Sunday, July 29, 2012

It's a girl!

When I was pregnant with Finn and nosy strangers would ask what I was having, almost every person would respond the same way when I told them I was having another boy.

"Are you going to try for your girl?"

Isn't that strange? It's like, okay random person at the grocery store, just hold on a darn minute. I haven't even met this baby yet. Do I really look like I'm ready to move on to the next one?

Besides, it always struck me as kind of rude. I mean, I'm standing there with my one son, pregnant with my other son, and madly in love with both of them. What about this situation would make you think I'm the kind of mama who's dying for a girl?

But instead I'd smile politely and say, "We'll see..."

Because even though I sighed a huge sigh of relief each time I found out I was having a boy, I would be lying if I said a teeny tiny part of me didn't kind of wish for a girl. Even though I have convinced myself that girls are high drama and come with way too much pink stuff and would easily drive me insane with that high pitched shriek of theirs. Even though boys grow up to adore their mothers and girls grow up to despise them (at least temporarily...). Yes, even with all that, I sometimes can't help but kinda wish I had a girl.

But not because I'm anything less than a zillion percent satisfied with my boys. Really. I LOVE having sons. Even still, there were many moments during my pregnancy with Finn that girl envy hit hard (I swear, that's not nearly as bad as it probably sounds...) I wasn't wishing for a baby girl, I was wishing for some baby girl stuff. You know, like nesting. Because when it comes to the stuff, there's just no contest. Girl babies have it in the (adorable, ruffly...) bag.

And since we were using pretty much all the same stuff for Finn that we had used for Liam, my nesting instincts were going completely unsatisfied. The Pottery Barn Kids catalog would show up in the mail and I'd find myself drooling over the flowers and bows and butterflies. I'd go to Target stock up on nipple cream and end up looking at every single pair of baby girl tights and leg warmers and ruffled socks and stripey leggings. And as much time as I spent sifting through boy names, I probably spent just as much time admiring the list for little girls.

I almost started to wonder if all those strangers were onto something. Maybe I should try for a girl...

But then one fateful day I wandered into the scrap booking aisle at the craft store and came face to face with all the cute, pretty, pink, girly stuff and suddenly it hit me:

I don't have to have a girl. I can make a girl. Out of paper!

And so I began illustrating Just Right Julia, a book child development expert Theresa M. Sull wrote years and years ago, inspired by her youngest daughter (her oldest daughter is one of my closest friends). She had sent me the manuscript (along with several others) to see if I might be interested in illustrating, but it wasn't until that day in the craft store that I finally decided I was.

I got started immediately and had the bulk of the story figured out in the first few weeks. But then I got too pregnant to sit and work comfortably so I put the project aside thinking I'd pick it up again as soon as Finn was born and home and on a predictable nap schedule. Which took...a while (and seems completely hilarious to me now that I've met him).

By then we were eating dinner as a family every night so I could no longer leave my mess work all over the kitchen table for weeks on end. So the project took a backseat. For a really long time. Until one day out of the blue Liam said to me very seriously, "Mama, you need to finish Julia. It's time." (I'm very lucky to have a son like him.)

So I did. I did! And even though it took TWO YEARS from start to finish, I am very happy with the final product. The author loves it, my children love it, I love it. I really hope you will love it too!

Just Right Julia is available on Amazon and RIGHT HERE! (If you order from me I will ship it for free and sign it for you if you like...)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mini me.

Hello. My name is Maggie. And I drive a mini van.

Yes, it's true. I am now a card-carrying member of the full-on ain't no trying to deny it mommy club. Which, obviously, I've been in for quite some time. But now I'm seriously dressing the part.

What? It's better than mom jeans.

Besides, I would be lying if I said I wasn't completely IN LOVE with my sensible new ride. It seats seven comfortably (and by comfortably I mean all seven people can actually feel the air conditioning). Has two (or three? I don't even know) video screens because there is NOTHING more annoying than having to watch the same show as your brother while being driven to your next play date (I will not raise spoiled brats, I will not raise spoiled brats, I will not...). I can open the doors, start the engine, phone a friend, and make a grilled cheese sandwich all with the simple touch of a button (there goes my strength training!).

Plus, you gotta love the satisfying thump of a Volkswagen...

Routan: German for no mommy brain.

But it's more than just a laundry list of creature comforts. For whatever reason, this car, or should I say, this van, feels like what I should have been driving all along. Do you know what I mean? It's like when you get a certain hair cut and suddenly feel like, "Yes! That's me! That's what I'm supposed to look like!" Every time I climb aboard, that's how I feel. Like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Plus, as my sister said when I told her we were taking the plunge, "You're like a professional mommy blogger now. It would be weird if you drove anything but a mini van." I guess if the shoe fits...

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Last year, right before school started, Liam and I had an epic back-to-school shopping date. Lunch at a restaurant, just the two of us. A quick jaunt around the playground. Giggles in the dressing room. A whole day of nothing but Liam and Mama time. Epic or not, it definitely felt like something that needed to become a tradition.

But back-to-school shopping this year seemed kind of pointless. We've pretty much got the standard school attire thing nailed down (khakis, polo, rinse, repeat...), we pre-ordered school supplies through the PTO at the end of last year, and really, if given the choice, would any 6 year old boy choose to spend the day shopping with his mother?

We didn't want to miss out on a great opportunity for some special Liam and Mama time though. So we ditched the shopping and kept the date. And so commenced our back-to-school date 2012!

First a puppet show of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the downtown library. It was a long one (70 minutes) and Shakespeare so, you know, kind of wacky and confusing. But Liam was totally into it. We were sprawled out on the floor of the children's theater, his tan legs stretching out for miles in front of us. About half way through he decided he'd enjoy the play much more if he was laying all over me. I held him tight and stretched out my legs (a big kid on my lap was the perfect solution for the too-short-to-sit-criss-cross-applesauce dress I chose for our date) and wondered how much longer he'd let me hold him like that. Would he instinctively lean into my body and pull my arms around him next year? What about the year after that...

After the play we went downstairs to the little cafe for a snack. Liam put great thought into his choice (this is one boy who seriously appreciates his sweets) and finally settled on the Buttermilk Chocolate Cake.

He loved it.

I love him.

And just in case you're wondering why I only hang out one-on-one with this fantastic kid once a year, let me clarify. We try really hard to have special time with each boy as often as possible. So it's not the "special Liam and Mama time" that makes it a big deal. It's saying it's a big deal that makes it a big deal! Traditions can be made out of just about anything - you just have to make sure everyone knows they're something special.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Green goddess.

Thanks to some of the great suggestions from you (yes, you!), I have been slowly but surely greening up my beauty routine. I thought I'd share some of the tips you passed along in case anyone else is as overwhelmed as I was.
Safe Mama - the original one-stop child safety, product recall, health, well-being, non-toxic, eco-conscious resource for parents.
Lovely Safe Mama - one-stop safe beauty, health and eco-gorgeous resource.
Khiel's - specifically Agran Oil products (for dry skin/hair). I may have popped in there shortly after having one of those "let's buckle down and start saving" conversations and accidentally dropped a whole wad of cash on not a whole lot of product. But the woman working there reminded me so much of my favorite aunt (who I'm sure could also sell the hell out of some lotion) and she made me feel like a very responsible mama for all the thought I was putting into the whole toxic crap thing. Flattery (and all around great beauty products) will get you everywhere.   
Kiss My Face - body lotion 
California Baby products 
LUSH - I love their products! Mmmm...bath bombs. We almost took a cab from our hotel in Orlando to the mall just so we could check out the Lush store. But then we remembered how easy it is to order online and how nowhere near easy it is to drag two children around in a cab. 
Ecocentric Mom  - Sign up for a membership to receive a monthly package filled with a sampling of hand-selected safe, ethical, and eco-friendly products. 
Seaweed Bath Co. - The eucalyptus and peppermint shampoo and conditioner is supposed to be great plus this company seems like an excellent resource for people with serious skin problems like Excema and Psoriasis (I'm a sucker for a testimonial!). 
Coconut oil plus essential oil - great for the face and body.
Stay beautiful out there!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Extra, extra!

I have some news to share. I think it's too great to simply say it so instead I'm going to steal a press release from the GAC website (that's Great American Country if you, like me, wouldn't know a boot scoot 'n boogie if it jumped up and bit you) and swap MY name for the famous country singer's name. Stick with me here. This should all make sense eventually...
Jo Dee Messina’s Maggie Conran's humorous parenting blog, The Fumbling Mom Just say NO to Mommy Brain!, will be featured in The Tennessean. Debuting May 24 July 19 and periodically going forward, the paper will share content from Jo Dee’s Maggie's blog in its Family section. Jo Dee Maggie, a mom to three-year-old Noah and 16-week-old Jonah six-year-old Liam and (almost) two-year-old Finn, will provide stories, tips and more for The Tennessean. Her contributions will be in both the print publication and online.
Alright, that was way more confusing than it needed to be. But, yay! My writing and pictures are now going to be featured in The Tennessean! Today my first post ran and I have to admit it was really cool to sit with the boys and read something I had written straight out of the newspaper.

Liam enjoyed the story and was not at all embarrassed or uncomfortable that something about his life was out there for everyone to enjoy (phew!). We talked about the difference between the "real" Liam and the "character" Liam (and Mama and Finn...) and he seemed to really get that by writing about some details while emitting others, writers can shape experiences into stories. Stories that are true but in a somewhat fictionalized way. That might not make any sense to you but I swear Liam understood. And that's what really matters, right?

Friday, July 13, 2012

The first rule of family vacation: know thy family.

Whenever I hear of someone taking their whole family to Disney World I think, "Are they crazy? All those different parks and tourists and the heat and humidity of Florida? No thanks. Disney Land? Maybe. Someday. But Disney World? Ha! You couldn't pay me enough..."

Because I don't like crowds, I really don't like sweating, and pouring buckets of money into a bottomless pit has never been my idea of fun. I like rides - sort of - but souvenir shops always make me feel sad, like I'm in the middle of The Making of Wall-E. Which, incidentally, is the only Disney movie my entire family really loves.

And yet, when Bill started talking about taking Liam on a boys' trip to Disney World, I was suddenly jealous. "You guys can't go all alone! What about me and Finn? He likes Mickey Mouse as much as the next guy. And I've never even been to Orlando! It's a quick flight. You have the miles. Please?! Let's all go to Disney World!!!"

It was like an out of body experience that happened to coincide with a "great deal" on a hotel room "in Walt Disney World." So with a few clicks here and a credit card number there, our fate had been sealed: We were taking the whole family to Disney World.

In July.

How do these things happen?! I mean, one minute we're a lazy, beach loving couple with a six year old who's "allergic to long walks" and completely shuts down as soon as it gets above 80 degrees, and an almost two year old whose flat out refusal to sit still on an airplane for any length of time is the sole reason we decided not to go on any trips this summer. Then the next thing you know we're hauling a borrowed sit-and-stand stroller onto a flight bound for the happiest place on Earth.

In July!

Which sounds completely crazy, I know, but I'm happy to tell you it wasn't. At least not completely. I mean, there were definitely some questionable moments. Like the insanely overcrowded bus to our "on site" hotel (a mere 9 miles from The Magic Kingdom!) that felt exactly like an 18-wheeler full of livestock (and caused both kids to completely melt down while sharing my lap).

The crappy hotel breakfast buffet, er, I mean, "Breakfast with Goofy!" that cost $22 a plate and scared the bejezzus out of Finny.

The swim diaper...incident.

Our return flight that left 6 hours AFTER hotel checkout. On a rainy day. (Did I mention we opted not to get a rental car...)

Downpour? Meet ice cream.

The heat. The humidity. The tourists riding around on scooters (after a few hours Bill stopped excitedly shouting, "Look kids! A character from Wall-E!" every time we had to reroute our stroller to accommodate someone). The vacuum attached to our bank account from the moment we landed until we finally got home. Basically all the stuff we knew we wouldn't like before we so much as stepped foot in Orlando.

Another $4 water or death by dehydration? Choices, choices...

But in between all that were some truly magical moments. Like Liam getting in touch with his inner dare devil and LOVING all the rides (especially big roller coasters!).

The totally authentic and delicious pizza (and waitstaff) in the Italian part of Epcot. Epcot in general!

Pirates of the Caribbean. Immaculate landscaping. Guys in hats with millions of balloons.

Beers from so many different countries!

Having a jolly good time (and one last pint!) in good ol' London town.

Right at home in the German bier garden!

Our very own water park (aka, the hotel pool).

Inexpensive water proof, shock proof digital camera? Thanks, Costco!

Of course, most of the amazing moments were the ones that happen for free all the darn time. But who cares? No one remembers a not-so-frozen lemonade on a normal day. But get one at WALT DISNEY WORLD? That's a drink you just might remember forever...

The slowest elevator known to man inspired really fun hallway races!

"Denmark" - all about vikings and cruise lines! (so weird)
Was playing in the fountain REALLY the best part? Yes. Yes it was.

{The second rule of family vacation? Sometimes it's really good to break the rules.}