Posted by: workforcookies | December 10, 2009

Crazy Colored Christmas Lights

Christmas is coming, which is why there’s a tree in my living room. As for the reason that tree is decked out with crazy-looking colored lights instead of more tasteful white ones…that’s to do with my Christmas quota.
When I got married, a very wise friend told me to allow myself three details of the wedding that I would refuse to budge on (for my husband and I, it was the ceremony, music and vows)—let your mom have her say over everything else. I’m convinced that imposing a quota of three un-budgeable details is why I survived my wedding with very few mother-daughter arguments. Because this worked so well, I’ve decided to apply the same logic to other potentially stressful life events … Enter the holidays.
Of course, I truly wanted to be the kind of mom who sewed unbelievably adorable costumes at Halloween or personalized stockings at Christmas. But let’s face it, if I did all that on top of working a full-time job….well, when would I spend time with my kids? So, in early October of this year I loaded the kids in the car and headed to Toys-R-Us for the cringe-worthy commercialized Lightening McQueen Pit Crew Chief outfit of my son’s dreams. And late last November, I ordered monogrammed stockings for the whole family from The Company Store that are admittedly cuter than anything I might have made myself.
Halloween is far behind us, so I won’t bore you with my un-budgeable details for that holiday. Instead, I’ll share with you my Christmas quota:
1. Making Christmas cookies with my kids
2. Sending Christmas cards to my family and friends afar
3. Giving the kids the thrill of seeing Santa on the roof (that’s right, my dear husband straddles the shingles every year decked out in a Santa suit—the kids run out to see him when a reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is interrupted by a true-life “clatter” on our roof.)
So you see, when my husband—who, as it happens, is also the one who puts the lights on our tree—chooses a strand filled with crazy colors too tacky for my taste, mum’s the word! To put up a fight would put me over my quota of un-budgeable Christmas details.

Posted by: workforcookies | October 16, 2009

Mr. Mom


At long last, my son is FINALLY potty trained!

I wish I could say that after three years of honing my mommy skills and ingenuity, I finally crafted the perfect solution that worked for my child and will do the same for all others, but the truth of the matter is…my husband did it!

For those of you who have been keeping up (first of all, thank you), this latest attempt was not the first we’ve made at nixing the nappies. We’ve been telling my son for a while now—a long while actually—that when the last box of diapers was through, there would be no more. So a week after we returned from summer vacation the much-anticipated last diaper was pulled from the box. My son wore it through nap time, snack time, play time and dinner. It was a wad of well-worn cotton by the time I fianly peeled it off his bottom before bedtime.

Still, I’m not sure who was more worried about reaching the bottom of the box, my son or my husband.

“Maybe we should go buy some more,” my husband whispered to me, suffering a momentary lapse of support for Team Parents.

“No,” I almost yelled. If we do that, we’ve lost our leverage. We’ll never again be able to tell him that we’ve run out, he’ll just tell us to go buy some more. (Easy for me to say, I was due to leave town within the next 72 hours.) With a deep sigh, my husband opened the super-sized box of Pull-Ups we’d bought at Costco.

“These are not diapers,” my husband said to our son.images

“Okay,” said my son, sitting on the bed, looking chipper. Clearly, his biggest fear was not realized. We weren’t putting him in underpants, we were actually giving him what looked like a diaper, only we were telling him it wasn’t REALLY a diaper. He was willing to play along.

My husband continued explaining to him that these new-fangled non-diapers called Pull-Ups were not to be tee-teed  or poopied in. I stood behind my husband in an effort to show a united front (Go Team Parents). My son kicked his feet and nodded his head, waiting for my husband to stop talking and put the diape…er…ah…Pull-Up on already!

After a short and successful sit on the potty, the Pull-Up was donned and the night proceeded much like any other. It wasn’t until the next day that my son noticed  a difference. He was playing with trains in the living room when suddenly he stood with a worried look on his face.

“Mommy, I have to tee tee,” he said.

“Ok,” I said. “Let’s go to the bathroom.

He took two knock-kneed steps toward me and it became obvious to me that it was too late, he’d already tee-teed in his Pull-Up. This sort of spill wouldn’t have bothered him in a diaper but because Pull-Ups aren’t nearly as absorbent, he could feel the wetness and he didn’t like it. (Team Parents 1/ Team Kid 0) That night he put on the night time Pull Up and the next morning I left town to take care of my sister who is battling ovarian cancer.

Over the next two weeks, my husband kept me updated on my son’s potty progress, which was going well. He was giving my son stickers every time he used the potty and the toys were piling up. Still no underpants, but it was safe to say we had a potty-trained 3-year-old.

When I came home, my suggestion of putting on underpants were met with an adamant “No” from my son. That is until I offered up the toy to trump all toys, the one I had offered up the first time I’d tried to bribe him to use the potty—Cranky Crane ($70-some-odd at Toys R Us).  I couldn’t just give Cranky away, so I told Pete that if he had three dry days in a row Cranky would be his. I printed out blank calendar from the internet and put a sticker on his first dry day. Only two accidents and less than a month later, Cranky was his.

Not too long afterward, my son turned to me and said he didn’t want to wear underpants anymore: “I already have Cranky Crane,” he reasoned.

“Oh, but you want to keep Cranky Crane, don’t you?” I countered.

“Yes,” he said, without skipping a beat. Team Parents 2/ Team Kid….well, I guess everyone is a winner here! 🙂

Posted by: workforcookies | August 31, 2009

Fast forward into life…

I don’t generally include pictures of myself on this blog, but I couldn’t resist posting this one of me cramming as much fun as I can into the limited time I have have to spend with my kids these days.

It ain’t pretty, but it says better than I could ever express in words what my life feels like at the moment.

So, here it is, hold on tight and enjoy!

Posted by: workforcookies | July 14, 2009

Night and Day

dhg02057Most working parents have an arrangement. In our house we call it the morning parent (my husband) and the night parent (me). This means my husband wakes at 7:30 am-ish, when the kids begin to stir. He then spends the next hour before the babysitter arrives getting himself and the kids dressed and breakfast on the table. I come home at 5:30 p.m. and spend the next four hours completing the following tasks: dinnertime, playtime, bath time, bed time.
Most working parents I know also have a running argument over which shift is the hardest, morning or night. Being on the night shift, I of course (along with three friends who also have the night shift) argue that the evening hours are the most difficult. First of all, after having worked a full day, we’re exhausted. Add to that the fact that the kids are cranky enough to refuse to eat dinner, bathe or go to bed and, well, you’ve just gotten a glimpse into the night shift—did it make you want to shut your eyes real tight? My husband, of course, maintains the morning shift is the most challenging because getting the kids dressed and fed whilst trying to dress and feed himself and leave for work makes for mayhem. (To which I silently think to myself: Why not get up and get dressed before the kids wake?)
I’m happy to report that the argument, at least in my house, has finally been settled. I recently left for a two-week trip to Texas, during which my husband graciously took over the role of BOTH the morning and night parent. (God love him!) Three days into my trip we were talking on the phone and I had to ask: “Which is harder? Night time or morning?”
“Night time, no question!” he answered without skipping a beat.
So for all of you out there on the night shift who may never hear those words from your morning shift counterpart…lick your index finger then log one air point for our team!

Posted by: workforcookies | June 27, 2009

Backseat Parenting

images-1On my way home from a conference in Washington DC, I made the mistake of telling my cab driver I couldn’t wait to get home to see my kids. True to taxi-driver form, he took this as an invitation, not only to engage in conversation, but to instruct me in the art of parenting.
“Don’t let your children run the show. You tell them what the rules are and as long as they are in your house you make sure they follow your rules. The minute they start telling you what the rules are, it’s all over,” He stopped talking just long enough to take a breath and I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for any child who grew up with a dad so well practiced in doling out orders.
If he hadn’t been so passionate (read loud) as he commanded me to step up to the plate as a parent, I might have enjoyed his sing-songy accent a little more. From somewhere in the West Indies, I guessed as he began to thank God (who, no doubt, had no trouble hearing him) that evils like Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist when his children were growing up.
“You have to know what they’re doing all the time, and how is a parent supposed to know these days?”…not giving me even half a second to answer…”You have to STAY…ON… TOP…OF…THEM. I did, and oh, oh, oh, they complained. But now, now, that they are all grown and in college, they thank me.”H
Another breath and I jumped at the chance to shift the focus off my parenting skills—that are clearly, in his opinion, lacking—and on to the education of his children.
“Where did they go to college?” I asked, not even knowing how many THEY are. It turns out, THEY are three: One who received a PhD from Duke where he is currently working on a medical degree, a second who is working on a PhD in acoustics from the University of Maryland and a third who is getting a degree in computer engineering from Pen State.
So maybe there’s something to be said for his STAY…ON…TOP…OF…THEM approach. I just hope you don’t have to be as loud as my cab driver is for the technique to work!

Posted by: workforcookies | June 10, 2009

Life stops, then starts again

teal-ribbon2WYou may have noticed that I haven’t posted on this blog in a while. Thirty days to be exact. On May 14th, my sister had surgery to drain cysts on her ovaries. It was supposed to be a routine surgery. I was at work and I turned the ringer on my phone up. I was just waiting to get the call that everything was okay. Instead, when my mom called, she said: “It’s cancer and it’s bad.”
Bad might just have been the understatement of our lifetime. It’s horrific. Horrific because it’s ovarian cancer, at least stage three, maybe four. It’s horrific because it is aggressive. It’s horrific because even though her ovaries appeared fine during an ultrasound in September, just nine months later there is too much disease to operate. It’s horrific because it has filled her lungs with fluid making it hard for her to breath. It’s horrific because she’s my sister and the thought of a world without her makes it hard for me to breathe.
I flew to Texas to be with her for two weeks. As much as I missed my children, my family, I had little time to think about home. There was much work to be done. Calling doctor’s offices, scheduling appointments, faxing medical records, etc.
When each of my children were born, my sister selflessly left her children to come help me usher my own into the world. I’ll never forget how she went to the grocery store, bringing my eldest with her to give my husband and I a chance to sleep alongside our new baby, and returned with a car full of groceries that she used to cook all of our meals over the next two weeks. I’d often wished I could return the favor, but not like this.
By the time I left Texas my sister had her first chemo treatment and she was fully feeling the effects. It killed me to leave her, lying in her bed.
Returning to my own children brought me bittersweet feelings of joy. I wanted to hug them and never let them go, but I also wanted to go back. Back to a time when I didn’t question whether my sister, their aunt, would be able to watch them grow and weigh in on all the parenting issues I’m sure to face over the years. Back to a time when I didn’t have to wonder if my daughter and I might have a similar time bomb lying in wait in our DNA. Back to a time when I didn’t have intimate knowledge of cancer and all that it can do the body and spirit. Back to a time when my sister took care of me. Back to a time when my sister was a mom, not a cancer patient.
I called my sister tonight and felt like I could go back, even if just for a moment. When I heard her telling her kids they couldn’t have cookies because she was about to put dinner on the table, I knew I was talking to a mom, not a cancer patient. I’m holding onto that memory, and that is how I will think of my sister through the rest of her fight. I know it will be long and filled with many days that she is my sister, a cancer patient. But when she comes out on the other side, I know she will once again be my sister, a teacher, a friend, a mom.

Posted by: workforcookies | May 11, 2009

Happy (belated) Mother’s Day to Me!

0764524836I got some really great cards on Mother’s day, but I also did a lot of laundry…so I’ve decided to buy myself a Mother’s Day gift. You know, to make me feel better about the laundry! 🙂

If you’ve been keeping up with The Cookie Sheet, you’ve probably noticed that I cook one vegetarian meal a week for my family. It’s something I mentioned in a recent post called Keeping Up with the Obamas, where I talked about Meatless Monday, an advocacy group that is challenging Americans to go meatless every … drum roll, please … Monday. As it turns out, the nice folks over at MM saw my blog and have asked me to step up to the challenge—or rather blog about how I’m already doing just that (they also called me a “grassroots gardening mom”—thanks, MM! :)). That means my family’s meatless meals will actually be on Mondays from here on out, and that I’m feeling a little more pressure to have vegetarian meals that go beyond the usual three-bean chili. So, I’ve decided my Mother’s Day gift to myself will be Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook. (Also, I’ve been dying to get it ever since I fell in love with his classic How to Cook Everything and I’m happy to now have a somewhat official excuse to buy it for myself!)

P.S. If you want to step up to the Meatless Monday challenge, check out their website. They’ll tell you all about how going meatless can help the planet, your health and your pocket book. They also have loads of vegetarian recipes—yum!

P.P.S. My parents sent me a card this year that was so touching it brought me to tears. They also enclosed a check with explicit instructions from my Mom to buy something only for MYSELF—it takes a mom to get the TRUE meaning of Mother’s Day, doesn’t it? I am NOT spending the check from my Mom on the Bittman book. Don’t get me wrong, I consider this book to be an awesome gift, but it’s as much for my family (who I’m cooking these meals for) as it is for me. Any suggestions on what I should get myself from my parents?

Posted by: workforcookies | May 5, 2009

Battle of the bug


Posted by: workforcookies | April 28, 2009


I wonder if anyone has ever added up the number of hours of sleep a new mom gets in her first few years as a parent. If not, maybe I should be the first. It wouldn’t take long because it can’t be a very large number. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even require a calculator.

Last night, I think I got two—as in 1, 2—hours of sleep. My one-year-old had a fever, so she was up and down until close to midnight. Next up, literally, was my three-year-old son. At about 3:30, I awoke to him screaming: “Mommy!” at the top of his lungs. I went in his room and changed his diaper, which was threatening to overflow, then tried to soothe him back to sleep by rubbing his back—BIG mistake! Having Mommy in his room in the middle of the night proved all too exciting for my son. His chatter box shifted into high gear and at 4:30 I told him I was going back to my bed. The sound of his voice followed me and kept me awake until my alarm went off at 5 a.m. I returned to his room to find him outfitting his stuffed monkey with a bucket usually reserved for play in the bathtub.

“Put the monkey down.” I said in the best stern parent voice I could muster. I felt like I was teetering between the line of drunk and hungover. My head was pounding, my vision blurred and the path I followed from my room to his was as curvy as silly string. 

“His hat won’t stay on,” my son protested, referring to the bucket.

“He doesn’t need a hat to sleep,” I said as I snatched the monkey out of his hand and laid him on the pillow next to my son’s. “Goodnight,” I said as if the monkey could hear me. Having no more toys to feed his insomniac tendencies, my son resorted to body parts. He started by shaking his head back and forth. “BE STILL” I commanded. He began patting his hand rhythmically on the mattress. “DON’T MOVE.” Next came his legs then feet. Finally, when he had nothing left to do but blink his eyes repeatedly, that’s exactly what he did. “SHUT THEM,” I said, and within three minutes he was asleep. 

I showered and went to work, still feeling like I was walking that line between drunk and hungover. 

I work at a company large enough to have a “medical department” which is sort of like the nurses office I remember from my elementary school—complete with vinyl cot and matching pillow. I’ve come to work numerous times having had little to no sleep, but the only time I’ve ever used the vinyl cot was when I had an allergic reaction that required a shot of Benadryl. I remember not being able to sleep, despite the effects of the sedative—I could hear people talking outside the door and my face stuck to the pillow. Today, I slept like a rock from 9:30 a.m. until 11. When I awoke, I noticed for the first time, the giant poster of a magazine cover affixed to the wall across from the vinyl cot. “A Woman’s Choice: baby or career. Which should come first?” The cover line read. I’d actually read the story when it came out in 2002 and knew it was a report on fertility, informing women that despite medical advances there are no guarantees you’ll be able to have a baby later in life.

Today the question on the cover carried totally different meaning for me. The word “choice” seemed almost silly because working doesn’t feel like a choice. It feels like a necessity. I’m grateful for women’s lib, but on days like today—albeit my thinking is not totally clear—I don’t feel like the sacrifices made have afforded women any sort of a choice. On the contrary, I feel, it’s forced us into another trap. Now, instead of being trapped at home as the women of the 50s were, we are trapped in our jobs. Too dependent on the income to quit and too sleep deprived and bleary eyed to think of a better way. Trust me, if I had a choice today, it would be to sleep!

Posted by: workforcookies | April 21, 2009

Smokin’ the Sitter

images-13Like every new mom, I’m trying to lose the baby weight. Luckily for me, some other moms I know recently decided to get serious. They’ve signed up for a 5K Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, allowing me to glom onto their cause—in the hopes that the researchers will find a cure and I will lose some pounds.

The first practice run went surprisingly well, if you don’t count the time one mom disappeared into the woods with a fist full of tissue because she “couldn’t hold it,” then returned—unsucessful—after losing a battle with a sticker bush. We were all very slow, but everyone ran the whole way and nobody passed out. For an added challenge, some of us even took turns pushing a double stroller fully stocked with two adorable—albeit not-so-light—toddlers. A good time was had by all and I could feel the pounds melting away, or was that just baby slobber mixed with sweat dripping down my chest?

At our next practice run, there was no double stroller, instead a babysitter spurred me on. My mom friends and I arrived at 8:30 a.m., all of us already jolted by at least one cup of caffeine, picking Cheerios out of our hair, pockets and running bras. We were chatting about potty training and whether an IUD was truly the best form of birth control when…the sitter showed up. I hadn’t realized she was part of our ad hoc running club, and as she got out of her car I worried how she might change the dynamic of our group. Truly I love this sitter, and so do my kids. Who wouldn’t? She has a quick smile framed by a thick head of blond hair and she’s bounding with energy. On the flip side, she’s young, fit, and…did I mention bounding with energy?

It started very innocently. I was jogging alongside the sitter and my friend who’d had the tangle with the sticker bush the week before. As the three of us made small talk, the sitter pulled ahead, just a bit. I instinctively picked up my pace to match hers—more to keep the conversation going than anything else. Then, the sitter sped up a little more.

My friend with the sticker bush scars is new to running—and she’s also apparently more mature than I am—so she was quick to back away from any hint of competition. “Don’t let me slow you guys down, go ahead,” she shouted at our backs. I hollered out something about circling back after I ran out of steam, and the race against the sitter was on. (Though I’m not sure the sitter knew it, or even cared.) 

She might not have a problem leaving my friend who was still nursing her sticker bush wounds in the dust, but I wasn’t going to let her shame us ALL. I steeled myself and tried desperately to draw on my knowledge from the days (years and years and YEARS ago) when I competed in cross-country and track: I lengthened my stride, breathed in through my nose out my mouth, and ignored the side stitch threatening to form just below the fourth rib of my right side. MUST…NOT…SLOW…DOWN.  I was no longer running for Susan G. Komen, or the researchers, or even for my fat self—I was running for all Mommy-kind! We should not, could not, would not be beat by the babysitter. 

And we weren’t! 

“Wow you’re really fast!” the sitter said about two miles later, after we’d both caught our breath and were walking off the effects of our “jog.” I quickly changed the subject, a little embarrassed by my burning desire to win. (What was I trying to prove?  The Race for the Cure is a participation ONLY event—they don’t even tell you your time when you cross the finish line!) Also, I didn’t want to gloat—I’m not that immature.


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