And they Called her Mellow Yellow

As stated…and stated…and stated: I have three girls.  Yes, we have a lot of dresses.  Yes, we have a lot of tears.  Yes, we have very busy social calendars.  Normally, I don’t mind the busy social calendars too much.  I enjoy conversing with all of you cute mommies while doing the Pick-up-from-the-Party Polka, and as my daughters get older, I’ve discovered one of the best ways to learn about what is truly going on at school is to offer to load up thee carpool, and then shut up thee mouth.  Secrets previously untold will fly forth from the backseat, and you will suddenly be in the know and prepared to either initiate appropriate conversations or react thoughtfully to tough tween questions.

What I do not like about the Super Social Shuffle are the goody bags.  I know.  Now you think I’m a party-pooper.  It’s just that most of the time, what finds its way home from the party and into my house is candy the girls don’t need, and little trinkets my girls hoard until we are almost buried alive in superballs, cootie catchers and plastic moustaches.  I try to edit the bags as much as possible, but I confess, I usually get caught (hence the statement above about “lots of tears”).

Yellow GlowsticksRecently, what came home in said goody bag was a yellow glow stick.  Sounds harmless, right?  Maybe even a little helpful when playing an evening game of hide and seek or when trick-or-treating.  Yeah…nope.  This glow stick, much to my daughter’s surprise, broke when she snapped it, and the yellow goo exploded everywhere – including all over her face and into her eyes.

What ensued is enough drama to make a Shakespeare play look “tame” (get it?)…

My now yellow daughter was screaming that she had been rendered blind – the kind of gut-wrenching, blood-curdling, dear-god-maybe-she’s-right kind of screams.  And then my littlest one, never to be outdone in the drama department, pushed the accelerator to the floor.  Running through the house, stopping only to stare at her banana-esque sib, she began screaming even louder than her sis, and the chant went something like this: “You’re yellow!  She’s yellow!  She is always going to be yellow!  Her cheeks are yellow!  Her eyes are yellow!  Her lips are yellow!  Everywhere yellow, yellow, yellow!”  As I’m sure you can imagine, Big Sis didn’t find this reaction particularly reassuring.

Folks, we all have our finer parenting moments, and our not-so-finer parenting moments, and I confess, how I got this situation under control definitely falls into the latter category for me.  The bad news is that I think I stooped so low as to tell my youngest daughter she was beginning to turn purple (from all of the yelling, of course) and I instructed her to go look in the mirror.  The good news is that I am now the possessor of sage medical advice for broken-yellow-glow-stick-syndrome.

The answer…

A warm shower for the skin, warm water in the eyes.

And the moral of this story…

Have boys.*

*Just kidding, angels.  I love you, yellow and all.

How to Order a Helping of Sanity

My family had a banner moment. Get that trophy ready.

shutterstock_27729742To kick off the long weekend, I made the decision to go out to eat. I skipped lunch on Friday to get my hair cut, and so I walked in the door that evening starving.  Taking the time to prepare a meal felt like food deprivation times ten.  And yet despite my hunger pangs, I was actually annoyed by my decision. The girls were really wound up, and I confess, I cringe at the thought of disruptive children in restaurants. And my cringe turns into a downright scowl when those children just happen to be mine.

But to my surprise – my girls hopped in the car, and I only had to ask once. Then they fastened their own seat belts. We arrived at the restaurant, and they waited quietly before we were seated. Then they sat down. My girls ordered, my oldest remembered to look the waitress in the eye, and all three girls threw in a couple of “pleases” and “thank yous” throughout the course of the meal.

It hit me. We had arrived. We were now a family capable of eating out together, without highchairs and coloring books and diaper bags full of “entertain me” tricks. I looked at a few of the families around me struggling to stave off children’s tears and tantrums while grown ups took one last bite of their entrees, and I remembered how hard it was, and I marveled at how easy it had become. And then, as most mothers do, I couldn’t help but think I would love one more hug post-tantrum, one more set of scribbles on paper that represent a plane or a princess or a portrait of me. For a brief moment, I wanted that time in my life, including those painful trips out to eat, back.

For those of you who are still there, here’s a list of tips for eating out with toddlers, courtesy of

Leave your fears at home. Most people don’t mind children in restaurants as long as they aren’t disruptive. We’re not talking four-star, staid establishments here. There are probably plenty of informal and excellent restaurants at your disposal. Moderately priced ethnic restaurants, trendy university hangouts, casual but elegant dining – these are all good choices. It’s okay to check them out!

Set reasonable expectations. Your child won’t be perfect, quiet, neat, and adventurous at first. Eating out is a skill and as usual, practice makes perfect.

Take the edge off. Feed your child a little something in the car on the way. Alternately, ask the wait staff for bread the moment you arrive.

Bring a little kit of supplies (toys, food, coloring books). Stock your wallet with emergency stickers and bandages for entertainment.

Don’t try to sneak your baby in. Introduce your baby to the host/hostess and say, “Zoe is really looking forward to your wonderful food!”

Sit near the door. If your child cries, take him or her outside immediately. Be firm with your child that he or she cannot reenter the restaurant until calm and quiet.

Take a walk immediately after you order your food. This could be around the restaurant or outside.

Set limits about where your antsy toddler can toddle. Around your table is fine, but the aisle is off-limits, as are other people’s tables.

Drape and cover. You might want to carry a small plastic drop cloth for under baby’s chair, especially if you know your chosen dining destination has nice rugs. Wait to shake until well outside.

When ordering food, don’t forget your child. A side order or two will make your toddler feel special and may actually land her something she likes. Little kids tend to enjoy food that comes in tiny bits (noodles, beans, peas, blueberries, cut-up fruit) and many don’t like their foods to touch each other.

Give your child tastes of your food. If you treat food and eating as an adventure, your child eventually will too.

Offer to clean up under the high chair when you’re done. The restaurant staff will refuse, but they’ll appreciate your offer.

Don’t ever change a baby or toddler at the table.

Leave a big tip.

Try to enjoy and appreciate. It doesn’t last long!

I Can See Carrots Growing Back There!

Someone once told me, “Christmas is a woman’s holiday,” and three children later, I have to agree.  The organizing, the shopping, the wrapping, the baking, the cooking, the cleaning…while I’m not without help (thank you, handsome man), I’m afraid the lion’s share of the yule does fall mainly onto my plate.  And I don’t think I’m alone.  I watched my grandmother, my mother and my sister all navigate their way through their own holiday preparations this year, and at times it seemed as though there was no end to our collective “busy”ness.  So today, I was going to wax poetic on moms – the sacrifice, the selflessness, the grace….

mom-2And then I stumbled across this laugh-out-loud article on “motherisms,” and I had to share. I’d like to tell you the tradition of these words ended with me, and I have never-once-no-not-ever uttered them to my children, but we all know better. And even if we didn’t, my girls would bust me for sure. Read and enjoy; it’s okay to laugh at yourself.

“In our house, you follow our rules.”

“Elbows off the table.”

“Measure twice, cut once.”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

“I’m not going to ask you again.”

“Just roll up the sleeves.”

“A place for everything and everything in it’s place.”

“Just scrape off the burnt part. It’s still good.”

“A little bird told me.”

“I didn’t ask who put it there.  I asked you to pick it up.”

“I don’t care who started it.”

“You just ate!”

“But your closet is FULL of clothes.”

“Because I said so.”

“Finish your meal. There are children starving in (insert name of impoverished country).”

“You’ll grow into them.”

“I’m not your maid.”

“Are you wearing that?”

“This looks like a tornado hit it.”

“I’m not an ATM.”

“That’s one…that’s two…”

“How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it?”

And then of course there’s the best motherism of all, which is:

“I love you.”

And in case you haven’t seen it, nothing beats admitting you say all of these “motherisms” than hearing them sung all at once. Check out Anita Renfroe’s “Momisms!”

“He Who Goes to Bed Hungry Dreams of Pancakes!”

pancakes1Guess what?  It’s National Maple Syrup Day!  I know, right?  Yesterday it was “Chocolate Covered Anything Day” and today it’s “National Maple Syrup Day.”  With heartfelt apologies to the partridge, the pear tree and the swimming swans, I think this week’s line up might be a little more fun than the 12 days of Christmas (except for maybe the golden rings…)

At any rate, National Maple Syrup Day, whether real or make-believe, is very good news for me because my cupboard is bare, and now I have the perfect excuse to pull a “breakfast for dinner” maneuver and serve up pancakes!  (This, by the way, buys me a couple of hours of celebrity status with my girls).  In honor of the event, I pulled together a little pancake trivia for ya’:

Did you know

Aunt Jemima pancake mix was the first pancake mix sold commercially?  (Yep.  It debuted in St. Joseph, Missouri and became popular at the Colmbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.)

Get this…

The world’s largest pancake breakfast was in 1999.  71,233 pancakes served 40,000 people.  (Oh man.  I just thought about all of the dishes.  My head might explode.)

Here’s a little tidbit for ya…

The first pancake dates back to early Greece.  (Opa!)

Guess what?

It is common in France to touch the handle of the frying pan and to make a wish while the pancake is turned, holding a coin in one hand.  (If I wake up tomorrow with cap toe Lanvin ballerina flats, you’ll know this really works!!!)

And consider this

The world’s largest pancake was cooked in England in 1994.  It weighed three tons and had an estimated two million calories.  (Jillian Michaels arrived on the scene the next day to make everyone do a “last chance workout.”)    🙂

Check it out

Pancakes are also known as: griddlecakes, flapjacks, wheatcakes and flannelcakes.  Crepes and blins also fall into the “pancake” category.  (In my house, syrup is also known as “sauce.”  Ketchup and Ranch dressing also fall into the “sauce” category).

Size this up…

One pancake aficionado actually ran a marathon while continually tossing a pancake for three hours, 2 minutes and 27 seconds.  (I wonder if he was wearing a windbreaker circa 1985?)

Please pass the maple syrup…

Twice is Nice, Free is Fab!

My sister is having twins.  This brings the grandkid headcount in my family to eight.  Come visit us in a few years, and you should be able to catch a pretty decent 4-on-4 basketball tournament.  Of course, six of the eight grandchildren are girls, so you should also bring a tu-tu with your high-tops if you wanna’ sub in.

At any rate…what caught us all by surprise about the impending arrival of the new M&Ms is that some how, some way, we are lacking baby stuff!  Impossible, right?  I actually couldn’t believe it either, but as my sister and I sorted through our respective stashes of baby supplies to ready her nursery, it quickly became evident that three quarters of our haul is now a) no longer up to CPSC safety standards b) soiled beyond recognition from the sibs who’ve gone before and c) monogrammed with the initials of those same sibs.  Ugh!

Wish logo smallFortunately, my talented and tasteful network has once again come to the rescue.  Get this – debuting December 21, 2012, Wish Baby Registry will deck the halls of nurseries across the country with furniture, bedding, layette, gear and gifts (and yes, my family will be clicking twice on it all).  Of course the best part about this online registry is not the super cute matching baby outfits for our new Skittles, but the fact that each registrant receives a year of FREE diapers when they reach a minimum order (which is easily achievable).  I don’t want to scare my sister, but I sort of think she’s going to need the P&G truck to back into her driveway every week since she also has a toddler who’s all swaddled up.  But hey – each pamper counts, especially the free ones!  So check it out and spread the word, and don’t forget – Hoops Tourney in my driveway circa 2016.  I’ll be the one in the Converse and the tulle!

Take Your Best Shot!

I do not own a camera.  Yep.  I heard that collective “gasp” out there in the blogosphere.  Admit it: your image of me as mom extraordinaire is totally blown.  I take all of my pics on my iPhone 3G, which means a) The quality of most of my pics is pretty darn pathetic by most photographic standards. b) I have no flash, and so all of my pics must either be taken outdoors on a sunny day, or in a light store.  c) I am lazy about moving my pics from my phone to my computer, and so if I ever accidentally drop my phone into the seal pen at the Lincoln Park Zoo, proving to my children 20 years from now that they did in fact have a happy childhood will be difficult.

Today, I say “no more” to this camera depraved lifestyle I lead.  I am taking a stand against my phone pic habit and embracing real photography.  And camera manufacturers everywhere are even enticing me with cute cameras in fab shades.  Case in point: a red Canon PowerShot digital camera, which would of course look adorable with these cute Prada flats.

And to show how truly committed I am to using my phone exclusively for phone calls (and texting, and GPS, and email and…) I even did a little research on how to take a good picture:

1. Get down!  Hold your camera at the subject’s eye level.

2. Before taking a picture, check the area behind your subject.  Look out for trees or poles sprouting from your subject’s head!

3. Use flash out doors.

4. Move in close and fill your picture with the subject.

5. Take some vertical pictures.  Many subjects look better!

6. Lock the focus to create a sharp picture of off-center subjects.  Here’s how you do it:

  • Center the subject.
  • Press the shutter button halfway down.
  • Re-frame your picture (while holding the shutter button halfway down).
  • Finish by pressing the shutter button all the way.

7. Move it from the middle.  Bring your picture to life simply by placing your subject off-center.  Since most cameras focus on whatever is in the middle, remember to lock the focus on your subject before re-framing the shot (see tip #6 above).

8. Know your flash’s range.  For many cameras, this is only 10 feet (or 4 steps away).

9. Watch the light!  For people pics, choose soft lighting (think cloudy day).  For scenic pics, use long shadows (think really early or really late daylight).

10. Be a director.  Add some props, rearrange your subjects or try a different viewpoint.  Hint: bringing subjects together tends to let personalities shine!

And always say “cheese!”

Pack your PJs!

My girls beg for sleepovers.  Every Friday, every Saturday, as the playdates wind down in the evening, the request comes in, “Mommmmeeeeeeee……can my best-friend-in-the-whole-wide-world spend the night?  Most of the time, I say no.  I think sleepovers are highly overrated, especially since our best-friends-in-the-whole-wide-world live next door, across the street, and/or behind us and therefore we can pretty much wave to them from our windows at night anyway.  Why invite the opportunity to spend a Saturday or a Sunday with over-tired kids?

But every once in a while, I relent.  And truthfully, there are elements to a sleepover that I do love: the sound of giggling at night, the array of cute bedheads in the morning, and the way my house smells when I make homemade pancakes for everyone.  The girls and I also have a fun sleepover tradition – we make nightshirts or pillowcases to commemorate the event.  I keep a supply of super cheap men’s tees and white pillowcases on hand, and we have a healthy supply of fabric markers.  I set the girls and their buddies loose at the dining room table, and when the artwork is done, we have a) spent an hour doing something other than running wild through the house b) provided the hostess (ME!) with some time to clean up the pizza/fruit salad/lemonade/cupcake strewn kitchen and c) created fun sleepwear and accessories.

Now all you need is a glass of wine (or maybe a dose of Ambien)!

Don’t forget your bunny slippers!

A Sentence a Day

On my bedside table, you’ll find a copy of The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.  In short, the book is an account of the year Gretchen spent test driving studies and theories on how to be happier.  From cleaning closets to finalizing wills to waking her girls in the morning with a song, Gretchen offers the reader dozens of insights into happiness and several suggestions on how to feel happier.

Of these suggestions, perhaps my favorite is: keep a one-sentence journal.  As a busy mom of two with a household to run and more or less a full-time job as a writer, Gretchen admits while the idea of a journal is appealing to her, she struggles to actually execute a traditional “paragraphs and pages” journal, even as a writer.  So Gretchen, in her infinite wisdom, simply started writing one sentence a day.  Perhaps it was the memory of her youngest daughter going up and down a few stairs while on a boat ride, or maybe it was her oldest daughter requesting “pajamas” (toddler-speak for parmesan) on her spaghetti.  Regardless, Gretchen’s one-sentence journal is now filled with the “sweets of her day,” it requires only a fraction of her time, and it will be a cherished memento for her family.

I of course couldn’t wait to start my own.  I relish any activity that gives me permission to set the dishes aside for two minutes to write, and taking a moment to reflect on my day, recognize the “sweets,” and put pen to paper makes me feel…yes Gretchen, you got it – happy!  And another factor in this little happiness equation?  The actual journal in which I write.  Every year for my birthday, I receive a beautiful Smythson of Bond Street diary from an English girlfriend (a tradition steeped in generosity and thoughtfulness).  I tuck a few of my favorite pictures of my children under the cover, and sometimes when I’m not too sure what I’m going to write, just a quick glance at their toothy (and in some instances toothless) grins is all it takes for me to shake hands with inspiration.

Create a one-sentence journal of your own and see whether it makes a difference in your day.  Let me know how it goes, and feel free to share some of your entries!  Mine for today:

I picked the girls up at aftercare and noticed Little Bear’s handwriting on the chalkboard.  Messages as follows:

“I love my sisters.”

“I am a very good drawer.”

“I hope mommy makes homemade pancakes for dinner.” 

Oh how tempting to hide the erasers!

Technically more than one sentence, but one perfect sentiment on which to end my day.

Happy Journaling!

I Heart Giraffe Puppies

I know in the past I have encouraged everyone to go out and buy relatively expensive jammies and cookware and candles, and so today I feel the need to redeem myself and do something on the super cheap.  I started by NOT going to my fave cafe for a latte this a.m. (that noise you hear is me opening the Tylenol to ward off my caffeine withdrawal headache), and I am following with a post to alert any and all to the fact that Crewcuts has a great sale section.

We all say the same thing, “They grow so fast,” especially when that DNA of ours is in baby form.  But if you have a Tween, you know what I know: that DNA of ours is growing at warp speed!  My 11-year-old looks like (and I say this with nothing but the greatest affection) a giraffe with puppy feet.  Her legs are LONG.  And her feet are way too BIG for that lithe little body of hers.  And both are growing at a pace my budget cannot sustain.  I think the two most common exchanges between us go something like this:

Exchange #1

Tween: “Mom, my shoes are too small.”

Me: “Tween, we just bought new shoes.  That’s impossible!  Take off your socks and loosen the laces.”  (yeah, I know…that doesn’t really work)

Exchange #2

Me: “Young lady, that skirt is way too short.  Off it goes!  And quickly, ’cause we’re running late.”

Tween: “But we just bought this and I’ve only worn it once!”

Middle child: “Does that mean I can have it?”

So where do I go to keep my 11-year-old in appropriate length skirts (for the record – I don’t make her kneel to check the length…yet) and shoes? I check out the sale section of Crewcuts!  I love how well priced the merchandise is, especially the things she outgrows rapidly like jeans, skirts and leggings.  Also, I feel their selection is age appropriate.  Nothing is overly mature or makes me think “put a sweater on!”  And right now, the deals are unbeatable.  I can pick up some cute solid color tees to mix and match for $15, her favorite leggings for under $20, and even some cute dresses for her to run around in next summer in the $15 to $30 price range.  Great savings on Tween-approved clothing.  Love it!

Happy outfitting!

Brrr…Be Gone!

I know it is only Fall.  I know for some of you, the weather is actually quite warm.  But I am perpetually cold.  According to the google machine, the reasons for this arctic state of being range from low body weight (nope) to hypothyroidism (gosh I hope not!) to being overly tired (potentially a bingo!).  Though my family makes fun of me, I wear my Ugg slippers year round, and I like to watch TV with a blanket over my feet.  I throw a big green wool sweater on over my clothes almost the minute I get home from work and I’ve even been known to sleep in it, hence my girls refer to it as mommy’s “sleep sweater.”  (I’m sure the men reading this have nicknamed it something else).  🙂

At any rate, I noticed One Kings Lane is featuring a sale on Wednesday for Tourance throws, and so, in case there are other ice cubettes out there, I thought I’d share.  And just in case your linen closet is full, here are some other great ways to warm up!

Do yoga!  (Check out the “We Made Too Much” section on the Lululemon site to save on gear!)

Take a steam shower or bath!  Cute Lacoste bathrobes available at Macy’s!

Cuddle with your kids and watch a movie!  50% off classic DVDs at Barnes & Noble!

Grab a cuppa coffee!  Love the Nespresso Espresso Machine (in red, no less – remember your rebel yell!)

Eat a warm meal! Slow cookers are not just for your grandmother!  Think delicious soups with fresh bread from the bakery!

All thawed out now?