Since I am still wearing some of my maternity wardrobe (shame on me, I really need a deadline for this!) I decided to fight the boredom factor by adding a bow taken from my 2007 D & G Organza dress – which let’s face it I will never be able to wear again with these new hips of mine – to my favorite maternity dress by BCBG Max Azria.
Being a ‘normal’ family
As I was waiting for someone to help me get my stroller down the stairs at the Rockfeller Center because the elevator to the platform was down I saw one poster announcing a new show on NBC: ‘the new normal’. Intriguing.
‘The New normal‘ seems to be about gay parenthood via surrogacy. National broadcast is catching up with societal changes – or at least societal changes in big cities. I wonder how it is going to be received in that land they like to call middle America. In my life, the word ‘normal’ – especially when it comes to family- does not have a place.
For the last 20 years I have lived far from my blood family. DH and I thus had to reconstruct our support network and new family in Strasbourg where we studied, in London where we moved in together and here in New York where our kids were born. It is kind of a survival strategy. The plus side is that this chosen family is not going to tell you – at least in your face – how fat you are and how you ruined your career because you breed like a rabbit.
I chose a gay couple as god parents to G and P. It was partly a selfish decision since they swore they wouldn’t have children on their own so there was no risk of having their attention spreading thin there. But mostly because we never once thought about their sexuality when we asked Thor and Archibald to have this special place in our kids’ life. They were just the best for the job. Full stop.
Homophobia and gay bashing are still a sad reality but in the microcosmos that is Chelsea New York gay dads are being fawned over. In fact when G & P as babies were in a Baby Bjorn being carried around by DH and Archibald, everyone would stop, compliment, encourage them and look at me as if I was the surrogate mum/nanny from the Philippines. Thor and Archibald became so vain that they started to coordinate their outfits with the twins to multiply the cuteness factor when they were on babysitting duties. Twins = best fashion accessories ever.
The other reason they are the godparents is that they have a cool child crap free pad in Chelsea to crash in when they are crazy enough to do a life swap with us. What is a life swap? For a week end Thor and Archibald come to our place to play house with the kids, get sleep deprived, get thrown food on their faces, change diapers and lose their minds. Meanwhile DH and I get to…sleep. What amazes me is that when we reluctantly come home, the place is spotless and the kids are super well behaved. I did ask:’ Who are these angels and what have you done to my kids???’. It slightly pisses me off that gay couples may well be wealthier, more stylish, definitely fitter and possibly better parents than straight couples.
I have never been more proud that when G & P saw bits of a tender scene from ‘Patrick, age 1.5‘, a swedish movie, where the gay lead couple kisses.They immediately said smiling: ‘Oh, Tontons!’ Tontons is the French diminutive for uncles in French. I do recommend the movie. It is the first time I thought that the lead characters could have been straight and the plot would have been the same. It did not over dramatize the fact that it was a gay couple. That was progressive film making.
As for the NBC show, I am always very weary about how such daring idea unfortunately could become a compilation of easy stereotypes. However the creator is the Glee’s guy and a conversation with my 17 year old niece Alice opened my eyes. She said:’I know it sounds stupid but Glee really made me think differently about gay love and relationship, gay bullying etc. Where I live I don’t get to see openly gay people so the show is a window to this world. I am so rooting for Brittany and Santana (the lesbian couple)!’
So I will watch ‘The New normal’ – I still hate the title though – and will probably get over emotional.
PS: I did eventually get help to get to my train platform. Again I was helped by another mother of two! Every single freaking time! What is wrong with you male New Yorkers??? I won’t tell if you start panting and sweating while helping me carry my stroller…so man up.
Help, I need somebody, help!!! (the screechy Bananarama version)
I am having a meltdown about the mess in my house. I have grown accustomed to releasing control over the state of my living room. Over the last two years I have tamed my obsession for minimalist design to accept the presence of a toy chest, which when closed was a rather stylish bench. This way I could pretend after the kids’ bedtime that my living space was still an adult kingdom with no phosphorescent crap laying everywhere. It was like sheer magic!
And then came G & P’s first Christmas, the first bike, their first birthday, L’s birth, the pretend play kitchenette, the second bike (recycled from the trash compactor room by DH), L’s pack and play to prevent his siblings from wrecking his ribs with their hugs, jumping onto him or stuffing him with dry Cheerios etc. In short, the gremlins took over.
I was doing OK so far but this morning, I lost it. Why?
There was a green fabric tunnel from IKEA bought by DH (which he decreed was a successful buy…) in the middle of my fucking living room. It is green, huge, everywhere: it is like Shrek invading my home.
I thus decided to retreat to my room which by the way is not technically my room anymore . We are sleep training L and DH and I have been sleeping on the sofa bed for 10 days now (pure torture when you know you have a Tempur medic mattress in your bedroom). I looked at my desk and my head started to spin. Here what you could find:
– an iron, which really does not make any sense since last time I used an iron was when I was still living at my folks and my dad made me and my sister iron all the clothes for our family of 7 EVERY freaking Sunday
– a set of ropes, strings and wire: no, DH and I are not into S & M and I am not making explosives either; it is my millinery kit. I haven’t made a hat in two years but it makes me feel good to think that maybe one I will have time to design, block and trim the 4 felt hoods I have in stock somewhere
– a Art deco necklace from 30s broken by my darling little girl P, seconds after she said ‘Beautiful, Mommy’ and bang all glass beads inside the bra
– L’s birth announcements, yes they are still here and at this rhythm they will be soon be ‘Hey guys, I am turning one’ announcement cards
– 4 Sketch books (who freaking needs 4 sketch books????)
– Nursing pads, my new best friends
– a breast pump
– a Yankees cap with rhinestones I was supposed to send to my 92 year old grand ma in Oz months ago
– Wall decals I was supposed to put in the kids’ bathroom a year ago
– my MacBook which obviously was out of battery
Needless to say, I am not looking for a job today. As I was about to bang my head against the only crap free one inch square of my desk, I could hear G screaming at the top of his lungs: HELP ME!!!! HELP ME!!! That is his new thing. He cannot open a book, he screams HELP ME. His sister touches him, he screams HELP ME. He is bored, he screams HELP ME. His shoes have sand after he literally swam in the sandpit, he screams HELP ME. And so on. And so on.
I am officially jealous of my son.
NB: DH has just told me that supposedly there were also some completed tax returns forms on my desk because we made a mistake in filing those the first time around and we owed some money to the taxman. No idea of what he is talking about. Oops…
Harlem, Harlem: if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere
Years ago when I was thinking about how my life with kids would look like here’s what I imagined:
– a house off Northcote road aka Nappy Valley in London, a street where moms wear UGG boots, sip skinny lattes, have straight long hair and look like boho chic models
– me strolling my newborn in a bugaboo wearing my favorite YSL heeled boots and gossiping with my BFF Natasha
– working long hours but not worrying about it because DH could handle baby duties on his own or at least with the help of our mates from college living nearby
You see, we struggled so long to have children that I had all the time in the world to observe my friends take the plunge, draw some lessons and imagine how my family life would perfectly snug into this pretty picture. I was serene, thinking I would get all the tricks of the trade from my girls (e.g. how to get a Mary Poppins like nanny, where to get mama cocktails in the middle of the day, what diaper bag to buy etc.). But none of this happened.
Instead, on a whim, DH and I decided to flee the country and lose our mind in Manhattan with Thor and Archibald, our BGFF (Best Gay Friends Forever). And boy we did (more about this in later posts). However after 1 cycle of IVF and a surprise pregnancy (aka I forgot the pill/I did not even know I could ‘naturally’ make children pregnancy) here we are raising 3 babies in Harlem. Harlem with a husband who is as pasty as goat cheese…Harlem away from my college buddies and schlepping to build a new crew in a place that is way ‘Too fast, Too furious’ for a push over like me.
To start with, something strange changed in the dynamics of our couple (and I don’t mean the disappearance of a normal sex life that young parents go through). For the first time DH was the one feeling as an outcast in our new neighborhood with his pale skin and his Hugo Boss suit. And for the first time my ‘girl in the hood’ upbringing, swearing big mouth and tanned complexion made me fit in. In the past I felt like the lucky ‘gal from an ethnic minority and working class pool’ who managed to survive hurdles to social upward mobility, one hurdle after another but not without leaving many of my sisters behind. From high school onwards I saw ‘people like me’ slowly disappearing from my entourage, first in preparatory school, then in business school and later at work – I did work for the charity and philanthrophic field in which paradoxically most managerial positions were held by girls named Rose or Emily. As for my local Starbucks in Clapham it was full of blondes (real and fakes).
But today things are different. Today in Harlem perhaps for the first time in his life, DH realizes he is a white man. Recently he admitted ‘I really feel stupid walking home with my suit – I am the only white dude coming out the subway dressed to the T. It’s odd.’ I started to mock him when I realized that he was being dead serious. He continued:’Don’t laugh it’s true. The kids around try to be intimidating as kids do but it is unsettling. But it is funny because when I am with our kids all is different. I am not a newcomer invading their community but just a dad.’
It is true; Harlem is patchy. On one street you have a fancy restaurant where Obama raised a cool $1.5 million for the Democratic National Convention and where the Clintons can be seen dining. A couple of blocks from there, people happily exchange gun shots for no apparent reason except perhaps because they have guns. Harlem went through so much change with young families massively arriving in search for bigger square footage and access to the amazing outdoor play zones that are Morningside Park, Central Park and Riverside. With these ‘new’ residents came restaurants, cafes and bars and escalating real estate, pricing out ‘old’ residents. My neighborhood is thus a mix of stressed out parents (with an excessively high ratio of families with twins, go figure…) running after their toddlers, African American teenagers hollering people in the street and showing off their abs, African Muslims selling halal patties and spreading over the sidewalk at times of prayer. As for my nanny, she does not know who the hell Mary Poppins is but she surely cooks a mean Mafe (peanut butter based Senegalese dish).
Indeed, it definitely was not where I pictured I would raise my kids…but I absolutely love it. I love that when we go to our weekly story telling session at the local Police Athletic League G, P, L get to play with kids who look like them: born from a mixed race couple who embrace their differences. When I look around 90% children have mixed cultural backgrounds: African American/Hispanic, Asian American/Caucasian, Indian/Dutch and more..and among them here are G, P and L with their French/Lao/American/Vampire ‘DNA’. It is a little sappy but these 45 mins give me faith in humanity; this is, of course, until G decides he wants to bring down on his own the decorations and then I want to commit murder again…Of course sometimes tempers flare and you can get trash talked on a daily basis. Our summer au pair, Alice, got sniggered at by some sassy ladies: “This girl got no a**, tssst…She ain’t black.” That was little too strong a ‘Welcome to Harlem!’ for poorAlice, Oxford (England) born and raised.
As we were walking down our street this week end, teenagers or is it young adults were gathering on the steps of a brownstone house. They were hanging out and talking loud as usual. DH told me about them, he told me how he would always say ‘Hi’ to them on his way home. DH somehow thinks he developed some kind of street creds, which really makes me crack up every time. It is like me saying that I don’t mind drinking wine in a plastic cup…Anyway as we were passing near the group with our two strollers and 3 babies, the youngsters did say ‘hi’ and one started to hiss:’Dude, wow,…see Nigga got 3 kids!’. To this DH turned to me and smiled with a smirk on his face.
I laughed hard. DH has a posse!
As labor day week end approached so did the daunting end of the summer. Soon we would stop sweating, panting and having a $300 monthly electricity bill due to the air conditioning being constantly on. $300! It is more than 10 brunches with unlimited mimosas…It is thus a cause for mass celebration.
Typically New Yorkers have made plans to leave the city to bask in the last rays of sunshine with other New Yorkers (that’s the only crowd they can really stand in the end so they do regroup at any possible occasion). The rat race for house rentals in the Hamptons (the wealthier and glitzier people), Fire Island (the gay-ier and more bohemian peeps) and the Catskills (the agoraphobic type) started months ago. Even deadlier is the race for rental cars. And with 3 babies under 2 we are losing the race for rare seven seaters pretty much each time . True, if we had not been strategizing over what to do but actually made some decisions instead we would not be in this situation. As I was complaining to my friend Victoire about my failure to find a seven seater in the whole of NYC at the new local cafe Frederick Cafe Bistro, it became clear that Victoire and her family were the ‘we have it all figured out’ and accomplished version of us.
Victoire and her husband also have twins and a newborn. However I am mesmerized when she tells me that at the daycare her twins hold their hands and walk in line with other kids. The first and last time G & P held hands they ran and crashed into our apartment wall. Photo evidence below:
Her newborn Yves is sleeping through the night at 3 month old…He sleeps from 10pm to 4 or 5am. It is like Heaven that I cannot touch. L is almost 4 month old and I am thinking of running a blood test on him. He stares at me all the time, never sleeps and only feeds at nighttime. I am starting to think he might be a vampire baby (he is pasty and drools a lot too). Her husband is a teacher, the fantasy job of DH and he actually plays European football as opposed to watching NBA games like DH and I. Of course they had a house in the Hamptons to go to for the Labor Day week end and a car to get there …But just as I was going to label her as a ‘got it together’ mom she started to tell me how she was worried Social Services may call upon her if she was seen chasing around her fighting twins while half naked with a baby hung from her breast. I am trying to comfort her:’at least it’s the summer. In a few months everyone will be getting sick and not only will we be running round half-naked, we’ll be covered in puke too… ‘ We had a one minute of silence contemplating the horrifying times ahead of us. Chilling.
Anyway I am digressing. It is Labor Day week end so we needed to get out of the city! That is when we went crazy and decided to go to Long Beach in Long Island by train. Yes by train. I who take the cab to go to Upper East Side was going to take the train with DH, 2 toddlers, 1 baby, a teenager which means in material terms 2 stroller, 2 umbrellas, 1 straw mat, 1 cooler, 1 diaper bag, 5 beach towels and 1 beach bag. Yes all this by train. Piece of cake.
Surprisingly we did arrive at the beach following hordes of Manhattanites. We arrived sound and safe despite crossing paths at Penn Station with youngsters from Jersey leaving their shore to hit the City. The last time I saw so many silver bras, phosphorescent panties and fish net tops was in the early 80s. I seriously got almost blinded. I should really not criticize them considering my own poor choice of clothing (a leopard print jumpsuit) resulting from many breast milk leaks and ruining 3 perfectly OK outfits by 10am. Women above 25 should not wear leopard print, EVER. Today was a complete fashion fiasco anyway. I bought one those of high rise swim bottoms from SPANX which supposedly tucks everything in including the extra skin in the tummy area you get after a twin pregnancy. It is hard to believe it but yes your skin is getting so stretched out that you spend the last month of your pregnancy wondering when you will explode like a water balloon. The answer is NEVER; isn’t Nature well done :- ? I did not explode but alongside the extra fat I have to lose I can find that hanging second skin. So in order to do some damage control I did splash in SPANX swimwear and made a rookie mistake. One word: FUCHSIA. The result: I looked like a saucisson sec. For those who are both lucky and unlucky not to know what it is here is some visual aid:
Fashion disaster aside, all of us did enjoy ourselves at the beach and we even got friendly with our neighbors or should I say G decided to befriend our neighbors when raiding shamelessly their bag of chips, their fruit platters and even perhaps their cookies. He got so intrigued by our male neighbor’s tattoos that he started to touch them (did I just see him kissing them? Interesting; he is usually into tall red haired chicks with long legs…oh well…). I was almost embarrassed but was too happy that it was G’s first encounter with tattoos. DH said: ‘I bloody love the beach. What a great public space. Where else would our kids hang with tattooed people?’. True. Despite our claim to have a very diverse group of friends which include old people, gay men, married people, hardcore singletons, child free people, big families, African-americans, Africans, Asians, Europeans we cannot count tatoo covered friends and…lesbians among our friends.
Two hours and two poop explosions later the concept of public space took a deeper meaning when I started to argue with my tattooed neighbor about my kids’ upbringing. He summoned his girlfriend: ‘Just give him the whole bag of chips’ because G was being a little bugger and was flirting with everyone just to get crumbs of potato chips. I kept saying ‘No, thanks it is enough’ and he kept asking ‘why?’. I was slightly taken aback to be honest and stammered:’Why? Why? Well he has to learn self-control’. ‘Not at his age’ he deadpanned.
And here I was on the beach reflecting on this exchange while DH was working hard to not to lose P in the ocean and L was moaning about sun and sand (he is a vampire I am telling you). I then thought about the book ‘Bringing up Bebe’ which glorified French parenting and the use of authoritative ‘no’ that is supposedly absent in the vocabulary of American parents. I actually haven’t read the book but based on the premise I was not even sure where I was standing on this one anyway. I surely value the ceremonial around meals that the French have: sitting for hours at the table, conversing any topics including the food being served, no TV on, balanced meals etc. However I did not have such experience as a child since my family meals were like one of those sitcoms where characters get in and out of the shots and nobody knows who they are and why they came in the first place. My siblings and I would eat the same thing everyday for a whole week because my dad would fine tune his cooking skills on us. And you don’t want to know what Moroccan couscous cooked by a Lao man tastes like…Meal time was like musical chair really; you had to eat fast so a friendly neighbor or parasite relative could have the seat at the table. And all this with Thai soap operas blasting in the background. Joy.
As for the authoritative ‘no’ I am not sure how authoritative it is because the only parents I have ever seen screaming at their kids and threatening to smack them in a total meltdown in the middle of airports are French. The ‘tu m’emmerdes’, ‘t’arrete tes conneries oui?’ and other nice things like that now do shock me…Of course ‘NO” is in my cultural imprint and has unfortunately become my most used word and this despite trying hard to re-train myself and practice positive reinforcement For instance instead of saying: ‘NO, stop eating their chips’ I so wished I could have said ‘What about eating the watermelon cubes that your mom slaved to prepare this morning? (a little guilt trip never hurts, right?).
By the way why is DH trying to bury the kids alive?
I hate the sand, the sun and am not to keen on water either but I do love the beach because I get to reflect a lot by watching all these bodies grilling. Of course in the end I started having random thoughts and second guessing myself: maybe my mother in law is right when she says that I am raising my kids as Americans feeding them all day long and maybe my father in law is right when he says that I am getting devoured by my kids. Arrggg
Yes I love the beach but I should really learn to swim…
To Link In or to not Link In?…
Today is the second day of my job search. Considering that my first day of job search was three weeks ago it is becoming slightly pathetic. I had a horrible night since my 3 month old baby L woke up every hour and a half and I basically had to use my breasts as a ‘will you shut up?’ pacifier. Obviously my angel-demon is not sleep trained, feed trained, poop trained. He is not trained at all. He is basically ON DEMAND for every single basic function he has at his age.
I could however not postpone this whole thing anymore because:
1- my husband nudged me about finding a job twice in two days: ‘Oh you want to start a blog, what about your job search?’ and the next day even less subtle ‘hurry to find a job so we can buy our vacation home and pay the nanny next year’. The ‘paying the nanny’ business did the trick; I cannot live without her. When she arrives on Monday morning at 9am after a chaotic week end, the kids are barely alive and I am very close to kissing her feet. And I don’t mean this in a figurative way.
2- I had my child care covered: G & P my 18 (or is it 19) months old twins were with their trustworthy nanny and my 3 month old baby L was being taken care of by my British model like summer au pair/teenage niece Alice. And when you have your child care organized for the day you really have to make the most out of it…In my dreams that would mean going through my old Vogue and Grazzia magazines and cut out jumpsuits, dresses, boots, hats and more jumpsuits and caressing the pictures one by one. In reality that means paying my dentist bill, doing 7 wash loads, procrastinating about L’s birth announcement (considering I have never sent my thank you cards after my 2004 wedding, I still think I am on track for this one) and of course looking for a JOB. A JOB is financially remunerated as opposed to jobs, the ‘little things’ that stay at mums do for the survival of her progeny.
Plus I had a starting point. DH (aka Dear Husband) suggested ‘Go and get LinkedIn’ before leaving for his big bank job while I had my head under my pillow partly snoring with one breast still hanging from L’s mouth.
‘Go and get LinkedIn’. Said like this, it seems pretty easy right?
So what is this LinkedIn business about? It is social networking based on your professional identity so that bankers can smooch online with other bankers and head hunters can screen out zillions of profiles for the lucky candidates they think will be their next cash cows. As I start building my profile and network (almost feverishly I must admit) here’s what struck me:
1- From a quick glance I can see that not all vocations might be represented such as male prostitutes , burlesque dancers, surrogate mothers or stunt doubles etc. So really it is professional working for Messieurs and Mesdames SUITS, isn’t it? Oh dear… Since I am out of business school I never really branched out of ‘my crowd, have I? I am so conservative …or am I just a snob? By the way where is my skinny emotionally retarded childhood friend artist Jan on LinkedIn? Jan is my hip-o-meter; he once made holes in a t-shirt for me to wear because I was embarrassing him clubbing with my 9 to 5 ‘uniform’. I fear Jan would not approve of this LinkedIn business…
2- I had no idea I knew so many people with good jobs. Everyone seems to be so bright, successful, a specialist in something. The picture is the real deal. It says it all; that is probably why a lot don’t put pics at all. I struggle to recognize DH, he looks a little constipated. I should really mention this to him at some point.
Anyhow I started to ask peeps to get connected using 3 filters: my mates (so they know I am not completely procrastinating about my job search), the people who have jobs that make me jealous (e.g.Mr Artistic Director chez Christian Dior) and those who have jobs who make me look as if I had some sort of influence (Partners, MDs I am talking about you). As I completed my profile, I again looked at all my connections with these busy, employed, and perhaps very important people. I did feel this burst of pride in my chest almost as I was somehow doing a little bit of their day job. Pfff I am tired already. Oops I have just received a message from Mr Christian Dior in my inbox, wow this thing is as fast as Facebook!!!
The email says:
I just received your connection request but not sure if we know each other?’
I AM MORTIFIED!!!!!!!!!!!