Friday, October 29, 2010

The one where I'm a sell-out

Over the span of my blogging career (a whole 9 months), I’ve slowly shaped and formed my blog, trying to decide what I wanted it to be. 

When I first got started, I got super carried away in the blogging game.  I wanted to be a “famous” blogger who had double-digit comments on each post and advertisers contacting me about wanting to promote their companies and products on my blog. 

Then I realized how exhausting and time/labor-intensive that whole game was.  After doing a few giveaways, I quickly lost interest in all those shenanigans.  And as honored as I am to have so many followers that I didn’t know personally, the only thing I could think of when I would consider doing product reviews and giveaways was the people that I do know who read my blog.  My friends and family don’t come to my blog to win stuff or to hear my opinions on baby products, unless those baby products were the catalyst in an amusing anecdote. 

Plus, in order to establish yourself as a true “mommy blogger”, you have to really make an effort to reach out to other mommy bloggers and try to get yourself ingratiated into one blogging community or another.  And since I’m working and mommying and pretty much just trying to keep my head above water, I don’t really have time or energy to spend hours each day reading and commenting on other blogs in the hopes that a few of their authors will take notice of my comment and pop over to my blog.  If I’m going to read a blog, I want to read it and comment on it because I enjoy it and because it strikes a chord with me. 

My point in all this is that I decided to make my blog a place where I write.  I decided that it was ok if the only people reading my blog were my friends and family.  I have consciously stayed away from product reviews and giveaways, and have turned many offers down because I didn’t want my blog to become a marketing tool.

But.  I am only human.  And when eShakti, an online clothing retailer, contacted me about doing a product review, I couldn’t say no.  I had seen a few reviews of their site on other blogs, and I was totally taken in by their novel approach to online clothing shopping.  I’m sure we can all agree that it is always a little difficult to buy clothes online because you’re just not sure if it will fit you properly, no matter how familiar you are with the brand you’re purchasing.  The super-cool thing about eShakti is that they will customize anything you order to your specifications.  They even provide instructions on their website about how to take your measurements if you’re a novice like me. 

I’ll admit, the initial motivation for doing this review was totally selfish; I wanted something free from their site!  I wasn’t thinking about how awesome it would be if I could help this company spread the word to my readers and I wasn’t thinking about how I would really be helping my readers out by telling them about this site.  So I responded to the email offer with a “heck yes!” and went to work picking out my free item. 

Small problem, though.  I’m pregnant.  Duh.  What was I thinking?  I figured it was karmic retribution for my selfishness.  I started scanning their website, looking at the absolutely adorable and chic dresses that I won’t fit into for another 4+ months, and I got sad.  But after a few minutes, I stumbled upon this jacket.  (I'm sure there is some way for me to post a picture of it here, but the website won't let me copy a picture and my camera is dead with the batter charger MIA, so I can't take a picture of myself in it.  Though I am wearing it today so if you know me you can use your imagination and picture how awesome I look today.)

It seemed perfect because its only closure was a tie belt, which I could easily loop above my belly.  But I wanted to be thorough, so I perused the rest of the site.  I kept going back to that jacket, and couldn’t get it out of my mind.  And I’ll be honest, I actually took a break browsing because I wanted to be sure that I was making the right decision.  When you're getting something for free, you are a lot more discerning and thorough in making your choice.   

But I couldn’t get that jacket out of my mind.  So I took my belly measurements and requested that they put a little extra fabric in the front so it would cover my belly if I wanted it to.  Then I placed the order and began my eager and impatient waiting. 

They didn’t keep me waiting long, and the jacket arrived in under a week, which is even more impressive when you consider the fact that it’s a custom order.  I fell in love immediately.  The jacket is chic and comfy and sophisticated all in one.  I can dress it down with jeans (or even downer with yoga pants), or I can wear it to work.  And I’ve gotten so many compliments on it.  And I embarrassingly admit that I’ve probably worn it an average of 2 times a week since I received it.  I love it.  We’re involved. 

If you’d like to check their site out, head over to and browse their adorable (and extensive) collection.  And if you find something you like (which I’m pretty sure you will), you can use the code KaYGSP to get 15% off your order.

(I promise not to start doing a million product reviews now.  Also, I have just proven that I can be bought if the price is right.  Give me free stuff with sufficient value and I’m yours.)  

Monday, October 25, 2010

Crustaceans and Freak Outs

If I've learned anything about being a mom, I've learned that there is no shortage of things to freak out about. You have to freak out about your precious little prince's (or princess's, as the case may be) diet.

(Side note, I am regretting ever naming my child a name that ends in an "s" because I've got absolutely no clue how to make it possessive, and it's made me question how to make any word ending in "s" possessive. All my journalism training is right out the window on this one. My adviser would be so disappointed.)

I never dreamed it would be so difficult to feed Junior. I figured, hey basically you feed your kid the fruit of your boob for as long as that holds out, then you possibly move to formula, then voila, they are little people and they eat whatever you eat. Who knew there were all these scary danger red-zone things that babies under one year of age should not eat? Want to make your kiddo a peanut butter and jelly for lunch? Nope, sorry, kiddo could develop a peanut allergy so peanuts must be avoided AT ALL COSTS (but by the time your little precious reaches one year, you will have spent so much time and energy avoiding peanuts that you will be convinced that giving your child peanut butter is like giving them poison and you will watch in fear as they eat their first peanut butter sandwich, expecting them to keel over before your very eyes).

In fact, in writing this post, I decided I would meander on over to my old pal Google and ask him what babies under age 1 should not eat. And you know what? Google is kind-of an a-hole. And judgmental. He came back with all these websites talking about "forbidden foods for baby" and "if you feed your child this, you are abusive and deserve to be stoned to death in a public forum". It's like, Google, how can you tell me not to feed L crustaceans? This could be the only time in his life when he is not particularly attached to crustaceans. Once he sees The Little Mermaid, he's going to be all like, "I don't want to eat Sebastian!" and then it'll be all over. And who the heck are you to ask me how often we really serve crustacean in this house? That is entirely beside the point.

Freaking out about what to feed my kid? Check.

Then there's the whole vaccination shenanigans which I refuse to even go into here because I don't want to start a bloody brawl. And also because I really don't have an opinion on this. Except I do and I'm on the verge of whipping out my soapbox so away from this topic we go.

Anyway, there is plenty to freak out about. Food, shots, babyproofing, blah, blah, blah, GAHHHHHHHH.

And that's just the crap that can primarily be kept between you, your baby and your pediatrician. The stuff that is in the public arena is even more nerve wracking because you have people observing and judging.

Let's take, for instance, the first birthday party. (The fact that I, myself, will be embarking upon the great journey of The First Birthday Party in two weeks is purely coincidental, I assure you.) In my family, birthday parties consist essentially of phone calls all around, telling people to come for ice cream and cake on such a date at such a time. There are no themes, there are no favors, there is generally no alcohol, and people certainly don't come expecting decorations and meals.

But oh, wait a minute. That's an adult birthday "party". Apparently a child's birthday party is an entirely different beast. Apparently, for a child's birthday party, you have to transform into Money Bags McGee and Martha Stewart simultaneously.

I am not kidding. If you dare, return to Google and plug in "first birthday party ideas". Then, if you happen to also be a first-time mom with a first birthday party coming up, grab a paper bag and either throw up into it or practice taking soothing breaths.

It is absolutely insane what some people do for first birthdays. Things that I never would have even considered are at the forefront of these people's minds (and nervous breakdowns). Bouncy houses? Favor bags? Pony rides? An open bar???

To each his own (really, I mean that), but let me tell you a few things about these other people. Well, one thing really. The main and entirely overwhelming factor that makes me different from these people: I am married to D.

When I asked D what our budget would be for L's party, he looked at me like I had just invented the word "budget" and he was like, "Um...$5? Isn't that how much cake mix and frosting costs? Even if you get the really good kind?"

When I asked him if it would be possible to negotiate that budget, he said, "Seriously, what could you possibly need for his birthday?" And then I started to list all the things that Google told me.

"We need snacks, drinks, a professionally done cake and smash cake, invitations, decorations, L's party outfit, thank you cards..."

And he cut me off and said (in his "patient" voice that he uses when he thinks I've gone off the deep end and he's relishing being the sane person in our relationship), "Katie. Listen to me. He. won't. even. remember. it."

And I laughed maniacally and said, "Oh babe, you are so silly. There you go thinking that this party is about him."

But as the party day draws closer, I have to confess that I am much more prone to be taking his point of view on this one.

The other night, I suddenly realized that the party is actually not that far away, and I started to freak out because I had not given it a whole lot of thought. I mean, I had thought about it, but it always seemed super far away so I didn't spend too much energy on actual execution of those thoughts.

Like a madwoman, I got out paper and a pen and tried desperately to brainstorm cute and unique decorations that all my...I mean L's...guests would adore and compliment. I gathered some thoughts and ideas, then went to talk them over with my mom to see if she could offer further inspiration.

As I was talking a blue streak, an amused look crossed over her face. I stopped in mid-sentence and said, "This won't even matter in the end, will it?"

The amused look changed to one of "Ah, she's got it!" and my mom said, "No, it really won't." It was an epiphany, if you will.

So here's what's going to happen. There will be no professional cakes. I am making some killer cupcakes and using my fun Pampered Chef decorating gun that I haven't gotten to try yet. L will have a small smash cake that is also homemade. I am going to decorate a little here and there, and L has a onesie from Kohl's that says, "My First Birthday". That's it.

No ponies, no favors, no 4-course meals, no Martha Stewart-worthy table displays. It's just too much for me. We don't have the money, and as D said, L won't even remember it.

Instead, I've decided to savor these years where we'll be able to get away from a birthday party relatively unscathed financially. (This also includes Christmas presents.) Soon enough, L will be wanting to invite 15 of his closest friends to a Mom and Dad sponsored hullaballoo at Chuck E. Cheese, and then the real trouble will start. (And he'll still be too young to understand the reasoning that we could get way better pizza for way cheaper somewhere else and just go play in the McDonald's play place instead.)

I'm going to live it up now while the living is good, and simply take strategic pictures so I can look back with L years from now and be like, "Wow, wasn't that 1st birthday party great? You had so much fun. Oh, you don't remember? Believe me. It was awesome." And he'll believe me because he'll have no other option.

So strike "1st Birthday Party" off the list of things to freak out about. I refuse to give in to the urge to go psycho about this. Why waste the energy, when other things like eagerly awaiting the day when I can give L his first crustacean clearly need more of my mental time?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

7 TV shows I just don't get

You can call me a lot of things, but when it comes to my tv watching habits, "discerning" would not be an appropriate word. I will watch just about anything. House Hunters? Yes, please. The Real Housewives? Any day, any time. Teen Mom? Oh heck yes. Top Chef? A double helping of that one, if you don't mind.

But believe it or not, there are some shows that I simply can't get into. Some shows have even received my concerted effort, but to no avail. See below.

1. Dancing With the Stars - This one is a total anomaly. I should LOVE this show. It has everything I normally enjoy in a reality show: "celebrities", competition and the chance to judge others' performance in a field of which I know absolutely nothing. And yet, without fail, I find myself totally bored 5 or 10 minutes into any given episode. I initially tried to get into DWTS last season when Kate Gosselin was competing.

I tried to watch one episode live, but the producers at the show were smart and kept Kate's performance till last because they knew everyone was tuning in to watch her fall on her face and to see if we could pick up on any of the much-rumored drama between her and her dancing pro. It didn't take me long to realize that nothing in the world was worth sitting through the entire show to wait for her performance.

I tried again this season because my mom likes the show and I figured that it would be something we could get into and watch together. We already both watch Project Runway, but this season is almost over and I wanted to have something waiting in the wings. Even with my mom fast forwarding through most of the show (except the actual dancing and judging), I had my laptop out in like 8 minutes because I was so bored. I'm pretty sure it was the first time since L was born that I have been able to use the word "bored" to describe myself, and I didn't like it because it wasn't even the fun "bored" like when you have the whole day with nothing scheduled and no ideas as to what to do. And these days, that qualifies as heaven instead of bored in my book.

2. The Bachelor/Bachelorette - I watched the entire last season of The Bachelorette because my BFF Barb (who lives in another state) asked me to so we could watch it apart then text about it the next day. And the warm, fuzzy feelings I have for her were just about the only things that got me through to the end. Call me old-fashioned, but I still have a really hard time not seeing a girl who makes out with and/or sleeps with different guys every single day as a slut. The same would go for The Bachelor with his harem of women, except then he'd be a douche and a skeeze.

Plus, I like to watch competition shows where I actually believe that the people competing are there because they desperately want the end reward. On Top Chef, these people really love cooking and are mostly there to further their cooking careers. But I just couldn't believe that the dudes on Bachelorette were really there to find true love. It would be more realistic if it was a show about who could be the first to give Ali an STD.

3. Seinfeld - It's not really fair of me to add this show to my list since it's not around anymore to defend itself. But this is like the all-time pinnacle of shows I just don't get. I know TONS of people who totally dig Seinfeld, and when I ask why they are like, "It's funny!" I am either way over-thinking this show or I'm too stupid and it all goes over my head. But since so many people I know feel so passionately about this show, I don't want to offend them by dissecting why I hate it so much. So I'll just say that I don't like it and we'll leave it at that.

4. Mad Men - D and I had heard so much hype about this show that we decided to Netflix the 1st season and watch it together. This was before our current favorite shows (Parenthood and Sons of Anarchy) had come around, so we were looking for something we could both enjoy. We had pretty high hopes, I'll admit, which usually leads to disappointment. Like finally going to see that movie that everyone said is the funniest movie they've ever seen, only to walk out going "Did I miss the funny when I got up to go to the bathroom?"

This one had such potential. It takes place in a time period that I'm very interested in, I love the clothes the characters wear, and it seemed to have story lines that were complex enough to keep you on the edge of your seat and made you want to watch 4 episodes in a row. Sadly, no dice. Quite the opposite. I still love the era and the clothes, but the story lines were mostly snoozers. D got bored before I did, but soon even I couldn't bring myself to finish the season.

5. Entourage - Pretty much the same as Mad Men. Too much hype, not enough substance to keep me interested past the first episode.

6. Lost - I confess, I've never actually watched an episode of this show. So this isn't a fair evaluation. But I get the distinct impression that I would not understand 75% of the story lines in this show. I also have gathered that the series finale was extremely unsatisfying, which seals the deal for me. I don't want to invest a ton of time and interest into a show that doesn't even explain everything in the end. If a show is going to confuse me, it better deliver all the explanations in the end so I can be like, "Best show ever!" and feel really super smart after watching it, even though I was telling myself that I hated it and was confused the entire time I was watching.

7. Any show about little people (aka half of TLC) - I am currently at a loss for what the name of that one show is about the family who have dwarfs as parents and one dwarf and two average-sized children, and I'm too lazy to google it. But I hate that show. Maybe it's the actual family that is the problem, since the mom seems like a real biznatch and the dad is pretty much a buffoon. So blame it on them that I am completely turned off to any show about little people.

I'm sure I could probably find a lot more shows that I don't like or get, but 7 seems like a great place to stop for now. So without further ado, I'm going to end this post abruptly.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

D fought the law and the law won

Up until yesterday, it was possible that my husband was a wanted man.

Get your mind out of the gutter! Not wanted in that way. The last time he was wanted in that way, I ended up pregnant with Le Bebe Patterson, Version 2.0. Since then, there hasn't been much wanting in that department. (Somewhere in Scotland, my dad is burying his head in his hands and wishing he could go back to 10 seconds ago and unread that.)

But seriously, D could have possibly had a warrant out for his arrest because he is a delinquent citizen who laughs in the face of his civic duties. (Can you tell I've scolded him about this before?) He got a jury summons this summer and after receiving no response to the letter he sent in asking for excusal based upon the fact that he is the owner, sole operator, lawn cutting, trimming and edging extraordinaire of his landscaping business, he managed to forget about it entirely.

The fact that he got a summons is in itself a touchy subject in our house. He has gotten summonsed at least 3 times already, and I have never been summonsed even once. Not ONCE. This irks me greatly, as I am a great believer in doing my civic duty. I love doing my civic duty. I get excited about voting. I wear my "I Voted" sticker with pride all day long, and if you're going to tell me that you don't vote, be prepared to have me automatically think a little bit less of you. So if you don't vote and don't want me to think less of you, it's probably better that you don't tell me in the first place, unless you don't care what I think of you, which is fine, too.

When D and I started dating, he was not good at doing his civic duty. He not only did not vote, he wasn't even registered to vote. After about a year of playing the role of the "cool" girlfriend who was more "live and let live" than "let me tell you how you should live", I started bothering him about why he didn't vote. He gave me the whole song and dance about his vote just being one vote and not making a difference, and I gave him a series of moving and inspiring...oh, let's call them "discussions" on how that way of thinking is an epidemic and how the majority of the American population think like that, and if they all got out and put in their "just one vote" they would overwhelmingly decide every election.

Not surprisingly, he was suddenly super motivated and registered to vote. I guess he was just so inspired, he couldn't help himself.

Also not surprisingly, he was generally not excited each time he received a jury summons. And the older he gets, the less excited he gets to be summonsed. Each time, he very unpatriotically tries to get out of it. I try to tell him that from a black-and-white viewpoint, he's only delaying the inevitable and he should just go on the original summons date and get it over with because he'll just get called again.

This time, he ended up forgetting all about it. And then like 2 weeks after the day he was supposed to go, I was like "OMG D, YOU ACCIDENTALLY SKIPPED JURY DUTY!" Which was followed by a few days of panic that police officers would soon be knocking at our door, ready to take D downtown to a holding cell that smells of pee and sweat, to which I would have to go to bail him out.

While I was functioning in a cold, gripping fear, D was all like, "Let them arrest me! I've always wanted to be arrested for something stupid."

And I was like, "D, this would not be like the time on The Fresh Prince where Will and Carlton got arrested by the racist police officers for driving too slow in a fancy car. Uncle Phil would not be coming to bail you out and lay the smack down. We are not rich, we are not powerful political figures and we are not James Avery. You would be arrested for breaking the law and we would have to pay money."

And D was like, "Yeah, but think of the great story it would make!" And then my eyes almost fell out of my head from being rolled too hard.

So last night I came home from work and D practically threw a new jury summons at me. "LOOK AT THIS!" he said in a half-bewildered, half-crazed voice. "Those bastards got me again!"

And after I managed to not die from all the laughing, I was like, "Dude, this is a good thing. It means you aren't in contempt of court."

Then he started the whole, "Maybe I can get out of it.." business and I was like, "Um NO. You are not going to do this again. You are going."

So we started talking about it, and he was like, "They better not pick me!"

And I was like, "D, listen. They are not going to pick you. If the fact that you are married into a family of fire fighters and police officers is not enough, there are plenty of other reasons why you will not get picked."

And he said, "Like what?"

As I started going off on all the reasons why they would not pick him, he interrupted me and said, "Excuse me, your honor? I have a note from my wife that lists in explicit detail all the reasons why you should not pick me."

And we laughed, and then I told him that while he was down there handing in my note, he should also let them know that I'm sitting here just dying to be picked for jury duty and ask them when I can expect my summons.

Monday, October 4, 2010

If it's on the internet, it must be true

I'm beginning to wonder if the people who write those monthly update newsletters on the milestones my kid "should" be hitting have actually ever met a kid, let alone a kid my son's age.

Every couple of weeks or so, I'm inundated by emails from all the sites I signed up on while I was pregnant. They're all titled something like, "Your Baby: Month 11" or "Your Baby: Week 47". (Am I still supposed to be counting L's age in terms of weeks? Because I stopped that once I couldn't easily figure it out anymore, which coincidentally was also the time when I went back to work and no longer had the ticking time-bomb that was my maternity leave clock counting down to zero.) But really, I think a more accurate title for those newsletters would be "Your Baby: Only In Your Wildest Dreams".

Like most parents, I tend to think of my kid as on the more advanced end of the spectrum. This is not helped by the general level of awe with which both sets of grandparents treat L. Every single thing he does is met with some approximation of, "OH MY GOSH COME AND SEE WHAT THE GENIUS CAN DO NOW!", followed by fits of laughter and glee at how gosh darn wonderful L is. In this light, it's a really, really good thing that we are having our second baby so close in age to L. Otherwise, we'd soon have a two year old who wonders why we throw out his diapers after we change them, because aren't they filled with 24 karat gold and rainbows?

However, this bubble is burst just about every time I read one of these e-newsletters. For a little while, I thought that L was possibly (::GASP!::) a little behind the curve when it came to certain milestones. Honestly, it didn't bother me that much; I'd just brush it off and pretty much forget I'd ever read it.

But then, after some discussions with other parents of kids L's age, I began to realize that it wasn't L that was off, it was the newsletters.

According to the newsletters, L and I should be engaging in daily reading sessions. In fact, I should constantly be reading to L. When it's not possible for us to be tearing through the complete works of Charles Dickens, we should be reading anything else around us: Spaghetti-O's cans (but really, I should only be feeding him locally-grown, organic foods), The New York Times, anything with words. This will make him grow up to love reading, don't you know.

And to that, I'd like to offer a big fat, "Honey, please!" First of all, I double dog dare you to get my child to see a book (ANY book) as something more than a chew toy. Even the Baby Einstein board book with a mirror on every page (L loves mirrors) is for chewing and throwing and smacking and hitting people. If you can teach L to sit still so I could read him a book....I don't even know what I'd give you, because I can't think of anything valuable enough.

As a further screw you to the newsletter, I have been told by multiple mothers that they read to their children every single day when they were younger and their kids still didn't like to read (even those that are now adults). Take, for instance, my brother and I. My parents are both avid readers. They define the term "avid reader". They read to us equally when we were growing up. I've loved reading my entire life. My brother has only recently learned to enjoy reading. As a kid, you couldn't pay him to crack a book. (He has since developed a voracious appetite for it and puts me to shame with the depth and intelligence of the books he reads. While I'm busy re-reading my favorite Emily Giffin books, he's reading books whose titles alone confuse me.)

Recently, the newsletters told me that I should be having L help me clean up his toys when he's finished with them. To this, I can only manage a confused, "Say wha?" I'm supposed to get my 11 month old to pick up his toys? The kid who crawls under tables and chairs and can't figure out how to get back out? The kid who takes off his shoe while we're in the car and chews on it? The kid who finds the smallest speck of lint on the floor and eats it?

Right. THAT kid is going to help me clean up his toys. Even though the toys themselves can barely hold his interest for 3 minutes put together. Even though he knows what the word "no" means but doesn't listen to it consistently. I'm sure he's going to spring into helpful action when I say, "Ok L, it's time to clean up the toys now!" I'm sure he's going to crawl right over to that awful, noisy car toy that I hate with every fiber of my being and put it right back in the basket where it belongs. Right after he's done with his geometry proofs.

The only logical conclusion here is that the people writing these newsletters have never been around actual babies. They probably get together in their conference room and draw a huge chart on their dry erase boards of all the milestones kids reach between the ages of 0 and 5. Then, they get those magnetic dartboard arrows and hurl them at the chart. Whatever the arrows land on, that's the milestone my baby should be reaching this month.

Next month's newsletter will probably be something like "This month, your one year old should be efficiently cutting his own food and feeding himself with forks and spoons. Also, if your child is not at least well on his way to using the potty yet, you are a terrible mother and your child is an imbecile destined to a life of stupidity and menial, minimum-wage jobs."

If I cared enough, I'd unsubscribe from the newsletters. But really, they actually provide me with some level of sanity. I feel strangely powerful when I can read that stuff and know that L is still perfectly normal and smart, even if he's not a mini-genius like the newsletters tell me he should be. I will not let the Mommy Guilt get me on this one! I will be strong!