our disco ball? I think so – but then again, my opinion of what’s cool likely differs from that of my kids – or really, from most people.

I am not afraid to admit I was a “late bloomer”. Even as a child, I marched to my own beat which thankfully my own parents supported.  Not every mother would be thrilled her 5-year-old daughter dressed herself as an 1890’s-style “Newsie” way before Christian Bale made the concept cool.  Before the phrase “hipster” even existed, I thought suspenders, a Hanes white undershirt and a newsboy cap were just my type. As I grew older, the thrift store became my main outfitting source and my own personal brand was something my mother once (affectionately?) described as “a little bit off”.  I was doing cuffed jeans and grandpa sweaters, saddle shoes and Members Only jackets back when every other girl was wearing tube tops and shrugs.  My siblings used to tease that you can tell a fad is dead when I started to embrace it — but maybe I was just (a few decades) ahead of the curve.

So while pop culture’s orbit may have (however temporarily) synced up with mine, I still don’t know I would ever claim to be “cool”. Esoteric jokes crack me up, and nothing beats some good word play.  I can be nerdy and cheesy and dry. I’m a sucker for choreographed dancing, get emotional when I hear the perfect chords together or see the vibrant hues of winter sunset. When O and I get our makeshift Rube Goldberg contraption to work, I don’t know which of us is more excited.  I own four (4!) t-shirts with cats on them. So….like I said, not cool.

But does it really matter?

Do our parents ever seem cool to us? Probably not. My parents famously embarrassed me at every turn, whether it was my mother marching on the front lawn with the giant American flag to celebrate the first day of school, my  father wearing one of his too-small monochromatic Fruit of the Loom sweatsuits around town or my entire family dressing as the Adams Family to watch me run the Marine Corps Marathon.

I like to think that no matter who you are to the rest of the world, you’re still an embarrassment to your children – even Madonna is probably uncool to her own kids.  But in the end, kids don’t care if you’re a global icon or grocery shopping in your pajamas.  They will remember that you dressed as a clown on your own wedding anniversary just to bring a joke full-circle with the neighbor down the street. They will remember putting the “Off the Wall” album on and doing the moonwalk with you on the living room carpet. They will remember that you took the time to really engage with them, to show them how not to take life – and themselves – so seriously.

Here’s to another generation of parents embarrassing their kids because who wants to be cool, when you can be fun?

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Changes

I don’t usually get sentimental about celebrities lost, however iconic. That said, I was sad to hear about David Bowie’s passing this morning and while there are so many Bowie classics (Golden Years, Fame, Let’s Dance and on and on), I thought it was fitting to post this one, a tribute to the new year, a new outlook and the very nature of change.

I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”

Getting Twisted

Weekends are long, especially as temperatures drop and we’re stuck inside all day. What better way to stay busy (and warm) than rolling up the sleeves and making some homemade pretzels?  The head baker is admittedly strict and the apprentice only had to leave and wash his hands three times during the process (and be told to get his nose out of the mixing bowl, even if he had never smelled yeast before).  Our final product  tasted like it was bought from a mall, only three times larger, softer and chewier, thanks to our lazy kneeders (it’s tiring by hand!).  But really, warm dough, melted butter and salt? What more could any person ask for.

Untitled: A Work In Progress

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I was looking at my computer keyboard today, like, really looking it at. Staring down into the keys that I just wiped thoroughly weeks before, I noticed that despite the cleaning, there are still hints of sticky, cemented gunk and furry, knotted dust caked in the corner of every letter, just below the surface. It’s seriously gross.

Looking at the keys, I was thinking how this could be a metaphor for life or at least one’s self. No matter how many times you take care of the surface needs, there is still that residual debris, crusty fall-out that builds up slowly in the crevices over time. It takes a moment of clarity to suddenly realize you’re staring at years’ worth of junk that should probably be addressed.

My brain immediately started to process this observation in a compositional way, wanting to describe and unfurl and compare. To draw some full-circle sage conclusion or metaphor. I was suddenly conscious that my own inner monologue sounded a lot like the internet wisdom that clogs the various feeds that scrolled my way. Thanks to my full immersion into this culture of excessive contemplation, I sounded like every self-help, motivational, inspirational, and quasi-deep meme, post and article that I’ve absorbed in the last year.

Quite frankly, I’m so over it.

2015 was my year of intense naval-gazing, though that’s certainly not what I had planned to do.  It was seriously a year of over-thinking decisions, over-processing problems, over-analyzing feelings and generally driving myself crazy. I was overly invested, overly emotional and overly sensitive and boy, was it ever exhausting. I had no intent of diving so deeply into this, but it sort of just evolved. I think sometimes you emerge at a point in your life with a sudden awareness, whether it be from settling firmer into middle age, experiencing loss, whether it’s heartbreak or death or experiencing gain, like the shake-up of a new baby.

Somewhere at this point of one’s life, between coming to terms with your relationships – spouse/kids/parents, revisiting connections with family and friends and addressing your career growth (or lack there-of), there’s the re-evaluation and re-definition of “The American Dream” – or at least, that’s how I see it.  Early on, the goal is clear – get a job, advance into a career path, meet someone and settle down, buy a house, get financially stable and start a family. But once you get to that point, you suddenly realize – or speaking for myself, I realized – there is a lot of ambiguity once you reach that final apex and look down on all the checked-off boxes on the list. For me, this was a time for some intense inner discussions about what it means to get to that point and still feel like something was missing. Or at least, off-balance. Why didn’t I feel as happy and content as I should? There’s still so much grey area up here at the summit, after achieving this so-called dream.  But what did that mean for me? I needed to poke and press against the soreness until it was uncomfortable, searching for its source of origin.

The start of my eventual resolution didn’t come from things external. I like my home, my car, my community and my town just fine. Sure, I miss the culture and energy of city-life, but that’s not what was nagging at me. What I wanted was passion. To feel inspired. To feel invigorated, about anything. To feel connected, whether that be with like-minded creative and innovative folks here or with my family and friends, scattered disconnectedly across the country. I needed to get back into what made me who I am and to start sharing that, without hesitancy or guilt, even if it took time, time I felt I was unable to spare.

I asked myself what does it mean to advance in one’s career, even if there is no clear path for advancement? How does one create opportunities for growth and fulfillment? If you’re not pursuing a defined “off-the-grid” career like becoming an entrepreneur or starting your own business, then what? Where’s the instruction manual for someone who wants to capitalize on their creativity, sense of strategy and logistical skills without starting their own version of a self-help motivational brand? What does one do to bring meaning and re-ignite what used to excite them in the first place? And how do we do that while navigating the responsibilities, obligations and roadblocks that come from loving and supporting our families?

When someone looks at my paintings hanging in my office and asks me “WHY are you doing THIS job? You should be doing your art!” it’s a nice and appreciated thought, but more than a little depressing. Know any good patrons who want to financially support an out-of-practice artist? Please send them my way. I also started writing again and while it’s sure not going to make me rich, it’s a way for this marginal introvert to express what I won’t or can’t say in person.

On a more internal level, how do we ride the evolving relationship tide with those in our lives, when the lines between what to address and what to confront, what to fix and what to let go gets blurrier with time and effort? What does it mean to grow and change and evolve both with and without those around us? How do we work together to move on and upwards?

What does it mean to be a good parent, and as “Baba” to my son and daughter, what will our social and emotional journey look like as they get older and start to understand what makes a family and why theirs is different – and also very much the same – as those around us?

That’s a lot of existential crisis going on.

It took a perfect storm of catalysts to bring this over-anxious and hyper-analyzing cycle on, but I CAN say I *think* I made some progress. A little. Probably not proportionate to the amount of gut-eating energy that went into it, but it’s a start.

Today I feel a little calmer. A little more confident.  A little truer to who I am.  I care a little bit less about what other people think and am expressing myself a little bit more, even if it was out of my comfort zone at first. I feel a little less like a live wire, frayed and ready to short-circuit at any minute. I feel a little more secure in what I need from other people, or really, letting go of expectations of others. I certainly feel more present with my kids, which a years-worth of obsessive inner-processing was NOT conducive to. However, they are a great reminder of the joys of being in the moment and that if I am not tuned in, how those gummy smiles, sticky hugs and quiet moments will pass right by me. I feel more aware of what it means to be a friend and a partner and a spouse and what I need to have in my life as well as what I need to give to others.

Amidst all this micro-progress, I actually learned a lot about what really matters to me – creativity, connection, passion, love, meaning and inspiration. Ah, now, what to do with this? What I CAN say is that the days of stress-inducing, emotionally-draining solipsism is over.  2016 is about clarity, simplicity, trusting in that which brings me joy and the path that will bring me there, whatever that road may be.

The Yoga Jones

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My “resolutions” for the New Year are few.  In addition to learning from my 2015 mistakes, of which there are many, my non-personal betterment goals included “read a (non-children’s) book” and “get back into yoga”.

I used to have my sun salutations on-point and between the occasional group class and in-home practice, I had a pretty decent go of it for a while.  Needless to say, four years and two kids later, a lot has fallen by the wayside, including this.

Suddenly, I’m remembering why I needed to stretch in the first place.  When the sound of your own joints poppin’ and lockin’ wake your baby as you get up out of the rocker, you’re either ready to be celebrated by Willard Scott or you really need to get loose.

I was all ready to get back into the yoga swing, when I realized the other night that perhaps I haven’t been out of the game completely.

There are variations every day, without my even knowing…

Downward Facing Diaper:  When your body inverts to a 45 degree angle as you attempt to change baby on a surface uncomfortably lower than is advisable, as your lower back spasms in protest.

Cat-Cow:  The dual positions where you alternately arch and round your back on all fours looking all over for the binky that has been thrown to some unknown and unreachable place under the crib.

Chair (or “Scare”) Pose:  Upon finally getting baby to sleep, you attempt to extract yourself from the crib where you were patting/soothing child, only to make a noise that rustles them.  As you stand upright, immediately freeze in the most unnatural position you can think of, legs still bent in seated position, hands up in the air to not knock crib. Pause in fright, hold breath until your thighs burn and you believe it’s safe to exit the room.

Triangle Pose: Feel that stretch as you bend deep to the ground to pick up spoon covered in mashed peaches before your preschooler steps on it/the cat eats it, while extending your opposite arm high in the air, holding not-yet-strapped-in baby in the high chair

And finally

Child’s Pose:  Which can also be read as “I have children and sometimes the only escape I can take is literally laying face-down on the carpet with my arms over my head”. 

Sleep No More

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I planned to write this at my “break” tonight. Every other night I get 20-30 minutes free from 7:30 – 8 pm when G puts O to bed.  We both look forward to that time alone on our alternating nights so we can read a few pages of Entertainment Weekly (her) or watch a few minutes of Jeopardy (me). While this may sound sad to you, it’s a welcomed and rare moment of peace for us and we’ll take whatever we can get in whatever form it takes.

Whoever DOESN’T put O to bed is on baby duty.  Putting S down around 6:30 is usually no problem but the REAL work comes in on the back end.  Our nights suck.  For weeks (seemingly months), she’s been getting up once a night for 1.5-2 hours at a time. Sometimes she wakes in full-party mode, waving hands and blowing raspberries in the dark. Other nights she wakes up fussy, chugging 8 oz bottles before falling asleep-jerking awake-crying and fitting…repeat.  Some nights it starts at 10:30 pm, just as we’re hitting REM cycle.  Other nights it’s 3 or 4 am, hours spent rocking, soothing, pleading and praying for relief before it ends just in time for the alarm to go off for work. Even when she does stay technically asleep, we’re still popping up and out of bed over and over to find a hidden/thrown binky and plugging her back in.  It’s maddening and I can see how people use this as a form of human torture.

Night after night, this takes a toll until you simply CAN-NOT.  Finally, following an embarrassing, exhaustion-fueled breakdown by yours truly, G and I decided the only way for us to function (and survive) was to take alternating nights where one person is on book-end baby duty and the other person gets O + the golden ticket of 8 hours sleep in the spare bedroom. Now, that doesn’t always happen seamlessly but it’s sure as hell an improvement. The prospect of pulling a half-nighter seems bearable and ultimately doable when you’ve a) actually slept the night before and b) know that sleep awaits the following evening.

We know this can’t go on forever and so tonight we’re trying some new sleep tactics for Miss S – not feeding her too close to bed (so she doesn’t associate food+sleep) and working on putting her down awake and helping her learn to soothe herself. Now, she admittedly has a lot going on – currently cutting tooth #7, dealing with a cold,  developmental milestones (she is big into testing out new motor skills and gets very vocal and excitable) and possible growing pains. She is also fond of sleeping on her side, but not so good at staying there, so frustration ensues. She’ll likely walk before she figures out how to roll over but that might be residual from her early hip dysplasia (more on that later).

So we are desperately trying new things because we realize that between the many no-nos of pumping her with food and bottles right before bed, rocking her until she passes out and giving up any attempt to get her back into her bed during those mid-night horror shows so that we may see one minute of peace – we’ve made sure this poor baby has zero coping and self-soothing skills. It’s not like this is our first rodeo – just our first one with a crappy sleeper.

Tonight: Take 1 – Try new system. Normal bed routine for Miss S takes 1.5 hours instead of 20 minutes. Attempts to sooth, pat and shush in her bed ultimately fail before I finally pick the poor thing up, give her a drink and rock to sleep (after 5 tries, she was so worked up from it all).  Instead of getting better, this night has already gotten much worse. But – new things take time and besides it’s my night and I can do it, so help me, I’m gonna do it.

Take 2: Even though that process took three times longer and I still fully expect to wake up and go through it all at some unknown point tonight, the hours tensely ticking by like Russian Roulette, I still feel hopeful.

Take 3: Until, that is, I come down and O decides to turn his otherwise nice and quiet evening into a no-holes-barred disastrous battle of wills that ended with me carrying him, laughing manically and pants-less, to bed (long story).

The next 30 minutes go like this:

  • Clash over teeth-brushing and potty routine
  • Threaten eternal loss of Paw Patrol should his fit wake his sister
  • Promises to “turn it around” (from both parts)
  • Tearful cuddles (from both parts)

    That fight finally subsided and in the process, I said goodbye to my one “break” tonight because as everyone knows, preschoolers are just fun-sized sociopaths but that’s a thought for another day.

Back in the Saddle

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Hello and Happy 2016!

To channel my Catholic upbringing, Dear Reader please forgive me…it’s been a year and half since my last blog post.  I guess you can say life just got in the way (of me journaling my life). Rather than serve me penance, I hope you will enjoy a new year of musings, ruminations and parental anecdotes both universally-relatable and specific to my journey as a Baba, that fun, uncharted gray-area between the identities of Mother and Father.

So, what’s new?

Well, O started pre-school, turned four (gaining access to the highly coveted “Big Climber” on the playground) and became a big brother in April!  Baby sister and her preparation, incubation and integration was one big reason for this here blog’s derailment, but we love her anyway ;). Our lil’ meatloaf; the owlette.  S is now 8 months old and growing like a well-fed farm girl, with a mouth filled with tiny chicklet teeth and big eyes that sparkle whenever her brother turns his attention her way.  She is a true joy and the perfect coda to this family but more on her later.

A lot has changed, a lot has stayed the same. In the last year and half, I’ve learned a bit more about myself as a person and as a parent. I’ve learned a bit more about love and life; about patience and passion, about obligation and responsibility, about creativity and ambition. Not a whole lot, mind you, just a skosh. But enough to make me feel like I’m moving forward, however slowly, and isn’t that all anyone can ever hope for?

It’s a new year, a new outlook and a new goal: to get back into capturing the every-day moments, trials and tribulations and mid-life reflections that come with living the so-called American Dream. Only this is one where my kids have two moms – but one doesn’t go by “Mom”, she goes by this completely new and different label and thus as “Baba” has become sort of a one-named, singular identity/familiar mascot like Oprah, Madonna…or Big Bird.

So stay tuned and here’s to a new year, a new collection of shared stories and wishes of health and happiness to all…

Cheers!

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Lost in Translation

Our cat’s name is Scooter, but she is otherwise known as Poots.  O has taken to customizing everyone’s names these days and has a variety of nicknames for kitty, in particular.

We received this family portrait from O’s daycare classroom last week…and bless the teacher’s heart for trying to transcribe O’s tags.  Thankfully, they don’t teach this kind of Spanish on Dora the Explorer…

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History Lesson

I think it might be time to break out the place mat of American history, as evident by this exchange at the public library:

O:  I want to read the book with the Granny!

B:  Who? What Granny? (looking around, confused and finally seeing what he’s pointing at)

B:  Ah…that’s George Washington.

In O’s defense…that wig is kinda tricky.

First Granny of the United States

First Granny of the United States