Balancing Act

Can’t believe its been over a year since I last posted but then again, I can believe it.

We bought the house. We did work to the house. We moved into the house. We got used to the house. We now have a love/hate relationship with the house. (And bills, but thats mostly a hate/hate relationship.)

We had another baby, so now we have two. A girl (Wubbly) and a boy (Cutie-Boo), whom I adore and they adore each other and watching them each day makes me believe in the beauty of life. (But it also drives me to the brink of insanity cleaning up after them all day, every day.)

Goober started a new job shortly after the move, but now that he’s been there a year, the itch to move on is beginning. The talk of moving south has infiltrated our home. My father is [getting married and] moving to North Carolina next year (another post for another day) and my in-laws are pretending to look in the same area, so the push from our families to move south is getting stronger too. Of course, living in New Jersey and paying for it on one salary is not making staying terribly attractive either. So Goober hunts the culinary job market each night when he comes home.

The baby is just 9 months and on the verge of walking already. My oldest didn’t walk until just after her first birthday. He’s 26 lbs and super cute and flirty, like his father. I’ve actually been able to breastfeed with him the whole time, much to my surprise and joy, but we seem to be hitting a dead-end now. I’m feeling strangely OK with weaning now. We had a long run than I expected and his world is expanding beyond Mommy’s chest. I think now is a good time.

My daughter is acting more and more like a rebellious teenager and its freaking me out. She’s 3 1/2. She is sweet and loving and smart and funny, but lately we’ve been battling through these streaks of intense aggression. And I know a lot of that is my fault- I haven’t handled her well the last few months, trying to take care of this house and a new baby. I took a lot of my frustration and guilt out on her and now its starting to show. And she’s too young to sit down and explain ‘why grown ups sometimes do and say things they don’t mean’; she just thinks I don’t like her. I’m trying desperately to reverse some of the damage but I feel like I’m losing her already and its killing me.

So this week, I’m feeling unsettled, uncomfortable, and a little bit unhappy. I’m always grasping at straws, trying to get this house cleaned or the laundry put away or our paperwork organized but nothing EVER gets finished. I am always a million steps behind and constantly interrupted and I HATE IT. Bu that’s life, right? When you have a 3 1/2 year old and a 9 month old and a chef husband and a first home and are a stay-at-home-mom who holds herself to unreasonable standards? Its normal to drown in a sea of clutter and crumbs and drool and regret? Because I find myself fantasizing a lot these days. I have day dreams that Goober and I haven’t had children yet; we’re still blissfully newlywed and childless and maybe have a small townhouse with a completely modern gourmet kitchen and more than one bathroom and manageable expenses and an active, fulfilling social life. Ahhhhhh, glasses of wine by the fireplace, watching a movie that isn’t a cartoon, maybe a last-minute weekend trip to the shore?

No. That’s not our life. And that’s not to say I wish we didn’t have children because I don’t. My children are my core, my everything. I think I love them more than my husband. And I would be utterly lost without them. They are the piece of myself I didn’t know was missing, no matter how crazy or angry or tired they make me (hourly). I know I’m lucky to have two such amazing, beautiful, healthy, smart, cuddly kids. But am I dying for a few days away from them to recoup and center? HELL YES!

So I’m trying every day to find a little “me time”. Its virtually impossible. I don’t kid myself. We have a small 3 bedroom ranch with one bathroom and one small TV room filled with the kids and their toys. My kitchen is so small its actually part of the hallway that goes to the bedrooms. No joke. So there’s nowhere to hide. Nowhere they can’t find me.

Naps are spent either under one of the kids or trying to catch up on laundry or bills. I aim to get the kids to nap in the car honestly, because then I might be able to sneak a nap in the driveway, or pump, or make a phone call or two, or sort the mail, or the like-all in the car, my mobile office. After they’ve gone to bed at night, I catch up on organizing our finances, which are shamefully, a wreck. Or SOMETIMES I’ll zone out and catch up on Game of Thrones or Nashville (but the TV wakes them up so, not often).

But my biggest goal (and I’ve already met with some success) is finally losing the weight I’ve gained with each pregnancy. Prior to Easter, I was doing a diet called Almased and it was working very well for me. I had energy, I felt good, not hungry, sleeping better, getting out for fresh air and walking with the kids in the park, and of course, losing weight. I managed to lose 15 lbs before Easter but then I made the mistake of ‘treating myself’ for the holiday. The following weekend was my son’s baptism, so I ‘let myself slide’ then too. And then I forgot I wanted to lose weight and ate everything in sight for a while. Then I got really sick and I’m just now getting over a really terrible bug brought on from exhaustion and poor diet.

So this coming week, I’m ‘treating’ myself to weight loss again. Starting the Almased again, starting up the daily walks again and getting me and the kids back on a routine. I’m tired of feeling like a fat slob (how many times have I written that before?) and looking like a frumpy, trashy, heavy mom. I look like I live at Walmart. (I kinda do.) And I’m turning 29 this year (I honestly don’t believe it) so I really need to turn things around. I’m in two weddings this year and going to a family reunion for the first time in years; I want to look good, damn it!

But it takes balance, and that’s what I am not so good at. I am impatient and disorganized and quick to anger, despite my best efforts. I give in too easily and let myself off the hook too often. So I’m still searching for a good balancer, something to help me stay on track and even my nature out a bit. Otherwise, I’m doomed to fail again. And I owe myself and my family more than that.

Moving So Fast

After two and half months of dedicated househunting (and two letdowns) Goober and I have finally found a house and are under contract. If I thought looking at a couple houses in the same day was dizzying, I was definitely not prepared for the actual purchase of a house. Not only is it an unfathomable feeling of being suddenly broke (or close to) but I am suddenly and frantically in touch with attorneys, lenders, inspectors, surveyors, agents and the like, trying desperately to process all of this new information in a very short time. Its weird how it goes so slow and then speeds up before you’re ready. And this is a big purchase- I do not like being rushed.

But, we’re comfortable with the house because it will be a good starter home and its in a near-perfect location. With a new baby on the way and a toddler already here, we opted for a 3 bedroom ranch so we wouldn’t have to deal with too many stairs or rooms; but we still have enough space for all of us without feeling cramped. The house itself seems to be in good sturdy shape and well-maintained, so we don’t have much to do when we first move in. And its literally 10 minutes from where we live now, so moving won’t be too hard.

We got lucky, and if all goes accordingly, we’ll be in our new house within a month or two, after some initial cleaning, organizing and purging.

But it is stressful. Trying to get all of our ducks in a row, our money figured out, identifying everyone’s costs, and making sure the math doesn’t say we’re already way in over our heads. Plus, everyone has advice on the home buying process, everyone has advice on the money issues and everyone wants to help but its getting a little pushy. And, lest we forget, I’m 4 months pregnant, so my hormones are not to be trifled with. So, I’m a little fried already (I’ve also been the ONLY one doing most of this because Goober’s job has swallowed him whole this particular week) and I just want a day or two to myself.

The pregnancy has also taken a difficult turn. Nothing wrong, per se, but I’m more uncomfortable and nauseous again, swinging from “I can’t eat anything” to “I’ll lick your shoes I’m so hungry!” in a matter of minutes. I still haven’t gained any weight, despite eating a lot of carbs and fat and junk food because often that’s the only stuff I can stomach. Water actually makes me gag, can you believe it?

I keep those little kicks growing stronger though so I try to stay optimistic. The baby is getting what it needs from my body, but my body is starting to get a little worn out and I’m not sure how to relieve myself of the joint aches, hip pain, round ligament pains and intense nausea. I just hope everything’s fine and maybe it will even out again in another week or so.

And so that’s where we’re at right now. Stuck in house-buying limbo, heavily pregnant and steadily wearing myself out.

Indigestion

I’m pregnant for the second time ( can’t remember if I’ve mentioned that lately?) and this pregnancy has been VERY different than my first. My first was very easy-going and simple. I had some round ligament pains, some aches, some nausea (but no vomitting) and some swelling but mostly towards the end. The first trimester was nothing but eating and sleeping, but I was finishing my third college degree, so it seemed pretty normal. Everything evened out on the second trimester border and I spent the remaining 6 months in a balanced pregnant state. I gained more weight than I should’ve, but I was eating a lot of cake. Delicious cake. Morning noon and night. Oh well.

This time around, lots has changed in my body so this pregnancy feels like my first but tweaked. Like, the first tri was a lot of hunger and nausea- normal- but MORE so than the first time. I was eating (and then puking up) everything in sight for the first few weeks. Harsh. And more foods made me sick just looking at them than not. Protein has been hard- with both pregnancies- because the sight of uncooked meats, or the smell of raw chicken, or the thought that an egg is basically the same genetic makeup as the baby growing inside of me all make me gag.

My mood and food-related moods swing off the charts. One minute I’ll beg my husband for a bite of his Taco Bell supreme taco, and two seconds later I can’t stomach the thought of Taco Bell in general. If I can’t make fresh guacamole with cilantro and chopped tomato appear magically in front of me exactly when I want it, I go into a rage. Bring it to me in 15 minutes? I’ll have a stronger craving for pickles instead. Its insane.

Like I said, I was pretty much exhausted to death my first first tri, but this time my first tri wasn’t too exhausting. The SECOND tri is proving to wear me out though. I blame a lot of that on the fact that I have a very energetic toddler to take care of while pregnant, but I just feel sleepy all the time. Sleep has been difficult too, and I’m not even showing yet.

I get dehydrated faster, because water is a turn-off these days too. I can’t make myself drink enough of it. I don’t mind having to pee every 15 minutes, but feeling water sitting in my stomach like a heavy stone? I’d rather not. Sipping and flavoring or substituting green tea haven’t helped much; my pee is electric yellow and “odorous”. Yuck.

I have been consciously trying to eat healthier, and more frequently, which isn’t hard because a lot of what I’m craving is fresh fruits and veggies, or cheese and yogurt, and I’m hungry almost all the time. But I have been consistently losing more weight since the beginning of this pregnancy- almost 10 lbs- and while that’s normal, and under any other circumstances I’d be thrilled, its worried me. I don’t want the baby to suffer. I was already overweight when I got pregnant (both times) so I can’t really gain, but I do need to maintain without too much lose too quickly. So much of my preg-a-noia has been on that.

Let’s see? What else? I’m not as moody or hormonal [yet]. I’ve had no sex drive. My skin looks like a battle zone. Round ligament pains and cramping have been stronger and a little nerve-wracking. Felt the baby kicking earlier. Can’t stand the smell, sight or taste of coffee at all. Craving primarily salty and sour items (supposedly means I’m having a boy). Already walk with a waddle but not showing yet. Stronger and more frequent headaches. Unrelenting nasal congestion. Needed to wear maternity clothes sooner. Internal temperature swings a lot- boiling hot one minute, freezing cold the next.

Oh, here’s one that’s blown my mind: more patient. My first pregnancy, I was a ticking time-bomb of emotions and opinions. I cried all the time. Every bit of parenting advice I received just incensed me and I bitched non-stop to my husband, who bore my wrath on a daily basis. In fact, I refused to marry him at first (we got married when I was 6 months pregnant with our daughter), which made him upset, obviously. Big fight. We got married anyway.

This time I’m more relaxed about…everything. Things don’t seem to bother me as much. (Oh, I still get ruffled feathers every now and again, but its only 2 or 3 hot button topics.)

Now maybe that’s because I have two years of mothering under my belt already and since my daughter’s entered “the terrible two’s” (and she’s really not that terrible if I’m honest), I’ve had even MORE practice dealing with the ups and downs of child-rearing. But we are also house-hunting, and I’ve been surprisingly chill about that too.

Ordinarily, I’d be freaking out, planning every inch of the house, falling in love with a new one every other day, getting my heart set on something we can’t afford or something we’ll outgrow too quickly, then major letdown. But we’ve seen maybe 50 houses so far (two have fallen through) and I’m not losing my cool yet.

Have I fallen for any? Yes. Are there a lot out of our price range? Yes. And yet, I’m handling it with great aplomb. Go me.

Otherwise, this pregnancy is a good, strong healthy one. Our first sonogram was great- the baby stuck its tongue out at me- and I promptly copied the pictures and sent them out as our announcement. We’ll find out the gender after Easter. Hoping for a boy but my father is convinced its another girl.

I’ve had no spotting, no serious pains and really nothing to cause me to worry more than what’s normal for a woman. My husband is excited but prefers not to talk excessively about this pregnancy (I guess he’s still digesting it). And we’ve started preparing our daughter to be a big sister, telling her everyday what a big girl she is and how helpful she’s going to be when the baby comes. (I’ve even bought her some “big sister gifts” from the baby- the complete Cinderella doll and carriage sets from the Disney store. She’s very into Cinderella right now; we have to watch it every night before bed. Oy.)

She only half ‘gets it’, but she loves playing with her baby dolls so I think we’ll be OK. She’s got a sweet temperament. She’s a good kid.

So while my prenatal vitamins and too much onion give me heartburn, and I feel pretty tired and miserable in the mornings because I can’t breathe through my nose and thus, didn’t sleep, I keep reminding myself of a phrase I read on a baby forum: “You can’t shake a good pregnancy and you can’t save a bad one.” Its really kept me in check. If this baby is the trooper I feel it to be (literally eating away at me!) then I have nothing to fear. I seem to be good at building unreasonably strong and gigantic children. So, in the name of maternity, I will continue to eat everything in sight and sleep as much as I can and enjoy the last few months I have with just my daughter as the only child. Its all been worth it so far.

Those Damn Hipsters

I don’t hate them, but I am definitely irritated by the whole hipster community, and all that comes with them. The strange music, the obsession with up-cycling and modernized crafts, the thrifting, chunky unnecessary glasses, the pseudo- dorkiness, and the obviously annoying arrogance. The health-conscientious ones are by far the most annoying. My brother-in-law and his wife are like that (only shop at Whole Foods!) but I try to cut them some slack because they’re family.

But in a way, I’m jealous too. The hipsters seem to have combined two and a half generations of self-centered slackers and turned them into modern-day revolutionaries. Suddenly, there’s a wave of women selling (and making a killing) hand-crafted ‘things’ on Etsy. There’s a whole fashion movement of suspenders, neon skinny pants and over-sized floral dresses from the 90’s. Writing and reading books is cool again (but only because our society has exhausted the iPhone craze). I should feel at home with these people. But I still feel like a bitter and uncomfortable outsider.

Play today!

Play today!

It centers around my burning desire to do something with my life. I’m 27, a wife and mother, and aside from those wonderful and satisfying achievements, I have nothing to call my success. Of course, I love being a wife and mother- and it truly does fill up a part of myself I never knew existed- but its not enough to fill up all of me. There are parts completely unrelated to maternity and marriage.

All my life, I planned on becoming a writer. Writing dramatic and hilarious, heartwarming novels, about kooky families that come together, or a band of mismatched friends who come into their own. I wanted to map out of the adventures and failures and dramas of imaginary people and live vicariously through them. And perhaps get paid and praised for it too.

But somewhere along the way, the dream’s stitching came a little loose and I lost sight of what I thought I wanted. Writer turned into chef, chef turned into food writer, food writer turned into food critic, critic turned into publishing, publisher turned into proofreader, and proofreader is pretty much receptionist at this point. But now I’ve come full circle and want to be a writer again. Which leads me to believe that at 27, I still have no clue what I want to be when I grow up. And I hate that.

I have the publishing company my mother left me, and I keep it on the back burner always, but I really have no idea what to do  with it. I have no experience in publishing. (Of course, neither did she…) It shouldn’t stop me but I let it stop me every day. I haven’t written a real anything in a long time. Last time was for a class, and it felt so good but it also felt so forced. Writing for myself hasn’t happened in probably years. (With the exception of journal entries which are never going to see the light of publishing day.)

I just don’t know what to do. Follow my instinct, start writing again and figure it out as I go along, risking failure and humiliation for the one thing in my life that always makes sense? Or keep dragging along on this somewhat pointless path of safety and caution and boredom?

Do I want to build something I can be proud of, something my children can be proud of? (I’m pregnant again, by the way.) Or do I want to be another bland blah mom in the background, smiling at her children’s achievements alone?

I want the former. I know I do. I want glory and recognition and fulfillment. I just have to figure out how to get there. That’s probably the hard part for me, after actually starting.

Thanks…For Nothin’

Thanksgiving USED to be my favorite holiday. It had none of the religious overtones, none of the commercial falseness the other holidays bear. Aside from food, an already everyday staple, there is no need for wrapped presents, gift-cards or other tokens of affection. People showing up is enough. Thanksgiving celebrates the best qualities of man: family orientation, community, giving, sharing, gratitude, provision, togetherness- and even as a young child, I knew these things were far more important than decorating a tree or collecting hidden eggs. There were no games to play on Thanksgiving, and I was not treated specially; I was not pampered or given gifts, or filled up with imaginary characters. Aside from the turkey, there is no icon for Thanksgiving, no cartoon character or mythical creature that comes to the house. Thanksgiving embraces the realness of life. It addresses the hardships we face throughout the year but reminds us to be humble and thankful for what we have, what we are, who we share our lives with.

Thanksgiving has always been at ‘my’ house (my parents’, with whom I still live). Its always been such a production because its the only holiday we host- the others are at my aunt’s. We plan a month in advance. Rent tables and chairs, have linens pressed, polish silver, shine crystal goblets, count and re-count china.

An order to our favorite Italian import deli gets placed two weeks before the holiday and picked-up the day before to ensure the freshness of the that-day made mozzarella cheese and breads. We inventory the serving platters and utensils, the pie plates, the embroidered napkins and decanters. Everything is dusted, cleaned, shined, fixed, etc… The maid is asked to come twice that week and to do a serious deep-cleaning the second time. A professional carpet cleaner is brought in after the holiday to clean up the remains of foot traffic.

Shopping lists are written and re-written and noted, with what we have, what we need, what we ordered. Fresh vegetables and fruits are picked up the night before, chopped or skinned and laid in rows on the appropriate platter. After the platters are prepared, we set the table (in perfect accordance with fine dining standards), trim the candlesticks, survey the house for anything out of place and retire, because we will be waking up at 4AM to start the holiday.

The guests don’t arrive until 3 in the afternoon, but the turkey needs to be taken out of the brine its been sitting in for two whole days, dried, dressed and placed in the pan, brought to room temperature and then slid into the oven. Potatoes must be cut and thrown into a pot of salted water, to sit on the stove until they can be boiled for mashed potatoes. Cream, butter, salt, garlic, herbs, freshly ground black pepper and olive oil must all be laid out on the counter for easy access.

Straightening up the house is ongoing, all day. Picture frames are repeatedly adjusted, papers are tidied and hidden, spills are wiped up immediately. The house must stay immaculate until at least halfway through the meal. Now that there’s a toddler in the house, toys must be kept in order and she must be entertained so she doesn’t create a mess (my father’s feelings, not mine).

An hour before everyone is due to show up, we take our showers, get dressed and ready ourselves for an afternoon and evening of serving, entertaining and cleaning. Showtime!

And all these years, this is what I’ve lived for. Getting everything ready, everything looking clean and loved, hearing the door open with the first relatives. Having the whole house smell like baking, roasting deliciousness. Letting my eyes pore over the vast array of dishes, desserts and snacks; especially pinching little bites during our prep time. The routine of it, the austerity. The love of it, and the resulting pride and compliments.

But now, its a dying show. Reminds of me of a washed-up magician. The magic is gone, everyone’s lost interest. My cousins and I have all grown up, married, are having kids and live in three different states, making it harder for them to come. We’ve lost several relatives over the years, including my mother in 2004 and my grandmother this summer. We’ve added my daughter, but she’s too young to understand or help, and I wish I could build some new traditions with her and my husband, instead of being forced to carry on my father’s.Image

We do Thanksgiving this way now because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. We can’t change it now, my father says, because everyone expects it this way. Every year, we lose another person to inconvenience or other obligations (in-laws, work, etc…), the turkey gets smaller but just as expensive (have to have the free-range, organic, corn fed blah blah blah stupid bird) and the conversation gets drier along with the stuffing. And I’m more easily exasperated by my father’s stubbornness and demands. The ham needs to be laid like this, the cheeses need to be cut thinner, why did you buy those grapes…

As I’ve gotten older too, I’ve be given more responsibilities to the pint where I feel like this year, I’m doing EVERYTHING. I ordered the turkey and picked it up; I also made the brine and started the brining process. I rented the table and chairs, and had them delivered. I made up the shopping lists after doing an inventory of what we already had, and I am hitting the farmer’s market after work, before I pick up all of the antipasto and cheeses (as well as special almond milk for my father’s girlfriend). I picked up the dry-cleaning, I did the laundry and I will most likely be sharpening the knives, cutting the crudite, prepping the platters and setting the table, all while trying to figure out how to keep my child from flipping out. My father’s girlfriend is flying in tonight so I’m betting they will disappear and leave me with all the work. (Don’t even get me started on dinner tonight…)

And I will get none of the credit. Everyone will show up and my father will tell them how getting Thanksgiving together after the havoc of the storms earlier this month was such a bear, but he did it! He’ll jokingly complain that the turkey was two pounds smaller than last year and almost as expensive, but we’ve got to have the best! He’ll invite everyone in, get comfortable, help themselves to the hors d’oeuvres and what can he get them to drink, i.e. I’ll have to play bartender. Coats will be hung everywhere, the kitchen will fill up with the smell of cologne, perfume, cooking poultry and vanilla candles; my daughter will dart around everyone’s legs. My father’s eyes will anxiously watch her, in anticipation of a spill, a trip or a dropped toy to step on.

To make matters worse, my husband is working, so he won’t be there to help or comfort me. And his family has been quietly non-invited to our celebration, because they have a habit of taking it upon themselves to invite other, not agreed-upon relatives and my father gets stressed out trying to stretch his carefully calculated preparations for these new, loud, brash people he doesn’t want. Yes, that’s right- I can’t even invite my in-laws to Thanksgiving. (But my cousins’ in-laws are alright…not hypocritical at all, right??)

So, I’m sure you can sense my unrest, and maybe you can wrap your head around how this holiday has lost its special place in my heart. Its not mine anymore. So I spend most of my time dreaming of when I can build my own family traditions, host my own holidays (or not) and when I can cook my own damn turkey.

I’m thankful for my family- don’t get me wrong- but I think I’ll be more thankful for them and their stale traditions when I get the chance to break free of them.

Calm After the Storm

So, I live in New Jersey. New Jersey just got ransacked by Mother Nature and most of the state has been living like refugees. Its been a weird 2 weeks. It started with my Wubbly’s 2nd birthday party, on the 28th. I thought I’d take a quick jaunt to the local BJ’s Wholesale to stock up on sodas and bottled water for the party, not realizing that everyone else in this area had the same idea but for survival. Pandemonium in the water aisle. I barely escaped with a box of diapers. I had no idea how precious and necessary that extra box of diapers would be.

The party had its own drama and chaos but overall, went well. A good excuse to celebrate our daughter, our combined families and a love of good food and wine. It would prove to be the last fun night for a while.

The 29th was a blustery gray day, with most people venturing out thinking it wasn’t that bad. I stayed home with my daughter, watching TV and checking out posts on Facebook about the storm. I expected to lose power at some point, hopefully in the evening, and for no more than a day or two. We had flashlights, batteries and candles at the ready. We had all the food and drinks leftover from the party to tide us over. We had our laptops charged, in case we got extra bored. I took is moderately seriously.

We lost power around dinner time, after some light flickering throughout the house, and when the power finally went, it was a novelty. I had to explain to my fresh-faced two year old that the lights were ‘broken’, the TV was ‘broken’; everything was ‘broken except for the flashlights, which she happily commanded. Thank God for the ladybug starry nightlight thing Daddy Warbucks got her for her birthday- kept all of us entertained for a few hours in the dark.

So my father, daughter and I gathered in the living room, in the dark, with flashlights and candles and the ladybug light, and we just hung out. Wubbly was excited and cheerful, singing songs, flailing the flashlights around and changing the colors on her ladybug light and pointing to the stars it impressed on the ceiling. It was fun.

Then a tree fell. The sound of glass shattering. Hearing my father yell “Whoa! What was that!” My hear pounding as I ran from the kitchen to the living room where my father and Wubbly were sitting on the ouch in front of the windows where a tree from across the street had just crash-landed.

We were lucky. The treetop just grazed the house, smashing through the storm window and getting caught on the screen. It didn’t come through the house, but scraped up some siding, took down a gutter and roof shingles and completely crushed our neighbor’s car. It also took down the power lines for our street and blocked the street. If it had been taller or fallen farther, it would’ve come through the living room window, and landed on top of my father and daughter. My heart skips a beat just thinking of it. Thank God it didn’t happen that way though.

The wind was the strongest and scariest I’d ever seen it. Things were whipping around, trees were falling everywhere. All night, you heard howling and crashing and thudding. Hardly any rain; just endless noise.

We surveyed the damage, which was difficult in pure darkness, with power lines downed in front of our house and branches sticking out everywhere.We went to bed early, and I shook all night, holding onto my daughter in our bed, afraid of something crashing into the roof above our heads. Goober had been asked to stay at the hotel for storm control the next day; he wasn’t coming home and I wanted him with us more than anything. He wouldn’t come home for a few days.

When the storms was over, we crept out in the morning to see the full extent of the damage, our neighbors slowly peeking out too. We all gathered in the middle of the street, split in half by a huge 100+ year old felled tree. Behind the tree’s upped roots, you could see tire tracks in the mud of my neighbor’s yard, where people driving down our street actually drove onto his lawn to go around the uprooted stump.

Rumors of houses completely collapsed, trees down on every street, a giant maze of streets, power out in the whole state, the Atlantic City boardwalk wiped out, flooding, evacuations- it all circulated like wildfire. People sighed proudly over their little stockpiles of bottled water and snack foods, but we kept our refrigerators and freezers shut tight. For the few that had generators, those first 2-3 days were sweet, as they experienced hardly any change in lifestyle. The rest of us played house with candles and chips and bottled water and lit our fireplaces and pretended we were taking the day off.

Then we realized the scale, the magnitude. What we were dealing with. Reports of gas shortages, food shortages, sewers leaking into the water supply, rioting. Power wouldn’t be restored for days more, maybe weeks. The refrigerator was now room temperature- everything would have to be thrown out, and the freezers were quickly defrosting too. Some people had been killed, more left homeless. Cell towers were down- our cell phones were our only connection to the world outside our neighborhood and they weren’t reliable. Frantic text messages sent- “Are you ok?” “Any damage?” “No power here either. But we’re ok.” The people with generators started to worry about running out of gas. Rationing was implemented at the stations, and lines became miles long. Stations ran out of gas and people ran out of gas while waiting in line. Everyone was scared, angry, confused, clawing. It really was scary.

Finally, Goober made it home because all hell was breaking loose at his hotel, which was out of power, fully booked and trying to get a generator. He couldn’t make another trip- Wubbly and I could come with him, he could even get my father a room and we’d be safe, together and taken care of. Once the tractor trailer generator was hooked up, the hotel would have heat, power, internet, cable, food. I took one look at our daughter and started packing.

And that’s where we’ve been living, up until yesterday. My father stayed at the house- idiot- and let us know when we got power back. Good thing too- I was starting to go stir crazy. Of course, we would’ve come home Wednesday if we hadn’t gotten hit with a superb snow storm too. (I am now waiting for locusts to rain down.) And if all of that wasn’t enough, Tuesday was the presidential election, which for my husband and his family was catastrophic. So, we’ve all suffered and we’ve managed to survive. And I am fearful of how much worse it could be in the future but hope I never see another disaster like this in my lifetime.

Things are starting to get back to normal. Most of the debris and snow has been cleared but there are still quite a few streets in my town that are blocked off by trees and downed power lines. PSE&G and Comcast trucks are everywhere. Facebook is alive with gratitude and complaints alike. I’m back to work today, then looking forward to a weekend of cleaning, re-organizing and inventorializing for the insurance company. Need to do A LOT of laundry, A LOT of vacuuming and A LOT of food shopping. Goober had yesterday and today off, then Monday too, which will be a big help. Daddy Warbucks flew off to California to be with his girlfriend as soon as the airports re-opened. Most people I know have power back; I only know one family whose house was seriously affected by the storm because they live right on the water.

The Jersey Shore is pretty much desolated. It will never be the same. We also got lucky that our shore-house had no damage, but I’m sure we’ll still be leery come summer.

And, as a side-note, my sister-in-law gave birth on the 1st, to a perfectly healthy strong baby girl, whom they’ve named Alice Lenore, and I will probably call Sandy. She looks just like Goober’s brother, which is strange because she’s also adorable. We haven’t seen her in person yet- they’re home and struggling to keep up with her newborn appetite and sleep patterns (ah, I remember!)- but I’m excited to be an aunt, Goober an uncle and Wubbly a big cousin. And of course, just so relieved and grateful she was born without any problems because of the storm. (But that’s a whole other story!)

I know other had it much worse than I did, and for that, my heart goes out. I know plenty were not affected at all, and for them, I have no sympathy. I am just glad to have things mostly back to normal again and that my loved ones are safe and healthy after all of this.

And I am going to over-prepare for the next major storm, because it really is getting to ‘hell or high water’ these days.

Don’t Take Me Seriously

I think I mentioned before that I’m a Scorpio and that I think I know everything. (I don’t really buy into the whole Zodiac thing but I do seem to fit the Scorpio archetype…) Of course, I know I don’t know everything, but I like to pretend I do, to give others the impression that I am smarter than I really am. Not so unusual. We all do it to some degree.

At the end of the day, I know what I know. I cannot expand my own knowledge beyond what it really is. So yeah, physics? I don’t really know anything about physics. Knitting? I know what it looks like… HTML. Admitting I don’t know that in this day and age is social suicide, right?

In any case, the far far off point I wanted to make is that no one should take my rantings too seriously because I really don’t know anything. And its important to have a sense of humor. (BTW, I have no sense of humor today- I’m just hoping writing this will lift me up a little.) Humor can substitute wisdom any day of the week in my book. I don’t always care if I’m in the company of intelligent people, but I typically don’t want to be surrounded by dull people who can’t take a joke.

I think I have a great sense of humor. I have to- my whole childhood was spent honing my humor to keep my mother smiling. I honestly believe she lasted as long as she did because she thought I was a funny kid, and that makes me happy. I made her happy. My kid makes me happy. Happy gets you through the day. Even strangely crappy ones like today.

So I don’t know much (I mean, I know things- I’m not an idiot) but I know that a good sense of humor can do wonders. Can give you confidence, can score you points, can win a person over, can change the mood, can change the day.

I should’ve listened…

I’m a stubborn person. (Scorpio. Guilty!) Most of the time, I think I’m right about things, and even if I know I’m probably not right, I’ll act for all the world like I know what I’m talking about. A lot of the time, I’m full of crap, but I’ll never admit it. I only act humble when I’m in a joking mood.

So, there is a lot of advice I’ve received over the years that I plain ignored because I KNEW I knew better. And its led me to miss out on a lot of things.

As a kid, I refused to try coleslaw, coffee, cranberries, figs, cottage cheese, and anything that looked too “exotic”. People said “Try it”, “You’ll like it” or “Its good for you”. But I knew better, right? As an adult, I’ve forced myself to try some of these things, and have happily added them to my ever-growing list of ‘things I adore’. (Helps that I married a chef who will, like Andrew Zimmern, eat pretty much anything and ask me to share.)

And this week, I’ve been schooled again.

A college boyfriend tried to introduce me to pomegranates and I vehemently refused. (And we were in culinary school!) They looked too much like over-sized cranberries, and they seemed like too much work. He was a health-nut, very into daily exercise and organic foods, while I was still taking advantage of my adolescent metabolism, so naturally, I thought I knew better and didn’t need those things. I refused his pomegranates, the relationship crumbled; he’s now a nutritionist and still looks fantastic (the ADHD jerk) and I’m chubby and doing…I don’t know…what am I doing? And I’m just now discovering what he was going on about.

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The hype is everywhere: pomegranates are AWESOME for your health! Antioxidants! Antioxidants! Antioxidants! I’m surprised supermarkets don’t hire young perky annoying cheerleaders to stand in front of their POM Wonderful displays. This fruit has been praised for everything from helping you slim down to preventing cancer. I’m willing to bet some of these claims are unfounded, but I bought into it like all the rest.

First off, let me say, I have tried and decidedly hate pomegranate juice. POM sucks. Tastes funny. I give my toddler pomegranate juice for her lunch everyday because she doesn’t know better and I hope to pass on the nutritional benefits to her, but I am never drinking another glass of the stuff again.

That said, I now LOVE eating pomegranates whole. And I like doing it the hard way: one kernel at a time. Or arvil, or whatever the damn things are called.

Much like caviar, each seed pops between my teeth, bursting with juice and a crunchy hard center. I roll the seeds between my molars, thoroughly squeezing out the pulpy skins and then swallow the seeds whole. Delightful! Its so much fun!

I’ve seen videos on YouTube on how to smack all the seeds into a bowl of water, wearing gloves and aprons and whatnot because of all the stain warnings, but I haven’t had a stain yet. I’ve shared with my 2 year old (who’s already a much more adventurous eater than I was at her age) and we’ve eaten them in bed. On clean white sheets. No stains. Fingers got a little sticky but no serious problem.

My favorite thing is the challenge of the seeds really stuck in the pulp. Its incredible how pomegranates grow, the creamy yellow insides perfectly blanketing the bright crimson fruit. Its a marvelous beauty of nature actually. I find the inside of a pomegranate very inspiring and majestic.The color is rich and earthy; seductive almost. The color literally LOOKS juicy. And the flavor of the juice- sweet and tart, like a better version of a cranberry and a raspberry combined.

So, I’m on day 4 of eating pomegranates and I will be returning to the store today to buy some more. (Lucky for me, they’re in season now.) Honestly, I don’t care about the health benefits. If they’re truly miracle fruits, then I’m getting a pure shot of greatness once a day and that’s awesome. But I’m really eating them because I like them, and I’m trying to make up for lost time.

But should that ex-boyfriend ever smirk and say “I told you so,” I’ll refuse to admit I was wrong. Unless I’m kidding of course.

Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home

Wubbly sings now. Its adorable. A bit off key and she has absolutely no pitch but its just too cute watching her sway and stumble through the words of ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ and ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’. We occasionally sing together but often she yells “Stop! Mummy! Stop!” at me. I guess she doesn’t like sharing the stage.

Other cute things she’s doing: holding hands, pats on the back when I make a sad face, taking all the silverware out of the drawer, feeding herself with a fork or spoon and drinking out of a regular cup, “reading” to me and Goober, blowing raspberries and running around in circles, announcing “I’m running!” Yes you are, cutie.

Not so cute things: she’s covered in spider bites (from our bedroom apparently), she comes home from daycare filthy everyday and shoes full of sand, she’s gotten a lot more stubborn and obstinate about certain things, bigger stickier messes, and no sleep routine in sight.

But whatever. We’re managing. She’s doing exceptionally well in “school” or daycare. Everyone loves her and she’s learning in leaps and bounds. I’m happy. I’m proud. She’s my girl.

Goober’s been stuck on the home-front lately and he’s just itching to be sent somewhere exotic on Task Force. By exotic, I mean Texas or Missouri. But we like having him home, for the most part. (He makes big messes too.)

Daddy Warbucks has been all over the place lately; pretty annoying. I get used to him being gone, being able to run the house the way I like, then he comes home and we get in each other’s way. And he’s getting older so he’s becoming more belligerent too. I get blamed for a lot, including the actions of my toddler and grown husband. Their messes are my messes and thus, an inconvenience to my father. Et cetera, et cetera… we need to move out.
Hopefully we’ll start an earnest search soon; at worst, January.

My grandfather is out of rehab and home, but a changed man. The pacemaker is the only thing keeping him alive and his personality is akin to a frustrated 8 year old boy, excited one minute, then moody the next. I am relieved he’s home but I also know this is the beginning of his last mile, and I don’t know how I feel about that, let alone if anyone in the family is ready for it.

Been spending most of my days planning Wubbly’s second birthday party next month- a ladybug theme. We’ll just have the family over for dinner again, keep things simple. My heart is aching over the fact that she’s going to be 2. How did this happen?! I miss my little blob of a baby, my rolie-polie cherub child. This rambunctious giggling toddler before me won’t slow down to let me hold and squeeze her. She resists my kisses and cuddles. She wants to run everywhere- she even tries to fly! I can’t keep up already! My baby is growing up so fast.

A Quick Sigh

For the first time in a long while, I am alone in the house with some time to kill. My daughter is at my in-law’s, my husband is golfing, my father is at work and Coco is…who knows where. I have a training session in an hour but I’ve got a few minutes to sit and reflect, and I need that so much right now.

The weather has shifted from rainy and cold to blistering hot in a matter of days, which suits me just fine. I’d rather a painful sun than a gentle rain cloud. The heat and light make me want to get out and use up my energy, which I luckily have more of these days. Don’t know if I should credit the pills,  my daughter’s increasing mobility, the weight loss, or just simple good fortune but I’m enjoying it. And being out in the sun means sweating- sweating me burning calories- burning calories means getting healthier. So we’ve been going for lots of neighborhood walks, which is good for me and Wubbly.

She’s growing and expanding before my very eyes- almost makes me want to bundle her up so she can’t grow anymore. She refuses to sit, only wants to stand. She stamps her feet and tries to walk, but she could care less about crawling. She insists on grabbing the spoon from my hand and feeding herself, and she does the same with her bottle. Her independence is astounding- she’s only 7 months!  And she babbles and sings all day long. Ba-ba-ba, ga-ga-ga, da-da-da, ma-ma-ma. Big smiles and giggles; she’s such a happy, curious thing. My heart swells with pride every second.