Friday, February 26, 2010

On Target for Spring

So, awhile back, a woman from Target's corporate PR department came across my Target-commercials post, and asked me to write a guest post on the Target Style blog, about baby stuff. They wanted me to buy (with a gift card provided by Target) some hip/stylish gear for the 0-24 months set, use it, and then photograph and write about how it fit into my mommying life. (All within one week's time, but that's another issue.)

Because I am a regular citizen and not a marketing person, web expert, or full-time professional writer who would know about these things, and did not think to consult my brilliant friend Lori (who IS all these things) first, I concluded that this offer was, yes, an awesome writing opportunity BUT one that sadly held no purpose for me, since I DO NOT HAVE ANY BABIES 0-24 MONTHS.

Oh, silly, naive little me. Because of course AFTER I told the woman that though I was flattered and extremely interested in writing for them, I no longer had babies nor need for baby gear, but how about letting me write something toddler-/preschooler-/kid-related instead?, my friend Lori asked me if I was crazy.

No, no, no--I'm kidding. She was a lot more diplomatic and kind and polite than that. But she basically very gently told me that, should this kind of offer present itself to me again, I should BORROW A BABY and get right on board, because this was not merely an offer of free shopping and fun writing, this was a chance for me to ESTABLISH MY BRAND and BUILD MY RESUME for when I write my book and then try to PROMOTE IT. And aha!, doesn't that make perfect sense once you hear it? Wouldn't it, indeed, be great to be able to say, when publicizing a book you just wrote about hip/happy/healthy stay-at-home motherhood, that YOU HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT MAMA STYLE FOR THE TARGET WEBSITE? Why yes, yes it would. Have. It would have.

In the end, Target's PR woman and I have e-mailed a bit and I do believe that she is sincere when she says she is keeping me in mind for a future post (although, who knows? maybe she's written me off as someone who looks a gift horse in the mouth, which I honestly did not intend to be), something that fits my demographic a bit better than the baby-gear one. But my hopes of negotiating for an April mama/kiddo style piece, or spring/summer gear piece, instead of the February baby post, are in vain. Target isn't planning anything like that for the blog in the immediate future.

So, I decided to do one of my own anyway, and put it up on Mama in Wonderland. Target is my main shopping mecca, you all know that--I'm the queen of frugalistas!--and probably, budget-wise, the only place I could justify actually spending a few bucks on some new spring duds for the girls and me this year. I wasn't planning, before now, to buy new clothes this spring (have I told you how the nine-years-old, un-scrubbable, hideously scuffed, cheap-ass cream-colored paint on the walls of our house IS FALLING OFF at a rate one can no longer ignore, and thus a BIG PAINTING EXPENSE is tragically in our near future?), but what tired mama can't use a few new pieces to freshen up her look after an epic winter? And don't these kiddos keep growing and thus needing new clothes? I'll set myself a (very modest; see above mini-breakdown about the horrific paint, the chipping, flaking, ugly, dirty paint) spending amount, hunt down some stylish kid/mom spring trends, and show you all what I came up with in the end.

However. Since I'm currently preoccupied with my Lenten no-sweets attempt and the fact that we still have two feet of snow on the ground here, you'll have to be a bit patient about the Target Spring Style post. I'm not quite ready to shop, spend, or bare my winter legs. (Yikes.) But spring is coming, and while Target is considering whether to give me a second chance, I'm going to make my own opportunity.

Stay tuned! Even budget-conscious moms of five-and-unders can look cute and be stylish. You'll see.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Old Computer is Really, Really Slow.

Hi, everyone. So listen, our "good" laptop is in the shop, so doing anything on the computer is kind of a pain right now, which is why I'm not writing as much this week. Be patient with me and I'm sure I'll have more up here soon. In the meantime, short story:

  • Giving up sugar is the worst idea ever. Unless you enjoy misery, detox, and deprivation.
  • It's hard to work on your book when your ("good") computer is broken.
  • Why is it -5 degrees this close to March? Why?
  • Completing an extra-long run (6 miles) over the weekend just to see if you can is only satisfying if it does not derail you from your normal workout schedule for the entire rest of the week as you hobble around complaining of feeling fatigued and sore and too tired to run.
  • I thought a sugar fast, a new running schedule, and working hard on a book would be sufficient projects to enliven and energize me during this grim stretch of interminable winter. Sadly, I was wrong.
  • I miss sugar.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Firsts

Julia is home sick today from kindergarten--her first missed day of her elementary-school career. I had just been thinking the other day how great it was that she hadn't been sick at all yet this year. She was supposed to read her very first book report out loud in school this morning. Instead, she's watching "Dora the Explorer" on my bed with Genevieve, coughing and sniffling into a million Kleenexes. Since she said she was bored at 7:30 this morning, I have a feeling it's going to be a long day. For all of us.

And speaking of long days, I'm on day five of my Lenten sugar-fast. Days one through three practically killed me--seriously, on day three I swear I could feel the sugar-produced happy-neurotransmitters leaching out of my brain, leaving me a shell of my normal sugar-addicted self--but I am here to say that after day three things get a whole lot easier. I've heard that before about giving up addictive substances--that after three days your cravings plummet considerably--and guess what? It's true! Although I wasn't too thrilled to walk away from that plate of delicious-looking chocolate-chip bars at my friend Laura's moms' movie party last night. But I did it.

In other firsts, I've completed a chapter of my book. I'm also halfway through a solid Introduction, and if I can finish that by the 28th, I'm still on track for completing one chapter or other significant chunk of the book per month in 2010. Which I recently decided is my goal. I'm determined to write this thing come hell or high water. (Or, more to the point right now, sick kids, sugar fasts, and broken laptops.) I've decided not to concern myself with book proposals, perfect writing/formatting/editing, or the competition right now; what matters to me is writing my book, even if the only eyes who ever see it are my own and my daughters' one day. My job right now is to get my ideas down on paper; when that's done, I will pursue my dream of getting it published.

And lastly, in a first that's really a third or a fourth, Genevieve's crib is now a toddler bed, and has been for almost a week now (so I think it's safe to say she's not going back).

Also, and I swear this is unrelated, I've realized that I deeply miss my life when my girls were one and three. That is the last time I can remember things seeming easy and fun most of the time. Genevieve was sleeping well then and was still sweet and funny as opposed to difficult and oppositional. Julia was in preschool but I wasn't yet volunteering as the nursery school co-op board president. My old playgroup still met twice a month, because our children hadn't all gone on to different school schedules yet, so I still saw my core group of mom friends on a regular basis. Life seemed less complicated and more lighthearted. Of course maybe my memory is rose-colored. But I still miss it.

So I'm focusing on my projects--the sugar fast, the book, the running schedule--and trying to distract myself from all that I miss. Maybe if I focus hard on the firsts, I won't be as sad about the already-dones.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sweets

Last weekend, we made pink-frosted chocolate cupcakes for Valentine's Day.


Boy they sure looked good...


Even good enough to sneak.



It's a good thing that between the four of us, visiting grandparents, and various friends, neighbors, and loved ones, we ate or gave away every last one, because....a local friend and I just decided to give up sugar for Lent. I KNOW! What brand of crazy am I?!

It was a total whim too. There we were, chatting on Facebook, and I randomly posted an update saying, "If I gave up sugar for Lent I bet I could lose ten pounds by Easter." Not even serious, people. Then this friend was all, "I'll do it with you!" And I was all--and there is no explanation for this, none at all--"Sure, why not?!" And then the deed was done, and I thought to myself, Uh....I have an entire unopened bag of pink and red M&M's in the cupboard from my Valentine's present. DANG. And then I thought, Dairy Queen re-opens for the season next week! And lastly I thought, What the hell have I done? I'm not even religious!

Meanwhile my friend tells me she plans on stocking up on frozen berries. And here I was thinking I'd better stock up on Cheetos.

Please note we're not doing anything ridiculous like giving up incidental sugar that shows up in things like dry Cheerios and ketchup and grocery-store whole-wheat bread. Just the typical suspects like ice cream, cookies, and candy. You know, the key items in my will to live. Ha! Just kidding. That would be Diet Coke.

Mmmm, those Valentine-colored M&Ms sure are going to taste good on Easter morning.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Haircut Photos

You asked for them.

Reminder: this is how long my hair had gotten before my hair appointment:



And this is how long it is in the back now:


Yikes--that's more than one inch, people! Sad! Oh well.


Here's me trying unsuccessfully to take a self-portrait using a digital camera and the mirror:



And here's me doing a little bit better, without the mirror, showing you my side bangs:



Do you like them? Here they are again:


I love them.

Now that I've seen the "before" and "after" back-view photos side by side though, I am a little chagrined about how short it is in the back. I guess I did lose some length. Grumble grumble.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Would Get Extensions in a Split Second if I Were a Rich Celebrity

So I'm sure you're all dying to know what I did about my hair.

I decided I could not bear to lose the length. I like being the mom with the long hair. Sure, it's baby-fine and I swear I am losing half of it to insomnia-stress and money-stress and Genevieve-stress, but...I still like it long. It's much easier to maintain than a shorter cut, for one thing.

But, due to a tight budget, I was not getting my highlights touched up last night, and I could not bear to walk away from my appointment with just a tiny trim and absolutely nothing noticeably altered. How depressing would that be, to spend a bunch of time and money and then go home with no evidence that you were even at the salon? Ugh.

I got side bangs cut in. I love them. They give me a little softness around my hairline and mitigate my giant forehead (thanks, Dad, for that, by the way), yet they're totally subtle and won't involve any kind of awful growing-out phase. The only downside is that I'm sure it will drive me crazy to not have everything fit into a ponytail, but I don't care because that was sort of the whole point--to look a little less severe in a ponytail.

Sadly, partly because I had my brows done too, the whole deal--even without highlights--cost me an arm and a leg (as opposed to both arms and both legs when I get highlights too). Good thing I only go three times a year.

People sometimes ask me why I insist on going to an expensive salon when I could get a much cheaper haircut elsewhere. Part of it is that my current stylist is one of only two in my 39 years to make me feel good about how my hair looks. I mean, I realize that when I'm running around town with two small children in tow, under-rested and over-caffeinated, my hair does not always look that great. But the cuts are always good. I've gone to her for nearly ten years and she is really experienced and skilled. Some of you may not know this, but baby-fine, stick-straight, super-blonde hair is the most difficult to cut. I have had a few brave stylists admit this to me--either in regard to my own hair or my younger daughter's--over the years. Every mistake shows. Every hair is visible. There is no fudging anything. You can clearly see each and every layer, every razor swipe. If there is a quarter-inch of unevenness, it stands out as clear as day. When you have hair like that, you get used to paying a premium to have it done right. I learned that lesson too many times in my younger years when I shed tears over bad haircuts at bargain places, and then had to pay an expensive salon anyway to fix the damage. I justify the expense by reminding myself that my salon visits are pretty much the only time I spend anything on myself other than a five-dollar lipstick at Target.

In the end, I think my stylist may have cut more than my requested inch off my hair's length, but it's still pretty long.

You can tell me to shut up about my hair already now.

Next obsession: Will that new over-the-counter L'Oreal lash-growing serum actually give me eyelashes that anyone can see, at all?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Land's End Comes Through

Back story is here.

Land's End is my new favorite company when it comes to customer service. LOVE THEM. (An aside: have you noticed how many cute, stylish, grown-up-preppy looks they have for women these days? I'm telling you, it's not all elastic-waist knit pants and boxy t-shirts over there. Super-cute-looking skinny jeans, scarves, flats, and bags! Seriously. And no, I'm not being compensated in any way for saying so.)

They sent me the larger slippers, for free. They included a pre-paid shipping label so I can return the other ones, for free. The larger size fits. I am happy.

Thank you, Land's End! You proved my kindergartner's ominous feelings about online shopping wrong. And mine! I appreciate it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?


I have until Tuesday night to decide if I should cut an appreciable amount off my hair or keep it this long. This is the longest my hair has ever been, I think (it was about this long at ages 18-21 or so, but I can't really remember how long it got). I loooooove having a long, swingy ponytail, particularly for running. However, I have to admit that from the front, a ponytail is not my most flattering look. I'm not 21 anymore, you know, and though I'd love nothing more than to look breezy and pretty in a ponytail, I'm afraid it's a little severe on me. And it's not as if my hair is lovely and thick. I have very little hair, for hair that is this long. Plus, all (no, really. ALL!) the moms I know have cut off their long hair in the past two years, so I can't help but consider it.

What to do, what to do?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

P.S.: Land's End Update

Some of my observant readers may have noticed that, in response to my post below about my disappointingly small birthday slippers, Land's End actually commented and asked me to e-mail them about fixing the situation. Apparently they have a Social Media Department with a Google Alert set up to let them know when customers are talking about them. Good for them! That's smart business. It's also good business to offer to rectify a situation with a dissatisfied customer, especially one who optimistically assured her kindergartner that a stand-up company like Land's End will do the right thing and help me out with the slippers that their website size chart swore would fit me just fine. But which did not, oh incorrect size chart!

Anyway, I did e-mail them, but have not yet heard back. I'll keep you all posted. Because I know you're all dying to know if Land's End will send me new slippers for free, along with a prepaid shipping box for returning the too-small slippers on the house, right? And then you'll want to know if the size LARGE slippers are way too big? Yeah, me too.

Sleep Remains for the Weak, Apparently.

Well, despite my best intentions, I did NOT go to bed early and/or get a whole lot more sleep last night. First, I was distracted by a concern that our furnace had gone out again. Turns out it was just that the temperature outside was dropping fast, and the house was cold because the heat needed to be turned up. Ha! After a winter of furnace problems, I seem to be left with residual furnace paranoia: fun for all.

Then, because my husband likes to do crazy things like go cross-country skiing at night in the middle of the dark, deserted woods in below-zero weather, when he's late getting home I tend to lie awake in bed wondering how I--or anyone--would know if he was just running late or if he had crashed into a tree, was injured, and would subsequently lie helpless in the snow until he died of exposure, thus throwing the girls and me into a spiral of poverty from which we could never recover.

By the time I heard the garage door open, it was well past my "early" bedtime, and the house had begun the crazy cracking and banging noises it makes at night when it's below zero outside. (This noise is a mystery to me. I have never lived anywhere else with this problem, yet I have friends and neighbors in my town who report this same phenomenon on extra-cold winter nights.) Who can sleep with that going on?

Then there's the overnight calls from the toddler who still doesn't sleep through the night.

It's true I'm getting a LOT more sleep now than I did for all those months (years) of night-nursing babies, but I think my body is neurologically still programmed to remain on nighttime high-alert, willing to sleep little and rouse easily and often, at the slightest noise or concern. It's a little frustrating.

What about you, readers? Do you ever struggle with sleep? Do you have any tips, tricks, or secret cures for insomnia? Does it involve being childless? Because that doesn't count.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some Day I'll Get More Sleep and Astonish Everyone With My Many Accomplishments.

We just experienced yet another two-day snowstorm. The girls' schools were closed yesterday, and the snowfall was incredible. We played in the backyard and the snow came up to my knees in some places, with waist-high drifts blocking our back door. The girls made a snow "clubhouse" with their neighbor friend, digging with plastic sand shovels in the giant drifts, which was pretty cute. This morning Julia is back to kindergarten and most of the streets are cleared.

I don't have that much to say, maybe because I am extremely tired this morning. I was up too late last night due to a five-mile run and an evening client phone consultation appointment, and then was tortured overnight by insomnia and awakened at six a.m. by Genevieve, who proceeded to SCREAM IN MY FACE about her blanket. You know, hauling my so-tired-and-just-fell-back-to-sleep self out of my nice cozy bed in order to go down the hall in the dark and help a surly toddler, only to have her reward my efforts by SCREAMING IN MY FACE ranks right up there toward the top on my list of Ways I Least Prefer To Start My Day. Not even my oh-so-yummy toasted-coconut-flavored coffee from my Hawaiian friend Donna can assuage my exhaustion or improve my mood this morning (though it sure tastes good).

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Dear Land's End: You'd Better Deliver or my Five-Year-Old Will Come After You

[Note: I received some slippers from Land's End for my birthday yesterday, a pair that I had fully researched and requested and dutifully checked the size chart regarding, and specifically directed my kind husband to order. The slippers are mysteriously very tight, despite the fact that the size is supposed to fit people with shoe sizes a full size and a half larger than mine.]

Conversation over breakfast today:

Me: You know, I think I'm going to have to try to exchange those slippers for the next size up. They shouldn't charge us shipping if we're still buying the slippers, just asking for a different size.

Julia: But last night you said you'd go with them! I think you should just go with them.

Me: But I realized they'll never fit me with socks on. I wanted slippers to wear with socks in the winter, like little indoor shoes.

Julia: But....the bigger ones will be too big! I think you should just go with these. You could stretch them!

Me: I think the bigger ones will fit better than these. These are too tight! I can't figure out how to stretch them. I think I need to exchange them.

Julia: But....I don't think the company will help you. You said you don't have the box anymore!

Me: I think they will. They're a good company. It will be fine.

Julia: Are you SURE, Mama?

Me: I'm sure.

Julia (dubiously): .....I don't know. I have a bad feeling about this.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Girl is Realistic About Her Capabilities

Oh yeah! Hey! It's my birthday today. It's also Pajama Day at my daughter's elementary school, so she traipsed off to kindergarten in little hot-pink polka-dot ruffly pajama leggings and a Popsicle-printed pajama tank top under a heart-print hoodie. FANCY. Of course it is snowing like crazy here, so all that was hidden underneath her parka and snowpants, but she looked pretty cute.

In solidarity, and dedicated birthday-celebrating, Genevieve and I are still in our pj's, too. The snow is softly falling outside the window, huge bright flakes falling straight down from the sky and piling up everywhere, and Genevieve is watching Dora the Explorer. I am drinking the yummy toasted-coconut flavored coffee my friend Donna sent me all the way from Hawaii, and we're trying not to think about how close 39 is to 40. Suddenly I feel very old to have such small children. But I'm not thinking about that.

This morning I asked Genevieve if, as my birthday present, she could be good ALL DAY today. No screaming. No yelling at me. No tantrums. She said no. So I asked her if, as my birthday present, she could just TRY to be good all day today. Just TRY her very best. Make an honest attempt. She still said no.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Happy February

Valentine's Boxes

Valentine's Boxes

Are you ready for Valentine's Day?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Award Season


Aw, what a wonderful way to start a Friday.

My dear, funny, lovely friend Mnmom over at Happy to Be From Iowa just bestowed upon me the Beautiful Blogger Award. Now isn't she the sweetest? What nice things she has to say about me, too. Thank you, Mnmom! I don't always feel like a Beautiful Blogger, but I do try to tell it like it is, and that's worth something, right?

Of course you know that half the fun of winning a blogging award is passing it on to some other deserving writer. This time, I give the Beautiful Blogger Award to Mary at Fit This, Girl! I'm a relatively new follower of this awesome, inspirational fitness blog, but I just love Mary's voice, attitude, and zest for life. She doesn't just write about achieving one's fitness goals; if you read her regularly and more deeply you will see she also writes beautifully about withstanding the ups and downs of life, loving yourself, trusting in a higher power, and appreciating simple joys. Even though our lives seemingly could not be more different (she's younger than me, unmarried, and childless--a busy, active, cool working girl in the city!), I find comfort and motivation in her writings on running, life, and love. Go, Mary!

And with that, I say Happy Friday, everyone. May the snow fly, the children nap, and the vacuuming magically get done all by itself.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

In Which I Fight With Blogger, Grind My Teeth to Nubs, and Run a Lot

Where have I been, you ask? I have been trying and trying all week to post photos of the girls' valentines boxes that we made on Sunday. Blogger refuses to allow me to publish photos all of a sudden. I wanted to put up a Happy February post with these cheery pictures of heart-filled, pink-and-red, love-ly craft projects, cardboard containers ready to receive little school notes and candy. (Actually, Julia's kindergarten does not allow candy, only the valentine cards. Genevieve's nursery school, however, allows candy. Go figure.) But it is not to be. I hope Blogger rights itself soon, because what is a blog without a photo now and then?

I have been beset by parenting stress. I know people always say, "Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems." And I'm sure to a large degree they are right. No one here is experimenting with drugs or discovering porn on the Internet or skipping school. (Sorry, I used to be a therapist working with teens and their families; these are the things I think about when I think about having teenagers.)

But little kids can bring big problems too. They're just a different sort of big problem. In some ways, the problems that can arise with small children are almost worse, because you have no knowledge of the future yet; you haven't the slightest idea if, in years to come, your child will turn out largely OK despite her problems, or not. (Not all do; I know that from being a therapist for teens and their families too.) You can't see if the problems of now are minor phases, or signs of what is just beginning and what is to come, clues that you'll look back on in ten or fifteen years and say, "She's been like this forever. I remember when she was small and she used to...."

The stress of difficult parenting situations causes me to clench my teeth with the force of a vise, lose my hair, and lie awake for hours at night. Parenting is tough. Parenting with no family nearby and no one who can relate to your particular parenting problems is killer. Parenting on a tight budget and with no vacations can grind you down to a nub.

The only thing that really keeps the stress and worry at bay (relatively speaking) is a good long run. It takes me a good five miles to come home feeling sane. If I could run a solid hour every day, I think I'd probably be able to sleep every night. Too bad my aging hips and knees are not on board with this strategy. (I'm turning THIRTY-NINE in five days, people! And that is alarmingly close to FORTY.)

What about you? What keeps you sane? And have you been making valentine boxes, too?