August 30, 2007

Sisters

I was just reading through the old blog posts from when Anna was Silvia's age. It's amazing the differences, both between the two of them and also in me.

Even at 6 months, it was clear that Anna was developing at a different rate, though at the time it didn't stand out as much as it does now when compared to Silvia's standard milestone achievements. But while she wasn't as physical as Silvia is now, Anna was definitely a more interactive and reactive baby. A lot of her personality developed in response to the acute frustrations she dealt with physically as she battled her weak muscles and coordination to do that things that her mind wanted to do. Because she couldn't engage people as much physically, she was found other ways, usually noisy ways, of getting attention.

Silvia is happy. She's just a happy little kid. She plays, she gurgles, she grins, she putters, she smiles, she eats things (anything she can get her hands on). She's about to start crawling, she pulls hair and likes to chew on her toes. It's all very cute and sweet and normal. Anna was much more involved with me, needed the attention and responses, was very loud, both in her happiness and her displeasure.

Part of the difference, too, is that I have relaxed. I'm not acutely in tune to ever sound, movement and facial expression Silvia makes. I couldn't tell you which toy she last put in her mouth. I'm definitely not in tears on the nights that she has to cry herself to sleep for a few minutes after I put her down. I'm not indifferent to her, it's not that; it's just that I know, I KNOW, that she's okay, I'm okay, we're all okay and this is kind of the easy part. I let moments coast when they need to. It's the self-confidence of the second child, I suppose.

But at the same time, there's things I wish hadn't gone by so fast. Silvia used to just fall asleep in my arms every time I nursed her. It was only a few months ago, but it feels like years. I'd look down at her little limp hands, her lips still pursed and suckling on air, her full tummy a bump under her clothing. I'd lay her down and she'd just relax into the blanket or chair, settled and calm.

I never got to lay Anna down when she was that age. I had the luxury, and sometimes the curse, of just holding her for hours until she woke up. I'd nurse her and she'd relax against my arms, but I knew that there was an innate tension to her, that she would wake in a moment if I set her down. So we'd sit there, snuggled in together, for her nap. Sometimes I'd read or watch TV or sleep, but many times I'd just hold her, watching her stillness.

At 7 months, Anna was still having trouble trying to sit up and had not started rolling around yet. She spent a lot of time tumbling around the floor, squirming, reaching, laying on her belly and just struggling to get to anything. Those moments where she'd sleep in my arms were really the only times I'd get to see her totally at peace, her face and body relaxed, her mouth open and her fingers stretched wide.

Silvia is old enough now, at nearly 7 months, that she nurses and watches the whole world at the same time. She looks around, checks out what Anna is doing, and finishes up as quickly as possible. And then she's off to the next thing. The sleeping baby of spring has been replaced with the enthusiastic and active baby of fall. She's raring to go and has the strength to do it. Anna was raring to go, too, but it took her longer to build up those muscles.

And now they are both, in their own way, hitting new milestones, new achievements. And I suppose that I am, too.

August 29, 2007

Love or Money

It's been 5 days since my $0-spending challenge began. I have to say, it's been... interesting. There are so many ways that small amounts of money become integral to the day-to-day socializing of life.

Grabbing a quick lunch after a playdate at the park, for instance, or having an evening coffee with friends. I do this all the time, several times a week, without ever thinking about it. I drive to my mom's house for a morning visit on the days she works from home and almost always pick up a Starbucks on the way.

As if I would somehow be unwelcome if I didn't come bearing a treat? As if my friends wouldn't want me there if I wasn't buying a drink and some pie?

Not spending money is proving to be much more than just a financial endeavor. There's a completely emotional side to it that I am really struggling with, that I was almost totally unaware of.

When I worked in Denver, at a PR agency downtown, I was living paycheck-to-paycheck in an apartment I could not afford with a lifestyle that was completely outside my realm of maintenance. I desperately wanted to fit in with the "cool kids" at the agency, and every day would find myself tagging along on these $20 lunches at expensive restaurants, just so I could hang out and try and get the in-crowd jokes.

It was very much like high school, only with cocktails and Biaggi's instead of Dr. Pepper and Burger King.

And every day, I'd be the only one writing a check; everyone else paid with credit cards or cash. They'd tease me about how annoying it was to have to get my own separate check, I'd blush and make some muttered comment about forgetting to hit the ATM.

The truth was that my check book could have bounced to the moon with all the bad checks I was writing. The truth was that I couldn't hit the ATM because my account was perpetually overdrawn. The truth was that there wasn't a credit card company out there that would have me, I was so deep in debt and late fees.

So I wrote checks for everything, the bank cleared them and then added another $20 fee against my account. It was a mess. I was a mess. I had no ability to prioritize the luxuries of life, like lunches out every day, against the necessities of life, like paying my rent.

I lost that job, by the way. I never fit in and the harder I tried, the more of an awkward wannabe I became. Buying social time with my co-workers didn't get me anywhere except back into my mom's basement with a stack of bills I couldn't pay.

The point here is that I have always confused having money with having a social life. At this point in my life, with this little experiment, I am finally coming to understand that I don't need to pay in order to spend time with the people I care about and, more importantly, who care about me. Sure, it's nice to meet friends for lunch, but the reality is, they'll still be my friends if I can't.

August 27, 2007

Blog Stalker

I am a stalker. I lurk, skulk, prowl and sneak (and I have a thesaurus).

When I have down time, like nap time or after bedtime or everyone-is-playing-and-not-screaming-at-me time, I surf the net. It's my retreat from the reality of "mommy's home with the kiddies and hasn't spoken in adult sentences for 6 hours straight".

I look, first thing, at "my" message board. I call it mine, though really it's not, it's just the board for the mom's group all my friends are in. Truth be told, I check The Board several times a day, often feeling frustrated and disappointed when there are no new posts. I mean, come on! If I have time to check, y'all need to make time to post! The Board is my addiction. There's usually a window for it up on my screen all day, whether I am at my computer or reading Anna The Lorax on the potty for the nine-hundred-and-forty-third time that day.

After The Board, I make the rounds on my favorite blogs; Maida's blog, Candy's blog about Misha (which, by the way, no pressure, but you haven't updated since April. I'm just saying, maybe it's time, she'll only be this young once, but who am I to talk...), Shanyn's blog, Crazy Aunt Purl, to name a few. I read, I peruse and hey, if I have an extra moment, I go back through the older posts that I may have missed, not that I miss many, but I should check, right? Stranger things have happened than someone posting while I wasn't paying attention.

Then, when these sites fail to pop up anything new, I hit the next tier; family, other friends, random blogs where I liked something someone wrote once and I'm hoping it might happen again. I usually scan through all of these pretty quickly, in between verses of "If You're Happy and You Know It."

Someone once told me there's something called Blog Lines that shows you whether there's new posts on the things you read a lot so you don't have to actually go and click on that site to check. Some new-fangled invention called an "RSS Feed" or something, says it saves you precious seconds each day. Since my whole purpose in web-surfing is to waste precious seconds, I prefer to live my life old-school, ya dig? Word.

Anyway, back to the point, however meaningless it might be. I am a stalker. I peek into all these different sites, usually online journals and such, hoping for a look into other people's lives. I once told someone that her blog was a window for me into her thoughts, since she wasn't talking to me very much anymore. A few days after that comment, she shut that window. She started another blog, which I found awhile back in my meandering. We don't know each other anymore, but I still go to take a peek in as I make my rounds of the World Wide Web.

I never comment on blogs, or only very rarely. The funny thing is, though, I'm always a little bit irate that more people don't comment on my own postings. Nothing like a little hypocrisy to warm the cockles of your heart, right?

Anyway, is it bad etiquette to read a blog when you don't know the person or, worse, when you used to know the person? If my mom's online journal came across my screen one day in my "travels", should I immediately click away? Is it intruding to read these things if you haven't been invited?

I never really thought so before. I mean, it's the INTERNET, after all. I never post anything unless I'm comfortable knowing that my mom, my husband and everyone I've ever met could be reading it. Sometimes I push that comfort level on the hope that someone won't see it, doesn't know about the blog, but I'm always prepared for the consequences. In general, I post with the full knowledge that this is a public forum. I found a special post, just for me, today on an old friend's blog and now I wonder if I've been wrong in my idle curiosity.

Since I know now that it bothers her, that it brings up questions for her and confuses her, I've taken her "window" off of my daily blog spree. I didn't mean anything by it; sometimes a web click is really just a click. I never thought the day would come where I'd have to justify my web-surfing, but here we are.

Now leave some comments, dammit! *hehehee*

August 25, 2007

Shopping Around

I spend too much money. I know I do. Even as I am doing it, as I hand over the credit card, I know that I shouldn't, that I don't need it, whatever that "it" is at that particular moment.

I can make coffee at home, I already have a purse, I don't need any more new clothes, I can get books at the library, and there's absolutely no need for me to be eating out for lunch when I can make a sandwich in my own kitchen. Financially, my life is very comfortable, but that doesn't mean I have to stretch the budget to it's breaking point every month. Just because it's there doesn't mean the money has to be used up.

I know all these things, I do! So why, oh why oh why, do I spend?

I'd say the first and foremost, and totally embarrassing, reason is because it's there. Because I'm bored and Target is two seconds from my front door and if I can't find anything I want, I can probably get a book or toy to amuse the girls for an extra 20 minutes that day. It's a way to pass the time.

That's awful, isn't that awful? Yeesh. I sound like Paris Hilton, (well, if you replace "Target" with "Gucci"; I don't think that girl has ever heard of Target). I'm really not as spoiled and ridiculous as that makes me sound. Or at least I hope I'm not.

I'm just an in-the-moment kind of girl, I'm very impulsive. Maida says I have a permissive nature, as in, there's a little voice in my head that says, "Aw, just go ahead, Meg, why not? Who's it gonna hurt?".

But the truth is that it hurts ME. And my husband and my girls and, on a larger scale, the whole world. I realize that sounds a bit dramatic, but seriously, think of all the bags and packaging and half-eaten meals and pointless plastic whatnots. Our world is covered in the leftover mess of my (and others) permissive nature. I'm teaching my daughters by my example and frankly, this is not a habit I want them picking up. Finally, there's my husband, my poor husband. He's been patient to the extreme, he tries so hard to never say anything, we almost never argue about money. But I know it drives him crazy. He's one of those naturally thrifty people, so being married to a financially reckless person is it's own special torture. I wouldn't say that the future of my marriage rests on me learning to rein in my spending, but it's definitely something that could turn into a wedge between us over time, if left unchecked.

A few months ago, I participated in a Great TV Turnoff experiment. Me and some of my friends unplugged from TV Land for 7 days straight. No kids shows, no Daily Show, it all went black. I thought it would be really hard, and there were a few moments where I desperately wanted to soothe the savages with an episode of Little Einsteins, but it turned out to be a really great week. It forced me to find other ways to pass the time, to call on my creativity and think outside the Black Box.

It's time to challenge myself again and it's definitely time for a swift (figurative, please) boot to the head. For the next 30 days, I'm going on a spending boycott. If it's not essential, I'm not buying it. No books, no lattes, no lunches, no toys, no clothes. Nothing. This means groceries that we will actually be eating and only what's on the list. This means bringing my lunch to playdate instead of stopping at the drive-thru. This means no Starbucks, Old Navy or Borders.

This means no Target. Not once, not for 30 days. (As Kurt reads this line, he'll first jump for joy. Then he'll laugh his ass off, because I'm sure he doesn't think I have a chance in hell of sticking to it.)

Don't think I can do it, either, do you? Watch and see. Leave me a comment with your predictions. I'll post my progress... and if I fail, I promise to own up to it.

And keep the receipts for returns.

August 22, 2007

Belly Flop

"You don't really have the figure for a bikini, you're a little too chubby around the middle."

A family friend said this to me when I was 11. ELEVEN. I was young and cute and puberty had only barely brushed my surface and I just wanted something fun for the 6th grade pool party. She didn't mean any harm. But to this day I have NEVER worn a bikini, ever... because, you see, I just don't have the figure for it.

It's funny how these little random comments, said off-the-cuff and with no malicious intent, can stick with you for so long. At eleven years old, without realizing what was happening, the foundation for my self-image was laid down. Every time I look in the mirror, there's a part of me that murmurs some version of that one, devastating line.

I have let that moment color every other experience having to do with how I look. When I'm around thin people, I make jokes about how big I am because I am convinced that they are thinking it, too, so why not just say something and get it all out in the open? It's a habit that drives my husband crazy. He always gets this look on his face, the closest to angry he ever really comes with me, and says some version of, "Sweetheart, PLEASE don't do that. There's nothing wrong with the way you look!".

In those moments, the "sweetheart" is a euphemism.

I don't mean to say that Ithink I look like some sort of genetic mistake or anything. All in all, I feel very comfortable saying that I'm a generally pleasant-looking kind of girl. Give me an extra hour to primp and spritz, I'll upgrade that to pretty, in an average sort of way. Nice hair, good eyes, bright smile, long legs. It's the stuff in between all those that bugs me.

I'm not thin. Never have been, probably never will be. I'm just not a size 2 (or 4, or 6) kind of girl. Heck, the 8's are even groaning in protest these days. Let's just call it a 10 and be done with it.

There's all kinds of words to describe me. Voluptuous. Curvy. Full-figured. My brother told me after I got dressed up for a party, when I was 15, that I looked like I had an enormous watermelon strapped to my chest. (Thanks for that one, by the way, Val. Another one of those comments that stick with you for life.)

And yet...

I have a friend who told me once that that way I feel around "all those thin, beautiful people" is the way she feels around me. This totally floored me, I had absolutely no response at all. I think I tried to make a lame joke and quickly change the subject. How could that be possible? What the HELL was she talking about?

It's very hard for me to have any kind of objectivity on this matter and, of course, this is an area where objectivity is key. How do you objectively look at yourself? I can accept, with reservations, that what I see in the mirror may not be what everyone else sees, but how do you change the view from your own eyes?

I want to be philosophical about it all. I want to, and often do, say that I think I look great, that I'm happy with myself the way I am, that I'm a healthy and active mother of two, that my husband thinks I'm "smokin' hot" and that's all that matters. But behind all that socially evolved language lies the totally insecure and raw truth. I wish I looked different, I'm embarrassed by my flaws and I'm sure that everyone who sees me instantly judges me as a lazy fat girl.

Insecurity is so unattractive. It's way worse than any muffin-top or spare tire. I suppose that I have to try and choose which remarks I'll let stick from now on. Learning to let the other things slide off is going to have to be my next big challenge. I have a feeling it's going to take me a lot longer to accomplish than it should.

It's probably time to go try on another two-piece swimsuit. It's been 19 years, after all.

NEXT summer. Small steps, right?

August 06, 2007

Kids should be exempt

I was going to write something about how unmotivated I've been feeling; writer's block, sedentary life, kids watching extra TV. It was going to be something like, "Yadda, yadda, yadda... and I'm just feeling so stagnant in my life right now."

Then I heard about Charlie. Charlie is the daughter of a friend of mine, one of a pair of twin girls and little sister to their oldest son. Charlie is sweet and cute and beautiful and growing and not even a year old. She's sitting and learning to crawl and talk and explore this great big world.

She also has seizures, sometimes horrible seizures, where they have to perform rescue breathing on her small baby body to bring her back from a breathless and blue reality. No one seems to know why.

For a while it seemed like she was doing better, but now she's had three this week alone. And it's only Monday.

Her parents are the most genuinely positive, modest, solid and graceful people I have ever met. They continue to live their lives, actively and lovingly parent all of their children, find time for friends, humor and community. They rarely ask for help, preferring to lean on each other when it starts to get too scary. They are dealing with a future of a million horrific what-ifs and they seem to take it all in a stride.

I sat down tonight prepared to whine that I can't think of anything to write, my pants are too tight, and I'm sick of watching the Disney Channel with my girls.

Instead I'm filled with a vast thankfulness for all that is good in my life. I wish I could do more to help my friend, I wish I could help Charlie. I wish there was something I could DO; actually, physically do that would help their family and alleviate all the fearful unknown that surrounds their baby.

But that's not how the world works. I can't always step in and save someone just because I want to. Bad things should never, ever happen to children, but they do.

Aside from appreciating my own good fortune in life at this exact moment, (which feels selfish, somehow...), what can I, in reality, do?

All I can come up with is to take my cue from Charlie's parents, and just keep on engaging this world of infinite possibilities, good and bad. I can try and be the best parent to my girls, I can take care of my family, laugh with my friends, support my community when the call goes out. I can use and maintain the body I have which, despite my best efforts to the contrary, is still whole and functional and strong. I can pray for healing for Charlie. I can foster a positive attitude even when I'm feeling doubt.

And next time I see that little girl, she's getting the biggest kiss I can muster, right before I tackle her parents with a big hug. Because that's all I can do.