12/26/10

My Favorite Holiday Photos

Did everybody have a good Christmas? I hope so. Ours was very nice, despite the baby coming down with a monster cold and both kids waking us up WAY too early on Christmas morning. (To my surprise, the toddler was the one chomping at the bit to get downstairs, not the 4 y.o.)

But there’s no denying that kids make the holidays a lot more fun. We’re heading to the in-laws’ tomorrow for a few days — where they’re predicting 20 in. of snow tomorrow!! — so I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite shots from Christmas day:

Aw, they DO love each other.

Finally I can do something about that 5 o’clock shadow.

Thomas the Tank Engine was a big hit with Riley, while Miles treated us
to his musical stylings on his new keyboard.

I love how this picture captures my life perfectly: an adult beverage
sitting on a book about underpants.


NEWS O’ THE WEEK: Want to get published and paid for writing about your life? Want a fun, practical class that you can take at home on your laptop? Register by Jan. 4 for the next session of my 6-week e-mail class, Personal Essays that Get Published.

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12/22/10

A Crafty Christmas

It’s been well-documented here that I am no Martha Stewart. I have my moments, but you will never find me self-embossing gift tags with stamps, glitter, and some sort of mini blow torch. (For real — I watched her Christmas special the other night.)

But the holidays bring out my crafty side. Or maybe it’s all that SUPER-CUTE, SUPER-CHEAP stuff in all the craft stores this time of year. Or maybe it’s the fact that I have to entertain a 4-y.o. who’s out of school for a ridiculously long Christmas break.

The first project we attempted was making paper snowflakes. It bombed. Turns out safety scissors don’t cut through layers of folded paper very well. Plus, Miles soon lost sight of our “white Christmas” theme and began decorating the snowflakes with Batman colors. Because what says winter wonderland better than a bunch of yellow and black snowflakes, right?

Next, we attempted graham cracker gingerbread houses with the neighbor kids. The oldest ones got the hang of it pretty well, but the younger ones lost patience with having to hold the walls together until the icing hardened. Miles’ house soon became a teepee.

And the green sprinkles? Were a bad idea. “A little goes a long way” means squat to kids. Meanwhile, the babies screamed for M&Ms and everyone spit out the (partially chewed) gumdrops because they tasted “gross.”

I wised up by the next time, and bought a couple of foam gingerbread house kits from Michael’s (see photo). The interlocking foam pieces fit together easy enough and then the kids decorated them with the enclosed stickers. Easy-peasy. And the only clean-up was collecting the sticker backings. No sprinkle tsunamis. AND no sugar-shock.

Our final creative masterpiece was a snowman cake. When my MIL gave me the pan last year I remember thinking, “When the heck does she think I’m going to have time to make THIS?!” But then the baby started sleeping through the night and taking 2.5-hour naps and all of a sudden the possibilities were endless. Or at least baking a cake no longer seemed on par with writing a novel in Russian.

I’m proud to say I even let Miles help this year. I didn’t get all control-freakish and take all the fun out of it for him like last year. Even if he did put the snowman’s buttons a tad too close together and one of his eyes is on his forehead. HAHAHAHA, just kidding!! It didn’t bother me! Much.

I guess there’s a little Martha in me after all.

CRAFT O’ THE WEEK: Keep it simple, and non-holiday-specific, with Anchormommy’s Winter Mitten Garland.

VIDEO O’ THE WEEK: Check out Jen Singer’s “The 12 Days of Christmas Break” video on Mommasaid.net. Funny AND true.

12/19/10

Random Thoughts: Holiday Edition

Would people look at me funny if I swabbed down the entire holiday train garden with Purell before I let my kids near it?

Would those parents over there get offended if I handed their kid a tissue?

It’s pretty amazing how coughing and sneezing into your elbow has become common practice. Kind of like sitting “crisscross-applesauce” or “like a pretzel” have almost universally replaced “Indian-style.”

Why do some kids love mall Santas and my kids won’t go near them? I think they’d actually prefer going to the dentist.

Will my toddler’s obsession with the Christmas tree ever wear off? Or will he not rest until he’s pulled every single ornament off the tree? (We’ve already lost at least 3 to his death grip. RIP, Rudolph.)

When did sending out Christmas cards with professional photos on 100-lb. cardstock become the norm? Some of the ones we’ve gotten are nicer than our wedding invitations.

Does every married couple give each other boring gifts for Christmas, like a new Dirt Devil or a wireless earpiece for their cell phone, or is it just us?

Why would anyone beyond my immediate family ever try to give me clothes? I don’t even let my husband buy me clothes unless it’s a specific item I’ve already picked out.

Why is my 4-year-old son so damn picky about his clothes? Would it kill him to wear a sweater vest and shoes that aren’t Crocs? Is he worried the wrong outfit will ruin his image at preschool?

Will the gifts my boys get when they’re young shape their future identities? My toddler’s getting a play kitchen and a toy stroller. Will he grow up to be a chef? A stay-at-home dad? Or just a regular guy who makes pancakes on Saturdays and takes his kids to the playground?

Is my 4yo old enough this year to notice or care how many presents he and his brother each get, and how big they are? I hope not. Because the toys seem to get smaller the older they get.

How far should we go to prove that Santa is real? Is eating the cookies enough? Or do we need to disguise the handwriting on the gift tags, too? (This is how I discovered my mom was Santa, BTW.)

Will I be able to get over my fear of germs, Christmas card envy, gift angst, and other assorted seasonal stresses and enjoy the holidays this year? I think so.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Check out this slideshow of ugly Christmas sweaters. And you thought your mother-in-law’s was bad?

12/15/10

Life’s a [Fill in the Blank]

I’m having an internal battle with my positive-thinking side and my life-is-hard-and-then-you-die side.

I’ve always envied natural optimists. (My 4-y.o. is one.) People whose default setting is happy, and who shake off setbacks and disappointments easier than the rest of us. People who embody the phrase “Don’t sweat the small stuff — and it’s all small stuff.”

But try as I might — and I do try – certain experiences just knock me off my shiny happy track. And then I veer over to the dark side. The “nobody said life was fair” and “life is full of disappointments” side. I don’t like it over there. Even though there’s lots of company.

I almost think that I’m succeeding at developing a sunny outlook because when they do come, disappointments are so much more disappointing these days. I guess if I was truly beaten down I’d just shrug and sigh, “Of course it didn’t work out. Again.”

I recently had a major work-related setback. A golden opportunity came floating down from heaven on angel’s wings. The stars aligned and pointed me toward my destiny at the exact moment I needed it most. Opportunity came knocking when I was showered, dressed, and my house was clean. Choose your own mixed metaphor.

And then, after loads of effort and phone calls and late nights and “finally my ship has come in” thoughts, it all fell through. Boom. Just like that, my ship sailed off into the star-crossed night and the angels lost their wings. (Sorry, I don’t know what’s going on with me today. Too many Christmas stories?)

I was devastated. I cried, I felt sorry for myself, I drank a lot of wine, and nothing anybody said made any difference. Interestingly, this is the same way my son reacted when a playdate he was really looking forward to was cancelled at the last minute because the other kid got sick. (Only substitute juice boxes for wine.)

It was awful to see my baby like that. He sobbed big, fat tears. He wailed and bemoaned the unfairness of it all. He was powerless to change things. His day was ruined. And there was nothing I could do or say to change it. Even though I knew that it wasn’t the end of the world, that we could reschedule the playdate, that we could find something else fun to distract him, I could see that for my son, it really did feel like the end of the world.

I know you’re probably thinking I’m going to end with a lesson here. Some sage advice about how I learned to take life’s hits in stride because of my son. But I’m not. I’m just going to say that, yes, sometimes life sucks. You don’t always get what you want. You can’t smile and force the world to smile with you at all times. A window doesn’t always open when a door closes. (Or whatever the heck’s the metaphor I’m mangling.)

So I’ll just say that it’s a lot easier to get past life’s disappointments when you have someone to hug and snuggle up with on the couch. So that’s what we did, my babies and me. And I thought maybe there’s someplace in between “life is a cabaret” and “life sucks.” Or maybe I should just leave the sayings alone. 🙂

READ O’ THE WEEK: Oh, jeez. Maybe it’s the time of year? I looked back in my archives and found this post I wrote almost a year ago to the day: “In All Honesty…” (On the upside, our tree didn’t fall down this year… yet.)

12/12/10

Modern Love Notes by Married People

I was going through the messages on my phone the other day when I noticed that these were the last 3 texts I sent my husband:

– I need u 2 come home. I just threw up. Sorry.

– I’m bleeding. When will u b home?

– Still no power. Supposed 2 b back on by now.

And they say romance is dead! Forget sexting and flirty e-mails when you’re married with kids. It’s all about what’s wrong, what to get at the store, and when will you be home. At least in my world. Aren’t you jealous you’re not married to me? 😉

The first text was sent on a Friday night when, unfortunately for all of us, I got hit suddenly with the stomach bug at the exact same time my husband was at a work happy hour and the boys needed to be bathed and put to bed.

The second text was sent while C. was on his way home from work and Riley had just dive-bombed me on the couch, cracking his rock-hard skull into my face and giving me a bloody nose. That was it for me that day. Done. Your turn, Daddy.

The third text was sent while Miles and I huddled inside the idling car in front of our house and Riley napped inside, so I could charge my cell phone during a freak 6-hour power outage on an 28-degree day.

I’m telling you, people, nobody prepares you for this stuff. When I pictured myself all grown up and married with kids, I certainly didn’t factor in these unsavory scenarios. I thought it was going to be all “Love you, sweetie!” and “Hi, honey, how was your day?” and “Let’s grab sushi on the way to the foreign film fest.” (OK, I just made that up. I don’t think we ever did that even in our single days.)

I certainly didn’t imagine that I would be away from my spouse 10+ hours a day, communicating about bodily fluids and grocery lists via text message. (Pls don’t forget 2 buy COFFEE!!) It would be nice if we could send each other sweet little love notes throughout the day, but come on. Who’s got the time? (I DO frequently send C. cute pics of the boys from my phone, however. I figure it makes him feel like he’s not missing out on everything that goes on while he’s at work. Like the bloody noses.)

And anyway, it’s not just me. Check out the latest text I got from my husband, who took Riley to the doctor the other morning:

– Double ear inf. On our way home.

One day we’ll collect these missives and bind them into a book with flower petals pressed between the pages, titled “Love Notes.” Or not.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: If you haven’t seen DamnYouAutoCorrect.com, what are you waiting for? Hilarious iPhone fails and auto-correct horror stories.

12/10/10

Dora, Glee, and a CD Giveaway

You know what gets my kids and me through the long, dark, dreary days of winter? Music! (You thought I was going to say TV and wine, didn’t you? Those help, too.) So when a lovely lady at Sony Music offered to send me review copies of some CDs, I said you betcha.

My 4-year-old and I opened the package together. The first CD he spied was Dora’s Christmas He hasn’t let it out of his sight since. We listen to it at home and in the car. Here’s my review in a nutshell: it’s not as annoying as you’d think.

If, like me, you find Dora’s voice about as appealing as colic, rest assured that her upbeat chirping actually lends itself quite well to Christmas carols like “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and of course, “Feliz Navidad.” My 22-month-old chimed right in with the fa-la-las and ho-ho-hos. And he went NUTS for a track called “Wiggle Wiggle.”

As for me, I was FAR more excited about Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album
Woot! I can’t explain why I am such a Glee fan, since I was never a drama geek, hate American Idol, and have no desire to relive high school. Something about the music just makes me happy. If loving Glee is wrong, I don’t want to be right. My favorite track is Kurt and Blaine’s rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” And Rachel covering Wham’s “Last Christmas” is fun, too.

The CD also includes “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” which you may be disappointed to know is not sung by the evilly awesome Sue Sylvester. I guess she’s not much of a singer. Personally, I prefer the original version of that song, which is apparently sung by an artist named Thurl Ravenscroft. (Thank you, Google.)

The CD I’ll be listening to long past Dec. 25 is Glee: The Music, Volume 4
It includes “Empire State of Mind,” “Stronger” and “Toxic” from the Britney episode, “Teenage Dream,” and “Forget You” featuring Gwyneth Paltrow. (Is it just me, or is Gwynnie everywhere all of a sudden? Guess she has one heck of a nanny.)

Sorry, people, but these are mine -– hands off. Since it’s the season of giving, however, I am doing a giveaway for all you fans of The King. (As in Elvis, not the blue character from the animated movie, Cars.) So if you want to get your hands on a shiny, brand-new copy of Viva ELVIS- The Album leave a comment telling me Elvis’ middle name. The first person to guess AND SPELL it correctly, wins.

For the rest of you, check out this funny yet slightly disturbing video of one of the tracks, “Bossa Nova Baby.”

12/7/10

Clean House? Not So Much

I may have mentioned a time or 20 how I try to squeeze as much freelance work into as little kid-free time as possible, which necessitates arrangements so complex that pulling off a triple axel on dull ice skates seems easy in comparison.

So it was nothing short of a miracle when the mom of my son’s classmate offered to give him a ride home once a week. This meant Miles could stay an extra couple hours for the after-school program instead of being forced to come home and be quiet while his baby brother naps and I work. Plus, I wouldn’t have to cut the baby’s nap short to pick him up. Win-win, right?

The first time this other mom brought Miles home, however, her son needed to come in to use the bathroom. Terror shot through me.

You see, people, our bathroom is not what you’d call “guest ready.” Not only do we not have decorative hand towels and French-milled soaps, but you’re lucky if there’s toilet paper and no puddle on the floor. You might find a half-eaten banana in the bathtub, a sippy cup of milk in the sink, and a toothpaste self-portrait finger-painted on the mirror.

It’s disgusting. I know. But when you have 2 small, exceedingly messy boys and no time (or cleaning lady), that’s what you get. Certainly if we’re expecting guests I’ll run a Clorox wipe over the counters and toilet and chuck the mess behind the shower curtain. But if it’s just us, what’s the point? A clean bathroom lasts only until the first potty break.

So, disguising the panic in my voice, I said to this other mom, “Sure! Of course! Let me just run in there real quick and make sure we have hand soap.” (As if. That was used up long ago when the boys decided to give their action figures a bubble bath in the sink.)

The next week, I was prepared. The bathroom was passably clean. But this time she asked to fill up her kid’s water bottle in the kitchen. Where she encountered a sink full of dirty dishes from breakfast… and lunch. I was humiliated. I’m not striving to be Martha Stewart, but there are low standards and then there are frat-boy standards. We were probably violating several health codes in the kitchen and bathroom alone.

So the following week, my house was CLEAN. Really clean. (I mean, not under-the-couch clean, but come ON. Let’s be realistic here.) And you know what happened? The other mom was running late and drove off without stepping foot in our immaculate abode.

I took some small, sick comfort in the fact that when my son came home from a playdate at their house, he said the kid’s room was really messy.

READ O’ THE WEEK: In case you missed it, here’s my article on “The Truth About Kids and TV.” You’d think I could clean while my kids are watching a show, but no.

12/5/10

Christmas Card Outtakes

Here are 3 reasons why you may not get a Christmas card from us this year:






Now, look. I’m not one of those people who has to have the perfect fairy-tale family photo on their Christmas card. (Though that does describe about 90% of the cards we receive, I’ll point out. Not that I’m jealous or anything.)

But if I’m going to spend the time and money to print and mail dozens of these puppies — which will adorn mantels and refrigerators all over the country — I’m just not willing to go the ironic route, OK? My blog is FULL of those kinds of photos.

Is it too much to ask that one measly time a year I capture an image of my children in which they are both looking at the camera? In which no one is crying, pouting, or sitting on his brother? In which no one has a black eye, a visible booger, or marker on their face? In which both kids look cute and like they weren’t raised by wolves?

Yeah, I thought so.

Guess we’ll just have to work with what we’ve got.


LINK O’ THE WEEK: For cards that may induce jealousy, make you laugh, or give you ideas, check out McMommy’s annual McHoliday Card Spectacular. My fave’s the one of the 3 kids in the leaves.

12/2/10

Being a WAHM Is All Fun & Games

Is your life lacking excitement? Dull, predictable, each day like the one before? Have I got a solution for you — become a work-at-home mom! Your days will be FILLED with challenges and games, like:

Phone tag. Need to reach an important person ASAP? Call him first thing in the morning before your husband leaves for work; get his voicemail. Then HE calls YOU back while you’re in the preschool drop-off line; gets your voicemail. Then YOU call HIM back as soon as you get home, but he’s tied up until 12 – the exact worst time for you, doing the pick-up/lunchtime/naptime hustle. This game can go on for DAYS!

Extreme juggling. You’ve got a packed day filled with meetings, phone calls, and deadlines. Just as you’re leaving the house, the phone rings. It’s the school – surprise! School’s cancelled due to a power outage. OR, it’s the sitter calling in sick. Time to juggle!

Phone backup sitter; find out she can only take the baby. Phone classmate to line up playdate for your older kid; find out that mom can do it, but only for 2 hours. Beg your husband to go into work late; find out he has an important appointment he can’t reschedule. Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out. You always do! Isn’t this EXCITING?!?!

Pajama parties. OK, maybe working into the wee hours in your PJs isn’t exactly a party, but you always said you wanted to experience the thrill of those late nights again, didn’t you? Only now the excitement isn’t who will you meet or what new club will you get into, but will your computer crash before you back up that important file and will your printer run out of ink before you print out that crucial contract?

7 Minutes in Heaven. No, not the kissing game in the closet. Those 7 minutes of silence you may or may not get to make a phone call during that brief period when the baby’s nap overlaps with the preschooler’s TV show. Those precious few minutes when no one is wailing from their crib, pulling on your arm for a snack, or calling loudly from the bathroom for you to come wipe them.

The thing is, you never know if you’re going to get those 7 silent minutes or not. And that’s the fun of it!!

Musical childcare. Drop off son at school, drop off baby at sitter’s. Work. Pick up son at school, take him to friend’s house for a playdate. Pick up baby from sitter’s, take him home for a nap. Work. Ask neighbor to come over and sit with baby while you run to pick up son from playdate. Ask husband to come home early so you can finish up your work. If any piece of this puzzle falls through for any reason, see “Extreme juggling” above.

I’m telling you, it’s nothing but nonstop fun and games around here. Also, coffee. Lots and LOTS of coffee. So what are you waiting for? Become a work-at-home mom today and join the party! But watch out -– all the excitement might kill you.

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