12/31/08

Slipcovers in Lieu of Champagne

Was it really over 3 years ago that I was completely obsessed with a gingham rocking chair? Yes. Yes, it was. And you know what they say: the more things change… So here I am, 3 years later, 7 mos. pregnant, in full-on nesting mode for Baby #2, obsessing about chairs again.

Only this time it’s for Miles’ “big boy” room—previously known as the guest room—which we officially moved him into the moment my parents vacated it after Christmas. (Again, I feel bad for this new baby, who’s getting nothing but hand-me-downs. He’ll be lucky if we get around to peeling the “Miles” letters off the nursery wall. Poor thing’s destined to suffer an inferiority complex.)

So anyway, since we’re leaving the nursery as is, we realized we needed a comfy reading chair in Miles’ new room. The cracked vinyl one we had in there won’t cut it. So being the thrifty sort that I am, I looked into getting it reupholstered. Do you know what it costs to get a chair reupholstered, people? Me neither, since I never actually got a quote, but some very reliable home decorating blogs suggested it could run $300 and up. Fine, maybe, if it’s your grandmother’s antique Louis the Something chair, but for a hand-me-down destined for the Goodwill? No way.

So then I launched a lengthy web search for slipcovers. Which led to flashbacks about my college apartments and messy roommates and furniture that came from and ended up God-knows-where and always smelled slightly … off. Next I decided a pull-out sleeper chair would be just the thing. Only twin-size ones are hard to find and the ones I did find got abominable reviews. (I tell you, Internet reviews are a mixed blessing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the verge of buying something, only to get sucked into that one review that says the product’s a piece of junk.)

But lo and behold, a chance trip to Homegoods this morning yielded the PERFECT chair: a denim upholstered rocker that’s the perfect color, perfect size, and perfect price, thanks to an extra 10% off for a near-invisible tear. Score!!

I swear, it’s literally unbelievable to me that I am the same person who, a scant 8 years ago, would be this excited about finding the perfect New Year’s Eve outfit. I would’ve been planning it for weeks, down to the bag and hair accessories. Right now I’d be resting up, hydrating, and primping for my Big Night Out, which I’d be looking forward to with giddy anticipation, even knowing it would end the same way New Year’s always did—with me standing shivering on a street corner in heels and bare legs, praying that just one damn cab would drive by already before our group of revelers died of hypothermia or an alcohol overdose. Good times!

But no, this New Year’s Eve I’m not polishing my nails or rehearsing the “beer before liquor” maxim. I’m thanking God my child is finally napping in his big boy bed and wondering what time Home Depot closes so I can run over there for the fifth time in 2 weeks to see whether they have 31” cordless light-blocking shades on sale. Yes, THAT, people, is what I get excited about these days. Happy New Year!!!

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Some friends, some patio furniture, and a baby monitor. Ingenious! Too bad it’s too cold for White Trash New Year’s here.

12/22/08

Seasonal Activity Disorder

This time of year, I am forced to admit that I am one of those people who suffers from SAD. No, not Seasonal Affective Disorder, though I do hate the shorter, darker days of winter. My problem is Seasonal Activity Disorder. Every year, I feel compelled to plan all sorts of fun holiday outings for friends and family—whether or not they actually want to participate. Yes, you WILL go see “The Nutcracker” for the 80 bazillionth time and freeze your cheeks off wobbling around on ice skates for the first time in 10 years! And you will LIKE IT!!

Trouble is, it usually backfires. Take last week, for instance. First some friends and I decided to take our kids to that holiday train garden I mentioned. Afterwards, we’d get pizza. What fun! How festive! Right. Cut to three frazzled moms darting around after their overstimulated offspring, trying to keep them from pushing in front of other kids, licking the glass windows, diving into the fountain in the middle of the food court, and swiping drinks from other people’s tables. Five kids, three moms, all going in different directions. That was Fun Seasonal Activity #1.

Fun Seasonal Activity #2 was my idea. My husband and I would take our son to a live holiday theatre performance. It was just one hour long, specifically geared towards little kids’ attention spans (or lack thereof). Just my luck the play happened to be on the same day as Miles’ school Christmas pageant. So after his classes’, um, “unique” rendition of Jingle Bells, followed by a juice and cookie party, we packed him into the car to go to yet another performance.

I guess it’s not so surprising that he couldn’t sit still through the musical interpretations of Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hannukah tales. He was more interested in flipping the theatre seats up and down than in watching the actors. And this is the same kid who will sit with rapt attention through his 257th viewing of “Cars.” As for my husband? He fell asleep almost immediately. So much for culture.

Then there was the family outing to a local holiday lights display. We should’ve stayed in the car and done a drive-by. Battling the crush of revelers and flashbulbs while trying to keep a grip on a 3-foot-tall person’s mittened hand put me in a less than merry mood. Plus, it was damn cold out there!!

So did I learn my lesson and resolve to stay home, curled up on the couch with a mug of hot cocoa? I did not. My parents are visiting this week, and I have a list of activities ready. I can’t stand the idea of sitting around the house every day staring at each other.

Though even I have to admit, the grandparents seem pretty happy just sitting around staring at (or chasing after, or feeding, or reading to) their grandson. And Miles is perfectly happy with his usual non-seasonal activities of tormenting the dog, jumping on furniture, and acting out fairy tales with his stuffed animals. But how can I sit at home when I know there are Christmas concerts and holiday spectaculars and breakfasts with Santa going on out there? SAD is a real sickness, I tell you.

Happy Holidays, everyone!!

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Track Santa on his magical flight around the world on Christmas eve. And check out some more fun activities on this page.

12/15/08

Toddler Holiday Traditions

snowmonsterWatching holiday specials on TV. Am I the only parent who forgot that in the animated version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” there’s a scary Snow Monster who terrorizes the innocent woodland creatures? I’m afraid I inadvertently gave my son nightmares. GrinchI didn’t know! I thought it was a family-friendly movie. Though why Miles is afraid of a silly-looking monster and not Jim Carrey’s creepy version of the Grinch is beyond me.

Getting the Christmas tree. This year, Miles went with some friends of ours to cut down their tree at a farm in the country. He had a blast. But the next day when my husband took him to pick out a tree for us, instead of enjoying a fun day out with Dad, Miles threw a fit. “I just already did get a tree yesterday!!” Sor-RY.

trainsSitting on Santa’s lap. There’s a very authentic Santa (Real beard! Velvet suit!) who visits a mall near us. Too bad for Santa, this mall also does an amazing holiday train display — much more of a draw for a 2-year-old boy. Just as well. I’m afraid a visit to Santa would’ve turned into the Pony Ride Debacle all over again. Last summer, we waited in a long line (twice!) for Miles to ride a pony (his idea), only to have him freak out at the last minute.

Gingerbread houseMaking a gingerbread house. So maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to heap piles of candy, cookies & frosting in front of a toddler. I mean, what did I expect? I’m not proud to admit that this would-be enjoyable holiday project took a bad turn, with me shouting: “Don’t touch that wall, you’re knocking it over! NO MORE CANDY!! Stop it, Miles, it’s just to look at!!” Then after he went to bed, I spent hours piping frosting onto roof tiles & giving myself gestational diabetes eating the extra candy. Fun times.

Taking the Christmas card photo. My son can be a bit temperamental at times. He wasn’t into getting his photo taken at the Festival of Trees. Like I said, he had no interest in sitting on Santa’s lap. There’s no snow, and I haven’t finished putting up my decorations. All this adds up to a lack of seasonal photo ops. Meaning I just ended up picking some random photo and ordering our cards from Snapfish before the free shipping offer ended.

Participating in the Christmas pageant. OK, this one hasn’t happened yet, but I’m greatly looking forward to seeing Miles and his classmates march down the aisle singing “Jingle Bells” in the school pageant. He’s been practicing at home. The “… sleigh — hey!” is his favorite part.

TIP O’ THE WEEK: Craft stores like Michael’s & A.C. Moore are the place to find unbelievable bargains this time of year. Gift bags for 30 cents? Ribbon for 59 cents? 50 yards of wrapping paper for $1.99? Cute ornaments for pennies apiece? Plus 50% off coupons in every day’s paper? I’ll take it!

12/10/08

What’s On My Mind

Sure, I could attempt to craft some thoughtful, eloquent post about the true meaning of the holidays or the childlike wonder that infuses us all at this time of year. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll give you a random, disjointed list of things that are currently on my mind. How’s that?

  • Why do I always experience Internet connection problems when I’m the only one home to deal with them? And why does it always happen when I’m waiting for a Very Important E-mail? And why does it take Miles’ entire naptime for Comcast to resolve the issue over the phone?
  • Does this baby in my belly hate me, or is its constant kicking and punching a reaction to what I’m eating? I’m sorry, kid, but when I’m stressed, I eat sugar!
  • ScroogeAre all the companies that are still in business run by Ebenezer Scrooge? How else do you explain laying off employees mere weeks before the holidays, or requiring remote workers to report to the (out-of-state) offices every single day through the end of the year? Also? What the hell’s up with 7:30 a.m. and 6-8 p.m. meetings? Unless there’s spiked eggnog involved, it’s just cruel.
  • Is my toddler suffering from a split personality disorder? Because otherwise, I’m stymied by this increasingly prevalent behavior:
    Me: “Miles, would you like a bite of my grilled cheese?”
    Miles: “No, thank you.”
    Me: “Munch, munch, swallow.”
    Miles, tears appearing out of nowhere: “I DO want a bite, Mamaaaa!! Take it out of your mouf!!”
  • Why is my husband the hardest person on earth to buy a present for? I’ve given him CD players, watches, clothes, all kinds of things he suggested and in some cases specifically picked out, and they almost always end up getting returned or going unused. The Nike watch of ’07 is still a sore subject.
  • Are people really so obsessed with discounted merchandise that they will trample a Wal-Mart employee to DEATH?? Sadly, it looks like the answer to that is yes. Get a grip, people.
  • Do I need to get a present for X? If not, what if they unexpectedly give ME one? Should I buy a generic backup present just in case?
  • Is it too late to get a good photo for our family Christmas card?
  • Why is Miles up all night with a cough the minute my husband goes out of town?
  • Is the washing machine really broken, or just leaking?
THEME SONG O’ THE WEEK: Jem’s “And So I Pray.” Sample lyrics: “Storm is brewing in the air tonight/So many pressures on my mind/Want to escape just wanna run away/But it’s not an option/I have to stay.”

PRAYER O’ THE WEEK: Please keep my neighbor in your thoughts. Her husband works (worked) for one of the aforementioned companies. Two kids, another on the way, Christmas in two weeks, and he gets laid off. Nice, huh?

12/4/08

Bumps and Scrapes and Falls, Oh My!

Look, ma, no hands!C. was working from home yesterday, and when he came up from the basement at dinnertime he said, “Did Miles fall? I heard a big thump.” And I said, “Which time?” Seriously, the kid falls so many times a day I’ve stopped noticing.

It’s not that I’m a careless parent, it’s just that it’s not that big a deal anymore. He falls, he cries, I kiss his boo-boo, and we move on. If made a big production out of every bump and scrape, we’d never have time for anything else. Plus, I fear I’d turn Miles into (more of) a drama queen.

I worry about those kids whose parents run after them anxiously at all times, as if their child was a piece of fine china in Crocs and they’d like nothing more than to swaddle him in bubble wrap and surround him with marshmallows and foam rubber. What happens when, inevitably, the parent can’t eliminate every potential risk in the child’s environment? What if the kid pinches his finger in a zipper or trips over a tree root? He’ll think the world is out to get him!

Besides, as another wise and witty mother (whose name I can’t remember right now) once said, “Toddlers can get a concussion from a cotton ball.” That’s Miles to a T. He rarely knowingly does anything dangerous, like stick his head in the oven, but he very, very often finds a way to make a harmless object hazardous.

Here’s a case in point: last week he was running around with this little plastic frog. Even though he’s past the age of putting everything in his mouth (except Play-doh), for some reason he decided to find out what the frog tasted like. So he’s running with a toy frog in his mouth and he slips on the wood floor and falls.

He happened to fall in just such a way that the frog became wedged between his upper and lower teeth, jamming his jaw open. I ask you, what are the chances?? What are the odds of him falling at the exact angle necessary to cause that kind of freak accident? Anyway, we quickly pried the frog from his mouth and he was fine. So we added another rule to the ever-growing list of household safety regulations: “No running with frogs in your mouth.”

I’m happy to say that Miles is a pretty resilient kid. His frequent minor accidents don’t get in the way of his enjoyment of life. And that bodes well for him if he ever faces seriously challenging or painful situations.

Take his friend Ollie, for instance. This poor child underwent a 4-hour surgery, after which he had to have all kinds of bandages and tubes attached and removed from him repeatedly. Full recovery will take weeks. His parents, like any I can imagine, are almost unable to bear the awfulness of it. But Ollie handled it. In the hospital, they say he played with his toy tractors and watched his videos, didn’t put up too much of a fight about being confined to bed, and now, back home, he’s already back to playing and preschool. God bless him.

The way I look at it, as a parent you can get yourself all in a tizzy about every scratch, or you can thank your lucky stars you’ve got a healthy, active kid with no serious health issues. Although I’m sure the long-term prognosis for repetitive frog jaw can’t be good.

MILESISMS O’ THE WEEK:
“Last morrow” = yesterday. A combination of “last time” and “tomorrow,” perhaps?
“Nickles” = those 2 things on our chests that serve no purpose in men but women find useful in breastfeeding.
“Pee-nember” = to remember or recall something that happened in the past.

12/2/08

Where Does the Time Go? Errands!

It’s so great when your child starts preschool. He’s having fun socializing with other kids and creating extremely messy seasonal artwork, and I have loads of free time to work out, meet friends for coffee, do my Christmas shopping, and work on my novel. At least that’s how I pictured it.

In reality, I usually spend those scant 2 mornings/5 hours a week driving to doctor’s appointments, sitting in waiting rooms, and getting weighed, pricked, and prodded. I am basically a full-time pregnant person. Sometimes I drive around to different labs to get my various prenatal tests done, in search of the least-surly employees, the newest magazines, and the nurses most skilled at finding a vein on the first try. I’m still searching.

Sometimes I try to squeeze in extra errands, only to panic when I encounter construction or the person in front of me in the grocery store line pulls out a sheaf of coupons and a personal check. Are you KIDDING me?! I don’t have time for that crap!

Of course, sometimes I do manage to do some actual work. But only if I carefully avoid checking e-mail first or answering the phone. Otherwise, I get lured into a time-sucking vortex of responding to chain e-mails, checking my bank balance, scheduling the next batch of doctor’s appointments, and seeing who’s offering free shipping.

Speaking of which, did anyone else get caught up in yesterday’s Cyber Monday craziness? Supposedly, it’s the equivalent of Black Friday for Internet retailers, who were offering all kinds of deals and promotions. But for me, that translated into hours spent trolling OldNavy.com and Toysrus.com, only to find out the items on my list were out of stock or unavailable in the sizes I need. So much for saving time by shopping online …

I have to say, I actually like the newfound spirit of frugality this economy is bringing out in people. It’s like we’re all in it together, battling against overpriced licensed merchandise and seeing who can find the best deal on diapers. My friends and I regularly exchange tips and info on who’s having the best sales. (Bookmark this site: http://babycheapskate.blogspot.com/) I’ve had complete strangers in stores offer me coupons they can’t use, and been asked for them myself. You want 20% off an oil change? Sure, happy holidays!

My wallet is stuffed with coupons and cards for free gifts-with-purchase from such places as DSW, Ann Taylor, Babies R Us, Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, and Rite Aid. I never know for sure if I’ll use them, but when I get the opportunity to whip out a coupon, it’s almost as exciting as finding money on the street. And if you unexpectedly get a double coupon? Bonus!!

But with all the bargain-hunting and doctor’s appointments, the time Miles is in preschool barely amounts to anything. It’s like they say: time flies when you’re getting blood drawn or digging through your purse for your bonus card.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Check out Dooneybug’s Cents & Sensibility blog. This woman is a master bargain-shopper. Read and learn, people.

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