Tag Archives: division of labor

Power of the Pen

This weekend Daddy-o had to work all weekend. And I mean all weekend. And there was a nasty snowstorm and the roads were in bad shape. (All contributing to the long winter of my discontent.) As a result, Boopsie and I had three days of intense, home-bound togetherness. Yesterday, I seized on a moment when she was reading aloud to her stuffed animals in her room to write for a few minutes.

After seven minutes (yes, I counted) she found me on the living room couch. She quickly joined me, in a purple hooded fleece jacket, pink ladybug-print pants and pink and white striped socks, setting up across from me to do her own “work.” I was taken aback by her working by me and loved watching her “write.”

For the first time in a long time, in those moments across from her on the couch, I felt like a successful mom. Like I was showing her a path worth taking. For the first time in weeks, weeks that have been filled with battles and tears and struggle, I was totally at peace with my parenting.

I took a moment to breathe it in… and then I snapped a few good photos:

Preschool girl with crayons and paper

“Working” on the couch

Scribbles on paper

Boopsie’s “writing”

Here’s to the power of the pen. (And the crayons.)


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Filed under adventures, creativity, lessons, mom guilt

The Things I Will Say Yes To

In our little corner of the world, Daddy-o is the “fun” parent. He’s usually the chaser and the thrower, and I’m usually the one saying things like, “Don’t shake her upside down! She just ate!” or “Please calm down, it’s time for bed.” It’s not all bad. For instance, I’m often the “comfort” parent, and the one Boopsie wants to snuggle with in the morning (which is awesome unless I want to sleep in a little. Eh-hem.)

The downside of being the “bad cop”/stern parent is that I feel like I say “no” a lot. A lot. It’s not that Daddy-o doesn’t or won’t say no, it’s just that I’m usually a little more on top of what the situation is and where it’s headed. You want Froot Loops at the grocery store? No. You want to go outside in your pajamas when it’s 20 degrees? No. You want to throw the ball “10 more” and “10 more” and “10 more times” before bed? No. You want to wear just your undies at the dinner table? Okay, maybe.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed a few things I seem to always say yes to… I guess these are my parenting weaknesses?

Books. Dear lord, please don’t let me go into a bookstore with Boopsie. It will be at least $38. At least. Thank goodness she’s also a superfan of the library, because we would like to help pay for her to go to college some day.

Art projects. “Mama, can we do a craft?” I usually say yes, even if I’m trying to do something like make dinner. (Because nothing says “recipe for success” like simultaneously cooking and crafting with a three-year old. I realized this was one of my key weaknesses a couple of weeks ago when Boopsie was painting and requested that to paint her feet. Yes, her feet. And yes, I said yes.

painting her feet

Sure, why not?

I mean, what can go wrong, right?

painted preschooler feet

Who can say no to those feet?

Truthfully, it turned out okay. And I was happy I said “yes” when I wanted to say “no.”

My third “yes” has to do with food and the grocery store. No matter what the fruit or vegetable Boopsie wants, I will say yes. Jicama? Sure. Five different kinds of apples? Okay, great! I figure it must help balance the multiple “no’s” she hears in all the other areas.

What about you? What do you say “yes” to?

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Filed under creativity, Fun, mom guilt

168 Hours – Book Review/Discussion

Today was my first day back to work after a nice long holiday weekend.  After a tough night of a croupy tot and work-stress dreams (and the added wrinkle of an unexpected week-long day care shut-down), I stumbled into the office. By 11:00 a.m. I was so stressed out and cross-eyed from work I felt like I needed to crawl under my desk and hide. I was thinking about how out of control my work “to do” list is and that quickly bled over into how out of control my “home” and “life” lists are. I started panicking about how I would ever get it all done. Or at least most of it.

Several weeks ago I read a book by Laura Vanderkam called 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. It’s a 168hourstreatise on time –every single one of us has 168 hours in a week– and how we approach using it. I found it to be very thought-provoking, and my feelings today make me want to revisit it.

In her book, Vanderkam spends some time talking about “The Myth of The Time Crunch.” She lays out the argument that every person, no matter how “successful” they are or how innovative or how obligated, has 168 hours in every week. By defining time in this way, rather than by a single day or a full month or year, we have enough flexibility to “find” time for ourselves and enough limitations to not lose our priorities to “someday.” It comes down to attention, and intention, Vanderkam says:

While we underestimate exceptions, we overestimate other things — for instance, time devoted to small, repetitive tasks.If you pulled out your Blackberry ten times over the weekend, you might give yourself credit for several hours of work, even though each incidence took five minutes. In other words, this totaled less than one hour, even though 10 Blackberry checks will make you feel like you’re in work mode 24/7.

One of Vanderkam’s other tools, borrowed from another author and coach is the “List of 100 Dreams.” These are dreams, big and small, that she says you should use to organize your time and priorities. When I read the book I started a list of 100 dreams. Some of them are:

  • Publish a book
  • Have nice fingernails
  • Travel for 4+ weeks with Boopsie and Daddy-o… a National Parks tour
  • Go on a photo safari in Africa
  • Teach Boopsie to ride a bike
  • Learn to do a good sun salutation
  • Have an emergency fund that can cover a whole year of expenses
  • Dress up (fancy) one time per year
  • Be conversational (not necessarily fully fluent) in a foreign language

This list can evolve and change — the idea is to actively seek out and make progress toward what you want, even if what you want changes. This list, Vanderkam argues, can help you organize your time so that it feels more valuable and you get more out of it. (Because, despite how I spent the last couple of days “Be caught up on Nashville” is NOT on my list of 100 dreams. Oops.)

Vanderkam also encourages readers to figure out their core competencies — what it is they do better than anyone else —  and then ruthlessly focus on those. Cut out the things other people can do better and/or that you hate to focus on your core competencies so you can make progress with those. Refuse or shorten meetings, outsource household tasks that aren’t in your core competencies and focus effort on where you want to (and can) do your best. The discussion around core competencies made me think a lot about the “house wife” trap I’ve put myself in. I do a majority of the day-in, day-out work in our home — meal planning, groceries and prep, majority of the laundry, general life management, etc. I’m having a hard time parsing out the difference between “core competency” and “habitual control freak,” especially when it comes to food preparation and meals. It’s definitely a thought-starter. I also started to think about trying to better define my core competencies at work. I’m pretty successful there, but where should I focus?

In 168 Hours, Laura Vanderkam also talked about intention and parenting, and I appreciated the approach. “The point is to treat your children as privileged clients,” she writes. “You have to think through the time you’re going to spend together because it is valuable.” She warns that if you don’t you can fall into a couple of different traps. The trap I saw we’ve really adopted is becoming a “slave” to the weeknight pattern of dinner, bath and bed.

I have to admit — as nice and comforting as routines can be, sometimes I want to poke my eyes out when I’m trying to come up with a fast, feasible dinner for the three of us. And as much as I LOVE snuggling with Boopsie, the thought of reading Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever one more time makes me want to scream. Vanderkam’s suggestion is to consciously shake things up sometimes, arguing that the occasional fast-food meal won’t kill anyone, and that the adventures, activity and good memories that can result from doing different things are overwhelmingly positive.

Bowl of cereal with berries

Cereal. It’s what’s for dinner.

This is one concept I have tried to really grab onto. Tonight, about to explode from stress and overwhelm, I threw Boopsie in the stroller and we went on a “family walk” with Daddy-o after dinner. Sure, it messed with her bed time a little, but she got to pet a dog (her favorite), see some bunnies, and we all got some fresh air and exercise. More importantly, we did something with 30 minutes between dinner and bath besides sort the mail and pick up toys. Dee-light-ful. Another time, when Daddy-o was out of town, I grabbed Boopsie from day care and made a mad dash to the Minnesota Children’s Museum, saving myself (by virtue of time) from the age-old question about what to make for dinner. That night we had cereal and fruit.

I recommend 168 Hours for anyone trying to find more time in their lives, or even those just trying to organize their thoughts around what they want. It’s non-threatening and accessible. I’ve been pushing Daddy-o to think about what’s on his “List of 100 Dreams” so we see where there’s alignment and get after shared dreams, or at least help each other start reaching some individual ones, big or small.

What do you think? What are your biggest time-management challenges? What routines are sucking you dry these days? What’s on your list of 100 dreams? (Don’t worry, I won’t hold you to anything and it’s fun to think about!)

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Filed under books, drudgery, First-World Problems

The Secret (Where the Doldrums Lose and Mama Wins)

I have discovered The Secret, at least for my tot and me. No, not that “secret” where you wish and intend for things to happen in your life and they do … I’m talking about the parental Ace card that is elusive and ever-changing. I’ll explain:

This past weekend, Daddy-o had a very serious work commitment, so it was me and Boopsie for the long-haul (with some respite at Grammie and Grampie’s). And all week last week I had a severe case of the doldrums. It was bad. I felt crushed by the routine and responsibility of everything in my life. I was feeling terribly bored — not with the people in my life, but by the day-in, day-out patterns. Get up earlier than I want to, fight my two-year-old to get ready to go, go to work, pick up two year old, make and eat dinner, fight to get two-year-old to bed and chill or try to do something productive. Go to bed later than I should. Repeat. (First-world problems all the way…) I was getting desperate trying to bust out of my dull downer mood. So these are some of the things I tried:

toddler windbreaker with bikes

Damn you, Target.

  • I bought an aromatherapeutic candle called “Be Amazing.” (Yes, really.)
  • I re-started listening to classical music.
  • I bought and read Dream Save Do by Betsy and Warren Talbot from Married With Luggage
  • I impulsively bought Boopsie a spring jacket because it has bikes on it. Thankfully, it was only $15.
  • I tried cooking new things like vegan chili (delicious, actually).
  • I went shopping for myself. Spent quite a bit more than $15.
  • I decided to clean my closet. I didn’t actually clean out my closet.

Basically, heading into a long weekend of single parenting (woe is me, I know), I was a little panicked about HOW TO FEEL BETTER ABOUT THINGS and MORE EXCITED ABOUT LIFE. Add to this a wily two-year-old bouncing off the walls and I was worried about not snapping. But then… magic happened. First, we received about four inches of fresh snow on Friday while Boopsie was at day care. Second, the weather was nice for February — mid- to high-20s. Finally, we were both healthy enough to play outside. The mythical winter trifecta was attained for only the second time this whole season (good snow + decent temperature + healthy). I picked up Boo and we went to a sledding hill I’d never been to before… It. Was. Awesome.

Toddler in snow

“I going to the li-blaly. We got to get more Llama books.”

If someone would have told me last week that the cure for winter doldrums was to play outside in the winter weather I may have punched them. But sledding down a too-big-for-me-and-my-tot hill and following Boopsie around while she marched through the park discussing how she was going to the “li-blaly” (library) to get more “llama books” shook me out of my stupor.

And the best part… the BEST part… is that she burned off so much energy that she went to bed like a dream and slept for TWELVE HOURS. The bells and whistles went off in my head and we’ve dragged her outside to play every day since. On Saturday we went on a walk looking for turkeys near my parents suburban home. On Sunday I took her to the park where she went down the slides at least 20 times. Today Daddy-o took her back to the park for more sliding, swinging and general exploration. Granted, her bedtime wasn’t as smooth tonight, but she ate chicken enchiladas like a champ at dinner. WINNING.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring… a chest cold? Biting wind? I hope to hell we can get outside after work and day care. And I don’t know if I’ve really beaten my doldrums or just beaten them back for a little bit. But I do know (at least for now), my secret to survival is getting outside with this kiddo. Look out, world!


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Filed under adventures, drudgery, First-World Problems, Fun, lessons, problems middle class parents have, Stuff Toddlers Say

Birthday Recap – Deux

Oh, the Boopsie turned 2! Of course she was (not really) getting over a nasty cold virus, so we started out the day by going to the doctor, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles. For her second birthday Boopsie received a scoot bike (which she won’t scoot on), some flashcards (yep, I am THAT lame), books and a coloring book. We also took her out to a fabulous local bookstore and had ice cream (cookies and cream for me and vanilla basil for Daddy-o and Boo… so high-brow!). We finished up the day by letting her eat as much damn ketchup as she wanted with her diner. She was thrilled.

We spent the rest of the weekend getting ready for the party on Sunday. Rather, I spent the rest of the weekend getting ready for the party and Daddy-o tried to avoid my wrath (with minimal success). After a great deal of thought, I went for the standard Elmo cupcakes:

Elmo Cake and Cupcakes

Birthday cake. From a mix! And topped with artificial colors, no less…

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Last year I was anxious about giving her cake with added sugar and this year I was doling out seriously artificially colored candy Elmo’s on the top of cupcakes made from a mix with ingredients I can’t pronounce. Crikers!  At this rate, next year I’ll be handing her a five pound bag of sugar, a spoon, and a beer and calling it good.

The party was fun, and Boopsie received a bunch of presents (though I’d tried to limit them). I’d have to say the faves so far are the “baby” from Grammie and Grampie, the baby cradle from Grandma and Grandpa, and “baby bear” — a Build-a-Bear workshop bear from her aunt and uncle and cousins. We ate pizza, we ate cake. We sang “Happy Birthday,” at which point Boopsie grinned from ear to ear. She was so happy I thought she’d float right out of her chair. Good party.

Once everyone left, Boopsie hit the wall. The evening ended with her, in just a diaper, laying on the bathroom floor wailing because she didn’t want to brush her teeth. I had to sympathize because I myself have sometimes spent the evening of my birthday on the bathroom floor, though almost never in my underwear and usually not crying. (I was in college…) Because I’m a mean mom who likes to snap photos of my crying child to show her later in life, I have this:

Baby facedown on bathroom floor

Praying to the porcelain (plastic) god? I sure hope not!

We’ve all recovered and now Boopsie only occasionally walks around singing “Birthday to me, birthday to me.” This weekend we’re going camping… a true family adventure. Please wish us luck…

In other news, tonight I prepared for a wellness screening at work tomorrow by eating 520 calories worth of gummy bears tonight. Long live Haribo!


Filed under adventures, Fun, relationships

My Second Annual Birthday FREAK OUT

Boopsie turns 2 in three days. How did we get here? In some ways, it feels like she was born last week and I can’t wrap my head around how much she has grown and changed, and how much she continues to learn and do every. single. day. Just yesterday she started singing numbers — one through ten — no problem. And she’s been getting Daddy-o and I to play hide-and-seek nearly every evening after dinner. (We take turns hiding and she goes looking with the other parent.)

But I’m not here to regale you with stories of her intelligence, sass or sweetness… at least not tonight. I’m here to write about what I’m calling my “Second Annual Birthday FREAK OUT.” I had a similar spazz attack last year around this time, but here I am again. I find myself completely torn between wanting to keep the celebration really mellow and relaxed and wanting to turn myself inside out after scouring Pinterest to have a super. cute. birthday. party.

This dilemma (if you will indulge me) came to a head a couple of weeks ago when a very gifted friend posted photos of her son’s second birthday party on Facebook. My jaw almost hit the floor — I was so impressed. She had a construction theme, complete with hard hats that had custom stickers with kids’ names and “positions” on the crew, homemade “construction vests,” themed food (truck wheels that were chocolate donuts, six foot construction bubble tape, cheesy poof “wrecking balls” in the back of a toy truck), a visit to see some big construction equipment, an absolutely adorable cake… it was an awesomely put together and beautiful party.

I saw those photos and the “to the nines” theme she executed and my heart went pitter patter. I considered an “Under the Sea” theme, with 3D fish and seashells. I daydreamed about a Sesame Street theme. I considered a bounce-house.

Then I vacillated, wondering if it was a good thing to do. Too much consumerism. Too much emphasis and attention. I also wondered if I could even pull it off. Besides, she’s turning two. Will she even remember?

After I vacillated, I stewed for a bit. Then I tried to find my middle path. At the risk of sounding lame, I think I found one:

We’re ordering Boopsie’s favorite food. We requested “no gifts” except from grandparents. I got some Elmo cupcake wrappers and some cupcake toppers. We’ll get some balloons.

I’m still worried I’ll regret not “going big.” There’s something in my very nature that often compels me to try and do something awesome at occasions like this… not just pretty dang good. But I’m pulled in about 30 directions at once every day. All the time. And I’m not ever sure that trying to be The Best is good for anyone, even if the effort focused on making a super cool birthday party for a 2-year-old (much less other, more “useful” endeavors, such as work or trying to be The Best parent).

So there you have it: Starting with some adorable photos on Facebook and a daydreams of a 2-year-old’s birthday party and ending with me trying to balance my over-ambitious nature with my desire to relax and enjoy my tot’s birthday. And that is how I arrived at my second annual birthday freak out.

Wish me luck.

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Filed under lessons, mom guilt, problems middle class parents have

This is how I felt…

… before I had the Boopsie.

The Unapologetic Case for Formula Feeding by Amy Sullivan

I was pretty much planning to formula feed for pretty much the same reason: I didn’t want to do it all (or at least 95% of it).

The I submitted to what I dubbed the “high-school try.” And it went okay. And then my Type-A, “must do well” personality trait took over and I gave up dairy and kept on breastfeeding until Boopsie was about 8 months old.

I find this piece refreshing and I appreciate the view point…. what do you think?

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Filed under breastfeeding, feeding