Sunday, June 29, 2014

The one where I (strangely) identify with Coco Chanel

At some point this morning I recall reading the quote below one some glossy page, and much to by befuddlement, this struck me like an epiphany. Let's set aside the fact that I used to pride accumulating my personal motos by reading the classics: Whitman, Albee, and Salinger
How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone.
Let me be clear on this. In some ways it seems your mid-thirties is designed to make you realize how far you have fallen from your twenties. (Oh- in your early thirties you are falling but are not far enough removed to recognize it!) So I feel compelled to be so personally define that I continue to try out somethings like suits my husband, in his early thirties, used to put on in the morning. This month I seemed compelled to try the Modern Southern Sophisticate. This is not intentional, but it was only after combing the Zara website for 2 hours this morning while attempting to pickle my own cabbage and perusing the July Garden and Gun.
I desperately want to be the girl on the cover with European 
sensibilities and a Southern lake party to attend! 

The fact is I sit at my home computer in the Southern burbs drinking a mix of Chamomile tea and vodka (definitely not a G&G approved cocktail) maternally affirmed that my son's identity is safe in the knowledge that he can build the largest marble tower ever and that I might be able to pick a Zara-inspired outfit tomorrow to strike fear into the heart of the males I work with.
So it is no surprise that I am not the same person I was in my twenties. There is also no surprise that my focus is increasingly on the accomplishments of my son, and in supporting my husband (add in personal fitness, commitment to family nutrition, home improvement, and general family logistics), but in all honesty that is sometimes not very satisfying. The idea of being someone rather than what feels like a jumbled amalgam of somethings is inviting. 

A foreign concept: while I (strangely) identify with Coco Chanel (who might be the furthest from me as humanly possible if playing the which celebrity do I most resemble game) I can not pretend to tell you what my someone would look like. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The one where my life makes me laugh…

By Preschool Mom

I think one of the best things I’ve learned from being a mom is that sometimes you really do just have to laugh. That may sound like a total cliché, but honestly, it was what kept me from losing it today. I literally started laughing because if I hadn’t laughed, I for sure would have cried.

We’ve had a lot going on lately, between house stuff, having two small children and end of school craziness we’ve been running around like nutty people. (I am not even going to address the fact that it is the end of the PRESCHOOL year and I’m already inundated with parties, theme days and teacher gifts – what in the world is real school going to be like?!) Add to that mix a bout of the stomach flu for me and something slightly more troubling for my husband and you come up with a recipe for one stressed out, stretched thin mama. Everything sort of came to a head today, and I found myself giggling at the absurdity of it all.

Some back story if you please. It is May. It is hot. Our air conditioning stopped working last week when it was around 89 degrees for several days in a row. We opened our own “home for displaced fans” (air circulating, not sports cheering) and tried to hang on through the THREE estimates the homeowner wanted to get to replace the system. When he finally picked a place, they dropped the bombshell that they couldn’t come out to fix the problem for five days. FIVE DAYS!!! Two kids, two adults, two cats and one very hairy dog without A/C for five days…let’s just say that is not my kind of math. Then I got the stomach flu. Then my husband got what he thought was the flu. Cue the laugh so you don’t cry reflex.

We decided to stop “toughing it out” and shipped the dog off to the air conditioned boarding facility and ourselves to a local hotel with not just A/C but also with an indoor pool. It seemed like we had fixed our problems until my husband couldn’t stop throwing up and we ended up in the emergency room. I couldn’t help but think, “Hey, at least I don’t have to worry about running home to let the dog out!”

Fast forward to my husband being admitted to the hospital, me scrambling to find childcare and my son disappointed by the fact that we couldn’t use the lovely indoor pool because daddy was in the hospital and mommy was going crazy. So after spending all day in the ER with my husband, juggling the baby and finding someone to liberate my older one from the clutches of mind-altering boredom , I fell victim to mommy guilt and promised my child that I would take him to the pool. As soon as the words came out of my mouth it started thundering and lightning, literally. Seriously?! Thankfully the storm passed and the kid got to play in the pool, but not before a deluge of tears and me having the desk clerk explain to him that they really did close the pool if there was a storm and mommy truly wasn’t a horrible person.

I thought maybe I was in the clear the next day. I packed up all our stuff, checked out of the hotel and hauled the kids back to the car through the pouring rain. After running home (in the opposite direction from my kid’s school) to get diapers (which I had forgotten to pack enough of) I stopped at McDonalds to get breakfast (pancakes and syrup – go sugar) before dropping the kid and heading to the hospital. Mission accomplished, right? Wrong. By the end of the day I had the following summation: My husband was in the hospital with a rather contagious bacterial infection, my house still didn’t have air conditioning, my baby projectile vomited and executed a huge diaper blow-out at the same time, my four-year-old was found standing naked in the bathroom (never a good sign) and explained that his clothes were aggravating his poop, and I remembered that I had to move half of the boxes in our fully packed attic before 8am the next morning so the guys could fix the A/C. I couldn’t help it, I literally burst out laughing. I couldn’t help but think that if we owned a goldfish it would have died. It was just that kind of day…

Even writing this now I sort of have to giggle, but what really makes me smile is the response I got from my friends when I texted them about my woes. I just wanted them to share in my awe at the perfect storm of circumstances and maybe laugh at the absurd comments that issue forth from a four-year-old brain. Instead, I got a bevy of “what do you needs?” and “how can we helps?”

 As a rule, I think a lot of us try to do it all. We work, take care of the kids, try to keep the hubby happy and the in-laws from feeling excluded all within what turns out to be a terribly short 24-hour day. Rarely do we allow ourselves to accept the help of others, instead we just push forward until we almost break, thinking that is the way things have to be. But through all of this, I have learned more than just how to laugh it off, I learned that asking and receiving help really is a good thing, and that I have some pretty awesome friends!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The one with the mini-van envy...

By Preschool Mom

I am not a car person. To me a car is just a means of getting from point A to point B. When I got my last car, my two requirements were cup holders and a clicker to open the door, beyond that I was pretty clueless. Imagine my surprise when I found myself with a major case of mini-van envy.

Like a lot of my friends, my husband has flat out refused to buy a mini-van. I don't know if it is some sort of macho thing or an age thing, but he shuts the door on the subject every time I even so much as mention it. Of course, he is not the one schelpping two kids, an infant seat, a stroller and the rest of the crap that goes with kids day in and day out. He works from home; sometimes he goes days without even getting in a car! But after several years of gentle hints and heavy guilt trips I stopped even bringing it up. That all changed on a recent trip.

We just took our first plane/rental car/hotel trip with both kids. Before I always dreaded trying to get two or three large suitcases, three carry-ons and a stroller in a car the size of a bathroom stall (we go cheap with the rental cars). This time I gently reminded my husband that we now had two kids worth of crap and he seemed happy to shell over a little more cash to get an SUV. When we got to the counter to upgrade, they said it would be $20 more a day for an SUV. We said we would take it, but before the agent could book it the price jumped to $49 more a day. Instead he offered us a mini-van for $15 more a day, I looked at my husband with hopeful puppy-dog eyes, and he finally caved!

It took less than three minutes for me to completely fall in love with the Chrysler Town and Country mini-van. You push a button and the doors slide open. You push the button again and they slide closed. You put the car in reverse and the back-up camera shows me that no one is hiding behind the car. Love.At.First.Sight.

The entire way to the hotel I gushed about the van. I called my mom to gush about the van. I called my friend who owns one of these vans and gushed to her about the van. I couldn't stop smiling thinking about the van. I tried the puppy-dog eyes again on my husband, and he told me to enjoy the rental because that was the only way I was going to ever get a mini-van.

The next day I got a chance to tool around in the mini-van with just the baby. As I sat at a traffic light singing "Twinkle, twinkle, little star" a small sedan pulled up beside me. The windows in that car were down and two young couples were acting the way you do when you are young and at the beach and having fun. They were hanging out the windows, singing to the radio and laughing at life. I saw them glance over at me a time or two and I swear I could read the mockery in their eyes.

For a moment I thought I should hide my face as I sat behind the wheel of the mom-mobile. Then I realized I had nothing to hide for, I loved my ride! As much fun as those kids were having, I had no envy for them. My sweet baby boy was in the back seat, I was on my way to pick up my big kid and I didn't want to be anywhere else.

It was hard to hand those keys back over at the end of our trip, and even harder to not pout like a child when my husband once again said no to a van, but at least I had the memory of those few days with my dream car. And honestly, I have high hopes that by the time we actually do buy a new car there will be an SUV that will not only have push-button doors, it will also change my kid's diapers.

Monday, June 3, 2013


Set your DVRs for June 16, CNN

by Climber Mom

I had the opportunity to see the film Girl Rising the other night (okay a couple weeks ago, I'm a slow blogger). I left inspired and feeling lucky.

The film spotlights the stories of nine unforgettable girls born into unforgiving circumstances. Each of these girls, from India, Peru, Egypt, Haiti, Aphganistan, Siera Leone, Cambodia and Ethiopia, overcome great obstacles to receive an education. They know an education is the only way to a better life and they desperately want to learn.

These girls, and in some cases their families, are an inspiration. While we so often complain about attending school and find ways to skip school, they are sacrificing everything to attend school.

In one story that really touch me, a couple in India has three daughters, and the family lives on the street. There education is not free. But rather than staying in the comforts of their old village or saving their small income for a place to live, their father insisted they leave their rural village for the city, where his daughters could be educated. The family has to pay for each child to go to school, and they have to pay for books and uniforms for each of their daughters. And they pay it. The have no home and often go hungry, but they make sure they pay for school, so their three daughters will have a chance for a better life.

Another girl who survived the earthquake in Haiti desperately misses school, but her mother has no money to send her to the tent school that has been set up nearby. So determined to be educated, she goes everyday and refuses to leave until they teach her. A young girl in Afghanistan is married and a mother at 12 years old. She risks death to tell her story and go to school. But she does it, she believes that strongly, she wants something more for her life.

I left that movie thinking about each of these girls and touched by all of their stories, all different all powerful, all willing to do anything to get an education.

I left thinking, how lucky we are in the United States. Every child in this country has the right, by law, to a free education.Yes, our education system has a lot of problems and there are huge discrepancies in the types of education different school systems offer, but regardless every child in this country can go to school and can learn to read for free.

We still have a long way to go for women in this country to be equally represented in board rooms, to receive equal pay for equal work and for all our classrooms to provide a quality education and to make that education more accessible to all. But compared to others around the world, we are lucky. We all have the opportunity for an education. We have the right and opportunity to choose our future.

I hope that I can instill in my son what a privilege that is and the power that opportunity provides.

I was equally inspired by this story. A woman that works for RTI International, where I work, shot this short video of a little girl in Liberia. Her family had planned to marry her off young as is the custom. But this woman was so touched by this child's passion and desire to learn that she talked to her family and got them to agree not to marry her off. In exchange she is paying for the little girl's schooling all the way through college. Talk about making a difference in someone's life.

These are the stories I will remind myself of when we worry about the perfect school for our child, or complain about how much homework our children get, or stress over his grades. Our first world problems are nothing compared to what these girls and their families face.

According to the film, in the developing world, 66 million girls worldwide are not so lucky, they aren't in school. They are left uneducated, with little opportunity, vulnerable to assault and disease.

But many are finding a way despite all odds. They inspire me.

Girl Rising airs on CNN June 16, set your DVRs, watch it with your children, talk about it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Illusion of Control: Are There Benefits to Being Self-Deluded?

By Lab Coat Mama

Those people who know me well know two things about me.  I am scattered brained.  As I often have multiple trains of thought going at one time, sometimes this spills over into my life.  Also, relaxation and quiet are very difficult for me, thus I tend to overstretch myself.  My working hypothesis is simply that I would not be happy any other way.   It is hard to downshift from maniac speed during the week, to blessed 3-day weekend.  

I love having coffee while piddling around my garden in the morning.
I digress.  Thanks to my 6-year old spending the night with his grandparents last night, and my husband and I relaxing alone, I woke up with ideas.... of all the wonderful things I could get accomplished this morning. As I type I am drinking coffee (see Goal A, Action A in the prefrontal cortex).  

Since working as a toxicologist, my focus on healthy and chemical-free food for my family and friends can boarder on the obsessive, says my husband. Who am I to deny- but that is another post. Goal B: a batch of pesto made and ready to be frozen from my favorite multitasking cookbook Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet--All on $5 a Day or Less. Also, I am determined to find some good pickling recipes to save what has become a limited but successful harvest from our experimental vegetable garden. I am envisioning interesting and surprising accompaniments made from my overload of fresh green onions, cucumbers, and carrots. Goal D- No Knead Bread, which makes my absolute favorite, crunchy loaf but rests at least 12 hours. Try it, you will never go back!
 This is my idea of relaxing.  It may seem crazy and neurotic to some, but nothing relaxes me like taking some time on the weekend to prep myself for what will assuredly be a crazy week and work and home.  Somehow, as I rush from meetings in slacks and heels to cajole my son into staying the pool during swim practice, changing the pool bathroom to get a run in, and wondering when I can squeeze in an oil change, having fresh bread and pesto angel hair pasta to come home to makes me feel in control.  Of course, so does the perfect silk dress and red lipstick, but that is a topic for another time.

So I ask, as you realize you are a slave to the reminders from your Google calender, what makes you feel in control?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The one where I expose my son to all manner of inappropriate things…

By Preschool Mom
As parents, we try to shield our children from things that are scary and age-inappropriate. We don’t always get it right, for example the time my husband let our son watch Ghostbusters, and we dealt with ghost sightings around the house for a week! But as a general rule we try to keep him away from bad language, scary images or things that are just not right for a four-year-old. Recently, I’ve managed to expose our son to all kinds of things that are not really age appropriate, but are rather funny in the retelling at least.

My oldest is currently fascinated by “old” things. I truly have no clue where this is coming from, but as I am a huge history fan I am pretty excited about this phase. He likes to look at my “old” books, one of which is an encyclopedia of mythology, a lovely illustrated look at Greek, Celtic and Norse myths. I didn’t think anything about this until he asked me to read the book with him.

 A few pages in I realized my mistake. While looking at a painting of some goddess or other he looked at me with this total little boy grin and said, “She doesn’t have any clothes on.” Oh great – here we go. “Why doesn’t she have any clothes on?” My not-so-bad response, “Because they dressed differently a long time ago and sometimes didn’t wear clothes.” His response to that, with said naughty grin, “She has a butt!” And close book…yikes! After this exchange I managed to convince him we should look at another book about old things and brought in one about the Wright brothers first flight. In this book everyone had their clothes ON!

Now I know that the folks in the paintings are classical figures and should not be twittered over, but try explaining that to a four-year-old. I also know that there is nothing sexual in his glee over the “naked” pictures, to him it is just funny to say the word “butt.” However, it just seemed wildly inappropriate to continue looking at the book when the lack of clothing seemed to be the biggest draw. 

I thought we had fulfilled our somewhat inappropriate book quota for the day, but later he brought me several Little Golden Books to read. One of them was The Owl and the Pussycat. I was not familiar with this Edward Lear poem, so I started to read without knowing the text. I felt like a total 5th grader when it got to the part where the Owl professes his love to the Pussycat and I burst out in giggles. I
am a thirtysomething married woman who probably didn’t even know there was an alternative meaning to the word “pussy” until I was in high school, but I was completely shocked to see it there in print. The poem is from the 1870s, so obviously they didn’t have that particular slang term, but when on the very next page of the book it started talking about the “bong-tree” I’d reached my limit and burst out laughing.

My son looked at me with total innocence and wanted to know why mommy was laughing.  Not only was I NOT going to explain the humor to him, I also wasn’t prepared to explain to him that mommy was really just being extremely immature. So instead I changed “Pussy Cat” to “Kitty Cat” and managed to make it through the rest of the book.

The moral of the story here seems to be that no matter how hard you try, there are just some things you can’t shield your kids from.  And honestly that is probably a good thing. After all, he has to learn how to respond appropriately to things he is likely to encounter (actually maybe I do too) and he won’t be able to do that if we aren’t there to help him understand. Oh and as for our copy of The Owl and the Pussycat, well that just might make it into the donation pile for the thrift store. There are limits to what I can handle…

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Slippery Slope to Crazy Town

by Type A Mom

I was voted least likely to be a stay-at-home mom. If this had been a yearbook category in high school (or college or my early 20s), I would have won it. I remember vividly having a discussion with my husband -- whose mom stayed home with him and his sister -- when we were first dating: “Look, if you want a wife who is going to stay home and raise kids, you should find someone else,” I said.

I was (and am) Type A all the way. Pre-kids, I woke up each morning and raced to the computer to check the news. I took calls at night and on weekends. I stayed up late and woke up early to work on speeches when it was quiet. I was one of a small crew that opened up the gym every morning at 5:30 a.m.

I bet you can see the plot twist coming here…

Then when my son was born almost 4 years ago (wow, that’s hard to believe), I just couldn’t go back. As the end of my maternity leave neared, I wrestled with what to do. I was in completely uncharted territory here. I had a plan – we had daycare lined up, I had fought for my job just 6 months prior, we had a new house with a big mortgage. I always followed the plan. Except this time.

I spent a couple of weeks struggling to figure out some arrangement that would allow me to feel ok about going back to work. Maybe I could just work part-time. Maybe my parents could help take care of the baby. Maybe I could work from home. Every day there was a different “solution.” And every time the thought of going back to work surfaced, I cried – giant, ugly tears that wouldn’t stop. Everyone was sick of hearing about it. Hell, I was sick of hearing about it.

I went back for one half day and that sealed the deal. I just couldn’t stand to sit in meetings and chit chat with coworkers while my kid was at home. My decision wasn’t out of any ideological bent or strong-held belief. It wasn’t because of any distrust of daycare (I actually think there are a lot of positives for socialization and learning). It was just the right thing for me.

Now before you think this post ends with me espousing my newfound “balance” and “priorities,” let me stop you right there. Rest assured that I have neither tranquility nor perspective on the meaning of life. Because quitting my job was the beginning of a great adventure, but it can also be described as the beginning of a slippery slope to crazy town.

See, you can take the girl out of the job but you can’t take the Type A out of the girl (Despite what my husband claims, I do not believe there is any such thing as a reformed Type A). So, I decided to pick up a little freelance work. You know, stuff to do while the baby napped. A little extra money here and there. Then there was the opportunity to get my master’s through an online program. Sure, why not. The work became more consistent and before I knew it I was basically working part-time and in school part-time while staying home with two kids full-time.

That can be crazy-making and although I’m not that great at math, I know the hours don’t add up.

When my daughter was born I took my laptop to the hospital. When the baby was out for some test or another, I took a few minutes to finish up one last work project. The nurse questioned my sanity when she returned, but I quickly responded that there would be no nurses to help me at home. Better get the work in while I could! Yes, when you work for yourself, there really is no such thing as maternity leave.

Sometimes it seems I have the worst of both worlds. My life has become the ultimate challenge in balance. Juggling kids’ schedules, work time and school time (oh, yeah and my husband wants to hang out sometimes too). There is precious little “free” time. A skipped nap, a sick kid or a late babysitter can throw my whole world into disarray.

Don’t get me wrong. I am very blessed. Most of the time I think I have the best of both worlds. I get to spend lots of time with my kids every day, and I still get to be challenged professionally.

I’m not superwoman. But no one is.

My kids are not perfect angels. But no one’s are.

We’re all a little crazy. But, I wouldn’t change it for anything.