Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Baby elbow.

Today is the first full day I am taking care of baby S. She and I just returned from taking Liam to school and it was quite an ordeal.

The crying and runny nose and need for milk and constant holding bordered on craziness. And that was just Liam! Little baby slept the whole time all bundled up in her car seat. Good for my sanity, bad for my elbow!

I had forgotten how painstakingly difficult those car seats are to carry. The trip in to the school was laughable - I had the car seat in one hand and a backpack and lunchbox in the other while Liam clung on to my torso monkey-style. I figured the walk back to the car would be a breeze but no such luck. Even with my spine twisted unnaturally to one side, the car seat still kept whacking me in the legs. I thought my shoulder had taken the worst of it but as I sit here typing, my elbow is still throbbing with pain. I am definitely out of practice.

When I saw a chiropractor after Liam was born she advised me NEVER to carry the baby in a car seat. I understand why but are there really any better options? How practical is it to take the baby out of the car seat? What would I do with Liam while that was happening? Our window of getting into school without separation anxiety is pretty narrow. I can't have him waiting around for me while I try to unstrap a sleeping baby. Besides, wouldn't all that jostling wake her up? I mean, come on - you expect me to carry a 2 year old, a crying baby, a backpack and a lunch box? Me? I would definitely drop something.

I'm afraid my elbow is just gonna have to take one for the team.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A milestone for suckers.

Have you ever seen those McDonald's ads in magazines where there is a sweet picture of a mom and her kid bonding over chicken nuggets? The caption is something like, "her first ballet recital and then dinner at McDonald's - if I had to live one day over and over again, this one would be hard to beat." It sounds cheesy but - no, it is cheesy. Why would I defend a McDonald's ad? Anyways, that ad totally makes me tear up. Lots of ads do. I'm a marketer's dream.

That ad in particular gets me every time. I think its because I have very vivid memories from childhood that involve McDonald's. Like before I was in school, my dad would sometimes take me on dates where we would eat McDonald's at a picnic bench at Virginia Lake and then toss our leftover french fries to the ducks and geese. I would eat a cheeseburger and he'd eat a Filet O' Fish. I remember thinking how grown up that was to eat a Filet O' Fish. I wondered when I would be old enough to order something like that. For a while in middle school I thought I was mature enough to order a Big Mac. Then on what was already a really bad day in 7th grade I found a hair in my Big Mac and have had a bad association with special sauce ever since. To this day, I am still eating cheeseburgers like I did when I was 5.

I should be eating salads like the moms in the magazine ads do. If I ever find myself going to McDonald's more than twice a year, I'll have to make the switch.

Sucker that I am, I was pretty excited to take Liam to McDonald's for the first time tonight. OK, really excited (I giggled on the way in). We were driving home from the grocery store in the rain and suddenly saw a beacon of brightly lit fun - the indoor play land! (OK, maybe it was a lot more premeditated than that but who wants to admit they were craving a McDonald's cheeseburger and a Coke?)

I got Liam a Happy Meal which I know is stupid because my mom told me about a thousand times growing up that its like fifteen cents more than just ordering the same food without the packaging but I didn't care. Tonight was all about me and my boy and our magazine ad experience. Money be damned - we want it all!

As we entered the playland, I felt like we were off to a pretty good start. I immediately recognized a little girl from the class I substituted last week (adorable red head with a pastel pink faux fur jacket!) and felt a camaraderie with the other mommies who put nutritional common sense aside to enjoy dinnertime with a side of tunnel slide. Could this be an ongoing date night for me and Liam? I set down our tray and pulled out the chicken nuggets to start the bonding. I imagine I was grinning like an idiot.

As soon as I stuck the straw in Liam's apple juice, our picturesque moment was over.

He slammed the juice and then told me he was, "all done dinner." I tried to get him to eat a bite or two but he was just too excited to eat (at least, that's what I like to think - the truth is, he never eats). So, I gave up and let him down to play. Unfortunately he enjoyed the play land about as much as he enjoyed his meal. He liked watching kids go into the tunnels and come out the slides but didn't personally want anything to do with it. As I chatted with a mom, he walked around the structure looking for Blue's Clues (not the show, actual clues).

After several unsuccessful attempts to talk him into it, I decided to lead by example. I checked the rules to make sure parents were allowed on the equipment and then kicked off my shoes and climbed into the cesspool (as the other mommies called it). After a lot of coaxing, Liam climbed in and grabbed my hand. As soon as we crawled just far enough to make it really tough to get out, he decided that was enough. As he shouted, "all done tunnel!" and held onto my hand for dear life, I tried to maneuver my way over him so I could lead us both to safety.

Not exactly what I would call a happy meal but a fun "first" all the same.

And, don't worry about my sweet 2 year old's arteries clogging with trans fats - he didn't eat a bite. I, on the other hand, have definitely felt better. No wonder the mommies on TV eat salads.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sick.

I'm sick. Not terribly sick just sick enough to want to crawl in bed and hook myself up to a Theraflu drip and not come out of my room until I feel better. Sick enough that I went to bed early two nights ago and watched Bring it On from beginning to end. That's pretty sick.

Being sick when you're a mom sucks. Even though I'm home all day and can stay in my pajamas and mope around feeling sorry for myself, it's still not the same as staying home from work sans child. No matter how yucky I feel, it is always my responsibility to take care of Liam. That's a tough pill to swallow when you've got a sore throat.

I'm not very good at being sick. I don't try to tough it out at all. I like to feel sorry for myself and prefer it if Bill feels sorry for me too. I guess it goes without saying that I'm not very pleasant to be around right now.

Yesterday, I not only fought with Bill (I was mad that he wasn't feeling sorry enough for me - he must have been busy STUDYING FOR THE LSAT), I actually found myself annoyed with my child. Pretty nice, huh?

He wouldn't nap at all so the day just wore on and on and on. The closer we got to bedtime, the closer I got to the end of my rope. I was picking up his room when he asked me to make a ball out of play doh.

Liam: "Make a ball?"

Me (fairly pleasant): "Hang on a sec, buddy."

Liam: "Mama make a ball?"

Me (growing annoyed): "OK, I'm almost done."

Liam: "Make a ball?"

Me (pretty stern): "Liam, HANG ON."

Liam: "Make a ball?"

Me (snapping): "Liam, I am trying to do something here. Just give me ONE MINUTE!"

Liam (leaning forward, head cocked to one side, looking up at me with a sly grin): "Make a ball?"

He was trying not to laugh as he wrapped me a little tighter around his finger.

Of course I immediately sat down with him and made as many play doh balls as he wanted. I may be a sucker for puppy dog eyes (seriously, you should have seen them!) but I think it was just his sweet way of reminding me that sometimes little boys need their mama's undivided attention. Yes, even when mama is sick. Play doh balls are not going to make themselves!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Weekly reader.

I have found a really great solution for #20 on my birthday list:

Get informed (like world events and politics, not E! News Daily).

It's a magazine called The Week that our friend Guy gave Bill (total BFFs) a subscription to. It's awesome! The sub-head is "All you need to know about everything that matters." Perfect! My previous attempts to read The Economist left me feeling: 1) more stupid than I care to admit, 2) like I had no time to do anything but read this magazine that kept showing up at our house week after week whether I had managed to slog through the last issue or not, and 3) like being informed was definitely overrated. Nothing should be that hard. Fortunately, The Week is much more my speed. My favorite feature is the world map that accompanies international articles. There is an arrow pointing to the country that is being written about so you don't have to pretend you know where the heck Beirut is located. This is especially helpful for someone like me who has absolutely no concept of geography whatsoever. I am shocked to find that Iraq and Italy are practically neighbors! (I'm hopeful that the future me will look back at that statement and tisk tisk with pity.)

I love magazines. Bill and I both do. Between the two of us we probably have about 10 subscriptions right now. That's a lot. Mine include Wondertime, Cookie, Domino, Blueprint, Women's Health, Parents and Shape. Wondertime is my absolute favorite but I really like them all (except Shape - Women's Health is so much better). Magazines are the one thing in our house that borders on clutter. It's hard for me to get rid of them without being absolutely certain I have gotten every last bit of information out. I tear out interesting articles and inspiring pictures, recipes, design ideas and things I want to buy. I have stacks and stacks of these just waiting to be organized. I've attempted it several times but it's a really big job. Like all day big, not nap time big. I need to remember that I don't have to do it all in one day - something would be much better than nothing.

So, while The Week may help me become more informed, magazines in general are making it quite difficult for me to read a book a week (#12 on my list). I guess some reading is better than no reading. Besides, if I count children's books, I am kicking my goal's ASS!

Monday, January 21, 2008

It happens.

Do you ever have a "really good idea" that you maybe know is not that great of an idea but you go ahead and execute it anyways because it makes you laugh and, well, isn't that what life is all about? Here's my latest:

Could. Not. Help. Myself.

I'm still laughing about it even though it's kind of embarrassing to be this dorky. Poor chest wound!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The cat's meow.

Whenever I hear about women who only wash their hair once a week, it totally blows my mind. Even when Liam was really tiny and I was exhausted and overwhelmed, I still managed to shower almost every day. Not because I'm that cool but because I feel weird if I don't shower. I mean like physically weird. I think it's my hair.

I've heard that once-a-week-washers sometimes put baby powder in their hair to keep it from looking too oily. Interesting, but not something I've ever tried. At least, not until yesterday.

We noticed on Friday night that our cat, Mr. Bird, had a big swollen patch on his chest where all of his hair had fallen out. When I called the vet yesterday morning, they got us in right away. Good for Mr. Bird, bad for me. I wouldn't have time to find the cat carrier, pull Mr. Bird out from under the bed, squeeze him into the tiny box, get Liam ready to go AND take a shower. I had to come up with plan B.

Then I remembered the baby powder idea! Since I happen to have plenty of that on hand, I decided to give it a try. Let me tell you, that is one beauty tip that should be left to the professionals. Perhaps suggesting a bandanna or hat would be more helpful. It may not sound very glamorous but I think you would agree that this:


Looks a lot better than this:

I think shaking the bottle of powder over my head in Liam's room with no mirror in sight may have been the problem.

Mr. Bird is fine although we have temporarily changed his name to "Chest Wound." What looked like a tumor was actually just an abscessed cat bite. The vet said you can tell a lot about a cat from where they get bit - a bite on the front means a cat was standing his ground. So, Chest Wound is a fighter, not a lover. Although if you ask any of Liam's stuffed animals this week they would certainly beg to differ. In an effort to sooth himself, Mr. Bird has been humping anything he can wrap his legs around. Brown bear and black bear have been in and out of the wash all week. It's disturbing. I'm hoping the $150 vet bill will take care of the chest wound and the humping.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

ADD or NOT?

My husband has been told since he was a child that he has ADD. That the reason he didn't get good grades was because he couldn't focus. That without medication he'd never be able to excel at school.

They may as well have told him to just give up. I guess basically they did.

I knew from the time I met him that he was smarter than me. I read his papers when we had high school English together and was blown away every time. He was articulate and intelligent and seemed to be thinking above and beyond the confines of a high school classroom. His work made mine look elementary. Yet, every time we got our graded papers back, mine would have a red "A" at the top while his would have a "D" or worse, no grade at all. The red "see me" he saw time and time again would usually mean he had to choose between an F and re-writing the entire paper. When someone who has already been told he can't is told he's failed, why on earth would he want to try again? Especially when he's been told his entire life that he's a bad student. That's a tough expectation to break out of. (Teachers buy into expectations too - that's why I would get As and Bill would get Ds - I was a "good student," he was a "bad student." That teacher actually apologized to him several years later!)

I can tell you with absolute certainty that Bill is a great student. Anyone who can return to college at the age of 29 while supporting his wife and new baby and get As and Bs in every class (even statistics!) without the use of Ritalin or any other ADD drug is NOT a bad student or someone with a learning disability. If he really had ADD do you think he'd be able to study for the LSAT while working full time and living in a busy little house full of pets and Liam and Blue's Clues? I sometimes have trouble focusing long enough to unload the dishwasher yet he has been plugging away diligently, already raising his LSAT score 7 points (in one week!).

I think the jig is up - his diagnosis was a hoax.

As the youngest of 3 kids and the only boy, Bill had a lot of flexibility growing up. By the time he was 5 or 6, he was watching Johnny Carson every night on the TV in his room and when I met him in high school, he and his friend lived on the couches downstairs at his parents house and stayed up late enough to watch Conan O'Brian on school nights. After school, when most kids were doing homework or going to baseball practice, Bill was hanging out at cafes drinking coffee, reading novels, and having long, philosophical conversations with whoever wanted to talk. He came and went as he pleased and enjoyed a supportive yet hands-off relationship with him mom. At the time, I was jealous but now I'm thankful I had a curfew and a bedtime. It's hard to succeed without structure and sleep.

When Liam was first born, I read a book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and it was by far the best parenting book I have read. It made me realize that sleep is just as important as nutrition and discipline and education. And not just for kids, for adults too. Being overly tired or sleep deprived causes all kind of problems from difficulty focusing and retaining information to behavioral problems such as crying or acting out. Pretty much the same symptoms of ADD and ADHD.

Imagine how different our schools would be if doctors prescribed sleep instead of pills.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mommy powers.

The other day, I told my sister I'd help her find bridesmaid dresses for her upcoming wedding. She was feeling kind of bummed because two of her friends got engaged after her but will get married before her and she didn't want to have the third wedding in a row that had bridesmaid dresses from David's Bridal but didn't know where else to look. She's not very bridey and is easily overwhelmed by all this wedding stuff. It's not that she doesn't want to be bridey, it's that she's in grad school and doesn't have time to be bridey. Although, she had plenty of time during my wedding and was still totally not into it. That is a story for another time.

I searched online and within a few minutes found perfect dresses at Ann Taylor.

Not only were they the style and color she wanted, they were on sale. A really BIG sale. The price was marked down to $79 and then there was an additional 30% off that. $55 for a bridesmaid dress! I called Moose and told her to make a decision quick before the dresses sold out. Well...by the time she showed all the bridesmaids the dresses and made a decision and got back to me, the dresses were still available but the 30% off sale had ended. While $79 is still a great deal for a dress, it is not as great as $55.

So, I picked up the phone and called Ann Taylor.

I'm sure you're wondering, why the dramatic pause? Did you call the actual Ann Taylor? Is there an actual Ann Taylor?

The big deal is this - I never would have done this before Liam was born. NEVER. I would have been bummed out that the price was higher and complained to Bill and been mad at Molly and felt sorry for myself but never actually called to see if I could get the lower price. Not in a million years.

This time I didn't even think about it not being an option. I just called and asked for what I wanted and then kept asking until I got it. The girl was really nice and, even though she couldn't honor the 30% off, figured out a way to give me 15% off and free shipping. I ended up paying less than I would have paid originally.

I told my sister that she should order the rest of the girls' dresses all at once so they didn't all have to call and finagle with the poor customer service people. Knowing my sister, I was sure she could get the same deal I had gotten if not an even better deal. She's the bold one in the family. When she tried but failed to get the deal, I was shocked.

How was this possible? Wasn't I the same kid who was too shy to ask for ketchup at McDonalds? Wasn't she the same (very little) kid who toddled up to the counter and got the ketchup for me?

Then I remembered - I have mommy power now. I learned about this from my friend Erin. She doesn't have the power (yet) but remembers her mom's quite fondly. I think she may have been impressed with mine.

See, when you become a mom, you suddenly do all kinds of things you never thought you'd do. You ask perfect strangers for favors and stop at nothing to get what your kid needs. You hand your 6 week old baby to the man behind you in the airport security line "just for a second" while you take off your boots. You ask the barista to top off your sippy cup with milk. You share snacks with kids at the bookstore and push the swings for any kid who needs a push. You do whatever it takes to be a good mom. The whole notion of "comfort zone" disappears as soon as you weigh in at your first pre-natal appointment.

Living without boundaries is so much easier than feeling confined to only doing or saying the things you feel comfortable doing. Not that I'm kicking ass and taking names non-stop or anything. I still have my moments. The difference is, now I know I can do things that make me feel uncomfortable and live to tell about it. Knowing that is enough to make me ask for my own damn ketchup.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Crafty.

If glitter is the herpes of craft supplies, we are having an outbreak.

I just carried a little shaker thing of glitter from the office to the kitchen upside down. Our house is so sparkly now!

Totally worth the outbreak.

In the bag.

It's insane to me how many plastic bags I get each time I go to the grocery store. I know the baggers don't want to squish anything but there has to be a happy medium. Sometimes I'll get home and find a box of crackers in a bag all by itself. Where is the logic in that? Crackers aren't even heavy - what are they going to squish? Also, what is the deal with putting a gallon of milk in a bag? The milk already has a handle on it - putting it in a bag actually makes it harder to carry, not easier.

I don't know if this happens at all grocery stores or just at the stores near me. Our options leave much to be desired.

Our closest choice is hostage Kroger. At least that's how our neighbor introduced us to it when we first moved to the neighborhood. As in, "you're gonna want to drive past hostage Kroger and keep going until you see the other Kroger." I know what you're thinking - a hostage situation in a grocery store? Well, um, yeah - apparently that's just what happened. I would like to think things have improved since then but, let's be honest, the bar was not set that high to begin with.

The next closest grocery is the Neighborhood Family Fun Market (aka Walmart). As much as it pains me to say so, this is actually not a bad choice. They have a fair amount of organic options, the brand of diapers we like best and much lower prices than the other stores (at least that's what I hear - I haven't looked at food prices since my coupon-clipping mom forced me to as a kid). Unfortunately, you can't buy beer there since they are within 100 feet of a church or school and it takes FOREVER to check out. So unless you want to stand around feeling helpless and pissed off and then not have a beer when you get home, this is not the choice for you.

Today I went to the other Kroger and bravely used my eco-friendly shopping bag for the very first time. It's stupid what a big deal this was for me. I've been carrying it around with me for weeks but, until today, never worked up the nerve to pull it out and use it. I think I was afraid of offending the checker. "Get that environmentally repugnant plastic bag away from my organic milk you heathen!" Maybe I just didn't want the attitude. Although, you pretty much get that no matter what kind of bag you're using. In my neighborhood, it's just part of the experience.

What did I do before DIY checkout lanes?


Now that's how you pack a bag!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hats off to me.

Yesterday, I finally started getting my old car ready to sell (hopefully to a friend). I took the camouflage sun shade off the back window and gathered up all my cds and gloves from the glove box (I'm a rule follower). I was about to head back into the house when I realized I should probably check my trunk.

Have you looked in the trunk of your car lately? I would be willing to bet there are some surprises waiting for you.

My car trunk was like the cedar chest I never had. I found my middle school year books, old photos and letters, and a whole bag of cards, gifts and memorabilia from my high school graduation. I'm surprised my wedding dress wasn't in there!

I brought everything in and had a little look back. A little day-in-the-life of Maggie sort of experience. It completely blew me away! I think I received graduation cards from everyone I ever knew. All my aunts and uncles and cousins (even the ones who are completely out of touch), my neighbors, the kids I drove to school (and their parents), my friends, my friends' parents, classmates who were younger than me, even some teachers gave me cards! People said things like, "education is the one thing no one can take away from you," and, "you have never been ordinary," and "you're the nicest senior in the whole school!" They said they were proud of me and knew I was destined for great things. My mom said, "we're so glad you'll be staying home...for a while," and my dad said, "as you go through life, be cool & have fun but always remember to be home by one." Words to live by.

The people who gave me those cards totally made my day and it's been 12 years since they gave them to me. Can you imagine? I doubt they would have guessed that they'd be telling a 30 year old stay-at-home mom that she could do anything she put her mind to and that she's a great friend and a shining star. I have to say, it was even sweeter the 2nd time around.

Unfortunately, most of the cards and things were damp and covered in mold. I had to throw a lot of them away and couldn't even read some of them. Have you ever been around mold for an extended period of time? I wouldn't recommend it. It was actually pretty gross. Sweet, but gross.

Look, Ma - no mold! (I'm on the right)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Big boy.

Liam just had his first full day of school! Ever since he started the mother's day out program in the fall, I've been picking him up at noon, before the kids lay down for a nap. Today was the first day back from Christmas break so we went ahead and made the transition. I knew it was going to be a good day when I handed him to his teacher and, instead of crying, he said, "Bye bye Mom." He stayed from 9 until 2 and did super great (it says so on his report card)! He didn't sleep a wink but laid down quietly for the entire naptime. Now he's taking a nap at home in his own bed. That's like double time off for me!

So what did I do with this precious stolen time? Well...
  • I went to the grocery store to get diapers and bananas.

  • I worked on Bill's personal essay for his law school applications.

  • I helped a friend clean out her closet and get rid of some stuff she doesn't need. (This, by the way, is a paying gig!)

I know that probably sounds like a pretty lame way to spend my child-free time but, let me tell you, it was awesome.

It was really fun picking Liam up from school with all the other moms instead of having to ring the bell and sneak him out without upsetting the class. When I walked in he was sitting on his nap mat next to a little girl they call "The Screamer." He didn't see me until I was squatting down right next to him. Then he jumped up to hug me and said, "Mama! Fun at school!" How cute is that? I think he really missed it and was happy to be back. I hope they do a summer program. Word on the street is they may even offer parents' nights out. Oh, the possibilities!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

You win some, you lose some.

I am one of the fortunate ones who doesn't need to make new year's resolutions. No, I'm not perfect (thank you though), it's just that I already made such a whopper of a list for my 30th birthday that I'm pretty much set for the year (or decade).

However, just because I can make a list does not necessarily mean I can make a change.

Take #24 on my list for example:

Be a more consistent and thoughtful gift-giver.

Hmm. Being that I am just sending our parents' Christmas gifts today and they are both the same book that they will probably both hate, I would say I have not mastered this skill quite yet.

On the other hand, being the gracious receiver of gifts that I am has helped me with another item on my list.

#7 Design Cards and Stationary


Its a start! (and a darn cute start at that)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New year.

Happy 2008!

We celebrated the end of 2007 with a lovely dinner with friends and then headed home to drink champagne and ring in the new year with Dick Clark (I won't even acknowledge that Seacrest fellow...). We've never been much for going out on new year's eve so it's kind of nice to have the kid excuse now. People are more understanding when you say, "we couldn't find a babysitter" than they are when you say, "we like staying home."

We got engaged on the 1999-2000 new year's when no one seemed to know if the world was going to end or not. Doesn't that seem kind of funny now?

We were at Bill's parents' cabin at Lake Almanor in northern California doing essentially the exact same thing we did this year - watching TV & drinking champagne. At midnight, Bill's dad went outside to shoot his flare gun (why not?) and when I got up to follow him, Bill asked me to come out to the car with him to get his coat. As soon as we stepped out to the front yard, he dropped to one knee and popped the question. We had bought the ring together and I was there when he "asked" my dad so it wasn't a total shock, just a nice surprise.

Then.

Now.

We didn't tell anyone right away because he has two older sisters who weren't married (7 & 10 years older) and we didn't want to hear it if they had anything negative to say (we were 21 at the time). I wore my ring turned with the diamonds on the inside of my hand so no one would notice and we kept the hand-holding and googly eyes to a minimum.

The next day, we drove into town to "get groceries" which was really just an excuse to smoke cigarettes and wear my ring the right way. When we got back to the house, I somehow managed to slide my car into the ditch out front (in my defense, there was a lot of snow on the ground). We were trying to get the car out of the ditch when the whole family came out onto the front porch and Bill's oldest sister Amy yelled, "Hey Wez - when were you going to tell us you were engaged?!" I was terrified.

That was 8 years ago. 8 years.

Just last night we were saying how fun it is to watch our lives unfold because when we got married, we had absolutely no idea what we wanted to do or be. All we knew is that we wanted to be together and that, somehow, we'd figure the rest of it out. Slowly but surely, we're doing just that.