Tag Archives | babies

I’ve been fitbit

It started innocently enough. A friend of mine who just had her second child bought herself a fitbit, a little piece of digitized plastic that tracks how many steps you take in a day, the miles you walk, and the calories you burn.  Or the lack thereof, depending.

R. swore by her little doodad; she walked and she walked and now, damned if she isn’t on week four of a  couch to 5K program.  She swears the fitbit got her moving.

How could a little piece of plastic with a happy face on it motivate a person, I thought to myself, tossing another handful of candy corn into my mouth.

Here’s the thing: in New York, people walk. New Yorkers walk everywhere and if we’re not walking, we’re running to the subway, hauling ass up and down the stairs.  New Yorkers are like sharks: stop moving and we’ll die.

But out here in the land of cheap gas and big cars?  It’s a bit like walking in LA: people do it, but everyone around you thinks you’re a lunatic.  Plus the long distances between, say, where you live and where your children play football every damn day because you’re a spineless parent who didn’t say no exercise their angelic bodies on the football pitch, necessitate driving, which is why my butt is slowly morphing into the shape of my car seat.

Besides, we are moving into the season of festive eating, which will be followed quickly by the season of omigodimturningfifty and I think it’s time that I rid myself of that pesky baby weight.  The baby just turned nine, and although I hate to rush into anything, I guess I’d like to start my next decade sylph-shaped rather than car-shaped.

I swallowed my skepticism (along with more candy corn) and bought a fitbit.  Not the super-duper fitbit that measures everything, even the efficiency of my sleep (It’s simple: I don’t get enough sleep. Don’t need a piece of plastic to tell me that: just look at the baggage under my eyes.)

For the past few weeks, I’ve had the fitbit clipped to my pocket and every night it syncs to my computer.  It’s a little bit addictive, I have to say.  A person doesn’t want to think she can be so easily manipulated motivated by smiley faces and cheerful messages but . . . the other day I was in my office and had about 45 minutes before my next meeting. Usually I would check in on my other addiction — Tom and Lorenzo — but instead I went for a little walk outside.  Added a few thousand steps to my daily total … all in search of a CHAMP! button.

I don’t know if I’ve lost any weight yet, but now that I’ve finished the candy corn (imported from the States by a visiting friend, who I’m not sure I should thank or curse), I have a fighting chance. And yes, I know I could just choose not to eat the candy corn, but that seems just silly, given that Josh went to all the trouble of bringing it from Brooklyn.

I’m going to fitbit myself all the way to fifty, I guess, but just look at that little smiling face.  Wouldn’t that face make you take an extra step or two?






Continue Reading · on November 28, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, aging, exercise, growing up, me my own personal self, NaBloPoMo

an anniversary

A year and a day ago, Husband and I knelt in front of the departure counter at JFK, enroute to our new home in Abu Dhabi, and played “rearrange the suitcases” because two of our suitcases were over the weight allotment for international travel. Liam slunk behind a pillar so he could pretend he didn’t know us, while Caleb laughed at the sight of stuffed animals, Trader Joe’s multi-grain pancake mix, and pairs of shoes being tossed from one suitcase to another. Husband and I tried to pretend that we had everything under control as  we shuffled around our belongings, but as our whispered cursing revealed, we were nervous wrecks trembling on the brink of disintegration.

Instead of shipping things to Abu Dhabi, we’d decided to max out our luggage allowance and bring everything with us in suitcases. Twelve suitcases, to be exact, each stuffed beyond capacity. Oh, and five or six carry-ons, plus entire satchels of anxiety. If the Joads from Grapes of Wrath had traveled by plane, we were what they would’ve looked like.  At least we weren’t carrying livestock.

A year and a day later, I’m writing this post in the screen porch of a house we rented in Long Beach Island, “down the shore” in New Jersey (a completely Snooki-free zone, thank god), and right now that sweaty anxious moment in the airport seems like a dream. In fact, our entire life in Abu Dhabi seems like a dream. It’s easy to imagine that we’ll pack up from here, drive back into Manhattan to our cramped apartment and resume life as we knew it.

But no. For one thing, we don’t have an apartment in the city anymore; for another, I seem to have lost my New York callouses. When we were in the city last week, it seemed extraordinarily loud, crowded, dirty, and expensive–the things that out-of-towners always say about Manhattan. There were some perfect moments–a gathering of old friends for an evening picnic, a night at the Delacorte in Central Park with Husband, watching “Into the Woods,” lingering in the Met with my dear friend S. from San Francisco and then wending our way to a ladies lunch, complete with quartinos of crisp summer wine. Bliss.

But also? Sirens, and slow-moving tourists, and traffic jams along 14th street that seemed to last for days.  I found myself thinking “at least in Abu Dhabi there’s a dedicated left turn lane, for god’s sake.” Yes. It’s true. I miss Abu Dhabi traffic patterns, despite the death-defying drivers slinging themselves into those turn lanes.

Trying to cram all my visiting into a week (and yes, I know, I missed many of you, apologies apologies apologies) meant moving fast: coffee downtown, lunch uptown, drinks in Queens. I felt winded all week; I don’t move that fast any more. My friends in New York move at a pace that I recognize but no longer practice.  Some part of me feels like I’ve lost my macho mojo–I mean, I regularly used to win the “who is busiest of them all” competitions–but part of me is happy to have slowed down.

I spent this past year feeling as if I were floating, as if I were playing pretend in someone else’s life. It reminded me of those early days of parenthood, when I would wait for the “real mommy” to show up and take over, because I sure as hell didn’t know what I was doing. Remember those days? When you’d just drift through the day, sleepless and bemused, and just getting the laundry folded (okay, just getting the laundry washed) felt like an epic accomplishment? Yeah. Much of the first year of expat life felt like that.

Now, however, to continue my metaphor, it’s as if that damn baby has finally started kindergarten and I can get some of my life back. My brain is waking up: there’s a non-fiction book percolating, and a novel or two. I am discovering what expat writers have been discovering for generations: sometimes being on the outside is the best way to get at what’s inside.

So. A year. I’m looking forward to going back and–because ambivalence is my true homeland–I am also bereft at the thought of once again saying good-bye to my family and friends. This whole expat thing would be great if you could just bring all the people you love along with you, don’t you think?  That’s what we were trying to do last year with our over-packed suitcases: cram “home” into our luggage so we wouldn’t be lonely.

But maybe loneliness is a fact of expat life, maybe it’s something you adjust to, like breathing in the Abu Dhabi heat or hearing the call to prayer and knowing what time it is.

I don’t know what will happen in this next year of expat life and I don’t know if these ideas stretching around in my head will amount to much.  I know only one thing for sure: I am bloody well weighing all my damn suitcases before I get to the airport.

See how much I’ve learned in a year?

sunset from my apartment window in Abu Dhabi






Continue Reading · on August 14, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, moving, NYC, Parenting, UAE

A Baby Bash

Not for me. That store is closed, closed, closed. But for the amazing Alison, of Mama Wants This.  She is having her second child sometime this month and three of my favorite bloggers have put together an online baby shower for Alison, who (in)conveniently for the rest of us lives in Malaysia.

Erica, the most-excellent curator of yeahwrite (and a great writer in her own (w)right), wants us to guess the incoming baby’s arrival stats, so because my most recent child (he’s almost 8, so “recent” is a relative term) was big and late, I’m going to wish for Alison that her second baby is small and slightly early: so let’s say 8 May and 6 pounds I mean, 2.7 kilos. (Damn that U.S. school system and their failure to teach me metrics.)

Stasha the best list-maker (and photographer) in the Pacific Northwest asks us to find baby presents for Scrumplet on Pinterest. Okay, I don’t pin. No clue how to pin, don’t really need to introduce yet more screen-related interactions into my life, so I will add my gift here, the way we used to do it in the good-old-fashioned steal-a-photo-and-paste-it days.

My favorite baby read-aloud book, which I read to both my boys until the book’s edges were frayed and curled. Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,  As they rocked in the wooden shoe, And the wind that sped them all night long, Ruffled the waves of dew. The little stars were the herring fish, That lived in that beautiful sea—Now cast your nets wherever you wish—Never afeard are we”; So cried the stars to the fishermen three: Wynken, Blynken, and Nod…”  It’s a lovely little poem, just the right thing to put little babies (or their big brothers) to sleep.

Ado, from The Momalog, is currently on a screen-free week, which makes her not only a better mom than I am, but a better person too. Of course, I sort of knew that already but now she’s proved it. Something about a screen-free week campaign and an organization called Commercial-free childhood . AS IF. Okay, true, my kids basically watch no commercial TV but that’s because  A) we’ve always just watched taped programs or videos, so we either skip the commercials or it’s “just” a video w/no ads.  And now we don’t really have “tv” here in Abu Dhabi other than a variety of streaming soccer channels. Plus, B) my kids would rather play computer games, which is why achieving screen-free space is something I’m just too weak to attempt. More on that later.  For the shower, Ado asks for our favorite baby photo and quote about parenting, so I give you my sweet Caleb, about a week old:

And given that this is an online baby shower, it seems appropriate to use a blogger’s comment about parenting. I read this comment a long time ago on Mom-101; I think maybe it was her mom who said it, or perhaps she got it from somewhere else, but the advice is this: “remember that everything you do as a parent will be right and everything you do as a parent will be wrong.” I figure that about sums it up: we do the best we can with what we’ve got; we’re bound to screw up hourly some of the time, but mostly, if we get down on the floor and play with our kids; if we (yes, Ado, I hear you) look up from our screens long enough to pay attention and listen, then probably (fingers crossed) everything is going to be okay. Well – all of that and lots of naps. Maybe the occasional Pinot, too.

Happy baby, Alison; happy shower; and many thanks to our lovely internet hostesses (which I’m afraid makes you all sound a bit like you work for an escort service).

Continue Reading · on April 30, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, birth, Books, Kids, Parenting

Monday Listicle: Tips for New Parents

It seemed like a good idea in theory, this having babies thing, right?  A dimple-cheeked bundle swathed in cuddly rompers and you getting to join the  Bugaboo-bumper car game in the grocery store.  Your partner would gaze at you (adoringly, of course) while you nursed, in a scene straight out of some Renaissance Pieta painting; and then you would push your (adorably) sleeping baby through the streets in the pram, in order to walk off that wee leftover baby poochy bit that’s still preventing your size 4s from zipping.

Or that was the theory, anyway. Welcome to the reality of Monday’s Listicle topic, hosted by Stasha and dreamed up by Cookie: tips for new moms.

1. Here’s the first tip: disregard all tips and advice. New parenthood equals survival mode. Do what works. If that means you live entirely on mac-and-cheese, go for it. If it means all you want is spicy doritos, make someone hightail it to the store and get it for you now.  There’s a reason the first three months of a newborn’s life are called the fourth trimester. You have needs and they should be met immediately. Logic and “appropriate” have absolutely nothing to do with it.

2. There is no such thing as “sleep training” a little baby and particularly not a newborn.  Other parents will (smugly) announce that their little baby was sleeping through the night from birth and shake their heads pityingly at you, who obviously gave birth to some lower life form.  Here’s a thought for those smug parents: fuck ’em.  If their kid is sleeping through the night now, fine, but you know what? That’s gonna change, because…

3 …nothing stays the same with a new baby.  You think you’ve figured out the rhythm, you think there’s a sleep pattern, a feeding pattern, a crying pattern.  And there is.  For about a week.  But then that little squiblet grows, or gets a shot, or you enter the dark of moon, and everything goes straight to hell. You’re back at the beginning again.  Try not to let this constant cycle of change make you cry, because…

4.  … new parenthood is designed to teach you an important lesson that you should carry forward into the rest of your parenting life: you may think you’re in control, you may want to be in control, but you have given birth to another person. This person will, eventually, achieve autonomy and independence and language.  All of these things are a mixed blessing.

5.  Get outside. Even if you’re in the middle of winter (or the middle of summer or it’s raining or it’s snowing or it’s that you don’t want to leave the couch), get the hell outside. Breathe some fresh air, look at the sky. Maybe even without the baby. Walk around the block, down the street, across the field, wherever the hell you live. If you have to take the baby with you, take the baby with you, but better if you can find someone who will watch the baby so that you can be vertical on your own, without being attached to this new life you’ve spawned.

6.  The new life you’ve spawned will be okay if you are not there twenty-four hours a day.  Seriously. Would you want you hovering over your face every waking minute? No. You would not. You look like hell, your hair is unwashed and because you’ve been living on mac-and-cheese and doritos, your breath is pretty atrocious too.  You can leave the baby unwatched, in a car seat, in a crib, in another room, for the length of time it takes to shower, for example. You do not need to lug the child into the bathroom while you shower; you do not need to have the child in the room when you take that first post-partum poop.  If you must, bring the baby monitor into the bathroom with you. But everyone will be happier if you can remember that the physical attachment part happened in utero, and now the cord has been cut.  Separating also means…

7. … let other people help you.  Other people can hold babies without dropping them; other people have even been known to change diapers. (Okay, not my own father, but that was a different era, so he gets a pass. Sort of. I’ve worked it out with my therapist, so it’s all good).  You are allowed to ask for help, you are allowed to cry, you are allowed to say “this sucks shit and I’m bored and tired and fat and my ass hurts.”  Being a new mom is not like being in the military: there are no gold stars for bravery; there is no oak leaf cluster for being stoic. Stoic is for the ancient Greeks. And lok what happened to them. Met any ancient Greeks recently? Exactly.

8. But by the same token, remember that, in fact, there have been other babies in the history of the world. Yours may be the most beautiful, adorable genius that’s ever puked milk down a shoulder, but that notwithstanding, other children exist in the world–and have rolled over, spat up, smiled, farted, sneezed, and been generally “amazing ohmigod let me just show you this twenty-five minute video of her sleeping and then look, wait for it, she twitches! Isn’t that just the cuuuuuuutest thing ever??” Resist the temptation to tell everyone everything that your little darling has done. Save it for your mom, or maybe for twitter, where you can’t see people roll their eyes and hit delete.

9. If your baby is seriously ill, god forbid, or has to spend time in the NICU, god double forbid, find some comfort in the fact that the bond between parent and child can–and has–moved mountains. You will be able to withstand just about any amount of pain if it means getting your child well.

10. Don’t be surprised by how much you love that little blob of human flesh. All the books, all your friends with kids, will say “everything changes” once you have kids, and you probably nodded and said “yeah, yeah, sure, it changes, I can’t go out drinking until all hours any more, whatever.”  What they don’t say is that when you look at this baby, your entire world view shifts from somewhere in the front of your brain, where intellect resides, into somewhere deep in the reptilian brain, where instinct lives.  Suddenly you–your shoe collection, your thoughts about a new car, a new iphone, a promotion–don’t matter. Your happiness will now be directly correlated to the happiness of that mewling blob. As a parent you will now be always wrong and always right, frequently simultaneously (I read that somewhere on Mom-101, can’t remember exactly where, but I can’t take credit for those words of wisdom).  This contradiction is just another manifestation of the dizziness you’ll feel the first time you look into the eyes of this… .being… and feel your world shift on its axis. The dizziness doesn’t every fully leave you, either. You’ll be going along just fine and one day, when the baby is a little older, maybe ten or eight or something, you’ll look at the kid out of the corner of your eye and whammo, the love you feel will almost flatten you.  That whammo? That’s parenthood.


Double-dipping again today because when it’s List Day followed by Lovelinks Day, well, one column will have to serve for both!  So click over to The Good Life for other tips for new moms and click over here for lovelinks #28 (for virgins!)

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Continue Reading · on October 24, 2011 in birth, Children, family, Monday Listicle, Parenting

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