A Mother’s Day Gift Giving Guide

What is this? Two posts in two weeks? Sometimes, I even amaze myself.

Mother’s Day is just a hop, skip, and a jump away.  Between helping out at Katie’s school carnival in late April (yes, I’m STILL working carnival) and her first communion last weekend,  I hadn’t really given any thought to what is supposed to be “my day.”  Luckily, Chris keeps me on track and has made the requisite brunch reservation.  He also asked me if there was anything special that I wanted to do on Sunday, besides the obvious: not cook.  Yes, he knows me well.  

Now, I know that in my last post I said that I don’t really like presents.  What I also should have stated was that on the rare occasion I actually do ask for something, I fully expect to receive it and woe to that person (yes, I mean Chris) who doesn’t come through.  I wield my gift requests sparingly: it makes them all the more powerful and effective.  Who’s going to have the temerity to turn down a request made on par with the presidential election cycle? You got it in one: my loving husband!

March 2010: Katie is two months old and a more different baby than our firstborn I could not imagine.  Whereas Sarah as a newborn was quiet and sweet, Katie was…well, let’s just say, not.  She cried.  A lot.  She fussed.  A lot.  She was not satisfied.  A lot.  She kicked my ass.  A lot.  And I was tired.  So, so tired.  Between her and a needy four-year- old Sarah who finally figured out that this little bundle of “joy” was a permanent resident and not toting a tourist visa, I was feeling unhinged.  At yet another 3AM feeding, all I could think was, “Dear God, I need a break.”  

Whether it was God speaking to me or my own desperation, inspiration struck.  Mother’s Day was well, not quite around the corner, but would arrive in about 60 days and that year, I knew exactly what I would ask for.  A quick Google search confirmed the necessary information so that Chris knew unequivocally what I wanted.  Like I said, I don’t ask for presents very often but when I do, I’m specific and to the point.  I mean business.

As I continued to feed Katie in those not quite pre-dawn hours, I fantasized about what this present would entail.  Simply put, I wanted a sixteen-hour period all to myself.  I wanted to check in to a hotel at 4PM the night before Mother’s Day and spend that evening alone, preferably in a king size bed.  I wanted to take a long shower.  I wanted to read my magazines.  I wanted to channel surf.  I wanted to order room service for dinner.  I wanted an uninterrupted night of sleep.  I wanted to wake up on my time, not someone else’s.  I wanted (another!) shower and then, meet Chris and the girls for Mother’s Day brunch.  He’d arrive with the girls dressed and coiffed.  I’d order a mimosa feeling refreshed and ready to spend the day with my family.  I could’t imagine anything more luxurious.   And according to Google, this slice of nirvana came at the low, low price of $129 courtesy of the Westin Galleria, located a mere 3.4 miles from our house!!   How could a husband say no?!?

Well, he did indeed say, “No,” and quite vociferously.  His words are still etched into my brain, “If you need to get away from your family so badly that you need to check into a hotel in the SAME TOWN where we live, then you need to seriously rethink your lifestyle choices.” 

Lifestyle choices?  LIFESTYLE CHOICES?? LIFESTYLE CHOICES??!?!?   Did he not realize that at that point in my “lifestyle,” I had NO choices?!?!  I couldn’t choose when to wake up.  I couldn’t choose whether to have a full night’s sleep.  I couldn’t choose when I could go to the bathroom without an audience.  I couldn’t choose when to shower.  I couldn’t choose what I wanted for lunch because instead, I was scarfing down the remnants of the one millionth chicken tender meal Sarah had discarded.  Did he not realize that whatever meager choices I had left in the day could be, at any minute, derailed by a blow out diaper and a onesie full of crap?!  I was at the mercy of our daughters, who he had a hand in creating by the way, and this was my desperate attempt to have some semblance of sanity, control, and respite from an exhausting 24/7 job.  Nope.  Still, no go. 

He then proceeded to explain that he would understand if I wanted to go on a trip somewhere….not by myself of course, but with other friends to go to a destination to explore and to experience something new.  But what he couldn’t understand was why I needed to get away just to get away.  I responded back that a real trip away was actually even MORE work for me to ensure that he had everything he needed to watch the girls (the sitters, the carpool arrangements, the meal prep, and dear God, the breast milk pumping!) and not to mention exponentially more expensive.  All this gift required was an overnight bag, $129, and not even a sliver of a tank of gas. What was his problem?!??!

In the end, after much heated debate and no apologies (North and South Korea, remember?), I knew I wasn’t getting my sixteen-hour Shangri-La in the suburbs.  I dutifully spent the weekend with my family, went to brunch, and ordered my mimosa.  I don’t really remember it, but I’m sure it was lovely.  

I also booked a three-night trip.  To Napa.  With my Mom.  I do remember it, and it was lovely.  Happy Mother’s Day to me.  

There is a happy ending to this story though— beyond the insane quantities of wine and food I got to consume under the California sun.  Thanks to Chris, I had four uninterrupted days with my own mom, who would pass less than three years later.  The memories of our time together will always be in my  heart.  Eventually, Katie outgrew her crabbiness and is now one of the happiest little girls I know.  I shower any time I want.  And these days, I can’t get enough time with our girls, both of whom would rather hang with their friends than boring old mom.  This year, when Chris asked me what I wanted, my thoughts ran to activities like biking or golfing together as I try to hold on to Sarah and Katie tighter.  It’s been said before and will be said again: it all goes so fast.

So to all you moms out there, whether you want to do nothing or do everything, I hope you get your wish.  You deserve it, and more.  Happy Mother’s Day!

 

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Napa, 2010 after a particularly delicious (and generous) tasting at Far Niente.  If you’re lucky enough to see your Mom today, give her a big hug. Love you, Mom!

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Good Will To All

Yes, I know it’s been almost four years.  And yes, I know I said I would continue to write.  And yes, I said I would continue to blog.  But, (spoiler alert) I didn’t.  Requisite excuses and mea culpas to come in a future post.

Fast forward to November of 2016 and writing is the last thing on my mind.  But over lunch one day, my dear husband turns to me and says, “I know what I want for Christmas… I want you to write a blog.”

Err, excuse me?  While I was fully prepared to Amazon his gift of choice with just a few taps of my nimble fingers, I was not prepared for this.  What do I write about?  How do I even start?  When do I have the time?!?!  It was the start of the Christmas season and don’t laugh, you legitimately employed readers, my busiest time of the year!  There are cookies to be baked, gifts to be bought, presents to be mailed, cards to be addressed, donations to be given, kids activities to volunteer for, parties to attend, friends to host…and don’t get me started on that damn elf!  Yes, I know…I can barely write this with a straight face.  I never said I was trying to send a man to the moon.  I’m a housewife, people.  This is what I do.

Then, as if the gods could hear my frantic inner monologue, what appears in my mailbox but a jury summons?  For the two weeks in December leading up to Christmas, I would be forced to sit in a room full of strangers who had also “won” a civic lottery of sorts with absolutely nothing to do.  No running last-minute errands, no post office trips at the eleventh hour, and no cursing like a drunk sailor while wrapping Christmas gifts when the girls are in school.  Instead, I’d have to compress all of my tasks and finish by the 9th. The 9th!!!  I needed smelling salts just thinking about it.

While I bemoaned my fate, I received tons of advice on how to escape jury duty.  My favorite was from my well-meaning aunt in Dallas given over pre-Thanksgiving drinks:  pretend I don’t speak English.  I won’t lie; I did entertain the idea for half a second.  But when I realized the only things I could spout in Korean were restaurant menu items (Kimchi!  Galbi!  Bibimbop!), I put on my Star Spangled Banner big girl panties and reported to dungeon-like basement of the Hennepin County Government Center on December 12th to fulfill my civic duty.

I won’t bore you with the minutiae of sitting on my butt, minute after excruciating minute, waiting to see if I would be needed to serve.  Because if I did, it would look something like this:

9:23AM- Threw away old receipts from my wallet and spent 20 seconds in silent shame reflecting on my horrid fast food addiction

9:26AM- Tried not to judge the man sitting next to me who was precariously close to invading my personal space because he was falling asleep

9:27AM- Ate a KIND bar

You get the picture.  My only real source of entertainment was sending my dear husband texts throughout the day informing him of various chores that he needed to do for me.  He was not amused, but me?  I felt drunk with power!  I finally knew what it was like to have my very own housewife!

By the end of the first day, I was almost delirious with boredom.  Just when I thought the hallucinations would start, I heard my name called.  They needed a group of 24 to be interviewed for a criminal case.  Our group was whisked away to one of the many courtrooms in the government center.  Please note: when I say “whisked”, I mean with all the rapidity of any government agency.  This involved a glacial TSA-like security check, a slow crawl up a rickety freight elevator to the 7th floor, and yet another mind-numbing 32 minute wait in the hallway of the courtroom.  The wheels of justice are anything but swift.

In the courtroom, our group was interviewed by the judge and attorneys on everything from our employment history to criminal records.  The interview lasted into the following day and well, I didn’t make the cut.  Despite not having a criminal history and not having served in law enforcement myself (apparently, being sheriff of my house doesn’t count), I was let go.  And while I could write a whole ‘nother blog about my feelings of rejection and unworthiness (ha ha), I’ll leave you with this.  The group interview process was an unexpected gift.  It was a reminder to me that 1) I am a lucky woman and 2) to be kind and respectful to your fellow human beings with an open and understanding heart.

With no electronics to distract me and no way to multitask, I heard the stories of 23 other people who like me, were randomly selected for jury duty.  Within this microcosm of our population, I listened as women admitted to being sexually assaulted or abused and others confessed to having been homeless.  Many talked of their own struggle with drug addiction and some admitted to having served jail time.  One shared that family members had been shot and killed while another told of how her father was currently serving life for murder.  They also talked about their children, relatives, and other loved ones and while we might have been from varying backrgrounds, we all had the capacity to love, forgive, and endure.  In the age of soundbites and Twitter, you forget that there is a whole life history behind each person that can’t be summarized in 140 characters or less.  Sitting in that courtroom, all I could do was listen, feel, be thankful, and promise myself to do more to help my fellow men and women.  What more can you ask for from Christmas?

As I said, I wasn’t selected for this particular case and spent another day in the “pit” waiting to see if I would be needed for another.  I started this post that day out of a combination of boredom and inspiration.  And at the end of the third day, the county released all jurors and I found myself with a second gift: a calendar that was now completely clear for the one and half weeks leading up to Christmas. So thank you, Hennepin County, for the gift of time and the gift of heart.  Merry Christmas, everyone and Merry Christmas, honey!  Thanks for making me do this.

Good Help is Hard to Find

Author’s Note: I originally worked on this blog over December but between the shopping, the baking, the gift wrapping, the cooking, the shipping, the decorating, the filling of Advent calendars, the hiding of gifts, and the ever present whining from my children of “WHEN WILL IT BE CHRISTMAS MOM? IS IT TODAY?! HUH? HUH? IS IT TODAY!??!,” I never got it finished. So just amuse me, pretend you are reading this deep in the trenches of the holiday season.  Happy 2013 everyone!

With the holidays upon us, it can only mean one thing for us parents: babysitter wars.  Maybe “wars” is a bit of a hyperbole.  Battles?  Skirmishes? Scrambles?  Kerfuffles?  Whatever the exact word, what I am trying to convey to you is that it is a difficult time to find a sitter.  In our childless days, accepting an invitation to a party, a dinner, a cocktail hour, or an ugly sweater party was as simple as checking the calendar to make sure that no conflicts existed.  Today, we are at the mercy of a handful of young women who hold our social life by the balls.  Without them, we’d have to spend EVERY WAKING HOUR with our children with no breaks, no grown-up time, no fun excuses to wear an outfit without the stains of a million spaghetti dinners while holding a festive cocktail and looking like you belong in an ad for a Vegas nightclub and not a commercial for Mom jeans.

Now after seven years of this parenting gig, I have developed a network of wonderful women who look after our children with care and kindness.  This network is an ever fluid thing that requires constant nurturing, pruning, and attention.  Just when you’ve gotten a lovely girl groomed and ready to step in at a moment’s notice, they are snatched away from you by life’s other opportunities.  We’ve had babysitters leave for graduate school, international internships, new jobs, relocations, and even marriage and their own children.  We have one high school sitter whom we adore and my girls and I are already sadly counting down the days till she will leave us for college even though it is more than two years away.  Is it wrong to hope she goes the community college route instead of spreading her wings out of state?  If it is, then book us and throw away the key.

While a part of me wishes that our sitters weren’t so darned ambitious and smart and they’d just be satisfied living at home with their parents and watching my girls in perpetuity, I know that it’s all for the greater good that they move on with their lives.  But it leaves me always scouting, always recruiting, always looking for new sitters- like some creepy cult leader trolling for converts to support my lifestyle.  Right now, we have a pretty solid stable of  go-to sitters (knock on wood) but during my ever constant search for “good help,” I’ve observed a few things about the world of babysitting and sitter etiquette.

#1-  One of the most closely guarded secrets in parenting circles may be the contact information of their babysitters.  Ask most parents about advice regarding sleeping, feeding, product choices, school enrollment, and they will bare their souls.  Parents can talk about their kids and subjects related to their kids almost ad nauseum…believe me, I’m one of them.  But ask them about their babysitters: you get clamped lips, furtive looks passed between the husband and the wife, some mumblings about the lateness of the hour, and a cloud of dust where they were sitting just mere moments before. Sure you might get some names during the summer when students are back home from college but really, those are just a temporary supplement to the troops you’ve already built up.  I have only had a handful of friends volunteer their regular sitter’s names and numbers but it’s usually with the understanding that…

#2- You will never poach or actively recruit someone else’s sitter without the expressed permission from the originator of said sitter.  We all get in a pinch sometimes and need an emergency fill-in.  Finding a last minute substitute can often mean calling in all your favors and signing an oath in blood that the booking is one-time only and you will never, ever, ever call that person again.  Sometimes though….

#3- A sitter will offer their services to you, unbidden.  I’ve had a couple of sitters approach me with their  phone numbers when they are actively looking for extra work.  But even then, I feel a little dirty and slightly paranoid…like I’m embarking on an affair with a married man.  What if their original employers find out? Will they think that I was the one who asked first?  What if I’m labeled as a “babysitter stealer” and get black listed from mommy happy hours and playdates?  But honestly, who can blame these industrious young women?  Gone are the days when I was a babysitter myself and counted myself lucky to get  two dollars an hour.  During the 2012 elections, when politicians asked if voters felt they were better off today than they were four years ago, I think all of our sitters could answer…

#4- “Yes we are!”  They name their own price, make their own pay adjustments as needed, call their own hours, turn me down if they have a better offer, and I just come back for more.  Because unless they do something absolutely egregious like actually lose my child or host a kegger at our house, I will take whatever measures necessary to keep them under our employment.  Luckily, our sitters are wonderful and I don’t feel a moment’s remorse compensating them but let me be clear, they definitely have the upper hand in this scenario despite the fact that I’m the one writing the checks.  At least it’s a familiar situation I find myself in since most days, my 6-year old and 2-year old wield more power than I do in this household.

Hopefully, you too have someone dependable, fun, and loving to watch your kids while you escape what can be a daily zoo.  Because we all need a break – whether it’s by ourselves or with friends or with our spouse (remember him?).  And all I can say this holiday season is, “God bless our babysitters, every one!”

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Happy Christmas Eve!  Which, to parents around the world, is also known as The-Last-Day-You-Can-Invoke-The-Name-of-Santa-To-Get-Your-Kids-To-Do-Whatever-The-Heck-You-Want.  So far today, I’ve averted three near fights, gotten the girls to clean the basement, and had time to put on my make-up in peace.  Now if they could just whip me up a cocktail and give me a foot massage while reading me excerpts from People Magazine, they just might be the daughters of my dreams.   Merry Christmas everyone!!

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Stocking Stuffers

As I was strolling through the house earlier this week with a smug smile on my face, congratulating myself on finishing all of my Christmas duties, I noticed something was different at our mantle (besides the fact that Sarah had once again re-organized the stockings based on her personal Naughty/Nice List for that day….usually Chris and I are in reversed positions so I’m curious to know what triggered this change in my status and what offense Chris committed to be demoted below the dog):

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The five large stockings are for Chris, me, Sarah, Katie, and our dog Ellie. But what do I spy? Another smaller sock! Closer investigation revealed this:

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Who is Star, you ask? Well, let me introduce you to this member of the family whom I have yet to mention in any of my blogs. Everyone, meet Star.

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Yes, Star is Sarah’s Betta fish. Sarah has taken it upon herself, bless her little heart, to make sure that every family member is equally represented for Santa’s consideration this year. What I wanted to do was take Sarah aside and explain to her that Santa is a very busy person with limited child care and does not do well with last minute additions, exceptions, and alterations and that such changes might drive him to secretly binge on huge quantities of Christmas cookies in the dark hours of the night and maybe take out his frustration on his unsuspecting spouse who has no inkling how stressful the holidays can be and who only has to buy for one person on an ever growing list of family members, friends, babysitters, teachers, cleaning ladies, bus drivers, and other “support” staff. Instead, I found myself at the local PetCo one afternoon, navigating treacherous roads and icy parking lots to buy Star some new sparkly turquoise gravel and a neon orange plant to spruce up the joint. After all, every one deserves a little holiday cheer…no matter how small.