Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Zen Mommy 1.0

There is a famous Buddhist tale about a cup of tea. If you can hold it in your hands and feel the warmth, breathe in the aroma, feel the hot steam on your face, each sip becomes much more than a sip. It is no longer a cup of tea, but a whole experience to enjoy and savor. There are days I try to remember this. Motherhood is a constant challenge to be present. Some days I get impatient. If Phoebe misses a nap or wakes up in the night, or gets cranky (which is not very often) I have to fight my rising irritation. There are days I am just exhausted or more focused on getting things done; making breakfast, packing lunch for school, watching the clock to get bath time and books done before it gets too late, that I forget to stop inside those beautiful moments. But when I do, I am filled with a calm and joyful feeling of motherhood.

Last week, we had a beautiful Spring streak of good weather. We were out in the park, on the big swings with Phoebe sitting on my lap butterfly style. Up and back we went, hanging onto each other, swinging and singing and enjoying the day. I felt it when she climbed onto my lap at bedtime and wanted to be rocked like the baby she once was. Wasn't it was just a moment ago that I rocked her to sleep in that chair? Now we barely fit on it together. But we rocked, and we sang and she let me hug that delicious frame tight. Mama and her sweet babe blissfully as one. Even on the rare occasion when she wakes up from a nap, crying inconsolably, I just hold her, smell her hair, hum a calming tune and wait for her cries to slow and come to a rest. The other night, Jeff was home for bedtime and sat with us in the flop spot while we read books. Phoebe took a blanket, put it over his legs and hugged his knees. She looked up at him and said, "Handsome Daddy." My heart just swelled. In those moments, I am the Zen mommy I'd like to be. I am present with my girl and nothing else in the world exists. The trick is to tap into those calm places all the time. That why I'm only at 1.0. Perhaps someday, I'll progress to the next level. Or worse, I'll go back to work and be more stressed and too tired to see those moments when they come. I hope that's not the case. I also hope I win the lottery, but I won't hold my breath. For now, I'll take the moments as they come, knowing full well that this time won't last. The only constant in our world is change and a change will certainly come. Phoebe is changing and growing all the time. These days she likes to say "I'm a big girl." Or "I'm growin' up." Yes, my sweet, all that is true, but not so fast, okay?

Monday, March 15, 2010


There are many ways to drive yourself crazy as a parent of young children, but in New York City, none seems quite as nutty and blown out of proportion as the pre-school process. For me and Phoebe, it began back in September. After doing some research and figuring out which schools were in our area, talking to other Moms and trying to get a sense of the process, I settled on 6 local schools to try. There seemed to be a lot of hype around certain schools like All Souls- who have a lottery system for applications and the 92nd Y where you had to be rich or famous, or both to get in.

The day after Labor Day is D-Day for applications. I had my Mom, my cousin and two of my own home phones at the ready to start calling. It reminded me of trying to get hot concert tickets, back in the day. Some schools had their applications online, some were just busy all day long. We managed to get through to all of our selected schools. Then came the applications. Most were brief information oriented forms. Some asked for pictures. All wanted at least $40 for the privledge to apply. One school, Epiphany, wanted $170 for their application. We decided to pass on that. Then came the interviews, the tours and the "playdates" for the kids. Nothing seemed to put parents into more of a panic than how their child performed at the playdate. Take a 2 year old at nap time to a place they've never been and anything can happen. One school, Temple Sharaay Tefila, I respected for the fact that they did not interview parents or children. They said it was pointless pressure for families to endure. I agree. All this hype and stress for the priviledge of paying from $13k to $20k for a part time program for your 3 year old. How insane is that? If you live in the suburbs, you sign up for your local school and you go. No big deal.

So after the tours, the meetings and the playdates, the waiting game begins. It takes until March for the schools to pick their families. Moms are all abuzz when the letters are going out. I haven't felt this level of stress and competition since my college admissions process. As it turns out, Phoebe got into our two favorite programs; Sharaay Tefila and the Harvard of Upper East Side Pre-schools, All Souls. She was wait-listed at two others ad declined at one. My heart was always with All Souls. I have been volunteering there at the Soup Kitchen for the last 6 years and Phoebe has had several classes in the building. I was truly impressed with their facility and the teachers and the philosophy. While they are housed in a Uitarian Church, their program is completely secular and diverse. But my decision would not be so easy. There was a possibility that I could get financial assistance from the Temple, and I would not be one to turn down free money. I tried to wrap my head around being a part of this reformed Temple, of having Phoebe's ciriculum revolve around Purim and Shavou'ot and Passover. She would take conversational Hebrew and attend Shabbat for Tots on Friday. Nothing wrong with all that. I am proud to be a Jew, if an atheist Jew, and I want Phoebe to understand and embrace her heritage, but al that will come. I was a bit overwhelmed by having to get so involved so soon.

In the end, the scholarship money did not come through, but Grammy and Grampy did. They are making it possible for Phoebe to start her school years off right. We accepted All Souls this week. She will start a 4 day a week, afternoon program in September. When people tell you your kids childhood will go fast, this is what they mean. She's not even 3 yet, and she's on her way. My little Phoeb-star is about to embark on a great school experience. I'm just along for the ride, trying not to get too crazy about it all

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Big Loop

Twice a week, I now have 2 hours to fill while Phoebe is in class at Kidville. We usually walk to 84th & 3rd- which is mostly uphill- a great morning workout while pushing a 40 lb. stroller. Once Phoebe is happily ensconced in her playdough or blocks or books, I take off and try to make the most of my time. It would have been great to take a yoga class or spinning or some form of exercise, but of the 6-8 places I checked in the area, none have classes at the 11 o'clock hour. Oh well. I guess I'l have to resort to the best form of NYC exercise- walking. If I need to do some grocery shopping, I hit my favorite gourmet grocer- Agata & Valentina back @ 79th & 1st, buy some fish for dinner, stock up on their yummy coffee and sesame noodles and maybe some homemade ravioli that Phoebe loves. Then I need to hit D'Agostinos for the basics like milk and toilet paper. By then, I'm loaded down and need to head home with the bags. I unpack, have a sip of water and head back for the big loop to 84th & 3rd by 12:30 to meet Phoebe in the gym. It doesn't seem like a big walk, but from East End Avenue, everything is a big walk. Mondays are also my night to serve at Soup kitchen, so after nap and dinner and bath, I leave Phee with one of my babysitters and walk back over to Lexington and 80th. Another big loop on the Upper East Side. By the end of the day, my dogs are barking. I'll come back to a (hopefully) sleeping girl and perhaps may have earned some flop time in front of the TV. My feet are aching, my legs still tingling, but it's all good. On Wednesday, I get to do the big loop all over again.