Things I Accomplished in 2015

Like most people, I’m a sucker for goal-setting around this time of year. “I’ll do this” or “I’ll do that” frequently crosses my lips each January 1st. But like an estimated 92% of Americans, I usually fall short of said resolution/goal. So while I’ve set a few modest goals (setting the bar low is the way to go, I’ve learned in my 30+ years on this planet), I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the things I accomplished in 2015:

  1. Stayed in shape. This one speaks for itself. I’m a mom of two toddlers. And while I have the benefit of working mostly in my own home, eating healthy meals and working out four times a week (when sometimes a ‘workout’ is limited to a 15-minute sprint around the block) isn’t easy. I did it!
  2. Played 2 shows in Brooklyn: Having been out of the band scene for quite a long time, playing a show was one of my BIG goals of ’15 — and I exceeded it. I had two amazing nights playing shows at Branded Saloon in Brooklyn with my friends Rew, Sharissa, Michele, Gail, Morgan, and Nora (half of whom are in my band Marisa Mini and the Underage Hotties).
  3. Finished my First novel, and started writing my second one. Yes!!! The novel I began writing in late 2009, The Year My Hair Was Red, is complete! Of course, there are major plot-revision/editing issues, so instead of putting my nose to the grind, I decided to start writing a new book. This book just popped into my head, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Before I knew it, I was writing and writing and …
  4. Won NANOWRIMO. I started and finished my first #Nanowrimo!
  5. Encouraged Nathan to try new foods. My older son is the pickiest eater on the planet. His diet consists of yogurt, hummus, and the occasional chicken nugget, piece of cucumber, or skinny fry. But three of those foods are now regulars. I also got him to eat shredded beets (by calling them red carrots). Next up: Pizza and grilled chicken.
  6. Spent most every Tuesday with both dudes. Two-dude Tuesday, the new lifestyle choice that kicked off in mid-2014, went full swing in 2015. January and February brought tons of snow and ice, which made #Twodudetuesday super challenging (we really got to know Elsa last winter!), but then spring and summer brought so many fun play dates and little adventures. Fall was even more exciting, with regular play dates with new friends.
  7. Got to the beach-beach 3 times. OK, technically I live at the beach, in a nice town just minutes away from slightly rough (but genuine) sand and the Long Island Sound. It looks like a beach, and almost feels like a beach. Still, going to the real beach that borders the Atlantic Ocean was a HUGE triumph for me (not to mention one of the trips was a real, actual family vacation with just the four of us). I love Montauk and I love Ocean City, different as they are.
  8. Celebrated 5 years with Zack. I’ll put it bluntly: Marriage is no f*ckin’ picnic. This year was harder than most, as the hubs and I tried to balance work and family time, while keeping the kids healthy and happy. There were lots of meltdowns. But I can’t imagine being a co-parent and wife to anyone else. I’m grateful for the marriage and family I ended up with, as well as the new Gibson SG my husband got me for our five-year mark!
  9. Ran 3 races. This represented another accomplishment in 2015! While I’ve done two Turkey trots since birthing two dudes, this year I completed my first overnight, 200-mile Ragnar Relay in Cape Cod with my buddies Heidi, Kat, Sean, Ke’Mani, Ryan & James. Then, I ran a very nostalgic Brooklyn Rock N’ Roll marathon with Kat.

I hope I do lots of great things, and accomplish great feats in 2016. But the goals I’m setting are modest. I’d like to see one live show, play 2 live shows (including one with Grandma’s Mini), give $10 a month to charity, and start using my new coffee tumbler when I go to Starbucks (to help the environment). I’d also like to run one half-marathon OR full marathon. Most important, I want to continue to work on being a better mother and wife.

Halloween: What a Change from a Year Ago!

Halloween. Just saying the name of the holiday makes me realize how far we’ve come since last year, when my then-2-year-old Nathan cried and stomped when we tried to put him in his Super-Man outfit!

This Halloween, he decided to rotate between three costumes: Incredible Hulk, Superman (the same one he freaked out about the year before!), and Batman. He ended up being Batman for his school celebration (Logan was Robin), and Superman for our trick-or-treating day. But in spite of his indecisiveness, his excitement was such a shift from a year ago that I really need to pause and appreciate it.

Logan was neither overly excited nor immensely distressed at being put in a Robin costume. He sort of accepted his role as the little sidekick. And we got a cool family photo, too. I love dressing up, and have always wanted to be Wonder Woman, so I had lots of fun in my outfit (though I had to take in a bunch of fabric with safety pins).

My super family, Halloween 2015

My super family, Halloween 2015

Preparing for a Show Post Baby: What it’s Really Like for a Non-Celebrity Rocker Mom

You hear them on the radio, and see them gracing the covers of the most exclusive women’s magazines: Rocker moms. Articles about them are usually written in the vein of, “how P!nk is balancing diaper duty with recording” or “How mom-of-three Gwen Stefani makes time for cooking and going on tour!”

Marisa Mini & The Underage Hotties, 2015 version

Marisa Mini & The Underage Hotties, 2015 version

The article you don’t read is the one offering advice on how to get back into fighting rocker shape (physically and musically) when you’ve got one or two little ones in tow — even though you’re not famous. Most of the moms in bands I know fall into this category: We may have made some money at one time, but we don’t have lucrative recording contracts. We don’t have songs featured on SiriusXM Hits 1.

If you don’t have Gwen Stefani’s salary or fan base, you have to think about the financial aspects of playing a show, such as rehearsal costs AS WELL AS babysitting tabs. Since my band is my baby (I am the writer for all songs as well as the band leader), I foot the bill for $30-an-hour rehearsals, plus gas and transportation fees.

Then, you have to think about the time commitment. Rehearsing in New York City — an hour and a half from my home base of Fairfield, CT — is a seven- to eight-hour excursion. To accommodate this time suck, I had to take on fewer assignments (rock and roll doesn’t pay my bills, Ms. Stefani!), slack on cleaning duties (the floor still has caked banana on it from Monday), and curb my workouts (my kids still have to eat, and the extra practice time has to come from somewhere).

Also, if you’ve been out of the game for a while, as I have, there’s also the promotional and equipment headaches of planning a show. For example: After spending eight hours with my two toddlers, one of whom is potty training, I barely have energy to post anything on Facebook except a selfie of my kids, let alone try to put together some cleverly worded invite to my show. I’ve had to bribe my graphic designer friends and beg my bandmates to pick up some slack in the promotional department!

Oh yeah, and I gave away my big guitar amp a long time ago (you would too, if you needed to squeeze into a Prospect Heights apartment), so I’ll have to borrow two of them (for me and my lead guitarist) for the show. This means I’ll have to leave my house earlier.

The worst part? My mommy friends in Connecticut won’t be able to come (traveling to the Big Apple might as well be traveling to Russia as far as they’re concerned), and most of my city friends I haven’t seen since I became a mom so … I’m not on anyone’s radar anymore. Maybe an ex or two will show up, maybe not. But that’s about all the audience I’m getting.

So after all this bitching about how much effort and money is required to do this show, is it all worth it?

As of now, my answer is yes, absolutely!

One week ago I rehearsed with three amazing musician friends who I hadn’t seen for at least a year each — Morgan, Nora, and Michele. I love each of them for different reasons. Morgan is my bestie and longtime bassist, Nora is my former guitar student turned friend, and Michele is my tour buddy with a shared affection for NYC hardcore. Just being in the same room with these girls made me giddy. And when we plugged in our instruments, magic happened (though Michele wouldn’t necessarily call it magic after being on a two-year drumming hiatus)! Afterwards, I felt a buzz I hadn’t felt in a long time as I savored the long, summer night walk between 251 30th Street and Grand Central. Singing is cathartic, and playing guitar is my passion. I’m feeling inspired and creative and amazing.

I’m definitely bummed that my husband won’t make the show. When we were dating and it was just us, he made the trek to Brooklyn all the time to see me. I’m sure if it were super important I could wrangle him there, but … I need a babysitter for my kids. He is their dad. Problem solved!

I do hope that after this show, I’ll get to do another one soon, and that it won’t be so damn expensive to play. For one thing, I refuse to do more than one rehearsal in Manhattan. I live in Connecticut, and have for five years, and I have two children. I have to make it work here.

In the meantime, I hope whoever reads this post can make it to Friday’s show at The Branded Saloon in Brooklyn. Here’s the address and info:

Friday, August 7, 2015

Marisa Mini & The Underage Hotties (w/ Milf & Dilf and The Rewd Onez)

The Branded Saloon 

603 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11238

8 p.m. doors

Hope to see you there!

How Ex-Playboy Girlfriend Holly Madison’s Memoir Sucked me “Down the Rabbit Hole”

It may come to a surprise to some of my fellow moms, but I was a HUGE fan of “Girls Next Door,” the reality TV show centered on the day-to-day lives of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner (aka “Hef”) and his three live-in girlfriends — Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson. DownTheRabbitHole Cover

While I didn’t watch the show, which aired 2005-2009, regularly, when I did, I found it to be a fun, fluffy, wonderful guilty pleasure — an inside peek at a life I might’ve lived had I been just a shade blonder, gotten a boob job, and high tailed it to Los Angeles in my late teens.

As I watched each episode, I found myself increasingly drawn to Girlfriend #1 Holly Madison — formerly Holly Sue Cullen — who grew up in Oregon and Alaska. While the most serious-toned of the three blonde girlfriends, she was also the only one who seemed to aspire to having a family as well as a career. Beautiful and humble, Holly stood out from over-the-top bubbly Bridget and air-headed Kendra as someone I would enjoy spending time with over a cup of coffee.

So when I finally laid my hands on Holly Madison’s “Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny” on June 23, I simply could not put it down. I finished it in one week. This is a huge accomplishment considering I am raising two toddler sons. (I can barely find time to clean my kitchen most days, let alone read a memoir!)

There are two reasons the book sucked me in from the first page: one, it offered extraordinary insight into the inner workings of one of the most fascinating and salacious lifestyles. I found myself riveted by the descriptions of the rooms (“downscale” touches like Johnson’s baby oil in the poolside washrooms; puppy urine stains on the mansion’s staircases); the ladies who inhabited them (like the girlfriend who solicited other girlfriends for a high-end prostitution ring); and the conversations (such as Hef’s condescending way of explaining old movie plot lines or throwing a fit over Holly wearing red lipstick).

The other reason was that it struck a raw nerve in me. I’m no Playmate or pageant queen (though I was “Miss Nina” at the Baltimore Columbus Day Parade in 1992 and once runway-modeled Uzbekistani clothing for a festival in Washington, D.C.). Still, I know what it’s like to be valued for your looks, or to feel like your best asset is your beauty, a temporary gift.

Being a girlfriend to an old dude like Hef isn’t glamorous, and Holly’s memoir confirms that. Her descriptions of the post-nightclub sex orgies, in particular, are wince-worthy. And while Holly does acknowledge the perks of the Playboy girlfriend lifestyle — like a $1,000-a-week clothing budget — she spares Hef little mercy when she spotlights the ulterior motives behind his seemingly kind, friendly demeanor.

Among other things, the Playboy founder, who is now 89 to Holly’s 35, had a primary interest in keeping up an image that other men would envy. He couldn’t go without a girlfriend for even one day. In reality, says Holly, he threw immature temper tantrums and would play the girlfriends against each other (for example, by complimenting Kendra’s red lipstick just a few years after lambasting Holly for wearing it). The details are so rich and believable that I think it would be difficult for anyone to discredit her (though Kendra, perhaps out of jealousy, is trying).

One might wonder, then, how smart women like Holly or bestie Bridget (who apparently has a master’s degree) would put up with the Hef monster for years on end. Was the prospect of fame really that alluring? If we believe Holly, the answer is yes: Hef always dangled the possibility of better things — a monogamous relationship, a Playboy centerfold spread — just close enough to keep the girls loyal:

“I had to believe that there was a greater purpose for the choices I had made: whether it was to help advance my career or whether it was truly for love,” writes Madison. “And depending on the month, the week, and sometimes even the hour of the day, I would waffle back and forth between precisely why I was living a life as nothing more than ‘Girlfriend Number One’ to a man who was old enough to be my grandfather. I didn’t want to admit that I had sold a bit of my soul for the chance at fame.”

If Holly’s intent was to make me angrier at the double standards imposed on women, then she was successful. By the end of the 405-page read, I found myself almost teary-eyed, cheering on the new mom as a modern-day example of courage, strength, and beauty.

The only thing I’m still bothered by is that the tone of “Down the Rabbit Hole” is about 85% anger and 15% gratitude. Let’s not forget that being Hef’s main squeeze afforded Holly all kinds of opportunities, from celebrity status to the funds to pay off her $7,000 breast implants. Were it not for Hef and the lucky chance that reality TV would take off and make her a household name via “Girls Next Door,” Holly would have probably have left L.A. a long time ago, like most of her friends.

Unfortunately, for far too many women, fame and opportunity comes at great personal cost, whether it’s the woman who stalls childbearing to further her career (only to discover fertility challenges later on), or the woman who must pretend to be turned on by an 80-year-old man in order to have any chance at making more than a waitress’ wage.

And while Holly got her happy-ever-after ending, most women need more than a great pair of fake tits and blonde hair to elevate their careers.

I would love to see the day where a female magazine mogul were wealthy and powerful enough to afford and attract seven 20-something boyfriends. But would anyone watch a show about it? While many men are inspired by the idea of having a harem of young things to cater to their every whim, most women I know need their lady heroes to overcome major challenges and rise above, just like Holly did when she said “screw you” to mansion life.

Taking Another Look at ‘Good Housekeeping’

I used to think of Good Housekeeping magazine as the kind of publication you read when you’d given up on being a sexy woman and resigned yourself to a life of picture-perfect recipes and mom jeans.

I remember going to the grocery store as an angst-ridden preteen with my mom and, as we unloaded our items onto the checkout belt and waited for the cashier to give us the final tab, I’d watch her pick up a copy of GH from the newsstand and casually thumb through the pages. I rolled my eyes. Good Housekeeping seemed so, well, Good Housekeeping. Headlines screamed, “10 Easy Recipes for Summer” and “How to Balance Work and Life!” How boring. The preteen couldn’t be bothered with anything so practical.

A budding quasi-feminist-yet-curious-Lolita type, I got my kicks from equal parts Ms. magazine and Cosmopolitan. I was deeply curious about fashion and sex, yet entrenched in feminist politics. In college, things didn’t change much, except that I grew deeper into my feminist side (and started reading Bitch). After college, my interest in pizza and keg parties waned, while health started to find a way back into my life — so Self and Women’s Health became my books of choice (soon to be followed by Runner’s World). Those, plus Newsweek and TIME, which I grew up with, completed my magazine subscription collection.

That media mix was a happy one … for a while. Then, I had my first son. And suddenly I couldn’t wait to read articles like “Ways to Prevent SIDS” and “10 Post-Natal Exercises,” while checking out the cute $10 beauty fixes in the front of the book (because Parents editors are smart enough to know I don’t have more than $10 to spend on a beauty item unless it’s my highlights). What’s a little troubling, however, is my lack of interest in magazines like Cosmo, Glamour, even Women’s Health (my once-favorite).

It’s not that I have no libido (I do!), or an interest in fashion (that, too!). It’s just that my priorities have shifted tremendously. What I need more of is time, and advice on how to maximize it. What I need less of is a magazine telling me why I need $65 beauty serums before I turn 40 (ahem, Women’s Health). I also have less disposable income: Clothes are bought, but they must really, really be necessary. A $200 pair of sandals or jeans? Not really necessary, even though a good argument could be made for the jeans as a push present for baby #2. A good $8 brow pencil and a good, but not too pricy, pair of running shoes so I can stay in shape with the 20 minutes I have today to exercise? Totally necessary!!

On Monday, when I was looking for “great gifts under $10” I cam across an article with exactly that headline — and the link took me to Good Housekeeping’s website. I was delighted at the piece and the clever ideas! How was it that I didn’t notice how great this magazine is, all those years before?

Then, there’s the food thing. As in, I have zero time to make it. But I cannot handle the stress of Martha Stewart-level recipes. Again, Good Housekeeping hears me, loud and clear.

While I’m not sure if I’ll give up my subscription to Women’s Health this year, it’s interesting that I haven’t found the time to pay my annual $18 tab. I forget to read it when it comes every month, only glancing at it for a second or two, so I forget that I am a subscriber.

But I’m still holding on to the “sexy woman” image in my head, rather than the “overworked mom” one. So maybe I need hang onto Women’s Health to remind myself that I am sexy before I am momish. Then again, I have no idea what to cook for dinner and it’s already 2 p.m. What I wouldn’t give for the latest GH issue!

 

Going Freelance Again … with Two Kids in Tow!

When I first moved to New York in 2005, I became a freelance writer and (later) a guitar teacher by default. There weren’t any magazine jobs, but I had a lot of b-to-b writing skills — so friends of mine who knew I needed money just started sending my name to editors. I got assignments. And more assignments. And soon, I had so many assignments that I didn’t have time to look for a job. Sometimes I didn’t even have time to take a shower.

I did manage to find time to volunteer for the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls as a vocal/guitar teacher. So when an opportunity to teach guitar to kids came up on the Rock Camp listserv, I applied on a whim. The job — teaching students with the Brooklyn Guitar School — was mine a week later. A part-time freelancer’s position.

So the e-mail tagline changed with my identity: I became Marisa, a freelance writer and guitar teacher.

Then, the economy tanked in 2009, taking most of my high-paying media outlets with it. After months of trying to get new contract work, I humbly applied for a full-time job, tail between my legs. When I was hired, I felt like such a huge sellout, going corporate after years of being free. But numbers, like hips, don’t lie: I could barely afford more than rent, subway fare, and groceries. At the time, my then-fiance was a student teacher. We decided to move to Stamford, Conn., from Brooklyn, and I would need a car. And more money for things like gas and car insurance. There was no way around it: I had to get a job.

It’s been five years since I moved to Connecticut and returned to the corporate-job world. And now, I am leaving it again, only this time around, the circumstances are VERY different. Unlike before, I am not just working for myself. So I can’t just get up at 7 a.m. and plow through an assignment until noon. Rather, I can get up at 6 a.m., and plow through some work until 7, but then I’ll need to take a break to eat waffles with my toddler, and nurse my infant. I’ll need to make sure that bottles are washed and both little men are dressed and changed. In other words, there is only so much I will be able to work. Instead of working up to 80 hours a week, I’ll have to make sure my workload ends up being no more than 40 hours a week. I’ll have to have hard limits.

Of course, there’s the usual sadness about not having paid sick days (when you’re a freelancer, you don’t get paid when you’re sick!). And I’ll miss having colleagues — one of the nicest things about working in the corporate world. I’ll also miss the income that comes with working 50-60 hours per week. The idea of giving up money to put toward little luxuries like weekend getaways or new clothes is crazy scary.

But in return I’m getting something better: More time with my sons, big dude and baby dude. At the end of the day, I didn’t want to give up having waffles with my older boy, or nursing my little one because I’m on a business trip. I want to be there at the beginning of the day, instead of in a car on the way to a job. I want to be there for them at the end of the day. I want to cook dinner for them — and learn to use a food processor.

As much as I love work, family comes first. So here’s to “living the dream” as my friend Miriam called it. I truly am a lucky girl.

 

 

Practicing Guitar During Maternity Leave: 6 Tips

Maternity leave is a time to heal and bond with your baby. But for first-time moms it can be just as hectic as it is blissful, with baby crying at unpredictable times (like 3 a.m.) or waking up in the middle of the night several times. Still, that’s no reason you have to let your guitar playing go!

Like working out or investing time in anything you love, keeping “in shape” with your music skills is essential for guitar-playing moms.

Here are some tips on how to make time for music — or how to not let life as a mom of young ones to get in the way of playing guitar.

1. Set easy goals. When you have a child, time — the amount you have, how you use it, and how you value it — changes. Before my first son, Nathan, was born, I used to play guitar in the mornings, from 9 to 10 a.m., when I was most relaxed. In addition to teaching guitar, I played several hours every week — often times with a band in tow. Now, with two under two, I barely have time in the morning for myself other than make coffee! So I set a simple goal: play 1.5 hours a week for myself (not including time spent working on lesson plans). Sometimes a wailing (and hungry!) infant interrupts a song, but for the most part, having the goal has kept me motivated to stay in shape.

2. Keep Your guitar out of its case: When you become a mom, life is hectic even if you have help. And sometimes, even the thought of taking your guitar out of its case can be overwhelming. Do yourself a favor and keep it out in full display. If you have a toddler, like I do, install guitar hooks on your wall (we just bought several and intend to put them up any day now with my husband’s new drill).

3. Practice in chunks of time. I totally get it — you’re not going to play for two hours straight, only getting up for bathroom breaks. I’m not, either, save for the two times I had a gig last year and I lined up a babysitter so I could rehearse for two hours straight. Unless you’re a professional musician, you don’t have that kind of time anymore. What I recommend instead is practicing for 15- to 30-minute increments throughout the day. You can either time yourself or just play a few songs until baby wakes up for his or her nap.

4. Play five minutes every day. Some people wake up and meditate. Others stretch into gorgeous yoga poses. Most days, I wake up and reach for my acoustic — or at least I try to. The advice “play at least five minutes a day”— which I heard from another guitarist when I first started playing — has served me since college. And for moms, it’s especially important: Playing for just five minutes is better than not playing at all.

5. Play even when you don’t feel like playing. Do you always feel like working out at the gym? I certainly don’t! But I love the benefit of having a great figure, and feeling mentally and physically fantastic. The same goes for playing guitar: You need to practice regularly to stay in shape, or else your fingers will get sore and you will slowly forget how much you loved playing.

6. Play to your baby (even when he/she cries). This is, perhaps, the most important tip of all! Music is magic. I played guitar several times a week when both kids were in utero, and as a result, they love listening to me play. Nathan actually dances now when I play “Old McDonald Had a Farm” (although I just play E major over and over again!). Music is linked with all kinds of health benefits, such as improving mood and brain function. And when music comes from mommy, it’s even better!

The Growing Differences Between How my Child-free Friends and Friends with Kids Think

Last May, about a month before I got knocked up with baby #2, I tried on the most stunning, black-and-floral-print, jaw-dropping Parker dress at Apricot Lane, a super-cute boutique in Fairfield, Conn., where I live. It was a lovely, sunny Sunday, and my dear husband had taken our baby son, Nathan, to his grandparents’ house, so I could have a few hours to myself.

When I saw my reflection in the mirror, I was stunned at how great I still looked, at 37, in a designer dress. It was a real confidence boost to a mom, let me tell you. Then I saw the price tag: $235!!!

Now, it’s not that I don’t have enough money to afford a $235 designer dress. I do. But with Nathan in daycare, and plans to buy a home on the horizon, I knew it had to be a truly special dress to drop that kind of cash spontaneously.

So I called my fashion-forward friend A. to ask her what I should do: Should I fork over the money and splurge on the dress? Should I pass?

“I’d wait, look around a bit, see what else you can find,” said A.

Fair enough. After all, A. always gives me great advice. Unfortunately, I forgot to take into account that she is child-free, and therefore, by default, experiences the world a bit differently than I do.

Long story short, I took her advice because it seemed like the “smart” thing to do — I figured later that week I’d find another great dress when I stopped by the mall during my downtime. But two hours of downtime and a trip to the mall never came. And then it was mid June. I desperately trolled the Internet, but the dress was sold out online. The one I had put on hold at Apricot Lane was long gone, too.

Almost a year later, and I’m still thinking about that dress — the Parker Lily dress.

When I recalled the experience, months later, to my friend Karina, who has a son, her response made me seethe even more for listening to my child-free friend: “Oh my god, you should have bought the dress,” she said. “Who has time to go shopping? You have a kid!”

The experience did, however, enlighten me to the reality that there’s a growing gap between how my friends with kids and my friends without kids think about everything.

Take sleep.

Shortly after the dress incident, I headed south for a planned girls getaway with two of my besties and another girl pal. The night before, me and bestie #1 got about four hours of sleep each — me because of the anxiety and insomnia over leaving my then-11-month-old for a beach jaunt, and her because of my uncomfortable air mattress.

En route to Dewey Beach, Bestie #1 marveled at my ability to pump breast milk while driving, and when we arrived at the beach, it was rainy so we decided to get pedicures. That’s when she hit a wall. “I have to take a nap!” she lamented. The mood had changed so quickly, and she was cranky. I pondered this in disbelief: Was she really that exhausted over four hours of sleep for one night? Did people between the ages of 16 and 50 get exhausted over one bad night?

The answer, apparently, is yes.

But as any parent knows, when you have a kid you learn to bank sleep: a good night is four straight hours, interrupted once, followed by two hours, which gives you about six total. A bad night is two hours, or half-hour sleep segments spaced out by infant grunting. Parents learn to survive at 50 percent sleep capacity — or four hours a night total (including interruptions) — for weeks on end.

Child-free friends of mine don’t understand these bootcamp-like conditions, so they convince themselves they “need” sleep because they are used to a high level of sleep (it’s similar to how those of us who grew up in the middle-class suburbs “needed” new clothes every few months).

It’s not that I fault my bestie for needing so much sleep, or for taking care of herself. I did the same thing before I got pregnant with my first son. But when you have a baby, your views on sleep change from that point forward: Sleep is a beautiful thing; it’s great when you can get it but if you can’t, you won’t die.

Here is how those of us with kids “think” in various situations (versus those of us without them):

#1: 10 p.m. on a Tuesday

Friends with Children: Bedtime!

Child-free friends: “Just finished dinner after a grueling spin session at the gym. Time to catch up on missed shows. Where’s the remote?”

#2: 10 p.m. on a Friday

Friends with Children: “Where’s the remote? Honey, can you pour me some wine?”

Child-free friends: “I’ll meet you at the bar after dinner. The band goes on at 11 — let’s try to get a spot up front.”

#3: Working out at 6 a.m. 

Friends with Children: “Not happening until he sleeps through the night.”

Child-free friends: (Posts to Facebook): “So proud of myself for waking up at the crack of dawn to get in a spin class. Yay to me!”

#4: Trip from D.C. to New York/NY to D.C.

Friends with Children: “Did I pump enough milk for Saturday and Sunday morning if the train gets stuck?”

Child-free friends: “Maybe I will go shopping when I get to the city. Or have brunch.”

#5: Going out with the girls

Friends with Children: “Holy moly, this night better be awesome now that I forked over $150 for a babysitter, bought new makeup/got my hair done because I won’t have another night like this for six months!”

Child-free friends: “I wonder what club we should go to when Marisa gets to town? Do we have to go out at all? I go out all the time. I kind of want a night in.”

Other thoughts?

Baby Clothes with Guitars and Gender Roles

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Nathan in his GNR onesie

Nathan in his GNR onesie

I love shopping for clothes for Nathan. And I especially love buying (or receiving) cute little boy attire emblazoned with band logos, images of rock icons, and big electric guitars. The latter, especially.

But if I hadn’t had a boy, I wouldn’t have had so many choices in attire, and chances are, many of those onesies that say “I wanna rock” would say “I wanna garden” instead.

During a trip to Carter’s in my eighth month of pregnancy, I spent several minutes on both the girls’ side and the boys’ side of the store. The sex of my baby would be a surprise, but I wanted to see what kinds of cute little outfits awaited my forthcoming arrival.

Since I teach guitar and play in a band, I was immediately drawn to the huge array of shirts on the boy side of the store with guitars on them — some with little guitars, others with big guitar prints on them. But I was a bit troubled when I went to the girls’ side of the store, and, much to my dismay, could only find one little guitar-decorated shirt. And it said, “My daddy rocks!”

I asked the sales clerk about this. Surely, there were other options besides the zillions of pink, polka-dotted floral-print dresses and PJs for my hypothetical daughter!  Daddy does rock, but, in this case, mommy does rock, too, and can even play a GNR solo — so where is the onesie for that reality?

Sadly, I was told, there weren’t any such onesies or baby tees.

Well, this made me a bit miffed. Yes, I intended to dress a girl in pink (though I realized this was adhering to the same gender stereotypes some of my college feminist friends eschewed). Yes, I intended to put her in little bows. But why, oh why, are a options for baby girl clothes limited to the likes of pink-and-yellow-dot dresses and daisy-imprinted tees? Being a boy looked SO much cooler at Carter’s — everything that didn’t have a guitar printed on it had a monster truck or a dinosaur on it!

Apparently, the market for girl clothes with dinosaurs, monster trucks, and guitars on them didn’t exist. If it did, then Carter’s, one of the biggest infant-to-children clothing chains in the country, would be selling them.

So I guess baby clothes are where it all starts. Next, there are little girl baby dolls, so a girl can practice being a mommy when she’s only two, and then there are little girl kitchens, so she can practice being a homemaker. I’ve never seen a little boy kitchen — one that is tailored to the color palate and gender assumptions that go along with boyhood (baby blue everything, cool-looking gadgets, and neutral, faux-granite countertops).

Then again, I can’t deny I am a byproduct, to a certain degree, of gender conditioning. Though I would never buy my little girl a play kitchen, I don’t have any plans to buy my little boy a play kitchen, either. Or paint his nails pink, a la Jenna Lyons of J Crew.

But until people take a stand and start asking for boy-tailored baby kitchens or boy shirts with flowers and girl onesies with guitars — Carter’s and its competitors won’t change either. It’s all about what the majority of consumers (you and me) want.

Swapping One Kind of Sunday for Another

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For three years after I moved to Connecticut I continued to teach guitar every Sunday in Brooklyn.

I’d wake up at 8 or 9, fueled by three to eight hours of sleep, and head for either the Metronorth station in Stamford or the highway (at first, the Metronorth; when I got a Ford Fiesta, the highway). A couple of hours later, I found myself in or near the Atlantic Avenue station in Brooklyn, traipsing around town, teaching one student after another, and sometimes taking a lesson.

I loved being in Brooklyn once a week. It felt cool when everything about Connecticut was very Stepford Wife-like. I taught guitar, and between lessons, ran around Prospect Park, shopped for secondhand clothes in Park Slope, ate huge, leafy-green salads, wrote songs in Room A at the Brooklyn Guitar School, and enjoyed paling around with the other teachers.

On my last day in Brooklyn as a guitar teacher, I was 32 or 33 weeks pregnant. Traipsing around town felt more like waddling, and my growing appetite meant big leafy salads no longer made me full. My students, too, started dropping when they heard I was taking a three-month maternity leave. And even though I swore I would be back.

Alas, I never did. return, except for a visit.

Today, I teach in Connecticut.  Mostly Weston and Wilton, but I’m hoping to expand my roster. The kids are great, as kids always are – some are curious, some are spastic, some are quiet and a little brooding.

The biggest difference: My Sundays are free.

Of course, by “free” I mean I don’t have to teach. But I still have to get up super early –7:30 or 8-ish – so I can feed my son. If he falls back asleep till 9, great. But if he’s ready to play, mommy has to play too!

It’s totally fine and fun. I love watching Nathan go nuts in his little exersaucer while I do a few dishes and make his breakfast. And I love feeding him his breakfast (yesterday it was apples and barley) while we wait for daddy to wake up. And I love playing him a few songs on my guitar while it’s just me and him. I’m grateful that it is: My husband loves sleeping in, and I cherish that private time in the morning with my little boy.

I’m also grateful that I have some time to focus on my own music when my son wants to listen and the mood is right – though I do long for more time to work on techniques. Then again, many Sundays in Brooklyn I was so busy with lessons that I didn’t really get good, quality guitar-playing time. And while I miss my old Sundays a bit, it’s much less than I expected. Today I can look back at my past Sundays in Brooklyn and smile at the memories.

There is a time in life for everything, and now is my time to be a mom. Brooklyn will always have a small part of my heart, but today, my family has all of it.