15 Confessions from a Stay-At-Home-Mom

Cherries

This morning, there are too many tragic headlines to count in our country– but the most imminent problem here in Chicago is all the rain and mass flooding. Highways are shut down, roads are flooded, flights are cancelled, a sinkhole just swallowed up three cars, trains are delayed. A lot of people are having a dilly of a time getting to work….but not me.

My commute from the bedroom to the living room went just fine. My breakfast meeting agenda of waffles and apple juice went over well with its attendee, and the rain was a non-issue. My bathrobe didn’t even get wet.

There is so much debate over who works harder: the SAHM or the Works-Outside-the- Home Mom. I won’t say for one second that I don’t work my butt off day in and day out. But would I prefer to be dragging my butt into an office everyday? HELL NO. And that’s the truth.

I am not saying my life is easy. Not at all. But not having to deal with a commute every morning is just one of the perks I retain in my life these days. And while some moms might not agree– or think I’m trivializing what those of us who stay home do all day– I’d like to run down a few of the other benefits I enjoy. And yes, I mean ENJOY– and don’t take for granted.

  • I finally had time to re-train my hair. As in, I don’t have to wash it every day anymore.
  • Got one “good” outfit? Me, too. And I can wear it four days in a row.
  • Omelettes for breakfast. Or homemade waffles. Or whatever. There’s time.
  • If my daughter is up all night, I don’t have to stress about being exhausted the next day. I mean, I AM exhausted, but it doesn’t affect meetings or deadlines.
  • Better control over my health: No stress-bagel binges, monthly birthday cakes, and the gym is now a place I WANT to go because it’s a reason to get out of the house.
  • I can stay up late watching TV.
  • I appreciate time with my husband more. I look forward to him coming home form work every day like a puppy.
  • We eat together as a couple now. When I worked full-time, I was rarely home for dinner. That’s important.
  • I can schedule doctor and/or hair appointments whenever. Tuesday at 1? Sure. Thursday at 10:30? I’ll be there. Total flexibility makes life so much easier.
  • Shopping during a weekday is peaceful. No crowded stores. No long lines. Having Trader Joe’s all to yourself is practically a luxury spa treatment. Was I supposed to rub my face with that lamb vindaloo sample? Cause I did.
  • I’ve diversified my friend group. A new schedule means meeting and spending time with people like me, and it’s opened me up to some great new or strengthened relationships.
  • Because I have such a supportive family, I’ve been able to explore new career paths and goals that were always just a dream for me. And…
  • I’m closer with my family, who I never had enough time for before.
  • I know my daughter better than anybody else. I’ve been with her almost every single day of her life, and no one can ever take that away from me. However, I was not there to see her take her first steps… because she hasn’t yet. PLEASE JUST WALK, KID!

I’m lucky, and now more than ever– I’ve been counting my many blessings every day.

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What to Expect When You Expect Your Baby’s Toenails to Grow, But They Don’t

*Toe-tally not Po's piggies

*Toe-tally not Po’s piggies

Posey is 17 months and 9 days old. Today, on this magical day, she hit quite the milestone– and Beef and I are mighty proud.

Did she walk? No.

Did she say “Mama?” No.

Did she scoop the poop out of the cat box? I wish.

On this magical day, my daughter grew her toenails long enough for me to be able to cut them for the very first time!!! But don’t get too excited– only 6 of them were ready for trimming. Is this normal? According to Whattoexpect.com, I need to “keep in mind that toenails grow more slowly and therefore require less maintenance.” Did they mean over 500 days?

For more of their advice on how to cut your baby’s nails, click on over to here. And no, I did not save the clippings.

A Mom’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

cupid

5:52 a.m. Awaken to breakfast in bed. How is there literally more Cheerios than there are grains of sand at the beach under your covers?

5:57 a.m. Change Cupid’s diaper. How did Cheerios get in there, too?

6:22 a.m. Give your honey a valentine. Draw a heart around the Post-It note you left next to his keys that says, “Remember to call your mother back re: goiter surgery. Buy cat litter.”

9:16 a.m. Indulge in a sweet treat. Play the Is It Chocolate… Or Poop? Game, Valentine’s Edition! (Hint: Poop isn’t heart-shaped. Usually.)

10:46 a.m. Remember to Flirt! When you pass those three post-college dudes buying bulk toilet paper and their first Swiffer at Target, suck in your stomach until you feel your bellybutton wrap around your spine.

High Noon: Crack open a bottle of the good stuff. This isn’t a clever play on words for something parenting-related.

5:01 p.m. Go dancing! The tango? Naaaahhhh. Your Hot Dog Dance would make Julianne Hough beg for Toodles.

6:44 p.m. Savor a romantic dinner. Those Fish McBites aren’t going to try themselves.

6:48 p.m. Bust out your special lingerie… not the ratty nursing bra you still wear daily, even though you stopped breastfeeding two years ago. Wear the new nursing bra with the tags still on it.

8:06 p.m. Retire to the boudoir for another threesome… your third one this week. Hopefully, the tiny person in the middle doesn’t steal all the covers this time. Hey, is that a Cheerio?

The Groupon I’ve Waited Her Entire Life For

There is a hole in my soul in the shape of a professional family portrait.

When Posey hit the three-month mark, the six-month mark, her first birthday… I let each milestone pass without commemorating it with a classic “playing around in leaves” or “swinging child by the hands” or “fun day in the park” or “matching turtlenecks” photo shoot. But I wanted to. If we are friends on Facebook– and you have a child– there is a 100% chance that I have stared longingly at your family album, googled the photographer and spent hours browsing their portfolio. But I haven’t pulled the trigger. I haven’t found that special someone who I feel confident will get that magic shot where one or all of is not making this face:

And then, I stumbled across this deal on Groupon today. Whaaaaaaat? An in-studio session with a world-renowned portrait artist who’s shot Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, and this Mellencamp album cover, for crying out loud?

YES, PLEASE. THIS IS THE MAN FOR THE JOB. Pretty sure he’ll be able to get one where Beef’s eyes aren’t closed. This is like buying a Groupon for Richard Lewis to craft you your own tailor-made joke about your own personal insecurities. Which, Groupon, would be a pretty kick-ass offer.

So what should we wear for the big shoot? Bolo ties, or no bolo ties?

How to Fly With a Toddler In Your Lap

January 20th, 2013. 11:05 a.m.  San Diego International Airport.

“Well, that was easy,” Beef said, “because we prepared.”

Hmm… shall we back up a wee bit?

Posey’s first flight was over the summer, when we schlepped her all the way to London. At the time, it seemed like the Hardest Thing Any Parent Has Ever Done Ever. Looking back at the circumstances, she was a non-crawling sack of potatoes who slept almost the entire time in a SPECIAL BED ATTACHED TO THE WALL, kind of like those sleep chambers in Aliens:

Piece of crumpet.

Flash forward the moment we decide to take her to California. And not just anywhere! Let’s make it a Grand Tour, shall we? San Diego! Orange County! Santa Monica! Pasadena! Brigadoon!  After all, we did okay on the last trip, right?  The one when we stayed in a gorgeous home with great friends who also had a baby and an extra set of all the stuff that comes with a baby?  That went smashingly!

This trip, we have to pack a car seat.  And a pack and play.  And a stroller.  And her mobile, because there is only one song on the planet earth she will fall asleep to.  And this trip, the Squiggliest Baby On Earth has to sit in “our” laps for four hours and nineteen minutes.

So here’s how “we” did it:

Step 1: Ask your parents to get up at 5 a.m. and come with TWO CARS to fit your luggage and yourselves comfortably.

Step 2: Oversleep and try to get past the fact that you are flying to the land of movie stars with hair that hasn’t been washed in two days.  Two days in a row that you worked out and then didn’t shower, because that’s why the alarm is set for 5:00 a.m. on the phone with no juice left.

Things To Check as Baggage:

  • Car Seat: My pediatrician recommended bringing our own car seat. After all, you don’t know where those rental car ones have been, although my first guess is probably in the back seat of a rental car.  Luckily, they make a special bag for the occasion, which I was able to borrow from a friend during a Big Trip to the Suburbs.  It was a lifesaver.  Car seats can be checked for free on United, so stuff that sucker full. Diapers, wipes, and the things that always takes up too much room in the suitcase so thusly I never bring them on vacation: running shoes.  Maybe I hate this car seat bag.
  • Pack and Play: Perhaps you remember my fondness for Ziploc baggies? They make one big enough to protect an entire foldable crib!!!!!!!

Things To Carry On:

  • Stroller: Get a gate check ticket and ride that thing to the plane door.
  • The Mom Tote: Wait, yours isn’t an oversized pink L.L. Bean customized “Oprah’s Book Club” tote bag circa the East of Eden re-launch, 2003? That’s weird. Mine sat in my closet for a decade– and finally, it was Big Pink Tote’s time to shine.  I spent a week stocking it with the following essentials:
  • Laptop
  • DVDs for laptop (Mickey Mouse, Sesame Street*)
  • Tiny child headphones I went to a special store for
  • Pre-chewed Board book, Posey’s fave
  • Talking Minnie Mouse, Posey’s other fave
  • Little plastic blocks to clackity-clack together, Posey’s other-other fave
  • 3 boxes of Horizon shelf-stable milk**
  • An entire tube of puffs
  • 3 baby food pouches
  • Enough wipes for the entire plane
  • A day’s worth of diapers
  • Baby B’Air toddler vest (Really? Really.)
  • 2 Cliff Bars, Gum & Goldfish***
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bottled water

*I bought this to prepare her for the Sesame-land at Sea World, but instead I got a whole lotta Erykah Badu. I’m pretty sure there’s no Badu World. 

** These don’t count as liquid, so you can bring them through security as long as you consent to a pat down. Got that? Juice box = pat down. 

***So when Beef asks, “What do we have to eat?” there is food. And when he asks, “Do we have gum?” the answer is “yes.”

Dramatic re-enactment. But I was wearing those same jeans.

Dramatic re-enactment. But I was wearing those same jeans.

Our seats are in the very last row.  The kind that don’t recline back. Middle and window. Sweatpants on the aisle looks hungover and ready to nap. Posey starts to freak. I distract her with the board book and Hemisphere Magazine and the barf bag for just long enough until the momentum of take-off catches her fancy, at which point a bottle gets shoved into her maw to protect her ears from popping.  Once we’re up and see two girls go to the bathroom, we ask Sweatpants if we can get out to go change her already twelve-ton diaper. Two Mr. Meanie flight attendants to tell us to sit back down. Sweatpants lets us back in. The fleeciness of his pants makes him agile like a serpent. The seatbelt light dings off.  This time, Mr. Meanie says, “You know there’s no changing table on board this aircraft.” No prob. We change her in our seats and leave a little parting gift on board when we leave.  (For the return trip, I doubled up on diapers.  It worked; she survived.)

Back in our row, the Giant Business Man in front of me reclines his seat into Posey’s face. I don’t stop her from kicking the seat back for hours, because if it bothered him, he is welcome to move into the empty seat next to him that he’s using to keep his coat and newspaper. Strapped into her red vest that somehow makes me feel safer and better about life in general, Posey watches two and a half hours of Mickey Mouse until she falls asleep on my chest for the first time in about a year.  At first, it feels nice.  And then, she feels like a hot lava rock in my lap and I pray that the wet I feel is my sweat and not her pee. Beef enjoys watching Bradley Cooper pay the steepest of steep prices to pay in The Words.

Bad Writer!

Bad Writer!

When it’s time to land, my little traveler gets mad that there’s no Mickey to watch, so talking Minnie will have to do. And she does.

I wrestle with her down the aisle as we wait to de-plane from forty rows back, and I’m relieved to reunite with our stroller, which I’m pleased to say looks like it had a truly excellent time visiting the coal mine.

January 20th, 2013. 11:05 a.m.  San Diego International Airport.

“Well, that was easy,” Beef said, “because we prepared.”

Important to note

family

I’m 34.  I’m married, have a baby, have a husband, have a household to maintain, have dreams and aspirations for myself and my family.

I’m self-sufficient.

I don’t suffer fools gladly.

I am great at wrapping gifts.

But at the end of the day, the thing that makes me the proudest…

Is that my mom and dad believe in me, and always will.

A Charles Dickens Dinner

When Beef and I decided to host our very first grown-up Christmas dinner for our parents and siblings, we fretted over finding one crucial ingredient: a theme.  First of all, I’m so glad I married someone who agreed a theme was necessary, because it just was.  And it was pretty easy to decide on, using this simple equation:

Nerds + Small Kitchen x Christmas  = A CHARLES DICKENS DINNER!

XmasMenu

If you’re looking for a clever menu for New Year’s Eve or any chilly winter night, here’s what we did: First, I had an idea to make plum pudding.  Then I read what was in it, and it sounded gross, so instead, we found recipes that felt 1800s English-y, and then I Googled quotes about them.  I did not, as my father-in-law wondered, read the entire works of Dickens.  Here’s the rundown and the recipes:

Beverages: While a traditional mulled wine would have been appropriate, I didn’t want to sacrifice a stove burner, so we served a champagne punch: 1 cup Triple Sec, 2 bottles cheap champagne, 3 cans of ginger ale, 2 cups pineapple juice.  The coup de grace was the round tupperware I filled with pineapple juice and fresh cranberries and froze the night before– fancy!

Appetizers: Two approaches here.  My MIL suggested making Artichoke-Stuffed Mushrooms, which sounded great, so I found a mushroom quote.  I gave my dad the classic quote from A Christmas Carol for inspiration:  “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”  And thus, he created Jacob Marley’s Beef Blotz, a crostini topped with a layed of mashed potato and topped with a bite of mustard-crusted filet mignon.  Inspired!

First Course: Ever heard the expression “a pea souper?” It means a day is so foggy that the air’s as thick as pea soup, which Dickens referred to as a “London particular.”  Make this Split Pea with Rosemary Soup, and be prepared to make it for the rest of your life– it’s that good.  We did ours the day before and re-heated before serving. It’s better the second day, anyways.

Main Course:  Molasses Pork Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce.  Marinating the meat the night before meant avoiding dry pork, and tenderloins meant a short cooking time– just about a half hour.  A roast goose would have taken all day!  Serve with Wild Rice and Roasted Root Vegetables (my dad’s favorite): peel and chop up carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and onions into one-inch chunks.  Shake them up in a Ziploc bag with a hefty pour of olive oil, salt, pepper and a generous sprinkle of herbs de provence.  Roast on foil-lined baking sheets at 400 degrees for about an hour, rotating trays halfway through.  We did these in the afternoon, and just reheated at dinner time, although it’s okay to serve these at room temp.

Dessert: Or “pudding,” as the English say.  Martha Stewart’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake with Toffee Sauce was pretty fool-proof, although it only needs to bake about 35 or 40 minutes, not the 55 to 65 the recipe says.  Making a cake was easier than doing individual servings, which is more traditional.  And since this cake needs time to let the sauce soak in, I made it first thing in the morning.  Note: don’t try to serve with leftover Thanksgiving Cool Whip, because it might be moldy.  

Pretty easy, right?  Enough effort that it feels special–  but totally manageable.  We’re already brainstorming next year’s literary theme, and I think I’ve got it: Sweet Valley High!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Toothbrush

I have to be sad on here one more time.  I am still grieving for those parents.  I keep thinking about how heartbreaking mundane tasks around the house must be now as they find reminders in the usual places.   Like, what happens when they find their child’s dirty laundry in the hamper?  A pair of shoes by the door, a favorite box of cereal in the cupboard?  What about their little toothbrushes on the sink?

I wrote a reaction piece for the HuffPo, and you can read it here.  This Christmas, I’m counting my blessings and filing away each new memory with supreme gratitude.

Some Things I Love About Her

  • That she laughs like Beavis and Butthead: “Heh, heh, heh.”
  • How her nose and eyes wrinkle up into a nerd-face when she’s pleased
  • The way she snores like a drunken sailor, so loud we can hear it through the closed door
  • When she slaps her hand on the highchair when she wants more
  • That her babbling is more like a caveman grunting
  • When she rubs her eyes when she’s tired and sticks her tongue out when she’s trying, just like a cartoon
  • The way she dips her face into every bath and gets a Richard Branson bubble-goatee
  • How she opens her mouth up really wide,  like a baby bird, when I’m feeding her food on a spoon
  • That she claps when she hears applause on TV
  • The fact that her mouth has run along the entire parameter of this home like it was one giant envelope
  • When I head the clatter of a pacifier hitting the ground followed by “Uh. Ooooooh” coming from her room
  • How she extends her leg extra-long like a ballerina, her toes hitting my nose, so I’ll say “peee-you” one more time
  • That’s she’s happiest when she’s holding a fist full of cat hair
  • That her favorite song is “The Transylvania Twist” from Spookley the Square Pumpkin
  • The look on her face when she crawls over to me and tugs on my pant leg so I’ll scoop her up.

CTA’s Be Stroller Savvy! Campaign: Really?

Hey, CTA campaign planners?  Take a long stroll off a short El platform.

The CTA started passing out fliers today to stroller-pushing commuters on the city’s busses and trains, reminding them to “be considerate” when joyriding around the city during rush hour/nap time/the sixth circle of hell.  Here is their official policy:

Children in open strollers are welcome on CTA, however we encourage parents to be considerate of other customers and adhere to these rules when traveling with a stroller.

  • Keep strollers clear of aisles and doorways aboard buses and trains.
  • Seniors and customers with disabilities have priority use of the Priority Seating area aboard buses and trains. If these seats are not in use, open strollers may be parked in this area. This will help you to avoid blocking the aisle. Please yield this space if a customer with disabilities, a senior, or a person using a mobility device wishes to board. On buses, you may request use of the access ramp or lift to help you board and exit.
  • Please fold your stroller in the event that a bus or train becomes crowded, in order to make room for others. Be aware that in the event that a bus or train is crowded, a CTA employee may ask you to fold your stroller or wait for another vehicle. Please follow their instructions. Also, during certain periods of high ridership, we may require that all strollers be folded before you board.

I heard on the news this “refresher” came about because of commuter complaints.  Listen, I’ve taken Posey on the train in her stroller.  Several times.  And I’d like to start handing out my own flier that outlines the following:

Don’t Be An Inconsiderate Jerk! (aka, You Were Once a Baby, Too!)

  • PLEASE refrain from peeing in the elevators; I spend enough time changing dirty diapers without having to ride inside a giant moving one to get down to the platform.
  • Do not push in front of me to get on first.  You’re only making sure I will be blocking you when you have to get off before me.
  • If I am unfortunately blocking the door and am in clear violation of the policy, MOVE OVER so I can get out of the way instead of bearing down on your spot to prove a point to me.  I know you can feel my angry glare.
  • When you pretend to not see me almost fall over for the ninth time because the stroller handle is not the same as the safety bar handle thingies, slide your hand over one scootch.
  • When you see me crying because after two transfers and 75 minutes of ride time, the elevator at my destination is broken, please offer a hand instead of smirking at me like it serves me right for having a baby.

I’m offended by their flyer.  It’s not easy navigating the city with a baby.  I haven’t opened a door with any body part besides my butt in over a year.  Although they are saying they “welcome” us to ride, it’s pretty clear they mean the opposite.  If I was “asked” to fold up my stroller with one hand while holding a non-walking baby, there is a 100% probability it would end in disaster.  The people who complained are probably the same people who never offer visibly pregnant women or elderly grandmas their seats, either.  Sheesh.