Life Lessons

In some ways, being a parent give you a lot of perspective. You suddenly appreciate your own parents. You reprioritize everything. You stop caring about everything being perfect all the time. (Mostly.)

In other ways, being a parent makes you lose all sense of time, space, and perspective.

Most of the time, Vivi is a really good kid. Like, really good. She’s happy. She’s friendly. She’s smart. She’s sweet. I hit the jackpot, folks.

And then…well, then, other times, things go differently.

A couple of weeks ago, we were at one of our religious meetings. I had spent the night at a friend’s house (she’s pregnant and her husband was out of town AND I DON’T NEED TO EXPLAIN TO YOU WHY I AM ALMOST 30 AND HAVE SLEEPOVERS), so I didn’t see Vivi until the meeting at 2:45.

As soon as I got there, I could tell she was in a funny mood.

Not funny ha-ha. Not funny like a clown. Funny like, “Huh…maybe we should all go back to bed and try again tomorrow.”

She was also only wearing a shirt and tights because DADS. That part was actually hilarious. But I digress…

I heard about five minutes of the entire hour-and-a-half meeting because Vivi started to shriek as soon as the talk started. I spent the rest of the time in the lobby watching her literally sprint in dizzying circles around me while yelping every 15 seconds. Any time I would try to make her stop and calm down, she would full-on smack me in the face. I would discipline her, she would “apologize” (can you really take a toddler apology seriously? you know they don’t mean it), we would return to the public eye, and the spectacle would continue.

Everyone who walked by would give me a sympathetic smile or ask what was wrong with her. “I don’t know, it’s the strangest thing — there’s nothing about this in the manual!!!” I would rave at them. In my head. Out loud, I would say, “I think she’s just tired.” Or teething. Or hungry.

OR A TOTAL MONSTER.

Because, in those moments, in the darkness of parenting, you are convinced that this is your new demon baby and it is never, ever leaving. Your happy kid? Gone. And it’s probably your fault. It’s probably that time you let her eat a non-organic banana because she needed a snack and it’s all they had at the coffee shop. And now, look what you get for forgetting a dietarily appropriate snack: a demon baby. Your welcome, terrible mom.

Even if you don’t blame yourself for getting to this point, it doesn’t matter. It’s your fault that you are not a good enough mom to make the terror stop. Your new baby dictator will now rule for the rest of her days, and all you can do is pretend like you know how to discipline her and hold your breath to see if anything works. Scary voice? No. Pow-pow? Nada. Sticking her in a chair until she says she’ll be good? Nice try, Mom. If that is your real name!!!

Hopefully, by the time you get over a year into this gig, you at least have the rational state of mind to remind yourself (even if you don’t believe it) that this too shall pass. Remember the puking days? Remember the non-sleeping days? Remember the crying-all-day-for-no-apparent-reason days? You thought those would all last forever too, and look at you now. So you grit your teeth and count the minutes until bedtime, all with the faint hope that she will wake up tomorrow your sweet, wonderful baby again.

So back to the day in question. I’d like to tell you that we both had some kind of epiphany where we came to terms and understood each other and returned peacefully for the end of the meeting. But that’s not what happened. What happened is she started doing this thing where she would look me dead in the eye and open her mouth and just scream and scream and scream until she needed to take a breath.

The scariest part? She never broke eye contact. And her eyes were very clearly saying, “What are you going to do about it?”

And here’s what I did: I handed her to a friend and ran to the bathroom to cry. And then I came out, grabbed my stuff and Vivi, and we left. We just went home. Where she could scream and I could cry, and no one could see or judge us.

And eventually bed time came. And the next morning, things were better.

Because that is parenting. It’s crying and worrying you’re screwing it all up one day and loving the crap out of that little perfect monster the next.

So I’m trying not to worry too much if I don’t know what I’m going to do about it. If I don’t know what I’m doing ever. Because we’re figuring it out, all of us. And tomorrow? Things will be better.

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I had a moment a few days ago that I’m not really proud of where I got unreasonably jealous of someone to the point where I nearly started crying.

That sounds horrible and pathetic, right?

You didn’t ask for my excuses, but, in my defense, I was also tired, after having to welcome in a plumber for an emergency visit at 7 a.m. and then having to clean up after said plumber and then having to clean up after Vivi about 8,000 times before 10 a.m., and I had just started my period. That sentence is barely coherent, but the point is, I wasn’t at my best mentally or emotionally in this horrible and pathetic moment.

So I saw something on social media (because OF COURSE #MILLENNIALLYFE) and immediately spiraled into a dark place.

I’m happy to say that this doesn’t happen often. When I was younger, it did. It happened all the time. But I worked on it, and I worked on myself, and it’s a small relief to me that, no matter how horrible and pathetic it is when it happens, it really, truly does not happen that often. (And, also, again, I had just started my period. BUT ENOUGH EXCUSES.)

The point is, it happened, and even as it did, I realized what an unattractive moment it was. I do not like jealousy in others, and I really don’t like it in myself. So I started making a mental list of all the good things in my life, because oh my GOSH, you guys. I have it so good.

I have a wonderful husband, who had actually just sent me breakfast that morning because he knew I was dealing with the plumber situation and might not have time to make myself something. Who, even as I type this, I hear reading aloud to Vivi in her room, making her giggle as they practice animal sounds with each turning page.

I have the most perfect baby, who astounds me and makes me laugh out loud (usually multiple times) every single day. Who is excessively talkative and confident and boisterous one moment, and then suddenly sweet, melting into my lap and spontaneously stretching up to kiss my chin for no reason at all except that she loves me.

We are all so healthy, and I’m not a momma who has to spend hours and hours at doctor visits and in special hospitals, holding her scared baby’s hand and unable to do anything except pray, pray, pray for something good.

We have a warm, safe home, and I don’t have to worry when I see the temperatures dropping than any of us will go to sleep cold and shivering.

We have so. much. food. And it never even crosses my mind that I can’t grab a banana or a squeezy pack or a string cheese the moment Viv whines in hunger at the park.

I’m able to work from home, spending every day with that precious baby and not missing a single moment or milestone while I help to support my family with a career I actually enjoy and find fulfilling.

We have so many luxuries, be it spur-of-the-moment coffee or the ability to order dinner in minutes or new clothes or an overabundance of technology and entertainment.

I have my faith, which sustains me through everything and brings so much purpose and contentment to my life.

I have everything I need, and so, so much more on top of that.

As I washed my second load of dishes for the day (dishes dirtied by that abundance of food, which was eaten by that ridiculously healthy baby), I repeated my list to myself and tears came to my eyes for the second time that morning.

The thing is, there will always be someone with more than me. Someone with more things, more money, more free time, more whatever. But you can guarantee they have their stuff to deal with, too. And me? Well, I have everything I need. (And so, so much more.)

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Vivi has never been a great napper.

While overnight sleeping has been fairly simple since she was about three months old, daytime sleeping is ALWAYS a struggle. And, like most parenting struggles, it probably stressed me out more than it should.

But just imagine:

Vivi would GENERALLY nap around 10:30 a.m. and then again around 3 p.m. When she was around ten months old, we started cutting back to one nap, which could happen anywhere from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. As you can probably tell, that’s a pretty big range. As a work-at-home-mom, a big nap range means it was difficult to schedule (and count on) work calls, interviews, or even just work time.

For those of you playing along at home, that added even more stress to my life.

Before I carry on with my story, I have a little anecdote for you: Some of you may remember when I was putting together Vivi’s nursery. I made a big fuss about trying to ensure that the room was as dark as possible when Vivi would be sleeping. But when I actually put everything to the test with infant Viv, the black-out shades were not…well, blacking out. Anything.

And you know what I did? I let it go. Yup, me. Of Grand Sux Cafe fame. I shrugged it off and let go and let God.

So time went on. And, as you know, Vivi continued to nap terribly.

AND I NEVER MADE THE CONNECTION BECAUSE I’M A MORON.

Which brings us to a few weeks ago when Viv and I spent a week at my parents’ house. Their guest bedrooms are all in the basement, giving them all a cave-like darkness incredibly conducive to sleeping in. Which I realized when Vivi slept about 14 hours straight her first night there. And again when all of her naps were over an hour and a half.

Perhaps this whole “darkness” thing was really onto something.

When I got home, I immediately went out and purchased an actual black-out curtain. And you know what happened?

Suddenly, my 12-hours-every-night-without-fail started sleeping an additional half-hour-to45-minutes every night. And napping? A few days ago, she slept THREE HOURS. That turned out to be a (magical) fluke, but she hasn’t napped for less than half an hour since updating the curtain.

Basically what I’m saying is that I’m never going to let anything go ever again. (Kidding.)(Kind of.)

As a parent, I’m sure there are going to be a lot of those “if I knew then what I know now” moments. But right now, insist on the black-out curtains is topping my list.

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Last weekend, Vivi had her first ever sleepover away from home without me.

It was at her grandparents’ in Long Island, so she wasn’t terribly far, but I’m sure you can still appreciate the momentousness of the milestone.

From the moment Vivi existed, she has been with me. Of course, she has had babysitters and even spent a full day with her grandparents before, but it was a strange experience to be truly separate for more than 24 hours.

Honestly, I was fine. I don’t beat myself up about the fact that sometimes it’s nice to get a break from parenting. Parenting is the world’s most constant job when you’re on, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need a moment to not be “on” now and then. To be fair, I kept myself very busy cleaning the apartment and even having a night out with friends (without worrying about the babysitter at home! So novel!). But I do think I could have been okay even if I had spent the entire time watching reality television at home.

It’s such a funny thing how so many people in the world are more than happy to jump down your throat if you even imply that you might enjoy doing something other than doting on your child all day. I think this perception is getting better (or maybe I just surround myself with people who are more compassionate and, let’s be real, honest), but I still feel it engrained in my own thinking sometimes. I actually had moments of guilt for not wishing Vivi was with me every second she was away. Like I should feel bad about enjoying being the person I was before a baby, even if only for a few hours. I’m going to try not to be so hard on myself about those feelings anymore.

That being said, I was SO. HAPPY. when Vivi came home. I swear that little stinker got even more gorgeous while she was away. And it was nice to see that she had missed me just as much.

I’m pretty proud of both of us.

I thought of this post while I was trapped under my sleeping child at 4:40 on a Tuesday afternoon. (But if you follow me on Instagram, you already knew that.) One arm firmly wrapped around Vivi’s snoozing body, I tapped out a few sentences to help myself remember it with one thumb on my phone, my very least favorite way to communicate. (Seriously, it gives me legitimate anxiety having to type so slowly. Anyone else?)(I may have a problem.)

I had not intended on taking a 30-minute breather on my couch at 4:40 that Tuesday. I had plans for my afternoon. Vivi and I had spent late morning at the park, where she was to run out all her energy before returning home, eating a nutritious lunch of ground turkey and sweet potato chili, and then taking a 2-hour nap in her crib while I worked and prepped dinner for that evening. It would be relaxing, satisfying, and totally stress-free.

It was also, it turns out, entirely not how the day went.

The park was fine, as it almost always is. But I made the mistake of staying ten minutes too long, leaving me with a hungry, cranky babe for the short walk home. By the time lunch was heated and ready to eat, Viv’s #hanger got the better of her. She ate most of the turkey and almost all of the sweet potatoes, but at least a third of her food was swiftly chucked onto the floor for Bogey to enjoy. Perfect.

As for the 2-hour nap…I tried to put her down around one. No dice. I tried again around 2:00, diligently making myself ignore my swiftly approaching 3 o’clock deadline for the site I edit to launch. Again, she wailed for a solid 20 minutes until I brought her back into the living room.

Not that she was happy awake, mind you. She wasn’t. She fussed and rubbed her eyes and griped at me about just about everything.

If only there was a simple way to solve all her problems. Like, oh, I don’t know…going to sleep.

I was so frustrated. I felt tempted to call off our evening plans, so certain was I that Vivi would be an absolute terror if we took her anywhere.

Finally, at 3:30, I laid her down and resolved to let her cry out her feelings a bit. Within 10-15 minutes, she was sound asleep. (I firmly believe that babies always know when they are going to break you and when they are not.) I was able to get most of my work for the launch done, but Vivi woke about 40 minutes later and started crying immediately.

I held her in my lap as I finished up my work, and all of a sudden I realized that she was sound asleep again. So I laid down on the couch without thinking to put her in a more comfortable position.

It was then that I realized I was now trapped. And work wasn’t done, dinner wasn’t prepped (we usually eat around 5:30), and I wasn’t anywhere near ready for our meeting that night (we have to leave by 6:40 to make it on time).

My first instinct was to feel frustrated — I had done everything right! I had a plan! Why was everything being so mean to meeeeeee.

But, in an effort to be more patient, I decided instead to take a breath and take a moment to stare at this beautiful creature sleeping on top of me. And in those 20 minutes I was her captive, I realized a few things:

1. Vivi has the longest eye lashes, but her eyes are so bright, you only really notice the lashes when the eyes are closed. You know, like they are when she’s sleeping.

2. I truly don’t think there is anything sweeter than a peacefully sleeping baby.

3. It’s okay that I’m not in control of everything. And even if it’s not, it’s just how life is now, and I may as well get on board.

Motherhood makes you slow down. It forces you to be flexible. It reminds you of your insignificance and humbles you beyond belief. But it also builds you up, speeds up time, and refines you in a way nothing else can.
Ultimately, things worked out just fine. After I was sure she was really, deeply asleep, I was actually able to slide out from under Viv and leave her sleeping on the couch (I put a million pillows on the ground in case she rolled, don’t worry). It’s a move I will never, ever be able to complete successfully again, so I basically felt like a ninja in that moment.
Then I finished my work, got dinner in the oven, and even curled my hair. Vivi woke up right before dinner, ate happily, and was an absolute dream at the meeting that night.
It’s a hard thing for a lifelong planner to accept that most of her planning will be for naught, but I’m trying to embrace the unpredictability of this new life. One day, I will miss the days when Vivi would fall asleep on my chest, her chubby arm resting lightly on my shoulder, her sweet, warm breath puffing gently against my collarbone. When I think about grown-up Vivi, I already miss these moments. And I can almost guarantee I will never again think about whatever it was I was supposed to be cooking for dinner.

Most people who know me know that I love organizing. I even tried to start an organizing business a few years ago. It didn’t end up taking off, but I still “freelance” organize for friends and family from time to time. (Not letting the dream die!)

Yes, what I’m saying is that I organize for fun. And, like the sicko that I am, I really, really do enjoy it.

Which leads a lot of people to think that my home must be super organized all the time. And it is with great shame that I must admit…it’s not. ALWAYS. I do my best, I really do. Joey will tell you that I’m quick to toss any errant object and my favorite question is, “Do you still need this?”

But I live with two other people (and a Bogey), which means I can only do so much when it comes to paring down our belongings.

Recently, I’ve gotten on a tear about our closets. Some of you may remember from my moving-in post, but our apartment is a weird labyrinth of winding hallways and strangely shaped rooms. It also has nine closets.

NINE.

This is unheard of in New York City living. And while it’s great for storing stuff out of sight (yay!), it also means it’s wayyyy too easy to hoard things we don’t really need.

“Hmm, what to do with all these extra bits and bobs from IKEA? Let’s just put them in this drawer in case we need them later.”

“Dang, these kitchen items don’t fit in the drawers…let’s tuck them in here for now.”

“I mean, I might need eleven tote bags at some point, so I’ll just put them in this closet until that day arrives.”

You see how this can become a problem.

For a long time, I’ve intended to clean out one of our back closets that I lovingly refer to as The Junk Closet (TJC). TJC has become the home of everything from old paintbrushes to baby-proofing items to Joey’s hockey equipment, and it’s safe to say I got stressed out just thinking about looking for anything in there. I also had a sneaking suspicion that the seven or so things I have “lost” in the last year were probably buried somewhere in its depths.

Finally (fortunately), Joey had a few days off this week, so he was able to watch Vivi while I attacked the closet. And, I’m pleased to tell you, it has been brought into order and is actually super functional now. It actually thrills me to open the door and look inside.

I ended up throwing out two full trash bags of junk and did find those missing items. I also learned a few lessons along the way:

1. Waste not…unless it means creating more useful space.

Listen, I get it. You don’t want to just throw out something that, at some point, you paid good money for or that technically someone else could probably use. (Just not you.) I think the hardest part about cleaning out a closet for most people is that feeling on, “But it’s not broken…” So you tell yourself that you could use it someday. Or sell it. Or find someone who could use it. And you put it back in the closet and it sits for another couple of years until you pull it out and have the same internal struggle yet again.

You need to change the way you are thinking about this. That useless thing is actually bringing down your life. It’s taking up space that could be used by something useful to your actual life. Throw. It. Away.

2. But if you really can’t just toss it…

Okay, okay. Let’s pretend you have a really good reason for not just ridding your life of this space-sucking object. Put it in the sell or donate pile and set a deadline for yourself. That means you have exactly one week to sell or donate said item. If that deadline passes, it goes in the garbage. Ain’t nobody got room to store an item they are actively trying to get rid of for more than a week. I currently have three items for sale in my Poshmark closet that are on rapidly dwindling deadlines — and then they will immediately join their pals in the “donate” pile.

3. And if you MUST save it…

Set a space limit for yourself. I’m not a total sadist — I understand that sometimes you really will use something in the future, even if you can’t use it now. You just shouldn’t dedicate an entire closet (or, *shudder*, room) to these items. I let myself have one bin of items that could potentially serve a purpose in a different apartment or house. But you have to really mean it. In my bin, I have a pair of white curtains, a few wall hooks for keys and coats, and a ceramic deer head. Like I said, limits.

4. When you’re done, label everything.

Now that you are purged of junk and neatly organized, you want to keep everything that way. I am the biggest fan of chalkboard labels because they allow for the possibility that one day you will no longer need a bin of baby-proofing items but will instead need a bin of lightbulbs (or something). And since chalkboard labels can get a little pricey when you need a million (because you will want to label everything once you get started), I love this chalkboard tape. It works just like masking tape and can be cut to fit any size bin or drawer.

What are your tips for conquering TJCs in your life?