Saturday, July 30, 2011

NOT the Juban Princeling Photo of the Week: 7/30/11

Instead, this week I bring you Mr. Funny and I at the Star Trek con in Parsippany, NJ, June 26:

Photo Credit: Chris Schmelke

Mr. Funny being charming, Nichelle Nichols being amazing, and me being a drooling idiot.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Morning, Noon and Night

I am not one to suffer in silence. I am not one of these timid women who's always all, "No, no, I'm fine."

And I'm certainly not one of these mothers who thinks that suffering makes me a better mother.

It's not an equation, people. It's not:

Suffering = Good mother

I believe the opposite. Happy women make good mothers. That just makes sense. I figure, the less I have to suffer, the more functional my family will be.

As a quasi-Buddhist I am aware that suffering exists. We all suffer at various times in our lives, to greater or lesser degrees. And for me, pregnancy is one of the deepest forms of suffering I've ever experienced. And now I'm experiencing it a second time! On purpose! Someone please have me committed, because clearly I do not make healthy decisions when it comes to my own well-being.

Pregnancy sucks. It just does. I have few mom friends who will argue otherwise. My one friend who didn't suffer much during pregnancy gave birth to a shrieking banshee who never stopped screaming for her first year and a half. Oh sure, she's adorable and sweet now, but it wasn't always so. I figure that was just the Pregnancy Goddess's way of evening things out. Sure, I'll give you a smooth ride for nine months. But the eighteen after that will SUCK! BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Here are some stretch marks.

Actually, I don't know if my friend got stretch marks or not.

Morning sickness is a misnomer, because it doesn't only occur in the morning. For the past three weeks I've thrown up:
Upon getting out of bed
After taking my son, the Juban Princeling, to the indoor playspace at the YMCA
After doctor's appointments
After lunch
While doing dishes
Sitting on the couch watching TV
Before going out to dinner
While waiting for our friends to come over for the evening after our kids go to bed
After talking on the phone

And this is all while on medication! Not the baby-deforming medication an officer from the Pregnancy Police thinks I'm taking because she is confused and can't be bothered to do her research, but the same medication I took while pregnant with the Princeling three years ago, the one that's prescribed all the time for pregnant women with bad morning sickness and is perfectly safe and wonderful. And back then it worked! This time...less so. I can eat, at least. It's just that whatever I eat usually comes back to haunt me, ifyougetmydriftIthinkyoudo.

By the way, YES I HAVE TRIED EVERY SINGLE NATURAL REMEDY. If I have to drink ginger ale one more time, or eat another saltine, I will cut a bitch. So don't even mention those to me, or seasick wrist bands, or Vitamin B, or tea, or lemons, or sour candies, unless you want me to throw up on you.

My mother never had morning sickness, something I fully resent her for. Aren't daughters supposed to have pregnancies like their mothers?

When I was 3 1/2 and my mother was 8 months pregnant with my brother Mr. Funny, we were in the process of moving and Miami was under a hurricane warning. So my mother, in her condition and with a 3 1/2-year old to take care of by herself because my dad had to work, had to prepare not one, but two houses for Hurricane David. If I were her I would never ever let my children forget that, but she barely mentions it. I think it's safe to say that my mother is a far tougher woman than I, at least when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth.

Being sick to my stomach all the time during my last pregnancy was bad because I was working a full-time job I didn't much care for and the stress of it made me barf at the office. Thankfully my cubicle was near the ladies' room. I liked most of my co-workers, and most days were fine, but there were a few people who got under my skin. One time the mere sight of someone walking by my desk made me retch.

Because I was so sick during that time I was told by my doctor to eat whatever I could hold down, which for me meant a lot of junk food. When I gave birth I was surprised my placenta wasn't entirely Nutella. Just a big clump of Nutella with a Nutella umbilical cord connecting it to my baby, who somehow managed to be born covered in amniotic fluid and not Nutella.

But, at my job, we had low cubicle walls, and nosy people who felt perfectly all right in walking by my desk and making comments, out loud, about what I was consuming. Thank you, Pregnancy Police! I hope you all have hemorrhoids and crippling constipation now.

This time around my job is to take care of the Juban Princeling, which is both better and worse. Better, because at least he doesn't snark, "Wow, I hope your baby appreciates that root beer you're drinking right now WHEN HE GROWS UP TO BE A SERIAL KILLER," and because he's generally very sweet when I throw up. Once he even brought me his carsick bucket. Isn't that the cutest? But it's also worse because if I say, "Mommy doesn't feel well," he interprets that as, "I want to argue with you over what you are going to eat for lunch, and if I have to touch another dinosaur chicken nugget I will barf all over you." He also gives me no privacy, so if I want to lie down on my bed in misery there's a very good chance a pair of little feet and hands are going to follow me and kick me and tickle me until I give up.

So, upside, fewer officers of the Pregnancy Police hounding me, plus I'm surrounded by sympathetic friends who are most eager to swap pregnancy horror stories with me (which, strangely, makes me feel better). Downside, I always have a tiny shadow following me into the bathroom when I hurl and commenting on it: "Mommy throw up. You done, Mommy? I close toilet now. Get up, Mommy. You all better now."

Actually, that's one of the upsides.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Juban Princeling Photo of the Week: 7/23/11

My mother ordered the same book for the Princeling she used to read to me when she was pregnant with Mr. Funny:

I'm so old that the book has nurses listening to the fetal heartbeat with a stethoscope and the father isn't allowed into the delivery room. But I think the Princeling gets the gist of it: There's a baby a-comin', and things are gonna change, and he's going to feel lots of different things about it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Forgiving Brent Spiner

For seventeen years now my family has been deeply devoted to an angry - and mostly* one-sided - feud with Brent Spiner, "Star Trek: The Next Generation"'s Lt. Cmdr. Data.

It all started 17 years ago when my then-14 year old brother, Mr. Funny, went to a Star Trek convention in Miami dressed as Data. It being 1994 and me being a high school senior, I had nothing better to do that weekend than apply my brother's makeup for him. Brent Spiner spoke at this particular con, and called my brother up for an impromptu photo op, because there's nothing cuter than a pup-sized fan in cosplay. He promised that if Mr. Funny sent him the photo, he would autograph it and send it back. A nice fan took my brother's address and sent him an 8 x 10 color photo:

Makeup courtesy of Meredith Morgenstern's Fantastic
Sci-Fi Makeup Studio. Brent Spiner's pants courtesy of a
serious Fashion Don't.

My brother sent it on to Brent Spiner.

Who never sent it back, autographed or otherwise.

I realize that Brent Spiner was at the pinnacle of his "ST:TNG" career at the time, but really? REALLY? He didn't have two seconds to autograph this photo, which he promised he'd do, and then have one of his assistants mail it to us? Did he think we'd be impressed by that, like all, "Ooooh, that Brent Spiner! He's too busy and cool and douchey to keep his promise to a little fanboy! We love him and should name our guinea pigs after him!"

Well, Brent Spiner, WE WERE NOT IMPRESSED.

Ever since, my family has collectively shaken our fist at the Heavens and spat curses upon the name Brent Spiner.

Fast forward several years, through Lewinskygate, Y2K, the 2000 Subway World Series, 9/11, a new Pope, Hurricane Katrina, the rebooting of the Batman franchise, and the 2008 Presidential Elections, to 2011. Like the Montagues and the Capulets at the end of "Romeo and Juliet,"** our long-standing, multi-generational feud has come to an end, albeit one a little happier than those stupid Renaissance teenagers.

A friend of my brother's - by way of their wives, who are friends - happens to live in Ye Olde England, which is why I'm going to call him Sir Brit. Sir Brit recently attended a major sci-fi con over there across the pond, where a certain Brent Spiner happened to be speaking and giving autographs. Sir Brit, knowing the sad saga of my brother's failed attempt to get his own photo signed by Brent Spiner, acquired himself a standard-issue publicity photo. But here's the best part:

Sir Brit told Brent Spiner the story, and Brent Spiner not only autographed the publicity shot for my brother, but he apologized!

Seventeen years in the making.

But, as Inigo Montoya famously said at the end of "The Princess Bride" (greatest movie ever ever ever ever EVER***), "I've been in the revenge business so long, I don't know what to do with the rest of my life." Now that we are no longer coming together as a family over our hatred of Brent Spiner, what do we do with ourselves? Find someone new to collectively hate? To whom will my poor mother spew her venom now? What will my brother long wistfully for at each upcoming Star Trek con? Whose pants can I make fun of now? Won't someone please think of the children???

Sir Brit also (very nicely) sent me an autographed photo of Alex Kingston as River Song in the most recent season of "Doctor Who." But she autographed it as Alex Kingston, not River Song. Maybe I can hate her for that? No? Oy.


**if the Capulets had no idea the Montagues even existed

***that is, the greatest STAND-ALONE movie ever ever ever ever ever EVER. Of course, "Star Wars" wins greatest series of movies ever ever ever ever EVER.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Writing Exercises in Real Life

"Is there coffee?" my husband asked.
"No, sorry, I forgot to set it yesterday," I replied.
"So, is the coffee in there and you just didn't turn it on?" he asked.
"I didn't set it. So no. There's no coffee in there, dumbass." I snarked.
"I'm not a dumbass, you jerk." He made a nasty face at me. "Setting it, and turning it on are two different things."

"Is there coffee?" My husband blinked in the sudden light of the kitchen and waved a hand in the general direction of our coffee maker.
"Of course, sir." Martha, our devoted housekeeper of many years handed him a steaming cup of fresh roasted brew.
"Did you sleep well, my love?" I stretched out of Warrior II pose and into Triangle Pose.
My husband walked over and kissed the top of my head. "Of course, darling. You are a heavy sleeper who absolutely does not snore. You?"
I smiled up at him and held his gaze. "Of course. You don't snore either, and you absolutely do not sleep with a sharp, bent elbow in my face."
"Excuse me, Madame." Our nanny's familiar voice crackled over the intercom from the Nursery Wing of the mansion. "Your son is awake. Shall I give him his morning apple juice, freshly pressed from apples picked out of your family orchard in your luscious, twenty-acre backyard?"
"Yes, Gertrude. Thank you." I slid easily into Plank Pose and my arms did not wobble even a little bit.

"Uhhhhhhhhh. UUUUUHHHHHH!" whined my son.
"What? What is it you want?" I tried not to snap at him.
"Want vitamin."
"No," I snapped anyway. "You had one this morning. You only get one per day or you'll die of a toxic vitamin overdose."
He threw his toy across the room. "WANT! VITAMIN! NOW!!!"
"That's it," I said. I grabbed his elbow and dragged him to his room. "Time out for whining and for throwing and for yelling at Mommy." I slammed the door shut, but it failed to drown out his screams of rage.

The closing credits to "Star Wars" rolled onto the screen. Next to me my son, who had been silent and still all through the movie, sighed with contentment. He leaned into me. "I love you, Mommy."
I put an arm around him and kissed his forehead. "I love you too, Juban Princeling."
"Can we watch the next one now? 'Empire Strikes Back?'"
A giggle bubbled up from my soul. My arm tightened around him just a little bit. "Of course!"
He stayed quiet and still all through that one, too. After the movie he asked, "Can we have Mommy-Princeling Star Wars Day again tomorrow?"
I tickled him a little bit. "Whatever you want, my sweetheart."

"Blah blah blah mayor stuff blah blah blah," said New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

"Meredith, I honestly don't know how this city ever survived without you." Mayor Bloomberg shook his head in disbelief as he wrote me a check for a million dollars.

"My job is killing me," one of my Hottie friends said.
"Mine too. Been working late, plus my dog is sick," said another one.
"My kid won't sleep," said a third Hottie.
"My husband is being a jerk," said another one.
"My mother-in-law treats us like garbage," said yet another.

"I'm glad we finally did this." I stretched out on the plush lounge chair. Behind me one of the DJCs - Derek Jeter Clones - fanned me gently with a giant palm frond. A second DJC gave me an expert foot massage, making the money I spent to send him to massage therapy school worth every penny.
"Oh yes, me too." One of my Hottie sisters lifted a frozen margarita off a tray proffered by a bartender DJC. "Cheers!"
"L'chaim!" I said, lifting my own frozen margarita because I was not pregnant and could drink alcohol.
A cool ocean breeze blew across our private Hottie Caribbean island.
"Pink, or red?" A third Hottie sister asked no one in particular as one of her own DJCs filed her nails.
"Red!" All seven of us laughed in unison.
"I hope our husbands are doing all right back home." Hottie Beatrix Potter dug into her calorie- and fat-free, yet still delicious, hot fudge brownie sundae, which was designed by a specialty DJC chef to not aggravate her migraines.
"I'm sure they're fine," another Hottie said.
"Can we stay on Hottie Island forever?" I asked.
"Of course we can!" My soul sisters all laughed. "We have no responsibilities back home! Let's stay here and eat what we want and drink alcohol and enjoy our private island! Now, take off your shirts, DJCs!"
And they did.

"I have an audition tomorrow," my brother told me. "I probably won't get it, and it's for an extras part, but I have to try."

"Hey Sis, I told Jessie J what a huge fan you are, and she invited you to go shopping with her tomorrow." There were many perks of my brother's job as head writer and featured player on Saturday Night Live. Getting to hang out with my favorite celebrities was just one of them. "And by the way," he added, picking up the check for lunch at Le Cirque. "Thank you so much for suggesting all those jokes and funny stories. I used them in my stand-up act the other night and they killed. They absolutely killed! And please, keep them coming. I am not at all annoyed when people suggest funny things I should include in my high-paying professional comedy career, especially when you text message it to me out of context and I have no idea what you're talking about and your text is full of typos and weird auto-corrects so that it reads like you let your 2-year old mash the keypad before you hit 'Send.' That is not annoying AT ALL."

I smiled. "I do what I can to help those I love."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Juban Princeling Photo of the Week: 7/9/11

His Majesty appraises the sprinkler situation at 19th Street playground. In Mommy's sunglasses, of course. How else is he supposed to ruminate on his kingdom?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Happy Anniversary. Here's a Stupid Baby.

Recently, we all - and by "all" I mean me, my husband, our son the 2 1/2-year old Juban Princeling, and my brother Mr. Funny - flew down to Miami to celebrate my parents' 40th Anniversary with them.

And if you've been a regular reader of Grey Skies and you're now thinking to yourself, "Gee, Meredith sure flies down to Miami a lot to see her parents. She must really love doing that!" then you are an idiot. I do it because my parents want to see their grandson, not me, and they buy our tickets for us because they have a Zero Tolerance Policy when it comes to excuses why they are not able to see him. Every once in a while my mother calls me up and says, "Window, or aisle?" and I know I have another trip down there to look forward to. She's already bought our tickets for Thanksgiving. I kid you not. Travel between New York and Miami is a pain in the butt at best, but for the Holidays it turns into a circle of HELL. So naturally it makes sense for my parents - who are two grown, self-employed people - to stay there while four adults - three of whom have jobs they are not the bosses of - and a toddler go to them. At Thanksgiving. Kill me.

Anyway, we went down for my parents' 40th Anniversary, which is not the sort of thing you can get out of even if you have a really bad sore throat that the doctor has told you is not strep. No, you go down there because you love your parents and because Miami has Dairy Queen and New York does not.

And since Mr. Funny and my husband had to work on Friday I got to fly down with the Princeling all by myself. With a non-strep sore throat.

Know what's more fun than flying alone with a 2 1/2-year old while you're super sick?

Flying alone with a 2 1/2-year old while you're super sick AND PREGNANT.

The day before I left I peed on a stick, and whaddya know, there's a giant "+" sign letting me know that another little bundle of joy is shacking up in my womb for a while.

Instead of pluses or minuses, pregnancy tests should say "Whew!" with a photo of a martini glass, or "Oh, Sh*t!" That would be funny. Because although we planned this one - as well as the last one - pregnancy is just not my thing. More on that later.

So we get to Miami, and I've agreed to wait until my husband arrives the next day to tell my parents the blessed news, which means my father spent 24 hours pushing hardcore pain medications on me like he was a doctor from the 1950s. Because I assume all doctors in the 1950s pushed hardcore drugs, right? So, he's begging me - begging me - to take at least a Tylenol, and I'm like, "Just say no, Dad!" Because I grew up in the 80s and stupid Nancy Reagan is stuck in my head. But I can't tell him why I won't take drugs, so he keeps pushing and by the time I was ready to flush his bottle of Advil down the toilet he finally gave up. Or fell asleep. Whichever.

But my favorite part of the weekend was when one of my parents' friends made the comment, "What a great anniversary present!" As if my husband and I were sitting around the house a few weeks ago saying to ourselves, "Now, what can we get them for their 40th that would be cheap, easy, and a complete burden to US but fun for THEM? I know, a baby!" while meanwhile poor Mr. Funny shows up with his sad little Hallmark card and a poem, or something.

What we actually got my parents was two dozen ruby red roses in a ruby red vase, because I looked it up on the internets and 40 is the "ruby" anniversary, and there was nothing else Mr. Funny and I could come up with that would make our parents happy while also being cheap.

Ruby red roses in a ruby red vase

And then, in an early case of Pregnancy Brain, after we told my mother-in-law the good news I went ahead and posted it on Facebook like this: "I feel a disturbance in the Force...a BABY-SHAPED disturbance in the Force." Unfortunately, I forgot that the hubby hadn't yet told his brother, Gilligan, the news. Since Gilligan lives in LA he was 3 hours behind us, which means my husband made a panicked phone call to Los Angeles at 7:45am their time on a Sunday, which means Gilligan's reaction was less "ecstatic" and more "thrilled yet churlish."

With a second baby, people are slightly less over-the-moon than they tend to be with a first one. The Princeling's birth caused one of my friends to get a divorce and another one to start in-Vitro fertilization treatments. No joke. His birth was that profound that two of my friends made major life decisions because of it. I'm not being sarcastic there, they really did.

With this announcement it was more like, "Yay. Aren't these red roses pretty?"

And that's fine, because I hate being pregnant. I am not one of those glowey, annoying women who walks around like I am At One with The Universe and being pregnant gives me insight into What's Really Important.

Quite the opposite.

My husband, friends and family all barely survived my last pregnancy, so I have no reason to believe any of them will still be around to love and support me in 8 months when Nugget* makes her** appearance. I am not good at being pregnant. If my husband and I were settlers out in the plains in the 1800s, or Catholics, or some other group that doesn't believe in birth control, I would have killed myself by now. In fact, the only reason we're doing this again is because we're dead-set on having two kids and this way is cheaper, easier, and faster than adoption. Though we did look into that. But we'd rather save up for a down payment on a super hot Park Slope condo instead of a stupid baby.

The last time I was pregnant I had "morning" sickness from two weeks past conception up until the day of the Princeling's birth. One weekend early on I threw up so much I lost 5 pounds in three days. My doctor had to put me on Zofran just to stay alive, and every time I tried to go off it I'd hurl my guts out. They even had to put it into an IV drip for me when I gave birth. It was that bad.

And for all of you out there thinking, "But every pregnancy is different!" I'd like to point out that I'm only 5 weeks along and I've already barfed several times. So shut up.

If pregnancy were an equation for me, it would look like this:

When I was pregnant with the Princeling in 2008 my feet swelled up so badly that people were actually horrified. I remember meeting a friend for dinner and she took one look at my feet and said, "Oh my god, I thought you were exaggerating but they are actually worse than what you said!" My obstetrician actually made me get an ultrasound on my left leg because my left foot was swollen disproportionately larger than my right. My husband nicknamed my left foot "Monstro." He used to play with my feet like they were Silly Putty, poking his finger into the mess and then making sick little noises of disgust when the indentation stayed there.

Me and my best friend Tia the night before my baby
shower, August 2008. Not pictured: Monstro.

So with all that in mind, I really just want to get through the next 8 months as quickly as possible. And I'm sure you do, too. Because I am not a "suffer in silence" martyr type. My misery is your misery. My swollen feet, hemorrhoids, gas, backaches, cramps, and vomit are YOUR swollen feet, hemorrhoids, gas, backaches, cramps and vomit. But, together we will get through my pregnancy. And let me just say it now so you all know: I love you. You are special to me. I can't do it without you. Please don't leave me alone. And for god's sake, do NOT block the way to the bathroom.

*That's the in-utero name we're using this time around. We got it from the new recruits on Battlestar Galactica. Yes, really.

**Three fortune-telling devices have all predicted a girl: the Chinese Gender Predictor on, my mother-in-law's Cuban numerology voodoo, and my son's girlfriend. Of course we'll be happy if it's a boy, too, but my MIL and a 2-year old and the Chinese don't lie.