Category Archives: Mommy Stuff

Mommy Hours

Warning:  This isn’t one of those “deep thoughts” posts that I fancy myself to have been creating.

It just occurred to me last night as I was flipping through a ridiculous number of channels, procrastinating any housework that might be piled up on my bedroom floor or on the dining room table, and wrestling with the couch pillows for a comfortable position – I really want to go shopping.

It almost didn’t matter where.

But since I loathe sacrificing the 5-8p portion of my day to anything other than Peanut-time, I don’t often go out after work.  As any of you familiar with toddlers knows, taking them with you can be like navigating Forest’s box of chocolates – if half of those chocolates were poisonous.  With gravel and razorblades in them.  And combustible.

I would really like to go out after I put Calamity Jayne to sleep.

How great would it be if retail outfits picked one day a week to be open until 11p?  They could open late that day, I don’t care.  But give me a couple of hours where I can shop for shoes (because they’re the only thing that isn’t obnoxiously oversized now), or kids clothes, or household goods, or arts & crafts, or… well, like I said.  I’d shop for anything.

It got me thinking… maybe I’m just a dummy without a clue.  Maybe stores are already DOING this and I’m just living in the dark and wasting some valuable shopping opportunities.  So I checked.

Here, in all their glory, are the shopping hours of some of my favorite time-killing, money-sucking, halls of commerce:

  • Target – Open until 11p M-F  (WHO KNEW?!?!?!?!)
  • Kohls – Open until 10p T-Sa (Not too shabby.)
  • Marshall’s & TJ Maxx– Open until 9:30 M-Sa (I think they can do better.)
  • DSW – Open until 9p M-Sa
  • Home Depot – Varies by store but many are Open until 10p M-Sa and SOME are open until Midnight.  (I feel a new project coming on…I can do it.  They can help.)
  • Home Goods – Open until 9:30p M-Sa (Cue choir of angels!)
  • Michael’s Crafts – Open until 9p M-Sa

World Market, Pottery Barn, JoAnn Fabrics and Z Gallerie didn’t list their hours.  I suppose they want me to call the store and find out?  Fat chance, suckers. 

I know many of my mum friends shop online, and until recently saved themselves the considerable retail tax of cities like Chicago (10% WHAT?!?!?!?!).  However, as someone who works from home and works online, I get very little joy from shopping online.  Unless there is a store I can’t visit (The Company Store, Ballard Designs, etc.) or I get massive savings & convenience thrown my way (Diapers.com & Soap.com), I really don’t see the point.  I know, I know… I WORK in online advertising.  I’m SUPPOSED to be all “ecommercy” and stuff.  Suck it.  I’m not.  Advertise to me – promote your sales – and make it easy for me to shop you however I want… not however YOU want.  That’s how you get my business.  Everyone knows that no self-respecting W25-54 with kids in the household will click on your ad.  Unless maybe there’s a coupon code.  Please don’t get me started on this.  I have nothing nice to say.

But I’ve gone off-topic…

I don’t know if the later store hours discovery is good news or bad (I fear my spending may go up considerably), but I want to thank these stores for being considerate enough to employ staff and keep their doors open into the night.  Maybe I won’t be shopping late every night but now I at least have the option of giving my girl(s) all my attention during their waking hours and still having some mommy-time doing projects, or dressing up our home and our selves.

Ok mamas and shoppahs, what are YOUR favorite late night or odd-hour shops?  Do you get the same thrill picking out stuff online as you do in-store?  Teach me your ways.  I’m about to go plastic.

Hooray for Retail!

Growing girl

Recently, the hub and I found out that baby #2 is a girl.  Up until then, we’d been saying we win either way – a girl meant we don’t have anything to buy, that we know the plot, that baby #1 will have a fun shadow to teach/torture/tease and a boy meant we could be done with the whole pregnancy thing.

Now that I know, that statement was actually incongruous with how I feel. 

Getting another girl isn’t a consolation prize for me.  This is quite possibly what I was meant to do with my life – raise daughters.

I can remember when I was young, I would opine that I’d want five boys because girls were just too much trouble.  Back then, that was my experience.  Girls WERE trouble.  Girls made my life miserable.  Boys were often dimwits, horndogs or annoyances.  Girls?  Girls were dangerous.

Girls spread rumors and played psychological games.  Girls wielded friendship like Uzies.  Girls were catty and fickle and passive aggressive.  A few standout exceptions aside, it was a world removed from the homogeneous, isolationist Middle where I found a different kind of woman.  I finally understood that not all women need you to be low so they can be high. 

Most of these lessons were hard-learned.

In middle school, it wasn’t my many awards or the intense, shortlived friendships that made me swell with pride – it was my leadership in a successful coup against the top mean girl. 

In high school, my besties were fringe girls – the kind my parents were hesitant about – who listened to the Cure or Al B. Sure.  No matter in what sport or art I dabbled, I was never ever included by popular girls. 

In University, I deigned to pledge a sorority.  Parties?  Sports?  Elected leadership?  I couldn’t sign up fast enough.  But the night before I went active, despite my rank as the pledge with highest points, I was very ceremonially dismissed.  I can only point to my tenuously composed diatribe of curses to the sanctimonious president and her wholly unconvincing panel of henchwomen before I exited that house and entered my life as both legend and outcast as a positive takeaway.

I’ve read several of the pop psych ‘biggies’ on this topic, from Reviving Ophelia and Please Stop Laughing At Me to Mean Girls Grown Up.  The stories were so familiar to me that it helped to contextualize my experience as common and not the wholly unusual, even abnormal, one my own family believed it to be. 

Through several decades of harsh introspection and the odd evening of alcohol consumption even Hemmingway would envy, I learned to stop accepting and start liking myself.  Someday I will write a book about spiritual inheritance and the wastefulness of shame, the value of self-esteem, and the most important gifts a woman can bequeath another – her offspring or otherwise.

Whether by chance or Karmic justice, I have now a collection of women who are sisters in everything but DNA.  These women are proof enough to me that there is divinity inside us and that friendship isn’t a gauntlet to be run.

I unwittingly participated in much of my own suffering for fear of exclusion, unfortunate prioritization, or simply not having confidence in my own person, my own voice.

My daughters will suffer that same fate over my dead body.

I have no doubt that each will encounter situations I can’t foresee or forestall.  I have no doubt that each will wield a personality wholly unique to mine and values completely foreign to me.  I can only hope to prepare them to defend themselves and their ground with wit, charm, and defiance. 

Even against me.

No, I’ve no need to “keep trying for a boy.”  I have everything I need – a hub (in whom feminism thrives), a daughter (with a fiery Leo mane and spirit to match), and a mystery making its way to me as we speak.

If I do nothing else in my life, I will honor my daughters with honesty, empower them with tools to navigate their own path, and respect their gifts whether I understand them or not.

Throughout my time with them, I hope to show them how to pursue and embrace happiness. 

The Buddha says that all life is suffering.  I think many of us in America, especially those raised Christian, have a flawed sense of injustice if our life includes suffering.  Suffering isn’t punishment.  It isn’t unique to any of us.  It is a universal truth of humanity – a thing that binds us as sisters and brothers. 

The quality of your life is defined by how you roll with the punches.  You can lay yourself out if you aren’t bobbing and weaving in time.  I’ve never met a soul who wasn’t sucker punched once.

So I’ll teach my girls how to get back up, how to dust themselves off, how to get back after it.

And I’ll teach them to love being a woman.

And I’ll teach them to be women who love.

And I’ll learn from them my legacy.

Dirty Girls

No, I don’t mean in the ‘good’ way.

Girls are filthy. 

I went to an industry party last week where there was a set of bathrooms tucked away in one of the halls.  Since I don’t drink much (in public) anymore, I didn’t use the Ladies Room until fairly late in the evening.  When I did, I was completely aghast at the condition.

One stall was completely unusable.  The remaining three had so much paper, trash, bottles, cups, etc that you almost waded into them.  Platform shoes would have come in handy.  The floor was wet and dirty; the sinks were wet and dirty.  There were glasses everywhere. 

It reminded me of college parties. 

Except these girls are not so much girls as women.  Professional women.  Women with jobs and reputations.

And they were filthy.

I’ve seen dirty bathrooms.  I’ve road-tripped, backpacked, and camped.  But actual dirt is not as gross as human filth.

Why the hell are grown women unable to clean up for themselves?  What is so difficult about keeping your own water or that of the sink in the proper place?  Why would you leave your drink in a bathroom?  I fear I may be channeling Dear Abby here, but if you make a mess, CLEAN IT UP.

I actually like cleaning.  My first job was as a housekeeper at a retreat house.  I scrubbed toilets and sinks, stripped and made beds, vacuumed and dusted the 43 rooms with 84 beds every week.  In college, I moved into a rental house with friends and single-handedly stripped decades of grime off the shower and floors of the bathroom.  (Who knew they were white?)  I used to pride myself on keeping a clean (albeit cluttered) house. 

And then I started making money.

Suddenly, cleaning was no longer something I could be bothered with.  Time was money, damn it, and I was an important so-and-so.  So I hired a cleaning lady.  This made me feel like I had truly ‘arrived.’  Only rich people had cleaning ladies.  I was officially ‘upper class.’

Except, when I wasn’t.

The last two years brought our share of turmoil.  Most of it wrecking havoc on that precious asset I call financial security.  First to go?  Cleaning service.  Thankfully, I have a husband more evolved than most.  Not only does he do his share but some of mine too. 

But here’s the thing (me, handing you a thing)… I remembered how much I love to clean.

My friend, Nucking Futs Mama, (and by friend I mean someone I have never met but whose blog I read religiously and therefore know her hilarious life) wrote that Cleaning is Bullshit.  Her blog reminded me of the Simpson’s episode where Marge finally gets the house gleaming, you see the kitchen door swing open with sparkles on every appliance, her family walks through, the door swings open again and you see the kitchen covered in jelly, dirt, dishes, etc.  As Homer would say, “It’s funny cuz it’s true.”

I certainly GET the futility of trying to keep a house perfect with an active family.  Yes, we do the same chores day after day after week after month after year, ad infinitum.  But the ACT of cleaning itself is so gratifying to me.  There is a process, a strategy, and a positive outcome.  I use cleaning time for daydreaming.  If no one is in the house, I use it for singing (my voice is not what it once was).  I tackle issues that are niggling at my psyche.  I debate various courses of action.  I make lists of things I want to do, or should do.  I fantasize about happy memories.  I heal over bad ones.  It is the manual and mindless physicality of cleaning that allows me to indulge purely in mental exploration for no purpose other than my own entertainment, growth, contentment.

That and cleaning is hard frigging work.

Girl gets a sweat going and it feels good.  Especially since I gave up all those uber-toxic “wonder” chemicals that used to practically eat through my hands.  Nothing more than elbow grease and some good tools do more for me than an hour of therapy.

But, ladies, I’m still not cleaning up after you.

Hit Me Baby, One More Time

I’m starting this post, not knowing exactly what I want to say.

Usually when that happens I end up writing forever and never ‘landing the plane,’ so to speak.  Somehow, if I don’t map out my train of thought, and organize in my head the bullets I need to cover, I can meander down an interminable road of language without ever stumbling over a point.

But then, maybe this topic doesn’t need a point.

No, I’m not writing about Britney Spears.  I’m actually writing about babies.  And more specifically OTHER people’s babies.  It seems like a whole crop of 2nd babies have hit my industry in a hurry.  Most of those having them had their first less than 2 years ago. 

While I was “ooooohing” and “aaawwwwwwwing” over their announcements, something struck me.

Every one of my friends who has announced their second child have been men. 

Having a baby won’t even be a hiccup in their progress up the corporate ladder or toward the sweet life where money grows on trees and retirement is an eventuality.

The story for most women (emphasize MOST) isn’t as sunny.

How many women do you know who’ve left their company immediately after their leave ends?  I’m not talking about the lucky few who can afford to stay home with their children.  That luxury just isn’t a reality for most people.

No, I’m talking about the volume of women leaving one job for another and the timing of their departure aligning too closely to their maternity leave end to be coincidence..  Happy employees don’t leave jobs.  There is nothing more distasteful than a corporation mistreating or even antagonizing a pregnant employee.  (I could write a book about this topic alone but that’s for another time.)

And then, yesterday, I realized how I would finish this post.  My twitter stream blew up with commentary on the newly released Forbes Top 100 Powerful Women list.

The controversy?  Included on each woman’s profile are her marital status and number of children.

Perhaps it is a testament to the kind of thought-leaders I follow (progressive) and the women I find inspiring (feminists), but without exception the comments were negative, ranging from Rachel Simmon’s (twitter.com/@RachelJSimmons) *Heavy SIGH* to outright outrage. 

Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote in her Salon.com article, “if you’re female, you’ll still be ranked, assessed and quantified by your ability to mate and reproduce.”  Amy Jussel (a.k.a. twitter.com/@ShapingYouth) replied to me with ” seems off-topic=best & sexist=worst. How many kids does Steve Jobs have? How would they list Jack Welch?”

On this topic, I break the line of solidarity.

It reminds me of the Oscar Wilde quote I have hanging in my hallway, “The Irish have an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustains them through temporary periods of joy.”

Some people just need something to fight against.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely see the disparity between the report on People and the report on Women.  But instead of insulting me, it inspires me.  I have no more respect for a powerful woman with 5 kids than for a powerful woman with no kids.  I do, however, feel totally empowered to know that my ambition to raise genius, charismatic, world leader children AND be a rain-maker for my family’s finances is not an anomoly.  Oh and I won’t be alone in doing so.

Have you read Kahlil Gibran?  Yeah, yeah – I’m a wannabe hippie sometimes.  I discovered The Prophet when I first read this quote: 

“And when one of you falls down,
He falls for those behind him — a caution against the stumbling stone.
Aye, and he falls for those ahead of him — who though faster and surer of foot,
Removed not the stumbling stone…”

I think the brouhaha over the inclusion of marital status and children is missing the forest for the trees. 

Why don’t they include marital status and number of children for men?  Maybe because it is assumed that any successful man has a family behind him.  Maybe because men who don’t marry are viewed as high-risk to companies and untrustworthy as politicians.  How do you think gay men feel about the dues to the inner circle of the boy’s club?  Is it fair?  No.

But at the risk of stating the obvious – life isn’t fair.

In a country where 50% of marriages end in divorce, machismo bullsh#t runs counter to successful women outearning their mates, and motherhood starts sometimes decades later than it did 50 years ago, I think having a marriage and a family is significant ESPECIALLY if you’re also curing, saving, leading, or entertaining the WORLD. 

The list’s anecdotes are not about the haves and the have-nots; they are simply what is.  Listing “single” or “0” by marital status and children, doesn’t detract from their accomplishments.  These powerful women aren’t listed in order of how many marriages or children they have.  (Isn’t the suggestion that they could be ranked by their ability to mate and reproduce counter to the feminist cause?)

Rather, I see the diversity on the list in nationality, age, industry, skin color, marital and parenthood status as a win for us regular-folk women.  Can’t we all find something to relate to? Be inspired by?

What do you think?  Did I miss the point or did they?

To Market, To Market

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. ~Dr. Seuss

This weekend, my family took a much needed break from unpacking, cleaning, and organizing to celebrate Market Days on Halsted Street in Chicago.

If you don’t know, neighboring Wrigleyville to the east is a little place affectionately known as “Boys Town.”  Boys Town has the same great walk-up style architectural as the rest of Lakeview, is even closer to the Lake, and is walkable to any kind of food or drink you could imagine.  It has the added benefit of progressive bars & restaurants (Love SideTrack’s Showtunes!) that proudly showcase rainbow flags, risque art, and a menagerie of staff and clientele who make it a vivacious, exciting place to live and people-watch.

Market Days 2010 didn’t disappoint. 

I haven’t been to the festival in years because of travel or conflicts or new-baby-having-syndrome or whatever.  Unlike Pride, Market Days is much more of a street festival than a showcase.  You’ll still see your occasional hot-pink bikini briefed boy-tow or tanned and oiled leather-daddy but most of the patrons look like any other street fest, except there are more same-sex couples and much better tshirt slogans.*

We took Claudia as a matter of course.  One of the things we are so excited about is that our daughter will grow up surrounded by diversity, that she will ask questions and be challenged by answers, that she will experience the richness of life in all its colorful splendor.  My favorite quote of the day was from a bartender at one of the many booths that served champagne or champagne-based drinks and using plastic flutes.  When I commented that at least they were using appropriate plastic-ware, he replied, “Well duh, what are we?  Barbarians?”

One of our fellow fest-goers appropriately dubbed her the “Queen of Market Days” as she high-fived and gave knuckles to every person reaching out to her as she walked along on Daddy’s shoulders.  Claudia ‘won’ a pink duckie that she got to pick from the Affinia Hotel’s duck pond giveaway.  An apparent rough-rider in leather straps and chaps, winked and melted as my red-headed girl danced to the music.  She won gold beads from him.  Our pnut stopped to watch the hot-pant wearing  jugglers and clapped appreciatively when one completed a successful round.  It was  brilliant!  She laughed and smiled and danced.  I think it was her wicked dance moves that drew the most affection though everyone who smiled her way seemed to comment on her ginger locks. 

What I took away from the experience was a sense of happiness and fun that carried with me through the rest of the weekend.  I wish I could have danced along with my daughter and toasted our fellow party-goers through the night but bedtime is strictly enforced in our house and we were all home and quiet by 8:00p.  My only regret is that I opted out of a fan-photo because I’m so self-conscious about my size.  I hope to see hub and bub on the fan page, though!

Our neighbors continued to rage on until the wee hours.  They will do the same tonight.  And what I honor in them and in all of us is a sense of joy and an appreciation for life.  I won’t pretend that homosexuality immunizes you from any of the human drama.  Unfortunately, I think all of us are subject to heartbreak, death, disappointment, ambition, infatuation, vanity and so on.  What I appreciated about our experience at Market Days, however, was an approachability, an eagerness to be known, and a fearlessness of showing and speaking one’s truth.

Those lessons are worth sharing, I venture.  And worth teaching to my peanut.

What do you think?

* Favorites included one for a No-Kill shelter that read “Stray Pride”, one with the face of Christ saying “Jesus thinks you need to lighten up,” and “Sorry, Girls.  I **** Boys.”

Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a Mixed Tape

Or in this case, a playlist.

I walked the hills of my neighborhood yesterday with the peanut in her stroller.  It had been a while since my iPod was charged (another bonus of packing – you find everything you ‘lost’) so I had a huge number of playlists to choose from.

I picked the one I made for my daughter right after she was born.

I am no musician.  I can’t read music.  But I do play an instrument – my voice.  While I may not be the greatest singer in the world, I can certainly hold my own.  The songs that inevitably end up being my favorites are ones that I love to sing.  Lullabies were not very high on that list.

My daughter’s official song is “Georgia Rae” by John Hiatt.  It reminded me of her even in utero so when she was born 22 inches long and 10 lbs. 1 oz., I cackled at the line “She don’t wanna play basketball.”  Plus my daughter’s name can be substituted for the refrain perfectly.  The lyrics are really lovely and John Hiatt is a favorite songwriter of mine.  He’s got a unique tone to his voice that floats somewhere between Joe Cocker and Ray Charles.  Listen to him.  Or at least that song.  You’ll know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, the thing that stuck out the most while I was listening to the songs I chose for the peanut’s “mixed tape’ was that I am a total sap!  Good lord, each song was more emotionally gooey than the next.  And here’s another zinger for you:  I still love every single one. 

Ugh!  What has become of me?!?!?!!  Have any of you been guilty of this unabashed mommy-gushing too? 

I had smiled the entire walk.  And believe you me, those hills are nothing to smile about!  But that positivity has to count for something, eh?

If you’re looking for a little “I grow humans, hear me cuddle” music for your own iPod, here’s my list of lovey-dovey, mommy music:

My Wish by Rascal Flatts
Something in the Way She Moves by James Taylor
Now That I Found You by Terri Clark
Over the Rainbow by Brother IZ
What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
Georgia Rae by John Hiatt
Your Song by Elton John
Only Love by Wynonna Judd
She by Elvis Costello
Shower the People by James Taylor
Holdin’ You by Gretchen Wilson
Baby Mine by SHeDAISY

Why these songs?  Lyrics, baby.  I’m a girl to the core and lyrics get me every time.

Lines like “Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen,”  “If it feels nice, don’t think twice,” or “Out of all the flags I’ve flown, one flies high and stands alone – only Love”  can apply broadly but take on new meaning when applied to your child.  And “She may be the beauty or the beast,”  “All that I need is right here.  Holdin’ You holds me together,” and “While you’re out there gettin’ where you gettin’ to, I hope you know somebody loves you” absolutely MUST be about children, I just never knew.

“Baby Mine” is from Dumbo, which may be the saddest Disney movie in the Universe and made me bawl even as a child because of the poor Mama elephant.  SHeDaisy does a really nice job covering this.  “From your head to your toes you’re not much goodness knows.  But you’re so precious to me, cute as can be, Baby of Mine.”  Rock your little one and sing that.  I DARE YOU NOT TO WELL UP.

My favorite by far is from “Georgia Rae” and says “There’s no telling what she might do before her doin’ days are through, but right now she can’t even crawl.” 

No telling, indeed, Peanut.  XO