Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: First Haircut

18 months old.

The Monster's hair is extremely fine and somehow...transparent, but it was getting quite long and shaggy. He's not as bald as he looks, if that makes any sense at all.

Crazy flyaway hair ( was not windy. That's just how it looked).

Crazy sticky-out hair.
No amount of mom-spit could tame it.

I was on board with "a little trim around the ears."

But Daddy got clipper happy and now my baby has a buzz cut. Waaaaaaaaa.

(He's still cute.)

(I'm told it will grow back.)

(I'm not ready for this.)


At this point, he's down with the clippers because they sound like a car.


Somehow he still loves his father after this.
He was a champ. I was the one holding back tears.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Elf Revisited: Linking up with Blogging Bash

I'm linking up with Alison and Ado for the 1st Anniversary Blogging Bash (their first anniversaries, not mine). If you don't already read Alison at Mama Wants This! and Ado at The Mamalog, you should start now.

For their blogiversary, these ladies have asked us all to choose a favorite old post and link it up. I know, you'd prefer something new and exciting. Well, look, this is their party, ok? I'm just a guest. So deal with it.

I chose this, the stunning conclusion of my Elf on the Shelf drama from last winter. I'm not sure why, I just reread it and it made me laugh, so there you go.

It's part of a series of sorts, detailing my harrowing experience acquiring an Elf on the Shelf. It all began with my utter failure to to win a free Elf on the Shelf from Sara at The Periwinkle Papillon. You can read the complete story in the archives, if you're truly interested or if you're avoiding doing your job or something. Here.

But this is the happy ending. So here it is!

Simmer down. Elf acquired.

OK, you can all RELAX. I know, this has been weighing on your mind all weekend: are Alyssa's children being tormented by Gnarles the Zombie Baby Elf?? Well, they weren't. Calm down.

Grandma pulled through and discovered an Elf on our doorstep when she dropped by to bring us some cookies (seriously. She brought us cookies. She would be exactly like a cartoon Grandma, except that her husband baked them. Also they were leftover Halloween sugar cookies, mushed up to disguise the fact that they were meant to be pumpkins. So they were basically orange smoosh cookies).

Our Elf is named Jacob. The Princess tried to play it cool at first, like, eh, maybe he's a real Elf, maybe he's not, but then when she slept and he MOVED?! Totally. Convinced. "Oh, Jacob," she gushed when she discovered him swinging from the kitchen chandelier Saturday morning. "I justknew you were a real Elf! How did you get up there, you crazy Elf?!"

Jacob had brought with him a "make your own snowman ornament" craft kit, so we set about making our own snowman ornaments. We decided this was probably Jacob's way of telling us it was time to take down the Halloween decorations and put up some Christmas cheer, so we did just that.

Daddy heroically risked serious injury or death hanging lights on our very tall new house, climbing a ladder much higher than any he has climbed before. We discovered after he was done that the ladder has a 200 lb. weight limit. tHe O.G. is a little closer to, say, 235. But he lived! It's a Christmasmiracle! And the house looks fabulous!

Actually the house looks a little out of place, because we find ourselves living in a very, very nice neighborhood (as in, we're the only renters on the block, yo) and apparently there's an unspoken rule in very, very nice neighborhoods that you decorate with white lights onlytHe O.G. doesn't hang white lights. He just doesn't. That's not how tHe O.G. rolls. So there's our very, very nice (did I mention tall?) house in our very, very nice new neighborhood, enthusiastically draped corner to corner in furiously bright multicolored, blindingly, dazzlingly multicolored LED lights.

And the neighbors' houses in their demure and elegant white-lighted glory look down on us with dismay.

And we're cool with that.

Santa likes color, y'all. Everybody knows this.

Sunday morning we found Jacob the Elf had rather unwisely positioned himself on the playroom floor surrounded by blocks. After the Monster gleefully destroyed all of Jacob's towers and castles, he set his sights on the Elf himself, and I was forced to intervene. Now, if you're familiar with Elf on the Shelf lore, you know that touching the Elf is strictly verboten.

The Princess was torn: surely we should not move the Elf from his chosen resting place. On the other hand, would Jacob prefer a quick move to safety, or being chewed on by her Monster of a baby brother? So we opted for a quick, frantic, hot-potato move to safety, chanting "I'm sorry Jacob, I'm sorry Jacob, I'm sorry Jacob" all the way to the top of the refrigerator. We then informed Jacob that he needed to find higher resting spots from now on. This could be challenging. For Jacob.

This morning we found Jacob perched atop a speaker on the wall, clutching a tube of glitter glue. He'd added some bling to the big "Merry Christmas" sign the Princess had made to hang above the fireplace. Oh, that Jacob.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

a poem for my daughter

(on her 6th birthday)

I'm almost surprised
to find your hand
is still delicate in mine
crisp paper bone
one by one
flutter wings
in the shelter of my palm
not seeking open sky
but content
to flutter in place for now
as you sing to the sun
your voice not a baby's
but a girl's.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

10 Reasons it's Good to be my Mom's Kid: a Monday Listicle

I don't know that I've ever linked up with Monday Listicles before, but I usually hop over and lurk around. This week I knew I wanted to dedicate a post to my mom, and what do you know, Stasha had the perfect prompt: 10 reasons it's good to be a kid.

I'm going to tell you why I had a better childhood than you, because while it's good to be a kid, it's better to be MY mom's kid. Here are just a few pieces of evidence.

  1. She taught me how to make the world's best popcorn. On the stove. With a pot and some oil and a LOT of butter. And we made it a lot, and ate it together.
  2. She oversaw my early musical education: The Monkees. The Beatles. Elvis. Herman's Hermits. The Everly Brothers. Creedence Clearwater. The Beach Boys. This was the '80s, you guys, but she made sure I started at the beginning of rock'n'roll. 
  3. We watched all 1,225 episodes of Dark Shadows together. With popcorn. We were down with vampires before it was cool.
  4. Musicals! She introduced me to the genre and we still love it. Bye Bye Birdie, Meet Me in St. Louis, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Newsies. And we sang along. Whether the TV was on or not. Life in our house was a musical. I teased her about it, but come on. Who doesn't want to live in a musical?
  5. We sang in the car, too.
  6. Our house was always grand central station when I was a kid and teenager. Mom loved having a house full of kids, and my friends loved her. "Your mom is so cool!" I've been hearing it all my life, and now I hear it on Twitter from total strangers. Yeah, OK. My mom is SO cool.
  7. She taught me how to read, and she showed me how to love it.
  8. She told me I was a good writer before anybody else ever did.
  9. She set a spiritual example that I'm still in awe of. In a difficult environment, with discouragement at every turn, she managed to raise two strong, intelligent, educated Christian children who know what we believe and why we believe it.
  10. She's my best friend, and I owe all my awesomeness to her.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you all the way to the planit jopudr in ol my hrte.

For those not in the know: this wonderful woman I call Mom is the blogger at Commonplace Crazy, and @CynthiaMeents on Twitter. Head over today and wish her a happy birthday.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Love Letters to and from the Bored Jar

I made the Princess a Bored Jar. Why? Because the kid is always. bored.

Seriously? There is nothing to do in this house.
(Photo by Grandma.)
"Mom. Play with me. Mom? Play with me. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom? MOM. MOM! Play with me!"

Look, I'm not saying I hate to play with my kid or anything (OK, maybe I am saying that Barbies? Bore the daylight out of me. Yeah. I said it). But you know, I've got another kid to deal with, and dinner to cook, and work to catch up on, and laundry to fold, and a husband to interact with, and it's my turn on all 13 of my Draw Something games so yeah, I can't play with you all the time.

It's healthy for kids to learn independent, creative play, right? I don't remember my mom playing with me all that much and look how great I turned out.

The Princess was an only child for 4 1/2 years, and I was a work-at-home mom for several of those years, so you would think she'd be an independent play pro by now. And she is, once you get her going, but her basic temperament doesn't really make it easy on her. She's a social butterfly and if I really loved her I'd have had at least 6 kids back to back so she wouldn't be so lonely all the time.

So. I found this "Mom, I'm Bored! Jar" on Pinterest. I won't bore you with a whole tutorial or anything, because it's kind of my policy around here to not be any more useful than I have to be. Nor will I claim credit, because it's kind of my other policy not to have any original ideas around here. So you should really go visit the Somewhat Simple blog and check it out, because that's where I got it.

Mine is not this cute. Mine is also made from an old pickle jar, so BONUS, the slips all smell like pickles.
It's a jar full of slips of paper with activities on them. And also...chores!! Every time the words "I'm bored" emerge from your kid's lips, she has to pull a slip from the Bored Jar. I didn't use Somewhat Simple's list of activities, I just made my own, and I made A LOT of them. I used some of her ideas, added some of my own, went through my "kid activities" Pinterest board and added some of those. I tried to keep them for the most part independent activities that she could do on her own.

Here's my Word file; feel free to download it, edit it, do whatever you want with it. Just don't sell it without giving me a cut. Some of these are specific to our house, so if your bored kid doesn't have a Leapster or a baby brother, you'll need to change those slips. Or buy a Leapster and bear a male child. Your call, really.

Our jar is mostly fun activities, with a smattering of chores. And guess what! If you say you're bored, you MUST pull a slip from the jar, and once you pull a slip from the jar, you MUST do what it says! (The exception would be if she pulls something like "paint your nails with mom or dad" and mom and dad are busy doing other things, or pulls an outdoor activity on a rainy day; mom and dad have veto power in these cases and we just pull another slip.)

But there's no whining allowed. So think twice before you come to me saying you're bored.

On day one, she was so excited about the jar that she actually brought it to me 3 times. Two of those times she pulled "do one chore of mom's choice." I did not rig the jar, I promise. But I did make her clean up the doggie doo in the back yard and empty the dishwasher. And she did both. Without whining.

She's still pretty excited about the jar and willing to risk pulling a chore, because she has gotten lots of fun things, like "draw the cutest animal you can think of," "make your brother laugh," "make a necklace out of pasta," and "write a letter." All things I might have suggested in the past, but it carries so much more weight when it's pulled from a jar, right?

When she pulled "write a letter" last night I figured it would be good practice writing. She's turning 6 next week and she's in kindergarten, so she's learning a lot but I don't really think of her as an independent writer yet, you know? Normally if we write anything I'm there helping her spell stuff. So I told her to just go in the playroom and do her very best to sound out the words she wanted, without asking for help.

I wasn't giving her enough credit.

Because this is what I got:

I. Officially. Love. The Bored Jar.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Text Message...well, Wednesday. The get fit edition.

Remember Text Message Tuesday? Remember Ashley? Of course you do.

Here we go:

Alyssa says
i worked out this morning. on the elliptical. i got up EARLY and WORKED OUT.

[Editor's note: this elliptical.]

Editor's note: NOT. ME.

Ashley says
And I'm eating Carmelita's for breakfast. What a strange turn of events.

Alyssa says
i mean, i had my morning dew, obviously, but instead of cracking open another one right after, i chose water.

Ashley says
Oh my. What's gotten into you?

Alyssa says
i was possessed by some weird wild idea last night to step on the scale.

Ashley says

Alyssa says
i did not like what i saw. at. all.
so how are your carmelitas? what ARE carmelitas?

Ashley says
I'm not sure I should tell you.

Alyssa says
whatever, there are donuts for sale 10 feet from here. if i can resist those i can resist your carmelitas description.

Ashley says
I pinned them a few days ago. It's Carmel and chocolate and yummy crust all smooshed together. So good
I'm going to finish the pan so that they're gone. Then I'm starting my diet.

Alyssa says
but not better than oatmeal squares and water, right?

Ashley says
Um, no way. So gross compared to that.
How long did you elliptical for?

Alyssa says
haha. i'm not telling because it's shameful. i did as much as i could, ok? considering i haven't worked out in, oh, 6 or 7 years.

Ashley says
Come on.

Alyssa says
no way! my husband already made fun of me, i don't need it from you too. just be proud that i DID it.

Ashley says
I will be! Tell me! What was it? 5 minutes?

Alyssa says
like, imagine i'm one of those huge women who has to be lifted by crane, and i just got out of bed and walked upstairs. YAY!!!

Ashley says
No, cuz you're not one of those women.

Alyssa says
it was 10 minutes, dude.

Ashley says
Okay, 10 minutes is great! Good job!

Alyssa says
You are such a liar.
i'm pretty sure on the inside, i AM one of those women. i was trying to remember the last time i exercised and i actually CANNOT remember.

Ashley says
I remember. You got on a kick last summer and went walking a few times.

Alyssa says
hahaha. walking. that doesn't even count. everybody walks.

Ashley says 
I think I tried to tell you that at the time and you were all "but I made a drop of sweat! It counts!"

Alyssa says
i was lying to myself. you know that.
and really, i guess for a woman who has to be lifted by crane, it DOES count. but this counts WAY MORE.


It totally DOES, right you guys? I'm going to drop those 5 or 10 or 30 pounds in NO TIME, right?? Right?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How to Wean a Toddler (who does not want to be weaned)

The Princess, age 2. Probably thinking about my boobs.

People? I nursed the Princess for 25 months. That's two years and one month, for you English majors (I'm an English major, I can say that).

Yeah. Imagine a two year old. Now imagine breastfeeding that two year old. Yay!

I know I'm not the only one out there who nursed my toddler, but sometimes people can make you feel like you are, right? I mean, breastfeed in public (gasp) past about 6 months and you start getting the stink eye. So moms, know that you're not alone and it's totally cool to breastfeed your two-year-old. It is. In fact it's beautiful and wonderful and admirable and awesome.

That's not what this post is about.

This post is about that moment when you look down at the gargantuan child in your lap, latched on and watching Blue's Clues out of her peripheral vision, and think, "I have had enough."

Here's the thing about my daughter. She didn't sleep. Ever. At all. From the moment we brought her home, she fought sleep. I quickly discovered the only thing that would lull her into actual slumber: nursing. Yes, I know what the books say about nursing babies to sleep. But it worked, and I was a sleep-deprived, post-partum-depressed, first-time mother. I went with it.

To the point that, though I'd never planned to cosleep, she moved right into bed with me so she could nurse all. night. long.

To the point that as she got bigger and started talking, she actually referred to the act of nursing as "nigh-night."

To the point that I spent hours every evening lying on my bed in the dark with my toddler nursing and nursing and nursing, trying to trick her into falling asleep. My friends never saw me; if we had people over, I disappeared at 7 p.m. and often didn't return. Because when I finally did succeed in getting this little Princess to sleep, I had to sneak silently and stealthily from the bed and the room, praying that she'd stay asleep. Because if I disturbed her, and she woke? We started all over.

It was insane.

When she turned 2, I had had enough. It had to stop. But how? She was so dependent upon it. Nursing was her security blanket, her binky, her everything. How could I tear it away from her? This thing that had been a source of comfort and solace her entire life, how could I just...take it?

Nursing had always been a positive experience, and I couldn't bring myself to end it on a negative note.

I tried. I tried to tell her that it was time to be a big girl, to sleep with a cup of water and a teddy bear and a special blanket and special goodnight music. I read books, I scoured the internet, I called my mother. I tried everything. I tried cradling her with the cup of water, then a cup of warm milk. I tried rocking her. I tried letting her cry.

But this was a 2-year-old child I was dealing with. They're not known for being, you know, compliant and easy to change. And she was set in her ways. Nothing worked.

So this is what I did.

One day, we went to Target and I had her pick out a special sippy cup. Now, to be clear, she'd been drinking from cups forever at this point. She drank cow's milk during the day and with meals. The nursing was only when she needed to sleep. So we picked out a special, one-of-a-kind "big girl" cup. A nigh-night cup. I told her she couldn't use it now, because she was still a baby. But someday, she'd need it.

I put it up on a shelf where she could see it but not reach it. We talked about it. For about a week, we talked about how when big girls go to bed, they use a big girl cup instead of mommy's, ahem, "nigh-nights."

I told her that nigh-nights are for babies. And it only tastes good for babies. I told her that when she's a big girl, nigh-nights won't taste good anymore.

We did this for about a week. Every night we had this conversation.

"Are you ready for nigh-night?"

"NIGH-NIGHT," she'd say, tugging at my shirt.

"OK. I wonder if you're a big girl yet?"

She'd look at me suspiciously.

"Do you think this will still taste good?"


"Hmm. Well, we'll see."

Then she'd nurse to sleep.

Until one night, something was different.

Because friends? I put vinegar on my nipples.

I snuck into the kitchen before bedtime and poisoned the water hole, if you will. I actually tucked vinegar-soaked cotton right into my bra, just to be sure it stayed fresh. Then I went and picked her up and cuddled her just like I always had. Kissed her and played with her and read her a story.

"Are you ready for nigh-night?"


"I wonder if you're a big girl yet? Do you think it will taste good?"


"Hmm. Well, let's see."

She latched on. She pulled off. She looked at me, wide-eyed and shocked. "Mommy! Nigh-nights YUCKY!" Then she dissolved into hysterical giggles. "YUCKY nigh-nights!"

I acted as surprised as she was. "What? Really?? Do you want to try again?? Are you SURE?"

"YUCKY NIGH-NIGHTS! Want my big girl cup. I a big girl! Big girl cup!"

We had to do it once more the following night. Just to be sure. But then? It was over. And I had a big girl.

Friday, March 2, 2012

WAHMs have all the fun. And also all the work. Or whatever.

I don't talk much about my work in this space. But it's something that's been weighing on my mind a lot lately.

I love my job. I do. I get to handle the social media presence of a university, and it's really a wonderful adventure. I oversee a staff of fantastic student bloggers who amaze me every day with their insight and personality and passion for life. And I get paid to spend large parts of my day on Facebook and on Twitter and reading great blogs. How many people can say that?

So all things considered, I truly love what I do. But the thing is, I have these kids, you know?

The Monster, 17 months
The Princess, turning 6 this month!

And, well...I miss them when I'm at work.

When I became pregnant with my daughter almost 7 years ago, I was able to convert my job from full-time to half-time. I was very happy with that schedule. Yes, it required considerable sacrifice, because I gave up half my salary along with half my hours, and frankly, I did not give up half my workload; I had to do almost as much work in half the time, for half the pay. But we made it work, and I believed it was worth the sacrifices. I felt kind of balanced and whole.

After two years of that, some of my job duties shifted and I agreed to come back full-time, on the condition that I would be allowed to work 20 of my hours from home. This? Was kind of wonderful. I got my full salary back, and enough hours in the day to do my job without giving myself a heart attack, but I still had the flexibility and freedom to be at home with my daughter for many of her daylight hours. And my entire family thrived.

Working from home certainly has its own set of challenges. Teaching my toddler to entertain herself so Mommy could work was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. But I did it, and I think she's better for it. She's strong and independent and creative and imaginative, and I was there to see all of that. I also received nearly perfect performance evaluations during this time; the autonomy of my schedule really brought out the best in me, at home and at work.

When my son was born I continued this half-time in the office, half-time at home schedule, and once again had to reevalute my time management and routines, but again, I made it work.

Things have changed recently, though. My workplace no longer allows telecommuting. So last summer I had to rearrange my life one more time, find full-day childcare, and now I'm in the office all day every day.

It's hard. As much as I love my job, I miss the work-at-home mom I used to be. I miss getting up and booting up my laptop in my pajamas, snuggling with my kids while they watch cartoons and eat breakfast and I check my email and start my day. I miss watching my daughter teach her baby brother how to walk, talk, and play. I miss so many of these moments now, and it's difficult.

OK, maybe I don't so much miss "Moooooommmm, I'm huuuuuuungry" just as I begin a conference call. But overall, I do miss being a work-at-home mom. I'm not saying it's easy; just that, for me, it's worth it.

I'm hopeful that there are solutions still waiting to be found. That this is a temporary crossroads in my life, this full-time office job. As much as I adore what I do, I can't shake the knowledge that I could be doing it just as effectively and so much more contentedly from my home. The knowledge that I am committed to my career, but my career is not who I am. The knowledge that my babies are growing up and I'm missing much of it.

Are you a working mom? A work-at-home mom? A work-away-from-home mom? How do you find balance? And are there still opportunities out there to make a real living working from home?

What say you?