Tuesday, September 10, 2013

iThink iNeed an iPad

We're just going to pretend that I've posted semi-regularly since April, so let's start with what's plagued me the past two days (other than how in the hell J and I are going to retire comfortably by 40, which has also kept me up the last couple nights).

Should I buy an iPad?

First-world problems, for sure, but last Sunday J decided he needed an iPad "for work" (how convenient!) and so he somehow managed to steer me into the nearest Apple store after cheerfully baby clothes shopping with me at the adjacent Gap Kids. (I should have known something was up the way he picked out pink rompers and baby tights with such gusto.)

I've never liked Apple stores since they are as packed as the tight streets of Mumbai and usually smell like a mixture of sweaty palms, bad breath, and an un-showered Frenchman or two. But I reluctantly followed J in and tried to be all supportive and whatnot since he works hard and deserves a new toy every now and then, I suppose.

The problem was that as much as I didn't want to try out one of the display iPads, I did. Just like in those scientific temptation experiments when the children are left alone in a room full of marshmallows and told not to eat them. With my mouth full of marshmallows my fingers wandered across the greasy screen of the nearest display model and I began to believe I actually needed one. At first I fought the feeling with an air of superiority, smirking at the apps all these schmucks around me filled their little overpriced iPads with, but then the resonance of the apps began to sink in.

Though I'd tried out the iPads of friends and family, I always felt like they were wholly unnecessary if you already owned an iPhone (which I do) and a MacBook (which I do). The iPad, to me, was just another business tactic by Apple to have their fanbase by the cajones in a vice grip. How many conduits did one person need to send an email, watch cat videos on YouTube, or read about Lamar Odom's not so secret drug problem?

But all of that logic, all of that sense began to dissipate once I fiddled with the Living Earth app as J purchased his iPad from a sales associate. Once I tried it, I rationalized that I absolutely needed a satellite view of the globe in real time so I could check the weather reports and time in Buenos Aires and Dubai because, well, because I just did, okay?! And I needed this one fashion app so I could get blasted with the top 10 most popular shoes at any given time (because obviously I really need to find more streamlined ways to blow wads and wads of money). And on top of all else, I definitely needed this list-making app, you know, to keep track of all the shoes and clothes and extraneous things in my apps that I was about to spend our money on.

I left empty-handed, feeling bereft and lost. Only 15 minutes prior I'd been thoroughly convinced that iPads were for iDiots. And now here I was, pining after one like a fat kid looking for his last marshmallow. Who was the idiot now?

J reassured me that we'd get me one too if I really wanted one, and I did really want one. Especially once we got home and J pulled out his shiny new iPad and loaded it up with apps and pictures and basically everything cool that's ever been created and . . . well, here I was at the other end of the couch bitterly flipping through the news on my tired old iPhone 4, glaring at him out of the corner of my eye with a look of jealousy, resentment and disgust.

But then he passed the iPad over for me to try, and for some reason it wasn't as cool as it was in the store. Perhaps it was the grease of a thousand fingertips that had swiped that display model before mine, or perhaps it was that in-store aroma of sweat and unwashed computer programmers that clouded my mind like a hypnotic memory, but all of a sudden this iPad I was ready to drop 5 hunskies on didn't seem like the best financial decision. Yes, it's a pretty neat tool (I'll give you that), but is it 500 dollars worth of neat? Now I'm not so sure.

So I here I am, debating whether or not we should splurge and buy me one too. J reasons that it would be perfect to use on long plane flights when we jet to Europe and other distant lands, but I reminded him that the last time we flew to Europe was six years ago. Then he said it'd be perfect to throw in my handbag and use to write at coffeeshops. Which it would . . . if I was childless and back in my Carrie Bradshaw days when I could just prance on over to the nearest Starbucks, spend all day writing whatever I wanted, and my biggest concern was refilling my cafe au lait.

Let's be honest here. The iPad will mainly serve one of two functions. 1.) To entertain Ava with baby-friendly apps when she's on the precipice of a temper tantrum at Target, the grocery store, or any dining establishment that we are crazy enough to bring her to right now. And, 2.) Make it easier for me to read my celebrity gossip on the couch and/or toilet. Because, you know, holding the iPad versus balancing my MacBook on my lap (or God forbid, squinting at my iPhone screen) will allow for more optimum Brangelina reading.

I would attempt to use it for writing (with a mobile keyboard I'd also have to ante up the cash for), but my days of penning the next Great American Novel at Starbucks have fallen by the wayside these days. The precious hours I get to write (now edit, since I finished my book this summer), fall during whenever Ava decides to nap, and for those few hours where I get to be creative I would gladly write with quill and ink if I had to. An iPad would not increase my productivity.

The more I think about it, the more I don't need an iPad. I just want one. Because now J has one, so I must have one too, along with the better part of the Western world. Maybe it's a pack mentality thing. All the cool kids are doing it so why can't I?

Because I'm not cool anymore? I was once, but that was back when Freebird's wasn't yet a chain, everyone owned a clamshell cell phone and platform flip-flips were still in. Do I need an iPad to prove that I am still relevant? Probably. But for now I think I'll save that 500 dollars and read my Real Housewives news the old fashioned way: on my laptop.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

If life gives you limes, make margaritas

Over the last few years I've been told by several doctors that I have the blood pressure of Lance Armstrong.

I suppose this is a good thing since I don't currently, nor have I ever, taken steroids recreationally or otherwise. Perhaps it also means that I, too, can win the Tour de France, which would be amazing since being athletic has always been low on my list of priorities, somewhere between dusting my window blinds and putting new batteries in my dying remote.

What confuses me is that if I've got the blood pressure to theoretically win the Tour de France, then why can't I cope well whenever J messes up with household chores? You'd think I'd have the steely nerves of a two-time gold-medal winner when J forgets to clean the cat litter box (his job, not mine), take out the trash, put out the recycling or wash Ava's bottles. And regarding the latter, I get that my "job" (since I no longer hold a traditional one) is to take care of Ava, but there is an unsaid rule in our house that when we're both at home, it's all hands on deck when it comes to the baby.

But lately, I have been completely wigging out when something he's responsible for doing hasn't been done. I'm talking veins-pulsating-out-of-neck, eyes-seeing-red, practically-breathing-fire wigging out. He gets upset, which makes me more upset, we argue, and I go to bed pissed and misunderstood. And for what? Because he left a few empty water bottles on the kitchen counter before he called it a night? I really need to get a grip.

Keeping our house (or previously, our apartments) clean has never been our strong suit. We were both busy with other things, and while we didn't live in squalor, we were fine with the cluttered coffeetable, chaotic dining table, clothing on our bedroom floor and kitchen sink always half full of dirty dishes. It was just the way it was. We'd try and pick up as much as possible (i.e., once every couple weeks), but found we'd rather spend time doing other things together when we had free time, like grabbing a coffee and strolling around downtown, catching a movie, or curling up on the couch together to talk about our hopes and dreams. Also, it was disheartening when we could actually clean and two days later the place was right back to what it looked like before. Two Oscar Madisons do not a Felix Unger make.

With Ava's arrival, though, clutter suddenly seems to bother me. A lot. And as much as I want to blame J for our disorderly house, I know that I'm just as much at fault. I thought keeping an organized, clean house was hard before, but now with Ava it's like trying to keep our heads above water during a monsoon storm in Phuket.

We don't have the money to hire a housekeeper the way that my other mom friends do (mostly because we're trying to make 2013 the Year We Pay Off All Our Credit Card Debt), so it's up to us to stop being lazy and start picking up after ourselves. If not for us, then for Ava (and if not for Ava, then for our mental sanity). The problem is we're still that couple that thinks it's okay to leave a crumpled receipt here or a dirty dish there. After a few days of this, it gets out of control and we wonder how it happened.

When I'm not out running around or home writing slash playing with Ava, I've made an honest effort lately to make sure our dishes are washed, our dark hardwood floors are free of white cat hair (and white cat hair tumbleweeds) from Moneypenny, and that our laundry is kept in a somewhat manageable state and not spilling out the hamper like the Exxon Valdez oil spill spreading across our bedroom floor. While I may not be perfect about keeping organized, I feel that at least I'm trying.

So it really, really bothered me the other day when J left a dirty diaper on Ava's changing table instead of throwing it in the trash bag I'd placed just beneath the changing area. He does this often, and chalks it up to "forgetting" to throw it out. Ava had been crying all that morning, so when I walked into her nursery to get something and was greeted with the dirty pee-filled diaper wrapped up in a ball and left like a little Christmas present in plain sight on her table, I lost it. Went completely non-linear.

I was seething, and unfortunately, he was 20 minutes away in his high-rise office in San Francisco to fully feel my fury. So I whipped out my cell phone and texted with:

"THANK YOU for washing all the bottles this morning like you said you would, along with leaving a bag of dirty diapers near the front door and leaving your routine lone dirty diaper on her changing table even though the plastic bag was hanging RIGHT infront of you."

and then a followup text:

"You need to start taking care of your half of the bargain with her. I'm serious. You half-ass everything related to Ava."

I don't know what I meant by saying "I'm serious" as though making some sort of Dirty Harry-esque threat. But I sent the followup text because I truly feel like he does need to make more of a concerted effort to follow through with things. Lately it seems difficult for him to fully carry out simple tasks related to her, such as making sure all changing stuff is put away, tossing her dirty clothes in a hamper instead of leaving them in a pile on the floor, or storing away her bath stuff after we bathe her.

When he got home I'd (luckily) calmed down some, and it helped that he apologized and agrees that he needs to start pulling his weight more around the house.

"I didn't marry you to be your maid," I told him. And he agreed.

But at the same time, how angry can I really be at him since this is the way we used to be pre-baby? Both of us were and are guilty of letting things slide. I think that deep down (especially when I'm stressed out), it feels good to take it out on him by berating his lack of awareness when it comes to keeping house. But Ava doesn't change the fact that only seven months ago, this is the way we lived. How can he be expected to change so suddenly over night? I don't expect that of myself, so I shouldn't expect that of him, no matter how annoyed I am. It's like the pot calling the kettle black.

Part of the reason I say this is because I'm a proponent of picking your battles. Most things are not worth bickering about. Cleaning is one of them. I like to save bickering for important things like where should we stay the next time we go to Cabo, whether we should drive or take Bart to a baseball game, and why can't I buy that used Prada bag I saw at the consignment store even though it's still an obscene $800.

To me, bickering and nit-picking is the death knell of any relationship, and I don't want to spend the next 50 years of my life arguing about why J left a dirty diaper on the changing table. In his defense, he said he honestly forgot to throw it away (a reason -- note: I didn't use the word "excuse" -- that I find annoying, but okay, I get it, people forget things so I forgive and forget). Also, we will not be changing diapers 50 years from now (unless our marriage follows the plot line of Father of the Bride 2, which I hope it does not), so does it matter in the grand scheme of things? The answer is a big, baby-urine-filled, Pamper-Size 3-covered "no." In the words of Jimmy Buffett, "If life gives you limes, make margaritas."

When I feel myself getting non-linear over some trivial thing, I just remind myself of an uptight British mom in one of my playgroups. Let's call her Eleanor Rigby.

Eleanor has made it clear to all us moms from the very beginning that she hates her husband, loathes her two children, and swears that her marriage would have failed 10-fold after her first baby if she hadn't sought marriage counseling -- for her husband, not for her. Naturally. Eleanor is a self-professed nag who likes things the way she likes them, and is the type to regularly update her Facebook wall with statuses like how she wishes she could continue reading her magazine in the car outside her house because she can't bear to go inside and face her family. I should include that Eleanor has a full-time nanny, housekeeper and has one of her two children enrolled in pre-school, which allows her ample child-free-time to lunch, go shop and work out. Even with all this padding, Eleanor finds things to nag her husband about and subsequently "hate" (her words, not mine).

This, in my view, is the worst life ever. I feel sorry for her, I feel sorry for her kids and I sure as hell feel sorry for her poor husband. I never, ever want to be like Eleanor, and I honestly think that not choosing your battles is probably what kickstarts her kind of relationship. I am by no means a glass-is-half-full type of girl, no matter how much I want to ride a unicorn off into the sunset, but I'm not an extreme pessimist (a la Eleanor) either.

Perspective is key, especially when a baby is added to the mix and you find you and your husband's roles changing as your life together changes. These changes can be beautiful, or they can leave you reading magazines in your car and loathing the moment you walk through your door and greet your life as you know it. I want to believe they are the former.

So the forgotten diaper or empty water bottle might get the quiet, occasional eyeroll from me now, but I tell myself it's not worth inciting World War III over. I'll still gently remind J that he needs to do this or that, but in the end he's not perfect, just as I am not. I guess true love is about giving each other leeway to grow, no matter how long your garbage cans sit near the curb after trash day has come and gone.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Finding my balance

Well, the dust has finally settled on this whole baby thing. And I mean that in the best possible way. I think.

Ava's going to be seven months old this week, and I think I've finally gotten a grasp on how to be a mom. Or at least pretend to be one (because in all honesty, I look in the mirror and wonder who that 30-year-old is looking back at me. It's not me, I reason, since I'll forever feel 23). And I have to say I "think" I've gotten a grasp because I'm still not sure, seven months later, if I'm doing everything right. Perhaps there is no "right" in this parenting chapter of anyone's life. After all, what's right when your baby has poop blowouts out the backs of her diapers? Or you speak baby gibberish in public, sometimes even accidentally to other adults, or find yourself picking your baby's nose and not thinking twice about it. In the worlds of Bob Dylan, "It ain't me babe." Or is it?

I might not be doing everything right, but I've learned as I go, and I think I've edged into a rhythm with Ava that is not only manageable now, but fun. I'm not sure when the erratic chaos of being abruptly thrust into a new phase of life morphed into a gentle and manageable hum, but it happened. Kind of like going to sleep one night after weeks of stress and suffering, and waking up one morning as not only wholly embracing of that which you fought against, but actually loving it. That happened to me, and since then everything's gotten easier. Like I said, the dust has settled and now I feel like this baby thing has become an easy, steady whir. 

Of course it's not easy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but compared to how it was in the beginning, I would say Ava's become a walk in the park. Her sleeping patterns still aren't perfect, and she still has her little crying temper tantrums every time she's put down for a nap (I've decided she looks like a cartoon baby turtle when she cries), but with every hardship she throws at me, I dig deep for patience I never knew I had, and I deal with it. Through this last seven months I've learned that I actually have more patience than I ever thought I was capable of -- a fact that not only impresses me, but frightens me as well.

Now that things have died down to a whir, I find myself getting more time to write and my book is slowly and steadily coming along. I plan to have it finished by this summer, and hopefully edited and out to literary agents by the end of the year. I'm having a lot of fun writing it, so I relish in the moments I do get to work on it. J's read pieces of it and suggested I post excerpts of it on this blog, which I may just do. I have faith in it, more than the other two books I wrote, so I'm hoping readers will like it as well.

Anyway, in this process of caring for Ava, I've chosen to also care for myself. I don't want to let myself go, or lose myself in her. She may be my full-time job now, but that doesn't mean that I don't count or that I come second. I love Ava more than anything, but I love myself just as much. I'm sure some moms would shoot me cold, hard looks for saying such a blasphemous thing, but that's how I feel and I don't understand why I should feel guilty for feeling that way. After all, I existed for 30 years before she was born. I'm just as important, even if I can't wear cute little ballerina slippers the way she does.

So I do my makeup every morning, pick out our cute outfits for the day, and always try to leave the house looking polished and put together. Not only do I do this for my happiness and emotional well-being, I also do it to serve as an example to Ava. She might be too young to understand these things now, but as she grows up I want her to see that there is an importance in taking care of yourself and your appearance. I don't want to be one of those moms that is "so devoted" to their babies they use it as an excuse to schlep around in pajamas and let themselves fall apart. There are so many articles online talking about a woman's looks versus her intellect, but why do we have to choose to nurture one or the other? Why can't we nurture both? I want Ava to see that her mother can be smart and beautiful, and I want her to understand that she can be both. It's not an either/or.

Oh and the weight thing I complained about earlier? I think I've gotten a pretty good handle on it (no thanks to that hula hoop, which has sadly joined the ranks of the ankle weights, dumbbells and myriad other home gym equipment currently collecting dust in our guest room/room of good fitness intentions). Just after New Year's I began religiously counting calories -- 1,200 a day -- and the pounds started to drop away. Not an easy feat when all I want is to eat three gallons of ice cream every weekend, but lately I've started dropping down to familiar sizes and even managed to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans the other night! Though they were still a bit tight, I did get them buttoned and zipped up, so I count this as "fitting me." This small victory will surely be a high of my year. So far I've lost 10 pounds, and I have about five more left to lose. These last five are being extra stubborn and don't seem to care that I imagine I'm eating cheesecake every time I drink my sparkling water, but hopefully they'll be gone by summer.

Ava and I in Napa.

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