Wednesday, December 21, 2011
I volunteered as a “Toy Shop Elf” at the Salvation Army’s Minneapolis Toy Shop yesterday, and it was a very rewarding and eye-opening experience — just in time for Christmas. My job was to escort adults while they “shopped” for gifts for their kids (up to age 12). There were stations set up for 0-2 years, 3-5 years, 6-9 years, and 10 and up, with boy and girl gifts in each station. Each person was allowed to choose two small toys (puzzles, games, dolls, etc.) or one large toy (ice skates, table-top air hockey game, boom box, remote-controlled car, etc.) per child, so basically I was there to help them decide, get them in and out as efficiently as possible, and make sure they didn’t try to take advantage of the system (I like to think that everyone would be honest if they were given the opportunity to shop alone, but there are always a few who feel entitled to more than their share).
• Just because people are down on their luck doesn’t mean they don’t have an Xbox or Nintendo DS or CD or DVD players — I didn’t see a single video game on the tables of “goods,” and I only saw two CDs and two movies (and one was The Breakup!). I think a video game, movie, or CD would be a great gift for the right kid.
• I don’t know how many times a mom asked me if we had anything princess for her princess-obsessed daughter (a few books, that was it), and I didn’t see any Thomas the Train toys for boys. In the 3.5 hours I was there, I saw a total of two Barbies, which kind of surprised me. Do you think people shop differently than they would for a friend or relative when they’re donating to Toys for Tots or some other gift donation program? It seemed that way to me, but maybe the selection was just heavily game-focused the night I volunteered. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Candyland or Chutes or Ladders, but what kid doesn’t love a good toy on Christmas Day?!)
• I helped one frail young woman who grabbed my hand in her pale, bony hand, looked me in the eye, then said “Thank you SO much for doing this. Bless you. This means so much to me.” She then proceeded to tell me that her 7-year-old son, Kayden, was getting only one gift this year — and this was it. “If not for this program, he wouldn’t be getting anything,” she said through her tears. “And he’s such a good boy—he never asks for anything.” I almost started crying! She wound up choosing Battleship for him, so they could play the game together. I was tempted to tell her to grab another gift, just because she was so thankful, but I think she was the kind of person who would have refused.
• “Heaven” spelled backwards “Nevaeh” (Nev-ay-ah) was a popular name a few years ago, although I have yet to meet a Nevaeh in person. Last night I helped two women with a daughter named Nevaeh, my friend Alex also helped two women with daughters named Nevaeh. I also helped a woman who had a son named “Jamin.” I looked at the name, then asked her “Jammin’?” She shook her head no and said “No, his full name is Benjamin. We call him Jah-men for short.” (Ok then. That’s a new nickname for Benjamin!)
• Good parents are good parents, regardless of their income level. I know people who make over six figures who have greedy, spoiled kids, and I know people who are living in poverty who have respectful, polite, appreciative kids. Sometimes I think the kids who grow up without much of anything become the most giving adults.
The whole experience made me appreciate my family, my friends, my job, Aaron’s job (and good benefits), our little house (some would consider it a luxury), our car (even with a broken timing belt) so-so-so much.
Friday, December 2, 2011
I love chocolate chip cookies (no walnuts, please). I love a trashy People or US Weekly magazine every now and then. I love turtlenecks, jeans, and boots, although I do not always love the weather that accompanies that attire. I love bracelets. I love how clean the earth smells after a hard spring rain. I love Heath bars, my sister Mary’s homemade caramels, cheesecake ice cream, banana cream pie, Werther’s Originals, and chocolate covered potato chips (sooo good!). I love Scattergories, Cranium, Pictionary, Sequence, Password, Dominoes, Quelf, and Scrabble. I love crossword puzzles. I can talk to just about anyone and love meeting new people (I take after my dad). I love watching reality TV shows— American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor. I love British accents. I love being surrounded by women—friends, family, and coworkers—who are the epitome of smart is sexy. I love my Tacori wedding ring. I love a glass of white wine, but prefer a glass of good beer (Alaskan Amber, Leinie’s Honeyweiss with a slice of lemon, Summit EPA). I love snowboarding. I love the smell of Downy fabric softener. I love the diversity of the East Side (but could do without the crime). I love learning about the Victorian era—the homes, the fashions, the politics, the traditions. It seems like such a romantic time in history. I love the uncensored conversations, sense of camaraderie, and free-flowing laughter at baby showers, bachelorette parties, and girls’ nights out. I love tailgating before a Saints or Twins game. I love foreign and independent films (Amelie!). I love the loyalty, dedication, and enthusiasm of Packers fans. I love cats, and once told my mom I would have cats—not kids—when I “grew up.” I love when the muscles in my legs itch at the start of a long run—a reminder that I’m actually moving my body instead of sitting on the couch. I love that I was taught early on to respect and take care of the earth. I love clean-smelling candles. I love camping. I love watching track and field, gymnastics, figure skating, and snowboarding during the Olympics. I love that I helped elect our first black president. I love 80s music. I love lawn games. I love experimenting with new hair colors and styles. I love the annual ice fishing contest. I love pineapple. I love my brothers' hilarious impersonations. I love shopping and digging for a deal. I love Jack Black. I love Twilight Woods lotion from Bath & Body Works, it reminds me of college and sandalwood incense. I love watching Ellen (if I'm home on a weekday) and Chelsea Lately (if I'm up late). I love the humor of Mitch Hedberg. I love that I got to see Ellen's stand-up comedy in Portland and one of Mitch's shows in Seattle a year before he died. I love funky knee-high socks. I love Italian food. I love when I have time to actually wrap a gift rather than sticking it in a gift bag. I love everything about Halloween. I love that my Christmas card list includes friends in California, Colorado, DC, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin. I love scarves, but only in the fall or winter. (I know it’s a fashion statement, but wearing a scarf on a hot summer day seems ridiculous to me.) I love Meryl Streep, Tina Fey, Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Salma Hayek, Charlize Theron. I love Macy's, Target, Marshall's. I love the old SNL cast, when the show was actually funny. I love that I am able to be present—in the moment—instead of always worrying about the past or fretting about the future. I love a good book. I love bonfires on chilly autumn nights. I love the color orange. I love documentaries. I love my mom’s chowmein hot dish. I love glitter, sparkles, sequins. I love community festivals. I love hugs that are actual hugs and not just polite pats on the back or awkward half-squeezes. I love boot-leg and flare-leg pants. I love it when someone positively defies a stereotype. I love Olay Total Effects UV Moisturizer + SPF 15 and wear it every single day. I love bowling (high score = 160.) I love the love and support in a room during a wedding. I love cheering for dedicated distance runners during marathons, and have traveled to Duluth for Grandma’s Marathon (3 times), Chicago (once) and down the street to the TC Marathon (3 times) to be “moral support” to friends who were running. I love the Beastie Boys, David Gray, Mumford and Sons, the Dixie Chicks, Dave Matthews Band, Pink, the Jayhawks, Michael Jackson, Bjork, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Soul Coughing, Bon Jovi, the Rolling Stones. I love my tattoo and what it stands for. I love sassy short hair. I love people who don't take themselves too seriously. I love top shelf margaritas with lots of salt on the rim. I love all dogs, but prefer medium-sized pooches over tiny ankle-biting yip-yips. I love having friends over, but would love it even more if we had the space to entertain. I love being exposed to new music when a friend makes me a mixed CD. I love Lancome Juicy Tubes lip gloss. I love Marie Clare. I love my long fingers, and still wish I had learned to play the piano. I love my comfortable yoga pants with the stretchy waistband. I love receiving homemade gifts. I love a clean-cut GQ man (never have been a fan of long hair on guys). I love delicate little tear drop earrings vs. giant dangly hoops. I love that I’m friends with so many talented artists and writers— creative types. I love Christmas (and every single one of our nine Christmas parties!). I love being a mix of French, German, Norwegian, and Swedish. I love taking photos. I love people who are modest about their beauty, their talent, their success. I love fast, easy recipes. I love Aveda products. I love hiking. I love celebrating birthdays with friends and family. I love Bradley Cooper, Paul Walker, Mark Ruffalo, John Krasinski, Dane Cook, David Spade, Anderson Cooper. I love going on long road trips. I love parties with a theme. I love the classic style of Ralph Lauren. I love going on double dates with my parents. I love being part of a family that truly enjoys one another's company. I love zipping down a hill on an inner tube in the dead of winter — makes me feel like a kid again. I love pretty, lacy underwear. I love creating and watching slideshows. I love the mountains, the ocean, the friendly people, the microbrews, the weather in Oregon. I love The Notebook. I love, love, love the music of Prince. I love learning. I love when a plane comes to a gently rolling stop, signaling that we have safely landed. I love people who aren't too materialistic. I love the twinkle of Christmas lights against a snowy background, the smell of real Christmas trees, having unique holiday traditions (in my family it's the annual drawing contest). I love how a man can put on just the right amount of cologne and instantly become more sexy. I love “going to the lake.” I love that I work in Minneapolis and have so many options for lunch. I love listening to KS95, Cities 97, the Current, and even 102.9. I love The Office, Modern Family, 30 Rock, Mad Men, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, and Parks and Rec. I love our goose down comforter. I love women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds, even if I don’t always agree with what they’re saying. I love that I get paid to write. I love Asian, arts and crafts, Moroccan, Mediterranean, French, and traditional decorating styles. I love the Minnesota State Fair. I love Ryan Gosling’s body in Crazy, Stupid, Love. I love hats of all shapes and colors. I love Starbuck’s salted caramel hot chocolate. I love libraries and bookstores. I love that I can grow old without growing boring. I love asking questions and finding out what makes people tick. I love planning get-togethers. I love getting a “real” letter or card in the mail. I love maroon or purple nail polish (only on special occasions). I love men who lean to the left. I love Chipotle burrito bowls with lime squeezed on top of everything. I love going to the theater. I love Greek salads. I love the sound of kids laughing. I love the beauty of the North Shore. I love watching my friends become parents. I love Ansel Adams, pop art, and anything stained glass. I love my warm (yet clunky) winter boots. I love garlic mashed potatoes. I love dancing. I love happy endings.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
I love having short hair again. It is so much more “me” than long hair. It makes me feel more stylish, more sassy, more fun. (Plus I can’t wear it in a ponytail like I was doing all the time with long hair, I actually have to spend a few minutes styling it, which is a good thing if you ask me -- it's easy to get lazy about your appearance (I'm too tired/ I'm too old/ I'm already married, so who cares anyhow?). I don't want to get lazy. I don't ever want to get stuck in a rut ... or a decade. I'm not trendy but I like to think that I at least pay attention to the trends so I kind of know what's going on with the "hip" crowd. I look at some of the girls I graduated with and I think, "Seriously? You have the EXACT SAME HAIR YOU HAD IN THE 90s?? Why are you so scared to try something new???" That makes me sound like a bitchy, conceited know-it-all, which is totally NOT my personality, I just wish (some) people tried new styles every now and then, just to mix it up, just because we can.
Speaking of fashion (and my new hair!), the pic below was taken at the Neiman Marcus Fashion Night Out Sept. 8 at the downtown Minneapolis Neiman Marcus. I’m pictured here with the VP of our company, Jamie (aka fearless leader), my marketing department (oh how I LOVE these girls! They are smart, funny, kind, fashionable, and make going to work every morning fun rather than dreadful), and my good friend Katie D. (our magazine’s style editor). Katie helped pull products for the fashion show and then emceed the big event. She looked like a glamorous movie star! It was a fun night, and made me realize that if you have the courage to be outrageous, you should go for it (stay true to yourself!), shoes really do make or break an outfit, and a genuine smile is often your best accessory.
L to R: Jamie, me, Katie K., Alex, Katie D., Kelly and Sara (my boss) at Neiman Marcus Fashion Night Out.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Not today. Today was a day that tested my patience and made me question my parenting skills. (or lack of) I cried today, out of anger and frustration, and I hardly ever break down like that.
Adam, Ben and I were at the checkout at Marshall's when Adam asked to be let out of the cart. I scooped him out, we were almost done, and he marched over the beverage case (since when does Marshall's sell cold beverages at the checkout, anyhow?)
"Hey Mom, can I get a Sprite?" I glanced at the water (a better choice) but I was kind of thirsty for a Sprite, too, so I said yeah, fine, just bring it on over so we could ring it up. He proudly set the Sprite on the counter, then noticed a rack of Jellybeans. "I changed my mind. I want Jellybeans."
Too late. The transaction had been made and I wanted to go.
"I got you a Sprite," I pointed at the green bottle.
"NO! I WANT THE JELLYBEANS!" he screamed, clutching the little baggy like he was a crack addict and this was 50 rocks.
I tried to grab the candy, only to have him shriek even louder "I WANT THESE! I WANT THESE JELLYBEANS!"
When I tried to take them nicely, gently from his hand, he held on even tighter and shrieked, "NOOOOOO! I WANT THEM! GIVE THEM TO MEEEEEE!"
I knelt down at his level, tried to calmly (key word = tried) explain that I bought him a Sprite and he needed to put the candy back and we were going NOW and he screamed at the top of his lungs. It was an ear-piercing ugly shriek.
WTF do you do in a situation like that? It feels like all of a sudden there are 10,000 people in the store, staring at you and your little monster, and you're so embarrassed and so angry it's all you can do not to:
a.) Start screaming back at him
b.) Swear at him like a truck driver
b.) Leave him standing there (anyone want a naughty kid?)
c.) Break down and cry
I was so furious I don't even know how I managed to get the Jellybeans out of his hand, remember my wallet, remember my bag, remember Ben, get Adam out of the store, get us all safely to the car, get them buckled into their carseats, and drive us home without rear-ending the cars in front of us. The screaming didn't stop, either, which only aggravated the situation. What do you do when your kid starts shrieking like a wild animal? I think it's his way of getting attention, and I think it happens when he's overtired (nap time has been a challenge at daycare), and I know he's not being horrible ON PURPOSE (keep repeating: "I love my son, I love my son, I love my son, he's usually a smart, funny, affectionate, sweet boy who is only temporarily acting like a deranged lunatic.")
Talk about testing boundaries and pushing buttons. My buttons weren't just being pushed, they were being jabbed with blunt force trauma.
"You were HORRIBLE in that store! We do NOT act like that, Adam! We do NOT treat one another like that! You're going to bed early tonight!" was about all I could choke out before I called Aaron on my drive home and totally lost my shit and started venting to him and yelling at him for playing softball and not being home for moral support (sorry, Aaron! I love you!) and then started crying. Aaron was very sympathetic and listened patiently while I blew off steam.
I managed to pull it together enough to wipe away the tears, get the boys in the house and make dinner, but then started crying AGAIN when my brother Shawn called. I was overly sensitive and running on empty and I didn't even think I was going to cry until I heard his voice. He instantly went into protective big brother mode and I think I freaked him out, because he sounded really concerned and suggested I go to Mom and Dad's house for the night. Then he told me to call him if I needed to talk, then suggested again that I go to Mom and Dad's house for the night. The hard thing is, I can't run to my parents when I'm having a bad day, because I'm a grown-up now with kids of my own. I'm a MOM. I HAVE to figure it out. This is my life now.
Adam was distraught by my tears, "Why are you crying? You never do that. I don't want you to cry. That makes me sad." And he was distraught when I told him he was going to bed early without any bedtime books, and I tried to talk rationally to him and explain WHY he was being punished and why it's not OK to have tantrums in stores and why he has GOT to stop screaming when he's mad at daycare and use his words instead and who knows if he's comprehending any of it. Is this just an awful phase or am I going to be googling "defiant child" in the future (please God NO)?
Why does it seem like everyone else totally has this parenting thing under control?
Friday, August 12, 2011
It was Friday, Aug. 10 — nearly one full week after my estimated due date — and I had decided that I was not going into work again, I didn’t have the mental stamina to make it through another eight-hour day with people constantly asking, “Still no baby?”
(World’s dumbest question when I was VERY VISIBLY pregnant!!)
So I chose to stay home that day, Aaron chose to go to work, and to be honest I have no recollection of what, exactly, I did while waiting, waiting, waiting for Wee One to arrive, but I’m sure it was something along the lines of watching TV, talking on the phone, and surfing the Internet. I didn’t know what to expect, as far as when I’d know it was “go” time (other than the obvious – if my water broke), but I did know I was supposed to chart my contractions for consistency and when they were 5-1-1 (five minutes apart, one minute in length, for an hour’s time), it would be time to head to Fairview.
How will I know it’s a contraction?
“Oh, you’ll know,” everyone said.
Some time after Aaron got home from work, my stomach started getting really hard—almost like my muscles were clenching into a tight ball around the baby—so we took out a sheet of paper and started charting. I’d tell Aaron “I’m having one now” and he’d watch the clock and I’d tell him “Ok, it’s over” and he’d write down the time. We were very obedient about following our doctor’s orders. Why get to the hospital too soon when we could have the luxury of laboring at home? We even drove up to Blockbuster and rented a movie as a distraction — The Pursuit of Happyness. Around 9 p.m., we called Peggy, our doula, and told her we thought tonight was the night, and I remember feeling bad because she was about to take a bath and go to bed. Instead she came right over to our house. I lit a candle and we sat in the living room and Peggy showed us photos of her recent vacation. I silently endured more painful contractions (squeezing the couch pillow for support) until after 11 p.m., when I told them we HAD to go NOW. Peggy took a photo of us leaving the house to mark the momentous occasion and boom! Just like that we were on our way to the hospital, Aaron trying not to speed and me trying not to break his hand every time another contraction gripped me. I’m sure Peggy was just trying to stay awake in her car behind us.
By the time we got to Fairview I was dilated to an 8 — and nearly missed my opportunity to get an epidural. The anesthetist couldn’t remember the code to unlock the cart holding the miracle drug and I, at that point, could hardly stand the pain. That was the only time I was tempted to drop an F-bomb. Peggy squeezed my hips and rocked with me and somehow I made it through until I got the epidural, which allowed me to finally relax. I remember being hooked up to the fetal monitor and watching the lines get all squiggly on the paper and thinking, “HOLY SHIT! I just had a contraction and I DIDN’T EVEN FEEL IT! THIS EPIDURAL IS AMAZING!”
The rest of the night is kind of a blur. I know my labor slowed way down after getting the epidural, to the point that the nurse gave me pitocin to get the show on the road again (such a tease to be in pain, feel no pain, then go right back to feeling pain again) and after awhile it started to feel like I couldn't really breathe and there was a giant elephant sitting on my chest. Peggy thought maybe my epidural had been administered too high. I also reacted to being in labor with violent shaking, like I had Parkinson's disease. I think it freaked out Aaron more than me. (I had one thing on my mind: GETTING THAT BOWLING BALL OUT OF ME.) When it was time to push, wow. Talk about exhausting!!! I felt like I was running a marathon! I pushed for over 2 hours, with Aaron holding my hand and feeding me ice and rubbing my forehead and Peggy holding my leg (the nurse was holding my other leg) and I felt like Adam would never come out. His head kept getting hung up on my pelvic bone. I only delivered him after having a sort of out-of-body experience. I still think it was divine intervention, because I have never felt my grandma’s presence as strongly as I did in that moment. Maybe it was the drugs, but I like to think she was there with me, giving me strength.
At 7:20 a.m. our 7 lb. 10 oz. baby finally arrived. Aaron announced “It’s a boy!” and I was honestly surprised — I thought for sure I was having a girl — and someone asked what his name was and we both answered "Adam Lowell" (Lowell is Aaron's grandpa) and a nurse cleaned him off and swaddled him and laid him on my chest and he stared at me with his big eyes and my heart grew a billion times bigger. Aaron and I started crying. And then my parents and Aaron’s mom came into the room to meet their grandchild (they had been waiting in the waiting room all night!) and we opened a bottle of champagne and drank out of paper cups and it was such an emotional experience.
Hard to believe that was four years ago. Happy fourth birthday to our sweet, imaginative, curious, inquisitive, friendly, open-minded, observant, opinionated, funny, smart, articulate, beautiful boy Adam. We love you to the moon and back.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
“I don’t ever want you to put me in a cage, like that cage under our house.”
Oh crap. Why did I have to tell him that I’ve seen rabbits squeeze through the lattice under our porch? Why-oh-why-oh-why did I tell him that? Haven’t I learned my lesson by now about his overactive imagination?
“I would never put you in a cage, Adam. And you would never fit under our porch. You’re too big.”
“Yeah. Only rabbits fit under there. And slugs. And snakes.”
Shoot! Why did I just confirm that snakes might live under there? Seriously, Chrissy, what’s wrong with you?!
“And I don’t want to live in a cage at the zoo, either.”
“No, Adam, you will never have to live in a cage. You will live in a nice house forever.”
[or a teeny tiny dorm room, or a shitty rental with a bunch of your college friends, or a cramped little apartment when you’re broke and on your own for the first time.]
“I want to live in THIS house FOREVER with you and dad and Ben.”
“We’ll live here for awhile, and then one day we will move to a different house, and then one day you’ll be a grown-up and you’ll want to move out.”
“No I won’t.”
Good God, I sure hope so.
“Ok, Adam. Our family will always be together.”
This is just a white lie, right? I mean, we’ll always be together in thought and spirit, no matter where we happen to be living. No need to get all picky about the technicalities.
“And Mom, I PROMISE you I am not going to play T-ball and I am NOT going to school. I am NOT going to school unless Grandma Patti and you and dad and Ben go with me.”
“Adam, you worry way too much for an almost 4-year-old.”
"Yeah, we should just go to Poach-lay."
Later that day:
"Mom, you won't believe what Adam told me today."
*Brief recap of conversation.
"Mom? Are you there?"
"Yeah, I'm here. I was just wondering if I watched that Oprah show about the girl who lived in a dog cage while I was babysitting Adam."
Great. At least I will have an explanation when social services comes knocking on my door.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Happy first birthday to my beautiful boy. I love you more than words can express.
Likes = food, food, food, food (he weighs 29 lbs.!), balloons ("ball"), baseballs, basketballs, footballs, hockey pucks, holding the plastic bat and swatting at the ball, trying to wrangle toys away from Adam, cats, dogs, birds, go-go-going all the time, giving open-mouthed kisses (not always on command), the remote, his blue blanket, his bottle ("baba"), staring at cute girls, testing his voice by screaming, playing in the sand, climbing the steps when he knows he's not supposed to, making a mess with the water table, pushing the toy lawnmower, waking up with a smile on his face every single morning, singing songs in the car, eating toilet paper (hey! just like that one girl on "Strange Addictions!"), saying "NO!", wearing hats and sunglasses, taking off his diaper, laughing at anyone who makes funny faces or funny noises or tickles him or squeezes him or kisses that one spot under his chin.
Dislikes = green beans, reading books (he tries to rip the book out of your hands), sitting still, snuggling, letting Adam do a puzzle/put together Legos/play ball with Aaron/sit on my lap without being involved in some way (ah yes, the sibling rivalry has already started), getting his hair cut, and being contained (let's just say it's never fun putting him in his carseat).
What a year it has been.
I had an emotionally draining and physically uncomfortable pregnancy that felt like it would NEVER end, delivered a gorgeous, healthy 9 lb. 7 oz. baby without an epidural, suffered from diastasis recti, or abdominal separation, post-partum, where my stomach muscles spread apart, making it painful to sit after having Ben ((according to befitmom.com, "separation can occur anytime in the last half of pregnancy but is most problematic after pregnancy when the abdominal wall is weak and does not provide adequate support for the torso and internal organs" - and is sometimes caused by having a large baby), was diagnosed with the unbearably itchy post-pregnancy rash PUPPP, had a hard time breathing for at least a week because my organs were all floating back down to where they belonged after giant Ben shoved them all out of place, and—on top of all that was recovering from an episiotomy. Fun. Add to that the job of breastfeeding a baby who wanted to eat every two hours and man oh man. Those first few weeks were ROUGH. And then I got into a groove and totally enjoyed my maternity leave. I appreciated my time off with Ben more than I ever did with Adam — we visited friends and went shopping and sat outside and went to the beach and made the most of our summer off. I felt like we really bonded.
And then it was back to work and pumping twice a day (I nursed Ben for a year) and trying to remember all of those moments that seem so insignificant but really weave the fabric of our lives.
That year went by fast.
And as much as I loved the mobile newborn stage (they smell so good, don't they?!), I also love how Ben is communicating and so curious and strong-willed and opinionated already. I can't wait to see what his future holds.