Thursday, July 30, 2009

Long Live Narrative!

This past weekend over 1400 bloggers, mostly women as the name BlogHer suggests, blew into the Windy City. There were mommybloggers (whatever that means), food bloggers, travel bloggers, illness bloggers, humor bloggers, homeschooling bloggers, life balance bloggers, and on and on and on with many other offshoots and intersections. There were bloggers with thousands of readers, book deals, and an apparently continual stream of free products and services given to them for review. There were bloggers with small but loyal followings. There were bloggers using every opportunity the conference provided to learn how to gain new readers. There were bloggers just there for the drinks, people watching, swag, and/or free Pepsico products.*

I didn't have a clear idea of what kind of blogger I was nor what I wanted to gain from BlogHer beyond a fun, child-free weekend with old and new friends and a chance to see what the conference was all about. My expectations were met and surpassed. I met some great people and will soon be adding new blogs to the list on the right.

Most exciting to me about BlogHer? Being surrounded by women who recognize and celebrate the power of words and narrative to lift spirits, elicit laughter, inspire, challenge, teach, and otherwise touch. I'm proud to be one of them.

And, speaking of women telling stories (pretty sweet transition, NTB), here are some recent reads to check out:

Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies -- What would you do if the husband you loved and built a seemingly perfect life with--two little boys, beautifully remodeled old house, circle of friends and on and on--fell out of love with you after you moved with him from the East Coast to the middle of Ohio? You won't be able to put down this memoir as Gillies tells the story of being the wife left behind. Honest, endearing, compelling. Only two minor objections. First, a comment Gillies made at one point about feeling badly that her boys might have to tell people they grew up in the Midwest. Because that is so embarrassing? Also, Gillies is slightly patronizing (maybe not the word I want?) about the simple life in Ohio. For better or for worse, all of Ohio is not like the small town of Oberlin. But ignore these petty complaints from an Ohio born girl and read this book.

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan -- Corrigan's memoir of her battle with breast cancer is also a love letter to her parents, especially her father, who also battles cancer. Corrigan's "middle place" is that period of time when you are a wife and mother in your own right but still very much a daughter who needs her parents. I am so in the middle place. Corrigan's story is not a tear-jerker, it's a beautiful and honest and funny. You will fall in love with Corrigan and her dad. Sure to resonant with most women, especially thirtysomething moms.

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan -- This novel traces four friends during their years at Smith College and then the first few years of "real life" afterward. I loved reading about life at Smith, a bit different, it seems, than life at the women's college with which I am most familiar. It's a good, thought-provoking read, especially if you're interested in the gap between theoretical and practical feminism, and if what I just said makes you think, "Boring," ignore it. This book is not boring and would make a very fine book club selection.

The Help by Kathrynn Stockett -- It took me forever to read this novel even though I LOVED it and its characters from the very beginning. The novel describes the relationships between white women and black help in Jackson, Missisippi in the 1960s, mostly from the perspective of "the help." I read it slowly and in spurts because I was afraid of getting my heart broken. It did break a little bit, but it was worth it. A powerful novel about women finding their voices and, more importantly, finding ways to forge meaningful connections with one another.

As always, I ask: What are you reading?

*Not a Diet Coke in sight. So, so sad.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Date with Drake?

Last summer when I was hugely pregnant with Little Bit and desperately trying to finish drafting my dissertation before he was born, my writing was interrupted by a series of prank phone calls. Instead of working feverishly on the final chapter of my dissertation, I took time to describe these phone calls in a post entitled, "Dear Abby, I just found out my husband is a polygamist or possibly just someone else's baby daddy . . ." If you have a minute, read that post, and note the Pollyanna ending in which the young pranksters eventually leave a message with a seemingly legitimate name and phone number and a seemingly sincere apology for bothering us.

Okay, did you read it? Thanks.

Now, let me tell you that the little shits are at it again. We've had three phone messages in the past two weeks for "Tony" (to recycle the name I gave my husband in last summer's post) that mostly consist of youngsters saying his name in a singsong and laughing.

Then, today, "Tony" himself fielded a call asking for MEP. He was in the mood to humor our callers and played along for a couple of minutes. Enough time to let me know that someone named Drake (points for the soap opera moniker) wants to see me. Drake will meet me in front of the Sears Tower for lunch on Friday. Then, he wants to go on a date with me, NTB. The date will be at "the usual place."

I'm hoping that Drake or one of his pals will call back tomorrow so I can get a little more information about the date. Meeting for lunch in front of the Sears Tower does sound romantic, but I'll be coming from Bub's day camp so I need to make sure it's okay if I bring both of my kids. Also, is Drake providing lunch or should I pack us a picnic? If we're going the picnic route, I need to know if he has a peanut allergy and if he wants a Lemonade or a Cherry Blast Capri Sun. I figure I will pack several mini bags of Sun Chips and let him choose his favorite. A little more information on "the usual place" would be good as well since it will be time for Bub and Little Bit's nap. Also, will I need to drive? I have room for Drake in my Volvo, but that's about it unless one of his pals wants to squeeze between the two carseats.

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Not to brag . . .

. . . but I spent the weekend at the BlogHer conference. I have lots to show and tell, but it will have to wait until I have time to write a post that does justice to the event and the people I met there.

If any of my new blogger friends are stopping by, welcome! My posts are usually (slightly) more thoughtful and humorous, NTB, than this one is. I promise.

It's me, Megan/mep, posing with one of the home-printed, hand-cut business cards that I was slightly embarrassed to hand out and without the hair product that I depend upon. It's somewhere in the suitcase I haven't unpacked.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Email Hall of Shame?

I recently read Life Is Friends: The Complete Guide to the Lost Art of Communicating in Person by Jeanne Martinet. It was a thought-provoking read for me, and I have a couple of blog posts in mind inspired by the book. Although the book is about rediscovering the "lost art of connecting in person," Martinet does briefly address email etiquette. She writes, "It is unfathomable to me that there are people who will fail to respond to an e-mail from someone they know" (59). That line has stuck with me for a couple of weeks now.

I fear I am one of those people who will fail to respond to an e-mail from someone they know, and I feel like crap about it. I LOVE receiving personal emails and always read them thinking about what I want to write in return. I want to be positive, encouraging, funny, sensitive, supportive . . . whatever I think the person who emailed me wants or needs me to be (but in a genuine, non-chameleon type way). At the very least, I want to say, "No, I cannot meet at the park Tuesday" or "Thanks for asking, but we can't sign up for a music class next session." I like to give personal emails my full attention, but throughout most of the day, those darn kids of mine need attention as well. Then, during naptime, I need to clean stuff up to achieve a baseline semblance of order and calm or I need to snack or rest my eyes or escape for a few minutes into a novel or television show. I do some emailing during naptime if I can, but sometimes, even when the boys are asleep, I don't have the energy to write the kinds of emails I want to write. I wait to respond until I can "write a good one" and then eventually write back days or weeks later, but sometimes forget altogether. I hate that about myself.

I guess I'm hesitant to respond to a newsy or important email from a friend with a brief "thanks" or "sounds good" or "great news!" or, God forbid, "LOL." However, I think it must be better to write something right away to acknowledge receipt of the email, even if it is not the most awesome email ever written. I'm going to work on it and try to strike a balance between "thx" and a carefully-crafted 750-word letter.

Any email best practices or pet peeves? Any tips for me? I don't even have an address book established in any of my three(?) email accounts so if you use any sort of folder or sorting system to help you be a great emailing friend, clue me in.

I do have a preferred email closing, which I will lay on you right now ...

Peace out,

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Daily Do Do List

I always knew I wanted children or, at least, always assumed that I would have them. Up until the time when hubby and I started thinking and talking about starting a family, I wouldn't go so far as to say I romanticized parenthood, more that I just did not really think about the kind of skills and qualities I would need nor about the kinds of daily tasks that would be required of me. Yes, I knew it would be challenging, exhausting, and sometimes lonely. I even knew that I would likely experience some crises of identity and purpose. I didn't underestimate parenthood, I just did not know what my daily life as a mom would look like.

Here is just a glimpse of the things I did not know about before I was a mom to our boys Bub (3.5) and Little Bit (13 months) . . . some of the items that consistently pop up on my Daily Do Do List:

*Check every single piece of baby/preschooler clothing for stains before washing and end up having to stain treat almost every single piece (minus pajamas and bibs and non-fashion onesies).

*Give a bath almost every single night. In the winter we can sometimes skip, but each evening these days, Bub is some combination of dirty/stinky and Little Bit is covered with parts of his last meal.

*Clean bathtub every night before bath can begin as sand from the sandbox in our yard and the one at the park ends up in our tub to the extent that you would think we lived on the beach.

*Find the other shoe or the other sock. Stretch a 0-6 sock to fit one or three year old. Use 4T sock as knee high for baby.

*Match sippy cups with lids and inserts. Find all the components necessary to make a bottle.

*Keep two different kinds of cow's milk in stock at all times. Ditto fruit, chicken nuggets, and ketchup.

*Keep track of shifting fruit preferences. Right now, it's strawberries, grapes, raspberries, or blackberries for Bub; watermelon, blueberries, bananas, and sometimes strawberries/raspberries for Little Bit. I am constantly buying,washing, and cutting up fruit.

*Deal with abandoned and then rediscovered cups and bottles of curdled milk.

*Bend over to pick up toys and put in bins while wistfully thinking of the big toy purge/organization I have been meaning to initiate.

*Stack children's books or kick under Bub's bed so that no one slips on one in the middle of the night.

*Close doors. The one to the bathroom so Little Bit cannot get to his favorite spot in the whole world: Bub's kiddy potty, most loved when full. The one to the basement to keep LB from attempting to go down steps and to try to deter Bub from making a break for it.

*Put up gate between kitchen and family room. The main purpose is to keep Little Bit from playing with the garbage can (pinches fingers in the lid) or the recycling bin so I don't have to say things to my baby like, "Put that beer can down, Little Bit."

*Wipe off the high chair tray and remove stray bits of food from seat.

*Find the package of wipes.

*Find my car keys (not that tough because they resemble a custodian's set) and then place my leather key fob between my teeth so I can free up hands to do something else, such as . . .

*Put __________ into ziploc bags. Fill in the blank with baby wipes, goldfish crackers, or lidless bottles I don't want to spill in my purse.

*Do __________ with one hand while other is around baby on hip. Fill in with any of the above.

There's more on my daily do do list, of course. The daily do do list is long and many of its tasks are performed multiple times each day. I didn't make it to complain or to brag because plenty of moms do all this kind of stuff and way more to boot. I just felt like reflecting on some dimensions of my days that I would not have been able to envision twenty, ten, or even five years ago. I also left out all the good stuff I didn't really envision--wet kisses, grubby little hands reaching out for mine, laughter, games of hide and seek and peek a boo, clean and sweet boys in jammies, reading books together, getting hugged--because, blessedly that list is even longer.

What are some items on your daily do do list?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You and Me, Under the Stink Tree

We have a massive tree in our backyard. It is, to quote an arborist, of "extraordinary girth," NTB, especially for a tree in a fenced-in yard of less than 200 square yards. If you saw the size and position of the tree and the position of our house and garage, you might feel nervous. I only feel nervous about it every once in a while.

When the tree guy came to see about our tree, he identified it as a Tree of Heaven. I was charmed by that name and got carried away thinking about how high it is and how cool it is to look up and see the sky through its leaves and how the shade it provides is heavenly. How many families, I wondered, have enjoyed its shade? How many kids played beneath it? There is a metal hook in the side of the tree, about fifty feet up. It may have been placed there the last time the tree was trimmed, but I prefer to think that it served some purpose (hook for hanging basket? foot hold to reach tree house?) for the tree's "owners" many years ago and then grew with the tree. Our house was built in the 1890s, but I even wonder did the tree precede the house? I'm telling you it is a really big and really old tree. Then, I start to wonder what my neighborhood looked like before there were houses 2-3 feet from each other on a perfect grid for miles and miles . . .

But, back to my Tree of Heaven. After the tree guy identified it for us, I did a wee bit of research. I learned that it is also called a "stinktree" (ours doesn't, for the record), that it is not a native tree, and that it is targeted for removal in many national forests because it gives off toxins or something that keep other trees and plants from growing as they should. Basically, our yard is dominated by an enormous exotic weed.

Our tree got a haircut today. Three guys spent several hours with ropes and a bucket truck trimming dead branches and those live ones too close to the roof of the garage and to the power lines. I was so impressed with the daring and technique it requires to keep trees healthy. Very impressive. When I looked outside the back window two hours before I was supposed to be hosting Bub's preschool class for a playdate/pizza party, our entire yard (and part of our neighbors') was covered in tree branches and leaves. Just a wee bit nervous, but everything was cleaned up in plenty of time.

The highlights of the party: sunshine, warm breeze, and parents and kids hanging out under the heavenly shade of our stinktree.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bub knows how to pick them.

A few weeks ago, hubby was putting Bub to bed and asked him, "Who's your best friend?" Bub answered, apparently without hesitation, "Little Bit." I'm sorry that I didn't witness the exchange but even imagining it warms my heart and gives me some assurance that whatever mistakes we are making as parents, we are doing something right if our boys love each other. And really, what's not to love? NTB.

This post is the one I've been meaning to write ever since Little Bit celebrated his first birthday. Words will fall short of capturing how much joy he has brought into our home and our hearts, full-to-bursting really. But to keep this post from verging too far into the sappy and sentimental, I am going to focus on the reasons why Little Bit is and will be such a good “best friend” candidate for Bub and the other little buddies he will meet along the way.

1. Little Bit is a happy guy. He just is. He smiles (almost) all the time, lighting up the room with the big, bright blue eyes.* If he’s unhappy, you’ll know it but it won’t last long. He laughs a lot. It’s an infectious and surprisingly deep sort of laugh for a little guy, and it doesn’t take much to provoke it . . . a quick game of peek-a-boo, attempting to feed mommy crumbs from his high chair tray and then pulling them away at the last second, watching Bub parade around the family room with his underwear on his head, being tickled. In fact, he likes being tickled so much that “tickle, tickle, tickle” is one of the only understandable things that he says.

2. Little Bit is usually game for anything. Want to empty a box of Kleenex tissue by tissue? Want to paw through a drawer filled with baby food and remove the cardboard wrapper and plastic lid from each? Want to climb stairs, the back of the couch, and the Pottery Barn chairs and come thisclose to falling? Want to rip up paper or eat crumbs off the floor? Explore and taste gadgets like the phone and remote control? Little Bit is your man.

3. Little Bit likes to dance. Wouldn't you like to have a best friend who dances? A dance-off with the battery-powered dancing Brobee from Yo Gabba Gabba is a daily event. Little Bit will also bob up and down when Bub succeeds in getting mom or dad to play “Boom Boom Pow” for the one millionth time. Although it’s not officially a dance move, Little Bit has a quirky but surprisingly speedy hop-along style crawl wherein he sweeps/hooks one leg in an odd manner. It’s a sight.

4. Little Bit likes to meet new people. He’ll be the kid to go to camp or the back-to-school dance with because he seems delighted any time there’s anyone new to look and smile at. We were at Einstein’s Bagels this morning, and Little Bit was sitting in a high chair with his back to the door. Each time someone entered the restaurant, he turned around to smile and squeal, winning a lot of return smiles and greetings. His attitude toward life and the people he encounters seems to be, “Hey, why not be happy?!” Why not, indeed. I hope his smiles continue to brighten the days of others. A warning for his friends during the adolescent years though, he does seem to be a flirt. He can charm prospects, but may not be content to play wing man. We'll have to see.

5. He will be lots of fun at slumber parties because he does not seem to have trouble being awake at night.

6. He likes to eat. The ability to take pleasure in food is, in my book, a key quality that a friend should possess. The good eater switch finally got turned on around Little Bit’s first birthday and now he is going to town on a variety of foods. Favorites include watermelon, blueberries, and grilled cheese sandwiches coated in tomato sauce. He eats with gusto and murmurs "mmmm" after particularly tasty bites. He got a hold of one of Bub’s sippy cups the other day and sampled some chocolate milk before I could stop him. He’s definitely a fan, but we’re not going there yet and have had to become more vigilant about keeping track of Bub’s cups. I like that he goes after what he wants.

NTB a given for all of the above and, of course, a disclaimer that notes that our one year old can whine with the best of them, is stubborn, is the messiest eater in Cook County, and still does not sleep through the night. Still, we’ll keep him, treasure him even.

I hope Little Bit will continue to be his bit brother’s best buddy and hope that he will live a fully and happy life with true and loyal friends and more than enough love and laughter.

I’m not lucky enough to be Little Bit’s best friend. I’m even luckier. I’m his mom. I know his daddy feels the same. Little Bit is a joy.

Happy Birthday to Bub’s best friend Little Bit. And many more.

*He has his daddy’s eyes. Usually I look at Little Bit and just see Little Bit but there are moments when I look at him and see him as my husband’s mini me and it just blows my mind.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Some things I want to remember years from now when Bub and Little Bit are all grown up and possibly giving speeches or otherwise impressing people with their language skills:

1. The part of the ABC song when Bub belts out, "Chew-R-S-T-U-B."*

2. The fact that Little Bit's first recognizable utterance besides "dada" is the phrase "tickle, tickle, tickle," complete with hand motion. So adorable, NTB.

3. Bub's love for the books Corduroy and A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman and the way he pronounces Corduroy as CorduRORY.

4. The way Little Bit says something like "mmmm" after bites of watermelon.

What are you hearing these days?

*explains why some of our matchbox cars are called "bans" but not why all the "bans" are referred to with the adjective "rescue bans."
Blog Designed by : NW Designs