Cruel Summer

I love these little handfuls

I know I’ve been sporadic at best in updating my blog this summer. Honestly, it’s been challenging enough just keeping up with my regular writing duties over at The Stir. Just talk to my editors … I feel like I’m always just a little behind schedule.

Sorry, ladies!

It’s fair to say that this summer has been a bit rough. Being home with the kids most of the time has taken its toll on my sanity. I told you I couldn’t hack it as a stay-at-home-mom. It’s nothing really in particular; just the day-to-day inconsistencies wrought from the lack of any real schedule. There were a few day camps, a couple work trips for me, and days here and there with the sitter, but for the most part, the kids and I were forced to cope with each other for the majority of the time.

I really hope it made all of us stronger, because it sure as heck almost killed us.

Let me remind you all that I friggin love my kids, and I’d walk across fire for them, or worse, stay home all summer with them. I kiss their booboos, love on them, comfort them, feed them, take them fun places and give them treats, and I discipline them when necessary. It is hard, and it is not my forte.

Everyone always says every kid is different, and before you have more than one, you kinda sorta know that’s true in the back of your mind, but there’s no way you can really fathom how incredibly different two people from the exact same gene pool can be.

The only thing my girls have in common is their blond hair, their daddy’s eyes, and their stubbornness. Which I’m pretty sure they also get from their father. Just saying.

When I was about eight months pregnant with Thing 1, I reached that weird state of pregnancy where my belly started to have angles, as baby’s rapidly growing knees and elbows practiced flexing. There was this one area under my ribs that she would stick her foot out, and you could see the bump on my belly. Since it was our first baby and we had invented pregnancy (because all first-time parents think this, of course), we’d watch the bump on my tummy as I pushed it in, then slowly it would go right back in the exact same spot.  Nothing would deter that girl from her way. “My foot goes here, thank you very much,” she told us in vitro.

Fast-forward a few years to about the same stage of my pregnancy with Thing 2. Oh hey! I remember that little foot! Let’s push it in and see what happens … oh that was interesting … there was no slow creep back out this time. Instead, it was a very sudden kick back out to a place near the original spot, but not quite. Thing 2 was saying, “My foot goes out, end of discussion, fine I will play by your rules, but you never said my foot couldn’t go there.”

My now fourth grader and pre-kindergartener have retained those same personalities to this day. Thing 1 is quietly stubborn – patient and relentless in pursuit of something she wants. Thing 2 has been nicknamed The Destroyer. Just because I never said you couldn’t jump off the barstools doesn’t mean that you should try it, sweetheart.

Between these two, the keeping up with my regular job, and other various matters I won’t bother to get into in order to protect the innocent, I’ve been spread a little thin.

But I’m pretty sure I’ve kept BevMo in business.

Cheers to the end of summer, and Happy School Year to moms everywhere.

Eavesdropping on Jenny & Ashley August 21, 2012

Ash and I chat about naps, blood, end-of-summer-mommy-syndrome, and parenting advice.

Listen to internet radio with Top 7 on Blog Talk Radio

Eavesdropping on Jenny & Ashley August 16, 2012

Sorry in advance for the bad audio … like Ashley said, “You know you’re best friends when you can have a conversation with really crappy audio and still understand each other.”

Also, my children almost starve to death from lack of apples.

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Eavesdropping on Jenny & Ashley August 15, 2012

Highlights:

“Any time my mom held up a wooden spoon, it meant we were making cookies.” -Ashley

“Doves are tastier.” -Ashley

“I feel so stupid…this must be what Joe Biden feels like all the time!” -Me

Plus Ashley applies for Chopped, my kids are hungry (again), and why Steel Magnolias isn’t about the plot at all.

 

Happy listening!

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Motherhood and Finding Your Calling

The following is a very Christiany post. I won’t apologize for it.

 

We had a really great adult Sunday School last weekend on work and finding your calling. It reminded me of how much I love my job, how difficult yet how rewarding motherhood is, and that all work can glorify God just by doing it well.

Martin Luther (of 95 Thesis fame) was once approached by a Christian who asked how he could glorify God. Luther asked the man’s profession, and when he replied that he was a cobbler, Luther told him to make a good pair of shoes and sell it at a fair price.

Our pastor told that story, and reminded us that God is providentially answering prayers through our work. God uses means. He gave humans intelligence and wisdom to figure out chemotherapy, and He uses that to eradicate cancer every day. When we pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread,” it doesn’t show up like manna like it did for the Israelites, it comes from the baker.

That doesn’t mean that God’s not a part of it.

As humans, we’re meant to work. God created the Heavens and the Earth, and then he created Man to work it. We’re meant to take satisfaction in work well done. Personally, I’ve always related to the connection as an image-bearer and the oft-repeated phrase in the beginning of Genesis, “And God saw that it was good.”

Creating the Heavens and Earth is hard work, man! Our Father took satisfaction in a job well done, and dang it, I do too, while simultaneously remembering that it is only through Him that I accomplish anything at all.

After establishing that work is good and glorifying to God, our pastor went into the whole ‘how do you know?’ aspect of things. First things first – pray for wisdom. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

Then we have to use those brains that God gave us and answer some questions:

  1. What interests you, and what are you willing to invest to obtain the skills needed for that particular vocation?
  2. What are you good it? Is this a realistic choice?
  3. How will this benefit your neighbor/fellow man?

As the pastor was going over these questions, I couldn’t help but think about the post about motherhood and Ann Romney I recently wrote. None of those questions had anything to do with money. Just because full time at-home moms don’t earn a paycheck doesn’t mean they don’t work. They work their hineys off.

I will address the money issue enough to say that earning a paycheck does benefit your neighbor. Earning a paycheck means that you are not relying on the charity of others. A couple that decides together for one parent to stay home and manage things that they would otherwise pay someone else to do (housework, childcare, etc.) is still glorifying God with their work even though only one of them officially earns a paycheck.

Every single person that does their job well and doesn’t try to cheat people is glorifying God. Moms, dads, surgeons, baristas, accountants, actors, plumbers, and any profession in between … Do your job well to serve your neighbor. It’s hard to come by that daily bread without the farmer to grow the wheat, the miller to grind it, the baker to bake it, the electrician to fix the baker’s ovens, the truck drivers to ship the loaves to the stores, the grocers to sell it …

Work matters. There is no such thing as a demeaning job, because any job that serves our neighbor is useful and should be done well and treated with respect. God says so, and it’s kinda hard to argue with that guy.

The Grocery Store and Rock Star School

I went to the grocery store the other day with the kids, and because I’m me, I added a couple of bottles of wine to the cart. When we got to the checkout, Thing 1 asked if she could swipe my credit card for me.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s illegal.”

“Why?”

“Because California is crazy, and the store could get into trouble by selling wine to minors if you use my credit card, with me present, and my signature is on the receipt.”

The checker stared at me like I had three heads.

Then Thing 1 piped up, “I don’t care if California is crazy, I never ever want to leave. If you and Daddy want to move to Texas, then wait until I’m in college.”

“And just where do you want to go to college, Little Miss?” I asked her with a raised eyebrow at her teetering-on-insolent attitude.

She pondered it for a few seconds, and then thoughtfully replied, “I’m not sure … so long as I can learn to be a rock star.”

“You can start studying to be a rock star right now,” I replied, the mommy-wheels turning in my brain.

“Whaaat…?”

“Yup, as soon as we get home, you need to do your piano practice right away. All the best rock stars know how to play piano.”

“They do?”

“Yup.”

“I can’t wait to get home and practice my piano!”

The clerk burst out laughing, winked at me, and said, “Kudos!”

Then we went home, I poured a glass of wine, and Thing 1 practiced her piano for the first time without complaining in months.

God bless Rock Star School.

Confession: I Couldn’t Hack It as a Stay-at-Home-Mom

I love my girls. I also love my career. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

The following was written in response to Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen’s asinine comment toward Ann Romney that as a stay-at-home-mother of five sons, she hadn’t worked a day in her life.

I tried the fulltime at-home-parent thing. I really did. I stayed home fulltime with Thing 1 for 16 months before going to work in an office. A couple years later, I got pregnant with Thing 2, and I took a couple years off again before tiptoeing back into the workforce, this time as a work-from-home freelance writer. Since then, I’ve added social media promotion, consulting, and speaking to my resume.

I love my job. I love it.

I couldn’t hack it as a stay-at-home-mom. Being a full time mommy is the most sacrificial choice any woman could make for her children. It is messy and gross. It is demanding, while also somehow managing to be tedious, and a lot of the time — boring. It is constant, and it is thankless.

No one says, “Wow! Great job shining that stove, I could really relate to it!” They say, “I’m hungry, when’s dinner?” followed quickly by, “Ewwwww, I don’t like that!”

You don’t get raises, credit, or promotions. You get teenagers.

I hold in awe moms who make the decision to work fulltime – for free – as homemakers. I tried and I couldn’t do it. It is, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the fact that some women do it, and do it with grace and patience and kindness, blows my mind. It is a level of self-sacrifice that made me miserable. I couldn’t hack it. It was too hard to do the thankless work, day in and day out. I am just not that good a person inside.

Now that that confession of selfishness is out of the way, let’s get rid of this ridiculous notion that domestic engineers can’t know what it’s like to live in the ‘real world.’ Nothing is more real than managing a home and raising a family.

Moms are Politicians: Have you ever settled 17 squabbles among your subordinates without being able to fire any of them? You can’t list your kids on Craig’s List, you know. Also? Holidays. In-laws. Parent-teacher conferences. The end.

Moms are Accountants: The payer of the bills, the keeper of the allowances, the supreme budgeter and coupon-clipper. She balances the checkbook and makes the hard decision not to deal in subprime loans, no matter how much her tweeny-bopper daughter pouts with her sad little lips.

Moms are Crisis Managers: Oh, you have to be to school early today for a math tutoring session I forgot about and you’re still sitting at the table eating breakfast in your pajamas? GET IN THE CAR NOW, HERE ARE YOUR CLOTHES, GET DRESSED ON THE WAY! Done.

Moms are Counselors: We help our kids figure out how to make good decisions. We cheer them on. We help them learn from their mistakes.

Moms are teachers, nurses, chauffeurs, chefs, maids, receptionists, stylists, negotiators, travel agents, and let’s face it: magicians. They are on 24/7/365. The thanks they get for this is women that couldn’t make the professional, personal, and financial sacrifices necessary to be fulltime stay-at-home-moms going on CNN and telling them they don’t know what it’s like to work.

Stay-at-home-moms know more about what it means to work than a lot of CEOs. They deserve respect, not derision. Every mom has to make her own decision about what profession to pursue, but no one should assume that she that chooses her children over a salary or personal professional gain is worth less than anyone else.

Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Most moms I know would lay down their physical life for their children in a heartbeat. Moms that give up personal ambitions in the workforce to care for their children fulltime deserve a special kind of accolade.

PMS. She’s a Witch. (The Kind with a B)

So every few weeks, I get into this strange mood where absolutely everything and anything bugs the crud out of me, and even though I know I should just let the nail polish spilled all over the bathroom by Thing 2 go, I end up softly banging my head on the wall while counting backwards from 100.

Then I remember that I’m a chick and I have hormones. So I pour a glass of wine and lock myself in the bedroom while the children proceed to absolutely destroy the house and I attempt to regain my sanity. As a warning, I might even g-chat Leif at work:

I am nothing if not considerate.

Then Ashley will ping me with some fascinating factoid about the dangers of sex swings (so she’s heard*) and how real friends will help you move bodies. In five-inch heels. In the mud. Everyone should have a friend like Ashley. But you can’t have her. She’s mine. Go find your own Ashley.

See? I’m totally moody. And apparently possessive.

Then Larry will ping me and tell me that my segment on his show is popular, and that will cheer me up, and also remind me that I have actual work I need to be doing, like writing about the crazy train that is Glenn Beck, but then the kids need feeding, cleaning, and tucking into bed, which requires another glass of wine and not a small number of deep breaths and then they’re down and wow two glasses of wine when I forgot to have lunch is a bit much so maybe I’ll make a sandwich first because I’m obsessed with sandwiches and that sounds perfect and tasty and delicious — and oh my gosh just go to bed and stay there!**

Finally finally finally get the kids settled (I think they were a wee bit skeered of Mean Mommy), sandwich made and consumed, and sat down at my computer. And then this post came out of my head instead of the one I was supposed to write.

I was going to write more (maybe) but Leif just came home. With more wine.

I’m outs.

*Don’t worry Ashley’s mom. It was purely contextual, I swear.

**This is what us professional writers call a run-on sentence. I’m using it purely as an example here of what you should never do when writing professionally. Or something.

Capitalism: Regulation Through Dollars

This morning after Thing 1 was dropped off at school, and Thing 2 was dropped off at Bible study with Gramma (Thanks Mom!), I decided to hit Panera at the mall. I had errands to run there, and an hour to kill before the stores opened, and I was hungry, and I had my laptop with me, so Panera was the perfect place to park it.

I went inside and ordered a breakfast sandwich and a nonfat chai tea latte (I only like coffee if it’s in ice cream), and then get this: I gave them money that I had earned through working, and then they brought me breakfast. It was great. No one forced them to feed me, and I wasn’t forced to be there. I was there because I like Panera; they served me with a smile because I paid them to do so.

Contemplating the beauty of capitalism, I had to tweet about it:

Because I love Twitter. And I’m addicted to it.

After I ate my lovely breakfast and got some work done (so I can go to Panera again in the future), I embarked upon my errands.

First, I had to get some charms added to my charm bracelet that Leif got me for Christmas last year. It’s totally sentimental and silly and I absolutely love it. Among the charms are a wine bottle, a palm tree, and a heart painted with stars and stripes. Again, I love capitalism. You think Soviet wives under Stalin got charm bracelets for Christmas? No way! They were lucky not to starve to death.

Next up was a return. I bought this shirt and cardigan thingy over the summer from Nordstrom. It was a splurge purchase for me, in celebration of one of my best contracts being renewed. Because the pieces were so nice, I always dry-cleaned them, even though the labels said I could hand wash in cold water. Then a couple of weeks ago, I decided to go last minute to Vegas to see the CNN GOP debate, and I didn’t have time to hit the cleaners. So I hand washed them. And they shrank. Like a lot.

I still had my receipt, so I took the clothes back to Nordstrom and told the sales girl exactly what had happened. “Oh, I hate when that happens!” she shared while she returned the items and credited my Visa, no questions asked.

One of the reasons I love Nordstrom and choose to shop there is because of their exceptional customer service. Again, viva la capitalism! In fact, I was so thrilled with the transaction that I immediately went to the girls’ department and spent the money on Christmas dresses for the girls. They’re teal and velvety and I know they’re going to love them and look adorable in them.

After I left the mall, I knew that I needed to find a place to buy some new running shoes. I loathe Sports Authority something fierce, so I avoid it at all costs. Why do I hate it so? Because the employees act like they’re doing me a favor by even glancing my way. Hello, I’m trying to give you money in exchange for goods; can I get a little help here? Anyone? Bueller?

No thanks.

There’s this store I’ve seen near my house that looks like a boutique running store. I was worried that they wouldn’t have a big selection, or that everything would be overpriced, but in the spirit of trying new things and supporting small businesses, I thought I’d give it a try.

It was wonderful! The sales guy was an avid runner, and asked me all about my routine, he measured my arches, checked for pronation, and brought out several different styles for me to try. After each one, he asked what I liked and what could be better. He and the owner (who was nearby at the counter) made small talk and cracked jokes, and even said I had good running form.

I left with a reasonably priced pair of kicks and the satisfaction of having supported a small business with an awesome work ethic. I’ll be going back there for all of my running needs.

The whole morning of business transactions made me so grateful for capitalism. I get to do a job that I love, and I get to choose where to spend the money I earn. These Occupy kids have no idea how the world works, with their stupid ideas about government regulations fixing everything. That never works.

Capitalism isn’t perfect, but regulation through free-choice spending is the best option we’ve got.

Lost In DC

My Favorite Place On the Planet

So I’m in DC for AFP’s Defending the American Dream Summit, where I’m feeling all professional and stuff. I’m even wearing pantyhose! And I can’t get Dolly Parton out of my head.

Working nine to five! What a way to make a livin’!

(Sorry for the earworm.)

Except that it’s now 2pm and I’m just now sitting down to clack something out on my keyboard. Because I got lost in DC. I love this city, but man are the road signs confusing.

It started out innocent enough – 2 blocks down to the CVS to pick up some deodorant, because of course I’m a dork that forgot to pack it. Attendees of the conference; you are welcome. Then I decided that I wanted to wear my jeans today, but I only packed t-shirts, and that just won’t suit when I’m supposed to be all fancy.

So off I went in search of a Macy’s.

The very nice cashier at the pharmacy pointed me in the right direction, and I’m sure I would’ve been totally fine, had there not been a detour due to road construction. Crap.

So I did what any rational Apple-lover would do and whipped out my iPhone and pulled up the maps. I entered the address of the Macy’s after looking it up on the internet in the palm of my hand, clicked the walking directions button, and assumed I was good to go.

I walked the mile or so to the spot that my phone was telling me was a Macy’s. I could’ve taken the metro or something, but I love to walk, and I love DC, and the weather was gorgeous, so why the heck not?

Only when I got there, I found myself staring at George Washington University. That’s not Macy’s. Oh hey, I think I can see the Lincoln Memorial! Forget Macy’s, I want to go there and gaze upon the marble immortalization of my favorite president, and read the words of his second inaugural address carved into the wall.

I love doing that.

It was a bit more of a trek than I’d thought, with tons of detours and wacky signs, and I started to feel like I was trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Finally found it. Loved it. Decided to ditch the effort to find a cute top and suit up instead. Started the trek back.

And then I got lost.

And then I thought I was found.

Except I was still lost.

Then my phone said to go one way, and I’d go that way, only to check it again a block or two later and have it say I needed to go the other way. Then I’d turn around, go the other way, and check the phone, and it happened again. Those mice in the mazes deserve more candy or crack or whatever it is that they reward them with, because that job suuuuucks.

I know. I could’ve grabbed the metro, since there’s a stop right next to my hotel. But I never accidentally came across one (or I wasn’t paying attention), and then there are all those colored lines (not racist, I swear), and I really do like walking, and since I ended up wandering around the city for FOUR hours, I get to have mac-n-cheese for dinner if I want! Yay for cheese and carbs!

Obviously, I eventually made it back. With a new appreciation for leprechauns and mice.