Thursday, August 27, 2015

Back to Books.

I just recognized another sign that I’m coming back. No, no, not back here! I will undoubtedly wait a few months before writing again just to keep the mystery alive. Is she blogging? Did she quit? Did her children finally form a small coup and rebel over fruit snacks? The answer is likely the last one. I could be supine on the kitchen floor as they jump on my back, throw cheese puffs like confetti, and mush sticky fruit snacks into my face all the while wearing matching superhero capes. Superheroes shouldn't do that.

No, I had another sign that I am almost back from that black void I entered after having my first son that sucked most of me away and left a shell of a woman who knew only how to change diapers, make snacks, re-make snacks, and finally look the other way when handing over the goldfish.

Last night I found an old notebook where I used to record every book I read. I started doing this before I was married and my last entry happened right before I went back to work after having my first. If I'd thought to take a picture, I would place it here because it is a glorious thing to behold: pages and pages of titles, words, and tales I read, but then, a cold literary void. What a dark three and a half years it’s been without books! There have been a few, but I don't quite devour three to four books a month anymore. Not only did I have time to read like that, I was rolling in so much free time that I thought a good use of it was recording said books. What a silly, silly girl I was.
Except I’m doing it again.
“Hmmm,” I thought when I saw the blank line under my 2012 entry. “I’ve read two books this month. Would it hurt to write them down?” It didn’t. In fact, it felt like opening the sliding doors of our modern home and stepping into the air-conditioning after being outside for a few minutes in the Dallas heat: refreshing and invigorating with a vague sense of being home.
And now, standing in a bookstore in Midway (another sign I’m coming back; I’m traveling for work and wondering why the hell I don’t work more), I added four new books to my Goodreads line-up. Oh the glory! Oh the words! Oh the pressure to cram in one more book before the month is out. I love it!
I dusted off my abridged dictionary so I can look up all the words I don’t now and my husband can mock my love of books and words just like we are child-free! The return of my inner nerd is another strong indicator of what’s happening here.
So soon; very, soon, I may even begin writing here a bit more. I finished the first draft of my book and want to procrastinate editing and wallow in self-doubt for a bit longer. Perhaps I’ll read a book or 30.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Excuses and More Excuses.

Oh good lord, I did it again and am now breaking the cardinal rule of blogging which is "Never Talk About Not Blogging." Here I am talking about not blogging like the total amateur that I am.

I've been writing, but not here. I've been scurrying away all of my free time to write a book and it's about halfway done. I forget to pay my bills and shower I'm so focused on this thing. In meetings I use my little notebook to jot down new character traits and story twists instead of exciting new ways to sell food.

I also potty-trained my three year old, which honestly, took every ounce of energy our household contained. He screamed for a week before finally pooping on the damn potty. I have PTSD. I think my husband and the baby do, too.

So, I'm not dead or terminally ill, just writing elsewhere for a bit and trying to survive the telling of my tale. Don't give up on me! Lord knows, you are the only three people who will read my book when it's done and I simply cannot lose you!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Why Are There Scissors In Toddler Doctor Kits?

Dear Kids Dr. Kits,

What's up with the scissors? I know why a doctor would use them, but my three-year-old thinks his doctor is going to give him a quick trim at his next appointment.

Him: "Mommy, do you need a check-up?"

Me: "Yep."

Him in a little singsong/casual voice as if he does this everyday: "Let me check your heart." [Grabs stethoscope]. "It's good."

He returns to the kit and comes back with an otoscope. "Now let me look in year ear." [Looks.] "Yep, that's good, too."

He returns to the kit and comes back with the scissors. "Now let me cut your hair." [Starts cutting my hair.]

Me: "You know doctors don't give haircuts, right?"

Him: "Yes they do."

Guys, and I mean all y'all because every kit contains scissors, you have an otoscope in the kit and scissors were the best ninth medical device you could come up with? Call Welch Allyn and have them brainstorm for you. Or just add some band-aids. They take a lot less explanation.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Everyone Stop Telling Me To Enjoy This.

Today I read another post about cherishing these days that are so long. I teared up. And then I wrote this.

I walked out of Target with my two little boys in tow the other day, the baby screeching happily about something fantastic, and my three-year-old happily holding a Spiderman-branded item he'd talked me into buying like he was a damn Enron executive selling employee stock. I know, like only a mother can, that his fierce negotiation skills do not lead to a good place.

Anyway, on this walk out, we passed a woman in her fifties. I saw her smile the nostalgic smile I've seen so many times from similar women. I gave her my standard Cheshire cat grin back. You know the one, ladies. It says, "Yep, my life is pretty awesome right now, in case you couldn't tell, but I know you can because you wish you had these years back! I've got two little cherubs who make the cup spilleth over."

But then I remembered my day. Normally I don't work on this day, but I went for a few hours. WHY? For a meeting. Because, truly, sitting in a meeting talking about calories on menuboards sounds one JILLION times better than spending those same three hours being defied. It sounds better than cooking and then cleaning up a mess. It sounds better than listening to a three-year-old beg for TV and then getting mad when he doesn't listen.

Some people plan to go back to work full-time when their kids are in school. I'm not one of them. I plan to quit and get some time back for myself while they are in school!

I wiped that smile off my face.

I read the same posts you do. The ones that scream that this is all so fleeting and implore us to cherish these sweet, tender moments before they are gone. Here's a thought, though. A lot of people said the same thing about high school. Then they said it about college. I look back nostalgically on those times. I have the appropriate pictures filed in albums to remember them and, thanks to facebaook, I relive them every Thursday now as well. However, I would not ever choose to rewind the years to that point. It was truly once-in-a-lifetime, because it is meant to be only once-in-a-lifetime.

I don't want to leave my family for the first time or live in disgusting off-campus housing ever again. I don't want to be able to easily attend a party and then go to class the next day. I don't want to walk to parties in 10 degree weather. These were awful times that would have killed me had they continued!

I hope, truly I do, that in 15 years when my kids are almost grown I will not be sad. I hope I will remember that this muck I'm in right now is hard and stop any incipient tears because the day is formidable when every second is devoted to entertaining/battling/teaching a small child. And it truly is every second of 13+ hours which doesn't sit well with me. I need time to recharge and a few hours a night aren't cutting it.

Will I miss this when he tells me he's off to see his friends or go golfing with his dad?

I'm not so sure. I think I will revel in my newfound, lost ability to sit down and read a book at an hour other than 10pm. I think I'll enjoy a few moments to pay bills, check email, or review a deck without my presence being demanded in the other room while my guilt builds. I think I'll delight in running to the store without convincing anyone of the need for clothes for such an excursion while simultaneously filling a huge bag to the brim with snacks and diapers.

I'll miss the hugs and high voices, the questions and admiration, the curiosity and unbounded energy but I know there will be new things like intelligent conversations and friendship to fill the places we've moved past.

I want to move on because a few more years of this will kill me.

Have we all been mistaking those smiles at Target from our predecessors for nostalgia when they are could very well be joy? We're going home with our kids while they are headed back to read a book and eat something other than string cheese.

Monday, March 16, 2015

eShakti Fashion Review and I Love Birds.

Ok, it's time for a note from our sponsors! And by sponsors, I mean the retailer who gave me clothes to write about. I'm easy. Clothes, cute flats, or pretzel M&Ms and you've unlocked my heart.
A new online retailer, eShakti, asked if I would choose an article of clothing from their line and write a review. This is somewhat ironic given a previous string of posts I wrote about why I could never be a fashion blogger, but I thought,"Ummmm, you're going to send me clothes to write about? Sounds like a dream."
I googled eShakti before committing and finding other bloggers raving about their clothing, felt safe and secure. As I said, it doesn't take much. I happily obliged.
eShakti's point of differentiation in the online fashion space is customization. Now, in a world where the toothpaste aisle is overwhelming and Stitchfix has capitalized on womens' desire to look great without deciding how, I wondered if this site would dish up another long list of choices I didn't feel like making.

My over-optioned brain, that will burst one day in front of a Coke Freestyle machine, was thrilled that eShakti provides customization within a framework. Clothing can be tailored to taste, but there are not enough choices to make you close your browser and vow to wear homespun for the rest of your days.

Huge news: they just added PANTS. The ability to customize every measurement imaginable on a pair of pants is life-changing for someone who is just barely 5' 3''.
Bird, bird, bird.

Ok, back to my review. When it came to choose my piece, I was only overwhelmed in so far as I could not decide what to try. Top? Dress? Jacket? I perused the website and found some birds. Has anyone else noticed bird prints everywhere? I've been wondering for months if I'm bold enough for birds and can now confidently report that I am. 

I chose their standard size, included my height so the shirt wouldn't double as a dress, and got to customizing. My bird shirt was shown with cap sleeves, but I chose three-quarters from the eight sleeve-options available. I really just wanted to maximize the number of birds on my person. Go big bird or stay home.

Sadly, my bird shirt is no longer available, but there are several other adorable avian options like this tunic, this dress and this cute striped bird dress. If you choose a dress, there are four custom lengths from which to choose! Honestly, I may make this the summer of the bird and get the striped one. Or I may get this vintage chambray dress. Or perhaps continue my stripe-obsession with this sunny striped tunic. Too many [good] choices, with such short nap times to make them.

The quality of my bird shirt was a really nice surprise. You never know what's coming when you  order online, but the stitching is impeccable, the seams line up nicely, and there is no bunching or fraying. Overall, it looks much more expensive than the $40 they charge.
All nos for the office, but the biker bird look
on the right is a personal favorite of mine.

In my last post about my new life as a fashion blogger, I said I would wear my new shirt to work and casually stop by the cool kids area for an opinion. Well, I did. I tried on lots of different options and ended on, what I call, the "professional bird," because at the end of the day, my feathers don't lie. I'm a professional bird and if you're going to go bird at the office, the rest of you should compensate.
Then, I went to work and got so involved in the day's events that I FORGOT to swing by the twenty-somethings and mine for compliments. No worries, though. I don't need anyone else to reinforce my winged fashion decision. It's a good one.

I highly recommend trying this out. Spring is about here which makes justifying some new wardrobe pieces easy. eShakti is stylish, high quality, and affordable and until April 11th you get 10% off your order with the code justalittletart (clever, huh?). The small print is down below. What are you waiting for? Let me know what you love and go for!

Teeny Tiny Print:
Code has to be entered in the ‘promotional code’ box.   It is not case-sensitive.  
Code can be used any number of times until the validity period. 
It can be combined with any other promotional offer, gift coupon or gift card in the same order unless explicitly specified otherwise in the offer conditions.
This discount code is not applicable on clearance / sale, gift cards & overstock categories.
Not applicable on previous purchases

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Things You Shouldn't Leave At The Office.

Just this afternoon I arrived home from a day in San Francisco. A group of us traveled there on the prowl for great new flavors and ate at seven restaurants in just under six hours. It was not for the weak-of-stomach.

Before I left for this trip, I left my power cord at the office. While traveling, I stopped at two airport stores and even left a restaurant on the culinary tour to run across the street to a RadioShack (who knew those still exist?) to find a charge. Alas, Microsoft does not supply their cord to just any retailer so for 36 hours, I rationed my power like it was butter and WWII was raging.

A power cord sure is an annoying thing to leave at the office.

You know what else is? YOUR KIDS.

While I was away my husband managed (ie: parented) our children on his own. I arrived home much sooner than expected because another ice storm is upon Dallas and we moved our flight to a ridiculously early morning hour to beat it home.

Back in Dallas, I had time to go to the office, grab my power cord, check on a few things and then head home to see all my boys.

A few days a week, our little guys attend school at my husband's office. It's super convenient and has lots of perks since the parents are always milling around and can pop in at any time to see what's happening. Today was a school day.

At home, I puttered around waiting for them to arrive from work/school and assumed it was taking a bit longer because the storm was starting to whip up. I heard the garage door open and ran over to give my three-year-old a big hug. My husband walked in and my face dropped a little bit. I love him, but I wanted a three-year-old hug and squeal. I quickly there were no screams of, "Mommy! Mommy!" and no accompanying scamper.

"Where are they? Did you leave them in the car?" I asked.

My husband's face dropped and he said, "Oh my God. I left them at school."

I laughed and shoved around him to go get them out of the car.

"No, I'm serious," he said, "I totally forgot. I thought they were here with the nanny. This is my worst nightmare. Oh. My. God?"

"GO GET THEM NOW!" I screamed and off he went.

I'm not mad at my poor husband, who feels terribly guilty about the whole fiasco. In fact, I feel bad for him. As a mom, I know where my children are the same way I know when I'm hungry. It's just part of me. How do dads parent without the ability to feel their child like he or she is an extra appendage?

Bless all their hearts. And when you, Mom, are running through the streets of San Francisco, seeking out a power cord, remember that your children are a much, MUCH worse thing to leave back at the office.

Friday, February 27, 2015

What (Not?) To Wear.

I work to get dressed. While staying in your pajamas all day sure sounds luxurious, if I make it to 10am still clad in my sexy cotton pants and tee, I feel like a homeless person whose lost track of day and night. Sometimes this leads to drinking and my son's mention of mommy's early  morning wine-juice can probably only be recited once or twice at circle time before there's a knock at my door.

I don't go to the office to plan business strategy and come up with awesome marketing plans; I go so I have somewhere to wear my grown-up clothes. This is not a lighthearted, jest-filled statement. This is true. When I toy with moving on from my current job my first thoughts are, "But what would happen to my clothes? I'm not wearing pencil skirts to the playground! I'm not Stitch-fixin' for playdates!" Back to Powerpoint and positioning statements I go!

In recent years, I've taken a liking to fashion and hold dear the belief that they way you look at the office matters, especially if you're a woman. Look good, feel good, be perceived as great at your job and get that promotion! Trust me gals, it's easier when you don't fight it and makes shopping a career necessity. If you agree, read Memorandum. I adore everything she wears.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was struggling with my outfit. I'd decided the night before to wear a gray J.Crew dress from a few years back with some purple tights and be done with it. When I put it on I HATED IT. I felt like Oliver Twist. The dress itself was an itchy wool with a drop waist and tuxedo type ruffles at the top. It wasn't flattering.

I changed my shoes.

I put a collared shirt under the dress.

I changed the tights.

I added a necklace.

I tried a bracelet.

Uggggggg! Nothing was working and I was late so I chose the best of the worst: the dress, my original purple tights, and a long Stella and Dot pearl necklace. (By the way, no one is paying me to write this, I just really like this necklace.)

On the way to work, I vowed to donate the dress the next day. NEVER would it weigh me down again!

A few hours into the day, I had to go over to our social media command center and talk to the young women there. These girls are cool! They're young, hip, and still busy pinning their dream weddings instead of crock pot meals. One of them even has a degree in fashion design.

Before I could get my question out of my mouth, they were gushing over my outfit. "THAT is SO COOL!" they said, "I love that necklace...and those tights! Great color!" They may have even spoken in hashtag, I don't know, I was too flabbergasted, shocked, and bit proud to speak.

The cool kids liked my twists on Oliver Twist! I was so ecstatic that I took pics when I got home.

I still haven't decided if I'll throw it out, but, what started out as a what not to wear day, turned into a hip fashion day for me.

Around this same time, an online fashion retailer found my blog and asked if I'd review something for them. I almost responded, "You know like five people read my blog, right?" but instead wrote back, "Sure! Sounds fun." Let's all agree right now not to tell them about my imaginary readers, k?

My item for review arrives in the next few days and we know what the true test of cool will be: the social media girls. Stay tuned as I try to pair this item with other wardrobe pieces to maximize coolness and get the girls gushing again.

My fellow exhausted moms, with superhero stickers on your sweaters and dried lord-knows-what on your shoulders, I do this for you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Neighborhood Mom Wars.

My neighborhood has a great Mom's group. It's organized through the school, sort of, and groups moms together who have kiddos starting kindergarten the same year.

The moms who started this group had stamina and initiative! They duly appointed a membership chair, an activity chair, and a class chair for each year. When I saw all these chairs, I assumed this group of ladies met with gavels and wigs. They just seemed so organized!

And then it came time to start scheduling playdates and sending emails. Well, in addition to stamina and initiative, most of these mom-preneurs also had more than one child. The disorganization drove me mad. And so, with the help of a fellow one-childer, I usurped the power from the 2017 class chair and took over the running of it.

Why do I do things like this? I HAVE NO IDEA. It's like that time in grad school when I swore I would never be our team's president and then BAM, I was the president. Or that time when I said I'd work part-time and then BAM, I'm working more than my full-time counterparts and getting paid less. These things find me like water finds a valley. It's inevitable and I love/hate myself for not ever learning to get out of the ditch.

Anway, back to my little Mom's group. Things were just fabulous for a year or so. I had a spreadsheet with potential playdates all backed up to The Cloud, an alphabetized list of moms and a neat and tidy email roster that made it simple to add new moms to the festivities.

Today, I got an email from a fellow mom asking where the evite for this week's Mom's Night Out was. "Did I miss it?" she asked.

Nope, she didn't miss it. I missed just how easy it is to do things like keep organized electronic files for inane things like playdates and mom drinks when you have one child who is not yet three. This was my mistake and I fully own up to dropping this responsibility like a bored baby in a high chair.

This is not what I want to write about, though. What I want to write about is The Class of 2019 Moms. You see, with the baby, I am also in the Class of 2019 group and organized electronically on their emails and evites. Their calendar is packed. They are killing it. Their emails usually include a link to a seasonally appropriate pinterest craft you and your baby will be doing together at said playdate. I've never been to a 2019 playdate (like I'm spending time on those when the kid can't talk yet), but I've heard the Halloween one was a bountiful fall harvest complete with bales of hay and mounds of pumpkins.

I don't wish these poor, poor girls ill-will. No, what I wish them is reality. Right now, they must all be six weeks pregnant or in heated discussion with their spouses about having a second. Assuming this is the case, and let's just assume it is, I want to be their Ghost of Christmas Future. I want to drop my three-year-old off on a day like today when he's got particularly bad cases of "NOOO!" and "I WILL NOT do [whatever I just said], and "Where's DA-DDDDDYYY?!!!" Then, I want to send them an email about pinterest crafts and organic baby food, just like the 2015 moms wanted to send me when I got all Excel organized on them.

Alas, the 2015 moms never did this and neither shall I. They watched from afar at our overzealous little group and just waited for our stomachs to start popping again and only then did the smirks also start showing.  "Bless your hearts!" I am sure they all thought, that sentiment laced with razors and meaning the exact opposite of it's literal definition here in The South.

Don't worry 2019 Moms, I am hear to pass the torch along for those pain-in-the-ass 2021 Moms. Those poor girls. They haven't even been through labor yet! I mean, really.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Where's My Wife?

A few weeks ago my husband asked me about the road not traveled. "Do you ever wish you'd married for money?"

"No," I responded a little too curtly and quickly, "I wish I'd married a lazy slug with no ambition so I could conquer the world while he stayed home with the kids and the house."

"Huh," was the response I heard back.

Seriously, ladies, do these guys know how amazing it is to have a wife? We are relatively equal here in my house. My husband is a great dad and does more than his fair share of parenting, but I really would like a wife. I'm tired of the [relatively] useless knowledge I've retained and skills I've developed.

I know if we have milk, orange juice, and laundry detergent without looking. I know what we will be having for dinner and can get it on the table in under 10 minutes and/or prepare it with a baby at my feet and a three-year-old begging for more Mike the Knight. I can locate a missing sock 90% of the time from the labyrinth of my son's drawer. I know the passwords to our banking accounts and when to pay bills. I know when the cleaning lady comes. I know the cleaning lady's name. I know where the key is that opens the gate to the backyard. I know how to change the time the sprinkler comes on. I know that you can change the time the sprinkler comes on. I can use a screwdriver or hammer or pliers to clean out the lint trap when it starts getting funky. I can plan a baby birthday party and provide a POV on a Coke marketing plan simultaneously! I can cram a full-time job into three days so I can be at home two days and cram seven days in there during my down time.

I'm exhausted. Anyone else? Where's my wife?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Choosing A Little Boy's Style.

Dear Me Of Three Years Ago,

A few months before the first baby was born, you asked your husband a serious question: "What do you think his style should be?"

Maybe you were overcompensating for your tutu-less future, but let me state clearly: YOU KNEW NOTHING.

At the time, your husband laughed and suggested you focus on keeping the baby alive before stressing about his look. Sage advice, and although you agreed, you did not ever want to be the mom whose little boy was decked out in licensed clothing and broaching the style topic was meant to gain alignment against this hideous toddler fashion choice. You judged the moms when you saw kiddos sporting too much Disney. "Yech," you'd think to yourself, "how do they let their child outside in that?"

Three years from today you will find yourself trying to convince a three-year-old to go to swim class. He is wearing Mickey Mouse swim shorts, a Hulk shirt, Spider-Man socks, Avenger sneakers and caps the ensemble off with a Superman hoodie towel hanging from his little head.

This child is yours.

Yes, Spring 2015 is the season of superhero style. You own every single superhero shirt Old Navy sells. You own sneakers, socks, undies, and outerwear. You own bathrobes, slippers, PJs, blankets, and bedding. You own cups, plates, and utensils and none of this happened by accident. I'd love to tell you that I don't know where all this licensed paraphernalia came from, but that would be an egregious and traceable lie, as I bought it all!

Here's what you don't yet know: little boys have a general disdain for wearing clothes and a boundless passion for superheroes.

I see your eye twitching and hear you calmly explaining that your little boy will always get dressed easily and not care about superheroes since you don't know the first thing about them and are relatively certain your husband doesn't either.

I'll squash that belief. Every boy loves superheroes, some just don't tell their wives until their is a littler boy around to share in the fun.

Your future house is a sea of licensed artifacts because they are the only leverage you have in the game that is about to become your life. They will protect you from battles around getting dressed, eating, and going to sleep. Yes, these sound like basic tasks in which every human easily engages, but just you wait!

So you see that little boy over there in the Superman shirt and LIGHT-UP (Egads!) Bat-Man shoes? His mom is simply happy he is not running through the mall clad only in Spider-Man undies.

Good luck and spend some of that glorious quiet infant time reading up on Captain America!

Yours Truly,
Annie of 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Are The Tiny Holes In The Middle Of My T-Shirt?

Today I looked down at my shirt and saw another cluster of tiny holes centered just above the button on my jeans. "WTF!? I screamed inwardly while shifting my weight around so no one else in the meeting would notice my unseemly appearance.

The origin of these little holes in cotton shirts, the crop circles of domesticity, has eluded me. Eluded me that is, until today.

When this first started, I thought it was caused by some strange Texas bug that I'd rather not know exists. After a thorough search of the internet and exposure to photos I can never "unsee" I was pleased to learn no such gun-slingin', boot-wearin', cotton-eatin' vermin exist.

I developed a new hypothesis that involved the washer and/or dryer. Yes, I now realize some other datapoints, such as other household members experiencing the same thing or crop circles found in other pieces of clothing and fabrics, would have strengthened this hypothesis but rage clouded my scientific approach. You know what I did, though? I bought a new washer and dryer. Not for this reason alone, but it was a strong supporting point.

Today, with bugs and faulty appliances removed from the equation, I wondered if I am just the first in the world to emit a cotton-disintegrating hormone from my belly-button. Before phoning The New England Journal of Medicine, I took to Google. What I found made me wish I was a freak of nature.

Turns out, this problem is not mine alone. Many people, especially women with small children, find navel crop circles in cotton shirts.

This strange phenomenon occurs when two hard surfaces rub against your t-shirt. In most moms' cases, the hard surfaces are the button of her pants and THE KITCHEN COUNTER. These little holes are now more than another ruined shirt. They are scientific evidence of my unfair plight.I spend too much time in the kitchen. Oh, and this is not fun "let's experiment with cooking" or "I found a great new cookie recipe!" time. This is time spent making meals that will never be eaten, engaging in verbal battles that will never be won, and cleaning messes that will never go away.

I'd rather be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen than up against a counter that is destroying my sense of self-worth and wardrobe at the same time. Thanks navel crop circles. I wish I'd never solved your mystery.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mediums and House Concerts.

Several weeks ago I went to a medium. Despite my general skepticism when it comes to things I cannot see, Long Island Medium has made me a believer and, more than anything, I wanted to hear from my friend who died four years ago. There is still rarely a day that goes by that I don't think of her in some way and, of course, with my son named for her, this will be the case for the rest of my life.

I was incredibly disappointed when she didn't arrive. My grandfather did, and while it was fun to hear from him, I desperately wanted that last conversation my friend and I never had. Oh sure, we had a last conversation, and looking back I know there was something profound about it, but it still ended like this:

Me (walking past her desk on a Friday afternoon): "We're heading over to Jack's. Come meet us when you're done."
Her: "I'm going to the airport. Remember? I'm going to New Orleans."
Me: "Oh yeah; you told me that like two minutes ago, didn't you?"
Her (laughing): "Yep."
Me: "Ok. Have fun! See you next week."

And that was it. There was no goodbye, just a phone call 72 hours later.

I thought the medium was the way to closure you can never have in this situation. I thought I'd hear that life, if you will, is pretty darn good up in heaven. I thought I'd laugh with her again. I thought for 30 minutes it might feel like she never really left. I thought she'd show up, but she didn't. Not then anyway.

This weekend we went to a house concert. This makes me sound much more hip than I am so lest you start imagining me making my own cheese and honey over here, picture someone's living room filled with a mish-mash of chairs and a lady with a guitar serenading us at the front. This type of event is not the typical way I'd spend an evening, but we had a babysitter and an invite so I went along with it.

Toward the end the singer told us her next song was about a funeral she attended where she and her friends could not help themselves from inappropriately laughing because they didn't know what else to do with their grief. The song told the story of losing a dear friend unexpectedly, feeling badly about laughing through her funeral but believing the inappropriate response was a sign her friend would live on.

It took less than 20 seconds of that song to transport me back to my own friend's funeral. I saw the casket, heard the eulogy, and listened to the priest. I looked down and didn't dare look at my husband.

I could only think about her and to avoid melting into a puddle on the lovely floor in front of me, I focused on the math. "Four years," I thought, "has it been that long?"

To remove myself further from emotion, I began calculating the exact date. It was a complex equation involving the date of her funeral with where I was when I heard the news and all the days and events in between. There was the drive back home, the inability to dress myself, the work-sponsored grief counselor, the heavy reliance on packaged goods for calories, the arrival of out-of-town friends, dinners, dinners, drinks, and the funeral day itself. When I emerged, I was fairly confident that day was the anniversary. I whipped out my phone to check a calendar. My husband nudged me and strongly suggested with his eyes that I put my phone away, but I couldn't. I was on a mission.

It was the day.

She was there! It would be just like her to show up at a random house concert to say, "Hey, I'm ok. What are you doing at this house concert??"

So now, I own a CD with a song about a funeral and know my friend is laughing almost as hard as me about house concerts and encouraging me not to remember the casket, but the bottle of champagne six of us shared at the end of our own funeral day.

Friday, January 23, 2015

I Was Supposed To Have Girls.

I was supposed to have girls.

I love my boys, but I was supposed to have girls.

I would not have it any other way, but I was supposed to have girls.

This assumption comes not from a desire for princesses, pink, or peace; but rather, from the frightening realization that I am not trained in boy. For 35 years I dutifully avoided any fact or event that would be useful in the raising of boys. I say dutifully because I have three brothers. When they chased and ran and tumbled, I played with Barbie. When we went to sporting events, I read a book in the stands. When they spouted facts about baseball and football, I checked out until the conversation was over. When they played poker, I went upstairs.

This is not an insurmountable problem, but it is one with a steep learning curve.

"Mommy, who is Iron-Man when he's not in his costume?" 
"Mommy, why is the Joker a bad guy?"
"Mommy, can we wrestle?"
"Mommy, why is the Hulk almost naked?"
"Mommy, can we play chase?"
"Mommy, let's play catch!"
"Mommy, I would like a story about Spider-Man, The Green Lantern, Iron-Man and Christmas. In it, Spider-Man is sad." (Character traits must be accurate and the plot must develop slowly to its climax and then end happily. Any probing questions such as, "Why is Spidey sad?" are met with a "I don't know. Tell the story.")

I am ill equipped for life with boys. I was prepped for Barbie's Dreamhouse, Babysitter Club reading sessions, and the Care Bears. Instead, I have the children my brothers were supposed to create. If there is any justice in the world, all three of them will end up with little girls who prefer cute shoes to baseball cleats.

My silver lining is that I am learning and I've always reveled in new knowledge. I know why Bruce Wayne became Batman and that Iron-Man is Tony Stark.  I know how to wrestle safely on the couch. I can play a good game of Chase that leaves everyone in hysterics. I can catch a ball like a JV softball player. I can take random plot elements and weave a short story together on the spot. (Turns out Spider-Man was sad because he heard Santa had been kidnapped by Juggernaut and so he enlisted his superhero friends to save Christmas.)

So while I will have to borrow my brothers' future girls when I feel like some shoe shopping, I will spend the rest of my life learning about the male topics I worked so hard to avoid and end up a bit more well-rounded than I aimed. 

Meanwhile, I will keep Wikipedia ready to go. Today from the shopping cart he asked, "Mommy, who is Captain America when he's not in his costume?"

"Steve Rogers," I answered once the Captain America page loaded and we both smiled, happy to finally know.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Second Changes Everything.

There are thousands of posts written about the difference between life with one child and life with two children. Most of these demonstrate, in a self-deprecating manner, all the ways the unlucky second child does not get quite the same care the first received.  I can tick off 80% of the differences on each BuzzFeed or BabyCenter list and laugh through tears at their honesty.

My first was fed homemade organic fruit, vegetable, and chicken purees; my second is sometimes placed on the floor at snack time to forage for food.

Our house was thoroughly baby-proofed for the first; we rely on my three-year-old to alert us if my second one is heading for the stairs.

Naptime was a sacred ritual requiring a quiet, darkened room for my first; my second can sleep in the back of a Costco cart if necessary.

I brought my first to the doctor if he had a fever for more than 12 hours; I didn't bring my second until he'd been coughing for two months.

These scenarios make me squirt my wine out my nose when I consider how Three Years Ago Me would react if she saw the future. Surprisingly, I ran into her a few weeks ago at lunch.

We bravely took our children out to dine and hid in a corner where food-throwing and screams of, "No!!" and "I don't wanna eat that!" would go unnoticed. Next to us was a couple with a baby. I had a chance to watch them for a few minutes while we waited for our food and my husband took our three-year-old to a grassy knoll, concrete pad, or empty parking lot to burn off some energy. They could have flown to the moon for all I knew.

Anyway, I knew from my non-creepy, innocuous observation that parenting was new to the couple. Their baby's carseat had a rain cover to protect her from the day's light sprinkle. My baby had a thin blanket thrown over him to absorb/protect.

They both looked a bit shocked to find themselves at their table with a baby. The sheen of their pre-baby life baby hadn't yet turned to a matte gray. I was toting the parental badge that arrives from Amazon when your child turns two as well as a general air of defeat and exhaustion. My old life wouldn't remember me if it saw me.

I heard the parents talking about work; it seemed that they were both lawyers but she wasn't working anymore. "Uggggggg," I thought to myself, remembering that awful time when I was flailing, trying to get a handle on how being a Mom fit in with my life, "I do not envy her."

After our meal, we started a conversation with them because our babies were smiling at each other. We had only been chatting for a few minutes when the mom asked, "Because he's your second, are you much more relaxed about germs?"

I looked at the baby. He was gnawing the table. The germ-laden table (I never wiped down) in Dallas (a city which recently made national news for Ebola). Then I laughed. "Yes," I answered, "I am."

I have never loved my sweet second baby more. Because of him, I am Elsa on the damn mountaintop letting it all go! I know why she whips here hair out and dons a thin, sultry outfit in an ice storm. She just doesn't care anymore. Wow! This is liberating!

My first could moo and quack by his age. My second can't, but I'm confident he'll figure it out before the SAT.

My first drank brand-name formula. My second seems to love Target's brand and will outweigh his brother soon despite the two-year gap.

My first was sleep-trained and on a strict schedule at 12 weeks. My second rarely sleeps through the night but he is the happiest baby on the block.

My first tried new foods when BabyCenter suggested them. My second gets anything I can find in the fridge and has never refused anything.

Sweet little bug, thank you for making me relax a bit. I know the time and attention equation is off between you and your big brother, but in return you get a Mommy who feels more and more like herself every day.  I would never have believed another baby would bring me back there.

So there you have it, folks. The biggest difference between your first and second child is that your second makes you feel like you again.
There he is! And I have no idea what he's into. Tacks? Knives? I'm sure it will be fine.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Mom Versus The Toddler.

I've been quiet. Eerily quite for the five people who read what I write. Did anyone think I'd given up? Gone into a coma? Gone back to work full-time?

While I wish it were due to any of the peaceful sounding explanations above, it's because my life is currently a competition against a precocious three-year-old. For 12+ hours a day we face off in the Mental Olympics and when those hours are through, I have nothing more than a grunt and a shameful shuffle-to-bed left to give. Any former wit or spark of creativity is suffocated by the enervating task of making it through the day with a child who wants to do nothing I suggest.

Workday, work-at-home day, or weekend, it starts like this:

Me: "That [effing] owl isn't green yet, sweetie pea."
T: "I KNOW [it isn't green and I don't give a shit, Mom] and I still want to get up. Can I just play on the floor?"
Me: Dreaming, not daydreaming, but truly dreaming because I am asleep standing up in his room, "Sure."

T [30 minutes later]: "It's green! Get up! Can we play?"
Me: From the fetal position and barely audible under the pile of stuffed animals, "You get up, I'll rest."
T: "No Mommy, the owl is green and when the owl is green you have to get up. Can we wrestle now?"

Me: "You have to wear clothes downstairs. You'll get cold without them."
T: "Nooooooooooooooo!!"
Me: Conceding battle 1, "Fine, but I'm bringing some downstairs."

7:20am, downstairs
T: "I'm cold."

On the glorious days that I work, I exit stage left around 8. On the other days, we proceed as follows:

Me: "Time to get dressed!"
T: "Noooooooooooo!"
Me: "But you can't go out naked in your PJs."
T: "When are we going out? Now? Is it now? [It can't be now, the baby's still asleep, MOM. How stupid do you think I am?]"
Me: Deafening silence. He's called my bluff.
T: "Now? Is it now?"
Me: Thinking about the alligator wrestling ahead. Down go the Superman shirt and Batman undies. "Nope."
He marches off, triumphant in his nakedness.

The next few hours drudge by punctuated with 387 nos, 7 attempts at getting dressed (3 are my attempts), 11 time-out threats, 2 time-outs, and before either of us is ready Battle Royale is upon us: Lunch.

Like any competitor trying to convince the crowd she has a chance, my voice is sugared with faux cheer, "Time for lunch! How about a turkey sandwich?"

I brace for the loud "Noooooooo," strongly wailing from his tiny mouth and wait for the calamitous cries for a snack, some goldfish or fruit snacks would be preferable, if we have any. Once complete I curtly respond, "Fine. But I'm having lunch."

Within ten minutes he has eaten all "my" lunch and I've eaten another string cheese. Onto naptime.

It used to be that when the remains of feeding time had been erased from him and still lay slaughtered on the table and floor, I'd move in for the nap. Alas, here too, I've been defeated. Many three-year-olds don't nap and many happily substitute in quiet time. Not time. He senses my euphoric freedom while he's shuttered away in his room and instead chooses to scream, "I AWAAAAAAAAKE!"

Worried I cannot hear his 100 decibel roars through the thin door, he then lowers his body to the ground and yells under the gap between floor and door so it is as if he is next to me. Persistency always pays off. I can take this for less than seven minutes before releasing the beast.

"Oh?" he'll say, a slight question in his voice that is usually reserved for surprises like running into an old friend at an airport, "Hi Mommy. Can I watch Frozen?"

Me: "Yes."
T: "Can I have a snack?"
Me: "Yep."

And for the rest of the day, Elsa and Anna mind my child.

These kids (plural because I have two and I manage to care for a baby while being bludgeoned on the battlefield by a three-year-old) are lucky they're cute.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Travel God Beat Down.

I don't believe there is a correlation between the day of the week and the shape that day will take unless you fly from New York to Texas with two small children on a Monday. If this occurs, as it did to us this week, then place your head on your cozy pillow Sunday night with the certain knowledge that Monday will not be a good day.

I no longer consider myself an expert on flying with children.

Do you hear me Travel Gods? I admit hubris and defeat and rightly recognize that all good travel days are a gift bestowed from your Blade of Aeronautics, mightily forged from WWII fighter jets.

I know you read my little book 'o travel tips and I know you weren't much past Chapter 2 when the plan was hatched. The first suggestion, I'm fairly confident, was thrown out by your leader, "Let's strand them at O'hare! Muhahahahaha!" which was met with vengeful mirth. In a few hours time, however, the smarter in the group learned I have survived an airport stranding. As not to offend your leader a wily one said, "That would be fun, but it's so obvious. Let's plan a small attacks that last for 12+ hours!"

After a side-by-side analysis you aligned that small blitzkriegs would cause maximum harm. Your creative mastermind, most likely a woman, must be commended. We never expected seemingly small events to take us out at the knees!

A plane without a changing table? Genius!

A seat that ate our three pacifiers? Innovative!

My three-year-old's screaming hysterics about leaving Grandma in NY that exploded at random points in flight like tiny little firecrackers? Brilliant!

Not enough diapers in my bag? Earthshattering!

A baby who refused to nap and had to be wrestled for over four hours? Character building!

Seating us in the very last row? Excruciating!

Not seating us together on the longest leg? Malicious!

Seating the baby and me next to a 19 year-old boy? Awkwardly amazing!

An iPad that hadn't downloaded Frozen? Wicked!

A husband who was somehow able to snooze through many of your shenanigans? Just plain mean!

So guys, I will not ever head to the airport, kiddos in tow, believing it will all work out. Thanks for getting us home. Perhaps next time you will choose the "Stranded at O'Hare" option.

Oh yes, there will be a next time. You've demoralized, not completely defeated me.