Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve-sdropping

It's 11:30pm on New Year's Eve, and I am eavesdropping on the city.  On my new block, more precisely.

While my little family is asleep (having a baby makes for early bedtimes for everyone), I've woken up to feed the baby.  As I sit in the darkened living room, sneaking looks out of our giant windows, I am secretly glad that is taking so long to complete our order, for it means I can stealthily enjoy watching a sampling of New Yorkers on Their Most Famous Night, parading by our new apartment.

Lots of revelers, children and grandparents included, are making their way to Central Park for fireworks.  Some stronger souls are geared up in running clothes, lights on their wacky hats flashing, ready for the annual midnight run in the park.

I've seen dashing older couples in opera finery, twenty-somethings with noisemakers and uncomfortably high shoes, tourists using smartphones to find their way to the fun.  I'm hearing helicopters and sirens, car horns honking, and tipsy party-goers slurring premature "Happy New Years" to any of us within earshot.

I've heard one spat ("How dare you.  How DARE YOU!), but lots of laughing.  I've seen a little bit of sloppy walking, but no outright stumbling.  I've noticed people's paces pick up as we inch towards midnight.

And as I sit here in the dark, watching them all, I am happy for them.  Happy they are making memories.  Happy they are having fun.

But mostly, I'm happy for me.  Happy to be here in the Greatest City on Earth.  Happy that my little family is sleeping soundly.  Happy for the year to come.

And a little happy that no one can see what I'm wearing right now.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I'd not fully experienced what a "neighborhood"could be until I moved to New York City.

And I never expected it to mean as much to me as it has this past week.

NYC is a city of walkers, of people out and about in their neighborhoods.  We walk to the grocery store and post office, to doctor's appointments and dinner dates.  And as we walk, we see the familiar faces of our neighbors.

There's Jaunty Frenchman with a spring in his step and an enormous, well-groomed poodle;  Sunglasses Lady with the tiny bulldog on a rope; Bald Guy from the wine store; The Korean couple from the cleaners who adore Elrod, and rarely make us pay for the baby's laundry;  There's little Lab-mix Molly, who we've seen grow from a puppy, walking with Molly's Dad (who told us to cherish every minute with our boy); Visor Lady from # 15, whose bark is worse than her bite;  There's Irish building manager at the Kenilworth, who holds court on the sidewalk outside the service entrance, and for whom I will one day bake cookies because he would really appreciate them.  There's the UPS Guy, who knows to always buzz our apartment if he needs to get in, since Elrod and I are home a lot.

These people are part of our daily lives here, and we regularly greet one another with broad smiles and cheery hellos, or observations about the weather.  And we have no idea what each other's names are.

And that's OK.

Because this week, whether we knew each other by name or not, we all had each other's backs.

One young family on our block suffered an unimaginable tragedy last week.  A family we often referred to as The Cute Family with the Greyhound.  Or sometimes, The Cute Family with the Little Girl on the Scooter.  We didn't know their names.  We didn't need to.  Their faces were familiar and regular, and we shared the sidewalks with them as we walked our dogs, ran our errands, and ventured into Central Park.

Our block came together this week in powerful and subtle ways after what happened.  We exchanged tear-filled stares as we roamed the street, dazed.  Stunned.  We were wordless with disbelief and helplessness.  We hugged. We left flowers.  We petted each other's dogs for an extra long time as we went on our regular walks.

And we had our heart-broken neighbors' backs.

One family who puts up an elaborate and scary Halloween display every year, quietly took it down, because "it didn't seem right."  Another neighbor walked outside, scissors in hand, and removed the yellow crime scene tape that was still tied around a tree outside.  Doormen at the family's building painstakingly moved the growing memorial of flowers and stuffed animals to inside the building's lobby, protecting them from the coming storm.

Parents didn't have to say anything to each other.  We all held onto our children a little tighter, and we suddenly seemed to not mind at all if our children were a little disruptive in restaurants.  Children have become the unofficial heroes up here.

This week, our neighborhood came together in a way I've not felt anywhere else.  We are united in our gratitude for what we have, and in our sympathy for some of our own.

It feels good to know these people, these strangers, are there for us in some way.

Whatever their names are.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Killer Instincts

I'm a Killer Mom.

My husband, baby, and I are spending our First Weekend Away From Home at our friend's country house.  Our baby's godfather, to be more accurate.  We envision our son growing up spending relaxing weekends here, enjoying more nature than even Central Park can offer.  The type of Nature where one hears howls coming from the woods at night, and can be 92% certain that there's no need to call 911.

We spent many weekends here before the baby was born; weekends full of cocktails and frivolity, of saucy jokes, and late bedtimes.  While our cocktail intake and bedtime have changed since the baby was born, some things about visiting here remain constant, including sharing gorgeous meals outdoors, under the canopy of huge trees and -last night, anyway- a giant Blue Moon.

As we dined under the stars last night, our friend asked what it feels like being a parent. If we've ever felt love quite like this before.

It's a tough question to answer.

Sure, as parents we are hard-wired to protect and love this baby we made. It's our job.  My husband explained the joy we feel when our son recognizes us and smiles, and how protective he feels when the baby falls asleep in his arms, grabbing onto him like a little monkey.

I explained things a little differently.

I feel protective in a more violent way. A more animalistic way. A more primal way. I explained in great detail, and without hesitation, that if anyone threatened the safety of my child, I would reach out with my hand and jam my rock-hard fingers into their throat, grabbing their trachea and esophagus, and ripping them out the front of their neck.

The truly scary thing isn't the graphic nature of the punishment I would inflict, but rather that I came up with it without a moment's thought. I didn't weigh my options, I didn't wonder if kicking the perpetrator in the balls would be just as good.  I knew exactly what I would do, and I know without a doubt that I would have the strength and courage to see the violent act through.

Is that scary or admirable?  Is it to be discouraged or encouraged?  Should Child Protective Services be alerted, or should Parenting magazine profile me for their Awesome Parents Edition?

Apparently, this intense desire to protect comes with parenthood.  Our brains change. Our chemistry alters, like Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk.  We become Super Humans. Super Parents.  Maybe even Super Scary.

I didn't know I had it in me.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Only Children are A-OK!

I am an only child.

At this point, some who know me may crack wise about my reluctance to share dessert at a restaurant, or the unspoken but unwavering claim I lay to the remote controls in the apartment.  Some may see being an only child as a bad thing.  That it makes one...self-focused.

I think it makes one self-sufficient.

When I was a kid, I received a lot of board games as gifts.  Multi-player games, like Sorry! and Parcheesi.  And as an only child who hated other children, it was rare to find someone to play them with.  I recall my Uncle Tommy playing with me, and I'm sure my parents must have, but mostly, I remember playing these games by myself.  Or rather, with myself.  Or maybe even against myself.  At least I always won.

My husband is the youngest of three boys, and really appreciates having brothers.  For me, the main appeal of having siblings would be to relieve some of the pressure of caring for aging parents.  Having someone to consult/blame/cry to/drink with when the time comes to find a really good nursing home.  (Mom and Dad, consider this "writer's embellishment.")

Our son is seven weeks old, and already people ask if we're planning on having another one.  My knee-jerk response has been, "No, parenting is a young person's game," but then I gave it some serious thought.  Yes, it takes an enormous amount of energy to tend to a newborn's needs, and one must function on very little sleep, two attributes that were at their height when I was in college.  Also, recovery from childbirth- in my case, a c-section- is much more difficult than I expected, and a younger, firmer, more elastic body would likely have more success bouncing back.

But I did think about it.  And I determined I was 89% certain that one child is plenty for us.  My husband is 84% sure of the same.  I'm more sure, so I win...even though we're on the same team.

Being an only child has its payoffs in adulthood, though.

OK, I can't think of many of them right now, but I CAN say that being an only child has allowed my imagination to flourish.  Not just to flourish, but to...whatever is even more fabulous than flourishing.

Case in point:  our son wakes up in the middle of the night, and it sometimes takes a bit of walking, bouncing, and singing to get him back to sleep.  We have a nightlight in our bathroom that has what I initially considered to be a charming scene of animals camping.

But really, it's more than that.

Many a night I've explained to our child that the red fox in the sleeping bag had a little too much to drink, and doesn't even realize he's not sleeping inside the tent.  The deer is helping him conceal it from the grey fox by hiding the empty wine bottle behind him.  The poor grey fox has to do all the work, including gathering firewood, and will no doubt have to clean up that dirty plate (bottom left corner) and the unfinished can of beans outside the tent.  The poor grey fox is so busy doing everyone's work, he's unable to hold his own marshmallow stick, and has to plant it in the ground, because the deer hasn't offered to help.  The grey fox probably didn't even want to go camping in the first place.

See?  You probably thought it was just some animals camping.

And you probably have siblings.

I win.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

People are Crazy for Babies. In a Scary Way.

This really happened.

As our son is getting older (a whopping 6 weeks old, now), we've taken him more and more places.  We stick close to home, and our outings usually consist of dog walks or shopping trips for more diapers.  Or wine.

Last week, we took our baby out to dinner to celebrate my father's birthday.  As we expected, the baby got a little fussy here and there, so my husband and I took turns walking him around outside the restaurant while the other enjoyed dinner.  When it was my turn, I carried him out the front door, and past the tables of outdoor diners.

And that's when She stopped me.

She was close to 70 years old, sitting across from two gentlemen who were engrossed in their own conversation.  As I walked by, she stopped me, pointed to the baby, and said, "Excuse me.  May I?"

I obliged, turning so she could see his face over my shoulder.  She gazed longingly at him, saying the usual kind words about how beautiful he is, and how we should cherish every moment.

And then She got weird.

As she stared at the baby, she crossed her arms over her chest and said to me, "I can almost feel myself lactating."  (Go ahead and reread that part.)  She looked right at me and said, "I don't think you know what you have here."

I was a little offended, and still frozen by the image of geriatric lactation.  Trying to be accommodating, I replied, "Oh, we know he's pretty special!  We love him a lot."  And I looked at the baby and did some nose kiss thing to prove my point.

Then she demanded, "Kiss him."

"Excuse me?"

"Kiss him," she said very seriously.  "Lean down and give him a kiss."

He's my baby, so I obliged.  Plus, she was elderly, and likely lonely, as those two men across the table were still ignoring her.

Then she directed, "Tell him you love him."

I thought it was a little strange, but for some reason, I was willingly compliant to her strange demands.  I leaned down to the baby and, in a baby-friendly voice, said, "I love you!  I love you! Yes, I do!"

"NO!" she said.  "Whisper it to him.  Like you mean it."

"Oh, I mean it," I said.

Who was this woman to tell me I didn't MEAN it?  What did I have to do to prove to her that I meant it?  And WHY did I feel like I had to prove my love for my baby to a total stranger?

"Tell him again."

Sigh.  So I did.  I stood there and followed this stranger's orders.  I let her direct me in the middle of a crowded restaurant patio.  It was a one woman show (with an adorable prop) for an audience of one, as those men still weren't paying any attention to what was happening. After a few more instructions, she finally told me to give the baby a kiss from her, and I knew it was time to end the show.

Why had it been so difficult to leave? I'd stood there for a good eight minutes, kissing and cooing at my baby, following my captor's orders.  I was like Patty Hearst with Stockholm Syndrome.  Am I that much of an actor, that I felt I had to perform?  Was I pimping out my child for the entertainment of the elderly?  And if so, is that a bad thing?  After all, she seemed lonely.

You know, those men sitting at her table never looked over during that whole exchange.  They never got to see how cute the baby is.  But mostly, they didn't do anything to save me.

Maybe I was the one saving them.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Parenting Olympics

The whole world has Olympic Fever.

We're all standing united in our new-found love of synchronized diving, skeet shooting, and table tennis, sports I wasn't even aware were actual Olympic events.

As a brand new parent, my husband and I are developing impressive knowledge, speed and accuracy at some events of our own, and I am now inspired to propose the first-ever Parenting Olympics.

Events would be divided into two main categories, Indoor and Outdoor events.  Let's look at an early list of proposed areas of competition.

Indoor Events

Swaddling:  Athletes may choose to compete in either One-Handed or Two-Handed Swaddling.  Those opting for Two-Handed Swaddling will be working with a colicky, inconsolable infant, to level the playing field with the One-Handers.

Bottle Preparation:  Participants will be scored on Frozen Breast Milk Thawing, Bottle Washing, Matching Lids with Bottles, and (in an effort to remain inclusive) Powdered Formula Mixing.

Diapering:  Parents may choose to compete in either Cloth or Disposable categories.  Those competing in Cloth will be on the honor system and will be judging themselves, as most people don't know how that whole cloth system works, anyway.  Those competing in Disposable will be judged by the EPA.

Soothing:  Competitors will soothe a fussy baby for three full hours in the middle of the night, using only their own bodies and voices.  Special points will be given for Best Impromptu Rhyming in a Song, and for Smoothly Transferring Baby from Arms to Crib.

Outdoor Events

Baby Wearing:  In this mixed-gender competition, Moms and Dads will be required to safely secure their infant in a Moby wrap, without use of the instruction booklet.  (Note: Participants may be asked to sign a waiver for footage to be used on America's Funniest Home Videos.)

Subway Navigation:  Athletes with infants will be given a destination over two miles from the starting line, and must navigate the NYC subway system through no fewer than two train changes and stations with no elevators.  Athletes may not ask strangers for assistance with strollers.

Dining Out:  Participants will be required to eat a full, three-course meal (appetizer, entree, and dessert) in a public restaurant with table service.  Competition must take place between 7pm and 9pm, during peak restaurant hours.  Points will be deducted for each restaurant patron that rolls his eyes at the participants.  Extra points will be awarded for finishing the meal without staining your own clothes or dropping hot food on the baby.

In this early stage of development, the Parenting Olympics is focused solely on infant care, but plans are in motion for the Parenting of Teenagers Olympics, the Parenting of Twins Olympics, and (in a special deal with Comedy Central) the Teenage Parents Olympics.  The Lifetime Network has expressed interest in the Single Parent Olympics, but participants deserve much more lucrative endorsements than are currently available, so those deals are stalled at this time.

The success of the Parenting Olympics depends on your input.  We can't do it without you.

I'd keep working on my list of potential events, but I've got to go pump.

(Look for Pumping to be added in 2016.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Betrayed by Modern Conveniences

When I was pregnant, my husband and I watched the documentary film, Babies.  It's a fascinating look at how four different babies are raised in four different parts of the world- Mongolia, Japan, Namibia, and San Francisco, California.  Each baby is followed for a year, and while there is no narration or any substantial dialogue, we found ourselves rooting for the little tykes, and admittedly, developed a favorite along the way.

By far, the happiest baby of the lot was the Namibian girl.  We watched as she and her siblings played games like "Rock"and "Stick."  They sat in the dirt, right next to the family dog.  Her mother handled her confidently, slinging the baby over her back as she worked, not appearing to be worried that the sun may be too hot on the baby's head, or that a fly was buzzing a little too close for comfort.  She played with her baby heartily, and the family laughed often.

The baby's mother didn't have a vibrating chair or a Boppy pillow, or stuffed animals that make soothing ocean sounds.  She had her own loving arms and strong legs and soft breasts, and with these tools alone, cared perfectly well for her baby.

I, too, have these things, and I've felt pretty darn good about my ability to soothe our son myself, without many "modern conveniences."  I bounce, rock, sway, sing, rub, pat, coo, feed, swaddle, and hold with skill; and usually, our baby responds beautifully- by dozing off or quieting down- safe in his mother's arms.

Until yesterday.

Elrod's paternal grandparents have come to town for a visit, and his schedule is a little off from his typical day.  He was cranky at unusual times, and nothing helped.  He screamed and screamed, and then- when my back was turned- he magically hushed.  I turned around to see what had happened- was someone trying a new hold?  A new way of baby-joggling I'd not yet learned?


There in his mouth was a bright blue pacifier.  And he seemed to love it.  He happily sucked away, soothing himself and falling asleep, as if someone had pushed a button.  Or given him a lot of Benadryl.

Now, don't get me wrong- I have pacifiers in our home.  I registered for them and even picked up a couple myself.  I'd yet to use them, as I was waiting to master the art of breast feeding before introducing them, but I'd not put up any signs alerting others to this possibly neurotic, new mommy decision.

So I did what any new mother would do.  I hid them.  Should anyone ask where they are, I'll say, "Hmmm, they were here the other day."  And that will be the end of it.

Only it wasn't.

Later, as the family tried to sit down to dinner, little Elrod was once again unhappy- loudly unhappy- and someone had the idea to put him in the automatic swing.  The one we registered for.  The one, like the pacifier, we'd yet to use.  And again, he loved it.  He fell right asleep.

And I fell apart a tiny bit inside.

This freaking swing had pushed me aside.  It did my job- swinging my baby to sleep- better than I did it myself.  It was a cold, robotic substitute for warm, flesh-and-blood, Me.  The pacifier was replacing my breast, and now this swing was mocking me with its chirping bird music, and its little animal mobile above my fascinated baby's face.  I hated Swing.  Swing could suck it.

But then I realized (or was it rationalized?), I need to take care of Me.  I had surgery three weeks ago, I still tire easily, and I deserve a meal and a rest and a deep breath now and then.  My husband and I deserve, and need, time with each other, even if it's only for 15 minutes over reheated leftovers.

And if Pacifier and Swing are the ones to give me those things, then maybe there is a place for them in our home right now after all.  Maybe Swing isn't mocking me.  Maybe Pacifier is just misunderstood.

It's still early- our son is just a little over three weeks old.  In time, these "modern conveniences" will likely have a more prominent place in our home. But for now, when they make their rare appearance, I'll try to remember that they could never replace a mother's loving arms, strong legs, and soft breasts.

It'll be nice to remember that.  Because I can't remember where I hid the pacifier.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Leaving the Apartment- Was it Worth It?

Two days ago, I wrestled with the Ergo baby carrier, our infant son successfully secured inside, and I headed out to walk our dog.  It marked the first time I've left the house on my own with the baby, and it felt great.  Although we only went around the block, I felt free, and I liked feeling a whisper of my former, pre-pregnancy, independent self.

As I turned the corner to head home, my phone rang.  In some serendipitous turn of events, my agent was calling with an audition.  Could I make it to a 4:30 appointment the next day?

What, and miss an opportunity to speak in a grown-up voice in a public place?  Of course I would be there.

So yesterday, I planned it all out.  I modeled "Casual, Fun-Loving, Mom" audition outfits for my husband.  I showered, washed, dried, and styled my hair.  I put on makeup, even foundation.  I updated my resumé, and printed it on the back of my smiling, commercial, "Buy this Car/Detergent/Peanut Butter from Me" headshot.

Fearing that the humidity would wreak havoc on my freshly styled, Real Person hair, I took a cab downtown, rather than take the train, which turned out to be a good call.  Did you see the national news story about the weather that day?  The piece with shots of the Empire State Building being struck by lightning?  It was raining sideways.  There was hail.  And the center of the torrential storm seemed to be hovering over 60 Madison Avenue, where I had just gotten out of the cab- only on the wrong side of the street from my destination.

Sure, I'm always prepared, and I had a tiny umbrella in my purse.  A flimsy, rickety, tired old thing that would sooner be inside out that be open at all.  An umbrella in the loosest sense of the word.  This storm gave my umbrella the finger.

I arrived at the audition with squishing shoes, curling, frizzing hair, and running makeup.  My skinny jeans felt like they'd taken on a gallon of water. Throughout my audition, thunder boomed and lightning cracked outside the studio windows, drowning out my lines.  Still, I was thrilled to be out of the house, doing what I love to do.

And then I began to make my way home.

Since it was monsoon season outside, getting another cab would be impossible, so I headed to the nearest subway stop.

If you've ever been in the subway in the middle of summer, you are aware of the many smells one may encounter there.  People have varying standards of personal hygiene.  They may be eating Doritos.  Perhaps they've just come from doing a Shakespeare performance in period costumes in the hot, hot sun.  As a woman of 5'4", I was unhappy to be reminded that my nose is armpit height with most taller people, particularly when they grab onto the overhead bar to steady themselves.  Everyone around me was coated with a thin layer of wetness.  Was it rain?  Was it sweat?  Who could tell?  All I knew was that the minute I got home, I was sponging off my arms and face, and scrubbing the skin off my subway-tainted hands before going anywhere near my baby.

As I emerged from the 72nd street station, the rain was still pouring, as was what was left of my makeup.  I'd given up attempts at keeping my snakeskin flats dry, and instead sloshed through puddles and mini-rivers as I walked the 4 blocks home.

I was beginning to question whether or not making the trip out of the apartment had been worth it.  I'd ruined some shoes, made a questionable first impression on a busy casting director, and was experiencing some strange, unfamiliar feelings.  Was it...longing?  Could it be that, in the two hours I'd been away from him, I was missing my baby?

Vowing to myself that auditions could wait, telling myself I'd been foolish to think I could pop right back in to my former routine so soon after having a baby, something else serendipitous happened.

There, right off the corner of Amsterdam and 74th, was Levain Bakery.  There was no line, and the light from inside was warm and welcoming.  Smiling adults worked behind the counter, baking the most delicious cookies you've ever tasted.  It smelled of heaven and (someone else's) home, and I plopped down my $8 and took home two walnut-chocolate chip cookies to share with my husband.

Yes, it rained.  No, I didn't get a callback.  But was it worth it?

Yes.  To be reminded that auditions and trains and cabs and the city will all still be there when I'm really ready...that was worth it.

And the cookies were pretty good, too.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Week One Discoveries- The Abridged Version

We had a baby last weekend, and now he lives with us.  His name is Elrod, he makes hilarious faces, and he's a very good eater.

I could go on and on about his birth and our feelings, and about how our lives will never be the same, but there are other blogs for that- blogs written by people who have had more than two showers in 8 days, probably.

But honestly, time is of the essence here.  Elrod is peacefully napping, I just ate actual food, and the laptop has a decent charge.  So I'll strike while the iron is hot and share some quick and dirty discoveries from Week One of Parenthood.

1.  After a caesarean birth (a TOTALLY different blog post), one's feet swell so much, they look like two balls of rising dough.  It takes exactly 8 days for them to return to their former, slimmer shape.  This will be the only slim thing on my body for a very long time.

2.  Babies poop in Technicolor.

3.  My birth plan has become a work of comedic fiction.  The only thing on that list that went our way was my desire to avoid an episiotomy- a procedure rendered completely unnecessary in a caesarean birth.  Oh, irony.

4.  I have become a lot less particular about how much baby urine it takes to render my clothes unwearable.

5.  The contraption I wear to pump my breast milk makes me look like a Fembot from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.  

6.  Dogs will lap up spilled breast milk before you can bend over to clean it up yourself.

7.  Our child goes through 3-4 outfits a day.  It's like a Diana Ross concert around here.

8.  "Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps" is advice coming from people with no babies living with them.

9.  Communication with my husband has begun to break down into a series of hand gestures and sentences containing little more than a subject and a verb.  "You go."  "We eat."  "He sleeps."  It's like Clan of the Cave Bear.

10.  Newborn babies have the same far-off, dreamy look in their eyes as that dancing bear in Madagascar 3.

I could go on.  I could talk about the doctors' appointments we've gone to, the visit from Grandma, the sleepless days and nights, the lactation consultant, baby gear, you name it.

But instead, I think I'll try and take a nap.

You know, because my baby is sleeping.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dear Baby: When I Was Pregnant with You...

As my due date creeps ever closer (now one day away), I've been thinking back on my pregnancy, and feel there are a few things our little guy should know about this very special time in our lives.

You, Baby, should know that:

1.  If I had it to do all over again, I would tell people you were actually due two weeks later than the date the doctor told me. Having people ask, "are you still pregnant?" stopped being a novelty around week 38.

2.  There was a direct correlation between how close I was to my due date and the number of exclamation points your maternal grandmother used in her emails.

3.  Your father always set out my vitamins for me, read all the good childbirth books, went to tons of classes and built baby furniture like a superhero. Plus, he took the dog out first thing every morning so you and I could keep sleeping.

4.  I found myself watching "Days of our Lives" more often than I care to admit. In fact, it is on the TV as I type this post. You will never watch this show. Nor will you ever watch "Game of Thrones."  Ever.

5.  You moved around ALL THE TIME, which I loved, because you were telling me you were healthy and happy. Your dad and I liked to watch you make ripples across my belly when you moved, especially closer to our due date. At 3:00 a.m., however, I loved it a tiny bit less.

6.  We decided to keep your name a secret until you were born. That way, people wouldn't have a chance to complain, ask why we chose it or suggest other options. Also, it was kind of fun to watch your grandparents squirm.

7.  I went to lots of prenatal yoga classes, because they not only made me feel more stretchy, but everyone there was at least as big as me. And that felt good in a different way. I think the Germans call it schadenfreude.

There are lots more things you should know, not just about the time I spent pregnant with you, but also about how we live here in NYC. You'll learn them pretty quickly, but for starters, you should know that as a family, we recycle. We make and attend theatre. One of our cats has repeatedly threatened to suck the breath out of you, but she's a known liar, so don't worry about her. The British lady with the visor down the street isn't as mean as she seems. Your godparents are amazing people.

And we cannot wait for your arrival.

We love you already.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Acid Reflux and Other Uninvited Guests

My doula thinks I'm crazy. I thought I might be dying.

A few nights ago, I was sleeping soundly (a rare thing these days), when I was awoken by the sour taste of vomit in my mouth. It was fairly surprising, as A) I typically don't vomit in my sleep, and B) David Duchovny and I were just having an interesting conversation about how much it cost to make each episode of The X-Files. (A mere $3,000, according to this dream.)

Convinced I'd developed one of the diseases described in those worst-case-scenario-guaranteed-to-give-you-a-nightmare baby books, I texted my doula and described my mysterious symptoms. Her reply was simple: "Have you ever had acid reflux?"

No, I'd never had acid reflux, but I wasn't asking about that. I was asking about the rare sleep-vomiting disease I'd contracted, probably from that sticky grocery basket at Fairway. Surely, my baby was in danger and we would have to have an emergency c-section.

Turns out it wasn't anything dramatic after all. It was just boring old acid reflux. And every friend who's ever been pregnant has welcomed me to the club. It's a club that pops little purple pills and sleeps sitting up. It's a club whose members eschew nachos in favor of oatmeal and baked potatoes. I do not want to be in this club.

As luck would have it, acid reflux isn't my only new, uninvited guest. Pregnancy is the gift that keeps on giving, and the gifts get increasingly disgusting as we near the end of our 40 weeks together. It's like pregnancy is a house guest who stays too long and rearranges your apartment when you're not looking.

Pregnancy has also taught me that Preparation H isn't just for under-eye puffiness, as models would like us to believe. It's actually used to treat something so horrible, so embarrassing, I dare not describe it in detail here. But l will share this: I used to think I was having contractions, until I REALLY had a contraction. Let's just say I used to think I might be getting a hemorrhoid. Now I understand those old commercials with the flames and I secretly wonder how it would feel to sit on a donut.

If those two developments weren't enough, pregnancy has dealt me one more blow, this one visibly humiliating: My feet are unrecognizable. They have fold lines at the base of my toes and where my ankles used to be. They have swollen so hideously beyond their former shapes that the only shoes I am able to wear now are Croc flip flops, which I purposefully went into a store and purchased with actual American dollars, in an attempt to walk in some sort of comfort. (This, after two years of passing the Croc store on Columbus Avenue and making disparaging comments about their clientele and the smell of toxic plastics.) Yes, it has come to Crocs, and unlike my other two ailments, this one is out there for all the world to see.

Yes, pregnancy just keeps giving, but it's really more like pregnancy is just re-gifting that crappy tchotchke that no one in the family really wants but we smile and accept it because it's the holiday season.

But pregnancy and I both know that in about 10 days, she'll come back with my REAL gift, and all will be forgiven.

But I'll still hang on to the Preparation H. You know, for my eyes.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pregnancy Brain

Today I locked myself out of my apartment.


It happened exactly the same way as the last time, which was less than a week ago.  After dutifully packing my bag full of things a pregnant lady may need for a few hours away from home (snacks, water, sun block, a book, more snacks), I left my keys hanging on the hook by the door.  You know, right where I would see them and not forget them.

It's worth noting this never, ever happened to me before I was pregnant.  Before Pregnancy (BP), I also never put half and half in the cabinet with the soup, and never emptied the dog's water bowl into the trash can.

As it turns out, these feeble-minded acts are, by some, attributed to something called "Pregnancy Brain."  All the pregnancy books mention it, though they call it something adorable like "Momnesia" or "Mommy Brain."  I call it Temporary.

The truth is, being pregnant takes up every brain cell I've got, and no one is as surprised by that as me.  I wake up with ideas for what to pack in my hospital "go bag."  My day is filled with newly important tasks like rearranging the baby's clothes in his dresser and compiling lists of who to call/text/email once he arrives (and who can just read about it on Facebook.)  Evenings are spent negotiating the newest aches and pains that have settled in by day's end, and what would normally be considered prime sleeping time has become a sort of contest with myself to see how many times I'll get up to pee in the night.  My record is six.

I have forgotten what I thought about, what I talked to other adults about, before I got pregnant.  I know I was damn funny at one point (anyone remember who won Funniest Person in Billings, Montana in 2001?)  I used to be able to carry on conversations about theatre and education and I sat on the boards of some kick-ass arts organizations back home in South Carolina.  People valued my opinions and experience. It was nice to feel needed by grownups.

But now, that lady is on a hiatus.  She has traded adorable footwear for the hiking shoes in the back of the closet, because they provide excellent and much needed arch support.  She is the slowest one on the stairs heading out of the subway, when she used to take the steps two at a time.  And instead of jogging through the park to a killer Scissor Sisters track, she is stopping every few minutes to rest on a bench next to the elderly pigeon feeders.

And it's OK.

It's OK because deep down, I know all of this is temporary.  I know that before long, I will return to my former active, funny self, with actual grown up friends and a grown up lady purse that will hold my keys in a special pocket.  I will interact once again with adults, and talk about very important topics like Miley Cyrus' engagement or whatever Ira Glass just said on NPR.

And until that time comes, I'll carry an extra set of keys in my wallet.  Because a pregnant lady can only be away from a bathroom for so long.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Best One

I think I've stopped weeping long enough to write this down.

I married the Best One.

Dean and I have had a lot of emotions in recent months- some hormonally induced (mine), some situational.  We've laughed for no reason, cried for no reason a bit more often, and have found ourselves laughing and crying simultaneously, unable to pinpoint exactly what has driven us to that strange combination of feelings.

It's safe to say that most of these emotional highs and lows have been brought on by how drastically our life together is changing.  How we are going from a two-person partnership to a three-person family.

We've had ample time to prepare our home, a fair amount of time to wrap our brains around this enormous change, and too much time to imagine/ worry about/ rethink our futures.

One big change that will come with the baby's arrival is finding time for Dean to write, so we both make an effort to carve out pockets of uninterrupted time when Dean can have some space and time to himself to think and write and work.  More often than not, this involves me having brunch with a friend, getting a pedicure, and seeing a chick flick (or another movie Dean is happy to miss.)

Today, on this gorgeous Saturday, I had brunch with my also-pregnant friend, came home for a few minutes, and then left to see "What to Expect."  (Surprisingly, I think I was the only pregnant woman in the audience.)  Dean was staying home to work on his projects and kindly wait for our new glider to be delivered.

I came home awhile ago to find that while I was gone, Dean assembled our new glider and set it up in the bedroom for me.  He used tools to put a ton of pieces together to make a comfortable place for us to rock our son.  He built a chair that actually supports our weight and glides, just like the name says.

Here I was watching a movie several blocks away, feeling proud of myself for providing Dean with this time to himself, and all the while, Dean is using his rare time alone to do something to make me happy.  Me.

And he took the laundry to the cleaners, too.

I burst into tears, as I often do, but this time was different.  This time it wasn't because I was overwhelmed or scared of giving birth, or frustrated that my shirt isn't covering my whole belly.

I burst into tears because I am so lucky, and so loved.

And so is this baby.

We both got the Best One.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Ugly Truth. Very Ugly.

WARNING!!  If you have no interest in reading personal details about the ever-changing body of a pregnant woman, STOP READING NOW.  In fact, here is the link to a site that may better suit you:

Still with me?  Excellent.  I never liked them anyway.

As I begin my 36th week of pregnancy, I have had ample time to watch my body change.  Sure, my belly has gotten a whole lot bigger, but I was unprepared for the other surprises that come with growing and internally toting around a small human being.

Some changes are welcome ones.  My husband had no complaints when "the girls"made their debut.  There is an immediate voluptuousness to a newly pregnant woman.  And while that voluptuousness keeps growing, with it come unfortunate side effects.  For example, my bra has become a crumb catcher, saving the remnants of all my meals and snacks, as if later we were having an archeological dig.  What is making me itch?  Why, it appears to be toast from the Pregnolithic era!  Eureka!

The same applies to my giant belly.  I look like a toddler after I eat, as more often than not, something drops and lands on my protruding stomach.  I should start color-coordinating my shirts with what I plan to have for lunch.  "No, we can't have pasta tonight- my red shirt is in the laundry."  Napkins in My Lap do no good, and at dinner last night, I graduated to Napkin Tucked into My Collar,  kind of like Al Bundy settling in for a plate of Peg's spaghetti.

I have begun to purchase- and actually use- some drug store products I never thought I would.  Ever.  Did you know that Preparation H is for more than just under eye puffiness?  And baby powder isn't just for babies, but for anyone who experiences chafing.  (Chafing occurs when two parts of your body rub together that weren't even in proximity to each other pre-pregnancy.  The pregnant body becomes a series of shifting tectonic plates.)

Pregnancy has given me body parts I never had before, as I now have something called "Cankles."  After long periods on my feet, my old slender-ish ankle disappears, and gives way to a soft and shapeless column of flesh that flows seamlessly from my calf to my foot, rendering my adorable ankle strap sandals useless.

My belly button is slowly turning inside out, morphing from an "innie" to an "outie."  So there's that.

There are other wonders I could share with you, but even I must draw the line.  Message me privately and I'll fill you in.  

But if you're that curious, there's probably something kind of wrong with you, and I'm wondering why we are friends.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How Did I Learn What I Know?

I've always felt like a know-it-all.

It may come from being an only child.  It may come from being on my own for so very, very long before starting my life with Dean.  Maybe it's because I can't stand a lot of silence, and I feel the need to fill uncomfortable periods of quiet with (typically) useless facts.

Over time, the information I know has morphed a bit.  In high school, I knew where the Hooters were touring and how to make my own skirts.  In college, I knew which bars would let you drink underage (Myskyn's and Big John's) and a bunch of other information my mother doesn't want to read about.

As a bonafide grown-up, I could talk your ear off about automobile bodily injury claims when I worked as an insurance adjuster for Nationwide Insurance (I refer to this period as the Dark Ages), and later, when I became a teacher, I could spend hours defending high school theatre programs to the closed-minded and ill-informed.

But lately, I sometimes have to take a step back and ask myself, "who ARE you, and what have you done with the old Monica?"

Well, Monica is having a baby, and there is a lot of new stuff taking up space in my (scientifically proven)  shrinking brain.  I know things I never, ever thought I would know.  Most of these things revolve around natural childbirth and baby gear, but some of them deal with...nope, it's all baby related.

Here are some of the more interesting tidbits:

*  There are benefits to allowing the umbilical cord to pulsate for several minutes before being cut, to allow more blood to be pumped from the placenta to the baby.

*  The placenta has lots of nutrients and some people save their placenta to eat later.  We aren't that hungry, though.

*  One does not need to be Jewish to have a mohel come to your home and circumcise your newborn son.

*  Skin-to-skin contact between the baby and mother immediately after birth is really important, and having the baby whisked away to the nursery isn't always necessary, if the baby is healthy.

*  A doula is a labor coach, and does not typically wear a turban or tell your fortune.

*  The center of a sunflower is an excellent visual reminder for the woman waiting to fully dilate.

*  When doctors use a vacuum during birth, it's nothing like a Hoover or Dyson.  It's tiny and doesn't plug in, but you still don't want them to use it.

*  Internal fetal monitors have a little metal part at the end that screws directly into your baby's head.  It will leave a mark, but with a cute little hat on your bundle of joy, you won't be able to see it.  (We held one in class.)

*  There is a birthing suite at Mt. Sinai that costs $4000 a night, and overlooks Central Park.

I know lots more stuff.  TONS.  Most of it is kind of gross or may seem a little "midwifey," as someone told me recently.  So, Dean and I are happy to keep it to ourselves, and save it for our Bradley classes.  (For the record, Dean knows as much, if not MORE, about this as I do.)

But if you want to know more about natural childbirth, comparing NYC obstetricians, or the menu at Lenny's Deli, let me know.  I'm becoming an expert on all three.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Where Did the Blog Go?

Many fans (3 people I know) have asked me why there was such a huge gap in my blog posts recently.  One loyal fan (not my mother) pointed out that until Sunday's installment, my last post was in mid-March.

The life of a professional blogger (pregnant actor) is a busy one, so I've compiled a quick list of all the things I've been doing while this blog has been on hiatus.

-  Walking back from the grocery store
-  Trying to get out of this sofa without assistance from Dean
-  Weeping
-  Reading about all the ailments that may befall our baby, like mad cow disease and colic
-  Alphabetizing stuff
-  Not drinking enough water
-  Walking Hank.  Again.
-  Looking for panties that fit
-  Pulling clumps of matted hair off Tater, our 20-lb cat
-  Rearranging pillows around me as I sleep.  As I try to sleep.
-  Watching birthing videos through my fingers
-  Thinking about cleaning out my closet
-  Lint rolling things
-  Watching Ellen

As you can see, there is a LOT to do to get ready for a baby.  And some things take much longer now than they used to take.  Like writing blog posts.  And climbing the stairs to get out of the subway.

There really is a thing called "pregnancy brain," I'm not just making it up.  During pregnancy, a woman's brain actually shrinks a little.  Apparently, it has something to do with making room for all the new stuff we will automatically know how to do, like keeping the baby safe from lions and knowing the difference between the "I'm hungry" cry and the "I'm going to major in poetry" cry.

Is it possible "pregnancy brain" contributed to the giant gap in my blogging?  Maybe so.

(Blinks.  Silence.)

What were we talking about again?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Church Giggles

A lot of things have changed for me over the last couple of years.  

Sure, there are the Big Ones that you already know about (turning 40, getting married, quitting my job, moving to New York, and having a baby), but there are other ones, too.

For example, the Old Me didn't go for many walks, unless A) the dog had to go out, and B) it was before I got a fenced-in back yard.  But the New Me walks everywhere all the time!  Granted, we no longer own cars, but even if we did, I'd still be a walker.

The Old Me was never stopped and asked for directions, but the New Me is always being approached by German tourists, guidebook in hand, asking how to get to Strawberry Fields.  The Old Me never stood in line for cookies, but have often found myself midway in a 20-person line for warm chocolate chip walnut cookies from Le Vain Bakery.

And the Old Me rarely went to church, except on Christmas Eve Morning, when my entire family would meet at St. Peter's, and giggle through the abbreviated service until it was time to have breakfast at the Original Pancake House.  But the New Me walks arm in arm with my husband (see paragraph one), usually every other Sunday, to an adorable church six blocks from our apartment.  

And it's pretty great.

Dean is the son of a minister, so church is in his blood.  I am the daughter of fun-loving non-ministers, so me...not as much.  But I really like going to church with Dean.  It's a guaranteed hour where I don't have a "to do" list, an hour of time spent right next to my husband, an hour of people watching.  And sometimes theres a message, too.

Mostly, though, church is an hour during which I am supposed to be relatively quiet, and THIS is where I fall a little short of what's expected of me.  When I am given an hour alone with my thoughts, hilarity ensues.  

This morning, for example, I cracked myself up when I saw that the Anorexics Anonymous and the Overeaters Anonymous met at the same time, together.  I imagined the anorexics' utter disgust with the "Mike and Molly" overeaters, and the overeaters' shared resentment of the rail-thin anorexics.  I imagined all the Saturday Night Live skits that could come from this scenario.  And- this is what gave me the Church Giggles- I wondered what sort of refreshments might be served that would be pleasing to both groups.  Carrots?  Ice?  Certainly not doughnuts...?

Later in the service, at an inopportune moment, I leaned over to Dean and whispered, "Nachos."  I'm pregnant, and think about food all the time, whether it's mentioned in the sermon or not.  (Though, actually, food WAS mentioned in today's sermon, something about Jesus eating broiled fish.)  This brought on more giggling.

I know I should behave.  I should sit still (hard to do) and keep my very random thoughts and observations to myself until the service is over.  I should be respectful of overeaters and old ladies with lighted magnifying glasses, and visiting choir directors who wave their hands all funny.  I should be reverent, and NOT try to grab my husband's tush on the way to communion.

But what fun would that be?

Monday, March 12, 2012

It Was a Star-Studded Friday in Gotham

Lately, I start most of my days the same way:  throw on some cotton/lycra blend "clothes," throw the hair in a pony tail, slog through pet-related chores, and have a good, pregnancy-related cry about something completely out of my control, like the effectiveness of lint rollers or the future of our downstairs air conditioner.

But FRIDAY was different.  I had a great reason to actually shower.  To put on makeup.  To wear accessories.  

From time to time, Marci Phillips, the head of primetime casting at ABC New York, will call me in to be a reader for a few hours.  It's pilot season (when actors are auditioning for pilot episodes of series that will hopefully make it on air next season), and ABC has a lot of roles to fill.  And when we audition, we need someone to play a scene with, and from time to time, that person is me.

So Friday, I head in to read opposite a lot of men who are up for roles in "Gilded Lilys" (sic), a pilot with a Downton Abbey feel, set in a grand hotel run by the Lily family in the 1920's.  It's shooting in Boston, but the big roles will be cast out of NYC.

The first name on my list is Andrew McCarthy.  Ladies of a certain age, I'll give you a moment to swoon.  Readers born after 1995, please rent "Pretty in Pink," "Less than Zero," and "St. Elmo's Fire" immediately.

I'm thrilled.  And I'm thinking I'd better re-read the scene so I don't muck it up.  I do not want to be blamed for McCarthy's failure to land a role in a pilot.  Bad enough they make him come in and read at all- he's ANDREW McCARTHY, for Pete's Sake.  Was his work in "Weekend at Bernie's" not a solid enough example of what he's capable of??

Long story short, a casting assistant had not sent me the scene McCarthy was reading, and rather than tackle it cold, I asked if the assistant would prefer to read it in my place.  I figured it was the right thing to do.  But I DID walk him back, and did NOT mention anything about my love for all of his work in the 80's.

While I didn't read with AMac (that's what I call him now), I DID read with Mo Rocca!  Looks like Mo is trying to move more into acting these days, in addition to his work as a correspondent, writer, and comedian.  He was adorable, and was just like you'd expect him to be.  We're having lunch this week, at Cafe du Imagination Monique.

After a couple hours of reading with some mighty fine actors, I headed home down Columbus Avenue, and passed Adrian Grenier on the street.  He was all starry eyed, twisting his hair, smiling at the tops of buildings.  High?  Yes, the buildings were very high.

Later that night, Dean and I went to see TRIBES at Barrow Street Theatre (a classmate of Dean's, Will Brill, has a fantastic role in it), and the one and only Ms. Mare Winningham was in the show, too.  Part of me wanted to say, "I just saw AMac- do you guys still hang out?"  But I refrained.

While Ms. Winningham was working when we saw her, Mr. Mandy Patinkin was not- in fact, he was enjoying the same performance, a few rows over.  We didn't speak to him, but he seemed to like the joke in the play about incontinence a LOT.

And that was my star-studded Friday.  That's the cool thing about New York- you start out thinking it's going to be just another day, and you end up getting surprised.  Sometimes pleasantly.

Maybe it's connected to putting on makeup and getting dressed....

So I'm going to try that again right NOW.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quiet Time

I love television.

I'm not ashamed of that.  In fact, now that acting is my only job, I am pretty much required to watch TV.  It is literally research, and our cable bill is tax deductible.  (Side note- lots of cool stuff is deductible in this business, including getting my hair done, gym memberships, and makeup.  Acting is awesome.)

But every now and then, we need a little quiet time.  I say "we" because Dean is much more comfortable with silence than I am.  If I find myself at home during the day, working on a task, 99 percent of the time, the TV is on, providing comforting background noise.  Like a chatty friend.  Or a visiting parent. (Side note #2- my mom has the TV on a lot, too.  I noticed this when she visited recently. It's in my genes.)

Poor Dean even gets up before I do in the morning, leans over to me and whispers, "you stay sleeping," and then goes upstairs to supposedly walk the dog and make coffee.  OK, he actually DOES do those things, but when he's finished those two tasks, I lie awake in bed, listening, and I hear...nothing.  Maybe I hear the occasional "thunk" of his Sportsman's Lodge coffee mug on the dining table, or the flutter of a magazine page turning, but essentially, I hear...silence.

Which is probably the real reason he gets up so early.  It's the only time he can claim a few minutes of total silence, total Dean time, for himself.

And who can blame him?

When I get up, I immediately barrage him with every thought I've had since we went to sleep:  My dream about forgetting to feed the baby (Side note #3- this is a recurring dream I've had my entire life.  Only it scares the Hell out of me now that we're expecting a baby who will likely want to be fed.), ideas I have about paint colors for the Baby's Wall, items to add to today's grocery list, what Perez Hilton said about RiRi and Chris getting back together, and the overly realistic conversations I carry on with the pets.

They go something like this:

Dixie:  Meow.
Me: Not that great, how did you sleep?
Dixie: Meow.
Me: I beg to differ. You were walking all over my stomach last night.
Dixie: Meow.
Me: That is just rude.  You know I'm pregnant.
Tater: Meeeow.
Me: No, Tater.  You're just big boned.

Tonight, however, we were quiet.  Quiet-ish.  We had nice conversation about all kinds of creative things as we ate dinner.  Real-life artist things, that made me feel smart and thoughtful, and not at all like a Crazy Housewife About to Have a Baby.  We talked about travel and theatre and his trip, and artistic collaboration.

And then, we did something really nutty.

We sat on opposite ends of the sofa and read.  Books.  Not the internet on our phones, not status updates, not the new J. Crew catalog...books.

It was quiet and comforting and I loved looking over at Dean, who looked especially adorable wearing his reading classes and jeans with the torn knee, reading a book about parenting.  Our beagle lay snoring between us, and Dixie lay curled at my side.  The baby was kicking, surprising me, making me smile.

It was pretty great.

I should be quiet more often.  Especially since there won't be much silence around here in about 112 more days.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Random Observations from a Day in the City

I've seen and heard some good things on the street lately.

Yesterday, a pack of teenage girls walked past our apartment on their way to school (I'm assuming they were en route to school, as it was 8:30am.  Unless they were on their way HOME from a late night....but I digress), and one of them said, "I want to go to Vegas SO bad."  The others replied, "Me, too!"

What in the world would a vibrant, beautiful, teenage girl want to do in....Oh.

I guess they could have a decent time.

Later, on the train, I heard a female twenty-something talking (a LOT) to a male twenty-something, about her fantastic new apartment, and how awesome her Lower East Side neighborhood is.  My favorite part was when she said, "But I feel like everyone on our floor is like, forty."

I put "forty" in bold and italics to emphasize the disgust in her voice as she said it.  As if people who are (ugh) forty are dusty, boring old crumbs of people who couldn't POSSIBLY appreciate that fabulous neighborhood, or remember what it felt like to stay up past midnight, or know who any of the cool bands are.

Honey, people over 40 are the only ones who can AFFORD that neighborhood without having to share a bedroom with another adult who they're NOT having sex with.  People over 40 not only remember watching the sun come up, but many still do, and SOME of us will be seeing the wee hours of the morning on a regular basis, as we are HAVING BABIES.  Finally, a goodly percentage of your cool bands are COMPRISED of people over 40.

So, suck it, Skinny Business Girl With Lots of Roommates and a Bad History With Men and Drinking (writer's elaboration.)  You should be so lucky.

Other cool things I encountered were a blues saxophone player on the corner of 77/Columbus, in the middle of a Monday, almost playing just for himself.  And I had a doorman sing part of "Pretty Woman" to me as Hank and I walked past.

And the BEST thing that happened yesterday was spotting a really handsome man on the opposite side of the street, doing a double take, and realizing it was my husband.

Surprise Sidewalk Kisses are the Best.

And so is living in NYC.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thank GOD She Didn't Tell Stories.

There are some friends you can go for years without seeing, and then pick right back up with again, like no time has passed.  As if it were just yesterday you watched that friend get a haircut on a Charleston porch, under the influence of mild hallucinogens.

Mary Thomas is one of those friends.

She and her husband Mat are in town for a geography conference, where I imagine them poring over maps, venomously debating whether Istanbul should be called Constantinople, and exactly where the Mason Dixon line really is.  They joined us for brunch during their break today, and we had a great time expounding on where we are in our lives now, where we are going (they have lots of fantastic baby advice,  though I never imagined I'd be A) needing it or B) Getting it from Mary), and- surprisingly- NOT sharing "remember when" stories.

Mary was one of my beloved college roommates, and a dear friend to me throughout many phases of my life, both during and after college.  She's seen the worst of the worst, the best of the best, and probably has photos of both.   She was certainly there for both, in the best possible ways.

Some highlights from our 23-ish years of friendship include:

*  The time Mary woke up to find ________  and _________on the green sofa bed, wearing ________.

*  The time Rachel got married and Mary ________ too much _______ and ended up in ____________.

*  The time Tasha came over and there were haircuts and then we _________ and went to __________ where we _________________________________________________________________________.

OK, the things that immediately come to mind are not completely appropriate for sharing.  Not that they're so racy (but I'd be lying if I said none were racy), but a lot of them are personal, more confidential.  They aren't tawdry, but private.  Whether intentional or not, we have found ourselves with each other in some very trying times--and some that are really tough to remember because we were having too much fun.  A LOT of fun.  Tasha was there, too, so ask her what she remembers.

It's been about 5 years since Mary and I last saw each other, and though we have no idea how long it'll be before we see each other again, Dean and I walked Mary and Mat to the corner today and put them in a cab without overdoing the hugging, without promising to keep in better touch, without planning future visits.

Because we know we're just an email away.

And we know we have a TON of dirt on each other.  So we'll be staying on each others' good sides.

Love you, Mary!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

First Saturday Back

Whoo-Hoo!  Saturday Fun Day!

Quick run-down of our day:

Homemade brunch, courtesy of Chef Dean
Tackling the baby registry
Sorting through Rwanda notes
Lunch at Shake Shack
New Harness for Hank
Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf mocha
Visit to the funky Swedish baby shop (where they sell clothes, not Swedish babies)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy at the movies
Visit from Fenny and Sean, who helped move the Damn Bookcase downstairs (Sean, not Fenny.  Fenny is a dog.)
Leftover lamb burgers and cupcake brownies
Catching Dean up on the TV he missed while he was away

Tomorrow, my dear friend and college roommate, Mary Thomas, will be in town, and we get to see her!  I'll probably have a Sunday Fun Day post after that. :)

Friday, February 24, 2012


Dean is home now, and doing this blog is harder than ever.

In fact, I'm only writing this because I skipped yesterday.

I had a commercial audition yesterday that went well, and I met a family who moved to NYC from North Carolina for their 7 year old's career.  The little girl has already been on Broadway, several TV shows and commercials, and it looks like she'll be in the upcoming revival of Annie.

I thought it was brave and cool and supportive for this family to make the move- and the kid "has it."  She was articulate and laid back and not a stereotypical child actor at all.  And it was nice to hear the Southern accent on the dad (Mom was at work.)

I hope that girl got the gig.  I'll let you know what I hear.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Overheard Today

No lie.  These are actual things I heard people say today:

Mom to Kid:  Nobody wants a BOOK.

Woman talking to Husband: Please! $50 isn't going to keep some guy from diddling his kid!

I saw actor Matthew Rhys in the Juice Generation today (he played the gay brother, Kevin, on "Brothers and Sisters"), and he said to his pretty friend, "Hello Darling, did you get any sleep last night?  Me either."  You should say that in a British accent, because he's British.  And we both ordered the medium Supa Dupa Greens.

Dean is finally home from Rwanda, and arrived bearing gifts (Yay!) as well as being a little turned around by time zones (Awww.)  So, we're going to sleep at 8:30.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

At a Loss for Words

I'm at a loss for words.  Literally.

I'm out of things to write about today.  I'm spent.  

I stood all day long in long lines, playing an immigrant coming through Ellis Island.  My lower back hurts.  Two little boys made me question parenthood.  An old man with sour cream breath would NOT stop talking to me.  Joaquin Phoenix smells like a cigarette.

Dean comes home tomorrow after two weeks in Africa.  I have to pick up clothes off the floor and file paperwork and sweep and lint roll everything before he gets here.  And he misses wheat bread and bourbon, so I need to go to the store.

I just ate a giant hunk of brie because I found it in the fridge.  I'm not even hungry.  I ate it because it was there.  And I was watching The Biggest Loser while I ate it.

That's all I got.  Thank you and goodnight.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Mom left this evening to head back to South Carolina.

And you know, I'm a little sad.  I'm surprised I'm a little sad, but after 10 days with someone, I guess you get used to sharing the same space.  You become accustomed to the extra paper towels wadded up on the counter, and the bathroom light being left on.

You get used to teaching someone all the cool things the iPhone can do, and come to enjoy the singing of random, original tunes throughout the apartment.

You find there are similarities between two of the people who love you the most, as they both make the coffee in the morning before they take Hank out for his first walk of the day.

You feel overjoyed when you see her face light up at your ultrasound appointment, and go to sleep smiling as you listen to her in the next room, negotiating for couch space with the dog.

You're incredibly proud when your friends meet and love her instantly, and are reminded of all the reasons you love her, too.

Mom may have left to go home today, but she's still here.  At least as long as I leave her last wadded up paper towel on the counter. :)

Love you, Mom.  See you in April.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dim Sum and Then Some

Mom has been here for 9 days.

We've done a lot of home improvement, more baby shopping than we probably should have, and have dined out repeatedly.  We've slept in, watched TV movies, seen a play, gone to a doctor's appointment, walked Hank, and have had a fun-and rather normal-visit.

I was a little worried Mom may be bored, and wracked my brain to come up with cool things to do.

I'd envisioned taking Mom to Ellis Island, and finding a Minogue or a Quinn signature on some passenger list, Mom pointing at it with tears in her eyes, grateful that I brought her to this special place to make this special discovery.  It was going to be A Moment We Remembered Forever.

That didn't happen.  It was kind of cold for a boat ride.

I thought we could take a Circle Line cruise around Manhattan, seeing the city from an entirely new vantage point, Mom beaming with pride that we'd moved here, a la Mary Tyler Moore, and are Making It After All.

That didn't happen either.  Cold.  Boat.

I was Hell-bent on Mom having a definitive New York Experience, so today, her last full day in NYC, we ventured to Elizabeth Street in China Town for dim sum.  Dean and I have never been for dim sum since we got here, and my last attempt a year or so ago was thwarted, so TODAY was the day.  Like it or not.

Dim Sum is like a brunch of Chinese tapas- little plates of (mostly) delicious goodies, brought around to your table on carts and trays.  "Would you like some sticky pork buns?"  Yes, yes I would.  "Shrimp and seaweed?" Yes.  "Sticky rice?"  No, thank you.  Mom is still mastering chop sticks.  "A giant plate of bok choy?"  Indeed.

The thing about dim sum is that one waits outside on a crowded sidewalk for what feels like a really long time, before being called inside to finally eat.  You're given a number by the hostess, and they'll hopefully eventually call you before "One Hour" has passed (the standard answer for "How long will it be?"  And if you're clever, you can go to the other dim sum place next door, get a number there, and straddle the invisible line, straining to hear which place calls which of your numbers first.  Which is what we did.  In fact, another girl got called by one place first, and gave us HER number, so we doubled our chances of getting called.  But I digress.

Aside from a weird bite of something pork-like, we had great food, and a memorable New York Experience.  Waiting on the sidewalk, reading (not REALLY reading) all the Chinese signs, watching the array of people pass by, being offered fine counterfeit bags and watches on the street, smelling those little balls of fried dough for sale at street all added up to a fun afternoon.

Now, to finish all this leftover bok choy.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Joy is Contagious

(Note:  I'm aware I missed a day of our blogging challenge yesterday.  I'm human.  In fact, I'm currently a human and a half, and I make the occasional mistake.)

Planning for a baby is supposed to be fun.  There's nursery decorating, and clothes shopping, and registries to complete... so much fun stuff to do.

However, there is a little teeny damper put on that stuff when you live in a teeny, one-bedroom apartment in NYC.  Space is an enormous issue (or a small one, as the case may be), so decorating a nursery isn't really an option or concern.  Instead, we will select a shade to paint the "Baby's Wall," and do our best to find SMALL pieces of furniture that complement what we already have going on downstairs.  (That sounded bad.  To clarify: our bedroom is downstairs, and when I refer to what we have "going on" down there, I mean in a decorating sense, get what I mean.)

We've been working hard to get rid of things we no longer need or use, because every little thing takes up precious space.  Consequently, we've not bought a ton of baby things just yet, for fear of not having a place to put them.  Many people have insisted we NOT go on a shopping spree just yet, because other people will give us things for the baby, either in the form VERY welcome hand-me-downs (Fletcher and Michelle, and Tasha and Amanda) or shower gifts (anyone else who is so inclined.)

But with Mom in town, there has been some baby shopping.  I mean, we can't disappoint a grandma-to-be, can we?  We can't deny her that pleasure.  And today, we had brunch with our friend Stefania, who is ALSO pregnant.  Stefania knows where all the baby sales are (not actual babies, but items for babies), so naturally, we had to do a little shopping after we ate.

And you know what?  Baby excitement is contagious.  Although we went to just two stores, we all had the baby fever, picking up outfits for tiny people we've not yet met.  Showing each other what we thought was the most adorable thing in the store, sharing suggestions, and asking other shopping parents for their advice on strollers, snow suits, and hats.  (Note: new parents love to share advice, and I welcome it.)

And we had a great time.  Even though I've kept my shopping to a minimum, the baby joy is contagious.

Now to paint that wall...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Little Bit of Magic

Lately, I've been feeling the baby kick a lot.  Mom is in town, and she's bought lots of cute clothes for the little guy.  Every day, things are becoming more and more real.  Dean and I are going to be someone's parents.

I get a lot of ultrasounds because, A)  I'm pregnant, and B) I'm taking part in a Columbia University study that not only pays be $80 in American cash, but ALSO gives us occasional 3D ultrasound images, in addition to the regular, grainy kind.

Today, I had another ultrasound.  Dean usually goes with me, but since he's in Rwanda, Mom got to go (can you say excited?)  It happened to be a 3D ultrasound day.

And things just got a little more real.

(Photo to follow, once I clear it with My Baby Daddy.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Matinee Beef

Today, Mom and I saw a matinee of the play, "Seminar."

The script was good, the actors were good, the set was pretty...all of it.  Good.

What wasn't good, you ask?  Why, clearly you know what to expect from MY blog, don't you?  You, Gentle Reader, recognize that complaining about something is infinitely more entertaining that talking about how much we liked a play.  So, thank you.  Thank you for reading- and becoming familiar with- my blog.

On to the griping.

1.  The seats at the Goldman Theatre are teeny tiny, which is fine spatially, because we are not "great big ol' fat people," to quote Silence of the Lambs' Jame Gumb.  What stinks (literally) about them is the proximity you are to your neighbor's smelly air.  This smelly air can come in many forms.  Today, I thought it was old lady farts, but it might have been horrendous rot breath.  Mom thought it was the stench of preteen B.O. from the kid in front of us.  In any event, we were close enough to smell air coming out of another person.

2.  There's a cute pre-show recording reminding people to not only turn off their cell phones, but to take a moment to check to be sure they're off.  What the announcement doesn't say, is "unwrap your freaking candy NOW."  What is about a play that makes people want to suck on hard candy?  This play wasn't "Oh, Calcutta," and it didn't take place in a lollipop factory, so nothing about the play itself would inspire people to rummage in their purses during the quietest part of the show and ssslllooooowwwllllllllyyyyyy unwrap a candy to suck on.  Awhile back, we produced a play where my character handed out candy to the audience, but I was smart enough to buy candy with soft, noiseless, paper wrappers.  I'm no dummy.

3.  Akin to the hard candy eater, there was the Plastic Bag Rustler.  Maybe his noisy candy was located deeeeeep in a noisy plastic bag, but again- make your noise before the show starts.  That sound carries, prompting strangers -whether or not they are former teachers- to "shush" you during the show.  You know, these bags are outlawed in Rwanda.  They are illegal, and will be taken away from you at customs if you try to bring them into the country.  Why can't we search people on the way into the theatre?  In college, I worked security at several concerts, and once got to search purses for pot and other contraband at the Metallica show.  I walked away with a pipe and a little weed...which I promptly turned over to the proper authorities.  Because at the time, we were all authorities on something.

There were other mild complaints: too many (very) late arrivals,  a handicap stall in a restroom whose main doors were too skinny for wheelchairs, and $21 double glasses of wine (overheard, and sadly, not ordered.)

But all in all, the show was great.

It's the audience who brought too much drama.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Valentines

I'm so lucky.

Even though my Valentine is on the other side of the world, I am feeling the love today in lots of ways.

My Mom is in town, channeling Betsy Ross, hemming curtains and making our apartment homier.

My sweet dog Hank is here, wagging and whining with delight when I get home from a long day of work.

My email inbox is filled with sweet messages from Dean, sent all the way from Rwanda.

My father has mastered the art of texting, and sent me a sweet message this morning.

And all day long, our little bundle of joy has been kicking and wiggling, reminding me that he's in there, telling me he loves me.

It bears repeating.  I'm so lucky.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Seeing Myself on TV

Every commercial has a target audience.

You can tell when a commercial is made for you, can't you?  I know Dean gets especially quiet and focused when luxury car commercials are on.  While we don't drive luxury cars (we don't drive ANY cars these days except the ones from Hertz), Dean sees himself as the potential driver of one, and therefore sees himself in those commercials.

I have a harder time seeing myself adequately represented in TV ads.

Here are a couple of commercials that don't represent me:

- The Chanel spot with Kiera Knightly, where she drives away on a motorcycle.  I think I could handle the motorcycle- it's the tiny, square bottle of perfume she tucks into her bra at the end that makes me uncomfortable.  I try to keep pointy things away from my breasts.

- Any of the Kay Jewelers spots where a soldier or a work-a-holic gives his wife a Jane Seymour Open Heart Pendant.  Or one of those Pandora/Persona Add-a-Bead bracelets that also serves as an airport conversation starter.  I would rather have the lady at the Korean nail salon dig out my ingrown nail than receive either.  (If you personally like those jewelry items, then THAT commercial is for you!  Congratulations, you found yours.)

Here are some spots where I DO see myself:

- That pasta sauce commercial where the red-headed lady flashes back to her hair and fashion choices in the 80's.  It reminds me of goofing off with my friend Kelley McDonald in 1986.  Or 1987.  Either one.  We were rad and had a great time, despite our hair.  Or because of it.

- Anything with a baby in it.  Lotion ads, detergent spots, diaper commercials (NOTE:  Not that animated "Poop, There it is" diaper spot.  That is disgusting, and I would never buy those diapers, even if I could remember what brand they were selling.)  I'm not drawn to spots with toddlers or older kids.  Just babies.  One step at a time.  Baby steps, as they say.

There's one spot where I'm on the fence.  I haven't quite decided if I love or hate the Garnier hair color spot with Tina Fey.  I adore her, and love that she's a sexy spokesmodel now, but somehow I see less of myself in her now that the glasses are gone and the goofy is rubbed off.  I like a fresh hair color, but I don't like adults in tutus.  I like Awkward Tina, but don't know if Shiny Tina and I would be able to polish off a box of Cheezits together.

So there it is.  I wish you happy commercial watching, and hope you see yourself in there somewhere.

Just not in that one where the kid gets the wedgie, or the spot for Beano.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


In the past two days, I've spent a lot of money at Ikea and The Container Store.  I haven't bought things that I personally want, but instead have come home with things that I think our home needs.  

Apparently, I'm nesting.

I typically hate shopping.  It takes me months and months to finally break down and buy new bras.  I have a 90 minute tolerance for places like Ikea.  Bed Bath and Beyond has too many choices, too many decisions to be made there.  It's akin to the reason Dean and I eloped.

But lately, I've been struck with the undeniable need to make the most of our space.  To store things we need to keep but don't daily use.  To have pieces of furniture that serve double, if not triple duty (though I'm not sure what that might be.)  I've debated basket colors and picked out a bright orange throw to match the new pillow I suddenly HAD to have.  I mean, the sofa needed it.

Our spices need to be on those stairs.  Under our kitchen sink needs to be organized.  A tiny curtain must go up in front of the shelves that house the tools.  Because tools need curtains.  The cat food needs a new plastic tub to be stored in.  Our nightstands need to match.  And this is just the beginning.

I think it's worth it.  Getting our space together, getting it organized before our baby arrives makes me feel good.  The less chaos the better.  

Because I don't want anything distracting that little guy from our new orange throw.


Pregnancy Brain is a real thing.  Look it up.

My mom is in town, and we went to Ikea yesterday, and I spent most of last night putting together drawer inserts for a bookcase we have.  And in my focused state, I neglected the blog challenge.  

I hate that phrase that has become so popular lately, "I fail."  It bothers me when I see people use it on FaceBook, and I'm not exactly sure why.  Homer Simpson's "Doh!" seems a much kinder alternative.

So, "DOH!"

But here are the drawers I built.  They are much more impressive in person.  You'd be proud.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Where I Get It. So Get Used to It.

My friend Sam Pancake did a one man show called, "Sam Pancake and How I Got This Way."

This blog installment should be called, "My Mom is in Town, and That Explains a Lot."

Mom arrived this morning, and spending time together is like...well, spending time with myself.  Meaning, sometimes I see qualities in her that I realize -in that very moment- I possess myself.

These are typically wonderful qualities like generosity and care for others and helpfulness and adorableness, if I do say so myself.  And sometimes they are qualities like asking lots of questions and interrupting.

You may say, "Monica?  You don't ever interru--," and I'd say, "Interrupt!  I know, right?"

Or maybe you and I have hung out and I've asked pressing, important questions like, "Why would anyone buy a PT Cruiser," or "What did my cat just say?"  And perhaps, though highly unlikely, you rolled your eyes when my back was turned, or responded with an exasperated and non-commital, "huh."

Well, I am here to tell you...get used to it.  It's genetic.  And since my mom is awesome, these qualities are also awesome.  In time, you will find them endearing, just ask Dean and my stepdad Mike.

Or ask my kid in about 30 years.

By then he'll have stopped rolling his eyes behind my back.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sharing the Love.

Yesterday, I gave my wedding dress away.

Even though there were tons of opportunities for me to wear it again (to our romantic beach getaway, to a renewal of our vows, to the grocery store), I made the supreme sacrifice and gave it to someone who could use it more than I could.

In fact, I think I gave it to a whole lot of someones.

A few years ago, Dean saw a blurb in a church bulletin in Columbia, South Carolina, asking for used wedding dresses. It turned out that there was a wedding dress rental business in Kibungo, Rwanda, and this South Carolina church was taking ongoing donations of dresses to send there.  The rental business is woman-owned, and provides employment opportunities for women who alter, clean, and store the dresses, as well as a valuable service for women who want to rent a traditional Western wedding dress for their special day.

Dean was intrigued, and saw the beginnings of a fascinating play in that blurb.  There were lots of questions:  Why Christianity, why the white dresses?  Why did these SC women feel such a passionate connection to this cause, and what made them travel multiple times to Rwanda in an effort to help?  How was Rwanda different after the genocide?  And there were lots of less serious questions, like what to pack?  And will there be a chance to hold a baby gorilla?

We learned that getting the dresses to Kibungo is prohibitively expensive, and the best way to transport them is to send them with someone who is already traveling there.  So yesterday, Dean left for two weeks in Rwanda with an extra suitcase filled with donated dresses, including my own.

It's neat to think that someone else-lots of other women, potentially- will wear it on such a special day.  My dress can help some women make a living.  Make a life.

My little dress served its purpose here.  I had a great time in it, and even got to wear it TWICE- once at the wedding and once at the party two months later. And I have lots of photos to remind me how happy I was wearing it on those days.

Passing it on to lots of women I may never meet is a pretty good feeling.

And since I couldn't travel to Africa, at least my dress could.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stop Your Whining. OK, Stop MY Whining.

So, I've had a couple of whiny blog posts about reevaluating my current place in the NYC Actor world.  Lots of "woe is me, I'm so pregnant, I can't audition for anything, wahhh wahhh, wah."

Yesterday, the universe said, "Shut up, already.  HERE."  And it handed me the coolest day I've had in a long time.  What happened, you ask?  Allow me to elaborate.

I had an audition with a kick-ass company called Exit, Pursued By a Bear (the name is taken from a stage direction in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale), led by director Ed Iskandar.  The show is written by Jeff Whitty, who musical theatre people may know as the writer of Avenue Q, Bring it On- the Musical, and the upcoming Tales of the City, with music by The Scissor Sisters.  Yeah, that guy.  And not only did he write this show, he's in it- and...he was my scene partner for my audition.  So, that was pretty cool.

I had to walk through Times Square to get to my next auditions (details below), and it was a beautiful, sunny day.  It was kind of magical, and I really felt like an Actor on the Move.  Or, more accurately, Pregnant Actor on the Move with Sore Knees.  But it still felt a little like an episode of "Smash."

I recently re-joined Actors Equity Association (that's a story in itself, but the lesson you should take away from it is: read the fine print, and don't be dumb), and yesterday I finally got around to heading to some auditions at the AEA Audition Center on 46th Street.  Non-union actors are permitted to sign up for auditions on a waiting list, and are required to wait in an adjacent hallway with benches.  They're not allowed to use the AEA restroom, and instead must go to the nearby McDonald's or Times Square Visitors Center to relieve themselves.  To make matters worse, most Equity actors walk through the Hallway of Hopefuls to get to the slightly nicer, union waiting room, restrooms, and dressing rooms.  I've been one of those non-union actors watching the fancy actors stroll past, not making eye contact with us.  It was like we were asking for money on the 1 Train.  And yesterday, I was the one walking through the HoH, avoiding eye contact with the younger, hungrier actors.  And it felt good.  And a little bad.  But mostly good.

(For the record, I tried a new-ish monologue for one audition, and it was just so-so.  For the other audition, I went back to my tired-and-true, pick-me-up of a monologue from a play called Frozen, about a murdered kid.  It went great.)

After some dog-walking and snacking, I headed to the last meeting of my commercial class at One on One Studios- the class where we audition for some commercial agents.  I just typed this whole description of who the three agents were and what they were like, but I deleted it.  Instead, I'll say that after my audition, they were kind and complimentary, and THEN I told them I was pregnant.  I could see one visibly deflate and make a note on my resume.  One (whom I already knew) was politely congratulatory.  And the third, the only male (and French, apparently), asked how far along I was, then told me he has a client who just booked a spot and was VERY pregnant- they just put her in a big coat.  He said, "Oh, you have time still to work," and right then and there I decided he was my favorite.  

To top it all off, on the train home there were four older men singing "This Magic Moment," complete with harmonies and snapping.  I totally gave them a dollar.

So, it was a great day.  The Universe had grown tired of my whining, and showed me that I'm still talented and smart, and that there are still opportunities out there for a gal like me.

And then, in an effort to keep me humble, the Universe made my shins, knees, and ankles start to ache, reminding me that the cutest shoes are not always the best shoes.

I'll still take it.