Benchmark

 What most people think is often not what they feel. What most mums say is always never what they feel. Why?
1- because we are probably afraid to scare our partners, husbands, wives shitless.  If husbands, partners etc. start looking at you worryingly it’s better to say  you are fine, right? I mean, do you really want to see their loving look of concern turn into a look of complete sheer panic (e.g.my wife is crying and is acting psycho on me and I don’t even know how the washing machine works or what the kids are eating these days!)??? Nope indeed.
2- because we certainly do not want our own mums to intervene and move in.
What do we do then to get by? After some conversations with mama girlfriends we agreed that the following was of huge help: wine and any various types of strong liquors (all of us drink, the only differences are what we drink and what time we start), lots of coffee, headphones to cut off the screams, food, online shopping, medication and  benchmarking. Benchmarking is the process of determining who is the very best, who sets the standard, and what that standard is.
In business, this can help you find your core competencies, increase customer satisfaction or analyze your competitors.
In life it is a little trickier. Turns out that many girlfriends admitted that when they hit a rough patch, they think of DH and I with our 3 babies and then stop whining. I feel both weirdly proud and unsettled that I am the benchmark for ‘losing control’ .
As for me, I have two types of benchmarks, the ‘downers’ i.e. those which unfortunately make me wallow in self-pity and the ‘uppers’ i.e.those which make me feel better and energized. These days, my ‘downers’ contain pretty much everyone but these are the big guns: child free gay couples, women in their twenties, Knicks season ticket holders (unreasonable tickets price raise + cost of baby sitting + cost of stadium food = me saying bye bye to my season tickets) and parents who have one child. During our last date night, DH and I were ogling at this couple with their toddler son in a high chair. I was jealous not because the kid was disgustingly well behaved, eating and drawing on his own, not because the dad was relaxed nor because the mum was smiling but because the parents were eating with BOTH their hands. BOTH their hands. Of course they left the restaurant on a tandem bike with the kid in the back, DH hissed ‘Show offs…’

In my ‘uppers’ category I put: working mums, mum-entrepreneurs, mums who look hot despite having baby’s snort on their cheek, and now a woman I don’t even know who lives somewhere in England and has 4 planned children under 4 year old. Insane. My friend Tess called me: ‘Girl, I found a new benchmark. You are off the hook. This woman pushes a double stroller with kids in it up the hill to go to pre-school every day while having the newborn in a baby carrier and holding the hand of a toddler!’ I truly feel awful but this made my day because next time I am telling people I am doing OK I will be thinking of Lady Rose – that’s how I call this crazy and I am sure wonderful woman catching up her breath on top of a hill with 4 kids in tow.

Fashion babbling: the challenge

I have meant to write this post the very day I started my blog but I have been too much of a coward to do it. I have to be honest with myself and say it out loud: I have an addiction and it is time to kick it to the curb. I am a M.C.A i.e. a maternity clothing addict. G & P were born early 2011, L mid 2012 but I still owe and (pathetically) wear on a regular basis the following items
4 pairs of maternity jeans and trousers
2 maternity leggings
4 maternity dresses
At least 10 tops
and an embarrassingly number of bras and underpants which I will probably continue to buy until I die since I cannot see how I will be able to ever wear sexy lingerie again. The thought of running after my kids with a wedgie is very, very disturbing. Every time I try to throw something away, it finds its way back into my closet. My GAP maternity flare jeans literally spent one week on a bar stool, 10 mins on my trash can lid, 4 days on the bar stool, 1 day in the laundry basket and ended up back on the shelf of my wardrobe.

One of the reasons why I’m holding onto these is that  my maternity wardrobe cost me a fortune because I went through 4 maternity sizes during both my pregnancies and I feel horrible throwing all this money away. Yes 4 sizes…
Small: I showed very early on and after two months I could not fit in my ‘normal’ clothes anymore. In fact most people thought I was in my second trimester. It was OK though because I could still play with accessories to distract from my belly. It was all about layers and layers of necklaces, oversized bows, oversized brooches hats and headpieces.

Medium and large: I quickly went through various sizes and fittings and had to give up jeans and trousers altogether. Prints had to go, they became a NO-NO when I found myself almost crying when I tried on a flower dress and looked like a freaking piñata.

Extra large: yes, for a woman who used to be a US size 6 before getting preggers it is quite an achievement. By month 7 of my first pregnancy, I was walking like a penguin about to die and was rolling out of bed like a whale about to die. I could not even wear leggings anymore and had to settle for LBDs (Large Black Dresses). The last month of my twin pregnancy I had to cut my extra large underwear on the sides to release the tightness around my thighs. It was bad. I think I kept these underpants as trophies for about a month after the twins were born. I am demented.

Here’s a snapshot of my journey.

But the main reason I am dragging my feet and indulge myself in these worn out sweatpants is that I am absolutely terrified by the three boxes on the bottom shelf of my wardrobe. These boxes contain my old clothes including my favorite JBrand skinny jeans. From time to time I peek into the box, pretend I am going to try my jeans on but eventually close the box. Not ready for the reality check.

But mark my words, I by this post swear that by the end of the year I will no longer wear any of my maternity clothing. Not one piece.

Dream and reality

After a crazy day running after the kids in Central Park zoo punctuated by two changes of filthy diapers on a bench between sea lions and Rainforest birds, we strolled down Fifth Avenue. I almost choke on the legendary store windows of Bergdorf Goodman, which is celebrating its 111th anniversary. An amazing story of the store which started as a dress atelier told through black and white pictures, exquisite and poetic paper sculptures blending fashion, architecture, literature. I just wanted to dive into this world, my eyes wide open and believe me these days, it is a real struggle to keep them open. I wanted to swim through the 500 lavender orchids, which I have been told are hanging from the ceilings of the main floor inside. But instead of flirting with Manolo and Coco, I was called back to planet Earth by three screaming kids, DH with a bad case of Fifth Avenue phobia and a godfather with a bladder about to explode and sadly, I had to move on. Anyhow, thank you Bergdorf Goodman for those few seconds of magic and for creating a universe in which my alter ego is sewing a royal blue turban wearing an old ivory tulle skirt and sparkling heels. I made a collage to be used as potential visual support for when I am nursing in the wee hours of the morning.

Life swap

The week end when DH and I were going to have a stay-cation in the children’s godfathers’ Chelsea pad had finally arrived. Hallelujah ! Of course the kids got a bug and were vomiting right, left and center. I was really tempted to hide that information from Archibald and Thor in fear they would bail out. But they did not – yeah! As we were leaving though G did try his best to ruin our plans by puking all over me with Archie turning paler and paler by the second and me trying to put on the most desperate fake smile in the world. G = little stinker.

Despite the drama we did manage to get to the godfathers’ place which was pristine. It is like a hotel room: the floor is free of clutter, the sofa is free from milk stains, all the cushions perfectly positioned and Thor had nicely put some brand new white slippers next to the bed for our use. Many emotions were colliding: I felt as if I could literally hear myself breathe for the first time this year, I got very envious of Thor and Archibald’s life, I was also exhilarated by all the things we could be doing tonight such as going to Le Singe Vert for a steak tartare, having cocktails in the Meatpacking district or go dancing in a gay bar. Possibilities were endless. But sheer exhaustion led us to curl up on the sofa and watch the pilot episode of Homeland. Of course I drifted away before the end. I was planning a great night sleep but my body had been trigged by having children. It is like having this white noise machine trapped in your body except that it does not play ‘rain in a tropical forest’ but ‘babies from hell’. I woke up at 1m, 4am and 6am expecting to hear someone cry or nurse someone. What a moron. I also kept checking up my iPhone for updates about the kids. Totally insane.

At 9am I finally got some news. The kids were having a blast. But the godfathers had a not so good night and I suspected they turned into god-bots and lost their brains some time between 1am and 4am as L was having his ‘let’s get the party started’ tantrum.

Exhibit 1:

To the question ‘How many expressos did you take?’ The answer was ‘3, 4, 5…Not sure it’s all a blur’.

Exhibit 2:

To the question ‘How well did they eat their lunch?’ The answer was ‘yeah, kind of ok…Not sure it’s all a blur’.

Exhibit 3:

To the question ‘How often are they pooping?’ The answer was ‘Loads but…Not sure it’s all blur’.

The pinnacle was when I received this text message: Our friend Quentin might join in the morning to help out. He’s a doctor (gynecologist) so should be of use!

It was hysterical to think that to them, my kids might be as scary as (or scarier than) a vagina. I was not going back home so bring on gynecologists, chiropractors or Tae Kwon Do masters for all I care. I was not going home! Scared that they might summon us to get our arses back to Harlem our day became a marathon: lunch at Rosemary’s (yummy Octopus Salame), (disastrous) pool game, mani pedi for DH and chair massage for me, dinner at a Lao restaurant with child free girlfriends with high flying jobs. Very inspiring and a little depressing.

Finally we crashed a birthday party in the basement of an Art Gallery in Lower East Side. And that’s when I started to feel that I was coming back to reality. It was a typical New York party. Cool and unexpected venue. Check. Lots of booze and crackers to feed you.DJ. Check. Legions of young pretty girls with goddesses’ bodies and ‘blirts’ aka belt skirts (note: ladies, straight up your act. With your hot bodies, try cigar pants and a crisp tight shirt or a tux blazer with a white Tee. This could be sexy. Walking like a crab in spasm because you are wearing a belt skirt and endless stilettos IS NOT.). Check. Drugs (I suspect lots). Check. Attitude. Check. Too much attitude. Check. Fun. Oh yeah check and double check.

Oh boy, people were so stylish it was sickening. Now I understood what Archibald meant when he said ‘I’m never going onto a gay cruise. I cannot bear the thought of tucking my belly in for seven days. Too tiring…’ Bloody hell I was trying to hold in my belly all night long and I would have probably fainted if I had not been freaking over people swirling their glasses of red wine over original artwork by Keith Haring. Seriously one spill and I was out. Too skinned to pay for damages. It went from bad to worse when DH and my girlfriends started to sit on an inflatable mattress (the only chairs of the party) and yawn. If people did not know we were old before, now they knew. When we finally decided to leave the party like Cinderella or  should I say like Cinderella’s granny, one of the guests tried to convince us to stay: ‘Oh no, too bad, my friend called me from another party and said he and Sting may come over’ . Me thinking: least subtle name dropping ever. DH asked: ‘Oh yeah? Is he bringing  his guitar?’. Me thinking: DH is a dork! God, we have to leave now!!!

As we were heading towards the subway, laughing and admitting that Lower East Side was awesome but way too wild for us I said to my girlfriends: ‘years ago, I would have stayed, emptied all the wine glasses, tried to snog Sting or his wife and might not have left this party alive. But now…Well, Sting is not going to help me change the kids’ diapers when I get home tomorrow morning,  is he?’

P.S.: Two days after the party it suddenly hit like a ton of bricks that the theme ‘Magic party’ did not actually imply that there was going be a magician but was referring to psychotropic fungi…I am such a loser.

Mood of the day: activist

I woke up pissed off after talking about the presidential elections with friends. I am a mother of three and proud to say that what a woman does with her unwanted fetus is her business. Up to now I have lived in countries where this right was respected and here this right is challenged, spat upon and some people in some states do not even blink an eye. Enough of this war on women. Come on America, I believe in you… I wore my feminist Tee and accessorized the hell out with knee high boots – Go Warrior Mum!

Mood of the day: turban

Summer is over and yeah to Fall, the perfect season to unleash my favorite style: mix and match, schizophrenic and basically the ‘everything goes’ attitude. And for me, it starts with the head. It is too chilly to let my wet hair dry on its own (hair drying is a vague memory of my child free past) and still too warm to go Russian faux fur hat…I thus was more than happy to take my turban out for a walk. I got mine in a vintage shop (somewhere near Centarl Park) some years go and fell in love with the shimmering fabric. I wear it sideways because this keeps it more contemporary and urban. I can wear jeans and sneakers instead of rocking the Sunset Boulevard, the musical style.

My ‘A team’

To start with, as a sort of disclaimer for the following post I have to say that I am a hands on stay at home mum who changes diapers (reluctantly), cooks variably healthy meals for her kids, organizes play dates if there is wine for adults, does an average of 12 wash loads a week etc. But I am not very good at this whole mummy business so I get help. A lot of help and somehow it still seems never enough.

Note: I also apologize for the graphic violence of one section.

A lot of people ask me how we are still alive with 3 babies and especially how we can afford paid help with one salary. Basically we cannot afford it but what are savings for if not for providing a cushion when times get hard, right? So here we are splashing every dime we saved to pay a team to save us.

Who are these paid and volunteer people ?

  • Rosalie, the nanny

Shift: Mon-Friday 9am-6pm

She is from Senegal, Muslim, super organized and an amazing social bee. Thanks to her, my kids have a busier social calendar than me. In fact, she got so concerned by my ‘I don’t want to socialize with other mums because I really don’t like to talk about kids in general’ attitude that she set me up on blind dates with parents of G & P’s play dates. It turns out she was right and I did need to hang out with other mums because let’s be honest here,  I had become insufferable to women without children. About one year after my twins were born I had to admit that very sad truth. And now with three kids, even mums with one child flee me. Really.

The main reason I worship the ground on which Rosalie walks is that while she spends 9 hours a day with the twins she genuinely seems to like them… A true miracle. After 3 hours on my own with my three kids, I would rather clean up the toilet bowl than open up for the 50th time the lid of their favorite toy: the empty diaper wipes box. I am not kidding 50 times: 24 times for G, 24 times for P, and twice for L (he does not know how to demand for it but he keeps jumping up and down when the bloody lid gets opened up). Weirdos.

Anyway,  it is tough to keep a good nanny in Manhattan; it is like a battle for the fittest.  Imagine two women with a hermes bag falling from the sky and landing between them…Well, it’s worse! Competition among mothers obsessed with the welfare of their little Cherubs is fierce sometimes even vicious. One day another mum got Rosalie some extra nanny work because I was on vacation. She then tried to grab her right under my nose offering her a full time position. Bitch!!!! Rosalie said she would not leave us because she felt home with us…Just to make sure she would NEVER leave us, I have trained the kids to shower her with kisses when she arrives in the morning, wait for her outside the bathroom when she gets changed and hug her like she was going to die when she leaves for the day. The poor woman has absolutely no chance.

  • Next is Valentin, the cleaner

Shift: Fridays anytime between 10am and 2pm for 4 hours

He is a very camp, very gay, very Brazilian chatterbox. I honestly don’t think I ever heard him being silent for more than 5 mins. He even speaks to me when I am on the phone (?). He is also unreliable because he is at the beck and call of his main employers. Granted they are this gay power couple with two daughters who owns an entire brownstone house in Brooklyn and a mansion in the Hamptons (with supposedly a big movie star as neighbor). A gal from Harlem cannot win this battle. Today for example he ditched me – he did sound awfully sorry doing so – and I ended cleaning the toilet bowl to G & P’s complete disbelief as they were shadowing me. They almost looked impressed: ‘Maman’ is the only 24h/day, 7day/week staff member and now she even cleans the bathroom. I moved up on the corporate ladder.

Valentin is not the best cleaner but I am addicted to his weirdness and can not resist his kind heart. One morning he asked me: ‘ you are from Laos, aren’t you?’ I said yes. He then went on:’I am asking because I thought of you yesterday. I stayed at my friend’s place downtown and he is into this crazy stuff, snuff movies. He is sick. He showed me a movie where this girl from Laos was holding a food stall on the side of the road with her mum and then bang a car hit and cut her in half and we could see her body parts on the road. Anyway she was from Laos so I thought of you.’ I seriously almost choked to death with a cup of coffee before it was even ten in the morning…

  • There’s also Sophie, the student baby  sitter

Shift: Tuesdays and Fridays 6-7.30 and beyond when we decide to paint the town in red

Sophie is The American Sweetheart. Straight out from Texas. She is so nice that I should probably put a rein on my caustic humor. She does not get it. She smiles, gets red and eventually I sometimes see a flicker in her eyes that say:’What is this woman on???She is psycho.’ I also like that she takes no B.S. from the kids and gently disciplines them. It is always good to get a smart girl from an Ivy League college to discipline your kids. It feels like good money is being invested.

  • Archibald, the godfather

Shift: once to two evenings a week when he is not on a business trip or jet setting around the world sipping bubbly with the other godfather.

I cannot even start to describe how much he is helping out. He is the guy who cleared out his busy business schedule during the last terms of both my pregnancies in case we needed someone to take me to the hospital, help me to push, reanimate nervous DH and so on. In fact, when L was born (in emergency and early) he had to run through Dulles International Airport in Washington with a massive hangover, holding his puke in, to catch the first flight home to NYC to care for the twins on his own. Of course, I probably will have to hear about this story until the day I die because Archibald = DRAMA

  • and X, our secret weapon

X is someone who sleeps on our sofa bed and has multiple functions. This person needs to be able to intervene at times of crisis (which is basically 80% of the time). X holds L, watches one of the twins in the bath while the other is getting dressed, cleans up the after dinner mess, holds L, helps with the cooking, empties the trash cans, runs some errands, holds L, watches Barney the dinosaur at 7.00am with G & P, holds L and so on. In exchange they get food and get to see the most amazing city in the world. Isn’t it a freaking deal? So far, we had two of my cousins, both my sisters, my father in law, my mother in law, my dad, my niece and Benjamin. The good thing about these people is that they are not really active on Facebook so they cannot scare off future potential slaves.

And absolutely everyone who breathes the same air as me. I cannot meet anyone without wondering how they can be of help – even disabled people. I am ashamed.

That’s how we survive. Benjamin told me yesterday: ‘you run a company’. It was quite fitting; I do run a company although not very well if you judge by the state of my living room on a pretty quiet ‘business’ day.

One, two…and three

DH and I gave up. After 2 weeks of sleeping in the living room, a failed attempt to share again our bedroom with L (which basically means L taking two thirds of our bed, DH the other third and me being squeezed between the two) we decided to put L in his brother’s and sister’s room. The rationale was simple: no one in the whole freaking apartment has been sleeping properly in the last week so why not put the kids together? It cannot be worse, can it?

DH and Benjamin thus assembled L’s crib and that’s when it hit me. Our three babies were going to be piled up in their tiny room (welcome to Manhattan). Some mums would probably sacrifice their sanctuary and take one of the cribs in their room…But I was not one of them.  I assuaged my guilt by putting wall decals on the kids room’s wall and said sheepishly ‘it will look less like an orphanage I suppose’. When the room was child free it actually looked almost eerily peaceful.


Then we put the 3 sleepy monsters down. L started to whine  but we remained strong and left them to sort it out… One hour later they were all sleeping with L surrounded by his siblings’ soft toys (a total of 4). I assumed that :
1- they tried to soothe their little brother, in which case it is cute OR
2- they tried to suffocate him, in which case I should probably start worrying about what they can do to him with their play necklaces…

DH and I had an ‘aww’ moment looking at them, I think we even hugged in bliss. What a couple of idiots…because at midnight all hell broke loose. When I got into the kids’ bedroom, L was crawling, frenetically screaming in his crib while G & P, clearly  freaked out by so much noise, were taking turns to stand up in their bed and scream ‘Maman’. Their timing was,by the way, bemusing.  It felt like there was a puppet master pulling the strings of this horrific show.

As I sat on the floor facing my kids I could not help but think this was a scene from a bad B movie titled ‘The Exorcist meets Trainspotting’. The pediatrician’s recommendation to move L into the bathroom seemed at that moment very, very, very appealing ..

Anatomy of a sleepless night

G & P, the twins, are sleeping in their room. L is sleeping in our room as DH and I are back to our bed after 2 weeks of failed sleep training. Benjamin our best mate in college is visiting from Paris and is sleeping on the sofa bed.

1.30 am P is screaming at the top of her lungs.

1.45 am I am getting into the kids room and try to soothe P. She is so not in the mood for lullabies. She screams for milk I give in. Forget her pediatrician’s advice to reduce her milk intake; I need my sleep.  I go to our kitchen trying to use the light of the open microwave to fix a milk bottle so I don’t wake up Benjamin. Shit, I can see he is pretending that he did not get woken up: he is shifting from right to left…

1.50 am I put P in her crib with her bottle almost done but she keeps screaming for her dad. She then turns her head towards her brother’s crib and gets pissed off. I guess she is pissed off that he sleeps soundly so she screams louder to wake him up.

2.00 am I am telling DH to go and see her before she wakes G up. He goes in and tries different tactics (cuddles, singing, threats, filling the bottle with water for her to suck on etc.).

2.10 am DH is losing it and I am going back in the lion’s den. DH picks up G who has started to whine – the boy is patient but he is not DEAF and they both go to our bedroom.

2.20 am P surrenders in my arms and I put her in her crib. I hear Benjamin go to the toilet. I guess he is awake then. I need to pee too. When I get to my room, L starts screaming. I take him in our bed where DH and G are trying to sleep.

2.30 am DH, G, L and I are wide awake. DH is thinking he is going to be late for work. G & L are laughing together and think it is a night play date. I want to cry.

3.00 am I am trying to nurse L to get him to sleep but he throws up on me. DH decides G is going back to his room and that he is putting his ear plugs and does not want anything to do with any of us ever again.

3.30 am G is still screaming ‘Maman’. DH snores. L is getting way over fed. I am dreaming with my eyes open that I am in Bali. Benjamin must probably be on expedia.com trying to book a hotel room for the rest of his stay in New York…and P, who started everything, is still sleeping soundly.

Life is a bitch.

From diaper bag to laptop bag

The last bag I bought was end of 2010. It was not a large YSL clutch, Mulberry Baywater or Alexander Wang Coco Duffel. It was a diaper bag. I did not it know it then, but it was perhaps the one item in my bag collection about which I could say this: it saved my life many, many times.

I chose it in an almost scientific manner. It had to:

– be big enough to contain enough diapers for 2 i.e. approx. 8 diapers, 2 sets of clothes, 2 muslin square, 1 pack of wipes, 8 disposable sacks, 4-6 loads of formula powder

– have 2 side pockets for 2 milk bottles, you do not want to look inside a messy bag for these stupid bottles when you have two screaming kids with a high milk addiction. TRUST ME.

– include a changing mat, except that in hindsight I probably needed two changing mats because of poop explosions and leaks

– be attachable to our City Select stroller so that I did not have to wish I was an octopus trying to handle a diaper bag, my before I was a mum handbag, my cell phone because there is always someone calling you to ask how I was coping (by the way most of the days the answer was: not very well, thank you!) and a double stroller

-be stylish enough so that I didn’t look like a pregnant back packer and sober enough that DH (who can still not bear the idea of a Man bag) didn’t feel like Sex and the City’s Stanford Blatch

But after almost three years, enough was enough and it was high time that I started to carry something that made me jump right into my new ‘project’,  finding a job. I thus started a frenetic search for my new It item: a laptop bag. The search ended and ladies and gentlemen, meet my Michael Kors Jet Set Travel Tote with insert for my Macbook Air (with L fussing around in the background).

PS: Alexander Wang Coco Duffel, I have not forgotten about you. One day you will be mine…

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