Everyone needs a little space that is just theirs. Adam has a giant office. The boys each have their own rooms and a playroom and if we are being honest, the run of the house. I have a corner of the guest room that is just for me. I call these 33 inches my “office.”
I loved the look of my little office, but the functionality was lacking. The only thing I did at that desk was sew. To do that I had to set up my sewing machine each time I wanted to use it. Because the desk is in the guest room (which gets used at least twice a month) I felt like it needed to be constantly cleared off.
Also Calvin often naps in that bed and my teacup collection was becoming too tempting and winthin reach. I have been longing for a more contained solution to make my office area actually work. I had been considering a secretary desk, but I hadn’t come across anything that looked modern enough or felt sturdy enough to use with a heavy sewing machine.
Enter sad old $35 entertainment center. When flatscreens came in these relics went out, but this guy still had a lot of good things going on. Like the nice pulls, lacquer white doors and a back-lit glass-front compartment. I was pretty sure I could make the tv turntable work as a sewing machine desk.
Once we got it into the space and cleaned up I was in love.
I’m not sure what came over me, but shortly after our visit I went on an online shopping spree. In part, I had been on hold for a few months waiting to see what attire I’d need for my new job and if I could forgo buying more suit coats and sensible black heels.
Online shopping — for the household and for myself — is one of the few ways I keep my sanity. I hate the malls in Los Angeles and I almost never go, thrifting here is a mixed bag but it’s time consuming of hours I don’t have at the moment. So, that leaves the beautiful internet. Nearly every gift I’ve purchased in the last five years has been from Etsy or Amazon. And not that I’d ever be one to order a shipment diapers during a conference call (only because I’m on automatic shipments at this point)…but there’s always that option in a pinch.
I actually fell for a Facebook ad, which is maybe the first time in the decade I’ve been on it, for a company called Thread Up. It’s an online consignment shop and the clothing is in fabulous condition. I had browsed about and had all but forgotten it when I got a coupon for 40% off my first order. An hour and $80 later, I walked away with two dresses — a classic black cocktail dress from Ann Taylor and a trendier leopard print tunic dress with pockets from J. Crew. I got two skirts, a black maxi from H &M and a navy and white polka dot pencil skirt. (My staff at my last job used to tease me about how many pencil skirts and embellished tank tops I own but when it works it works) and two dress tops for under blazers or just with jeans for a night out. I threw in a scarf for good measure. The terrible picture to the right is a J. Crew ruffled ivory tank that will be nice for work events.
Next to immediately after hitting purchase I had buyers remorse but I figured I could always return it. I have to say I love it all. You’d never know the stuff was second-hand. And, it came in adorable packaging with a lovely brochure reminding me how environmentally friendly I am. What could be better than that? Here’s a referral link for anyone interested that will give you $20 toward your purchase (and in the interest of full disclosure, I get it too).
Meanwhile, I’ve been crushing on this LA-based shopping service Golden Tote ever since I read about it on BowerPower nearly a year ago. For a flat fee, you pick one or two items that you like and a stylist surprises you with the rest. Plus it all comes in an adorable tote bag. I figured this was a great deal especially if you had to have the items you selected, but, it just never worked out that they had something I had really wanted. Until this month. They had two dresses that I had to have. My fix came with another 2 dresses and two tops. I added on a pair of lace up ballet flats that I’m sure I’m going to live in. I actually gasped when I saw the items the stylist picked out for me. I love them all and they’re really good options for work or for running around with Luke.
As timing would have it, the week before Golden Tote had released the dresses I loved, I had ordered a Stitch Fix to be delivered as well. Stitch Fix pairs you with a stylist for a $20 fee. The stylist sends you five items based on your style profile. If you keep something, the $20 gets applied to your fix. I’ve gotten 5 fixes so far and always found at least one thing I had to have. Unfortunately, this time I had a new stylist and the one piece I loved looked like a wetsuit when I put it on it was so tight. Sometimes with online shopping you have to face the music, it was a dud. Its a good thing I’m sure because I want to actually wear and enjoy my new purchases, but before too long I’m sure I’ll be scheduling another fix.
One of the things that challenges me most as a career mom is keeping up my hair, wardrobe, makeup, figure. I truly believe people judge your work based on your appearance and I know it’s important to dress the part. I’ve worked in places where your clothes were what made people take you seriously and being fashion forward gave you a seat at the table for important business decisions. It goes against my nature as a jeans and white t-shirt girl, but shopping services like these make it fun and allow me to spend what free time I have on the floor playing MegaBlocks and coloring pictures with my little man.
Yesterday was one of the golden days. All the timing was just right. Everyone was in a good mood. The day was easy. The little one took a two hour nap before the big one was ready to rest, which meant I got to spend some lovely one-on-one time with the big one.
I get to spend almost no solo time with the boys individually. I realized that about a month ago when I was playing ball with Calvin for the first time while Ellis was reading with a neighbor. Calvin and I had never just played the two of us in his whole life!! Don’t get me wrong, he plays a lot, but it is almost always with a toddler tackling him. Exclusive mommy time is a very special treat around here.
It is a treat for the big boy too. Ellis spends a lot of time waiting for me to feed Cal or waiting for his brother to wake up or go to sleep and for the most part he is really accommodating. So the fact that we were able to sneak two hours of mommy time into the middle of the day meant we really didn’t want to waste it.
First we had a picnic lunch on the kitchen floor, just because we could. Ellis enjoyed the perfect autumn light for a little longer.
We played real legos (not duplos) which we can only do when Calvin is asleep. We put together a really hard puzzle that required undivided attention. And finally we made banana bread.
This is the conversation we had over mixing bowls and measuring spoons:
Ellis: “I’m a picky eater”
Me” “Who told you that?”
Ellis: “You did Mommy”
Well dang. My heart sank a little because the time has arrived when Ellis really is hearing everything, but more dangerously he is at the age where he is who we say he is and I want to be very careful about the truth we tell him about himself.
Kids don’t create their interior voice out of thin air. Their Jiminy Cricket is largely borrowed and constructed from the way we talk to them and about them.
Now Ellis IS a really picky eater. We struggle with him trying new foods or some days, any food, at every meal. We asked him to try a drop of chickpea soup a few weeks ago and he cried real tears. I am half convinced that he is an air plant. But even so, I don’t want him to think of himself as a “picky eater” because I don’t want it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t want my label of him to become the way he thinks about himself.
We have always been extremely conscientious about the language we use around our kids. And I don’t mean we don’t swear (although we don’t). I mean we have figured out that the language we use is what our children become.
We started this back before Ellis had any words. We didn’t want to use the word “no” with him. Mostly because we didn’t want him to use the word “no” with us. So instead we said a lot of “not for baby” and then we would redirect. But Ellis was learning to talk in the dead of winter and we needed a serious word for danger particularly around the woodstove. So “hot” sort of became our substitute word for “no.” And of course “hot” was Ellis’ first word and it became his catchall for anything not good. We could always tell if Ellis was getting into trouble because he would alert us with “hot, hot, hot.”
Yesterday I was wishing Ellis was more proficient with the word “no” so that he could have countered my description of him as a “picky eater.” But until he starts building the legos of his identity with his own words I am going to be extra careful about the words and ideas I tell him about himself. If I want him to be “good” and “adventurous” and “brave” and “kind” I have to let him hear that first.
(Sidenote: before I go into this post, I can’t tell you how it thrills me to work more Whitney into our interactions. I believe she’s a staple of our relationship)
I’ve been wanting to respond to your post, Just-ified. One of the things I think is interesting about our dynamic aside from our geographic settings is the difference in our work lives and we don’t talk about it as much here.
Background for others: At the end of August, I switched jobs. By design, the work will have a lot of similarities. And, by design, there will be a lot that’s different. Much of it driven by my want to be more present mentally and physically with my family.
A predominant piece of my decision was based on the commute, the ever-expanding responsibility and, as shallow as this might sound, buttoned up to the collar 1980’s dress code. Coupled together it was taking a huge toll. Juggling work and our family from the moment my eyelids fluttered open until Luke’s head hit the pillow at night was exhausting. Things I had found exhilarating before becoming a parent were added burdens to an endless stream of hurdles I had to navigate each day.
When I was at work I was thinking about being home and when I was at home I was thinking about work. I felt like I was coming up short across the board and bad enough, I didn’t really see an upside to any of it. I no longer enjoyed pulling on a suit, driving with my coffee while on a conference call, running from meeting-to-meeting and collapsing at the end of the day without a second to myself. I’ve found a new position that’s eliminated the commute and some of the add-ons that’s allowing me to focus more on the part of my career that I love.
It was interesting to me that as I was talking to colleagues about my decision, I got varying responses depending on the demographic.
A few women my age or younger, with and without kids, commented to me that it seemed like I had been juggling it all. That it gave them hope for how they would navigate their families and their careers when the time came. In a way, I’m sad that my profession in PR gave me the ability to gloss over the struggle.
Women further along in their careers who had walked this path before me simply remarked, enough said, or I’m surprised you didn’t do this sooner. They talked about taking time off from their careers and being home with their kids, or pulling back for a few years to reprioritize before picking things up again.
I feel lucky that we’re far enough in the women’s lib. movement that we get to choose the life we want to pursue. But in a lot of ways I’m sad we haven’t come further.
While I think the fact that we say “work” like one path is and one path isn’t adds an additional dose of judgement, it makes me sad every time I see mom-bashing online over who has it harder a “working” mom or a stay at home mom. Can’t we agree that parenting is hard and doing the best thing for yourself and your family is harder still. Finding time for your own passions, a moment where you feel like your pre-kid-self and navigating it all with out a sticky handprint of cereal on your top are the universal challenges any mom faces. We don’t need the baggage of judgement on top of it. Who has got time for that?
I’m in awe of mothers who are home day in and day out with their kids. I don’t know that I would manage it gracefully. Anyone who says you “just” stay at home should spend a day with you. I always felt the same way about my sister Heather who spent 7 years working to raise her boys and has recently resumed her career.
I’d also note that there is judgment from certain crowds at moms who spend their days working away from their kids and that can be hard to swallow too. While I feel lucky to have found a career path that let’s me do work I love and substantially contribute to our family’s wellbeing there is a melting pot of emotions for me as a mom that works outside the home.
I’m sad that there are songs Luke sings differently than I do because his daycare teacher sings it that way. I cried when I found out they put him on a swing before I had a chance. Then there are days I breath a sigh of relief as I walk out of the daycare knowing my kid will eat well, sleep well and play well and I don’t have to manage it…and most of the time I feel guilty about that. But each day, when I pick him up I’m thrilled at seeing him run to the gate. I can’t wait to hear what he got up to in those few hours. To see his craft projects, talk to his friends and get his kisses.
I don’t think as parents we can ever have it all. I think the nuances that make our individual families who they are create unique circumstances where truly we are the only ones who can decide what’s best and what will work.
I want to be honest in person and in my writing about the ups and downs of parenting and of the life we’re living. I hope that I remember, in the future, whether talking to new moms, veteran moms and moms-to-be, to be candid that no path is easy but every path is amazing in its own right. And I hope that societally we can find a better way to respect our moms and the pivotal work we all do.
So we missed posting first day of school pics this year, because the first day of school was unexpectedly hard.
Ellis goes to a great outdoor program. He went last year and loved it. I first wrote about it here.
This year he gets to go two days a week. He has one of the same teachers and most of the same kids in his class. It never occurred to me that drop off might be challenging, until I found myself still sitting with him at school an hour and 15 minutes into the first day. There were tears and protests and finally I just had to leave and he had a huge meltdown.
It was brutal. It is so hard to watch your kid have a hard time. It is even harder to do that in front of kids who are not having a hard time. It is additionally hard to not be able to reassure or help your kid through their rough patch. It was pretty much just hard.
So it has been over a month now and we have finally achieved tear-free enthusiastic drop offs.
Here is what we did to cope over the past month:
First we checked in with our local superstar children’s librarian. Ms. Beth is the book concierge of most of the growth moments in our family. She has supplied us with a fine tuned reading list for everything from potty training to getting a new sibling. (One time she even had a book for convincing Ellis to get dressed to go to the library, when he informed me that he would not do clothes because “tigers don’t wear pants” The book was Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and it perfectly addressed the wild animal clothing problem). So she gave us a stack of books about school and we worked them into our reading routine.
My sister in law, Stacy, suggested two episodes of Daniel Tiger (a PBS show) that deal with separation. We watched those and learned the song “Grown ups come back”
I took a cue from a fellow parent who packs school snack with her kid the night before as a way to get excited (thanks Erika). And I remembered something from our dog’s puppy training class about using “high value treats” for the best results. I took Ellis on a special trip to the grocery store to pick out any school snack he wanted. Since snack is the first thing they do at school it seemed to help his transition to have something really special that he was looking forward to eating right at the start of school.
I checked in with the two experts I know. My first grade teacher friend, Maggie, suggested I send a family picture in Ellis’ backpack and let him feel what he was feeling while being supportive and firm. I butt dialed my education professor friend and ended up getting very sage advice from a very knowledgeable source. Not only is she an education professor, but my friend, Ranji, has also been working through rough transitions with her kindergartner. She reassured me that separation anxiety is the sign of healthy attachment and she told me that what worked best for them was taking mom out of the equation.
So enter grandparents and dad who have taken over drop off and finally four weeks in Ellis is happily going to school once again.
Thank you village for helping us thorough our rough start to the school year.
With all of your help we finally got back our smiley happy first day of school boy (this photo was taken 2 hours pre meltdown).
And now Ellis’ school day is filled with adventures and exploration instead of anxiety and tears.
Thanks for a great visit my friend! Luke and I had an exceptional time.
I’m so thankful that toddlers, work schedules and weather aligned to make it all possible.
I absolutely loved seeing where you thrift, spend your story times and meeting your local mamas.
I loved checking out your house for things I’ve seen in our dorm room, in your apartments and new things that I’d only gotten to check out on the blog.
I loved seeing the boys run free and play with the animals on your farm. I truly loved meeting Cal.
I loved getting to sit and knit with you at night. And I loved that moment when it occurred to me that there were three sweet souls in that house that were getting to meet after many years of our wild friendship.
But I think the part of my visit that was the very best was seeing the family that you and Adam have created — and the larger community that you call home. I love that your home is an open door with friends and family coming through. With 3,000 miles between our nearest relatives, I can imagine that the close quarters you share are at times probably greener pastures to my eyes. But I did witness deep relationships for your family that are not easy to come by in this life. I love knowing that you’ve found a place to put down roots and a place that is home with people who love you and your kids just an arms reach away.
And even though there are so many miles between us…it’s nice to me that the blog has made it not feel that three years had passed since we last visited. I hope that it stays that way.
We’re back into the swing of things here, for the time being. Getting ready for fall and trying to remember that it will cool down here eventually. I’m currently sitting front of a fan, drinking tequila on the rocks in an attempt to find the silver lining to this heat.
How was your anniversary trip and Adam’s surprise gift?
What do you get when long-separated City Mama and Country Mama get together for a reunion? A suburban mashup? I am not sure, but I can tell you it was a lot of fun.
City Mama visited the country last weekend. She braved a looming hurricane, buckets of rain and a solo cross-country flight with a toddler to be here. We felt super honored. It was the first time we saw each other in over three years. We got to meet each other’s kiddos and catch up.
I think there might be a more substantial reunion post to come, but for now here are some highlights from the City Mama Country Mama 2015 conference.