Tuesday, January 30, 2007
I think the only way this could be more depressing is if there were kids involved (thankfully, there's no mention of that in the article) or if after the toasts at the reception all the guests started clubbing baby seals. Did I mention this was on the front page? I guess there was just nothing else to report.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Halfway to the park, Opie consented to move from my arms into the sled and be conveyed thusly the rest of the way, although the look on his face made clear that he was just doing it to humor us. Once there, anytime we set him down on the ground he remained firmly rooted in one spot, every muscle firmly locked (Jeff: "It's the first time in almost two years that he hasn't been moving"), and begged, "Hold you!" Each time he saw Jo go down the hill, he seemed the tiniest bit intrigued; but any invitations to have a turn were firmly refused. We took him down a couple of times anyway, and each time he commented, "Fast." Was this a question? A complaint? A proclamation of delight? We couldn't be sure.
Jo, meanwhile, was decidedly delighted. Her friend Joe (a boy nine months younger, but about 18 inches taller than she is) arrived at the hill just as we did, and they spent more than an hour hotdogging down: together, separately, with dads, without dads, with sleds, without sleds, head first, feet first, you name it.
Then she fell asleep on the floor in the guest room (hiding behind the bed) at 5 p.m., while Opie chattered endlessly about "p'ay in s'ow! Sedding!" as if he'd actually enjoyed himself.
*She has been complaining a lot lately about itchy extremities. Also blinking in a strange, prolonged way. That combined with her sleepiness has me a little worried. Would you be? (I'm full of questions these days... thanks for the excellent advice on my last batch!)
Sunday, January 28, 2007
An EA is a secretary/administrative assistant. (I had to pass a filing test in addition to a typing test in order to get the job.) The only difference is that there is an expectation of advancement, and that the documents you handle might actually be kind of fun to read. Oh, and the meetings you go to might be to generate ideas for articles about sex or to come up with come-hither coverlines to help sell your magazine on the newsstand. An EA is generally considered part of the editorial team, and is encouraged to make suggestions, participate at idea meetings, and take on small writing and editing tasks (I used to write the table of contents! I even saved them in my portfolio for awhile...).
Still, most of what I did was pretty boring. I read a lot of slush--unsolicited manuscripts that came through the door by the dozens every day. This was before email, so everything came in big manila envelopes with SASEs inside (remember SASEs?). I wielded a letter opener with alacrity. Most everything was crap and was immediately rejected with a form letter, but I did discover one story (in two years) that was eventually published. When I called the writer to tell her that we wanted to buy the piece, she wasn't, in my opinion, suitably ecstatic. I don't think she really understood the odds she'd beaten.
This magazine was one of the very few that still published fiction (hells no it wasn't the New Yorker), and I worked for the editor who managed those pages; so I also dealt with the fiction slush. Actually, we had a freelance reader who came to the office every couple of weeks to pick up a big box of slush. When it came back from her, I'd dutifully send slightly personalized rejection notes to everyone (using a typewriter and carbon paper). The reader had been instructed to find a few stories in each batch that were worth a second read. I'd read those, and reject them too; once every few months I'd find one promising enough to send on to my boss. I don't remember any of them ever being printed, but I do remember sending rejection letters to Ursula Hegi. Take that, Oprah! (We had strict rules about the type of stories we'd publish, and anything not in a contemporary, North American setting was out.)
I've already mentioned the perks that made up for some of the hours of slicing open mail, taking phone messages, filing, and typing (since there was no email, most of our manuscripts came to us as hard copy, and I had to choose between retyping everything or rehabbing the output of our temperamental scanner, which usually rendered every third or fourth letter incorrectly). Along with the freebies, we sometimes got free food from the recipe-test kitchen, and plenty of movie screening passes. Using these usually required posing as someone else--typically one of our bosses, who had far better things to do than go see Speed two days before it came out in the theaters. While these screenings didn't involve hobnobbing with celebs, just saving $8 on a movie was a big deal at the time.*
Mostly, though (and here's where it gets corny) the best perk was the people I met. I count two of my fellow assistants from those days as very close friends, and two more as old friends I wish I had the chance to see and talk to more often. At least five of the people I worked with at that job are now editors-in-chief of major magazines. Many more are senior-level editors, and others are busy authors and freelance writers. We give each other work (making it harder for anyone else out there to break in...sorry), celebrate each other's successes, and commiserate about the sucky stuff. Was it worth all the paper cuts and ramen noodles? You bet.
*One of the editors I reported to was a minor celebrity in the industry, though. Her husband worked on the business side at another big publishing company, and his mother had a long and distinguished career as the editor-in-chief of a very high-profile magazine. My boss later went on to launch a very successful teen magazine--and then shock everyone by quitting and moving to Europe with the much older man she'd been having an affair with, an executive at the company where she worked. Google is silent on what she's been doing since then, except for one brief stint at a British publication nearly five years ago. The other editor I worked for became one of the founding editors at O. She's been there ever since.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
2. My hair is the longest it's been in a while (past my shoulders). Cut it off? Nancy looks fantastic.
3. My parents have offered to stay with the kids for a weekend this spring while Jeff and I go away for our second ever child-free vacation. We are a few hours' drive from two major cities (one of which we have not yet visited), two smaller ones (slightly closer, some appealing attractions), and a country/antiquey destination. Your pick?
P.S.: Thanks a million to Kate at Eucalyptus Pillow for my fab new header! I posted it in a completely bass-ackwards kind of way so #4 is: How do I edit my template in Blogger to add my own image?
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Leave the kids at home. This is what I did last week. I make arrangements for the kids to spend longer days at child care, and sometimes add a Friday, usually my/their day off. Our center is very accommodating (I always offer to pay for the extra day, and they almost never charge me.) My husband assumes all the drop-off and pick-up duties.
The benefits are pretty obvious--less disruption for the kids, and I travel without small, demanding, occasionally loud companions. This was a huge blessing last week since I ended up spending about 8 extra hours killing time in airports due to missed connections. Instead of having to entertain the kids, I did a Sunday crossword puzzle; read a couple of magazines, two entire books and about 18 old sections of the New York Times I'd saved; got a manicure (Detroit airport has a salon!) and ate several unfettered meals. And while I'm at my destination, I can work late without worrying about relieving a babysitter, as well as meet up with friends in the evenings.
The drawbacks: It's tough on Jeff, since he has to take on more kid stuff than he usually does, and cut back his work hours. I miss the kids, and they miss me (see yesterday's post-traumatic temper tantrum).
Take the kids along. I have actually only ever taken one at a time. I deposit him/her with my mother-in-law, who lives about two hours' drive from New York City (where I'm usually traveling). Or we both go to NY and stay with my cousin there, and she provides not only room and board, but also babysitting services (yes, she is a saint).
So the good news is I'm not separated from one kid, and the load is lighter for my husband. My cousin claims she loves having us, and of course if it's my MIL is always thrilled to have any of us visit.
But it can be very stressful traveling alone with a child, and feeling like I have to rush home from work every day to take over for the (unpaid!) babysitter. I don't go out in the evenings, or I drag the lucky child with me.
Import help. This is what we did for BlogHer last year. My mother-in-law wanted to come visit anyway, so we asked her to come during the time I'd be gone. So while I was off livin' it up with the women of the blogosphere, the kids got some Grammy time and Jeff had some extra adult assistance. Everybody was happy.
Overall I think the trips have been good for us. Once a quarter is enough--I bow to those far more frequent travelers out there.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
"Ice skates" made out of playing cards and rubber bands, in case you were wondering.
We had a horrible morning, which included me almost carrying Jo out the door coatless, sockless and shoeless. That was after I left her in the house screaming while I loaded Opie in the car. She finally gave up when she realized I was serious about taking her to school barefoot.
So that was fun. Somewhere during the tantrum I revoked TV privileges for the rest of the day. I wavered on the way to pick her up after school, and was about to tell her that I was sorry, that wasn't the right response and that instead of no TV, she would be going to bed early instead--a more appropriate consequence, since her behavior clearly stemmed from fatigue. But when I got to school and learned that she'd been misbehaving all day, I returned to hardass mode and decided on both no TV and an early bedtime. She has been so tired lately that I am starting to get a little concerned. She sleeps 11ish hours at night with a 1-2 hour nap probably 5 days out of 7--but lately that's not enough. Maybe it's just fallout from my absence last week (I was gone from Monday morning to Friday night) but if things don't turn around soon I'm marching her in to the doctor.
In the end, the TV-free afternoon flew by pretty fast. We leafed through an Us Weekly coffee-table book of Hollywood photos found under the living room couch (unclear where that came from). We banged on the piano. We played 52-card throw-down (precursor to skating). We cooked and ate noodles and edamame with a nanabit chaser.
And tomorrow is another day.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Me: How are your ears feeling? Are they still itchy?
Jo [drops everything to rub ears]: Yes!!
Me: Do they feel like that all the time, or just right now because I asked you?
Jo: Just right now because you asked me.
II. Jeff and Jo are discussing her fifth birthday, less than three months away.
Jeff: What are you going to do about your thumbelina when you turn five? Five-year-olds don't suck their thumbs.
Jo: This five-year-old does.
III. My friend J. is staying at her sister's. Her 4-year-old niece, E., wakes her with a question.
E.: Why did that Jeez guy die?
J.: Cheese g... ohhh, you mean Jesus?? Um. Well, Jesus died so we all can go to heaven.
E.: But why did they kill him?
IV. And a few of my own (aka live-blogging my trip to NYC):
- Why in the world is there a 7-Eleven on the corner of 84th and York? What the hell?
- Where do restaurants buy their bathroom sinks? They are so tiny. There must be a special section in the restaurant supply catalog. Right between the huge tins of olive oil and the packs of bi-fold napkins, you can select a sink that's 8 inches across.
- How long have I been living in the upper midwest? Everyone here is talking about how freezing it is. It's 25 degrees people! Not 25 below!
Sunday, January 14, 2007
We came out way ahead because we ended up with a decent board game. We managed to avoid all of the following:
- a large exercise machine/torture device similar to the one featured in Sixteen Candles. It ended up on the roof of our hosts' car.
- a "feng shui" tabletop fountain (that's what the box said).
- Hardcover edition of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.
- A framed piece of black velour, holding brooches and earrings arranged in the shape of a Christmas tree. Used to light up, no longer works.
- More than one box containing a random item (such as a DVD of Dirty Dancing or a kid-sized tiara) along with a few bottles of beer.
- Body lotion in a container shaped like a high-heeled shoe.
- A shopping bag containing about 20 issues of Pl@yboy. (Jo: "What are those?" Me: "Magazines with naked pictures! Hahahaha [desperately hoping she thinks this is funny; she did].")
Friday, January 12, 2007
What's unfortunate is that when the nursing stops, I really need to step away from the trough. It takes awhile for that to sink in to whatever feed me Seymour section of my brain has been driving my appetite.
So, between the fact that my go-to jeans are pretty much gone from my wardrobe, and that my health-nut family shamed me into submission during their recent visit (simply by example--not, thankfully, by snide comments) my New Year's resolution was to get off my lazy butt and try to fit some more exercise into my life. (That, and lay off the weekly chocolate-chip scones for breakfast.) Now that knocking furiously we can usually count on Opie to sleep through the night, since he is almost two years old fergodssake, I decided that it would not be such a hardship to get up a half-hour early every day and put in 20-30 minutes of exercise. I found a couple of quick workout routines in a magazine--one strength, one yoga--and planned to alternate those with walking on the treadmill. In the spring, I can swap the treadmill for walking outside with the dog and/or taking the kids to daycare in the bike trailer.
Two weeks in, how'm I doing? Lousy. I've followed this plan maybe twice in 9 weekdays. The first few days of the year, I was recuperating from the fact that I stayed up until 5 a.m. on New Year's Eve, only partly due to an actual party (the rest, of course, being due to the toddler). Twice this week, I did get up and start working out--for about 45 seconds before a child woke up and interrupted me. These kids have not darkened our door before 7 a.m. for months--yes, it takes forever for Opie to go to sleep at night and he still has the occasional night waking, or the two weeks straight of being up from 10 p.m. to midnight, but the good news is he sleeps late, and so does his sister.
But of course they just knew that I was counting on that fact, didn't they? Too damn smart for my own good. Oh, and along the way somehow Jo acquired an understanding of the term "muffin top." And she knows how to use it.
I guess you know what I'll be doing this weekend.
Saturday morning update (or, "You'll get a toddler bed when Al Gore's Tennessee swimming pool freezes over"): Proving that he's read both the Toddler Handbook and this blog, Opie woke up during the wee hours last night. Twice.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Here’s a question. Why doesn’t my daughter like toys? I find this weird. For Christmas she asked for a bunch of stuff, and received some of it, along with plenty of other fun goodies. And that of course is on top of all the other toys we already had—dolls, dollhouses, tea sets, puzzles, cars, trains, puppets, you name it—and the fully stocked preschool classroom where she spends four days a week.
She rarely plays with any of it. She watches TV, she listens to stories, she loves to draw, color, and write. She plays board games and card games. She and her brother jam with musical instruments. She comes up with imaginary stories and scenarios (remember the coconut?!). When I pick her up at school she is almost always involved in some sort of art project. But whenever I say “Hey, let’s go in the playroom and play!” I get a big fat “Noooooo.”
I find this mystifying, but I do have some theories.
- Snobbery: Maybe we don’t have the right toys. Maybe we need an FAO Schwarz intervention, stat.
- Technique: Does she not know how to play with the toys we have? (I’ve noticed she plays more willingly when she’s with another child, either at home or on playdates.)
- Parental lame-itude: Or maybe I’m the one who doesn’t know how to play with the toys, or encourage her to play with them.
- Overload: She plays at school all day — when she gets home she just wants to potato out in front of the tube.
Monday, January 08, 2007
I learned to eat cheap, my parents were generous, and the perks of the job helped a lot. Every day, messengers delivered shopping bags filled with beauty products, accessories, food--once even a goldfish in a bowl--to our offices, sent by PR agencies angling for placement of their products in the pages of our magazine. (You did see The Devil Wears Prada, right?) The beauty editors skimmed off the best stuff, of course, but even they couldn't come close to using it all. Once I made friends with the right people, I could shop the beauty closet anytime I needed shampoo, moisturizer, make-up, or even a birthday gift for a friend (shhh).
When I switched from the magazine world to the Web, the perks became a lot less perky (I pretty much missed that whole dot-com boom, foosball and free pizza in the office moment), and of course dried up entirely once I moved out here. (Except for the random stuff my husband brings home.)
So how thrilled was I to be invited to join The Parent Bloggers Network? This new venture (only Kristen would start a new business days before giving birth) connects bloggers with businesses that want feedback from parents on their products, in the form of online reviews. Free samples for bloggers, good publicity for the companies, useful info for readers. Win, win, win--I'm in. (I'm also honored to be today's featured blogger.) I doubt any Prada shoes will be coming our way, but who knows? Maybe Stride Rite will tap the network. And those suckers ain't cheap either.
Updated to mention ... that I just added a slew of new writers to my blogroll--everyone on the PBN. I look forward to getting to know you all.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
- I've hitchhiked exactly once, from Grenoble, France (where I spent a semester abroad) to Nice. I was with a male friend and the last person who picked us up was a priest. He dropped us off at a convent (no, really) where we had dinner with the nuns and then caught a bus for the last 20 miles or so of our trip.
- At the Singapore Zoo, my siblings and I lined up with other tourists and ate breakfast "with" an orangutan. (Click on the cheesiest picture in the world above to read more--you too can try this on your next trip to the city-state of Singapore!) Better yet, the following spring my aunt immortalized the scene with a set of Easter eggs, one each of me, my brother, my sister, and the orangutan. They were the kind made from just the shell (with the yolk and white blown out) and my mother still has them, plus their little paper palm-tree backdrop.
- Jeff and I once spent the night in a yurt alongside a cross-country ski trail in Maine. In February. COLD.
- At a night market in Taiwan, I tried taro-root ice cream. Not bad, actually. We also bought the most awesome little car air freshener. It was shaped like a plump little airplane, with a propeller that actually spun to act as a fan, and had a clip so it could be attached to your car's air vent. In the belly of the plane was some goo that carried the so-called "fresh scent." It smelled awful, so we took it out and just enjoyed the cute plane. We're still mad that we didn't buy a whole bunch of them.
- I have witnessed the Race of the Saints in Jessup, Pennsylvania, just steps from my mother-in-law's door. (Please, abandon the video after the first 30 seconds. It only goes way downhill from there.) As ridiculous as this event is, it does have a historical antecedent (see "La corsa dei ceri") both in Jessup and in Gubbio, Italy. Viva Sant'Ubaldo!
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
That has to be one of the nicest things a working mom could ever wish to hear.
Thank you very much for the Christmas bonus! Opie is so loving and I love seeing his personality develop daily. He's going to be one of the most interesting people in the world! I love teaching him and look forward to seeing him every day. Best wishes for the New Year!
Monday, January 01, 2007
I really hate those ostensibly humorous articles in parenting magazines that purport to list all the ways your life changes when you become a mom. You know the ones: Your purse/car/ass gets bigger; your libido/ability to sleep/boobs get smaller, ha ha ha. Aside from being totally trite, these pronouncements are quite often not even true. (My ass would beg to differ, but that’s, um, behind the point.)
So I’m not going to talk about the ways that motherhood has changed me. I’m going to talk about the changes we experience over and over and over for the first, oh, three to four years of our children’s lives (have more than one kid and you can get quite a lengthy streak going). What changes are these? The diapery ones.
Remember how you started? Oh so gently and nervously lifting that tiny baby’s tiny bum, fearing she’d break at the slightest touch, never knowing quite what you might find inside that eensy-weensy Huggie? Were you amazed at the sounds and the stuff that could emanate from the rear end, when the front end was so angelic?
Those newborn days were the easy part, though. If the blowout was bad enough, I’d just toss the whole kit and caboodle. Not the baby, but the diaper, the 27 wipes, and the onesie coated in poop up to the neckline. At less than $2 a pop, why even try to wash it? (Environmentalists, come beat me now.) But at least we were dealing with a complacent victim—screaming excepted, they couldn’t do much to escape our ministrations.
These days, I’m changing a fully mobile toddler, which means I’m a master at the one-handed vertical diaper replacement.
Step 1. Gather supplies, preferably on the sly so as not to alert child to upcoming indignity.
Step 2. Lure him into position: facing armchair, with array of enticing books displayed on the seat; at windowsill, with the promise that a big truck will definitely be passing by soon; on kitchen chair, with sumptuous buffet of Veggie Booty, Craisins and pretzels on table; or on top of dryer, the better to view backyard neighbors’ garish holiday lights through laundry room window. (Not recommended: In front of sister’s dollhouse, lest the dining room rug meet an unfortunate end.)
Step 3. Wrap one arm firmly around baby’s chest to keep him in position. Use other hand to unsnap onesie. Tuck dangly end of onesie over back of shirt collar to secure—or in a pinch, use your teeth.
Step 4. Now go! Remove old diaper, place far out of child’s reach. Quickly clean him up. Replace with clean diaper. If necessary, let fidgeting child scamper about in unsnapped onesie and bare legs for a few minutes while you dispose of old diaper.
Step 5. Dream wistfully of potty-training.
Actually, don’t. I’d rather change two dozen poopy diapers a day than deal with the seemingly endless process that is “toilet learning.” Drop everything when that little voice pipes up with “I needa go potty”? Constantly carry 3 pairs of Buzz Lightyear underpants and a plastic bag in my purse? Clean up after a little boy who can’t aim? Please, pass the Pampers.
But ah, the misdeeds of my youthful gypsy spirit live on! And not just the sins of the past (though they are sundry and legion) but more the energy of the thing – the inner fire that won't let me settle on any one idea or place or home for long. I need change like others need stability. It keeps me alive and alert and unburied in the ordinariness of things. The lovely ordinariness, the prosaic loveliness of the every day that I at once embrace, adore, and utterly despise.
It is in the end the unknown hopefulness of my future enlightenment that I long for, those moments of total absorption and fullness that seem to live in the space between mortgage payments and peanut butter sandwiches. The liminal possibilities of future joy.
And in the world of Mother, where stability, consistency, and loving constancy are the three pillars, I act against my usual inclinations in favor of providing that loving container of safety and devotion that all children require.
My gypsy spirit lives on, but she hibernates. For now.
Rachael is CrankMama, mother of three daughters and aspiring gypsy in beautiful Bellingham, WA. I'm lucky enough to have her visit today as part of the monthly Blog Exchange. You'll find my post on this month's theme over at Rachael's place today--please go visit!