Monday, November 30, 2015

when I grow up, I'm gonna be...

My sister posted a link to my Facebook page tonight for a (satirical...?) job tending to city council members, which got me thinking. Of all the jobs I've considered recently, I was more qualified for that fake job than any of my other options. You think I'm kidding? Behold: the many business ideas I've conjured up in 2015, along with a brief description of why they're just terrible ideas.


:: Etsy artist, making high-end baby mobiles. This crashed and burned after I attempted my first handmade hot air balloon. Yeahhh, fuck that.

:: Etsy artist marketer, marketing someone else's Etsy shop. Because those Etsy artists don't have time for marketing shizz, even if their goods are amazing! Know what else Etsy artists don't have? Money for marketing.

:: Academic editor. Turns out you have to have better connections than I do for this. Oh, and, um, related experience and education and probably ability to edit.

:: Journaling workshop teacher (for adults). But I needed someone to workshop me through the planning of this, sooo...fail.

:: Journaling workshop teacher (for middle schoolers). But what middle schooler wants to spend non-school time doing writing exercises? Extra fail.

:: Journaling workshop teacher (for new moms). But what new mom has time for that?! Mega fail.

:: Community college teacher. I'm actually like 90% of the way there when it comes to this one - a relevant subject to teach, a nearby school, the required AND desired qualifications, the right connections. The only missing piece is...actually teaching.

:: Professional organizer. I even met with a very helpful and sweet local professional organizer over the summer to get the inside scoop on how to pursue such an occupation. And then never followed through on a single thing she suggested.

:: Blogger. We can all see how well THAT'S going. ("Cathy, I love your blog! How much money do you make from it?" "So far, each month I bring in zero monies, along with my affiliate revenue of also zero monies.")

:: Teacher of preschool...for grown-ups. Actually still a viable idea. So don't steal it, bettttch.

:: Facilitator of new-mom groups. Also a viable idea. That I haven't followed through on.

:: Content writer for child care center websites. For child care centers! Who have no money to pay me.

:: Behavior consultant for child care centers. For child care centers! Who have no money to pay me.

:: New-mom mentor. Based primarily online, I'd have all sorts of services available...support groups and individual coaching and referrals to a wide variety of resources...on my non-existent website, www.DoesntFollowThroughOnAnythingForFucksSake.com.

:: Owner of Nailed It! You know Paint & Pour? This would be that, except with DIY nail and string art, which can be done by anyone. Which is why it's already being done. By everyone. Without paying me money to guide them.


I'm probably even forgetting some gems here, but it's after 11:00 and I need to go to sleep. My day job starts in eight hours. Oh, yeah, my day job: stay-at-home-mom. The one job I'm qualified for, have experience in, and love more than anything in the world. My client sucks at timely payments, though.

Good thing she's cute.


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Friday, November 27, 2015

maybe my first grown-up Thanksgiving.

I've thought for years now that I was attending Thanksgiving as an adult. Sitting around a smartly-dressed table, surrounded by my loud, laughing family and a rotating cast of my siblings' partners and friends, I'd declare - maybe out loud, maybe to myself, always with brazen certainty - my college major, my big break-up, my vegetarianism, my post-Masters career trajectory, my engagement, my homeownership, my pregnancy plans. And nothing says, "Well, shit, I'm for sure a grown-up now!" like settling your newly-toddling toddler into her own high chair for the big dinner, like I did last year.

But last year, after wiping mashed potatoes out of my daughter's chins and thigh rolls and loading her into her car seat for the late-night drive back home, resentment washed over me. I fed Rowan her bottle while she stared out the window at the black sky, eyes glassy from being both wired and tired after a busy holiday. The highway was crowded but moving quickly. A minivan kept pace with us two lanes over, which I only noticed because the flashing lights from their overhead DVD player caught my attention every time they crept ahead of us. Inside the van sat the family: parents in the front, kids in car seats. And instead of the sweet scene giving me warm fuzzies - a young family, bundled up and heading home just like us - I felt jealous.

And not of the adults.

Of the kids.

It was brief but intense, a wave of bitter envy. What I wouldn't have given to trade places and be in the backseat again, dozing and trusting and possessing full confidence that I was taken care of and loved. To fall asleep cuddling my blankie, to be scooped up and tucked carefully into bed when we got home.

And this was before I had any inkling that that Thanksgiving was my last with my mom.

Fast-forward a year. My family coordinated cooking duties and timing in a flurry of texts in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. My brother-in-law, a talented chef, took on the turkey and the bulk of the meal. He and my sister and their two kids spent Wednesday night at my dad's house so they could get up early and start prepping the dishes. The rest of us trickled in throughout the day; J.J. and Rowan and I trekked over after brunch with J.J.'s family. The little cousins screeched around the couches while the aunts and uncles blocked sharp edges and corners. We FaceTimed with my sister and her kids in California. We ate, and ate, and fed the babies, and ate. We cleaned up, served pie, bid goodnight to the littles, watched football, and drank beer in the basement while cracking jokes and shooting clandestine videos of each other's terrible dance moves. One by one, those who had trickled in trickled back out. My sister and I joked about going Black Friday shopping at midnight (our shared worst nightmare) before finally succumbing to sleep. Some of us spent the night at my dad's, hoping to soften the transition from a house full of family and laughter to being alone again. For him, and for us.

Blurry cousins.

Blurry uncle-tosses.

I drove home by myself this morning, since J.J. and Rowan headed back to Ann Arbor last night. It was raining. I was happy. I acknowledged my ambivalence about the holiday in the days leading up to it, recognized my grief and my contentment without judging either. I'd taken care of my family where I thought I could, hugging my sisters and squealing with my nieces and bonding with my nephews and laughing at my dad's stories about my mom. We'd weathered our first big holiday without her, and we were still us, laughing and sarcastic and eating ice cream pie, and she was still there (not referring to the phantom sweater incident!). We found her tablecloth and copied her recipes and told her stories and realized why she got stressed when the kitchen grew overcrowded and no one would sit when dinner was ready. We watched out for my dad, and he watched out for us, and just that - all of us, gathering and laughing and loving - is exactly the legacy my mom cultivated.

And something about this acceptance of - all of it - seems to be the biggest difference between then and now, childhood and adulthood. I'm trying not to rage against reality just for the sake of the fury. I'm planting my passions and heightening my cognizance, yielding to truth while sensing its impermanence. I feel present and aware and here for the ride, waving to the family in the minivan instead of wanting the family in the minivan. I'm still me, neurotic and dramatic and insatiable and wondering, but I'm moving on to accepting all of it as part of the package, the price we pay and are paid for being human. 

What more could I possibly give thanks for?

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Monday, November 23, 2015

stardust kind of weekend.

From beginning to end, it was my kind of weekend. A stardust kind of weekend.

It was the kind of weekend where...I unearthed my old lovey, Puff-Puff, and handed him over to my daughter. This is actually Puff-Puff 2.0, since O.G. Puff-Puff was left in a hotel room on vacation when I was nine years old (AKA way too old to be toting a lovey around), never to be seen again. Months later, I spotted a replacement version at a drugstore one day, and my mom made me choose between getting candy (like all my siblings were) and getting a new Puff-Puff. I chose Puff-Puff. I don't know if y'all recall my candy addiction, but that says SOMETHING. And now? He belongs to her, who belongs to me.

It was the kind of weekend where...my sister and I went out on Friday night and spent hours at a Thai restaurant and then even more hours at Applebee's (needed dessert after the Thai place closed). We laughed until we were crying and neighboring patrons were raising their eyebrows at us ("Snakes on a Christmas tree! It's yourrrrs!"), we traded career tales, and we accidentally stayed out until one in the morning.

It was the kind of weekend where...a huge snowstorm rolled through and switched our landscape vignettes so quickly, it felt like I was experiencing a real-time split-screen: sixty degrees / overcast / autumn leaves vs. thirty degrees / blue skies / a foot of heavy snow. Rowan played outside morning, noon, and night...

...except when I forced her to stay in and make First Snow Cookies with me. There was a copious amount of frosting taste-testing performed by my half-naked toddler, and it was even more fun than making our First Snow Brownies last year.

It was the kind of weekend where...I just couldn't stop the flow of ideas, so I didn't try to. Meaning, I came up with two (more) (sort of harebrained) business plans. Woke up in the middle of the night to write notes about the plans. Tried to read my book, but kept putting the book back down to make even more notes about the plans. Made lists of people who could help me with all my questions about the plans - marketing, payments, curriculums. BUT. For all the big ideas percolating, I also realized that I'm stuck here, in my preferred stage of big ideas: planning. It's so safe, so exciting, so full of possibility. How the hell do I pull the trigger to move onto the next stage? It's hard to find faith that something even better awaits me in the next stage. But, ooh, these big ideas...were definitely the stardustiest part of my entire weekend.

Except for the fact that it was the kind of weekend where...I crept into my toddler's room late at night to gaze at her, slumbering in a fortress of her most treasured friends, head resting on a pillowcase made by Grandma, warm air blasting from the vent next to her crib, which was purchased especially for her by Obee...and I was overwhelmed, overcome by the visions of refugee children lying on pine-needle pillows or losing consciousness as they drifted in the ocean. And even more overcome by the thought that so many of you are convinced that offering a safe haven to these children and their families is a direct threat to your children and your families. FYfuckingI, recent history demonstrates quite clearly that the terrorists posing the biggest and most real threat to us are white males with access to guns, not Syrian toddlers. 

Finally, it was the kind of weekend where...we spent Sunday morning at brunch with my family, and Sunday night out to dinner with J.J.'s family. We discovered that Rowan loves lemons (seriously, even though her face looks funny here)...

...and came home just in time to catch "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" on TV. That was total magic. J.J. read Rowan a Grinch storybook a few weeks ago, and she makes him retell the tale over and over: "More talk about the Grinch, Daddily. More talk about the Grinch." All I could think was how fun Christmas is going to be with her this year.

See? All of that. Magic, inspiration, beauty, love. Stardust.

Oh! Plus! These awesome Hape wooden toys are all half-off at Amazon today, in case you're looking for holiday gifts for a baby or toddler in your life. We own the snail already, and I'm loving that Table Top Art Studio, the Gourmet Kitchen Starter Set, and the guitar.

Oh AND: I found a phallic sock puppet from fourth grade that will make a great Throwback to Hell story soon. Again: STARDUST, PEOPLE.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

TBT to 1992: "Will You Go With Me?"

Okay, it turns out...I have a limit. I POSSESS SHAME. There's only so far I can take this. Plus, some of y'all are Facebook friends with the exact boy and girl I reference in this diary entry, so...no.

In other words, for the first time in a Throwback to Hell, I feel obligated to change the names of the innocent to protect their identities. And I'm not talking about Plucky Duck; his real name is used, and proudly. I'm talking about my sixth-grade boyfriend - who, for the record, I never kissed or even held hands with. We spoke on the phone every day after school, which solidified our status as "going together." ("Going where?" my mom used to guffaw, and I would wish fervently to melt through the linoleum kitchen floor and die, just to escape her sense of humor. Ironically, I totally make the same kinds of jokes these days. Sorry, Rowan. Also, J.J.)

All right. Here we go. I'm officially embarrassed to. my. core. about this one, even with the pseudonyms - which, btw, were really hard to conjure up without inadvertently using some other classmate's actual name. So (have mercy), please have fun wading into the pool of my eleven-year-old love triangle.

The sign of a great basketball player is when she's
so short, her jersey hangs down below her shorts.

March 13, 1992
     Doo-doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo!
     FRIDAY THE 13th!!!!
     It has been a super day. I got to dance with Josh, and on the phone he said the most ROMANTIC thing to me--
     On Friday, Feb. 28, 1992, Josh called me at exactly 5:04 P.M. I was watching T.V. The phone rang...
     "Hello?" my sister said.
     A pause.
     "Who?" she asked.
     "Who?" she asked again. Then, "Oh, okay. Hold on a sec. CATHY!!!"
     I was right there, but she yelled anyway. (Stacy.)
     "Coming!" I said.
     I ran to the phone.
     "Who is it?" I asked.
     "Josh?" she said questioningly.
     Josh!!? I thought. I wondered why he was calling?
     I picked up the phone. "Hello?"
     "Cathy?" a voice said.
     "Yeah?" I said.
     "This is Josh."
     "Well, um...I want to ask you something."
     "Will you go with me?"
     Had I heard right??!! "What?" I asked.
     "Nev--nevermind," Josh said quickly.
     "No, tell me!" I said.
     "Will you go with me?" he asked again.
     "Yes," I finally answered.
     "Oh. I wasn't expecting that."
     I laughed. "Yeah."
     A pause. "Well, I gotta go," I lied.
     "Oh. Okay. 'Bye."
     We hung up.
     I had my first official boyfriend!
     I was so happy. It was then I realized that I had liked him all along, not Naoki.
     Anyway, me and him were talking on the phone today. We were both coincidentally watching Tiny Toons. Plucky saw this gorgeous girl duck. His eyeballs turned into hearts and bugged out, and you could see a heart shooting out of his chest. Josh and I laughed.
     "That's what I did when I saw you," Josh said.
     I didn't say anything. What he said made me feel so happy.
     We hung up after awhile because Mari wanted to use the phone.
     Around 5:00 P.M. today, I called Josh. His line was busy.
     Suddenly I had a terrible feeling he was on the phone with his ex.
     Becky Mayer.
     Becky was going out with Josh for a long time. Then he broke up with her and asked me out. Ever since, Becky has been the biggest brat. She flirts with Josh so much. I hate it. I'm not saying Josh enjoys it, either. She is so annoying.
     I hate her.
     Mom and Mrs. Mayer are good friends. So are Carrie and Alison, Becky's older sister. So naturally they assume we're friends.
     We used to be. And in a way, we still are. If only she would be nicer to me and stop flirting so badly with Josh I would like her a lot better.
     She still loves Josh, and she knows it. She told Josh she likes Drew Patterson to cover it up. I don't believe her! What a liar! She wants to go with Josh!


THING #1: I was terrified the entire time I was transcribing this that I'd accidentally type the real names and let the cats out of the witness protection bag.

THING #2: I have such sweet sympathy for my socially-anxious and awkward sixth-grade (...also current) self, who got all nervous and lied about having to hang up just to avoid further conversation after Josh asked me to "go" with him.

THING #3: Yes, I did note the inconsistency in the narrative, wherein I am aggravated with my sister Stacy for yelling my name when I was "RIGHT THERE"...but then I have to tell her, "Coming!" and run to the phone. I think I was just trying to emphasize how super annoying my siblings clearly were.

THING #4: Love the reference to our old buddy Naoki, whom you might remember from a previous Throwback to Hell, "Maybe I'll Turn Out Okay After All".

THING #5: Can I just say that I'm super happy that my sixth-grade relationship consisted of talking to each other (on a landline) while watching Tiny Toons? Despite having two middle school "boyfriends," I didn't actually kiss a boy until I was seventeen (just, you know, if this post is going to be humiliating, why not go all out? My first kiss was when I was seventeen). There are perks to being a dork, and one of those perks is not having to grow up too fast.

THING #6: "What a liar! She wants to go with Josh!" All I can think is, "Go where?" #OfficialMomStatus

Happy humiliating Throwback Thursday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"I eat the kitty-cat on Halloween."

This week so far. I'm just not feeling it. Emails building up. Bills piling up. Internet being dicky. Apple messing with my iPhoto so that I can't edit pictures the way I want. Terrorists attacking, including where my sister-in-law is vacationing with her boyfriend (they're fine). Refugees starving and dying and being turned away, even little bitty toddlers like my own. So, screw everything, and here's a bunch of stuff making me happy:

:: Rowan has been busting out funny vocabulary words like actually and even and either. She's also trying to figure out referring to things that happened in the past by saying last year and yesterday - incorrectly, but still. I get the point, and love her efforts.

:: Also in the Rowan vocabulary vein: The other day, her toy t
oolbox wouldn't shut because a saw was sticking out of it. She cried out, "I can't close this!" I said, "Hey, there's something sticking out of it! See what happens if you move it." She moved the saw all the way into the toolbox and shut the lid. "I did it!" she exclaimed. "You did it!" I repeated. "You kept trying and you found a solution!" "Yeah! ...Now I take the solution out." She opened the box and scooped out a handful of tools. "Here's the solutions!" I laughed my ass off.

:: I was at a restaurant the other day and overheard some twenty-somethings chatting at the bar about whether or not to invite Alicia to Friendsgiving, and the potential implications and fallout of their decision. In a flash, I was both envious of their night (happy hour with friends, where the biggest problem is that fucking Alicia), and grateful to be...where I am in life, i.e., not there.

:: Rowan and I were reading books together on Monday. I pointed out a kitty-cat that was lurking on every page, and Rowan said, flatly, "I eat the kitty-cat." She has a habit of repeating whatever she said until you respond, so when I was stunned into silence, she repeated herself, in monotone: "I eat the kitty-cat. I eat the orange kitty-cat. I love to eat the orange kitty-cat." At this point, I started fearing for the life of the neighborhood cat who wanders through our myrtle in the evenings...and happens to be orange and white. "I eat the kitty-cat on Halloween. The orange kitty-cat." And then it dawned on me: "...OH! You mean the Kit-Kats? The orange Halloween Kit-Kats?" "Yeah!" she replied. "I eat the kitty-cat. Yum, yum." Thankful she doesn't have Alf tendencies.

:: Remember the game 7-Up from when you were a kid? I just have to know: Did everyone peek at the person's shoes when you got tapped? Or was I a total delinquent (who usually won)? And speaking of shoes:

:: This morning, I was getting ready in the bathroom while J.J. finished his shower. It was quiet, except for the sound of the running water. All of a sudden, I heard him say softly, "Play-stay-shon." That's it - just a random Play-stay-shon. I raised my eyebrows incredulously at my reflection and said, "Did you just randomly say 'PlayStation' the way they do in the commercials?" He said, "Yep! Yes I did. Play-stay-shon." And then we couldn't stop saying it. Until I stepped barefoot on a brachiosaurus, which hurts about as much as you'd expect, in case you were wondering.

:: This Thanksgiving will be our first without our head chef, so my siblings and I divvied up cooking duties. I was assigned mac 'n' cheese and ice cream pie (AKA the bulk of my Thanksgiving meal). This week, I'm taking one for the team and beta-testing a guesstimated version of my mom's ice cream pie recipe. It's not quite right, so I have to keep tasting it to figure out what needs to change.

:: And the last thing making me happy this week is reading how many people connected with the article I wrote for Scary Mommy on postpartum anxiety. I mean, I'm not happy that so many mamas experience PPA without knowing what it is or getting support, but it's been amazing to hear from others whose light bulbs were turned on by the article. Here's hoping even one reader manages to reach out for help as a result.

Just going to leave this post at that. Happy Tuesday, peeps.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

thanks, mom from the library.

One of the best things about being a parent in Ann Arbor is having access to some of the coolest children's programs ever. This past Monday, we went to a "Sensation Stations" program at one of the smaller library branches, and Rowan spent an hour happily swishing her hands around in bins of beans, pasta, sand, styrofoam, and yarn. And yesterday, we went to preschool story time at the main branch of the library.

Ann Arbor District Library's story times are...amazing, for a few reasons. First, there are separate baby and preschool story times, which is helpful when you don't want your eight-month-old to get mowed down by a rambunctious five-year-old. Second, there's at least one story time at at least one of the branches every weekday. Third, the story times get families to the library, which exposes both parents and children to everything our libraries have to offer (including craft machines and activity bags for rent!). Fourth, our children's librarians? Are legendary storytellers. We're talking puppets, costumes, felt boards, dancing, singing, special voices, musicians - all bound up in a predictable routine with the same songs to start and end each session, which you know the early-childhood crowd thrives on.

But! This post isn't actually about the story times, specifically. It's about what happened after yesterday's story time.

Rowan and I spent a happy chunk of our morning listening to and singing along with the librarians. She hesitantly crept away from me at the end to get a hand stamp all by herself (we're working on her bravery for those independent hand stamp missions), and then she bounded back over to flaunt her two stamps, one from each librarian, and each of which was related to the day's story themes. Then we hung around and read books together, did some puzzles, checked out the fish tank, and listened to her favorite story on the library computers.

After a while, we wandered over to the open area in the back of the children's section, where there were a couple large bins of toys set out. Only a few kids were back there. Rowan started zooming a fire truck around the carpet, and I got my phone out to catch up on Facebook.

It happened in less than a minute. A little toddler, younger than Rowie, was dragging one of the bins out of the open area and over to the puzzle area. An older boy (maybe four?) was trying to stop the toddler girl from taking all the toys away, but she was on a mission. The older boy got furious, ran back to his mom (who was browsing the stacks nearby and periodically reminding him that the baby was smaller, and to let her take the bin), and collapsed in a screamy heap next to her.

We've all been there, right? Your kid wants something that another kid's using, and the kid is younger, so you, probably reluctantly, follow the laws of the land and tell your kid to back off. Predictably, most kids aren't too pleased with this outcome, and some kind of tantrum ensues.

But what happened next was a total game-changer for the boy. His mom knelt down with him and started out by delivering a swift ultimatum: "If you're going to scream like that in the library, we're going to have to leave." She was firm but gentle. I have no idea if she was prepared to follow through on that or not, but the boy stopped screaming. Then she continued, explaining that she knew he was upset, but that the baby was younger and didn't know that the toys needed to stay in the open area. She then helped him talk through his anger, helped him name his strong emotions, validated those emotions, and helped him come up with an alternative activity while he waited for a turn with the toy bin. Soon, her son dashed back to the open area to play with a different toy - maybe not 100% happy, but definitely feeling better.

The mom turned back to her browsing, and I so wanted to walk right over and tell her how awesome I thought that parenting moment was. But I couldn't. I didn't know how to phrase it without sounding like - I don't know, her supervisor or some shit - and I wasn't sure if she'd be weirded out that I totally snooped on her little discipline session. And then Rowan bolted for the puzzles, so I had to walk away and follow her.

On our way to the puzzle area, I saw the toy bin. The little toddler girl had abandoned it and was engrossed in a dinosaur puzzle with her grandparents. Rowan settled in at a different puzzle, and I decided to carry the bin back to the boy.

When I set it down in front of him, he looked up, surprised. I said, "I heard you were waiting for a turn with these toys, so here you go." He grinned and said, "Thanks! Yeah! Thank you!" and scooped some of the trucks out of the bin.

His mom was still standing nearby, looking at books, so I bit the bullet, walked over, and said what I was thinking: "Excuse me - I just wanted to say I thought you did such a great job of talking with him earlier." She looked at me with wet eyes and started to say thank you. I kept talking: "It's just - if that had been my daughter? She probably would've had a full-on tantrum. But I loved the way you talked him off the ledge." She was smiling, eyes still wet, and replied, "That is so nice! Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you."

"You're welcome. Take care," I said, and headed back towards Rowan.

Look, I'm not saying I did anything amazing or miraculous. In fact, I almost didn't even write about this. Today was full of extreme parenting news that wrenched my heart in all directions: long-awaited pregnancies and births (hi, baby June!!), children in hospice, children dying, mamas missing their babies who are gone. What's the big deal about a possibly out-of-place compliment to a stranger at the library in the midst of all the grief and celebration?

But I did want to post this. Because here's the big deal. These connections, the ones that make us care about the big bad news and the big good news, are what make us human. And as a mom, someone complimenting me on my parenting skills would absolutely stick with me, would shore me up against the tougher moments of mothering - both because it would make feel proud of myself, and because it would make me feel connected to the person who noticed and complimented me. These connections, however they're forged, remind us that we're all in this together, and that we're all on the same mission as parents and people: trying to do the best we can with what we know.

Before I became a mom, I was definitely aware that all parents are doing their best, and that they all want what's best for their kids. Working in early childhood, my coworkers and I reminded each other of that a thousand times a week. But what changed - grew exponentially stronger - when I had Rowan was that connection. Now, any other mother's tears are my own. It's why I couldn't read or watch sad news stories for so long after Rowan was born. It's why, during my new-mom group meetings, if one of us started crying, we all started crying. It's why I stepped out of my comfort zone and approached the mom at the library and told her how impressed I was with how she helped her son talk through his anger. That connection is a precious layer of humanity, and it's our job to bolster it whenever we can.

That's all. It was just good to remember that, just like in my old job, it's still important to seek out my coworkers (fellow parents) and try to build them up. So, thanks for the reminder, Mom From the Library.


Also, just in case you forgot that our kids are always listening and soaking up our influences, even as babies: I haven't sung this song to Rowan in months and months, but I used to sing it to her all the time when she was a tiny baby. I randomly sang the opening words the other day, and she finished the rest, unprompted. Caught a little on camera on Monday before dinnertime:

She's singing (to the tune of "Who's That Lady?"): "Who's my baby (who's my baby)? Rowan Sophia (she's my baby)!" Good gravy, I love this little Rowalie of mine.

Monday, November 9, 2015

GIVEAWAY! :: free customizable board book from Pint Size Productions!

So...I'm aware that I still I have a pumpkin carcass rotting on my front porch and that the temperatures only recently dipped below 70 here in Michigan (!!!), but the unavoidable truth is: the holidays are coming. And while I'll refrain from plunking a Christmas tree in the middle of our family room for a few more weeks, I've already got gifts on the brain.

So I thought I'd share with you one of the best gifts that I've ever given - AND gotten. And the awesome news? The company that makes this perfect present, Pint Size Productions, wants to let one of YOU order one for FREE!

A free what, you might ask?

A free customizable board book! 

You guys - not only are these books personalized, adorable, and durable, they're also the perfect present for just about anyone. We've made four so far. The first one was for J.J. on his first Father's Day. I hid it in Rowan's stack of books during her evening bath on Father's Day, and when we were reading bedtime stories later, I pulled it out and began reading. J.J. will readily admit that he started crying like a baby, which might give you an indication of how awesome it is to have a story in your hands specifically about you and your sweet pea.

Since that first successful board book, we've made three more: one for Rowan for her first birthday (about all her favorite things, and to commemorate one-year stats like height, weight, words, etc.), one for J.J.'s mom (with pictures of Rowan and Grandma), and one for me for Mother's Day.

From "What Does Rowan Love?"

From "What Does Rowan Love?"

From "Rowan + Gramma"

From "Rowan and Mama"

Pint Size Production's website offers a range of designs for you to choose from, and the amount to which it's customized is up to you. They walk you through each (simple) step for creating your book. You can start with one of their blank templates, or you can add your pictures into a pre-made Sandra Boynton-based book. And if you're the lucky winner of this contest, you can pick whichever template you want!

These books are the perfect gift...for your significant other, for the grandparents, for a favorite auntie, for your child, or even for yourself. Any grown-up who gets one will treasure both the pictures and the opportunity to cuddle and read with a special kid, and any child who gets one will loooove looking at pictures of herself and hearing a personalized story. Seriously, Rowan has parts of hers memorized and still requests them regularly. Plus, as board books, they're appropriate for even the youngest babies.

So - wondering how to win?? 


:: Contest begins today and closes at midnight on Friday, November 13.
:: One entry per email address.
:: To enter, use the simple Rafflecopter widget below.
:: One winner will be chosen randomly by the Rafflecopter widget at the contest's close.
:: Winner will receive a special code (from me! Make sure you enter the correct email!) for one FREE customizable board book from Pint Size Productions. *Winner must pay shipping & handling.*

Good luck!!

(You might need to give the widget a minute to load!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks again to Pint Size Productions for offering this giveaway! FYI, I wasn't paid or perked for hosting the giveaway, and I'm not eligible to win. I just love this company's products and wanted you guys to know about them!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

a(nother) day in the life.

Back in March, when Rowan was almost one and a half, I did a "day in the life" post where I recorded everything we did during the day, pictures included. It's one of the few blog posts of mine that I actually re-read, because I just love remembering all the little details. I actually intended to write one "day in the life" post per month, buuut...well, it's November, and here's the second installation so far. Ah, well. Here you go. A random Thursday with a two-year-old and her stay-at-home mama.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

5:14 a.m.: I wake up with a start, thinking I hear Rowan stirring. I grope for the clock to check the time - crap, I hope she's not actually up yet. Somehow, the end of Daylight Savings Time made her start waking up around 5:30 instead of 7:30, and it. sucks. a. lot. But I don't hear any more noises, and I (miraculously) drift back off to sleep (and have a super weird dream about a cognitive obstacle course game show that ends with a "parents of young children" roundtable discussion).

5:57: Shit, there she is. She's crying a little, which means she's not fully awake or ready to be up for the day; if she were ready, she'd be singing in her crib. I debate whether to risk going in, tucking her in, and reminding her that it's still ni-ni time. She sounds sufficiently sleepy but unlikely to calm down on her own, so I creep in. She looks at me with half-closed eyes and whines, "I don't like this ba-ba, I don't like this ba-ba." In the darkness, I gather that her preferred pacifier (Green Ba-Ba) is lost, leaving her with the obviously inferior Yellow Ba-Ba. (All right, Ba-Ba Fairy, come on over.) I grope around on the floor, find Green Ba-Ba, jam it in her mouth, cover her back up, say, "Go to sleep...it's still nighttime," and crawl back into bed. I've got about a 15% chance that this strategy will be effective. Survey says...

7:20: Effective! Rowan's asleep still. I, on the other hand, have been laying in bed this whole time, reading on my iPad. I better squeeze in a shower before J.J. needs to leave for work. I'm starting to wonder if I should wake Rowan up so she won't fight me at nap time. That's right, folks; I'm annoyed if she wakes up too early and annoyed if she sleeps in too late! Never satisfied, apparently. I sneak a peek at her, well aware that my movements will start to wake her up.

7:35: I'm in the bathroom and can hear her playing with her babies in her crib. By the time I get out of the shower at 7:50, she and Daddy are reading a Richard Scarry book (omfg the worst...never-ending, those Richard Scarry books. And she LOVES them), and Rowan's drinking her morning milk.

8:00: Now J.J. and I are both in the bathroom, brushing teeth and drying hair and finishing getting ready for the day. Rowan's still in her room with her ridiculous Richard Scarry novel.

8:00: J.J. leaves for work while I get random stuff done. Over the next half hour, I vacuum the upstairs rugs (for the first time since Rowan's birthday party...in September), realize Rowan's still in her nighttime diaper, change it, refill the wipes container (from our accidentally-enormous wipes stash...I didn't pay close enough attention to my Amazon Mom subscriptions and ended up with enough wipes to last until Rowan has kids of her own), help Rowan work her record player toy, make oatmeal for her, and make eggs for me.

DJ Rowalie.
8:45: Eating breakfast together. Rowan, unsurprisingly, wants some of my eggs, even though she has her favorite oatmeal in front of her. "I need more eggs!" she says after inhaling half of mine. I tell her, "Sorry, they're all gone," and she responds cheerily, "Yeah, I ate dem all!" and then requests pancakes. I remind her that she still has a full bowl of oatmeal. She drops her Frozen-themed cup and gasps, "You okay, Elsa and Anna?!" She repeats the question until I finally say (in my best Elsa and Anna voices), "Yes, we're okay! Yes, we're okay!" She finishes eating and, while I put away last night's dishes, do the breakfast dishes, wipe down the counters, and sweep the kitchen, she chills with her 5-Minute Marvel Stories book.

9:00: Rowan needs another diaper change (I totally could've just waited for her regularly-scheduled after-breakfast poop instead of changing her diaper right before breakfast). I get her dressed and put braids in her hair, since Grandma did braids last night while she was baby-sitting and sent us a sweet pic of Rowan looking adorable and old.

9:35: We head to "The Kroger," as Rowan calls it. She spots a Christmas display outside the store and is beside herself with glee. She starts hugging all the figures while I stand to the side cackling at her and taking pictures. I stop her when she starts kissing them all, and we head inside.

My list-checker. "Says 'bananas,' Mama."

10:10: Back home to put the groceries away before we have to leave for gymnastics. On the way home, Rowan started calling, "Gymnaaaastics! Gymnaaaastics! I'm LOOKING for you!" Haha. I told her we'd leave for gymnastics right after we put the groceries away, and she responded, "Yeah. I see Coach Jamie [her teacher] soooooon!" Pretty sweet. She peruses her set of Doc McStuffins mini-books for a few minutes while I take a minute to check email and Facebook. She talks to herself: "Coach Jamie likes that book and that book. Two books! Her say, 'Hahahaha!' Silly Coach Jamie!"

10:25: We leave for gymnastics. Rowan drinks a cup of milk in the car on the way. We're there a little early, but Rowan likes to watch the class before ours and play with her friends before class starts. A bunch of the kids from my mom group are in this same gymnastics class, and I love how excited Rowan gets to see them. They're her first friends.

11:00 - 11:45: Gymnastics! Rowan is psyched to see her beloved Coach Jamie. We do some parachute play and an obstacle course before it's free play time. Rowan loves to jump on the trampolines during free play, but today she heads for the foam block pit. She leaps off the end of the runway into the blocks...

...and then bursts into tears - real tears, "I'm hurt" tears. She bent a funny way (backwards, with the back of her head toward her toes) when she landed in the pit, and I'm totally freaked out for a minute. I jump in the pit and haul her out while she cries, "I hurt my back, I hurt my back." We snuggle for a minute, and I make her walk around so I can see if she's okay. She's still crying, but nothing appears to be broken or seriously hurt. Still, she can't shake the tears for the remaining ten minutes or so of class - not like her. She lines up for arm stamps when the class is over and doesn't protest when it's time to put on her shoes. Finally, by the time we're walking out the door, she seems to be okay again. But then she ends up whining and crying for most of the ride home, even though she has two T. Rexes and a veggie pouch to keep her company. When we're turning into our neighborhood, she suddenly wails, "I need...I need...I need Mamany!" (Mamany is her sweet nickname for me...she calls herself Rowalie and J.J. is Daddily.) I reach my hand over the top of her car seat and tell her she can hold my hand, and we drive like this - my torso and shoulder awkwardly contorted, her hand clutching mine - through our neighborhood to our house.

12:15: Thankfully, she snaps out of her sadness when we go inside for lunch, partially because I talked to her in my T. Rex voice and told her the dinosaurs were excited to eat, and that they love mustard just like she does. This makes her giggle, and she eats her lunch - cheese sandwich and tomatoes, like usual - without a fuss. 

12:35: Usually, Rowan plays for awhile after lunch, but we got home late from gymnastics, so I quickly change her diaper (thanking my lucky stars that she doesn't insist on one of her twenty-minute potty-sits after I take her diaper off), and we head upstairs for nap. She falls asleep quickly after I put on her sleep sack and rock her, but her eyes pop open when I lay her down. This happens maybe every one in ten nap times, and it's annoying every time. I scoop her up again and resume singing "Mary Had A Little Lamb," and she drifts back off. The crib transfer is successful the second time.

12:55: Back downstairs. I'm starving and throw together a cold pasta salad with leftover spaghetti from last night. I check Facebook, write emails, cancel my accidental Kindle Unlimited subscription, demolish my M&M stash, and write the first part of this blog post.

3:05: Crap, I have to go wake Rowan up. If I don't wake her up right around three, she'll stay up super late tonight. Actually, she usually does that anyway - talks and sings and plays in her crib from when we put her down around 7:30 until 8:30 or even 9:00 - and I have no idea if waking her up at three helps or not, but whatever. I get a cup of milk for her and head upstairs.

3:07: I find her all snuggled up and adorable, and I scoop her into my arms for more snuggles:

We end up cuddling and reading books (Madeline, Daniel Tiger's Halloween, and more frickin' Richard Scarry) for over half an hour before I decide we have to go outside. We're required by the state of Michigan to get out and enjoy the last 70-plus-degree day we'll have until...March, probably.

3:45: Raking leaves in the front yard. I thought I'd have to find ways to entertain Rowan out here, but she's actually entertaining herself. She plays with "her" rake, jumps in leaves, and has her dinosaurs jump in leaves. Pro tip: Don't let your two-year-old throw her beloved dinosaurs into a leaf pile that's exactly the same colors as they are.

There were four dinosaurs hiding in here. I spy two in this pic. It was a near-tragedy.

Filled up the entire compost bin!

4:25: All the leaves in the front yard (and part of our elderly neighbor's front yard) are in the compost bin, so we head to the park. Rowan decides to ride her motorcycle, and I let her, even though I know she's going to want her bike - not her motorcycle - as soon as we have to leave the park. Ugh.

4:50: Yep. Meltdown when it's time to leave. I kinda hate going to the park right before dinner, because we're pretty much guaranteed a meltdown of some variety when it's time to go, thanks to hunger. She has a pretty fancy tantrum today, crying the entire way home and even wanting me to carry her (and her motorcycle). Good times.

5:00: As usual, I haven't put two seconds of thought into what's for dinner tonight, so I pull two boxes out of the freezer and have Rowan choose between a vegetarian "Chik'N" cutlet and a veggie burger. She chooses the cutlet, and I pop it in the microwave. Usually I'll bake it, but cranky, hungry toddler = microwave. (...I put the cutlet in the microwave. Not the toddler.) While it's being zapped, we sit down to take our shoes off, and she gets pissed because I take one of her shoes off (at her request, but that is clearly moot). While she cries for me to put it back on so she can take it off herself, I take a few deep breaths so I don't lose my shit. All of a sudden, I notice she's taking slow, deep breaths, too. Had I suggested she take a deep breath, she would've gone all Exorcist on me, but just modeling it for her - accident though it is - seems to help.

5:04: Rowan has a fun habit of finding the most fascinating and independent game EVER right before dinner starts, like all the time. Tonight it's a puzzle. She keeps lifting a piece off and calling "Peek-a-boo!" to the horse underneath, and then cracking up. Her dinner has to cool anyway, so I let her hang out for a bit.

5:15: Oops. Got lost on Facebook a little longer than I meant to. Rowan climbs into her high chair and dives into the cutlet, along with some green pepper slices and blueberries. And ketchup and mustard, of course. I wash the lunch dishes while she eats.

5:45: J.J. arrives home just as I finish cleaning up Rowan and her high chair. Rowie plays with her dinosaurs while J.J. changes clothes and I round up a load of laundry.

6:00: Take-out food is not in our budget these days, but I have a mad hankering for some Thai food. I make a No Thai run while J.J. and Rowan head out for their nightly walk. Since it's dark during their walks now, J.J. started strapping some headlamps to Rowan, which she thinks is the coolest thing ever to happen in the world. And it pretty much is.

6:25: I'm back home, with food. I shovel potato curry into my mouth while uploading photos and videos from today for this post. Our Internet is being even more of a bitch than usual (DIE FOREVER COMCAST), so my YouTube uploads aren't working right. I troubleshoot and then edit photos until...

7:05: J.J. and Rowan come inside. They head right upstairs for bath time. I switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer, grab a small cup of milk for Rowan, and relieve J.J. so he can take a little breather while I bathe Rowan.

7:30: With her pajamas on and hair brushed, Rowan settles into J.J.'s lap in her rocking chair, and we read stories together while she drinks her milk. Three books tonight, and then she cries for the Richard Scarry book, but I've already hidden it downstairs and I just cannot. She gets over it, thankfully, and then we brush teeth, zip her in her sleep sack, and sing a couple songs with the lights off.

7:45: I'm downstairs typing up the rest of this blog post while J.J. sings a few more special Daddy-Rowie songs. Then he puts her in her crib and comes downstairs to eat his No Thai. Rowan is silent...

8:24: ...until right this second. There was a thud a minute ago, and now she's whining about something. Ugh, something about a ba-ba. Let me go see.

8:27: Yellow Ba-Ba made a break for it, apparently. I tucked Rowan back in with her three ba-bas and seventy-two stuffed friends, and now I'm back downstairs. Going to fire up some more Walking Dead (almost done with Season 3!) and hope I don't hear from her again tonight.

8:29: Dammit! The dryer just buzzed. Down to get the clothes.

9:00: Somehow I got lost in folding clothes, editing this post, and half-watching Grey's Anatomy. FOCUS, Cathy. Walking Dead, now.

Rest of night: I'm going to post this now and cross my fingers that the rest of the night goes as follows: one episode of Walking Dead, into bed by ten, a sleeping baby until at least seven tomorrow morning. 

Wish me luck.

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