What I’m Buying with my Mega Millions Winnings!

OK, I haven’t actually won the Mega Millions lottery… yet. But I’ve got my stack of tickets right here sitting on top of an empty pizza box and next to a half bottle of Bud Light. Twenty quick picks. So clearly I’ve got way more of a chance than the silly fools who only buy one or two chances. Plus (and here’s the clincher!) my husband found 3 four-leaf clovers in our front yard this week! I feel pretty good about our chances.

Today’s Mega Millions jackpot is over 600 million dollars. That’s a lot of pizzas and beer. Anytime a lottery has some buzz, I can read quaint interviews in the paper in which lotto hopefuls talk about what they would do with the money. It’s almost sad. It makes you realize that most people have so little, that their biggest dreams include “a simple two-story home on enough land for some new four-wheel ATVs to roam.” Another woman said she would build a new building for her church, pay for her daughter’s college, and buy a nice four-bedroom home (The News & Observer, 3/30/12).

It also makes me think that most people don’t have much imagination. It doesn’t occur to them that with that kind of money, paying for college tuition is a nice dream, but why not buy your own college? Speaking of paying tuition, with a grand lotto windfall I could certainly afford to go to law school, and my husband could afford to go to pharmacy school, and we wouldn’t have to take turns going to school and going to work. We could actually attend school at the same time! What a novel idea! But would we still want to? Hmmm…

I always feel frustrated when I hear about the small-town plans of the hopefuls. It may sound cruel, but I don’t think they should win because they wouldn’t know what to do with the winnings. I on the other hand should totally win the lottery because I have big dreams. In fact, I’m afraid I could blow through 600million too quickly. Although, as Brewster learned, the appearance of wasting money can be deceiving; it can be tricky to truly blow through money when you start with a busload of it.

So what would I do? What grandiose ideas do I have?

Buy a new home? Absolutely. Several and in different countries. My homes would have cozy libraries with walls lined with shelves. Volumes and volumes of books: art books, poetry books, history books, women’s studies books, science books, and fiction, so much fiction! And… let me catch my breath from excitement… I would actually have time to read them. Gasp!

My homes would have luxurious spas instead of bathrooms. And the spas would be open to the outside. I would melt into a hot giant bath in the midst of a garden. Needless to say, a well-paid domestic employee would bring me drinks.

My homes would have art studios rich with the smell of paint and filled with sun streaming in from windows and skylights, and I would paint. Did I mention that I would have time to learn to paint? Right now, I do have some paints, one easel, and some paper. But I have no space in our apartment, I don’t know how to paint, and I have no time to paint.

I seem to remember Jerry Seinfeld’s home going for about 47 million a few years ago when I still lived on Long Island. (Incidentally, we had to leave our home and families on Long Island because we couldn’t afford it anymore and the job market sucked.) But with my Mega 600 Millions I could afford to go home to NY. A place on the east end plus a penthouse in Manhattan. Yep, that could be a cool 100 mil gone right there.

Speaking of real estate, I would buy an island. My very own private island with warm tropical breezes and waves crashing against the shore and sand between my toes and deep renewing breaths of salty air. Doesn’t Johnny Depp own a private island?

Of course it would be private planes all the way. No sense dealing with those common people in first class on commercial flights.

I still haven’t mentally spent it all yet though, but don’t worry, I’ve got more ideas. I wonder how much it would cost to buy my beloved NY Mets?

Now don’t think that I would be only all about buying the estates, jet planes, islands, universities, and Major League Baseball teams. I’m not that shallow and oblivious to the plight of non-lotto winners. I have family members who are struggling. We belong to a church that has no building; we rent space for our services. There are several organizations that we already support with whatever $25-$50 we can afford here and there. (Including the First Response Team of America – check them out, they are AMAZING what they do.) We would love to give them more if we could. I’m sure we would give a sizable chunk away to family and charity.

So here’s my plea: I want to win the lotto. In all honesty, I’m tired of being lower middle class. I’m not hungry or cold, but it’s not much fun either. I’d really be completely happy and satisfied with one measly million. I could buy a sweet four bedroom home, a new car, and pay for law school, pharmacy school, and the good schools for Sam.

But how about you? What would you spend your winnings on?

Mom on mom hate.

Some thoughts from a fellow blogger on how moms should stop being so competitive and instead lift each other up with encouragement and compliments.


Mom on mom hate..

Mayim Bialik: Too Crunchy for this Crunchymunchy Mama?

I eagerly anticipated reading Mayim Bialik’s new book Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way. Then I thought about skipping it entirely.

To say that I was disappointed when I read online that Bialik had not vaccinated her children would be an understatement. The anti-vax position is one that I absolutely cannot stand behind. But my disappointment went beyond my vehement disagreement with the anti-vax movement. I was disappointed that once again it seemed that a crunchymunchy lifestyle had to tick off certain qualities in order to fit into the crunchymunchy box. (She’s into co-sleeping and extended nursing so of course she must not vaccinate – ѵ Check!) Like I’ve said before, I find myself leaning towards the crunchymunchy end of parenting. But. In no way does that mean I’m going to ignore the overwhelming scientific consensus and our own country’s history of public health and endanger my child’s health and possibly the health of weaker individuals as well. I’m not here to argue against anti-vaccers. What little of that I have attempted in my personal life was an exercise in futility.

Instead, my point is that various choices get lumped together as crunchymunchy, and it’s often assumed that if one practice (say not vaccinating) is a bad choice, then another choice (say co-sleeping) is equally nutty simply because it’s practiced by the same people. For instance, I read one review of Beyond the Sling that had me steamed. The reviewer, a supremely arrogant and obnoxious man, lambasted Bialik for her anti-vax views. But then he went on to attack her views of natural childbirth implying that natural childbirth was equal to squatting in a bear den in the Appalachian woods with nary a sign of medical assistance. And this he lumped together with not vaccinating one’s children.

It made me wonder, if I subscribe to one view (natural childbirth) that may be associated with anti-vaccers, how do I know that natural childbirth isn’t also crazy? Was I just off the deep end of crazy when I opted for a natural childbirth? Or maybe really crunchymunchy people have got some things right and some things wrong. Then I can pick and choose practices to build my desired parenting style. In other words, back to my original question: How crunchymunchy am I?

In the end, I went ahead and picked up Bialik’s book today. And I’m looking forward to reading it. Just because I don’t embrace every idea that a crunchymunchy non-vaccinating celebrity mom endorses, doesn’t mean that I can’t find positive ideas and insight from her experiences. At least, this is my hope. In the meantime, I will still endeavor to be crunchymunchy on my own terms, even if I don’t fit into a neat box.

(By the way, this condition of feeling like I don’t fit into neat boxes pervades the rest of my life as well. It can make me and my husband feel uniquely alone. For instance, I am a liberal feminist who is a devout Christian. I am also a devout Christian who does not believe that Christianity and science must be exclusive. If one were to believe the Christian conservative right, I don’t exist, because after all, all Christians necessarily agree on everything, right? No.)

Upsherin and the Hunt for Tradition (or “Sam’s First Hair Cut”)

I don’t want to be the stereotypical white person who cherrypicks and steals traditions from other cultures without respecting or understanding the meaning, but just because they sound kind of cool. Yet I’m craving tradition. I also recognize that some of what gets labeled as “tradition” serves to control women and maintain a patriarchal status quo. I don’t need that. But again, sometimes I crave “traditions.” So perhaps some research into my own waspy (boring?) heritage is on the agenda in order to rediscover lost traditions that speak to me. Or perhaps even better – create our own unique family traditions?

Where did this random train of thought regarding traditions come from?
I was reading about the Jewish tradition of upsherin and I liked the idea of it. Never mind that I don’t think of Sam as an unpruned fig tree. I just like the ceremonial nature of attaching meaning to the commonplace.

Upsherin, as I understand it, is the Jewish practice of not cutting a boy’s hair until his third birthday. Its origins are in a verse about allowing the fig tree to go unpruned for three years, and then it will bear fruit upon pruning. Metaphorically, the concept of “bearing fruit” has to do with growth, maturity, productivity, and living out the life God has planned for you and using the gifts God has given you. Upsherin also signifies the official start of the boy’s Jewish education. Of course, I could be misunderstanding this entirely. I only read about it on a blog by actress and celebrity mom Mayim Bialik.

The thing is, Sammy has not had his first hair cut yet. His hair is soft and golden and so beautiful. True, many strangers call him a girl, but that doesn’t bother me. I understand that with small children people look for certain indicators (length of hair, pink clothes) so that they may comfortably categorize your child into a narrow gender binary (which I believe is extra silly for small children.) But I digress. I don’t have any pink clothing for him, but his hair does go a couple inches past his collar and sweetly curl up a bit at the ends. Can you tell that I’m going to have a hard time cutting it off? Those days of having a wee baby passed by quickly. Once I cut his hair he’s going to look that much more like a “boy” and less like my “baby.” On a purely practical level, you should see how he kicks and squirms during the torturous toenail clipping episodes. Like he’s fighting off zombies. There was no way I wanted scissors anywhere near his head and face.

So we decided to wait until he turned two and might possibly sit still for the haircut. (Do two-year-olds sit still? Yeah, I might have misjudged that one.) Now his birthday is only two months away, and I’m already feeling sad about cutting his locks. Like I said, I’m not hung up on strict gender restrictions for a one-year-old. But it’s starting to look scraggly, hang in his eyes, and starting to – just the tiniest bit – resemble a mullet. I think everyone will agree with me that I can’t have my sweet Sam sporting a mullet.

Speaking of tradition… clip from Fiddler on the Roof – Tradition!


20 Months – And Still Waiting to Hear “Mama”

Sam turned twenty months old this week, and as you can see from the title he has yet to start speaking. I wrote about his apparent language delay in the past post Waiting to Hear “Mama”. At that time we were preparing for Sam to be evaluated. On Evaluation Morning I felt nauseous as I anxiously wandered around our apartment once again to reassure myself that it was clean and orderly. The evaluators were coming after naptime. Hopefully Sam would be well-rested and ready to “play.” While he napped I showered and dressed, but couldn’t bring myself to eat lunch.

All my worries about the evaluation being stressful were, happily, unfounded. The key evaluator was a relaxed and pleasant older “grandma” type. “Grandma” brought with her a big bin full of toys and wonders for Sam to explore. Sam had fun while the nice lady played with him and took notes. He especially loved the mirror. We play and dance in front of the big bathroom mirrors all the time, but this was a mirror he could hold himself so that was great fun. She also had a wind-up caterpillar that enthralled him. He cried when she was leaving. I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t crying because of some instant magical bonding between him and the evaluator. More likely he was thinking “Who brings me a bin full of presents and then takes them away when they leave??? What kind of person does that? Bring back those toys!”

So thankfully the evaluation was fun for Sam, and I was relieved to have it over, but I felt ambivalent about the results. There are four areas: cognitive, communication, social-emotional, and motor and self-help skills. Sam scored below average in three areas and slightly delayed in communication. They said it wasn’t enough to qualify for therapy at that time. Contact them again in three months if we didn’t see positive progress in Sam’s language skills. On one hand, I was relieved to discover that, while I thought he might be very delayed, in truth it wasn’t that severe. On the other hand, if three months were to pass and he still wasn’t speaking, then he would be even more delayed due to the wasted three months without therapy. To pile on more worries, I was surprised that he scored below average in social skills. I think his social development has been great because he has a strong connection with us, and he loves to give me hugs and kisses. It’s all tied in together though; a lot of the social skills tested also require communication. Ultimately though I decided I was glad about the results. He didn’t need therapy. Sam would probably start talking in no time.

Two months passed. Sam still doesn’t say any words. He does recognize some more words such as “socks.” And if I ask “Where’s froggy?” he searches the room and then brings me his stuffed frog that he got for Christmas. (We also got him a mirror to play with for Christmas since he had so much fun with the evaluator’s.) But still no “Mama.”  Still no words at all.  And I haven’t had much luck with signing, although I admit I really didn’t know what I was doing, I couldn’t even get him to do the simple sign for “more.” I’ll have to call the evaluation agency back in a few weeks, and I feel disheartened by that. I thought for sure that he would be picking up language and speaking by now.

To add on to my worries over Sam’s language delays there’s my frustration with the tantrums. It’s a safe bet to say that we are now in the stage of toddler tantrums. From the horror stories I’ve heard, his tantrums aren’t even that bad. However, they are super frustrating for me because of the lack of language. I don’t even know why he’s tantrumming! He’s screaming and crying but not asking me for anything! I can’t help but think that maybe if I just knew what he wanted, I could eagerly give it to him and we’d all be happy. For instance, this morning beginning at breakfast time he was screaming and crying and screaming and crying. Perhaps he was just saying, “Gee, Mama, this oatmeal is too warm, too cold, needs a bit more cream, I’d rather have some of that lovely spinach soufflé instead, etc.” All valid requests I would have been happy to fulfill. But I have no idea what he wanted. It makes me sad, really sad. It probably makes him sad, too, and frustrated, too – thus the tantrum. He was crying like that on and off all morning.  I still don’t know what he wanted.

For once, I stayed calm and didn’t allow myself to get frustrated and raise my voice over his. I used to think that the best course of action to take with a tantrumming child was to walk away and ignore them. I know that is the common advice from most experienced moms and experts. Now, I’m not so sure. And like I’ve said at the beginning of writing this blog, I’m tending to lean towards the crunchy munchy side of things, off center from the mainstream way of thinking.

So I spent the better part of the morning holding him. (It’s similar to an idea I read on another blogger’s site. She’s a mom in New Zealand with interesting insights and ideas about children and parenting, and she wrote about Boring Cuddles.) From what I’ve understood about small children not yet mastering their emotions and self-soothing skills, it seems counter-productive to just let him tire himself out screaming. Counter-productive, and cruel. When it comes right down to it, my compassion for his frustration and my crazy love for the little guy make me want to hug him. So I hold him, firmly so he feels secure, and I sway back and forth. Sometimes it’s difficult to hold him when he’s thrashing about, but I do my best.  And sometimes it takes longer than other times (this morning took a while) but eventually he’ll calm down. Some people might disapprovingly accuse me of coddling during a tantrum, and perhaps when he’s older and throwing a tantrum in the middle of the store because he wants candy I won’t stop to hug him. But, for now, he’s only twenty months old, he can’t even say “Mama” yet, and I think he needs hugs and cuddles. Come to think of it, I could use a hug and a cuddle today, too.


(After he calmed down, I took him outside for a long walk. He got some exercise and to release some energy, and the fresh air was good for both of us. After our walk, he fell right to sleep for his nap.)

New Year’s Resolution: More Sex

Can you have a sex life after having a child? Do you even want one? Let’s say that I did want a sex life. And not just a ho-hum marital duty kind of monthly maintenance, but a hot and juicy, highly satisfying, spontaneous and fun kind of sex life. You know what I’m talking about, the kind that I had before having a baby. The kind that I had when Jack and I were dating and then during the first year of marriage. The kind that is loud and ecstatic in private and hot and hushed in public where there are hopefully no cameras. Although the idea of a voyeuristic security guard wasn’t exactly a turn-off either. (Years later I’m sighing with relief at escaping a police record and criminal conviction brought on by our youthful horny foolishness).

Our second year of marriage was marked by quasi-homelessness and transition. By no means were we hungry and sleeping in the car, but a lack of jobs during a rotten economy had us leaving our home to look for greener pastures. During the transition of a cross-country move, we had a few months separation due to the logistics of moving, then a few months staying with Jack’s parents followed by about seven months staying with my parents. Crashing with one’s parents and in-laws would put a damper on the activity of even the rowdiest of couples, I’m sure. Once we settled into our new home and lives, with the routines and busy schedules of work and school (I went back for my BA), we saw our sex life gradually plateau at once or twice a month. Now let me add, it was very satisfying for both of us, just not as frequently as either of us would have liked. Then I got pregnant with Sam.  Sam is now 19 months old.

December 31, 2011. It’s now been about 21 months since I’ve had sex. That is a long, long time, I know.  It’s also  embarrassing to admit.

First, I was recovering from the c-section. Secondly, I was an exhausted first-time new mother. And I admit, my body is not what I would like it to be. (I had started exercising and lost 15 pounds, but then I got pregnant, and the newly acquired weight loss disappeared like so many double BLTs that I insisted our unborn baby wanted me to eat). Additionally, and no small matter in my mind, I think the scar is ugly. Then I was nursing all the time. My “fun bags” were transformed into nourishing, life-sustaining, often leaky, sometimes sore, fully utilitarian, completely desexualized, milk producers. I rocked my baby and snuggled him close to my body, sharing my warmth with him and gazing at his soft cheeks as he nursed. And I sat in awe of my ability to provide this sweet warm nectar of life for him. And gratitude. I felt overwhelming relief and gratitude that I was able to nurse after such a rocky start with Sam’s inability to latch onto my flat/inverted nipples. But eventually I realized that unlike all of my friends, I was not falling back into past sexual habits. I had become “New Mother,” and I couldn’t remember who “Sexy Wife” was, let alone be able to combine the two roles into one life.

I had lost my groove. I didn’t feel any libido raging through me at all. Who am I kidding? Forget raging. I didn’t sense so much as a slow drip from the fount of sexual desire.  Eventually it felt, to me anyway, like Jack and I had lost our mojo, at least in the bedroom. We were still best friends, and now co-parents of the sweetest little baby boy God ever created, but lovers? Not so much. What happened to my libido? It certainly wasn’t sparking in this frumpy mom. Was it absolutely dead and buried in cold ashes? Yes.

Maybe not. When I went back to work this past summer, I had to go shopping. I bought new clothes. I had lost a couple pounds, nothing really noticeable to anyone besides my fogged up bathroom mirror, but enough that I was able to sashay right past the XLs and fit into a size 12. On the few evenings a week that I was headed to work, I had to ditch the mommy uniform of old sweats and Jack’s old tees. I did my hair and make-up. I wore cute heels. My students listened to me and looked up to me. I felt more confident. I felt attractive again. Then there were a few naughty dreams – mostly about Jack, but the odd celebrity made an appearance as well (sex with a timelord? yeah, that dream was um, interesting). Maybe my sex drive was just hidden away in the land of subconscious dreams. Still, even though I did feel more attractive, I didn’t feel any real interest in having sex again. In fact, so much time had passed that even when I began to have an inkling that there did indeed exist a sex drive, I didn’t know how to start anything up.

I might as well be a young innocent again for all my awkwardness when I try to imagine jump starting our sex life. What would I do? What would I wear? Could I wear something to cover my “problem areas”? Like, say, a tent? With the lights out? Would he be looking at my c-section scar? Would it turn him off? How would I position myself? Like should I be in the bedroom and call him in? Or meet him at the door when he comes home? It just all felt so awkward in my mind. Then there’s the minor problem of our bedroom; it’s a mess. You have to climb over laundry and clutter to get to the bed. Not exactly a sex nest.

It’s like sex amnesia. I don’t remember our rhythm or even how to start the beat. But tonight is New Year’s Eve.  It’s all about new beginnings and giving life an energy boost.  Jack has just put Sam to bed. My husband is making me a very special dinner. There’s a starting course of oeufs en meurrete (which I had once in a restaurant and have never found again, and which he is trying to recreate for me tonight) and a main dish of canard (duck) a l’orange, and the gods of wine should be pouring generously. I may have fallen off for 21 months, but let’s see if I can climb back on the horse, so to speak.

Another Lie That Parents Tell Kids?

Another lie that parents tell kids?

Husband and wife are fighting over something kid-related. Junior approaches Parent afterwards and asks, “Are you fighting because of me?”
“No, Sweetie, of course not.”
There’s one of those bold-faced lies that parents tell their kids. Isn’t it?

My husband and I hardly ever used to fight. In fact I couldn’t understand why other couples would fight so much. I remember a conversation with my mother-in-law where she said she couldn’t understand how we never got angry with each other, never fought. Jack and I have been together for over twelve years and friends for a few years before that. We got along like best friends. What was there to fight about? Nothing. But now it seems that we fight all the time. What changed? We had a baby.

Friday night’s fight went something like this:
Context: Sam is going to have an evaluation done because of our concerns regarding his delayed language.

Me: Perhaps it would be better if you (hubby) were not present for the evaluation.
Jack: Maybe they want parents to be there.
Me: Well, yeah, it’s important that a parent is there. I’ll be there.
Then somehow as he’s arguing why can’t he be the parent that is there, I might have said something about me being the primary parent. I admit (to myself and three days later) that “primary parent” was completely the wrong phrase to use because by default it labels Jack as the obviously less appealing “secondary parent.” He pointed this out to me quickly and angrily. However, when I said “primary parent” my thinking was that I am the parent that is with Sam for most of his waking hours, so perhaps I would have a better chance of getting Sam to “perform” for the evaluator. Back to the fight…
Jack: I can’t believe you’re doing this!
Me: Doing what?
Jack: Marginalizing me as a parent!
Me: What? I am not marginalizing you as a parent. I would never do that! That’s not who we are! That’s not what we’re about! And you know what? This is not about you! It’s not all about you! It’s about Sam! It’s about a concern that I had, and I wanted what’s best for Sam.
Jack: Based on nothing! No one told you that. They didn’t tell you that it would be best if there was only one other person there. You’re basing that on nothing!
Me: Oh! So my feelings and concerns are NOTHING?
Jack: Oh, please!
Me: And how can you accuse me of such a horrible thing as trying to marginalize you as a parent? I would never do that! Just like you accused me of thinking our son was stupid because I was concerned about him. I can’t believe you accuse me of such horrible things! I would NEVER try to marginalize you as a parent!
Jack: Well, that’s certainly what it sounded like.
Me: Well, maybe you should say to yourself “Gee, Gwen would never try to marginalize me as a parent. She must not have realized how that sounded. Let me see what she really meant instead.” Instead of attacking me and accusing me!
Jack: Well, I was hurt and that’s my defensive move.

Long pause… is the fight over? Nah, not yet.

Jack: So why can’t we both be there? I think we should both be there.
Me: I think it would be better if only one of us is there.
Jack: And why is that?
Me: I think it might be too distracting for Sam if we’re both there.
Jack: You think it would be too distracting if we’re both there?
Me: Yeah, maybe.
Jack: But not if you’re there?
Me: Right.
Jack: So what is it exactly about my presence that would be so distracting?
Silence for the next hour. Which signified the end of the fight.

Yeah, I admit, when reading the words in black and white, I don’t come out looking too great. So what was I thinking? I thought that the calmest atmosphere would be best for Sam. I thought that he might get confused, overwhelmed, or fussy if he had two parental voices commanding that he GET THE BALL THE BALL, SAM, WHERE’S THE BALL CAN YOU GET THE BALL? Or even worse, one parent tells him to get the ball while the other parent, seeing that Sam is not moving towards the ball, decides to prompt him to get the cow. GET THE BALL, SAM, GET THE BALL, HOW ABOUT THE COW, SAM, GET THE COW, THE BALL, GET THE BALL, GET THE COW, C-OOO-W, GET THE COW! BALL! Cowball?

I was also a bit worried that Jack wouldn’t want to sit back and allow Sam to play and explore on his own. Maybe he would try to guide Sam towards certain toys and activities for the evaluator’s benefit. (Although I suppose for all I know, he/she may prefer guided play for the observation.) However, Jack will often leave Sam to play and entertain himself. So, really, I’m not sure what I’m worried about. Perhaps I’m just worried, period.

But back to my original question – which bothers me because I don’t want to be the kind of parent who lies. Our whole fight was because of Sam, was it not? If Sam were to ask me if it was his fault that we were fighting, I could confidently say “NO.” It is not his fault if we disagree, even vehemently, about some parenting issue. But, we are fighting because of him. Am I just splitting hairs? Can any other parents shed some light on this question for me? I remember my parents fighting when I was young, and there was nothing wrong with my ears. I knew full well that they were arguing about me. I assume that if I had asked my mother if they were arguing because of me, she would have hugged me and said, “No, Sweetie, of course not.” And I probably would have thought she was lying.