Dreaming My Dreams: Blissdom

Hi, people! I’m back from my conference, the first time EVER I’ve left my boys for 3 whole days and nights. You’ll be happy to know that things improved greatly after my rocky start. For me; not necessarily for hubs back home.

It turns out school was cancelled the ENTIRE TIME I was gone, due to the snow. So he had to figure out alternate childcare arrangements, lunches, snowsuits, drop-offs and pick-ups, not to mention shoveling the walk every morning. The man’s a SAINT, I tell you. My gift to him is putting that in writing for all the world to read.

OK, so: back to the Blissdom conference. I could write at least 7 posts about it, but I will spare you since most of you reading this will probably never attend a blog conference. Although if you’re a blogger, I highly recommend it. They give you tons of free stuff and you’re surrounded by people who “get” you and make jokes about captcha and how much time they spend on Twitter.

For me, the conference was chock full o’ inspiration and self-revelations. After maybe a half-day of feeling like the uncool kid back in high school, I realized I am 36, not 16, and I no longer care about who’s cool and what they’re wearing and what I’m wearing and where I should sit. Everywhere you looked, there were friendly faces and people sitting alone and every type of fashion imaginable (including tiaras, sequins, jeans, pajamas, and Converse sneakers).

I realized that I am MUCH more comfortable striking up a conversation with someone in line or sitting next to me in a session than walking up to people at cocktail parties and thrusting a business card in their hand. I realized that I was allowed to walk out of sessions that didn’t interest me and go get a manicure instead. (Which I did, along with 2 shoulder massages. For free! That alone was worth the price of admission.)

For me, the best parts of the CONFERENCE were the speakers and the conversations. More on those later. The best part of the EXPERIENCE was having the space and time to think.

Think about that for a second – oh, wait, you probably can’t because you have people crying and asking you for snacks and where are their keys and can you put Spiderman’s head back on and when’s dinner. Until I was in my nice, clean, quiet hotel room, I didn’t fully realize that I rarely have time to THINK anymore. My head is so constantly spinning with grocery lists and to-do lists and schedules and chores and obligations that I almost never have time to simply think my own thoughts.

Check out this billboard I saw on my tour of downtown Nashville. Isn’t it great?

I went into the conference expecting to learn things – how-to’s, tips, resources. And while I did learn some, I got more out of the speakers and panel discussions about issues like work-life balance, authenticity, courage, and how to define success for yourself.

I had never heard of the opening keynote speaker, BrenĂ© Brown, but she blew me away with her funny, honest, and uncannily relevant presentation. (You can watch one of her popular talks here.) I am already halfway through her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection.” Another panelist whose book I’m looking forward to is Hollee Schwartz Temple’s, “Good Enough is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood.”

I’m going to have to write a whole separate post about the interesting conversations I had with people. (Don’t worry, fellow conference attendees -– anonymity ensured!) It made me realize, again, that there is a whole wide world out there filled with fascinating people and ideas and opportunities. What a thrill to step outside my house-preschool-grocery store orbit for a few days and interact with it.

PIC O’ THE WEEK: I couldn’t wait to tell Miles that Nashville is home to “The Batman Building,” aka, AT&T Tower.


Why Did I Think This Was a Good Idea?

6:45am, Weds.: Miles bounds into our bedroom, exclaiming, “It’s snowing out of my window! A LOT!”
I think: Crap! I’m flying to Nashville today.

7:00am: School is canceled. Super. I’ve got stuff to pack, stuff to do for my writing class, and now, stuff to figure out with the kids and my trip. I hop in the shower, check my e-mail, then head downstairs so C. can get ready for work.

8:00am: The kids are bouncing around in their PJs and C.’s shoveling the walk. I call the sitter, the school, and 2 potential playdates and reschedule. In between, I remember things I need to pack and run up and downstairs finding them. I haven’t had my coffee yet.

9:00am: C. leaves for work, I turn the TV off and force the kids to come eat breakfast. The usual mayhem ensues.

10:00am: My flight is canceled. I begin to panic. The kids are running amok, still in their PJs. I debate throwing in the towel on this whole conference, but I don’t think I can get my money back. C. urges me to get on the phone with US Airways and rebook my flight.

10:30am: While I am on hold, Riley hits Miles in the head with a Matchbox car and Miles wails. “WAAAAAHHHH!!! HE HIT ME!!” At that exact moment, the ticket agent picks up. “Miles, PLEASE. Go to your room for a second, I’ll be right there,” I stage-whisper. “Another flight leaving at 3:30? Sure, great.”

Then Riley comes into the room, his hand covered with a goopy white substance. “Cweem?” He got into the diaper rash cream. He smears it on the couch. Awesome. “Connecting in Charlotte? OK, I’ll take it.”

11:00am: We all bundle up and go outside to build a snowman.

Noon: Lunch and hot chocolate.

1:30pm: I drop the kids off at a neighbor’s until C. can pick them up after work. With school canceled and an earlier flight, I have no choice. I feel guilty about it. I pray the baby will nap.

2:15pm: The airport shuttle driver is named Kesha. I wonder if this is a bad sign.

3:30pm: I board the plane and discover I am in the very last row. Super.

4:30pm: Bumpiest flight EVER. Did I mention I get sick on planes? Lucky for my seatmates I’m in the last row, right next to the bathroom.

5:25pm: I have to sprint through the enormous Charlotte airport to catch my connecting flight. No time for a drink or gum. Sorry, seatmates.

6:55pm: As the plane’s landing, I find out a couple people near me are also going to Blissdom. One has a cute baby with her. We chit-chat briefly, then go our separate ways.

7:30pm: I find the hotel shuttle, but have no ticket or cash. The driver takes pity on me. I get on the bus and sit by myself. I call home and cry. I am sick, tired, hungry, and miserable. I want to go home.

8:00pm: I get to the hotel. It’s like Atlantic City, Disneyworld, a mall, and a giant greenhouse rolled into one. The desk clerk tells me how to get to my room and I joke that I feel like Dora the Explorer: go over the stone bridge, through the rainforest, and down the magnolia hallway. I’m only kind of joking. The place is GINORMOUS. I wish I had Boots the monkey to keep me company.

8:45pm: I’m about to pass out from hunger. There’s a welcome party for the conference going on somewhere, but I look and feel like crap. It’s the last thing I want to do. I call my husband, who urges me to go. I put on some makeup and a fresh shirt, plaster on a fake smile, and head out.

9:00pm: Big shock, I’m lost. A supernice hotel employee walks me to the party, which it turns out is in a separate WING, past the rainforest, around the lake and through the village. I’m not joking.

9:15pm: I get a glass of wine and some cheese and stand around like an idiot. Then I recognize this guy (the keynote speaker, as it happens) and introduce myself. He is very nice, and introduces me to 2 bloggers whose names I recognize. They politely talk to me. I excuse myself to look for more food. I introduce myself to the only other person I see standing around by herself. She’s very nice, and for the first time all day I feel like myself.

9:30pm: Exhaustion and hunger overtake me. I go buy a slice of pizza and take it back to my room. I briefly wonder why I decided to fly 700 miles from home to attend a conference with a bunch of strangers when I could have gone to a spa with my friends. (Well, not that that was an option, but STILL.) Oh, yeah. Because I want to learn stuff. Right.

This self-improvement stuff is HARD. It’s awkward, stressful, and exhausting. Then again, so’s giving birth and I did that twice, right? Maybe the fun part will start tomorrow.

SHOUT-OUT O’ THE WEEK: I am so, so grateful to all the people who stepped up to offer help and support with the kids, this trip, etc. Good friends and acquaintances alike. And not least, my wonderfully supportive hubs and parents. I love you!

PIC O’ THE DAY: This is the hotel. For real.


Off the Clock

You know what I realized? Except for one overnight trip for our anniversary and jury duty, I have never been away from both my children for more than a few consecutive hours.

So what that means is, as soon as I leave them at school, with a sitter, or with their dad, it’s like a stopwatch starts running. Gym, grocery store, check e-mail – bzzzz! Time’s up! Sorry, no shower today. Or: proofread and submit article, write blog post, make phone call – bzzzz! Time’s up! No lunch or laundry this afternoon. Or: clean kitchen and bathroom – bzzzz! Time’s up! Might as well face it, I will never have time to dust again until they’re in college.

Things are a little more lax on weekends when C. is home, but even then I keep a close eye on the clock when I’m out. A yoga class or a brief shopping trip is fine, but he’d balk at a day-long outing. I can’t say I blame him – 8 hours of breaking up fights over who had the Spiderman car first is exhausting. And 8 hours means at least 2 meals and 5 snacks, 3 or 4 diapers, and possibly even a bath. Not exactly Dad’s idea of a relaxing Saturday at home.

This constant clock-watching gets to a person. A feeling of panic rises in my chest when I hit unexpected traffic or get behind a particularly slow person in line. Don’t you know I only have 27 minutes left?! I feel like screaming. (I should note here that almost every time we’re in the car now, Riley shouts, “Go, people, go!!” Wonder where he learned THAT?)

It’s to the point where I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m faced with extra time. When I was called for jury duty AGAIN recently (which my husband AGAIN suggested was some kind of break, as if I were spending the day at a spa instead of a bleak government building), I was at loose ends.

For the first couple hours, it was kind of nice to sit there and read a book. (Me! Reading! 20 whole pages in a row!) And I’m not gonna lie, going out to lunch by myself was awesome. They give you 90 minutes for lunch – 90 minutes!! At home I’m lucky if I get 90 uninterrupted SECONDS to choke down a sandwich. But after that, it got old fast. I couldn’t concentrate on a book. I couldn’t sit still in the chair. (Sitting? During the DAY? When you’re not in the car? How weird!!)

I couldn’t even write. Apparently, if I don’t have the deadline of preschool pickup looming over me, I’m utterly unproductive. I need the buzz of the dryer or the beep of the coffee maker to keep me on track. Efficient? You betcha. Productive? Usually. Sane? Not so much.

Tell me: how much time do you have to yourself during a typical week? And how do you spend it?


Flashback Friday: 8 Reasons I Love Blogs

In honor of my upcoming trip to Blissdom, I’m re-running this post I wrote last year. Enjoy!

8 Reasons I Love Mom Blogs

Mom Blogger?1. They’re entertaining. Where else will you find a picture of a kid who gave himself a Desitin facial? Or a baby’s reaction to peeing in his own face? Or a podcast by a preschooler trying lobster for the first time? Or an account of a work-at-home mom locking herself in the closet to conduct a conference call? On blogs, that’s where.

2. They’re interesting. I do love my magazines, but lots of them are cutting my favorite parts — the personal essays, the humor pieces, the stuff about non-celebrities. When I get sick of “10 Ways to Lose the Baby Weight” I go online and read funny or introspective stuff by real people.

3. They’re helpful. Yes, there are a bazillion books and articles that tell me how to potty-train my kid. If you’ve read any of my past posts, you’ll know NONE OF THEM helped me. What did? Reading other moms’ accounts of their toilet trials and tribulations. And if you think that means I get all my medical info from sketchy, disreputable sources, you’re dumber than you think I am.

4. They’re informative. For non-mom stuff, too. I’m a writer, so I read blogs that tell me how to be a more prosperous one and answer questions about writing and publishing. I’m a blogger, so I read blogs that tell me how to blog better and make money at it. I’m a wife, so I read blogs about how to have a happier marriage. And I’m a HUMAN, so I read blogs about celebrity fashion disasters to learn from others’ poor sartorial choices. (OK, that’s a lie. Mostly I just laugh at the pictures.)

5. They’re timely. Let me regale you again with the tale of the time I wrote an essay about my firstborn that was published in a national magazine 3 YEARS LATER — after the birth of my second child. It’s embarrassing enough that by the time a celebrity appears on the cover of a wedding magazine, they’re usually divorced. If I want to find out what’s going on NOW, I’ll check Twitter and blogs, thankyouverymuch.

6. They’re diverse. I read blogs written by people who live in exotic locales like Georgia, Utah, Idaho, Florida, Canada, the UK, and Japan. I read blogs by authors, actresses, chefs, lawyers, librarians, doctoral students, GUYS even. Turns out not everyone is a 30-something SAHM in NY or LA. Who knew??

7. They’re interactive. You want to know why I blog instead of writing all this stuff in my own private journal? Because I actually like to interact with other people! I know this may come as a shock from someone who blogs semi-anonymously and only reluctantly recently joined Facebook, but it’s true. I read what other people write and respond and vice versa. Sometimes we–GASP!!–meet in real life. You know, at conferences where we talk about tutus and stuff. đŸ˜‰

8. Because I just do, OK?! Look, I don’t disparage people who like to collect Hummel figurines or breed Chinese crested hairless dogs or make their own socks. (At least not to their faces.) And I doubt those people feel the need to defend their interests or professionalism. (Although what do I know? There could be some huge uproar going on right now in the hairless-dog-breeding community. Heck, THIS POST could incite one!)

So I’ll stop listing the reasons why I like what I like and write what I write and read what I read and do what I do and just get on with it. Sound good?


On Breakups and Being Yourself

What if I'm Lindsay Lohan?I’m going to a conference next week and I’m a little nervous. One, because it’s the first time I’ll be away from my boys (all 3 of ’em) for 3 days. And two, because I won’t know anyone else at the conference. Not one person. Now, I’ve flown solo at conferences before and ended up making friends, like the divine @themadmom, for one. But I’m still nervous.

“Be yourself,” is the most common advice. At conferences and in life, it seems. (Just click through this Wisdom from Mom Bloggers and you’ll start to sense a theme.) So on that note, let me tell you a little story – 2, actually — about being yourself.

I did not date HasselhoffIn my teens I went out on a couple of dates with a boy who was a lifeguard at the beach I went to. Let’s call him “Isaac.” One time, we were strolling along the boardwalk eating ice cream, and I noticed he was wearing a necklace. “What does that mean?” I asked him, pointing to the little gold symbol around his neck.

Looking puzzled, he said, “You don’t know? But you’re Jewish!”

“Um, no, I’m not. I go to Catholic school,” I replied, equally puzzled.

“But you sit on the Jewish part of the beach!” he blurted.

This was news to me, since I didn’t even know there WAS a Jewish part of the beach. But that was it for Isaac and me. The next time I saw him, he was with another redheaded girl who was wearing a star of David around her neck.

Jin from Fast-forward to one summer during college. “Jin” and I were both counselors at a sleep-away camp. We took a liking to each other, and our romance progressed to the point where, after we returned to our respective colleges several states apart, he came to visit me for a long weekend. In the middle of that weekend, he abruptly broke up with me. He realized, he said, that we had no long-term potential because he came from a traditional Chinese family and was going to marry a Chinese girl – which I’m not.

Now, this breakup struck me as cruel and unfair. First of all, he’d known all along that I was not Chinese. It’s not like I tried to put one over on him and then suddenly morphed into a WASP. And second, there was nothing I could do to change the fact that I was not Chinese. Or Jewish. (At 16, converting was not on my radar.)

Looking back on these breakups now, I’m actually glad they happened the way they did. Had these guys said they wanted a girl who dressed differently, read Russian novels, or had dark hair, for instance, I might have tried to change myself. But Jewish and Chinese? Sorry, I’m out.

Not to mention that if I’d settled down with either of these guys, I would never have met my husband, a guy who loves me for being myself. (Although he might argue that I am sometimes TOO MUCH myself.) Besides, the college guy would probably have been on board with the whole Chinese mother thing, which would be a total dealbreaker.

So what can you learn from these stories, besides that I don’t have a type when it comes to guys? It’s not “Be yourself and everyone will love you.” It’s not “Be yourself and you’ll have everything you ever wanted.” I guess the lesson is, be yourself because it’s impossible – not to mention exhausting – to be anything but. At age 36, with 2 kids, a great husband, and a lot more confidence than I had in my teens and 20’s, I’ll be taking that lesson with me to my conference. Wish me luck!


“No Singing, Mama!”

We were sitting on the couch, flipping through the boys’ “Puff the Magic Dragon” picture book. I was singing along when Riley turned to me, held up his palm, and said, “Stop!” Fine. Point taken.

“I don’t like when you sing it either, Mama,” Miles chimes in. “Just read it.”

“What? You don’t like my singing voice?” I asked indignantly. I’m no Mariah Carey, but I can carry a tune.

“I DO like your voice, I just don’t like it singing that SONG,” Miles clarified. Humph. I wasn’t convinced. In fact, both kids have stopped me in the middle of lullabies and shushed me when I try to sing along with the “Little Einsteins” theme song. It’s enough to hurt a person’s feelings. Except that then I’m free to go read a magazine, so I’m not complaining.

There are SO many things I find myself doing now that I’m a mom of 2 that I never would have dreamed I’d do. Especially in public.

When I first had a baby, I was so self-conscious about every little thing. God forbid someone overhear me in the grocery store talking babytalk to my infant, or later, disciplining my toddler. How EMBARRASSING to sing nursery rhymes in public at Stroller Strides! Or to ask my son if he needed to use the potty during church.

Yeah, well, I got over it. I don’t know if it was through sheer repetition, or that I got more confident, or that the horror of my son having an accident right there on the pew overshadowed any awkwardness about using the word “potty” in front of other adults.

Lesson #57 that my kids have taught me: how to care less what other people think of you. (Don’t expect a post on the other 56 lessons anytime soon; I picked that number arbitrarily.)

They’re good for something, these kids. Just not so much for boosting their mom’s ego. I’ll try not to take it personally next time they cut me off in the middle of singing the “ABC’s.”

READ O’ THE WEEK: Sticking with books that don’t require singing along, my 4yo loves the “Adventures of Riley” series. Partly because they’re about a redheaded boy with the same name as his brother, and partly because they’re about exotic adventures and animals all over the world.


Culinary Goddess…for a Week

The tofu nuggets were a mistake. I see that now. Even when C. dubbed them “tuggets” in an attempt to jazz them up, the kids weren’t buying it. They remained unmoved by the breaded, gelatinous cubes of soybean curd on their plates. Oh, well. Can’t blame a mom for trying, right?

As a New Year’s resolution of sorts, I have decided to step up my game in the kitchen this year. Our meals had gotten so pathetic they barely qualified as meals. Plain pasta and peas. Mac & cheese with broccoli. Slices of turkey, cheese, and apple, naked on a plate, not even combined into a sandwich. I told myself it was because the kids were so picky and my husband was rarely home for dinner, so it didn’t matter. But the truth is, this food wasn’t appetizing to anybody.

So I decided to get more creative, a little healthier and more well-rounded, and actually – gasp! – PLAN some meals in advance. I don’t know why, but meal planning has always seemed like such a chore. Of course, the alternative is that I consistently end up 1 or 2 ingredients shy of a recipe I want to try and resort back to pasta.

Here’s the thing, though: in my house, meal-planning is extra tricky. That’s because a) I’m a vegetarian, b) my husband is currently on a meat-heavy, anti-carb diet, and c) I have 2 extremely finicky children. I’d like to point out that even as a vegetarian, I’m usually the least picky one in the group. It’s true. I’ll eat whatever’s on the menu, just hold the cow.

I’m not gonna lie; cooking has been a challenge so far. And there have been some surprises along the way. For instance, the first meal I made was chipotle shrimp tacos. (I do eat seafood now and then.) To my surprise, both my 4yo and my 22mo gobbled them up. So, let me get this straight. My preschooler will not eat cucumber, but he WILL eat shellfish? And my toddler will turn up his nose at avocado, but finds CHIPOTLES pleasing to his palate? And both of them will eat olives, but not baby carrots. Go figure.

The next meal was a vegetable lo mein. It took some threatening coaxing, but the boys did eat a few bites. C. and I thought it was pretty tasty, although he did balk at the carbs in the noodles. The next night I made the ill-fated “tuggets.” Even I had to admit they were less than delicious. It feels like blasphemy for a vegetarian to admit she doesn’t like tofu, but there you have it. C.’s side dish of garlic-sauteed broccoli was much better received.

Another winner was my veggie Crockpot chili, which the kids scarfed down when heaped liberally with cheese and tortilla chips on top. Personally, I thought the linguini with tapenade, artichokes, tomato, and feta was fabulous. But apparently, even though both my boys will eat whole olives, they will NOT eat them when they’re chopped up. (UGHH!! These kids are killing me!)

Tuna & rice casserole: flop. Anchormommy’s crustless spinach and tomato quiche: hit. (And the ONLY way I can get Riley to eat spinach.) Zucchini bread (while technically not a meal): hit.

Miles and I also whipped up some homemade playdough, which – while not edible – still qualifies me as a culinary goddess. Shut up. IT DOES. I also made Jello, which my mother-in-law introduced to the boys over Christmas. What are you gonna do? Sometimes you have to play to the crowd.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty impressed with myself. I’ll be honest: getting my family to eat a healthy homemade meal is almost as thrilling as seeing my byline in a national magazine. Of course, I realize it’s only been a week or so. I better pace myself.

So tell me: have you found any crowd-pleasing meals in your house?


What Do Working Out & Writing Have in Common?

As I circled the parking lot at the gym yesterday and then waited in line for a treadmill, this piece I wrote for the Writer Mama e-zine a while back came to mind:

I have been a regular exerciser for years. Don’t hate me; it’s my parents’ fault. As a kid, I passed out water along race routes to my dad and his fellow runners, and did leg lifts alongside my mom and her leg warmer-clad compatriots in aerobics class. Exercise is just something I do, like brushing my teeth. OK, more like flossing—I don’t do it every day, but I aim for three or four times a week.

As a longtime gym member, I’ve started to recognize a pattern: each January, the place is packed. Parking spaces are scarce, and there are long waits for the treadmills. People in shiny, brand-new workout wear are everywhere. Then just as suddenly, around March, the gym empties out again and it’s just us regulars.

I’m not disparaging these would-be workout buffs for falling off the fitness wagon. I’m just noticing that if you approach exercise as “just something you do,” rather than an all-or-nothing oath, you’re more likely to find time for it regularly and stick with it.

Listen: there are plenty of days when it takes all the energy I can muster to drag myself to the gym. Especially if I’ve just spent 10 straight hours with a stubborn toddler who refused to nap so I could finish this column. Those days, I’ll set the recumbent bike to Level 2 and flip through People magazine as I pedal. A challenging workout? Hardly. But I give myself points for showing up. That’s what keeps me coming back to the gym in March, June, September, and even in January, when I can’t find a parking spot.

It’s the same with writing.

I’ve been a writer all my life, too. Writing is just something I do. I don’t broadcast it on bumper stickers or T-shirts. I don’t apologize for the time I spend writing. I don’t need to justify spending money on writing books or classes, or on a babysitter so I can write.

Now, I have been writing for publication for years. Sometimes I even get paid! I realize that if you’re just starting out and not earning much, if any, money for your work, it may be more difficult to convince yourself and others that writing is a worthwhile use of your time.

But it is. Like regular exercisers, writers who stick with it know that the rewards are great. Approach your writing as you would any other important undertaking in your life. Find time for it. Make time for it. Give yourself credit for showing up.

On the days when I write little more than a couple of e-mails and a blog entry, I don’t beat myself up. I’m still flexing my writing muscles, right? And I know that tomorrow I’ll sit down at my desk again and tackle that new assignment or tough revision. That’s because I’m a writer. And so are you. It’s just something we do.

LAST CALL O’ THE WEEK: Still a few spots left in my 6-week online writing class, “,” which starts tomorrow. By the end of the class, you’ll have 2 ready-to-submit essays and a list of potential PAYING markets to send them to. Look at it this way: the class costs $250; I sold my last essay for $200 — and that’s on the low end of the pay scale.

Former students have published their essays in the New York Times, Southern Living, Chicken Soup for the Soul, A Cup of Comfort, regional parenting mags, websites, and more. Registration closes tomorrow (1/12), so !


Oh, Yeah, I Forgot. I’m a Grownup

Something weird is going on, people. Somehow, I ended up having a weekend that did not revolve primarily around my children. A weekend where I did actual grownup things. I know!! Shocking, right? I mean, I never set out to be that person whose life revolves around feeding and nap schedules, playdates, and kids’ activities. (Does anyone?) But it happened.

Somewhere along the line it became perfectly acceptable to be in flannel PJs at 8pm on a Saturday night and in bed at 9:30. Instead of movies and restaurants, weekend outings became a trip to Costco and a 2-year-old’s birthday party. Dining out usually means going to Red Robin. Fun … if you’re 4.

But like I said, this weekend was different. First of all, we got a babysitter. Contrary to the talk shows and magazines that insist couples have weekly date nights, for us it only happens about once every 2-3 mos. So C. and I got dressed up and had dinner at a trendy new restaurant. That’s right – TRENDY and NEW! I can’t take credit for having the scoop on this place, though. A much hipper (and not coincidentally, childless) friend of mine recommended it.

So, anyway, there we were out and about after dark on a Friday night. Like real adults!! We had drinks, we had dinners that weren’t in the shape of Disney characters, we had some conversation about stuff other than kids and bills. (I said SOME. Of course, those topics cropped up. I mean, what else are we going to talk about?)

I also went out and saw a real movie. In a theatre and everything. As strange as it felt to be sitting upright and wearing shoes while watching a movie – as opposed to lying on the couch in sweats – I quite enjoyed it. I saw “Black Swan” with Natalie Portman. It was weird, in a good way, and the kind of movie you keep thinking about and analyzing for days after. I guess that’s what people without kids talk about. (Like the guys behind me who were discussing metaphors and symbolism in the film. Meanwhile, I was thinking about how Natalie Portman is pregnant now. Hey, I’m still a mom…)

But wait, it gets better – next, I went to a museum. A MUSEUM, can you believe it? I walked around and looked at art. Without pushing a stroller or shushing anybody in a Baby Bjorn. It was incredible. And also, quiet. Now, I have to confess, this was actually during a kids’ birthday party. The kids did art projects in a separate room while the parents could wander around and look at the exhibits. Great idea, right? Another mom kept giddily pointing out how she felt like a real adult again.

It’s hard to believe that all these activities were standard weekend fare not that long ago. Commonplace, dull even. I’m sure we were like, “Another movie? We just saw one last night.” Or, “What if we stayed IN for dinner tonight for a change?”

Boy, has life changed, huh? It’s OK, though. All that adult stuff kind of tired me out. I need a week of Thomas the Tank Engine and chicken nuggets to recover.


Good Thing He’s Cute

“Uh-oh, Mama! UH-OH! Dwop-dit! Yook, Mama, YOOK!!”

Clearly, Riley is trying to tell me something. The urgency in his tiny voice tells me I better come quick and “yook” to see what’s wrong.

Oh. He dropped a blueberry on the floor. Cancel the ambulance.

I think he’s just showing off his new language skills every opportunity he gets. In the past month or so as he approaches age 2, he has unleashed a torrent of new vocabulary.* “Uh-oh”—his first word—is still in heavy rotation, which makes sense in our house, as is “Miles did it” and “No yike it.” The latter phrase is employed whenever he’s been persuaded to try a new food, and is usually accompanied by a disgusted pursing of his cherubic lips. Then, he spits out the item he doesn’t “yike” into my hand. Charming.

Still, he’s at an unbearably cute age. He sings “mewwily, mewwily” when he’s rowing his laundry basket boat down the stream hallway, and his “bitsy pie-duh” is often crawling up the water spout. (Funny, since he hates spiders.) He says “I. Wuv. Yew!” complete with hand gestures, and he’s big into hugging and kissing. Also, hitting and hair-pulling, but that’s a little less cute.

My mother always said about kids in general and hers in particular, “It’s a good thing they’re cute.” So true, so true. Just when you’re ready to take them on a one-way trip to Grandma’s for, oh, I don’t know, DRAWING ON THE COUCH WITH NONWASHABLE BLACK MARKER, they blink at you with those big brown eyes and you melt. Or at least become momentarily less homicidal.

Riley’s latest trick is boycotting his nap. Before Christmas, he was taking 3-hour naps. Not only did he not put up a fight, but he would go running for the stairs when I said, “Time to go up for your nap.” I thought like me, my baby loves his sleep.

Well. Then he figured out how to climb out of his crib. (Right on schedule, according to this blog entry about my firstborn at the same age. What would I do without my archives?!)

Unlike his big brother, however, Riley did not climb out once or twice and then resume his regular naps once the novelty wore off. Oh, no. For 2 days straight now he’s thrown a FIT about staying not only in his crib but his room during naptime. I let him cry and kick the door for an hour yesterday. (OK, probably 20 min. But it FELT like an hour.)

Here’s some “surveillance footage” of the escape artist in action.

So now we’re researching toddler beds and crib tents and plotting our next move. Just when we thought things had gotten back to normal after the holidays…

*I am aware that the topic of milestones, particularly those reached early, can induce anxiety and envy among fellow parents, so let me assure you that neither of my kids slept through the night till they were almost 1, and potty training my eldest was an extended form of torture. Feel better?

LINK O’ THE WEEK: Last chance to sign up for the next session of my fun, practical, 6-week online writing class, “.” It pays off — just ask my former students who’ve been published in the New York Times, Southern Living, Chicken Soup for the Soul, regional parenting mags, websites, and more.


New Year’s Resolutions for Other People

Happy New Year, people! I’m feeling pressure to write something thoughtful and profound. About the inner wisdom I’ve gained over the past year and my meaningful goals for 2011. But I’ve got nothing. Oh, sure, I’ve got the usual “worry less, read more, eat better” resolutions, but that’s about it. (Last year I was more creative.)

Maybe it’s because I spent the last 4 days at my in-laws’, otherwise known as The Land Where the Kitchen Never Closes and the TV’s Always On. All those home-cooked meals and football games don’t lend themselves to quiet introspection. Not to mention the fact that I spent the entire trip wrestling fragile Christmas decorations out of my toddler’s grip and trying to keep my 4-year-old from strewing his belongings from one end of the house to the other. (Even so, we lost 3 socks, 1 pair of gloves, a couple of action figures, and several pieces of a brand-new Uno game.)

The funny thing is, I can think of plenty of New Year’s resolutions for OTHER people. For instance, my husband might resolve to plan in advance for things. Say, choosing a recipe and making a grocery list before it’s his turn to cook dinner, instead of gazing into the pantry and searching FoodNetwork.com at 5:30pm and hoping the ingredients for a delicious meal magically materialize in the next 20 min.

And my 4 y.o. might resolve to approach the toilet as a specific target instead of a general guideline. My 22 m.o. could resolve to let, say, 4 seconds elapse after demanding his milk before having a tantrum because I didn’t respond fast enough. My whole family could resolve to put things back where they belong so that an hour of every day isn’t spent tearing the house apart to look for someone’s keys or red Crocs.

OK, fine. I guess I have room for improvement, too. I resolve to get less annoyed by the above behaviors, as well as others including asking for a certain type of food and then refusing that same food once it’s prepared. Or announcing on Thursday night that you had no idea the next day was the school picnic, even though it’s been on the calendar for months.

Oops, this is turning back to them, isn’t it? And I was supposed to be discussing how I could improve MYSELF. Hmmm… Well, let me think on that and get back to you. In the meantime, anyone else make any interesting resolutions this year?

LINK O’ THE WEEK: In case you missed it, registration is open NOW for fun, practical, 6-week online non-fiction writing classes with me and/or Writer Mama Christina Katz starting Jan. 12. Find out more and . Jan. classes usually fill up, so register ASAP so you don’t miss out!

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