Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Supermarket Obstacle Course Only Moms Know About

When you have a baby, going to a grocery store can be like wandering through an obstacle course where any number of people can turn your "quick trip to the store" into an hour-long ordeal. There you are, wandering up and down aisles with a list in your hand (assuming that A) you're that organized and B) your child hasn't demanded to play with said list merely because you don't want them to), trying to bribe your child into staying in the cart by giving them toys and/or food, when suddenly you're faced with someone who seems determined to bog you down until your child starts screaming. If you want to make it in and out of the store in a timely manner, these are the archetypes you absolutely MUST avoid.

The Lonely Old Person

You know who I'm talking about. The little old lady who likes to sit on park benches and strike up conversations with anyone and everyone possible, looking for someone who will hold a better conversation than her 4 cats do. The old man who insists on making exact change for every purchase at any store and tells the story of his "first Buffalo nickle" every time he dig for 42 cents. You never want to start out being mean or rude to these folks because, although no one likes to admit it, but we're all terrified that we're going to end up like them, prattling on about "the good old days when folks used to hold actual books in their hands."  But these folks are insanely hard to get away from if your child is at all friendly. With one adorable wave of your baby's hand in their general direction you've got a geriatric audience who, if you're lucky, will end up following you for the next two aisles. Most often you end up rooted to the spot, though, begging your child to stay in their seat as they attempt a swan dive out of the cart while you're distracted trying to politely listen to the end of the old gal's list of grandchildren who live out of state.

Your best defense: Don't make eye contact and do NOT stop your cart! If you must acknowledge that they have just had a "moment" with your child do so with a cheerful-yet-guardedly-busy smile and keep on walking. Even if it means going back down the pasta aisle later, just keep walking.

The Baby-Talker

Now, I'm not talking about the folks who adopt high-pitched voices and say, "Hi, baby!" over and over while waving at said baby like a clown-bobble-head doll, I'm talking about the people who have a conversation with you by talking to your baby. They'll come charging up to you (for some reason there are a high number of these people employed in warehouse stores like Costco), fingers wriggling in the air, cooing at your child and then it begins.

TBT: HELLOOOOO, little one! What's your name?
Mom: This is Baby.
TBT: HIIIII Baby! How old are you?
Mom: (S)he's 11 months old.
TBT: 11 months! Well you're almost one year old! Is your mommy planning a cool birthday party for you?
Mom: Yes.
TBT: Oooh, I bet you'll like cake! Is your mommy giving you cake?
Mom: Yes.
TBT: Goody! You'll be sure to put that cake everywhere, right?
Mom: *shifts uncomfortably, trying to move on* Baby, say bye-bye to the nice lady!
TBT: Oh, you don't want to go yet, do you? Don't you want to show me your teeth, little baby? 

You get the point. This can go on and on and on.

Your best defense: Don't answer for your baby. If your baby can't talk yet there's no reason you need to get rooted to the ground trying to talk for them - let them keep talking to your child until they start to feel the foolishness dripping off of themselves like olive oil on an overdressed salad. Stare at the person long enough with a bored look on your face and they'll get the hint a lot faster.

Other Moms

There are two types of "other moms" in grocery stores - the harmless kind that smile at you and your child and keep on moving, and the kind that have been stuck indoors, talking to no one but their babies and significant others for the past few weeks and are dying for some validation about their mothering practices. These are the dangerous ones - if you allow a short conversation to start up and discover that your baby is older than theirs you're done for. Suddenly it's, "Has your baby sat up/used a pacifier/ slept through the night/ had all of their shots/ eaten berries/ etc., yet?" and there's no end in sight unless one or both of your children start screaming.

Your best defense: At the first pause between sentences, fake a dirty diaper.  Sniff at your baby and say loudly, "Did you POOP?!?  AGAIN?!?"  Any mom, no matter how adult-deprived she is, knows that you do not want to have to change a poopy diaper in a grocery store.  Smile apologetically and make your way to the front of the store immediately.  (If you're nice you could also suggest a local mommy group she could join.)

The Crazies

Crazy people are always something I'm wary of regardless of whether or not my baby is in tow, but these days it seems like the crazies are harder to spot. Half the time you see someone angrily yelling at no one in particular the person will turn their head to reveal a bluetooth headset, thus revealing that the voices they're hearing their heads are the voices of actual people. However, unless you can smell the urine on their clothing before they sidle up to you and your grocery cart, the crazies are the hardest to shake. You can smile uncomfortably, you can say things like, "I really have to go," you can get in line even, and they'll follow you, talking to you about how to find out who your baby was in their past life, how the Illuminati is trying to cripple our economy by putting Wal Marts in China or how the government wants to kill everyone under the age of 5 with chem-trails. Babies open you up to a huge range of conversations with people and, if you're not careful, you could get yourself sucked into the ramblings of a nut-job.
Your best defense: Again, walk quickly, don't make eye contact, and try to find a store employee to ask a question. Often the crazy folks are wary of some authority figure and will wander off if you start asking someone who works there where to find things and ask them to escort you.
Of course, you could always try to out-crazy the person... but you never know if your claim to actually be Cthulu in disguise will make them more or less likely to continue talking to you.

Hopefully this guide will help some people out there somewhere, be it moms who need to get through the supermarket gauntlet or one of the childless folks out there who don't realize exactly how annoying it is when you talk to us through our babies.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Animals, Working, and Balls

Song of the week:
Miike Snow's "Animal" (the Mark Ronson remix, specifically):  

Lately I've been struggling with motherhood and work.  Every morning I drag myself in to my job, waving goodbye to my daughter (who starts howling when I close the door) and thinking to myself, "Damnit, why do I have to do this?"  It's not the concept of working that bothers me - I've had a full-time job since I was 17 - it's the thought that if I'm going to be missing out on her most exciting and formative years, I'd really rather be missing it because I'm doing something I love.  I've been working the same job since May of 2007 (and I've worked in the same building doing different jobs since October 2005) and, although it is a job in a library and I like the working environment, it is nowhere near the career path I have tried and failed to get myself onto twice now.  (I'm in charge of staffing the Circulation Desk with student workers, but I desperately want to be working as a Children's Librarian either at a grade school or a public library.)
The month I discovered my impending motherhood was exactly one month before I was due to move to Boston with Andrew and start a dual master's program at Simmons University - I was going to start in January of 2009 and at this point in my life I would have been nearing the completion of both a MLIS and an MA in Children's Literature.  Staying in Santa Barbara was the obvious choice because Andrew's family was able to help us out housing-wise (and we will be forever grateful for his Mother's willingness to move out of the place that she's called home for 17 years so that we could stay here), but now I find myself living in a beautiful place, stymied on my career path and having a directional crisis.  I applied for an online program through one of the two schools in my state that offer any library science degree and was all set to jump headfirst into that this Fall, but I was "automatically rejected due to the program quota being filled" and have basically had to sit here, twiddling my thumbs, staring into cyber-space and figuring out the best way to get out of having to go back to working 40 hours a week in September (I do 30/week right now).  

Every day I sit at work and daydream about being home with my daughter.  I think about what new and exciting thing she might be doing, what she might be growling at, what Andrew is feeding her, how far she might have walked, what words she might have uttered or colors she may have learned to identify.  When I reach the point where I feel like crying I'll send a frantic text message home to Andrew asking for a photo update... he's almost always able to oblige, but it's certainly nowhere near adequate baby-time to make me feel ok about slaving away at a job I am bored to death of while baby is at home growing up without me.  

Animals have instincts - to watch over their young, to protect them from predators and to bring them the best food they can find.  I have all of those instincts bottled up whenever I leave the house for my job - I have to force myself to let someone else take care of the care and feeding of my offspring (even if I'm lucky enough to have that someone else be Andrew right now.)

 Which brings me back to my song of the week (which you are hopefully listening to while reading this drivel.) There's a line in the song, "In your eyes I see the eyes of somebody that could be strong" - and it sends shivers down my spine each time I hear it.  I know that if I were given the opportunity to switch gears - get back into school while taking time off of working so that I can start on an actual career path - I would be the strongest, best student mom out there.  I'd buckle down and do my online assignments on time while the baby slept at night and I'd cook things like lentil soups and make sausages from scratch while she napped.  I'd cloth diaper full-time, expand my garden and learn how to optimize its produce and give my daughter raspberries all over her tummy any time she wandered over after having happily taken her own shirt off.  

But instead you'll find me, hunkering down in the bowels of an orange-and-purple university library, asking the student monkeys politely to stop flinging poo at the patrons while endlessly making schedules for people who will inevitably show up hungover to their Saturday morning shift.  

This is balls, I tell you.  Sweaty, zit-infested, old-man-wearing onion-skins-while-running balls.
This has to change. 

This will change.

But in the meantime, "I change shapes just to hide in this place but I'm still, I'm still an animal."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

$1 x What?

Someone gives me $1 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1- A taco al carbon from El Pollo Loco.
Someone gives me $10 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1-A bottle of wine.  Probably a Cabernet. 

Someone gives me $100 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1- A haircut.
2- Shoes.

Someone gives me $1,000 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1- A haircut.
2- An awesome toy for Sadie.
3- A dress I actually like.
4 - Paying off debt.

Someone gives me $10,000 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1- Pay off remaining medical and credit card as well as a chunk of student loans.
2- A dress I actually like.
3- One of those sweet playground set-ups for our back yard.

Someone gives me $100,000 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1- Pay off all debts.
2- Go through grad school while not having to work.  (My version of HEAVEN!)
3 - Move our family somewhere we can better afford to live in.

Someone gives me $1,000,000 for no apparent reason.  I would spend it on:
1-  See 1-3 of previous question.
2-  Buy my brother and his family a new car.
3- Sending Sadie through a private school.
4- Tacos al carbon for everybody!!!