Trick or Treat?

I’m currently in the midst of the great Halloween costume search for 2008. I hemmed and hawed and stalled and agonized last year. Just before October of last year, peanut became obsessed with frogs. Through the magic of the Internet, I found a cute little froggie costume that wasn’t at Target, Old Navy or on every other kid at the play ground on Halloween. And he was adorable.

This year…stuck again. He’s two and although he obviously has a preference about things, he’s not always clear about what he wants before he’s having a meltdown because I’ve picked the wrong thing. Halloween costumes are like a window into your personality. Perhaps it’s a job you wanted to be when you grew up, a favorite animal or super hero, a part of your personality you want to let loose for one day a year.

As a parent, I’m having a hard time making this decision for peanut. It’s so easy as a parent to project my wants, desires and dreams on to peanut. Every day I see such amazing aspects of his personality and promises of the future boy and man he will become emerging. It’s hard not to jump ahead, but I want to enjoy the ride of discovering my son. And the fact is, I’d be curious to see what he would pick if he understood enough to make choice.

But, he doesn’t. At least not really. So, the hubby and I will be forced to pick. The problem is that there are very few options, apparently, for two-year old boys. The pickin’s, they are a slim. I’ve checked all the old standbys and online. I’ve settled on two (settled for today, anyway). Right now, it looks like either a non-full-face masked Spider Man or a cute cuddly lion cub.

Decisions, decisions.

I know one day he’ll be 16 and wanting to go out looking completely not like the boy I want him to look like in some way or another and I’ll look back on this apparent “difficult” decision and wonder why I didn’t just choose the one I wanted the most. After all, it may be the last time I get to make the Halloween costume decision. Potential meltdown be damned.

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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

We all know that finding moments truly for yourself is probably the hardest job we have as mothers. I steal mine when I can. Driving home from babysitting for a friend with the windows down and Marc Cohn on the radio, enjoying the view of my city’s skyline lit up in the clear, fall air. Sneaking in a few chapters of a book during peanut’s nap time. Enjoying a longer (than seven minutes) shower with the door shut on the weekends when the hubby’s around to guarantee peanut distraction. A glass of wine and my feed reader while hubby gives peanut a bath.

Tomorrow, I take a few hours. Tomorrow, I take a few inches. Yup. After letting my hair grow through the summer, I’ve committed (in my head) to chopping it off. I’ve never been afraid to cut my hair. It always grows back. My problem, is my hair is super thick (I know, boo hoo…but really, have you seen it? On normal salon visits, I have two people blow drying it at the same time. Seriously.) and wavy, which means some cuts are impossible to keep up, particularly with a toddler running around and I’m lucky to rinse the conditioner out not to mention blow dry and style it.

But, I’m going to commit to taking some time for myself. I’m going to cut it. I’ve got some ideas and with some help from my trusty stylist, I just know I’m going to leave the salon tomorrow afternoon with a fresh, sexy, confident new look. (Although can someone explain to me why once I’ve mentally committed to this I all of a sudden start loving my long locks again and they miraculously behave for the first time in weeks?)

And even if I don’t, I will, at the very least, get to spend a few hours with someone fussing over me while I read the salon’s stash of trashy magazines.

Go-Go Gadget Mama Phone

The hubby is a gadget guy. He’s always been that way, wanting the latest and the greatest. I’ve been the buzz kill in the relationship, always forcing him to justify a big purchase or the usefulness of any given gadget. Since the peanut came along, I’ve been even more of a stickler and he’s been introduced to and tempted by a whole new genre of gadgetry – the baby gadgets!

But, he had received a well-deserved bonus and had patiently awaited the second iteration of the iPhone. So in July, as part of his bonus/Father’s Day/Anniversary present, he took home his brand spankin’ new iPhone. And really, the thing can do no wrong, in his eyes, and I have to admit to its occasional usefulness as more than a phone (like this weekend when we were standing in a long, slow-moving line 10 minutes before our movie was scheduled to start and we were able to buy the tickets on the iPhone and simply swipe our card for our tickets at the automated booth. We made it inside in time for the previews.).

My real question about the iPhone? The applications.

  • Mandarin Chinese Translators? Really?
  • Graphing Calculators? Can’t tell you how often I’ve needed this in my daily life and thought, if only my phone could compute functions.
  • A Copy of the Constitution? Cause you never know when you might need to reference the 16th Amendment while standing in line at the Post Office.

The applications I could use from an iPhone?

  • Toddler Translator – Instantly takes that phrase your child is saying over and over again and translates it for you before he completely melts down because your first 50 guesses were wrong.
  • Dinner Diva – Take pics of your fridge and cabinet contents with your iPhone. Place the iPhone on your counter and watch as it makes a three-course meal that the whole family is guaranteed to love.
  • Spot Remover – A point and click application, the iPhone instantly zaps that pizza stain off of your peanut’s adorable little polo shirt when you forgot to pack a bib.
  • The Pee/Poo Indicator – Instantly alerts you when your child has to go potty so toilet training is a breeze!
  • Selective Hearing Radio – Somehow plays that annoying little puppy song your peanut wants to hear over and over and over while all mommy hears is some soothing James Taylor (personal preference). Everybody wins!

So, Steve Jobs and team, please help a mother out. I’d be first in line for those gadgets.

A Tale of Two Date Nights

As those of you who don’t live in the same town as your peanut’s grandparents/aunts/uncles/godparents/whatever can relate to, it’s tough to find a good babysitter. Even tougher to pay the ransom going rate for a sitter these days. As a result, we just don’t go out a lot. Date nights are, unfortunately, few and far between either out of sheer lack-of-going-out inertia or my inability to justify spending that much on top of dinner and a movie for a casual night out.

During our anniversary trip, the hubby and I agreed that we definitely need to prioritize the infamous date night. And although it’s still fun to snuggle on the couch watching Netflix, it is a totally different story when you’re out of the house without a diaper bag, coloring books and can order a serious cocktail, or several.

By sheer luck, we ended up doing a trade off with a girlfriend this weekend. She and her hubby wanted to see a friend’s band. My hubby and I had been chatting about seeing the new Coen brothers movie. Friday night, I sat for them while they went out. Saturday, she sat for us while we went out.

And both nights were fantastic. Her little guy was a breeze and I spent an evening in a house where I had no laundry/dishes/unfinished tasks looming in my sight line and *gasp* read a book. Saturday, the hubby and I went to a local burger joint where kids under 18 aren’t allowed inside and had a burger, a pitcher of beer and carefree conversation. And the movie was hilarious (even if the lovely Georgetown streets I love and a key location in the film weren’t authentic).

Although I’m exhausted from two nights out, it was totally worth it. Quality time with myself one night, quality time with the hubby the next. And, to add a cherry to the top of my fun weekend sundae, the hubby took the peanut to do the grocery shopping this morning! How did a girl get to be so lucky?

Feeling Warm and Fuzzy

First, I (again) publicly admit I was wrong to be so anti-Facebook. Since joining, I have reconnected with some great college friends (realizing through posted pictures that fashion has REALLY changed in the last 10 years), came across a former client who also has a little one and we’re working on coordinating our apparently very busy toddlers’ schedules for a play date, and had a triple brunch date with two of the hubby’s high school pals he found again on FB who are now married and living in the area. So yes, I can see how a social networking site can actually enhance a real, flesh and bones friendship.

Then, today, the hubby sent me a link that made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Apparently one of his high school pals recently started a blog. And she very graciously opens her blog calling my little corner of the Internet her inspiration. WHAT?! And she learned about it through the hubby’s shameless promotion of his wife’s web address when they “friended.” I’m feeling very humbled today. And very excited about the potential of her blog – check it out, I think its focus and her perspective is something all mothers, women, people can learn something from.

So excuse me while I bask in the glow of my “influence”…at least until peanut wakes up from his nap and refuses to listen to me when I ask him to stop coloring the sofa and I am once again reminded of the limitations of said influence.

Mental Block

I often struggle with the “homemaker” aspects of the stay-at-home-mom gig, but consider it par for the course and am trying to make the best of the daily dish doing and learning to accept the fact that I’m just plain better at doing the laundry than the hubby is (only by virtue of the fact that I complete the laundry as opposed to starting it and remembering several days later there are clothes in the washer). It’s not the best part of being home with my peanut by a long shot, but getting those “chores” done makes our lives easier, so I suck it up and get it over with.

But why oh why with years of schooling, relatively impressive bullets on my resume and an ability to cook a typically edible (and most days pretty darn good) meal can I not for the life of me fold a fitted sheet? Is there something wrong with me?

Remembering

This year, 9/11 snuck up on me. I knew it was numerically approaching on the calendar, but the importance of the day was buried in my consciousness. I thought maybe that meant it would be an easier day to deal with. After all, I know my experience was nothing compared to those who lost loved ones, who walk past Ground Zero every day, whose lives changed in more physical ways with an empty seat at the dinner table. But there it was, ABC breaking into their own programming with a Special Report at the time the first plane hit and before I knew the reason for the interruption, I immediately sat on the coffee table thinking “not again.” Of course the interruption was to focus on the memorials and a moment of silence.

On the way to music class, a far cry from where I was seven years ago – gathering my tapes and notes to meet my crew to tape an interview on the Hill for an upcoming health campaign, I passed several flags at half-staff and the yearly lump came back. I’ve already yelled at the hubby over nothing and know my short fuse has to do with the fact that all my energy is spent trying to hold in the fear, the tears, the sadness.

Below is what I wrote last year. The only difference is today I sang silly songs with my 25 month old, danced like a fool and got a joyful squeeze for it at the end of class. While I remember those we lost on 9/11, I will also remember how lucky I am to realize how lucky I am and give both of my boys an extra hug and kiss tonight.

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It’s hard to know what to write today. I have honestly started this post several times and nothing feels quite right. I could write about what it felt like in Washington, DC that day. How the sky was so blue, how we gathered around the television sets in our offices confused about what was happening in NY, how everything suddenly changed when we realized the Pentagon had been hit, how quiet the bumper-to-bumper traffic was leaving the city – no horns, no cutting people off, just thousands of cars with their windows rolled down all listening to WTOP and watching the huge black plume pour from the Pentagon into the sky over the Potomac – how we cringed at the sound of every military plane overhead when we knew one of the flights was still unaccounted for, how we will always consider the passengers on United Flight 93 heroes because we knew that flight was coming to DC, how quiet the streets and the airports were, how we gathered in churches.

I could write about how our world changed, how fear came home. Or I could write about how, slowly but surely, our lives did get back to normal and it seems surreal that it’s been six years.

But I’d much rather write about how there was joy this 9/11 anniversary morning, how I was tickling my 13 month old peanut on our bed listening to his belly laugh and relishing in his four-tooth grin, how we snuggled under a blanket to read a story before his morning nap, how he giggled when we got to a page with frogs on it.

So today, under a similarly clear, blue sky, I remember those who sacrificed their lives in NY, DC, Pennsylvania and subsequently in Afghanistan and Iraq. You are not forgotten. You are present in the safety we no longer take for granted, you are present in the joy we are privileged enough to experience on these anniversaries, and you are present in our prayers. We remember.

Missing Out on Mommy and Me

The hubby and I decided to skip pre-school for peanut this year for several reasons. With an overactive toddler – seriously, this kid has two speeds: turbo-charged and asleep – it’s been important for me to ensure we have activities lined up to encourage his social skills, direct his energy and get us out of the house.

There’s music class every Thursday morning. There’s our planned workouts with follow-up playground time with his buddies Wednesdays and Fridays. There’s the once monthly art group play date. And starting this week for a month-long run was the Mommy and Me program at the zoo.

I’ve made no secret of my love, love, love of the zoo. My parents had given our family a membership for Christmas and it’s been the gift that keeps on giving. We go often and peanut enjoys seeing and now imitating the animals. It’s outdoors, has a playground, a train, it’s a great walk for mama – the perfect storm of toddler activity. So when a friend passed around the info to the class, I signed up immediately. As the reminders started hitting my inbox, my excitement about this new activity grew.

And then peanut got a cold. He’s been sniffly and has had a slight fever since yesterday. I kept him inside and occupied with low-key activities yesterday in the hopes that it would pass. I figured if he woke up cool this morning, we’d pack it in and go anyway. But nope. Still warm. Still obviously not feeling good. Still at home.

I’m pretty certain I’m more disappointed than he is (partly because he’s got the attention span of a two-year old and I was smart enough to stop mentioning the zoo as soon as I noticed the first sniffle). That’s when I realized that all these mommy and me activities are most certainly more for mommy. Two days of no activity has made me a bit stir-crazy. The more activities peanut and I do, the better mommy I am, the more engaged, the more energized. Even if those activities are planned by me (finger painting day, walks to the store, finding new playgrounds in town), they instantly give me something to work the rest of the day around. Is it weird that even just 30 minutes of planned activities makes the other 690 minutes of the day better?

Good thing we had to make that quick trip to Target for Children’s Tylenol (my baby’s all grown up and out of his infant meds). Coloring books and stickers from the dollar bins will have to do for today…and here’s hoping peanut’s feeling better tomorrow. We have playground time with his buddies at 11.

Dipping a Toe Back In

I know that a lot of the writing here has been a lot more focused on the high chairs than the high heels lately. Now that I’m entering year three of stay-at-home-mom status, as opposed to professional titled with benefits status, the heels are spending a lot more time in the closet. That, in and of itself, has been a hard adjustment for me. I wonder if I’m losing some part of myself. I used to scoff at what this non-employed gap would look like on my resume, and now I can see it – in black and white – and it scares me.

It scares me because I see the gap getting larger. We want more kids. Peanut’s getting more and more independent and as horrible as a transition as it would be for me emotionally, I could see him doing just fine in a pre-school or other child care arrangement if I were working. But new kids means I’d want to be home. That’s time that I feel blessed to have had with peanut and I’m honestly not ready to give that up.

What seemed like such an easy temporary career “lapse” is now a looming large reality of what the heck am I going to do later? I always knew I would go back at some vague point in the future. That point still looks very vague, and I think that’s what’s freaking me out a little bit.

Enter: the lunch. On a day when I was letting that big hairy spider weave me around the world wide web, I had come across an event of a professional organization I used to be a member of. An event that piqued my interest as a PR executive and a blogger. After writing about it and, as a result, getting the generous offer from a neighbor friend to watch peanut so I could go, I signed up.

I ironed an outfit that matched, put on a belt, high heels and earrings, dropped the peanut off and headed to lunch. I ended up at a sort of out of the way table with just a few other seat mates, passed the bread, took a deep breath and waited. While I was sipping my tea, it came around to me: the dreaded “And where do you work?” question. Luckily, my PR background kicked into high gear and I heard myself try to make me sound interesting, realizing as I was talking that I was afraid to admit that I was much more of a stay-at-home-mom than the freelance PR executive (although I did get my dad that hit in the local paper!) I was painting myself to be. Then, I threw in, because it was related to the luncheon topic, that I was a blogger.

Someone asked where I blogged. When I answered, a lovely woman sitting next to me said, “I’ve read it.” WHAT?! Trust me when I tell you that this woman is in no way related to or living in a one mile radius of me. She even described the post she’d stumbled across. I believe I blushed. Hard. And did a little raise the roof happy dance inside my head (okay, I’m still doing the happy dance).

It turned my mood around. I gained confidence. I learned some interesting things about the challenges these individuals were facing in the social media space. I listened to the panel with a much more strategic and critical ear than I may have had I stayed in my meek, I’m not worthy, this is just interesting but not pertinent mindset. I came away with ideas. I came away with a bit more direction than I went in.

It felt good. It turned me on. Not in *THAT* way, but it turned something back on inside. Some part of me that has taken a back seat for a long time. It may still ride in the back seat for awhile, but at least now I know it’s still there and can ask it for directions every now and then.

Totally worth pulling those black Joan & David’s (that make any outfit feel fantastic) out of the closet in the middle of the day.

Mother Nature’s Got a Sick Sense of Humor

To further stick it to me that another mom with a child peanut’s age is ready to have their second, Lun Lun delivered her second baby this weekend.

Lun Lun is Atlanta Zoo’s beloved female panda bear. Her first baby bear was born about a month after peanut. Every time we go to the zoo, we check in on Mei Lan and I tell peanut about how they are the same age and we compare their size, diet, etc. It’s become a fun little game for us.

However, in reading the articles about this newest baby, I was struck by one simple fact:

This 230lb mama bear delivered a 4.5 oz baby. Hello! 4.5 OUNCES? Where is the justice that my relatively small (compared to a large bear) human frame spent 30 hours working an 8lb 13oz child out of my body?

Funny, Mother Nature. Really, funny.