9/30/08

Martha May Be On to Something

I’m not gonna lie, people. It’s been a crummy couple of weeks. Not Miles-wise. He’s great. Cracks me up on a daily basis. Except when he’s throwing a tantrum over not being able to watch “Cars” for the 50 bazillionth time. But all the adult stuff—job stress, long commutes, unexpected bills, the flooded basement—has been blecchhh. So to cheer myself up, I decided to make a list of the good things that are going on.

Do I feel like Martha Stewart without the starched sheets and homemade apple tarts? A little. (BTW, have any of you seen this show called “Whatever, Martha”? I was channel-surfing one night and came across it. Here’s the concept: Martha’s real-life daughter and her friend sit around making fun of video clips from the Martha Stewart Show. That’s it. The whole show. Who greenlighted this thing? And why would Martha agree to it? Bizarre. Yet kind of funny and a little bit addictive. Moving on…)

So back to my good things. Drumroll, please. And here they are:

* Both C. and I found money on the ground last week. Just a few bucks, but enough to cover dinner at Chipotle.

* We got 2 unexpected checks in the mail.

* I got a very lucrative assignment from a new client.

* Some other fun stuff came in the mail, including a jacket and book for Miles, some interesting newspaper articles from my mom, and several new magazines, one including my byline.

* I realized you can check out magazines from the library. Considering I loooove me some magazines, but that 4 or 5 cost the same as a hardcover book and don’t last nearly as long, this was a thrilling discovery.

* I remembered to record the season premiere of “Lipstick Jungle” and found time to watch it. I have to say, I really like Brooke Shields. Maybe since I read her book Down Came the Rain but also in interviews, she seems like a real mom and down to earth person. Call me, Brooke!

* I made an entire Sunday meal including a main course, salad and bread, and the whole family sat down at the table and ate it together. Miles not only ate the salad but asked for SECONDS.

* I went to the new Sephora store near us and got my makeup done. Since I have lately been feeling fat and gross and pregnant, this gave me a much-needed boost. Never mind that I walked out $135 poorer. I looked hot; It was worth it. The fact that my new dark purple—yes, purple!—eyeliner is called “Rockstar” doesn’t hurt.

Once I got started, I kept thinking of more and more good things. I read an article in one of my magazines that said by noticing the good stuff in your life more, you actually create more of it than when you just focus on the bad. Makes sense, I guess. Plus it’s a lot more fun to admire my new makeup than to obsess about what’s causing the funky smell in the laundry room, that’s for sure.

PICK O’ THE WEEK: I am loving the new Jem album, “Down to Earth,” I downloaded from iTunes. You can download a free song here.

READ O’ THE WEEK: I really enjoyed this unpredictable story of a happy SAHM who reluctantly goes back to work: Piece of Work by Laura Zigman.

9/26/08

Me Talk Funny One Day

Prof. MilesIt’s kind of sad when your baby starts talking like a regular person. Gone are the days when Miles called pumpkins “cuppies” and claimed every animal says “Moo.” The other day I asked him if he’d like a snack and he said, “No, thank you. I’m good.” He’s TWO!! Who talks like that when they’re 2?!

Sure, the stuff that comes out of his mouth lately is hilarious, but not in the same way the baby talk was. I used to love that he called any body of water a “pool,” including the Atlantic Ocean. Or when he’d look up at me pitifully and croon, “Mooore?” like a starving orphan boy when he wanted more food. Now he says, “Can I have some more grapes, please, Mommy?” Nice manners, sure, but lacking the “awwww” factor, don’t you think?

Thank goodness he stills calls oatmeal “eatmeal.” Which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. And toothpaste is still “tootaste” or perhaps “to taste,” since he seems more interested in licking the Spongebob bubblegum-flavored toothpaste off the brush than in actually cleaning his teeth.

Now, along with saying just about anything he darn well pleases, my son has started instructing me in what to say. We’ll be playing and he’ll say, “You say ‘Yay, blocks!’ OK, Mommy?” I dutifully recite my line. Then we’ll be going for a walk, Miles running a block ahead as usual, and he’ll stop, turn around and tell me, “You say, ‘Wait for me! You too fast.’” God forbid I forget my lines!

He also talks to himself sometimes, which is pretty funny. Over the baby monitor or in the next room, I’ll hear him recite passages from a favorite book or nursery rhyme: “I want you to help me smash! I want you to help me crash!” (From the aptly titled, “Smash! Crash!” by Jon Scieszka.) Or, “How are you today, sir? Very well, I thank you. Run and hide, run and hide” from the nursery rhyme “Where is Thumbkin?”

Of course, I think pretty much everything my son does and says is smart and clever and adorable. We moms are annoying that way. But seriously, a toddler in Thomas pajamas saying, “No thanks, I’m good”? I can’t stand it.

NEWS O’ THE WEEK: Calling all writers and would-be writers! The next session of my online class, “Personal Essays that Get Published,” starts Oct. 8. The 6-week e-mail class will teach you how to find ideas, craft catchy openings and solid endings, and submit your work for publication.

Several of my blog entries here have turned into essays published in such places as American Baby, Health magazine, the Baltimore Sun, and the Boston Globe. So if you’re interested in writing for fame and profit, sign up now before the class fills up! More info here. In the last session, I had a blog reader who’s never written professionally before, and she’s doing amazing.

9/23/08

Trucks and Candy

BabytalkWho knew I was ahead of the curve last week when I blogged about “me time”? Well, lo and behold, I picked up the latest issue of Babytalk (free at Babies R Us, BTW) and right there on the cover it says: “Take Back Your Me-Time!” The article takes you through 5 “rules”:

1. Real “me” time leaves you feeling refreshed and regret-free.
2. Stake claim to your “me” time by scheduling it on your calendar — in pen.
3. Include some other adults in your “me” time.
4. Adult-only “me” time is ideal, but if that’s too stressful, go to Plan B. (e.g., Turn on “Sesame Street” so you can enjoy your morning coffee in peace.)
5. Trust that you will get your “me” time — eventually! (Really? Like in 16 years?)

Can I just complain a teeny bit here about “me-time” thieves? For instance, my toddler just started pre-school. It was supposed to be 2 mornings a week for 3 hours. Except the first week, you “transition” them by going with them for an hour, then dropping them off for 2 hours. Then the following week, the teachers decided that because half the kids were still having trouble adjusting (not MY kid, mind you!) they’d stick to the 2-hour days for the time being.

Now, I don’t want to be labeled the “problem mom” right off the bat, so I bit my tongue. But I’ll be honest: I’m not happy about this. Setting aside the issue of tuition and that half the school holidays happen to fall on one of the 2 days a week my son’s in school, there’s the issue of 2 hours being too damn short to accomplish anything.

I’ve already been late to pick-up twice because of doctor’s appointments. You can’t exactly hurry those along. And as another mom put it, “Two hours is barely enough to go grocery shopping and put all the food away!” Amen, sister. Then, they schedule things like parent’s coffees during the school hours. What’s a mom to do? It’s a me-time conspiracy, I tell you!

Then there’s the issue of filling the rest of the day. I must be the only mom to struggle with this, because I never hear other people complain about it. Most people complain that there aren’t enough hours in the day. But I’m sorry, when you’re on your own with an active toddler, the day’s just too damn long!

I love spending time with my son, but he jumps from one activity to the next so fast, I’ve run through a week’s worth of fun activities in a single morning! And you know I have a problem with the playground. I just can’t spend all afternoon there every day. I just can’t. So we go to the library, we go to story time, we have picnics in the yard, but it never seems to keep both of us busy and happy until dinnertime.

candy truckAnd now that Miles is in school, being home is too boring for him. Seriously. He’s the only kid who cries at PICK-UP because he doesn’t want to leave. Thanks, buddy. In the car he starts wailing, “I don’ WANNNA go home!!” I ask him, where do you want to go then? “To the store!” The store? What for? “Trucks and candy!” I can safely say we have never made a “trucks and candy” run to any store before, ever, so that must be wishful thinking on his part.

Speaking of candy, why for the love of God are they selling Halloween candy already?! You know a pregnant woman can’t resist that kind of temptation. So my baby’s now, what? About 5 oz. or the size of a turnip, according to Babycenter.com. And at this point, it’s half chocolate and half candy corn. Healthy, huh? What can I say, I only have 2 hours to get all my errands done. And since caffeine’s out, I’ve got to fuel up somehow. So sugar it is!

QUOTE O’ THE WEEK: “It’s not a bribe unless you’re trying to get someone to do something they shouldn’t be doing.” Sadly, I can’t remember where I read this. But I like it.

9/19/08

“Me Time” Crunch

“Take time for yourself.” Everyone says it, few people do it, yet everyone needs it. Before I had a baby, this phrase meant nothing to me. After all, pretty much any time that wasn’t spent at work or with my husband was “me time.” I had no shortage of it.

Then I entered a stage of life where I had to choose between eating, sleeping, or bathing, because there was simply not time to do all three. That’s when I finally understood this “finding time for yourself” concept. As with a lot of things we know are good for us, though, it’s easier said than done.

I just concluded one of my craziest weeks in recent memory. A combination of deadlines, drama, family visits, Miles starting school, husband out of town, etc. conspired to turn me into ball of stress. It was literally a case of too much to do, not enough time. Whereas usually I’m concerned with how to fill the time, since I have a toddler with the attention span of a gnat.

So you know how people (a.k.a. my mom) say, “You’ve just got to let some things go”? Well, what would you propose I let go from this list: paying work that I’ve signed a contract to complete, sleep, taking my son to school and picking him up, providing him 3 meals a day plus snacks, laundry, dishes, prenatal appointments. Does any of that seem optional to you?

Notice that I said “provide” meals, not “prepare” them. But even that requires nuking some chicken nuggets, opening a can, or sitting in a drive-thru line. And those things take time, people!! Time I do not have! I can’t even keep up with loading and unloading the dishwasher lately.

Still, I was determined to squeeze in some crucial “me time.” One of my writing students passed along a great quote: “No one has time. You have to make time.” Amen to that! So this is what my sometimes pitiful “me time” looked like this week:

– 15 min. promotional reflexology session in the lobby of a loud, crowded gym

– 20 min. perusing the 19-page photo spread of the Jolie-Pitt twins while pedaling a recumbent bike

– Watching a recorded episode of “Gossip Girl” (no time for commercials!)

– A 20-min. nap after putting Miles down for his nap and before taking my parents to the train station

– A 60-minute yoga class during which I could not stop staring at myself in the mirror and thinking, “Damn, I look pregnant already!” Unlike last time when I was still in the “chunky but not obviously pregnant” phase at this point.

All in all, not too bad, right? It adds up to something almost every day. Not quite the same as a day at the spa or an all-day Saturday shopping session, but right now, I’ll take what I can get.

LAUGH O’ THE WEEK: C. asked Miles what he thought we should name the baby. Without hesitation he replied, “Henry.” Where did he come up with that? We don’t even know anyone named Henry. Won’t he be disappointed if it’s a girl …

RECIPE O’ THE WEEK: After 2 weeks of takeout and frozen food, I had to break the cycle. This Easy Enchilada Casserole is quick, vegetarian, and made with mostly frozen or canned ingredients. It’s from “The Mom’s Guide to Meal Makeovers” cookbook.

Ingredients:
28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon canola oil
16-oz. bag frozen, mixed bell pepper strips
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
12-oz. bag soy crumbles (like Morningstar Farms Grillers)
15-oz. can black beans, rinsed & drained
12 6-inch corn tortillas
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

1. Coat a 9×13” pan with cooking spray.

2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add peppers, spices & salt and cook until peppers are tender, about 5 min.

3. Add crushed tomatoes, soy crumbles & beans. Stir to combine, cook for 5 min.

4. Arrange several tortillas on the bottom of the baking pan. Top with half the bean mixture and 1 cup of cheese. Add another layer of tortillas, bean mixture & cheese.

5. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees until cheese melts, about 20 min. Serve with sour cream, sliced avocados & sliced olives if desired.

9/16/08

The Next Survivor Series

It’s a crazy week here, so I hope in lieu of a real post you’ll accept a copy of a very funny e-mail one of my friends sent me.

THE NEXT SURVIVOR SERIES

Six married men will be dropped on an island with 1 car and 3 kids each for 6 weeks.

Each kid will play two sports and either take music or dance classes.

There is no fast food.

Each man must take care of his 3 kids, keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, and complete science projects, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of “pretend” bills with not enough money. In addition, each man will have to budget in money for groceries each week.

Each man must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives, and send cards out on time — no e-mailing.

Each man must also take each child to a doctor’s appointment, a dentist appointment, and a haircut.

He must make one unscheduled and inconvenient visit per child to the Urgent Care.

He must also make cookies or cupcakes for a social function.

Each man will be responsible for decorating his own assigned house, planting flowers outside, and keeping it presentable at all times.

The men will only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done.

The men must shave their legs, wear makeup daily, adorn themselves with jewelry, wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes, keep fingernails polished and eyebrows groomed.

During one of the six weeks, the men will have to endure severe abdominal cramps, back aches, and have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from other duties.

They must attend weekly school meetings, church, and find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting.

They will need to read a book to the kids each night and in the morning, feed them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair by 7 a.m.

A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child’s birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size and doctor’s name. Also the child’s weight at birth, length, time of birth, and length of labor, each child’s favorite color, middle name, favorite snack, favorite song, favorite drink, favorite toy, biggest fear, and what they want to be when they grow up.

The kids vote them off the island based on performance. The last man wins only if…he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moment’s notice.

If the last man does win, he can play the game over and over and over again for the next 18-25 years eventually earning the right to be called Mom!

9/10/08

Play-Doh and Potty Chairs

First Day of School

It’s been a big week here. First day of preschool, first time using the potty for its intended purpose, first week of fastening my pants with a rubber band… But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up and tell you about our first-ever Parents’ Night at Miles’ new school.

First of all, both parents were requested to be there and it was held on a weeknight. Hello?! Have you ever tried to get a sitter on a school night? But we did, so we trekked off to a stuffy auditorium to watch slideshows of cute kids and listen to speeches from the head of every committee and council and fundraiser at the school. Then we went over a diagram of the carpool drop-off and pick-up procedure, as detailed as any complex military operation.

Finally, we got to go see our kids’ classrooms and meet their teachers. You know how on sitcoms they always show the parents cramming themselves into those ridiculously tiny chairs at school events? Well, it’s TRUE! I had no idea. Anyway, the classroom was adorable. Miles already had a little cubby with his name on it and a bunny-shaped name tag. Too cute!

Monday was the first day. Really, just an orientation, since it was an hour long and I went with him. At first he was surprisingly shy — I didn’t expect that — but he soon warmed up. By the next day, he was running toward the entrance and barely gave me a quick kiss before he was off to play with the trucks. So much for separation anxiety.

People keep asking me if I’m sad that my baby is starting school. Actually, I’m not. He’s happy, so I’m happy. Plus, he’s going to preschool for a few hours 2 days a week, it’s not like I’m packing him off to Princeton. And let me tell you, those few hours FLY by. I don’t have time to miss him. I spent one whole morning sitting around the ob/gyn’s office waiting to get weighed and pee in a cup. What freedom, huh?

With Miles starting school, not to mention this other baby on the way, I’ve been a bit anxious about my son’s, uh, “failure to launch” when it comes to potty training. Not that I’m exactly making it a priority. (I did just receive my free Pull-Ups potty training DVD, but I haven’t watched the whole thing yet.) Only one kid in his class is trained, though, so I guess we’re not too far behind.

So imagine my surprise when the night after his first day of school, Miles takes the initiative to sit on the potty himself. Not only that, but he actually PEED in it!! He looked as surprised as I was. And SOOO proud of himself! Alas, only a few moments later, doing the Big Boy Underpants dance in his room, he began to pee again. On the carpet. When I (involuntarily) shouted, he stopped, we hustled back into the bathroom, and he finished up there. That’s progress, right? Alas, he hasn’t gone anywhere near the potty the past couple days.

Oh, well, one thing at a time. Right now I’ve got to make sense of this recipe for homemade Play-Doh his teacher sent home from school. And also, dig my maternity clothes out of storage. I don’t want to be known as the class mom who walks around with her pants unbuttoned, do I?

RECIPE O’ THE WEEK: This pregnancy, I am obsessed with grilled cheese and tomato soup. I have finally perfected my grilled cheese technique: Stick a couple of slices of cheddar or the cheese of your choice between two pieces of bread. Lightly spray both sides of the sandwich with cooking oil. Pop it in a George Foreman grill and a couple minutes later — ta da! The perfect toasty, crispy grilled cheese.

9/4/08

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Spouse

There’s something going around today. I got calls from two different friends ranting and raving about the same situation, one which I myself happen to be struggling with at the moment, too. The issue? Husbands who are gone or unavailable because of their jobs.

Look, I realize things are tough right now. The economy, the real estate market, gas prices, unemployment, blah, blah, blah. People who are lucky enough to have good jobs are working extra-long hours, traveling, doing whatever it takes to keep them. And those of us who rely on our spouse’s paycheck to pay the bills pretty much have to suck it up and deal with whatever his job demands.

But come ON. Being a single parent for a day, 3 days, a week, or more is f&%@$?! HARD. Let’s all just admit that right now. I don’t care if you have one kid, 4 kids, stay home, work part time, full time, have childcare or not. The fact remains that you’re the mom, and if Dad’s not around, you’re the one bearing the bulk of the responsibilities.

Let me take a moment to address some common Mom complaints:

Sometimes I don’t find out until a day or two beforehand that my husband’s going to be away for work. Yes, finding out you’re going solo at the last minute sucks. If it’s because your husband forgot to tell you, he’s an ass. If it’s because his employer scheduled something without giving him more notice, they should relinquish all claims that they are a “family-friendly” company that “promotes work-life balance.” Bull.

My husband goes out 3 or 4 times a week while I’m stuck at home. Because some of these outings are work related, I feel like I can’t complain. OK, a mandatory business dinner is one thing, and a happy hour where the guy pounding beers across the table just happens to work with your husband is another.

BewitchedEveryone’s entitled to blow off some steam – OK, Dads? – but Moms are well within their rights to question whether an event is truly critical to their spouse’s career success, or whether he might be more useful at home, doing baths and keeping Mom from singlehandedly downing an entire bottle of red wine.

Also, Moms? Start planning your own nights out!! Schedule them on weekends if your husband travels during the week. (Even as I write this, know that I had to cancel my own night out tonight because something came up at C.’s work. Boo, hiss! I’ve already rescheduled and carved it in stone on next week’s calendar. His boss can bite me.)

My husband tells me I should get more help. Ah, yes, the “help” suggestion. I take my son to a sitter two mornings a week for 3 hours. That’s when I do my freelance writing, run errands, schedule doctor’s appointments, or wait for the cable guy to show up.

Sure, I could hire the sitter an extra morning when C.’s away, but guess what? I’d still have to prepare 3 meals a day, dress Miles, bathe him, change a bunch of diapers, do the whole bedtime routine, feed and walk the dog, do the dishes, dress (and maybe even bathe) myself, squeeze in some work, and do everything else related to keeping the household running. So unless we’re talking a live-in nanny, housekeeper, personal chef, and dog-walker, the help suggestion isn’t that helpful.

I am so overwhelmed even though I do have some help. If you can take your kids to school, a sitter’s, or a grandparent’s while your spouse is away on business, that’s something. But again, you are the mom. You don’t get to clock out at 5 p.m.

YOU are the one getting up at 3 a.m. because the baby’s crying or the potty-training toddler has to pee. YOU are the one sticking the kid in the carseat and running to the store because you’re out of milk again, or to the drugstore for his ear infection prescription. YOU are the one giving the second bath of the day because your child covered himself from head to toe in melted grape popsicle. So you have every right to feel overwhelmed.

All together now: BEING A MOM IS HARD. And when you’re doing it without Dad for backup, it’s even harder. Let’s give ourselves some credit.

This is not meant to slam the Dads. We KNOW you work hard. We KNOW you have no choice when work duties call. We KNOW we could not live the lives we’re living if it weren’t for your jobs. We KNOW you would much rather be at home with your family. (Right??)

This is meant to make all us Moms feel better who are beating ourselves up and bitching at our spouses and fantasizing about keying our husband’s boss’s Porsche. (Or is that just me?) It’s OK to feel this way. You are not alone. A mom’s job is every bit as hard as Dad’s, if not more.

After all, no one’s offering ME coffee and bagels in the conference room every morning.

9/2/08

Ready As I’ll Ever Be

Baby Bump

It’s official: I’m having another baby. Yep, I’m about 14 weeks pregnant with #2. Like this picture of Miles modeling a mini “baby bump”? For your convenience, the rest of this post will be written in a FAQ style.

Q: Were you trying?/Was this planned?/Are you ready for another?

A: This question is usually preceded by a pause or stunned-sounding “Wow” or “Really?” To be fair, this is from people who’ve been privy to particularly candid and/or sordid accounts of my experiences and/or struggles with motherhood. Oh, who am I kidding? That’s the whole Internet!

But seriously, the first time I got this reaction it might have hurt my feelings had it not come from the aunt who ran away to the spa with me when the pressures of motherhood got to be just a wee bit much. OK, she witnessed my near-nervous breakdown. So I can hardly fault her for wondering whether I’m insane to have another baby.

As for other people who’ve said this, do I really give the impression that motherhood is SO arduous and unappealing that’s it’s simply inconceivable (pun intended) that I’d have another child? That’s too bad. I thought it went without saying that the good outweighs the bad, but maybe not.

And lastly, there is no good answer to “Are you ready?” Even if I wasn’t, it’s too late now! The best you can hope for is “ready enough.”

Q: So what made you decide to have another?

A: Lots of things, including the fact that I have a sibling and C. has several. We wanted Miles to have that kind of relationship, too. And it won’t hurt him to learn he’s not the center of the universe. Also, he loves other kids. Hopefully his sibling will share his limitless appetite for playing trucks and knocking things down. Might take some of the pressure off Mom and Dad!

Q: So how did you know you were pregnant?

A: OK, this is a made-up question. No one asked me this. But I’ll tell you how I DIDN’T know — the 3 negative pregnancy tests!! 99% accurate, my ass! They weren’t even the store brand this time. By the third one, taken when I was several weeks late, we decided the faint double line was a “maybe.” But like last time, I wasn’t convinced until I saw that fuzzy little lima bean on the sonogram.

Q: How are you feeling?

A: People, never ask a pregnant woman this unless you really, really want the answer. But since you asked… Until about a week ago I would’ve said fine, except for the bone-crushing fatigue. I’ve had to take a nap almost every single day when Miles does. And I’m NOT a napper. But who knows if it’s due to the pregnancy or to chasing after a 2-year-old all day.

I had some nausea and loss of appetite, conveniently in the evening, just in time to get out of cooking dinner. Nothing too bad. UNTIL about a week ago. That’s when “morning” sickness hit like a freight train. Apparently I’m the only person in history to be afflicted starting in my second trimester.

Unable to keep anything down and almost unable to remain upright for more than an hour, I tried every remedy in the book. Ginger tea, ginger candy, peppermint tea, Saltines, Sea-Bands, Tums, eating before I got out of bed, even prescription Reglan … nothing worked. It was awful, people, awful. My heart goes out to those who suffer 9 whole mos. of this. Knock on wood, the past few days have been much better. I’ve been able to expand my diet of ramen and Gatorade.

So that’s it! Diary of a New Mom has come full circle. Stay tuned to see how this kid turns out. In the meantime, has anyone invented belly armor yet? Because Miles’ elbows and knees are posing a serious threat to my growing abdomen. Ouch!

TIP O’ THE WEEK: I didn’t try these and I can’t vouch for them, but a couple people swore by baked potatoes and chocolate bars to quell morning sickness. I think this is a case of “whatever works.”

RECIPE O’ THE WEEK: Now that I have my appetite back, and because for some reason I crave lemons when I’m pregnant, I made these yummy Oatmeal Lemon Bars this weekend.

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