Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Left behind

There’s really only one thing I miss about working at the office. I still email and talk with my co-workers all day, and phone meetings beat in-person ones for multi-tasking every time (a partial list of things I have done during meetings includes: load/unload dishwasher and clothes washer, put away clean laundry, pick up toys, chop vegetables, walk outside to spritz rosebushes with bug spray, trim and polish my toenails … if they ever make me get a webcam I am screwed).

It’s beyond great to avoid commuting by working from home. It’s nice to be able to wear comfortable clothes, use my own bathroom, and receive UPS packages during the workday. It’s even nice to be able to get a snack that doesn’t require scrounging up 85 cents in change.

But the flip side of that is what I miss: Lunch. Not even lunch out with friends and colleagues, although that was always fun. I really miss the actual lunch food: veggie sushi and udon soup with the works from Duke’s. Dosas from Hampton Chutney. Pizza from Lombardi’s. Stir-fry from Kelley & Ping. Hell, I even miss the cafeteria in our building.

Because what do all those things have in common? They are NOT LEFTOVERS. Which is what I now eat for lunch every single day. I’ve been working on the same summer squash Mexican casserole thing (which my husband refuses to eat because it was prepared in a slow cooker, “eww”) for a solid week now. That plus salad from a bag. Every single day.

I know you’re with me. Can I get a shout-out from my sisters eating their kids’ Easy Mac remnants, chased by the apple some small person abandoned after two bites?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Busy boy stops for books

Thanks for your comments on my previous entry; they are helpful and appreciated.

A year ago I never thought I'd have one blog, but suddenly I'm working on three. In addition to True MIL Confessions, I have a new blog at my work site. It focuses on what's going on with my kids in terms of reading and learning (and it will also serve to promote other content elsewhere on the site, oh-so-subtly of course). I'm not going to link to it here but if you're dying to read it, send me an email or leave a comment and I'll give you the URL. And I'll occasionally reprint entries here, like this one (scroll to the end for gratuitous cute photo):

My son, like most toddlers (especially the boy ones, I’ve noticed!), almost never stops moving. He first rolled over at 3 weeks old, and we’ve had to watch him carefully ever since. He is an accomplished, determined walker and climber (I once caught him standing triumphantly on the kitchen table). Unlike his older sister, he gives TV only a passing glance, and he squirms and fidgets anytime he is confined in a stroller, car seat, or high chair. He’s not interested in cuddling or snuggling unless he’s just bumped his head or skinned his knee — or unless we are reading a book together.

First thing in the morning, before we leave his room, change his diaper, or wake up his big sister, we spend 20 minutes or more just looking at books together. He trundles back and forth to his bookshelf with his favorite treasures, then plops down on my lap to flip through the pages with me. Lately he’s partial to a couple of Bob the Builder board books shaped like a hammer and a saw. He loves it when I gently tap him with the hammer or rub the bumpy edges of the saw against his leg. And he adores First Mighty Movers, announcing “hot rod!” when he sees the picture of the souped-up car (complete with flame detailing) on the first page. He also digs The Very Hungry Caterpillar, especially the Saturday page where we get to see the caterpillar’s biggest meal of all.

Once the day gets going, Opie's usually too busy to stop for a story. But by bedtime, he’s ready to wind down with a few more books. He even seems to know that Goodnight Moon is a perfect evening choice, although he still wants his car book too. Whatever he picks is okay with me. We’re both getting a lot out of our storytime.

check out our box house

Monday, August 28, 2006

Safety and relativity

I had a post brewing in my head about safety, and whether I might be putting my children at risk with the sense of security Mayberry offers. It's one thing to leave my purse in my unlocked car or keep toys outside overnight--if anything happens, those are just things that can be replaced. But is it too risky to let Jo play outside alone for a few minutes while I run into the house for something Opie needs? Was it terrible that I let her sit by herself, out of my sight, in the kids' area at Barnes & Noble the other day while I chased Opie around the train table? What would I do if I lived someplace that required more vigilance? How would I manage two kids?

Then I saw this photo essay about the children of Katrina (click on "go to interactive feature"). Like HBM's recent experience with a commenter, this knocked me completely onto my privileged, comfortable ass. The kids pictured there (and the hundreds or thousands more who weren't photographed) are so far from "safe." Even if, years from now, they have a clean, secure place to live and play, the damage will be long since done. I'm ashamed--at our country's ridiculous inability to deal with poverty, and especially at my own ignorance and complacency. How can I help? Where can I start? I'm paralyzed by the hugeness of the problem, and then I feel ashamed by that too. What do you do?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Speaking of swag

Jeff got this at work. We agreed it was the lamest giveaway on the face of the earth. The photo doesn't do justice to the cheapness of the nylon involved. This is a site that adds 500,000 users a day (so says Wikipedia). Could they not spring for something a little more

a) creative
b) appropriate to the brand
c) enticing to the people they are trying to entice
d) just not so cheesy?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A loverly bunch

In case you are ever (in the course of playtime with your children, or perhaps some kind of hostage situation) required to impersonate a coconut, here is what to do.

  1. Curl up in a tight ball on the floor, with your knees and forehead touching the ground (and each other, if possible).
  2. Allow children to tap on your back with any available implement (such as the stick from a foil pinwheel, a magic marker, or a toy car) and then complete the job by throwing themselves lengthwise across your spine.
  3. Tip over and crack open by releasing the knee-forehead seal.
  4. Dispense "coconut milk" by stuffing white Kleenex into a plastic cup appropriated from the nearest tea set.
  5. Switch roles, becoming the coconut cracker instead of the crackee. Do your best to avoid having Kleenex "milk" forcibly stuffed into your mouth.
  6. Repeat, ad nauseam.
I welcome suggestions for refining my technique.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Try fitting this on a nametag

Hello my name is Sometimes it takes me an embarrassingly long time to answer the simple question “What’s your name?” Because there are two possible answers--three if the conversation is taking place in writing, since you then have to throw an alternate spelling in the mix as well.

During the moments of gape-mouthed silence before I respond, I have to consider the context, tracing back my relationship with the person I’m meeting to its original source. How do I know her? What other people do we know in common, and how do I know them? Because if you are a member of my family or met me in grade school, high school, or college, then you think my name is Cathie (I know…dopey “ie” spelling adopted in 6th grade, sorely regretted later after I’d made too big a stink to go back). If you are a member of my husband’s family, or you met both him and me at the same time, or you met me during my first post-college job, then you think my name is Cathy. If you met me during any subsequent job, then you think my name is Catherine.

Add in all the degrees of separation among my acquaintances and it just gets way too complicated. Even though I met him while at my second job, I’m Cathy to my husband (and therefore his family, his friends, and half our neighbors here in Mayberry) because I met him through people who knew me during my first job. I’m Catherine to the other half of our neighbors and friends here because I met them when my husband wasn’t around (at yoga class or playgroup) and that’s what I’d really rather be called. People say “Wait, do you go by Cathy or Catherine?” and I mumble some gibberish about answering to both.

Then, if it’s a child asking the question, I face another round of fumbling. Around here most adults are “Mrs. Mayberry” or at the very least “Miss Catherine.” So now I’m second-guessing, trying to figure out how the kid’s parents want me to answer the question—what their standards of etiquette are for their offspring.

It might be simpler in the end to clear the decks and have everyone call me Mayberry Mom, no? I’ll get it tattooed on my right breast, since that’s where everyone’s looking (so says Mom-101, and she knows from boobs). I might have to abbreviate, though.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Sorry for the silence ... real life is intervening at the moment (nothing bad; just work, kids, house, sunshiny days, book club, etc.).

But you can go over to Parent Hacks and read the hack I contributed.

Or you can visit True MIL Confessions--5 more rants posted today. Have you sent us yours yet?

Be back soon.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

This just in: I'm weird

Or rather, I have weird stuff. And a weird brother (whom I love dearly and actually think is quite talented, even if he is strangely obsessed with dead insects). I am honored to be a winner in TB's Gallery of the Weird contest. People, there are some strange items out there (plastic fetuses, duck feet hanging from the ceiling, a tank in the backyard ... and the list goes on). Go check out the entry and all the pictures. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Relation ventilation

My mother-in-law is a lovely woman. If she didn't live 900 miles away, I'm sure she'd take care of my kids more than I do. She is truly generous of spirit. In fact, the worst thing I can say about her is that on a trip to Target when I was 5 days post-partum, she pushed in front of me at the cash register so that she could be the one to pay for my new, c-section-scar-friendly underwear.

So I don't have any True MIL Confessions. But I bet you do. In the spirit of Dawn's amazing True Wife Confessions, mothergoosemouse hatched the idea for a new blog allowing daughters-in-law to safely spill our guts about those crazy women who somehow reared our husbands. Get on over there and send us your rants and raves (truemilconfessions AT yahoo DOT com). We'll post them (anonymously, of course) so you can get the sympathy you truly deserve. Edition 1 is live now.

I told you this place was wholesome

Mayberry moment #3: At the post office, four sheets of white office paper are taped on the wall above the P.O. boxes, along with a few ribbons and bows. The message reads "Happy 105th Birthday Harvey!"

Then, when I stop at the counter stocked with forms and supplies, I find two large pieces of posterboard reading "Get Well Soon Tom!" Each is covered with personal inscriptions from postal patrons. Tom is one of the guys who works at the counter.

You can't make this stuff up.

Monday, August 14, 2006

If you are a dreamer, come in

Late as usual, I'm chiming in on Mrs. Davis's Sesame Street Celebration.

If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar

When Jo was a baby, after we got past the first several weeks of survival mode--the incessant feed/clean/sway to sleep/collapse/feed/clean/sway to sleep cycles--and she began staying awake and alert for minutes at a time, I was flummoxed. What was I supposed to do? She couldn't move or talk or wash the dishes. I knew she needed to hear my voice, to absorb language, storing it up in her chipmunk cheeks for later. But I didn't know what to say. Narrating the happenings inside our four walls got old fast. So did baby board books.

Then Shel Silverstein came to my rescue. Some wise person had given us a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends as a baby gift. So once or twice or five times a day, after a feeding, I'd settle Jo in my lap or next to me in her Boppy and read her its poems.

A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...

It's not just the sentimental poems, and the hysterical ones, and the sly line drawings accompanying them. I read nonstop as a kid, but I specifically remember when I first read Sidewalk and why. My mother had to go to Washington, D.C. for some kind of business trip, and she took me with her. Just me, not my younger brother and sister. Swee-eet! I was eight. We stayed with her friend Judy in the amazing brownstone she lived in with her family in Adams Morgan (pre-gentrification). I later went to a day camp in D.C. for two successive summers, staying in that house for a month at a time, so I remember the silliest details: How the playroom walls were painted a color called "paper bag," how it was so close to the zoo that I could hear the animals roaring and hooting early in the mornings, how Judy served stuffed peppers to her little boys and her husband called them "monkey brains."

If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire

So we drove to D.C. for our big mother-daughter trip. We were going to hang out with Judy, see the sights, just generally have some QT. I had, of course, been looking forward to it for weeks and weeks. And what happens? I get sick. I spent the whole trip in bed at Judy's house and didn't get to do anything fun at all. To make it up to me, and to help me pass the time, my mother bought me this book.

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.

I read it over and over again during that trip, and then on and off again for years until it resurfaced on my baby's bookshelf. Now, I read it with Jo and we crack up together over Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout (who would not take the garbage out) and little Peggy Ann McKay (who cannot go to school today) and the boy whose "baby brother ran away, and now my tuba will not play" (he's "eight years old and turning grey").

Come in!
Come in!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Facing Frida

The always brilliant Her Bad Mother has posted another entry that will stay with me for a long time. She has an amazing way of thinking through tough issues.

As I said in my comment over there, I think this is one of the harder parts of raising a girl: helping her love herself and be proud of her achievements, no matter her physical appearance; helping her understand that "pretty is as pretty does" and "beauty is only skin-deep" and all those other platitudes. That, and navigating the tough shoals of teasing and scapegoating that can happen to almost any child for almost any reason (short/tall, fat/thin, straight hair/curly hair).

So far with Jo, I've mostly only dealt with this in the abstract. As Dawn described in her comment on HBM's post, I take pains to praise my daughter for her strong legs, caring words, and smart thinking, rather than her beautiful blonde hair and blue eyes. She has yet to be teased for her appearance; so far her classmates' worst insult is the reassuringly vague and short-lived "You're NOT my friend!"

But I've wondered what I would do if she were unattractive and I could do something about it. Would I? As another HBM commenter pointed out, pretty people do have a much easier time of it, no matter what we all want to believe about inner beauty being paramount.

Frida Kahlo self-portraitA few months ago on an airplane, we were seated next to a girl of about 7. She was an animated, friendly child. She also had eyebrows that were uncannily Frida Kahlo-esque. I've thought about the girl often since that chance meeting. What if she were my child? Would I notice, or would I just see her with a mother's uncritical, unconditionally loving eye? More likely, I'd notice--and then face an ethical dilemma.

I don't think it's acceptable for little girls to wear makeup, or three-quarters of the clothes marketed to them. I was horrified by a children's hair salon I used to pass often in New York City, which offered professional blowouts for kids. I think little girls should be children, not teens in training. But what about something like this, that's so noticeable, and considered so unattractive in our society?

I honestly think I'd be tempted to try to fix it for my child, to spare her from teasing, pity, and even behind-the-back comments that she might not be aware of. Even setting aside the issue of how I'd do it (I couldn't subject her to the pain of plucking, for example), this sparks a cascade of disturbing questions. Why couldn't I accept her the way she is? Why should I allow both of us to fall victim to a particular standard of beauty? Wouldn't it be more productive to help her learn to stand up to vicious comments, rather than ducking them? Wouldn't it be more powerful, in the end, to help her love herself just as she is, as HBM describes in her dream for her daughter?

But then again: Would she feel I'd failed her, if I didn't do everything in my power to protect her from cruelty?

Friday, August 11, 2006

And furthermore: Riddle me this

If you squint your eyes really tight and look at this post from just the right angle, you’ll see it’s related to the previous one.

And also: I'm not sure how to say the following without sounding whiny or conceited. Neither of which is my intent, and you’ll just have to trust me on that. So:

I am mystified as to why almost none of my real-life friends (0r my husband!?) read my blog. As far as I know, there are exactly two of you out there, although I’ve handed the URL out freely. Only once, though. I’m not gonna BEG.

If any of my RL friends had blogs I would read them compulsively, as Julie knows (of course I would read her blog compulsively even if I didn’t know her IRL, so that’s an imperfect example. But I think you know what I mean). Is it just because I was already an avid blog reader, sometime commenter, and wannabe blogger before I finally got off my lazy ass and started this blog? Are some people just blog-readers and some not? It couldn’t be because I’m boring or anything (she says, obviously whoring for comments)?

It’s just a surprise to me. I don’t know why, but I never expected to be so captivated by the social aspect of blogging—the feeling of knowing another blogger, of recognizing people’s comments and URLs across the blogosphere, of hoping you’ll get a response from certain favorites when you post on a particular topic. I guess I’d like to bring that new dimension into some RL friendships, and I’m sorry that it hasn’t happened. The good news, of course, is how many wonderful new friends I’ve made (see updated blogroll!). I may not have met all of you in person, but I appreciate your stopping by, whether it’s once a day, once a week, or once a month.

And if you are a RL friend, and you are reading, then out yourself before I start talking about you behind your back!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Asked and answered: The mommyblogger panel

Since Mary, mothergoosemouse, and Miss Zoot are all asking:

1. Do your kids know about your blog? If they’re too young to know, do you plan to keep it open to them as they get older?
No, they don’t know yet—they’re too little. Yes, I think I’ll tell them about it as they grow older—which will keep me honest when writing about them, and protective of their feelings.

2. Do you worry they may get embarrassed later? What would you do if they asked you to stop writing about them? What would you do if they wanted you to take it down all together?
So far, I’m not worried. I haven’t written anything but cute little-kid antics—nothing embarrassing. (I did refrain from posting a hilarious picture of Jo with magic marker all over her stomach because you could see a little too much skin--that worried me.) If, later, they ask me to stop writing about them, I would. But I like mothergoosemouse’s answer: I’d stop writing about things they said and did, but not about my feelings toward them. I wouldn’t take down my blog, but if they had strong objections to particular old posts, I might consider removing them.

3. Do you think our kids will appreciate the archive of their childhood? Do you wish your parents had done the same?
I hope they will. It’s part of my reason for doing this, since I have been terrible at keeping paper journals or even printing out any of the digital pictures I take.

I’d love it if I could read about myself and my siblings in my parents’ own words from our childhood. When I was 4, my brother turning 2, and my sister a baby, we lived in England for a year. My mother wrote long letters to my grandmother, since she couldn’t call her, and I loved reading those when I discovered them many years later. I still remember one line in particular: “Cathy [that’s me] is learning to read, [her sister] is starting to walk, and [her brother] is our chief dog-pile spotter.” Okay!

4. Do you go back and re-read your past parenting milestones? Do you realize you forgot a lot?
I haven’t been writing that long, but I still enjoy going back and reading my old posts from time to time. And I'm certain I'll like it more as time goes on.

5. What about your children’s friends/teachers/moms-of-friends? What if they found your blog? Do you tell your child not to tell anyone about it or are they free to talk about it? Do you worry their teachers or other parents will think it’s weird?

So far I’ve been pretty open about telling people about the blog. Again, like mothergoosemouse, I try not to say anything here that I wouldn’t say out loud in real life. However, since part of what I do here is talk about the differences between my little town and the cities I’ve lived in in the past, I haven’t told any of my neighbors or local friends about it. I’m not ashamed, nor do I intend any disrespect with my “can you believe this place?” posts; but sometimes I worry that people who live here might not get that. I suppose as Jo gets older and more prone to spilling family secrets I’ll have to rethink some of what I say, and perhaps remove an old post or two that I’d rather some locals not read.

Waking up is hard to do

Let's say, hypothetically, that a baby wakes up in the wee hours of the morning. Parent A can quiet this baby in 10-15 minutes, while seated in a comfortable armchair. If Parent B arrives on the scene, baby will demand 45 minutes or more of walking, swaying, and rocking. In the previous 15 months, Parent B has handled 95% of night wakings, due to anatomical differences and Parent A's claim that "he just doesn't like me."

So who is on the hook for this one, Parent A or Parent B?


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Those busy hos!

First the jam, now the ... "hotsticks" (I'm pretty sure I don't want to know what those are)? When do they fit in the trick-turning?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What part of "free" don't you understand?

Forgive me for being too lazy to go find the posts/comments and link to them, but since BlogHer there have been some rumblings of discontent over the giveaways we attendees received. These included a bib (from Minti) and a magnetic, dry-erase calendar festooned with cartoon characters (from PBS Parents). To those who were annoyed by these mommyblogger centric items, I have to say: Why on earth do you care? It's a freebie. If you don't like it, throw it away, give it to a friend, or donate it to a thrift shop or homeless shelter. Or I'll trade you the bib for the 30 packs of sugar substitute, since I don't drink coffee, or the condoms, since I don't...need those.

If it weren't for these sponsors, the conference would have been prohibitively expensive. I think$300 is a bargain for a 2-day event including several meals--fine, so the "meals" were crappy, but they provided a way to soak up some of the alcohol. Which, thanks to the winery sponsor, was also mostly free.

Maybe I'm having trouble with this because I've been in a goodie-laden bubble for too long. When I worked as a magazine editor, I lived amid a smorgasbord of swag. If I needed shampoo, nail polish, or eye cream, I could just wander over to the beauty editor and ask her what she had lying around (what didn't she have would have been a better question). I gave one of my best friends a kick-ass baby shower gift--a cool diaper bag stuffed to the gills with books, toys, and other goodies--made up completely of free stuff from around the office. Once I went on a trip to Alaska to test-drive a car and came home with a parka and a fishing rod (but alas, no car).

Even after I left that business (not without shedding a few tears), I didn't leave the freebies entirely behind. Now they come courtesy of my husband, who works in advertising. As a media planner, he's forever being wooed by magazines, websites and TV networks who want him to advertise with them. So every pen, pencil, beach towel, tote bag, mouse pad, and baseball cap in this house bears the name of some media outlet. That means the last time my dad came to visit, he ended up using a bath towel embroidered "Mirabella" (a defunct women's fashion magazine). A couple of years ago, we hauled two duffel bags' worth of stuff to my parents' house for Thanksgiving and held a Yankee swap with it. Everyone walked off happy. The only challenge now comes when I socialize with Jeff's co-workers. We run the risk of showing up with the same cute bag or picnic dishes, recently received from the Oh! Network or Reader's Digest.

But beggars can't be choosers, right?


Mayberry moment #2: I went to city hall today to sign Jo up for a dance class through the parks and rec department. The street outside is one of the few that has parking meters. I plucked a quarter out of the change cup in the car... only to discover that the meter didn't even take quarters. The cost for 30 minutes of parking was five cents.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Ego, thy name is 4-year-old

Jeff and Jo have just watched a kiddie production of Peter Pan.

Jeff: Do you think you could do that? Be in a play like that?

Jo: Sure. No one else would need to be in it. I could do everything.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Post-BlogHer Post

I AM thankful, overwhelmed, sick, and inspired.

I WANT to spend 24 solid hours reading and writing and reading and writing some more. And then sleeping.

I WISH I hadn’t read everyone else’s extremely thoughtful and delightfully written recap posts, so I wouldn’t be so stricken with performance anxiety.

I MISS Julie, and all of you who were there, and all of you who weren’t!

I HEAR that while I was gone, my mother-in-law taught my daughter a new word in quasi-, 2nd-generation Italian to describe my troublemaking toddler (patangala).

I WONDER how all you blogging babes got to be so darn gor-gee-ous.

I REGRET not meeting Supa and Julia and many others. And that Jennster never called me a whore (that bitch).

I AM NOT aspiring to make my living as a blogger. Dooce scared the pants off me in that regard.

I DANCE on the edge of exhaustion, at the moment.

I AM NOT ALWAYS a mommy although I am always someone’s mother.

I WRITE for fun, but I get paid to edit.

I CONFUSE “like” and “love” sometimes.

I NEED a laptop.

I SHOULD start reading the Huffington Post.

I START every day thinking about what I’m going to write next.

I FINISH every day thinking about what I’m going to write next.

I TAG no one because this meme has long since run its course.

Next up: A blogroll overhaul.