Monthly Archives: October 2011

For the Budding Gourmet

One thing that I love about my mommy friends is how supportive they’ve been of my endeavor to raise my child bilingual. They’ve gifted baby a number of French baby books, flashcards, and alphabet block sets, all to help me not only entertain but teach him. But today I want to put a little spotlight on one particular gift item because I think not only is it functional and fun but it’s so darn cute.

One of my oldest and dearest mommy friends gave this Williams-Sonoma baby dining set to us this summer:

I would say that my kid eats off of this adorable, completely dishwasher safe, melamine tray every day, if he really ate much. But luckily there are these animaux hiding out underneath his meals, because that’s pretty much the only way I get him to even push his food around the plate. I’m not sure I’m doing so well when he points to the chat and says gato, though.

But even better was when I opened a package from my mom this week to find this:

Now he has toute la collection and can be très chic the next time he’s dining high-chair bistro style.

5 Comments

Filed under baby gear, feeding, shopping

Three Fun and Fabulous Finds

Last weekend, I attempted to be an uber cool, multicultural mother and take baby to a Finnish puppet show that was being put on as part of D.C.’s Euro Kids Festival. Like a well-behaved parent, I pre-registered for the event and then tucked myself in early so I could get up on a Saturday at 6:30am to make sure everyone got showered, dressed, and fed (or in my case caffeinated) before hitting the metro by 9am. Despite my greatest efforts, it was a complete failure.

We arrived 15 minutes early, anticipating a crowd, which there was, only to be told that the show had already started. Apparently, the time had been incorrectly posted on the Web site. And despite there being empty seats, the puppeteer had asked that no one be admitted late, so we were turned away. Seems to me that it might have made more sense for the folks who arrived early to wait rather than the folks who were arriving later thanks to a misprint miss the whole show, but what do I know about these things. I assure you that there were a number of meltdowns as the children were informed that the Lapland puppet show was no longer in the cards.

Fortunately the show was taking place at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, which is just a few blocks from wonderful Eastern Market. It’s been ages since I’d been to the market, which most often gets passed over by tourists for the more well known sights. But in my book, it’s one of the most fun, “locals” thing to do in our nation’s capital. The quality of the crafts and wares are quite good–there’s always furniture I want to buy–the food hall is an utterly delicious throwback, and the neighbor itself is teeming with cute shops and nice brunch spots, especially when the weather is cooperative.

As I was checking out the various vendors, there were three from which any mom would have trouble resisting an impulse buy:

No strings attached puppets. I was a mom on a mission for puppets, so when I couldn’t get the Finnish kind, I opted for the finger variety. I remembered buying some of these a few years ago for a few of my nieces and nephews, but I had totally forgotten about them. They’re all handmade and some of the little detailing, especially on the sheep and the (or least what I think is a) llama, is so sweet. (From left to right, I bought a sheep, horse, zebra, pig, and llama.) About the only bargain I could get from the seller was if I bought 10 (at $2/a puppet), he’d give me one for free. I figured they’d make great wee one gifts sooner or later.

Classic wheels. Well, to be more accurate, it was actually labeled an SUV, which made me crack a half a smile. But these vehicles are big, blocky, bright, and well built. (Really, you wouldn’t believe how nicely they roll.) And the little people that pop in and out are too cute. The guy selling them tried to give me a line of bologna about how there’s a Montessori ethic behind the design; supposedly as kids learn to pull out the people, they’re unknowingly practicing to hold a pencil. Seems a bit of stretch, but, hey, whatever sells. The variety of vehicles was fairly wide, as well; in addition to SUVs, there were cars, helicopters, dump trucks, and even a super adorable whale that wee ones could drag behind them by a string. And the value was decent. I only bought one, so it was $7, but that still was a pretty good deal. I love Fat Brain Toys, but the most similar wooden car the company offered was retailing at $17.

New and oh-so-necessary nursery decor. I saw these modern yet crafty pillows and immediately wanted to design a nursery based on the Mirasa‘s color palette. The colors–squash, tangerine, sage, and turquoise–are wonderfully warm and sunny yet soft and make for cheery combinations when paired. Plus the design sensibility while contemporary still maintains a childhood charm. Love, love, love these products, all of which are handmade in India out of organic cotton. And the bonus: The onesies are just as adorable as the pillows. I just wished my wee one was still wee enough to wear them.

Leave a comment

Filed under baby boutiques, baby clothes, baby gear, shopping, toys

When Children Attack

I witnessed one mom’s complete mortification today. It was painful to watch.

I was in the daycare bathroom at the gym, changing baby’s underoos, when I heard the two nursery monitors telling a child to sit down and take a time out. Normally when that happens, things  quiet down as the kid sulks off to the naughty chair. But the two women kept talking very sternly and repeating no-no-no. A diaper change and hand washing later, I could still hear the scolding that was happening on the other side of the door. Something was up.

When I opened the door, I saw a little girl, probably around 4 years old, sitting in a chair. At that moment, her mother walked in with one of the nursery monitors. The one monitor started to explain that the little girl had hurled part of a toy at the wall, so hard in fact it left a dimple and a small streak on the wall. Then the other monitor jumped in and said while that was obviously a big problem, the other problem was that when the little girl was told to go to time-out, she repeatedly told the monitors to shut up.

I was feeling so uncomfortable being in the middle of all this, so I was just trying to pack my kid’s stuff up and strap him into the stroller as fast as possible. But I wasn’t out of there before I heard the second monitor giving the mom a serious talking-to about how that type of behavior is unacceptable, the nursery often has babies as guests and the chucked toy could’ve hurt one, and if it happens again her child will no longer be welcome at the gym daycare.

All of that was spot on, but I still wanted to die for that mom. How completely embarrassing. And not in the getting-yanked-out-of-exercise-class-to-change-your-kid’s-diaper-because-his-drawers-are-stinking-up-the-place kind of embarrassing, which actually has happened to me. That’s a strike-you-to-the-core, make-you-doubt-yourself-as-a-competent-parent kind of incident.

I didn’t know that mother. I had never seen her or her children at the gym before. But I couldn’t help but thinking, “That could be me.”

I am paranoid that my kid is going to be a hitter. He’s already smashed one kid on the head in the Stride Rite store over the summer and then more recently whacked another kid in our French group with a toy. Of course, on both accounts, I apologized profusely to the parents and children and scolded baby quite seriously.

But sometimes when I’m course correcting his behavior, he looks at me and cracks a smile. Other times, he’ll give me a little smack on my arm or leg. I’ve read that it’s a phase and that all children go through that. I also understand that my kid at this age is not really being intentionally defiant and more just reacting to my knee-jerk emotional reaction to whatever he did that was bad. But how can I be sure that I won’t end up with the violent four year old who gets kicked out of the gym daycare?

As parents, there are limitations to our control over what our kids pick up and what they don’t. We can model excellent behavior 99% of the time, but it’s always possible that what our kids retain is that 1% of our not-so-good behavior. My best friend, for example, recently learned that she needed to figure out a way to deal with the inevitable rush-hour road rage after she figured out her three year old was saying a**hole instead of something in Spanish. Whoops.

For me, I know I need to think more about my interaction with my dog. There are just those days where his chewing the corner of a couch pillow, stealing baby gear out of the stroller, or digging up my freshly mulched garden sends me over the edge. And the next thing I know, I’m yelling at the dog and swatting at him. Not really model behavior for someone who is hyper paranoid about having a kid who hits.

For now, my kid laughs when all this dog drama goes down. Usually it’s because, at some point, the dog gives chase and there I am, trying to discipline the dog while running up stairs and around furniture. No doubt I absolutely look like a stark raving idiot, so I guess I’ll give my kid props for appreciating the ridiculousness of my losing it. Now if I only can get a similar sense of humor.

Leave a comment

Filed under daily life, discipline, moms, parenting

A Map of Motherhood

One of the things I love most about being a journalist and editor has really nothing to do with writing. It’s about taking data and figuring out how to present it visually to create clarity, impact, and fun. In the business, we call all these charts, tables, timelines, graphs, flow charts, and anything else that slightly resembles a drawing of some sort infographics. They are critical to good journalism and story telling for two reasons: they provide a secondary point of entry into any story and they keep readers engaged with visual stimulation. But good infographics can be hard to come by because it takes a certain amount of skill to process a lot of information, prioritize it, simplify it, and add some creativity to the presentation. Needless to say, I appreciate a good infographic when I see it.

My absolute favorite infographer (and no, I don’t know if that’s a real word) is Jessica Hagy, who runs a blog called Indexed. All her posts are pictures of little line drawings she does on 3×5 cards. But even in this crude graphic form, she manages to pack her images with intelligence, depth, humor, wisdom, and often irony. Admittedly there are times when I struggle to “get” them. But even so, I think it’s pure genius. Just check these samples out:

Fun, right? So when I saw one of my favorite mommy bloggers, Pregnant Chicken, was featuring charts in today’s posts, I got excited. The post was all about how dumb a mommy-to-be (or a plain ole mommy) ends up feeling every time she goes to a doctor for something because typically one of two things happens:

  1. The doctor thinks she is nuts because whatever symptoms they are exhibiting are seriously no big deal, or
  2. The doctor thinks she is nuts because she didn’t get her butt into the office sooner because what’s wrong is a bad situation

So, Pregnant Chicken offered these perspectives on the experience, as both a mommy-to-be and new mommy:

Well said. I’ll remember this at my next appointment.

4 Comments

Filed under health, hospital, moms, pregnancy, writing

World’s Worst Mother

There are moments in a mother’s life that simultaneously confirm that her baby is smarter than she thinks and also is possibly much smarter than she thinks she is. Mine happened the other morning after my dog dug up a planter for the fourth time.

I had spent the entire Saturday before in my back garden, mulching, planting spring bulbs, and replacing plants that had fallen victim to my dog in one way or another. The day after I finished, my dog ran through my freshly mulched flower bed, trampling three mum plants that had yet to bloom. Later that night, he dug up a planter, leaving a heap of dirt on one of my benches and all over my deck. Press repeat two more times and I was considering permanently chaining my dog to the picnic table.

So, the morning of my incident started out as usual. Got baby up, let the dog out, and proceeded with our normal morning breakfast routine. As I started filling the coffee pot, I looked out and saw the dog standing on my bench, elbows deep in my planter once again. The broom that I had been using to clean up his messes was just a stick with a straw nub and all the straw parts were strewn around the yard and deck.

I saw red. I flew out the door, hurling obscenities at the dog and basically chasing him around the backyard because I was literally going to wring his neck. I finally grabbed him by the scruff, dragged him into the house, put him on his leash, and then tied him to the kitchen table. I armed myself with another broom and marched outside, muttering wicked things under my breath the whole time I was  cleaning up. I could not imagine beginning my day with such a disastrous mess in my yard, so I was determined to clean it all up before resuming the morning routine.

And baby was cool with that. He was wandering around, playing with his toys and having a pretty good time. Especially with the door that leads to our back deck. He’d open it and close it. Open it and close it. Open it and close it. It was great fun until I finished sweeping up the dirt and headed inside. I grabbed the door handle, turned it, and pulled. Nothing. It was locked.

I won’t say a wave of dread washed over me because it felt more like a Niagara Falls of dread inundating me. This couldn’t be happening. My kid is 16 months old. Figuring out a lock is not something he can do. (Or is it?) In my rage, I had flown outside sans phone or keys. I mean, who really takes all that when they pop into their backyard for a couple of minutes? And then I started to feel stupid. I was imagining myself having to walk over to one of my neighbors’ houses to ask to use the phone to call the police. I had decided I would feel less stupid asking the single dad next door than the lesbian couple on the other side of us; he might be able to relate, right? And then I started thinking about what would happen post police. How would I get my lock fixed? What were the repairs going to cost? And worst of all, what trouble could my kid get into inside on his own, completely unsupervised while all this was happening?

I took a breath and kneeled down. There was my little man smiling at me through a thin pane of glass and pulling on the door handle to let me in. I looked at him in a pleading way and begged for him to let me in. (Like he even knew what I was saying.) But by the grace of god, the lock toggle was still very interesting to him, so he continued to fiddle with it. I heard one click and lunged on the door handle. Perfect timing; the door was open once again.

All’s well that ends well, I guess, but I was seriously having a heart attack the whole time. I am still amazed that my toddler got the lock unlocked. What are the chances that he locked it in the first place? But I learned that I can’t take anything for granted anymore. So, I went out and had a spare set of keys made–that was a process in and of itself because apparently my door doesn’t have a normal lock–and hid them outside for the next time something like this happens. And lord knows with the busy body I’m raising, something like this is bound to happen again.

While I can laugh about the whole thing now, I felt–and still feel to some extent–like a crappy  mom. My kid was basically free range while I was flipping out on the dog. And it could’ve been disastrous. It was confirmed as a really bad situation when I recounted the whole incident to my best friend and all she could repeat was “no, no, no, no” at every turn of the story.

But it pays to have a lot of mommy friends on days like that. Because just as I was feeling like I was the world’s worst mother, another mommy friend texted me to say that she was the world’s worst mother. Somehow she locked her son in the car along with her cell phone and the keys. Again, it all turned out okay thanks to a stranger with a cell phone and AAA, but that didn’t help her from feeling any less guilty.

So my question is, do we as mothers hold ourselves to unreasonable standards? Has stuff like this happened all the time through the ages and we moms just take it personally because we feel like we should be SuperMom? Or is there a generation of women out there today that is just juggling too much in their daily lives that consequently their parenting skills are slipping (myself included)?

Always in retrospect, there’s the woulda, coulda, shouldas of any situation. If I could do it all over, I would’ve have grabbed my keys, and I could’ve also pocketed my phone, and I definitely should’ve just propped the door open to keep baby away from playing with it. But is it realistic to expect moms to think that proactively and preventatively on a daily basis? I mean, I know my friend and she’s not only a great mom but a vigilant one to boot, so I don’t take her claims of being the world’s worst mother seriously. But I know she does. And I definitely can relate, worst mother ever to worst mother ever.

6 Comments

Filed under babies, moms, parenting

Where in the World It Pays To Be a Working Mother

I get a kick out of all those lists–and there are a ton of them–that that rank cities against one another based on some interesting set of criteria. In the past week, for example, I’ve checked out the Top 10 cap-and-gown cities, otherwise known as the most educated cities; the Top 5 cities for extreme couponers, or other people who are equally as cheap; and the Top 10 graveyards for geezers, which some might call retirement Meccas. There are even rankings of rankings, like this one from Area Development Online, which is a list of the 100 most desirable places to do business, based on what markets made the cut on the greatest number of related lists.

But this week was the first time I had ever seen this list from Forbes of the 50 best cities for working moms. I don’t know where I was the past two years to have missed the earlier compilations. My guess was last year I was too busy breastfeeding and the year before that I was probably too busy being in denial about being pregnant. But anyway, I took a good, hard look at this year’s rankings.

I was happy to see that Forbes added a few new metrics to its ranking criteria, stretching the evaluation beyond the obvious issues of jobs, safety, and education. Commute and childcare are definitely two huge issues for me as a working mom in our nation’s capital and definitely two of the major reasons that I work mostly from home with occasional appearances at the office. By including these factors into the evaluation, I think Forbes did a good job of leveling the playing field between true major metro areas (think Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., etc.) and those metro areas that I would consider second- or even third-tier cities. I mean, seriously, would Buffalo, N.Y., really have made anyone’s top list of places to be a working mom if there wasn’t some value attached to the cost of doing business (childcare) and time (commute)?

There were certainly other surprises on the list. Columbus, Ohio, for example, came in a No. 2 on the list, thanks to short commutes and cheap child care options. And Milwaukee also was a dark horse winner at No. 4, with short commutes and good medical care helping its final standing.

However, I wasn’t too surprised to see Washington, D.C., break the Top 10. It’s really hard these days to find a better place for jobs. Judging how full the restaurants and bars are every night, it’s clear this town knows no recession. Plus, it’s a great place for professional women. I remember reading this Richard Florida article a few years ago that mapped out which metro areas had female surpluses, so to speak; D.C. was running neck and neck with Philadelphia for the title, with 50,000+ more single women than men. So, it makes sense that some of those single women would eventually marry and start families but stay in the area because of the jobs.

But I’m not sure I would agree with D.C. ranking high on education. The survey gave the city a No. 4 rank for greatest expenditure per pupil. But spending lots of money doesn’t necessarily equate to good schools. In fact, in general, public schools in the district are atrocious; it’s actually pretty embarrassing. Traditional public schools are being shut down all the time because of failing test scores, leaving public charter schools to pick up the slack. But they can’t handle the capacity, so situations akin to those documented in the film Waiting for Superman are very normal. Kids basically need to win the lottery to go to the best schools.

Looking more closely at where the District ranked on the individual metrics, I saw that there was a real divergence between the pros and cons of being a working mommy in D.C. The city scored in the top 10 on four out of 8 metrics–female earning potential, jobs, schools, and healthcare; in the middle of the pack for safety; and in the very bottom of the heap on cost of living, childcare, and commute.

Given the costs of housing, no matter whether you rent or own in the area, I pretty much expected D.C. to fall in line behind San Francisco, nearby San Jose, and New York City in terms of expensive cities to live in, although I would’ve thought Boston and Chicago might have been a little pricier than D.C. perhaps.

But I was totally shocked to find that what I know anecdotally about the cost of childcare and commute times was actually confirmed by data. (It really is as bad as I think it is.) D.C. ranked No. 50 for cost of childcare with the average annual cost of full-time childcare coming in at $18,200, according to NACCRA, and No. 49, second only to New York, for commuting.

So, if I’ve got this straight, it’s great to be a traditional working mom in D.C. if you want to make a lot of money but spend a ton of it on childcare because you’re stuck in traffic. It’s no wonder that working from home is so the best option for mommies like me.

Leave a comment

Filed under childcare, daily life, family, moms, stay-at-home moms, working mom

Revenge of the Mom Jeans

Yesterday I got a promotional e-mail from American Eagle about a program that they are running called Old Jeans, New Hope. The idea is that the company is asking people to bring old, worn out jeans to any American Eagle store for recycling; the jeans are then turned into insulation for homes in communities in need. In exchange for a denim donation, people will receive 20% off store purchases.

Although I think this is a great recycling program, the program promotion reminded me of a post I’d been meaning to write for awhile now on my new favorite jeans.

Between being a mom to a toddler and working from home, I nearly live in jeans. Consequently, I own a lot of pairs of jeans. I’ve bought more expensive brands like 7 For All Mankind and also really cheap kinds like the Mossimo junior jeans I picked up at Target for less than $14 this past summer. Although when you find a great pair of jeans, they most often are worth whatever they cost–7’s for example really do make anyone’s butt look good–I do kind of get off on finding deals on less expensive jeans that fit just as well as the pricier pairs.

My latest find was at American Eagle. I don’t usually shop at American Eagle, mainly because in my head it’s in the same category as Abercrombie & Fitch. And frankly, I’m too old for how short the shorts are, if you know what I mean. But I had a twenty-something friend visiting from France who just loves American-style clothes and she wanted to do some shopping at American Eagle, so I went with her to the store.

I had been wanting a new pair of dark wash jeans and they had about a gazillion pairs on display. At the time I visited, the store was running a promotion where all jeans were around $25. So, I figured why not try a few pairs on. Never having tried on AE jeans before, I didn’t know what I needed or even wanted in terms of style and size, so the sales associate grabbed about five different styles for me in what she estimated was my size.

I kid you not, I have never tried on five pairs of jeans and had them all fit really well. There was no gapping in the waist above the derriere region and there wasn’t four inches of excess material drowning my ankles. And the pockets were big and sat low, just the thing for minimizing assets. The fits were so good I debated buying all five pairs–I mean, really, when you find good jeans you just have to buy them. But then I decided that was a little excessive since I had just scored on some Target jeans a couple months prior. So, I talked myself into just buying two pairs. But which ones?

Making Moms Look Good

I was well stocked in the skinny jean department, so I had tried on the Slim Boot, Original Boot, Hipster Flare, Favorite Boyfriend, and Artist styles. After trying every single pair on at least two more times to determine what was a good versus great fit, I finally decided on the Favorite Boyfriend and Artist jeans. As you might imagine, the Favorite Boyfriend are a bit more relaxed, although they are pretty low rise, and the Artist have a little bit of a trouser twist on the classic jean.

About the only drawback I’ve found after wearing one of those pairs probably four or five days out of the week is that I think I would’ve maybe gotten a size smaller. The denim is kind of light and soft, which I like, but it also means that it sort of stretches out after a few wears, especially with all the bending and running I do chasing a toddler around all day. But that can be said for a lot of jeans, so I don’t know that I would really categorize it as a negative for these jeans.

And I’m definitely not the only mom who’s fallen in love with AE jeans. I was recently stocking up on some makeup in a department store when one of the sales reps at a nearby counter came up to me and asked, “Are those American Eagle Artist cut jeans?” Turns out that mother of two also recently purchased a few pairs and was loving that she got a whole lot of mom jean for the money.

1 Comment

Filed under fashion and style, mom style, moms, shopping, stay-at-home moms, working mom