The Chicken Chronicles. By Jordana Bales
When I was 6 years old, I performed an experiment on the genetic effects of allergies. This brilliant feat of science was accomplished by rubbing poison ivy on my 4 year-old brother’s arm. I knew I was immune to the itchy rash – was my baby brother? A definite no, I recorded in my scientific journal (aka: a spiral notebook). The ensuing rash on his arm resulted in a spanking from my dad.
Even today, my husband occasionally lets me indulge my scientific curiosity and experimental nature on our almost 2 year-old daughter, Ava (our “labrababy”, as my father coined her after watching me gage her reactions to different foods). Our latest experiment comes from a concept I teach in my AP Psychology class – “systematic desensitization.” This technique is simple. Behavior therapists use it to help a patient overcome a phobia. Let’s say Mary is afraid of spiders. A therapist would slowly have Mary imagine a spider. Once that no longer caused Mary anxiety, the therapist would show her a picture of a spider. When Mary could handle a picture, the therapist would bring her an actual spider and slowly bring it closer until voila – Mary is a spider aficionado. I figured this would be the perfect technique to convince Ava to wear “the chicken costume.”
My girlfriend, Robin, let me borrow a magnificent chicken costume for Halloween. It is a beauty of an outfit, resplendent with feathers, a beak and a long tail. When I first put it on Ava she immediately hated it, screaming and crying and struggling to pull it off. Since then, my husband Michael and I have slowly been getting her used to it. She now allows us to put the head piece on our own heads and she will go so far as touching the costume. My husband, by far the more patient of our duo, has been implementing most of her training. He reports his progress daily and I, the lead scientist, have been pleased with the results.
Last night, I wanted Ava to try on a beautiful party dress that I was hoping she would wear this weekend to a bat mitzvah. As I put it on her, I (and she perhaps) had chicken costume flashbacks – she cried, kicked and hollered until I took it off her trembling little body. This morning, Michael reported that Ava’s reaction to the chicken costume had taken several steps backwards. She would not touch it and did not even allow him to put the head on. All of his painstaking hard work wiped out by one frilly dress. Perhaps Ava has some type of post-traumatic chicken disorder that I stirred up with the party dress. Perhaps in the womb she felt confined and will always shun any tight-fitting garb. Or maybe she’s just exerting her strong, passionate will. Further scientific studies will be needed to answer these questions. In the meantime, I’ve requested that my laboratory assistant Michael begin searching for other, less traumatic but just as cute Halloween costumes.
I’m feeling some “mommy guilt.” It’s like those two words are destined to be together for all of eternity (and then maybe a little longer). Today I feel guilty about two things. First, someday my 9 month-old baby Summer will read this blog and think I didn’t write enough about her. Second, someday Summer will read this blog and think, “my name used to be Presley?” O.k., we will tell her. I promise.
These second babies just seem to get cheated a bit. Of course, I love her immensely. I adore smothering her soft baby skin with a trillion kisses. In the middle of the night, I must check that she is still breathing. I obsess over every one degree temperature change in her room – always certain that I’ve set the air conditioner too hot or too cold.
But still. Her naps are constantly cut short because we must pick up my 3 year-old Dylan from preschool. I’ve never even taken Summer to a “mommy and me” class. When Dylan was a baby, I brought her to infant massage class, baby yoga and other programs to engage her mind, strengthen her growing body and reinforce our mother/baby bond.
Because I have two kids, I’m just not able to focus on Summer with the same intensity. I can’t even remember exactly the last time I took a picture of her with those saucer eyes and easy grin. Isn’t that pathetic? With Dylan, we had entire baby albums documenting just a two week period of her life. And Dylan, even as a baby, had little interest in delivering the smiles for our photo shoots.
Of course, Summer has something Dylan did not. She has Dylan. And to see the two of them laughing and entertaining each other is… well, amazing. So to my Summer lovin’, you are not forgotten. You are treasured and we love you.
Just about everyone I know is having a meltdown over birthday parties. Oh, definitely not the kids. It’s the parents.
At first glance, birthday parties seem so innocent. You send out a few invites, pick up a cake, light some candles and do a little singing. Oh, I wish this was the case. Let me briefly take you through the agony.
The Invite List: I haven’t been this stressed out since I put together my wedding invite list and discovered that my husband wanted to invite about 75 of his parent’s closest friends. When I begged for a small, intimate wedding, he explained that all of these friends had attended his bar mitzvah 20 years earlier. I couldn’t really argue with that. So I bid adieu to an intimate affair and started planning a big, festive wedding.
Same invite stress with your kid. Everyone will tell you to keep a toddler’s birthday party small. But no one tells you how to do it. The list grows and grows. There’s the children from your neighborhood, the ones from preschool, your family, your friends from your life before kids (can you remember that far back?). Don’t start hyperventilating yet because you haven’t even found a location.
Location: I have this vision of the suburbs where everyone is having these great birthday parties in their perfectly manicured backyards or in their sleek, ultra-cool refurbished basements. I have no idea if this is true. I do know that in the city, there is hardly enough room in your apartment for you, your spouse and your kid(s) all at the same time. There is definitely not enough room to throw a kid-friendly bash, especially if you like your couches chocolate icing free and you don’t enjoy scraping hardened pizza cheese from your counters.
So you must search for that perfect kid spot where a) you haven’t already attended 10 other birthday parties, b) doesn’t cost you two months salary and c) isn’t already booked.
The Party (yes, I’ll cry if i want to): Finally, the party is here. It’s loud. It’s chaotic. Guaranteed, there are tears. Thankfully, it’s only an hour and a half. Now if only your child was old enough to write all those thank you notes himself.
mama bird notes:
Speaking of birthday parties, I just wrote a piece called “Kids Going Green” for a stylish, very cool event planning site called Notes on a Party. Check out my tips for turning your child’s birthday party into an eco-friendly celebration. What more could a mama want than making children happy while saving the earth?!
This week in “the beauty diary”, Alex introduces us to a gorgeous product for fall. It’s sexy. It’s gold. It’s lipstick. I think I’m in love. Click on “the beauty diary” on the menu bar to read more. Also, post your comments and questions for Alex, our mama bird beauty consultant.
“Don’t leave me. Please don’t leave,” my three year-old sobs. But after a kiss and a hug (from her end, it’s more like a tight, pleading grasp), I do leave her. Then, I run into the preschool bathroom, wipe away my own tears and go home. Three weeks into preschool and Dylan still doesn’t want to be left alone. Of course, she is not alone. She is surrounded by other children and loving teachers who take care of her.
As we all know, it’s possible to be surrounded by many people and still feel lonely. Motherhood can feel lonely. Or not. Singlehood can feel lonely. Or not. It’s strange to be in New York (a city of 8 million people) and once in a while find yourself pretty much alone – whether you’re walking down a quiet street or eating in a restaurant at an off hour.
Dylan, Summer and I started taking this “Oh Francais” class at a kids’ place called Baby Moves in the West Village. It’s a fun 45 minutes except that we are the only ones in the class. I’m sure others will join as the weather turns colder but for now it’s just us. It all feels a bit silly and awkward as the teacher goes though her French songs and games. We don’t even speak French. But I work my derriere off in that class – singing, jumping around and trying to make up for the absent children.
I’ve had times in my life where I’ve felt very lonely – when I graduated from college and didn’t know how to start a new life or when I was a TV anchor/reporter in Great Falls, Montana. I felt like a displaced city girl in search of connections among the cows and the big sky. Friends like Jen and Diana saved me that time.
Right now in my life, I don’t feel lonely. If fact, there are times I could use a little more alone time. But I understand how Dylan feels. It’s hard to step out of our comfort zone and experience something new and scary. But it’s a must for all of us if we want to grow, expand and feel fulfilled.
Every time I drop her off, I promise Dylan I will always pick her up. That’s what we all have to remember. No matter how difficult something is or how lonely we feel, someone (our family, our friends, our partners) will always pick us up.
mama bird notes
We have a new feature on the mama bird diaries called “contributing mamas.” These mamas will share their smart, clever and humorous insights with us. We love moms who tell the truth (makes the rest of us feel much less crazy). Daphne Biener, our first contributing mama, is trying to find out who moved her boobs. Daphne, if you find out, I’d like to know who moved mine. Click on “contributing mamas” on the menu bar to read more.
By Daphne Biener
We were heading to a family wedding over Labor Day, and I, not one to embrace the shopping experience under the best of times, decided it was time to buy a new dress. I’ll give you an idea of how often I willingly undertake such a mission. I’m pretty sure the last time I tried one on I had to peal down leg warmers – navy blue ones with whales and hearts and matching sweater (lest you think that somehow I was in on last year’s fashion trend). Nevertheless, with my fashion consultants (ok my daughters, age 6 ½ and 4) giddy and in tow, I hit Nordstrom and found a gorgeous dress.
I stood in the 360 degree mirror, letting the girls “ooh” and “aah” at the rarely seen sight of mommy outside of her jeans. As has been happening since I was 15, the palm of one hand moved quickly into position, protectively covering the pooch. It tried in vain to flatten the sucker. The saleswoman, Hilda, winked. “Not that you need anything, ah-hem, but have you ever tried Spanx?” Hallelujah! Who knew such miracles existed? My years of self-imposed exile from the fashion world have served me poorly.
With my tummy neatly contained beneath the blue silk of my new dress-to-be, I turned my attention to my breasts. I guess I haven’t paid them much mind lately, what with breastfeeding a thing of the past and Mardi Gras a thing of a distant era. Apparently, like me, they have settled down. Waaaaay down. Hilda noticed too. “Don’t worry, we’ll get lingerie over here, hon.”
Lingerie came, armed with what she claimed to be bras. They were not. They looked like raw chicken cutlets held together with the twist-tie from a bagel bag. Doubtful but willing, I suctioned them on to my pathetic breasts and danced a bit for the girls’ amusement. They grabbed the remaining samples and jammed them onto their sweet young chests, propelling me momentarily into their teenage years (of which I am very very afraid) and stopping my heart.
You can read more of Daphne’s work here on the mama bird diaries or visit her site, Sestina Queen.