Monthly Archives: October 2011

Happy Halloween, Mr President…

To mark another of my daughter’s rare childhood halloweens, we celebrated with two days of parties and two different costumes.

Yesterday, we went to a big indoor kid’s play area/gym that was throwing a big (and free!) party. The noise and motion was overwhelming. But my toddler had a blast when she wasn’t being knocked over by bigger kids. I dressed her up like a sock monkey, mostly because I already had the hat and a pair of knit pj’s that matched pretty well. I wanted a costume in which she could move easily.

Today, we went to a different party at a play cafe with some friends. I dressed up like Marilyn Monroe and my 14 month old dressed up like Jackie Kennedy. Her dad was supposed to be JFK, but he was lamesauce and went to work instead.

For her costume I only made the hat, which I made twice because I was unhappy with the size (too small) the first time. My second was too big, but more wearable. You know, in case my daughter needs a pink pillbox had this winter…

I learned some things today, about Halloween, playing in costumes, and parenting.

I learned that in some of our city neighborhoods, there are actually designated trick-or-treating hours. I will keep this in mind for next year, when my kid will be just about old enough for this. I learned that as cute as many costumes and costume accessories are, they are going to get disassembled during the act of merely LEAVING THE HOUSE. If you want something to stay on, it better be surgically stapled to your kid. Also, if you are going to dress your kid up as anything but the most simple, recognizable halloween childrens’ basics (ie. Cinderella, a ghost, a butterfly, a vegetable) you better accept that almost no one will be able to guess what they are. I learned that parents really do want to dress up and go party but by the time they get their kids out of the way, they just want to lay down and drink wine.

I also learned a little something about being Marilyn Monroe. A night ago, I watched “The Seven Year Itch” (for inspiration) while aggressively tweezing my eyebrows. For realz. It’s a little disarming how sexy Marilyn really was. Even if you’re not into blondes or glamour, she definitely exudes something. There’s no way I can incorporate that into a costume, but I attempted to at least the hair and makeup and dress right. I also identified some novel problems with someone like me playing someone like her.

Issues that did not concern Marilyn Monroe during her brief but troubled life:

baby carriers are not compatible with gowns
neither are nursing bras
playdates in heels
stray cheerios in handbag
I’m pretty sure this all makes me look fat

Issues we might have had in common:

creeping underwear
people staring
finding yourself short on cash
lipstick needing refreshed
husband completely not noticing that you look super glamorous
wanting a drink before 2pm

Happy Halloween, everyone!

My new favorite color

Work-Life-Whatever

I have been meaning to describe in painful annoying detail the realities of working motherhood.

Instead, I shall present an illustrative tale.

I was at one of those women’s networking breakfast thingies the other day. Because I WILL. NOT. pass up the opportunity for a free breakfast, despite it being at a round table of ten strangers at a very early hour and we were all stuffed into suits. Seriously? A Dry-Clean-Only outfit on a Friday??? This aggression will not stand, man!

I must mention that I was very amused to see that in addition to the regular women’s bathroom, the men’s bathroom was also converted into a women’s to account for all the women present at the event. The twenty-or-so men (out of an audience of 400+) had to shlep to some employee-only pissoir. My ass felt very GIRL POWER sitting on that toilet seat!

Anyway, presenting was a panel of five male executives who were all in roughly my industry, all in their 40s and 50s. They spent over an hour talking about the incredible changes their respective companies were making to get more women into executive positions. They each talked about the life-work balance, the half-day Fridays, the whatever other benefits that were designed to make sure that everyone could raise their families AND not have to give up their careers. All very important things.

I’ll skip over the things that sort of irked me. OK, I’ll mention one thing: a panelist stated that the phrase ‘glass ceiling’ should not be used when talking about career development because it makes men so uncomfortable. To which I had to just-about physically restrain myself from groaning out loud. Sorry, well-meaning but ultimately very deluded executives, until we start facing the problem head-on and naming things what they actually fucking are, we ain’t getting anywhere.

Anywayyyyy. The grand finale. Q-and-A time. Messrs Panelists, please tell us if you have kids and what your respective wives/life partners do for a living. Are you all happily balancing life-and-work as per your breathless description of how this is totally possible and achievable? No whammy, no whammy, no whammy!

Ah. They all stay-at-home.

Excellent! I’m going to go ahead and go back to my office, close the door and cry myself into my inbox.

A lovely quiche

You know, so many people use pie dishes to make quiches. I much prefer this round cake-pan look. Especially because it can stand on it’s own outside the dish.

Crust:
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cold butter, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 cup cold water

Crumble flour, butter, and salt together until mostly even. Add the water and mix dough with your hands into a ball. Press dough into a nonstick or buttered, round, 6-inch cake-pan (or spring-form pan) until the bottom and sides are covered and mostly even thicknesses. No rolling! No floured counter! Unless you want to…

Quiche Filling:
Break 5 eggs into a bowl and whisk until bubbly. Add a few tablespoons of grated parmesan, a tablespoon of ground pepper, 1 cup of grated cheese (I used mozzarella, but cheddar or many other kinds work), 1/2 cup of steamed spinach, 1/8 cup of whole milk or cream, and a tablespoon of salt. Stir to incorporate. Pour filling into the cake-pan with crust.

Bake at 360 F for about 25-30 min, until set in the center. If you want some nice brown on the top, you can switch to broil for just a few minutes.

Makes a nice breakfast, lunch, or dinner! You don’t have to use spinach, you can use mushrooms (but cook them first) or tomatoes, pretty much whatever you like or have around the kitchen. My daughter was willing to even eat a few bites of this. C’est si bon!

BabyCenter’s remedy for Toddler Personality Disorder (TPD)

My name is Raawwrr and I'm hear for your sweet baby! I cannot hear you, because I'm going "Raawwrr" all the time, as that is my name. What's my name!!?

After three days of questioning what happened to my usually sweet baby, and why she suddenly has the disposition of T Rex with longer reach, I received this timely piece in my inbox from our informative friends at BabyCenter.com.

“New this month: A stranger among you?
You may not know from one minute to the next how your 13-month-old will behave. At this age, many toddlers begin to behave unpredictably. Yours may scream at the top of his lungs for no apparent reason, pull the tablecloth (and all the dishes on it) to the floor, or yank the dog’s tail despite your firmly telling him not to.”

Substitute “cat’s” for “dog’s” and strike the tablecloth bit for just the dishes and I’m totally with you, babycenter.

“Though this may be a trying time for you, remember that your toddler isn’t deliberately disobeying you — he’s just exploring his surroundings and figuring out how much power he has over you, his environment, and himself. Many of these “destructive” practices will actually help him develop a sense of independence and figure out which types of behavior are acceptable to you and which aren’t.”

I’d be more inclined to believe it wasn’t deliberate if she didn’t give me that LOOK every time, but sure, she’s trying to figure out boundaries, independence la la la… at the expense of my housekeeping. Lovely.

“What you can do”

I’m all ears (or rather eyes) BabyCenter!!

“You can help him channel his potentially destructive exuberance in safe ways. Pillow fights, for example, either outside or in a room where he can’t break anything, are bound to tire out your toddler. For totally wild but nondestructive pillow fights, make a set of 12 small lightly stuffed pillows about 9 inches square — they’ll be easier for your toddler to heft and too light to break much of anything.”

Wait, you want me to do a crafting project? While my toddler does what? And then, you want me to have a pillow fight with her? You want me to encourage her to throw things at my head? The self-same toddler who likes to throw dishes and food and car keys? And we’re worried about the weight of the pillows for her little arms?! Gosh, I was thinking if the pillow were heavier she might not be able to throw it so hard!

“Playing with modeling clay — pulling, kneading, and rolling the squishy stuff — is another good outlet. On the next rainy day, put on your rain boots and go jump in puddles together. If you’re constantly admonishing your child to “keep the water in the tub,” he’ll love the freedom to splash around and make a big mess.”

Oh, BabyCenter… I know you mean well, but the last time she played with modeling clay, she pretty much ate it twice, looked revolted, and moved on. Granted, it was a very nice home-made, fresh batch, so actually pretty food-safe! But my point is, have you SEEN our puddles?? Whenever there is a bit of water on the ground, my dear daughter likes to pet it. Seriously. Pet it. Sure, she’ll run through it, but eventually, she’s going to want to touch it. And around here, the parks have Biohazard boxes for drug-users to put used needles. I’m no germ-o-phobe, but I am also pretty sure our puddles have Tetanus.

“Other developments: Picky eating
Does your 13-month-old seem so busy he can’t even make time to eat? That’s because he’s so preoccupied with moving that sitting still for five minutes, even to munch on a favorite food, may be more than he can manage on many days. Even if he eagerly ate everything from applesauce to garlic chicken when he was a baby, he may suddenly turn up his nose at every morsel you offer. Both behaviors are completely normal.You may think that because his activity level has increased so much he should be eating more, but a child’s growth rate slows dramatically during the second year and that accounts for some loss of appetite.”

Well isn’t that nice to know! My toddler not eating is completely normal! I can stop trying to feed her! Oh wait… So earlier tonight I made a nice Mushroom Bourguigon (courtesy of Smitten Kitchen) and she pretty much only picked at the noodles. I make her delightful things all the time. Julia suggested that the more effort we put in, the less likely they are to eat something, that they can “smell the desperation.” Well, I can’t very well feed her cheerios every day (oh, but we are close). Sure she eats fruit, so I guess I should count myself lucky in that regard, but vegetables, protein? A battle almost every time. It’s not like I get to give up, so where’s the hot tip?

“Experts say it’s a mistake to turn mealtime into a battle. The harder you push your child to eat, the less likely he is to do it. Offer him a choice of two or three nutritious foods at each sitting and let him eat what and how much he wants. (Be sure to offer him healthful snacks between mealtimes, too.) When he starts to throw food off his tray or otherwise play with it, take it as a sign that he’s finished and remove the food. If he refuses to eat anything you put in front of him, wrap it up, put it in the refrigerator, and save it for later (but don’t force him to eat the leftovers if he doesn’t want to).”

*headdesk
This is basically what I already do. A small bowl of two or three different things is set before my darling Pumpkinsauce, each night. Her first step, dump the bowl onto her tray and toss the bowl aside. I believe this is so that she can examine the contents in better isolation. Next, she tries to determine if any fruit is present. If not, she moves to the most nutritionally-devoid content of the assembled foodstuffs, usually the carbohydrate. She tries one or two bites and then begins to deposit samples on the floor (presumably for further study? eliminating the outliers?). If I took this as a sign she was “finished” then all she’d have for dinner each night is equivalent of one noodle.

Our fridge has a number of small containers at any time. I actually had to buy MORE small futzy containers (this is what we call them around my family, the ones that never seem to have lids) since we kept running out of them. After the food has been suitably stored, it’s basically a contest between her mind changing and the mold. The mold is winning, my friends.

I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing, unless any of you have suggestions. Sometimes they are super helpful, but this week, BabyCenter, you got nothin’.

Baby Book

I just finished my daughter’s baby book.

Besides some written additions (height, weight, lost teeth) down the road, all the main milestone pages are full, all the pictures are in, and the book is completely stuffed. (Onward to the toddler book!!)

I am not the most organized person on earth, nor am I the least. But I have managed to keep up with this one project partly out of a sense of if-I-don’t-it-will-be-impossible-to-catch-up but mostly because I loved MY baby book so much when I was little.

I remember reading on another mommy blog a reader’s story about how she had a fight with her son (he was 9? 10?) and after he’d stormed off he somehow found his baby book and came back to her and made up because he was so impressed that she’d done so much to care for him and record every detail when he was a baby. I have no illusions that the baby book I just finished is going to resolve some angry outbursts, but I thought it was sweet to know that kids out there (besides me) DO appreciate their mom’s record-keeping.

My baby book, which I still have, is a pretty standard thing (for its day), complete with drawings that seem twee and overly saccharine to me now. But when I was little, I loved its pink satin cover, its pictures of little pastel animals, its tiny envelope with my hair clipping inside, the glossy pictures of me as a unrecognizable newborn, the page with my hospital bracelet and bassinet card, the ink footprints, the familiar and even handwriting of my mom, and even the smell of the pages. The relics of your itty-bittiness, a distant childhood you can’t even remember as a child, they are powerful instruments and fascinating links to where you started. I feel bad for everyone who doesn’t have them in some form or another.

Finishing up my daughter’s baby book tonight, now that I’ve finally printed some key photos, I feel like it’s not quite up to par with mine. Maybe because to me, there is no mystery to it? I was there, aware for all of those tiny marks, itemized facts, and snapshots. And my handwriting isn’t as good as my mom’s. I hope my daughter someday appreciates it, though. I have included some things that my baby book didn’t have: fun stickers, lots of cards from her birth, handwritten notes inside the back cover from all of my baby shower guests, and one sign of the times– a series of ultrasound pictures from 7 weeks to 21 weeks.

I hope someday, when she looks at the tiny bubble that was her smallest identifiable origin point, she will be amazed at herself, as I was looking at her the first time, and will marvel at her journey from something so small and blurry. Maybe she will ponder the care it took from her parents, family, and friends to bring her thus far. Maybe she will wonder why I used so many stickers. Either way, I hope she feels loved.

Brief Review of the Children’s Clothing Industry

How would you feel if your parents dressed you this way?

First, let me acknowledge that to a certain degree the production of clothing for small kids and babies is difficult, heavily influenced by what people who don’t know any better buy, and subject to the same subjectivity and capriciousness of social trends.

But seriously people.

It seems as if there are a lot of people who want to dress their littlest girls as either fairy prostitutes, small teen cartoon characters, or Barbie princesses. Either way, there is a lot of pink, a lot of ruffle, an unjustifiable quantity of tulle, too high a propensity to put flowers or bows where they need not be, and a sad lack of balance between aesthetic and practical quality.

It is really difficult to find clothes for a little girl, by which I mean clothes that both look attractive/fun/work with other clothes/compliment her features AND are durable, practical, comfortable, and affordable. Some brands are really boring, making only plain colors in organic cotton and charge a lot for their minimalist, feel-good product. I have no problems with a few of these in the closet, but it doth not a whole outfit make and you can’t afford to keep a kid who likes to spit things out for fun in nice, white, organic bodysuits all the time.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are hoards of “cute” and “precious” outfits filling every kids’ section usually made of scratchy fabric, cut so they are hard to get on, or require a bizarre number of buttons, layers, zippers, etc. There is a time and place for more complicated kids outfits: a frilly special occasion. But there is an alarming amount of clothing being marketed to daily wear that just doesn’t belong there. Are there kids who are comfortable in these things? If there are, bless their little hearts; they were born for high heels and couture.

Lastly, I am alarmed by the gender normative clothing that starts from birth. Girls shirts say “cute” and “beautiful.” Boys shirts say “All Star” or have inexplicable jersey numbers on them. Whole sections fall into a blue/pink division. Little boys get dressed like miniature frat boys on vacation or small french sailors. I also am noticing an alarming amount of cutesy-pirate stuff. Is it really pirate-y to be cute?

Children are mostly cute all on their own, they don’t need to be over-packaged every day. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with expressing your own tastes to a certain degree on your kid’s closet. There are just only a few places to reliably get clothes that are appropriate, basic, interesting, and handle the things that they will be put through on the kid and in the wash. I don’t think these are impossibly high standards.

And while we’re at it: can you make a pair of basic brown shoes for a 1 year old that don’t have flowers on them and are under $30 and don’t require a sedative to put on? Thanks.

Kitchen Floor Post

Why is the kitchen floor only clean for 5 minutes? It’s the strangest thing. I feel like no matter what I do, the floor gets ridiculously dirty so fast. Didn’t I JUST sweep? Didn’t I mop yesterday?

And before you are all like, “Shannon, be honest, are you just one of those obsessive housekeepers who likes everything to be sparkling and your ‘dirty’ floor is really just fine and there’s only a tiny bit of dirt over in one corner and you are totally overreacting” let me just say, I am NOT that person. If you have the misfortune to know me, you know I’m not that person.

My floors are not “omg, keep Architecture Digest busy in the hall while I do a last minute swiffer!” dirty, but neither are they “omg, keep CPS busy in the hall while I scrub with bleach” dirty. They are somewhere in between, somewhere like “omg, please let the UPS guy not look at my kitchen floors too closely.”

What would help is the cat making a modest effort not to get his food everywhere. But the cat helping? Surely you jest.

I spent like 20 minutes trying to find the counters, so did not get around to the floors tonight. Not that it would have mattered because they’ll be dirty again tomorrow, much like the toddler who likes to leave whatever she’s been eating on them. At least washing her is adorable…

Plattsburgh

I just got home from a 2.5 day excursion to visit a friend in scenic Plattsburgh, NY. And by scenic I mean, if you are not at on the Lake and staying at a hotel near the mall, you better like views of parking lots. Needless to say, it was perfect for our purposes because it was a good mid-way point between our cities to which I could take the train, offered us a inexpensive place to stay that had a nice pool and nearby stores/restaurants, and did not offer much distraction from our sole mission to let the kids play and just “hang out.”

My friend brought 11 bags for a 2 day stay. This is traveling with toddlers. I brought 3, but I also forgot a second shirt, socks for the baby, and I ran out of diapers on the last day, so I lose.

The first thing we did is bravely attempt dinner out with two 13 month olds. All in all, it went very well! I think only the carpet lost.

After that, we went to the supermarket and loaded up on baby snacks and extremely unhealthy adult snacks (hello chocolately caramel corn!). We got back with just enough time to take the kids down to the pool and try get them them REALLY tired before a quick bath and bed. They both slept pretty well the first night.

The next morning, we let them play all over the room for awhile and fed them breakfast. The kids had a grand time at such activities as: putting stuff in the “bible” drawer and taking it back out, stealing each others toys, opening and closing the temperature panel on the a/c unit, banging on said a/c unit, giggling wildly, sharing sippy cups, bouncing on the bed, running around going “da da da da,” and eating goldfish, crackers, apples, yogurt melts, and puffs.

It is also possible we heard Adele’s “Someone Like You” on the radio 500 times.

We didn’t venture out until lunchtime when due to the relative success of Dinner 1, we attempted another sit-down meal. A gentleman at a nearby table actually remarked to us that we had very “well behaved children.” I wouldn’t go THAT far, but they were pretty good! They ate some food, they didn’t make tons of noise, the floors were not strewn with absolutely everything… We made a very thorough survey of Target and a tiny dip into Michaels and then headed back to the hotel because the kids needed naps.

Dinner we decided, was best to order in. And boy, we nailed it. I don’t know if you’re ever planning on being in Plattsburgh, but we highly recommend Mangia. It’s a Italian, brick-oven pizza kind of place. But everything we had was delicious. The crab-cakes were something special and the ravioli were beyond.

Since swimming worked so well the night before, we tried that again. My daughter likes to take her rubber ducks to the pool and throw them in from the edge and then try to go in after them. You really have to watch her or she will try to jump in by herself. The kids were pretty delighted with the pool, even if it was kind of chilly. We warmed them up with a dip in the hot tub. And before you get all hysterical about babies in hot tubs, let me add, it was a pretty mild hot tub. I’ve run hotter baths for my daughter.

I was prepared for some really epic sleeping after their post swim bath, but it was not to be. My friend’s son went to bed like a good boy, but my child? Oh no. She decided to whine and thrash about, disrupting his winding down. So I had to quickly put her in warmer clothes, stuff her in the Ergo baby carrier with her blanket, and walk around outside for almost an hour. Freaking ridiculous.

I walked by a lot of closed strip mall-type places. There was one with a bridal store. The dresses in the window were alarmingly tacky. Attention future brides of Upstate NY, please avoid the polka-dot sash number.

After both kids were FINALLY in bed, we got to sit still for a moment and eat chocolatey things, drink fizzy things, and talk about life and stuff.

It was nice.

We packed up the next morning, took the kids for lunch out again (the floors may have lost again), and then I had to catch my train. I pushed nap-time back as far as I could hoping to catch a really good block of sleep on the train and I’m happy to say it worked. But bedtime when we got home was a mess again. I guess my toddler is just a little wound up from her trip.

I am, on the other hand, so very tired. But I’m glad we went. It was a good idea and I think everyone had fun. Even our waiters.

It Has To Be A Sin To Be This Well-Rested

Last week, both my husband and baby were away. His regular babysitter (my dad) was off to Yosemite for a bit of R&R and my husband had a conference in the same town as my in-laws and my sister-in-law with her three kiddos. After much frantic deliberation, I decided that this would be a win-win-win for everyone.

1) My in-laws win because they get to spend time with their newest grand-baby.

2) My son wins because he gets to know his cousins

And most importantly…….

3) I win – I have so much (seriously, so much) stuff to do at work, that I’d like to put in my twelve-hour-days sans the additional mother’s guilt of not being at home to give baths, feed dinner, etc. Well, also, I win because I get to sleep full nights. And if that isn’t winny enough, I win because maybe having things be a bit difficult for my husband will give him a renewed appreciation for the various challenges of childcare. [I call the last one A Schadenfreude Win]

During my motherless week, I slowed down my pumping (so I am officially workday pump free now – more on the state of my boobs later), got a bunch of work done AND in a spontaneous fit of vanity, I ran out to get a proper haircut. It was splendid!

I did attempt to watch a movie and even put a fancy French one at the top of my Netflix queue, but then got through about 1/2 hour of it before falling asleep (How did I become such a party animal???). Although, in my defense, I did watch the melancholy sex scene between older married people who are tired of being married to each other that is mandatory in all French flicks, so maybe I should just tick this movie off of the list.

Oh, did you want some bad news as well? Of course, after interacting with his older cousins (two of whom are school-aged), my son spent two days throwing up with some weird stomach bug. Yay! Sick Kid Fun!