Monday, October 31, 2005

Cognitive Dissonance

I am happy. Happier than I have been in years. I wake up happy, looking forward to each day. I do not regret quitting my job for one minute.

This weekend I went back to college. I returned with some friends to support dear Petrea, who was inducted into the Pomona College Athletic Hall of Fame. Going back to campus always stirs up conflicted feelings. I find it so hard to comprehend how much time has passed, and how different I am now. I see the ghost of my former self in cutoffs and long hair everywhere I go. I can see her thoughts, dreams, and expectations. Then, inevitably, I must compare those dreams to my current reality.

I am not one of those lucky people who always knew what they wanted to be. In that sense, I have always been lost. Or, perhaps, I have always been exploring. I cannot escape, however, the idea that I had that I would do something Important and Meaningful, and that my intelligence, hard work, and passion would continue to be rewarded. Now I must reconcile those expectations with my current choices - to stay at home with my child. I never planned on being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM, in message board lingo). I left that to Christians and Republican women. I left that option to women who did not have the strong ambitions that I have. Then the time came for me to make my own decision for myself, and I decided to quit my job. I can explain and justify my decision, of course. I was not challenged in my job. I didn't see a future for myself there. I was burnt out after 8 years of Web stuff. All true. None the less, I am now a SAHM, and when someone asks me what I do, I break eye contact and lower my voice.

When I quit my job, I was hurt and insulted by the response I got from many coworkers. Instead of asking me about my decision, people generally felt that it was appropriate to offer their opinion on the matter. "You are doing the right thing. You should stay home with your baby." Just like that, I had relegated myself to a box. I was easily categorized (something I have never been), and easily dismissed. No one questioned my decision and asked if I might consider staying if conditions changed. I felt worthless and useless. I had been there for 3 1/2 years, and, apparently, contributed nothing that would be missed, work wise (I had plenty of personal attachments that were not so easily terminated).

Since then, I try to reconcile my current situation with my own image of myself. It is not easy. I found myself sitting on the floor of Pottery Barn Kids at a sing-a-long event, looked around at the other moms in designer sweats and diaper bags, and thought, "oh my God, I have become one of them." One of those I-never-thought-it-would-happen-to-me moments.

I am happy. I am enjoying this time tremendously. But what do I do with my ambitions and expectations? Can I just store those away in Rubbermaid containers in the garage, along with the snowshoes and painting supplies, and pull them out again when I am ready to restart my career?

A mom asked me if I didn't see my current situation as a career change - that being a mom was my new career. No. It is not a career. Being a mom is not a job, either. I don't want the conciliatory cookie offered by many, "you just work out of the home." Don't euphemise me. A job requires a contract with an employer - they get your time and energy in exchange for a paycheck and health insurance. Munch is not a job. He is life - his life, my life. Managing his needs and our relationship requires a lot of work, but the rewards are rich indeed. I'll find a place for those college-years expectations next to my photo boxes in the garage for now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

War of the Cheetos

I thought we had come around the proverbial corner after this past weekend in Indy, when Munch definitely lived up to his nickname. He ingested everything that came his way, including, but not limited too: Fruit Loops, salami, Cheese Nips, an ice cream sandwich, and a spicy beef burrito. And Cheetos. I almost forgot. Health and nutrition be damned! I bite my tongue for every time I judged another mother for feeding her kid crap. I am throwing the food door wide open until this kid of mine can at least accept a variety of tastes and textures in his food. For some reason, he ate it all voraciously, giving the repellent-food-face a much-needed rest. We cheered him on. Way to go, Munch! If that stuff doesn't put some meat on your bones, nothing will!

And then we got home. I rushed to the store to stock up on California versions of the above foods - graham crackers, Trader Joe's Cheese Crackers, Tofutti Cuties, etc., only to find that the you're-suggestion-that-I-so-much-as-smell-that-makes-me-gag face had returned. And the struggle continues. Perhaps it was the entertainment of having twenty adults and children all talking at once that helped him eat. Hard to mimic that at home.

Where did we spend the weekend? Why, at Caribbean Cove indoor water park/Holiday Inn Select, of course. A cultural experience for Californians like me, who, before meeting Tom and visiting the Midwest, had absolutely no idea what an indoor water park was.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

This child cannot be ours

The birthday boy

We went to Griffin's 1 year pediatrician's appointment on Tuesday, and came back in the dumps. He's small. I mean, we knew that, but it doesn't make it any easier to hear. Our pediatrician suggested that we feed him fattier foods and back off on the fruits and vegetables. This is all well and good, but he's hitting the point where he pretty much spits out anything that is not apple sauce or yoghurt. I almost invited him over to our house so that HE could take a stab at feeding the Munch breakfast sausage and cheese. At the end of the visit, he told us not to worry, that he didn't look underweight for his height. I kinda laughed at this point and said, "Well, we shouldn't be surprised, since Tom's dad and my mom are both 5'2"." His response? "He's not even tracking to 5'2"." We drove home both thinking to ourselves that we had a midget on our hands. We didn't dare share our fears out loud.

Of course, I immediately went to Whole Foods and bought up every fattening food I thought he possibly might eat. I shoved peanut butter cookie samples in his mouth as we shopped. I guess I felt (feel) that the height/weight issue is something I can fix, small stature is my fault for not feeding him enough of the right foods. When we got home, he would have none of the greasy new treats, the creamy milk and cheese. Tom was on duty for dinner. He had much the same experience. Lots of food-as-art, very little food-as-sustenance. It just makes you want to cry. Munch finally accepted the offered greek yoghurt, and Tom proceeded to feed him a good eight ounces of the stuff. Which he then puked all over me and the bathroom floor when I returned from dinner. Did I mention that he had three vaccinations at the doctor as well?

We are now emerging a bit from the panic. We have agreed to throttle back on the new foods at least until he recovers from his flu and chicken pox vaccines. We aren't going to stop trying, but we aren't going to try to change his genetic code through food, either.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A First Birthday

Dear Griffin,

Today you celebrate your first birthday. We have come so far, and accomplished so much in just one year.

A year ago, we were in bad shape. Your arrival was a bit of a surprise, as we were not expecting you for another month. As it turns out, I was getting pretty sick, and the doctor told me that I'd better get used to the idea that you were going to be here a little early. They had me on all sorts of medication that made me pretty dopey for a couple of days. Since you didn't want to come out yet, even with some medical prompting, they decided they were going to have to take you out. I don't remember much about the operation. I was still feeling very woozy, due to the drugs. I remember the bright operating room, and how hard it was to lean back into the needle they put into my spine.
I remember it was so fast. Your dad was there, talking to me and holding my hand. Before I even had time to think about it, there you were.
They held you up over the curtain so that I could see you. You were covered with all kinds of gook, but I still remember being surprised at your dark hair. You didn't look anything like I expected you to. It was so hard for me to remember much. I struggled to force pictures and sounds into my memory. I heard you cry three times, I remember that.

After they sewed me back up, we both went to the recovery room, where the nurse put your perfect little self on my chest and I tried to nurse you for the first time. After that, we both went our separate ways, where we were both hooked up to numerous monitors and tubes.

The hardest part for me was not being able to see you. I wanted desperately to hold you and look at your little face, but the doctors wanted me to stay in bed for a while. When I was finally able to go visit you in the NICU, I was just amazed at you. Your perfectness. Your tininess. Your hair was the finest, softest fur. Your wrinkled ears were little origami rose petals, folded tightly to fit as efficiently as possible in my womb. And your nose, your mouth! I had never seen anything so beautiful in my whole life. I just could not believe that this was the creature I had been building in my tummy all these months. I couldn't get enough of you. At the end of each visit, they had to tear me away from you. We both spent some days recovering. Each day, a either you or I would get one more tube or one more monitor removed, until, at last, we were free of all contraptions. After about a week in the hospital, we both went home, and started our new life as a family.

This past year has been amazing beyond my wildest dreams. Of course, it helps that you are an absolute doll of a child. Aside from your little sleeping issue (you need it, but you seem to think that giving in to it is a sign of weakness), you are pure light and joy. You throw smiles around like candy. We scramble to collect them, and return for more. Strangers and friends alike fall under the spell of your charms pretty much immediately. You love nothing so much as to laugh and bounce and entertain. And you hate to be left out of a joke. The other day, the people on the radio had a laugh and you joined in from your rear-facing car seat.

I am the luckiest mom in the world. After returning to work for a mere six weeks, your dad and I decided that I could quit to spend my time with you, watching you grow and cleaning your butt every so often. I wake up each morning, and I can't wait to see you. Granted, I also can't wait for you to go to bed at night. I love watching you crawl - you can really haul. You remind me of a running lizard, as I can barely see your limbs touch the ground as fly over the floor. I especially love the smell of your head when it begins to sweat. It is the sweetest perfume. If I could put that scent in a bottle, I would make a fortune.

You are the luckiest kid in the world. Your parents adore the crap out of you. You get to see at least two of your grandparents every couple of days. You love the sound of the front door opening, because, without a doubt, it announces the arrival of a beloved parent or grandparent who will lavish you with kisses immediately.

So now you are one. I had a hard time ordering your birthday cake, because I think on some level I am not ready for you to be a year old yet. I am not ready for my baby to become a toddler. I have been so surprised by how quickly time has gone by, and it is hard for me to accept that we will only celebrate your first birthday once.

Thank you, my little Griffin, for all of the joy you have already brought too our lives. While I say a sad farewell to the first year, I look eagerly toward the adventures we will have together in the second year of your live.

Happy birthday, my little love.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Some thoughts and observations

If you are wearing fleece pants, a fleece jacket, and a full layer of foundation at the gym, guess what? You aren't working hard enough. Push those pedals, woman!

A wo-man took the crosstrainer next to mine yesterday. I like to consider myself pretty progressive, but I still find it really hard not to stare and the 50+ year old wo-man with the delicate hands, wedding ring, blond ponytail, and matching full mustache and flavor saver. All sorts of questions come to mind. Hormone therapy? If this person is transitioning, it just makes me sad to think that s/he is making the change so late in life. Many years of confusion. Or perhaps she just embraces the extra facial hair and does not feel obliged to abide by social norms. Wow! That's pretty cool. But does that mean it is more or less okay for me to stare? Does the fact that I am curious make me a bad, voyeuristic person? What is the difference between curiosity and judgment? Can the object of curiosity tell if s/he is being judged?

Such is my eventful life in suburbia.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Part 1 - Rioja and Vitoria

Even if you have travelled extensively in Spain, chances are you have not been to Vitoria. And what a shame.

We arrived into Bilbao airport after a trying but not impossible journey. Not exactly fun, but, like getting a filling, you just try to relax as much as possible and wait for it to be over. Kudos to Air France for taking good care of us, and providing much-needed support. Air France is SO worth the extra $100 in air fare.

Vitoria is about an hour drive from Bilbao. Our driver/navigator team decided that our cultural experience needed to start immediately, and opted for the scenic route, which only took an extra hour and a half. It did allow us to drive through several small towns, with picture-perfect scenes of grannies riding on carts, etc. The signs entering and exiting towns had the Spanish name spray painted out, corrected with the Basque name, leaving no doubt that we were in the heart of Basque ("Euskadi", in Basque) country. We arrived in Vitoria just in time to have a quick meal of pinchos (Basque version of Tapas) at a bar and hit the sack. The next morning we were up bright and early to hop on the bus for a tour of the Rioja region, as organized by our dear hosts. We went to Laguardia, a completely medival village, where we saw the most amazing cathedral portal I have ever seen in my life, followed by a tour of a winery with ancient caves. We lunched on jamon, cheese, and tortilla espanola as we tasted the various wines.

Our tour guide gave his tour in "English", which defied comprehension by the Spanish speaking, English speaking, and bilingual guests. We learned when he was telling a joke by watching his guestures and picking up on occasional words like "wife" and "stomach", and laughed accordingly. Maria Angeles pointed out the house her grandfather used to live in as we headed back to the bus.

After the ancient winery which prided itself on maintaining traditial practices, we went to a winery that prided itself on modern architechture and high-tech wine production. Munch preferred this one, as the vast polished cement floors provided ample space for rapid crawling. The wine here was good, but the building left a greater impression.

We spent the following day exploring Vitoria itself. Its modern shell houses an incredibly beautiful interior, filled with a large pedestrian zone and many parks. Aside from the wedding guests and the rockers that had decended on the town for a music festival, we saw no tourists during our stay. What struck us the most was that the people who live in this town seem incredibly prosperous, and appear to have an amazing quality of life. They fill the pedestrian areas and the plaza every evening to meet with family and friends over a glass of wine and window shop. The bars and restaurants wind down after 10:00 on weeknights when everyone heads home. We went out the night of the wedding, and left the bars packed full at 2:30 AM. That put a big smile on my face - THIS is what I remember.

They have upholstered chairs in the exam rooms

So I went to the dermo today and had three moles shaved off. Two were "fleshy" and just in irritating locations (under the bra line, etc.), and one was "irregular", which means it gets sent to the hospital lab. I am happy that the mole gets sent to the hospital and I get to go home. If only it always worked that way.

Before the doctor came in with the razor, the nurse numbed up the moles. She stood behind me with her hand behind the chair and told me that I was going to feel a little prick. I asked if she was trying to hide the needle from me. To her credit, she said yes and laughed. I said, "They spent an hour trying to get an IV in me at the hospital without novacaine. Needles don't impress me."

What will they do with the mole when they are done with it? Will they send it home with instructions to "take it easy for a while?"