Wednesday, May 31, 2006

June Blog Exchange: Guest Post from Kristen

…And Don’t Call Me Hon

Aside from pantyhose with opened toe shoes and chewed gum on a dinner plate, I’m pretty sure someone other than my husband, mother, or nice old waitress at my favorite diner calling me “hon” is my worst pet peeve. There’s nothing like an 18-year-old hostess telling me, “hon” that is, that my table is ready. Oh, and to have a nice meal, HON. It’s like nails on a chalkboard.

I’m not really averse to pet names, and in fact, for the longest time, I really wanted a fun pet or even nick name. It’s probably because my parents always called me by my first name (no fun derivatives like “Kristy” or “Krissy”) and if I could ever get the coveted “pet/nickname combo” it meant I had truly arrived.

Everyone always had really cute nicknames – you know, some weird adaptation of their last name (Kazanicka became “Kaz”), or just a fun word that represented a quirky trait or ability (Michelle became “Hummer” … heh). But me? I always got “Daddy Long Legs” or “Amazon” – and neither were cool enough or fun enough to stick. Thank god.

I even think I let boyfriends stick around way past their welcome because they had cute pet names for me. Like “KC” (um, boring – my initials) and then “Sunshine” (for KC and the Sunshine Band – creative, right?). You’d think at some point I’d realize how ridiculously lame they were (the names AND the boyfriends) and dump both, however, my covetous nature got the best of me and I enjoyed basking in my silly pet names for as long as I could possibly tolerate.

Now that I’m married, I throw around the “hon” so often that I sometimes find myself calling my daughter and even my mother “hon.” And it’s gotten so bad, that my daughter, on occasion, has called my husband “hon” thanks to my way too frequent use of the moniker. However, none of those hons are as bad as the couple I got last week.

The first was from my young teenage waitress at lunch. I would have even taken the “maam” over the way too many “hons” she threw my way. However, I don’t feel that special since she also called the 75 year old ladies “hon” as well. Gives me the total shivers, I tell you.

The deal breaker, however, was the “hon” times 27 from a college book store manager that I had to deal with over the phone. It just seems very wrong trying to explain the book ordering process to a woman who won’t stop caling you HON. Seriously woman. Enough is enough.

So, if you run into me on the street or Blogher, for that matter, feel free to wear your open-toed sandals and put your ABC gum on your plate (even mine if you’re so moved). But, I strongly suggest not calling me “Hon” (or any form of the word), because I may just have a few choice names for you that probably won’t sound as nice. And, I’m pretty sure that “hon” won’t be one of them. Okay, Ho?

Kristen is a former college professor turned stay-at-home-blogger (and mom) to a 22 month old daughter. You can read more from her at Motherhood Uncensored and Cool Mom Picks.

This post is part of a blog exchange on the theme "What's in a Name?" Click here to read more. And if you'd like to participate next time, email Kristen at kmei26 at yahoo.com.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why I heart day care

Nancy’s story the other day reminded me to finish this tribute I’ve been meaning to post, a love song to our family’s child care center. I hope this doesn’t come across as a big self-justification (as in, it’s OK if my kids are away from home all day, because look! What they do!), because that’s not my intention. Rather, I’m trying to record my good memories of this place, and maybe also to help anyone unfamiliar with good quality child care realize what a wonderful thing it can be.


I love that the center serves 3 meals a day, at no extra cost. No packing any lunches—not even when Opie was a puree-eating baby. The nursery has its own stash of baby food. And I’d never have known Jo likes cottage cheese if she hadn’t eaten it there. (Of course, the school chef also introduced her to tater tot casserole, but that’s another story for another day.)

I love that my children are being exposed to diversity, and I don’t just mean in their diet. Back in New Jersey, Jo and Julie’s Tacy were two of the only white children in their center. I called them as the token gringas. Now we’re in a lily-white neighborhood in a very white town in a pretty white part of a mostly white state. But every day at school, Jo and Opie play and learn with kids of different races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. Their parents are fast-food workers, doctors, sales reps, and line workers at local factories.

I love that the kids come home every day with some art project that was conceived and implemented by a mind far more creative than my own. Even the infants make pictures with their footprints.

I love the twenty-something, hippie, lone male teacher, Mr. Rob. He has a shaggy mop of curly blond hair, drives a beat-up old minivan with both a Jesus fish and an Anchorman bumper sticker, and sometimes brings in his banjo for singalongs with the kids.

I love how much they learn. Opie gave up the bottle (in favor of a sippy cup) at 8 months. At this rate, he’ll be deftly handling a steak knife before he turns 2. Jo comes home brimming with information about caterpillars, zebras, and the letter P.

I love the four playgrounds (one for the 1-year-olds, one for the 2-year-olds, one for the bigger kids, and a big open lawn for everyone to share) and the fact that the kids get plenty of running-around time every day. Even in winter, when the teachers have to patiently deck every kid out in boots, snowpants, parkas, mittens, hats, and scarves. Even in summer, when the kids line up for a generous coating of sunscreen instead.

Most of all, I love that every teacher (more than a dozen of them) knows every child (probably a hundred of them) by name, and greets each one with genuine care and interest. I love that they fawn over my baby, even though they see him every day. I love that they give Jo big hugs and admire whatever it is she just has to show them, from her new swimsuit to a rock she just found in the parking lot.

I love that we have this place where we all feel safe, secure, and adored. I don’t know what we’re going to do when it’s time for kindergarten.

P.S.: If you are looking for a child care center, visit Child Care Aware for advice, calculators, and a link to your local resource & referral agency—where a helpful staff person can tell you about options in your area. Another good source is NAEYC; go there to find out if there is an accredited center near you (that’s how I found our center).

Monday, May 29, 2006

Every 36-year-old man's dream



Or, what happens when you give a 4-year-old carte blanche at Dairy Queen. Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Mommyblogger Trifecta

... in which I talk about my son’s poop, navel-gaze about working vs. staying home, and talk about cute things my kids do and say.

I’d never been so happy with the contents of a diaper as I was late yesterday afternoon, when Opie finally delivered an actual solid poop (and not an unholy liquid mess). Trumpets sounded and angels sang—he’d finally vanquished the Return of Rotavirus after 7 miserable days.

So, huzzah! He was clear to go back to day care today. Not a moment too soon. I think saying “I don’t know how you do it”—to a stay-at-home mom, a stay-at-home dad, a working mom, a single mom, a mom of multiples, etc.—is, aside from lazy and clich├ęd, quite offensive (and I thought the book sucked). So I won’t use that phrase now. But being at home for a week straight really brought my need to work into sharp focus. By the end of each day I was a little more cranky, bitchy, and impatient with everyone in the household than the day before. Partly because of the ever-growing pile of Shit to Do that Isn’t Getting Done, but also because I so terribly missed slipping out of Momworld and into Workworld.

Yes, come and flog me now, Dr. “I am my kid’s mom” Laura, but I almost always look forward to Monday mornings, when 72 hours of nonstop mommy duty come to an end. It was a different story back when Mondays meant hauling myself into the city on an hour-long commute, working at breakneck speed all day and then racing out the door at 5:00 for the return trip, screeching into day care minutes before the door slammed shut. (The saving grace of the a.m. commute, of course, was the company of the lovely Julie.) We’d get home no earlier than 6:30 p.m., cobble dinner together, bathe Jo and put her to bed, rinse, repeat. Although the work itself was satisfying, everything that came along with it wasn’t, so much.

But now, work days mean a five-minute commute (from day care back home), the house to myself, catching up with my friends in the computer, work I enjoy with wonderful colleagues (even if they are 1000 miles away), meals eaten without little people wanting to share them, the chance to throw in a load of laundry without any “help,” maybe even a quick walk in the park with my dog. It’s blissful, really, and I don’t miss the kids in the slightest. I drop them off late enough and pick them up early enough that we have plenty of playtime, and don’t feel that rat-race-rush.

Two of my friends here are stay-at-home moms. One loves it, is creative, patient and flexible with her sons; never wants to work full-time again (she’s a photographer, so she works the occasional wedding on a weekend). And hey—rock on, sister. She’s really good at what she does. My other friend, though, misses work a lot. She worries terribly about money, and struggles with depression and anxiety. The only reason she isn’t working is out of a sense of duty, of “this is what moms are supposed to do.” I can’t help but wonder if heading back to the office might be better for her, and consequently for her child too.

I mean no offense to anyone out there, working, at-home, or mixed breeds like me. I just think a happy mom means a happy family, and I’m very lucky to have found the balance that works for us.

Besides, if Jo weren’t in day care, I wouldn’t be able to tell this story: Her teacher showed the kids some pipe cleaners that they were going to use in a craft project, and asked if anyone knew what they were. Jo did: “They’re clean-pipers!”

And equal time for Opie: Last night, he watched Jeff loading the dishwasher after dinner. Then he toddled deliberately out of the kitchen and down the hall to fetch a plastic fork from a toy tea set. He brought it back to the kitchen and handed it expectantly to Jeff. ‘Cause, I guess, the dishwasher could also be called a clean-forker.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Check it out, yo

If a) you are far less of a music loser than I; and b) you didn't come here from there anyway, click over to Julie's for a fab-tastic giveaway. The first one is REM... I know that much.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Why I can't get anything done, including compose a remotely interesting blog entry

7:45 p.m.: Climb into Jo's bed with her to read books.
8:05 p.m.: Turn off light, agree to stay for "just one minute Mommy."
9:00 p.m.: Wake up because Opie is crying.
9:20 p.m.: Opie back to sleep.
9:25 p.m.: Get in shower.
9:40 p.m.: Out of shower. Sit down to finish freelance job.
10:05 p.m.: Finish blog-surfing and email-checking. Hungry.
10:15 p.m.: Done with bedtime snack. Blow-dry hair.
10:20 p.m.: Brush and floss.
10:30 p.m.: Back to computer for freelance job.
10:32 p.m.: Opie awake.
11:10 p.m.: Opie asleep. Bag freelance job; get in bed.

That, and the fact that Opie is still sick. It's like a bad trip back to newborn days, with the nursing and the runny yellow poop and the diaper blowouts and the CLINGING and the laundry and the not eating and sleeping.

But, as Hector P. Valenti says, "I shall return."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Little of consequence

I've got nothing. The puking flu that plagued Opie last week went dormant for 7 days, then returned with a vengeance. He barfed his little heart out all afternoon, then begged and cried for dinner (he's got that young toddler "Eh! Eh!" whine down pat), which soon came back out in a most messy fashion.

*

The other day there was a kid (age 5) pictured in our local paper. His name was, I kid you not, McGyver. All I could think was, Imagine the childproofing challenge that must've been.

*

I read this quote in an essay by Anne Marie Feld that appeared a few months ago in the New York Times; it was excerpted from that book Mommy Wars, which has been blogged about extensively but I can’t bear to read. I've been meaning to mention it ever since. Feld writes:

In her insistence upon getting things done, on living an ordered life, my mother managed to miss out on the nourishing aspects of family life and life in general: laughing at silly things, lying spooned on the couch with your beloveds, sharing good food, the tactile delight of giggling children crawling all over you. Without this, family life is an endless series of menial tasks: counters and noses to wipe, dishes and bodies to wash, whites and colors to fold, again and again in soul-sucking succession.


I love this reminder that the reason why we do all that laundry and cooking and cleaning is because we love these little beings that trail behind us, dirtying everything in their path, and we want to keep them clean and healthy and safe (and as Julie would say, keep DYFS from our door). And I also love the reminder not to let the soul-sucking stuff be a means to an end, but just merely one small part of our family’s functioning. Much easier said than done, but a worthy goal nonetheless. Especially with this sick little boy generating even more laundry than normal, and putting me even more behind in my work (paid and un-) than usual. Get well soon, Opie.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Can I get an "Awwww"?

Yesterday's take:
  • Several pictures and cards, including cards from my mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law, and great-aunts-in-law (really)
  • Two salt-dough and bead necklaces (one with an "M", the other "M heart M")
  • Two potted marigolds (one in plastic cup, planted by Jo; one in pot painted by Opie)
  • A braided-pipe cleaner bracelet
  • New hair dryer (per my request)
  • Locket keychain with space for two pictures
  • Free admission to the little-kids show at the planetarium (in a neighboring college town)
  • Free ice cream at Cold Stone

And if I'd wanted a latte, I could've gotten a free one of those at a local coffee joint.

Hope you all had a lovely Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Culture shock

This is an old (pre-blog) picture, but worth it, don't you think? This is an ad that appeared on the front page of our local newspaper. It's a post-it stuck right over the paper's logo. Never saw anything like this when my local paper was the New York Times.


(For Julie.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cease and desist

MEMO

TO: The mild yet persistent virus lodged in my son's gut

FROM: MM

RE: Eviction

I hereby request that you vacate your current location immediately, if not sooner. Six days of miscellaneous vomiting and diarrhea are just about enough for one poor baby to take. Please, move on to your next victim (as long as said victim does not live within 3 miles of our family).

______________________________________

MEMO

TO: The painful and persistent canker sores on my gums

FROM: MM

RE: Eviction

Your lease is up too, guys.

______________________________________

MEMO

TO: The geniuses who program the automated coupons that come with my grocery receipt

FROM: MM

RE: Waste of paper

Here's a shocking fact. Not every person who happens to purchase baby products also uses baby formula. Can't you use the same data that pegs me as "MOMMYSHOPPER18291729" to determine that I have never bought a single ounce of the stuff, and that your 78-foot-long come-ons will never get you anywhere with me?

______________________________________

MEMO

TO: The person who introduced my 4-year-old to the wonders of chewing gum

FROM: MM

RE: Thanks

A lot. Really.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Survival

I'm back after a weekend away--my first time shepherding the kids on an airplane alone. Make that two airplanes, two airports, and a rental car (each way). It was actually not bad. The last flight was the worst one. Opie was tired and had a very hard time settling down to sleep. He alternated between screaming and dozing fitfully. During one of the screaming parts, just after the batteries died on the DVD player, Jo spilled a huge cup of water all over her lap. I rooted around in my overstuffed carry-on with my one free hand, trying to find a spare pair of underwear for her, but couldn't manage it. After a small freak-out she stoically agreed to sit in wet underwear for the rest of the flight.

But the other three flights went well. Opie snacked and played peek-a-boo with the people sitting behind us. Jo watched DVDs and colored and sculpted with play-dough and sang weird little songs ("And there was a princess, and then came a bad witch, and they all died, and they never came back to life, la la la!").

We visited one of my oldest friends, who recently had her third baby. I generally hate those silly parenting-magazine "humor" columns that compare Baby #1 with #s 2, 3, and beyond. But I did have a "my-how-things-change" moment during this trip.

How to nurse a baby
First child: Position yourself at fully equipped station: comfortable chair, with pillow behind back and footrest; Boppy or other nursing pillow; cloth diaper (for spit-ups); table with glass of water, telephone, remote control, book or magazine. Also a paper and pen for logging time nursing started, how long it lasted, which breast used. While nursing, gaze lovingly at gorgeous baby, or catch up on reading. Burp and diaper baby immediately following each feeding, changing his clothes for good measure.

Second child: Find seat somewhere near where older child is playing. Wonder: Where did I leave that Boppy again? Poke breasts to see which one seems more engorged--must be time to start on that side. While nursing, use free hand to color with older child, change channels for her, fix broken toys, etc. Afterwards, absently pat baby's back while accompanying older child to the potty. Change baby's diaper when you notice the smell.

Third child: Latch baby on while standing in driveway supervising older children as they ride bikes. Change diaper when it begins to leak.

See? It's amazing how you can do so much more than you thought you could.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Scenes




















Imagine if I'd been cooking something more elaborate than instant macaroni and cheese.

________________________________________

In the kitchen.

Jeff is eating a chocolate-chip scone. Nosy Jo spots it and asks for a bite.

JEFF, sighing dramatically: OK, here you go.
JO, catching a better glimpse: Oh. I don't like that. It has raisins.

Jeff and I look at each other, exchange mental high-five.

________________________________________

How dumb or unlucky do I have to be to set off the following chain of events: I decide to retrieve the mail. I'm not wearing shoes. I consider getting some, but am too lazy to go find them. I open the foyer door...and bash it into my own forehead. After reeling and cursing, I open the front door and step gingerly onto the porch in my socks, trying in vain to avoid the hundreds of flies (dead and alive) littering the area. More reeling, cursing, and swatting. I shake the flies (dead and alive) off the mail and prepare to flee inside. The door is locked. I'd closed it carefully behind me so no flies would get into the house.

Now I'm forced to walk around to the back door (thankfully unlocked). I run on tiptoe through the side yard (aka dog run). Now I'm trying to avoid stepping on flies, mud, wet grass, and dog poop. Once I get inside, I throw my socks in the garbage. I contemplate a shower and/or a stiff drink, but settle for lunch and an iced tea.

________________________________________

New Jo habit: Prefacing all performances (of songs, dances, stories, puppet shows, etc.) with the following announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, in the city of.... Jo!!"

She has also memorized the Pledge of Allegiance. I guess they do it at school. I'm not sure how I feel about that. But I do enjoy hearing "... and to the freePLublic for which it stands..."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mother May I

My mom has given me lots of things over the years: nice blue eyes, the ability to read really fast, a gorgeous wedding gown that I never would’ve shelled out for on my own, Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends when I got sick on vacation at age 8, at least 75% of my children’s wardrobes, and so much more.

But one of the things I’m most grateful for is my ability to be comfortable in my own (mostly unpimpled and unwrinkled, thanks for that too Mom) skin. I wasn’t particularly laid-back as a child, but I’ve become so as an adult. I’ve just learned that worrying is a waste of time, and what mom has extra time lying around to waste? Neither my mom nor I are fretful mothers, hovering over our offspring just waiting for an accident to happen, spinning out worst-case scenarios in our heads. My son may have the bruises to prove it, but at least he is a happy, self-confident explorer. I’d rather he fall down a few (hundred) times than never even try to conquer a flight of stairs or scale the side of the bath (he may be only two feet tall, but he can hike his bitty little leg all the way up to the edge of the tub, ‘cause he wants to get in that bad).

My mom blazed a trail for me. She had a job and a career at a time when so many other mothers didn’t. And in spite of a strong dose of judgment and tsk-tsking, she and my dad raised three happy, successful children. Now that I’m the one with little kids, I don’t feel like I have to ask permission to do what I do. Mother may I work “outside the home”? Mother may I send my kids to day care? Mother may I serve chicken nuggets for dinner once in awhile? Sure. Fine. Yes. Everything will be fine. What better role model could I want than my own mom? (And besides, I learned a lot of important working-mom lessons from her: Outsource the stuff that’s not worth your time. Teach kids to help around the house early. Hire good caregivers. Order pizza a lot.)

What’s more, I know she’d support me if I decided to stay home full-time with the kids instead. This despite the large amount of dough she and my dad put up for my Ivy League education. They both have doctorates. Their three children have more tattoos (4) than advanced degrees (1) among us, and that one is my brother’s master of fine arts … not exactly an MD. And they couldn’t be more proud of us all.

I hope my own confidence isn’t misplaced, and that I never am so cocky as to think I have this mothering thing down pat—I most certainly know I have plenty more to learn, and always will. But I’ll try my best to give both of my children the gift I’ve received from their grandmother: the ability to know myself, and to like myself both because of, and in spite of, what I know.

Originally posted at Binkytown as part of the Blog Exchange.

Edited to enter in the
Parent Bloggers Network Mother's Day 2009 Blog Blast, in support of the 2nd annual Celebrity Hand-Me-Down Charity Auction to benefit Johnson's® NO MORE TEARS® Clean Water initiative.