Friday, July 30, 2010

Mission: Accomplished.

Some moms — good moms, you might say — have professional photos of their children taken every few months during their first year.

I am not one of those moms.

Until yesterday, we had not a single professional photo of Calvin. I'm pretty sure my mom would consider that child abuse, as she never failed to miss a photographic milestone with the three of us. I wish I was that organized, but I'm more of a "fly by the seat of my pants" parent. I did, however, manage to get the three of us over to Minnehaha Park one morning in June (a very, very muddy morning in June), where we charged our lovely and very talented photographer with an impossible task — capturing sweet, memorable moments with The Crankiest Kid on Earth.

I feel like that's how these things always go — you put all this effort into scheduling a time, choosing an outfit, and waiting for nice weather only to end up with mud up to your eyeballs and a screaming child who refuses to smile. We'd actually planned to do the photos a week earlier, but had to cancel due to rain. Thankfully, since two days earlier Calvin wiped out on the pavement at daycare and had a massive scrape covering most of his forehead.

It's always something, I guess. Even for the most organized moms. I distinctly remember dropping a can of soup on Jill's finger before we had pictures taken as kids...and my mom has the photo to prove it. Baby Jill, looking all sweet and pretty in her little dress, sporting a big, ugly gash on her hand.

Eh, what are you going to do? Kids will be kids. That's why they invented Photoshop.

Despite the mud and crankiness, Jami somehow managed to capture some sweet smiles and a few of our favorite Calvin faces. She's good (and a mom, so very, very patient).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


We're moving to Finland! Just thought you'd like to know.

As I read through the FAQs of the hugely popular new blog Mila's Daydreams (the most delightful thing I've seen in a long time, truly), I came across this response to a question regarding her daughter's clothes:

In Finland mothers are truly blessed, we all get a big maternity package from government. There's lot of clothes and all the crucial baby stuff you need to have with your newborn.

The link directs you to Kela, the social insurance institution of Finland. Which apparently provides a package of adorable baby clothes to new parents. As well as a paid maternity leave beginning up to fifty days prior to baby's due date, and lasting up to 105 days total.

Wow. I know that's only a couple of months, but it's a couple of months paid.

I got two weeks of paid leave. Took another two weeks of short-term disability at 60% of my salary. Then two weeks of vacation, which left me with zero days for the rest of the year once I returned. Then...nothing. Oh, no. That's not true. I got another two weeks of pay when I returned to work. Accompanied by a bill for the insurance premiums my employer covered while I was on leave — the cost of which pretty much negated that final paycheck.

It took us nearly a year to save enough for me to take a 16-week maternity leave. And I'm one of the really lucky ones who a) got paid and b) got to take that much time off without penalty. I have many friends who received even less — or no — paid leave. I have no idea how we'll swing it with the next one. Saving that much money again will be darned near impossible now that we've added the cost of daycare to our monthly bills, and I'll probably have to go back to work much sooner than I had to with Calvin — a sickening thought.

I did a Google search for parental leave and landed on this Wikipedia page, which details the leave policies of countries all over the world. A quick scan tells you that the United States has the worst parental leave policy of the bunch. Paid leave is not granted nor required by law, and employers are only responsible for holding your job if you are covered by FMLA.

Way to be progressive, United States.

It's time to get packing. To qualify for benefits you have to live in Finland 180 days before your due date, and I'd like to get settled in before we think about having more kids.

But first I need to call Nate and fill him in on our relocation plans. I think he'll be fine with it, if for no other reason than the female president's striking resemblance to Conan O'Brien.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Every once in a while we get a glimpse of our old life — the one that didn't revolve around diaper changes and reading Barnyard Dance fifty times in a row each night before bed.

This was one of those weekends. Calvin went to stay with Grandma and Grandpa Breyer for the weekend, and Nate and I went to Appleton, WI to visit our friends Lisa and Eric. And, as an added and unexpected bonus, Nate's brother Kris and his girlfriend Alex came up from Madison to spend the day/night with all of us.


Boating, sleeping, eating, drinking, zero responsibility for anyone but ourselves...bliss.

We spent all of Saturday looking at this:

And doing this:

Sometimes it's nice to just be Abby, and not Mom, for a little while. To have the time to really talk with and listen to my friends. To sit — blessed sitting! — for an extended period of time. I enjoyed our weekend, and the freedom that came with it, so much.

But by the time Sunday rolled around I couldn't wait to get home to Calvin, diaper changes, and yet another evening devoted to Barnyard Dance.

It's nice to just be Abby...but I like being Mom best.


When our son was born, the name Calvin was #228 on the Social Security Administration's list of top baby names. Which was perfect, since we wanted something classic but not too popular.

In 2009, it got even less popular and slid to #231.

I was feeling really good about our selection until I opened up my Pottery Barn Kids catalog last night and saw this:

Great. It's a well-known fact that 90% of all babies are named after bedding collections found in the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. Just ask Madison (#7) and Mason (#34).

See you next year, top 100.

Friday, July 23, 2010


I never wanted to be a stay at home mom.

Just to be clear — this isn't going to be one of those "motherhood has changed me forever and suddenly I can't imagine doing anything more fulfilling than staying home with my child" posts, because that's not how I feel. Of course there are many times I would love to stay home to play with and snuggle Calvin all day long (totally unrealistic, he's not a snuggler). But there are also days when motherhood makes me want to run screaming from my house and straight across town into the peace and quiet of my office. Which is neither peaceful nor quiet, but sometimes the insanity of work is preferable to the insanity of parenting a 14 month old. At least my coworkers don't throw food (Tantrums, yes. Food, no.).

Besides, I like working. I need to work, for reasons both financial and personal. I need to see adults I'm not related to every day. I need to have a reason to get dressed in something other than sweats every morning. I need to challenge myself, think critically, and accomplish something on a daily basis that's not related to our home or family. Working allows me to do all of that, plus pay our bills.

But lately I just can't shake the feeling that this is all wrong.

The other night Nate and I went out for a quick dinner together. I was quiet and spacey, so he asked what I was thinking about. My response? "I hate my job." Which isn't even true. Sure, it can be quite frustrating, but all in all I have a pretty sweet gig — great hours, decent pay, good friends, the ability to wear jeans. There are plenty of perks to make up for the less than stellar parts of my job. So, no. That wasn't it. I don't hate my job.

What I hate is that me working means giving someone who is not me the responsibility of parenting my son.

As my Facebook friends know all too well, and as you may have noticed from recent posts, we are having some challenges with Calvin. I'll put it bluntly: My kid is the biter. He's also the screamer, but that seems to have improved a bit in recent weeks, and is less worrisome overall since screaming does not cause physical harm to other children. But for the past few weeks there's been a note on his sheet nearly every day: "Calvin bit two kids today" or "Calvin bit another child today — this time he broke the skin."

I can't even describe to you the feeling I get in my stomach when I read that. It makes me feel physically ill. And has brought me to tears more than once.

I am now going to go all defensive mommy on you and insist you understand that my child is not badly behaved. Or mean spirited. Or living in a home without rules, boundaries, and discipline. He is loving and sweet and wonderful. He is also one, teething, and testing every boundary we set.

It's normal behavior. I know that. My daycare provider knows that. I'm sure the other parents know it, although it has come to my attention recently that they are beginning to take issue with the daily reports saying their child has been bitten by another. I can't blame them, I would be wondering what the heck is going on and why the biter's parents aren't doing something to address their little piranha's behavior.

I wish I knew how to address it. I'm embarrassed, frustrated, and at a loss for answers.

We're working with our daycare provider to find a solution — your input and ideas are welcome, by the way — but, overall, I feel very helpless. Other than one incident at his birthday party, Calvin hasn't bitten anyone in front of us. And there's not much I can do to curb behavior I'm not witnessing.

Which I HATE. I hate that I'm not the one working with him to find other ways of expressing his frustration. I hate that I'm not there to teach him to be gentle with his friends, as I taught him to be with our dog. I hate that all day long someone else is reinforcing his good behaviors and addressing his bad ones.

I hate that such important tasks — tasks that will help shape and mold his character — fall to someone we pay to care for him 45 hours a week. The bulk of his awake time.

I trust our daycare provider. But I'm his mother. I should be the one teaching him right from wrong. I should be there to tell him not to bite, to be gentle, to be kind to his friends. I should be there to hug him after he looks at me with shocked, sad eyes for being scolded. I should be there to apologize to the children he bites, and their parents. I should be there to comfort, to redirect, to teach.

I should be there.

Instead I'm here. At work. Doing something I have to do, for now, but also that I want to do. All while someone else tries to keep my child from sinking his teeth into another.

I never wanted to be a stay at home mom. But I'm beginning to understand the appeal.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mix and match.

Can any of you tell me what's wrong with this picture?

a) Tyler is wearing a sweater in July.
b) He's got a little something on his upper lip.
c) There's a Nuby lid on a Gerber sippy cup.
d) All of the above, really, but especially the stupid sippy cup thing.

How hard is it to match up a sippy cup to its appropriate lid?

Nate says hard. Apparently, Tyler Florence agrees.

Normally, a milk ad would not be blogworthy. But I have been giving Nate the hardest time about matching up the sippy cups with their correct lid. Every time he gives Calvin a drink it's in a strange combination of cup/lid — between colors, sizes, and brands.

To me, which cup goes with which lid is a total no-brainer. Of course I do the sippy cup purchasing. But still - it's not difficult to match them up! In fact, the other day Nate gave his brother Mike a sippy cup/lid test (hoping to prove his point that sippy cups are really really hard) and he passed with flying colors. He even matched the colors correctly within the same brand.

But then there's this. An ad I ran across in Martha Stewart Living magazine featuring the exact two brands of sippy cup we have at home, mixed up.

I don't question Martha on anything, not even her editorial decisions regarding advertising, so I will trust that this — though inherently wrong — is the presentation I should be using when offering beverages to my child. Especially if I expect him to grow up to have exquisite taste and an appreciation for Good Things.

Sigh. Score one for Nate. He's such a visionary.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


F is for family reunion, which we planned to attend this weekend. A day up north on the lake with Nate's extended family, who we rarely get to see.

F is for four hours, the length of drive we had ahead of us Saturday morning. Which is why we planned to leave as close to 7am as possible.

F is for frustration, which is what I felt when Nate called me on Saturday morning to inform me that the dog boarding place does not open at 7am, but 9am — putting us two hours behind schedule.

F is for the many four letter words I could have uttered (but didn't) when we discovered, an hour later, that our car had been broken into overnight, our window shattered, and our GPS stolen.

F is the letter grade I give myself for assuming I knew what time the boarding place opened, and for leaving the GPS on the dashboard when I should have put it away (since when am I new to city living??).

F is for FAIL, which is what Progressive gets for saying they'd have someone call us to set up our repair by end of day Monday. For a claim filed early on Saturday. Gee, thanks.

F is for fixed, which is what our window is after a very nice man from Safelite came to replace it on Saturday afternoon. Don't worry, Progressive. We took care of it. Still anxiously awaiting your call, however!

F is for fun, which we still managed to have this weekend despite a busted window, a missed trip, severe weather, and a child who refused to sleep for about four hours in the middle of the night last night.

F is for my very fabulous husband, who makes life's adventures bearable...and even a little funny.

Something tells me Nate did not find the shattered window as photo-worthy as I did.

Say what? What do you mean we're not going??

Man, I was really looking forward to that long car ride. Guess I'll just simulate as best I can from inside the house.

Luckily, we still had access to our Civic. Our very roomy two-door Civic. The perfect choice for an active family!

It was no day at the lake, but we still manged to get in a $12, 45 minute trip to the pool before Calvin had a total meltdown and the storms rolled in.

Mom, do you realize you're only wearing spf 30? Have you already forgotten about Mexico?

Enjoying a post-nap snack from his favorite perch.

Calvin was not the only one delighted by the prospect of bedtime Saturday night. He went to bed at 7:20. We went to bed at 7:20:05.

Sunday we went on a picnic, which Calvin found a little strange. He looked at me like "Where is my high chair? Where is that bib you always force me to wear?" He didn't let a little confusion deter him from eating his weight in food, however.

And then we forced him to ride the wheel of terror.

The only way to unwind after a wild ride like that? Footed pjs and crocs.

An ice cold beer from the cooler (all packed up for our non-trip... please note, we do not condone alcohol consumption by one year olds).

And one last swim.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Slow down.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a grown up. When I was in college, I wanted to be done with school and out in the world. When I was dating Nate, I wanted to be married to him.

My mom told me not to wish it away, but I did anyway. Her words fell on deaf ears — as they say, youth is wasted on the young. I didn't know any better.

Yesterday at the grocery store, while I struggled to get Calvin strapped into the cart (he fights it now, as he fights most things I try to get him to do these days), a woman came up to me, put her hand on my arm, and said, "It goes so fast." I stopped and looked up at her, and she went on, "My baby is starting college this fall, and I remember him being this small so well. I can't believe it. It just goes so fast." After exchanging a few pleasantries, she walked away, I finally managed to get Calvin strapped in, and we went about our shopping.

But her words stayed with me all day.

It goes so fast.

For so long, I wanted to get to the next thing. I wanted to grow up so I could drive and have freedom from my parents. I wanted to graduate so I could have a job, and money, and my own place to live. I wanted to get married because I was in love and wanted a shiny ring and the title of Mrs.

I want, I want, I want.

I got. I got it all. And I didn't rush into any of it — didn't get my driver's license until I was 17, didn't go away to college until I was a sophomore, didn't get married until I was 26, didn't become a mom until I was 30. I had time to do the things I wanted to do...I played, I dated, I traveled, I slept.

I didn't rush it, but all the while I wished for the next thing to hurry up and happen to me already. I was never content to just be. And then the next thing would come for me, and I'd look back and I wish I'd __________ more often, back when I could.

I realized recently that there's not really a next thing. All of the things I was anxious to have happen to me have happened already. I got engaged, had a wedding, bought a house, adopted a dog, had a baby. The next big thing for me is retirement. Of course that doesn't include having more children or celebrating their milestones. But as far as MY big milestones go — well, with the exception of retirement and becoming a grandparent, I'm pretty much done.

So where does that leave me? In it. I'm in my life. I'm not waiting for it to happen, I'm in it. All the waiting and wishing and dreaming has led me right here, to St. Paul, Minnesota. To a very happy life with my little family. Just what I always wanted.

Yet I find myself wishing this away, too. I get frustrated with Calvin and I think — gosh, if he was just a little older, maybe five or six, things would be so much easier. I can't wait until he's five and we can __________. But he'll be five soon enough. And then he'll be 25. And then I'll be stopping frazzled young moms in the grocery store to warn them of the fleeting nature of time, of childhood, of life.

The woman who put her hand on my arm yesterday was not the first to do so. Everywhere we go, people stop to tell me about their grown children, and how it seems like just yesterday they were small like mine. I smile and chatter with them for a moment, say goodbye, and go about my day. But I always tuck these conversations into the back of my mind. And for a few days after, I hold Calvin a little tighter, rock him a little longer, and love him a little more.

I welcome these little reminders from strangers, because all too often I forget that I already have everything I ever wanted. That this time in my life is incredibly precious. That I won't always have the pleasure of grocery shopping with my sweet-faced, sticky-fingered little boy in the cart. That it all goes by so fast.

And that I need to slow down and enjoy it, this blessed life of mine.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


This morning I received an email from DSW with the subject line "Meet your new go-to shoes." I opened it expecting to see some drool-inducing pair of leopard print flats, only to find this:

How on earth did they know that there's nothing more appealing to me these days than a flat, neutral comfort sandal available in wide width?*

Oh, how the mighty fall.

Less than two years ago my go-to shoes would have been a pair of four inch heels. Heck, at 35 weeks pregnant I was still teetering around the office in three inch platform sandals. But now my go-to shoes look like this:

I never thought I would stoop so low as to purchase a pair of Crocs for myself. Even if they are hot pink ballet flats. But my goodness, they're comfortable. And practical, given all the time I spend chasing my kid around the house/yard/park.

Don't worry, though. I haven't worn them anywhere but my backyard and the grocery store.


*Not those, though. Those are seriously heinous. Completely unlike my pink rubber shoes which are super cu...oh, forget it. They're heinous, too. I have officially chosen comfort over style. Mom jeans, here I come.

Break time.

Hanging on my stepstool...just me, my snack trap, and my awesome hair.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Happy place.

If someone told me to go to my happy place — and meant that in the physical sense — I would head straight for my kitchen. Which is weird, I know, since I don't cook. But I do eat, and there is plenty of that to be done in there, too.

Food aside, it would be because my kitchen is the one room in my house that makes me perk up as soon as I walk in. It's hard not to feel happy when you see a yellow room with a red ceiling. A magnet board covered in pictures of people you love. A big, cheerful dahlia. Cute plates on the wall. A dishwasher that occasionally busts out a patriotic lights and music show after your toddler pushes a weird configuration of buttons. And dishtowels — a heaping, overflowing drawer of adorably kitschy dishtowels. My weakness.

It's the only room in my otherwise very neutral house that really feels like me. I wish I could figure out how to achieve that same level of cheerfulness throughout my home, but I am really lacking in the decorating vision department. So instead I've put it all into the one room that very easily accommodates bright colors and my oddball collection of vintage pitchers and beautiful cookbooks I don't use.

As of last week, there were only two things left to add to our kitchen. The first is a 1960s paper placemat we found at Nate's grandma's house that says "Welcome to the Breyers!" It's hilarious, and one of these days I'm going to get it framed. The other — curtains.

Our kitchen never had window treatments of any kind. All it had was a very clear, very close view of my neighbors' house. So clear and close that our neighbors would stand outside — in the yard or on their back porch — and talk to us through our kitchen window. The ease with which they could see us in our kitchen made feeding my dog every morning at 5am in my tank top and underwear feel kind of awkward. I don't even want to think about all they've seen me wear (or not wear).

So last week I decided to finally do something with the fabric I bought in Mexico back in 2006 when I still lived in an apartment and didn't need fabric: make curtains.

I am a novice sewer. I previously made curtains for my stairwell and my bathroom, but those took me forever and I have a new sewing machine I still don't really know how to use. But — lucky me — my mother-in-law is a sewing genius. She came over two nights in a row last week and more or less made my curtains for me. I pinned a couple things and refilled our water glasses, but she did all the real work. And they turned out beautifully.

So now, thanks to Mary, my happy little kitchen is even happier. And a far more appropriate setting for me and my underwear.

A few of my favorite things in my favorite room:

Adorable new curtains. This fabric was love at first sight.

The cutest measuring spoons ever, a gift from my friend Barbara.

Nate's grandma had an awesome collection of classic cookbooks, a few of which I am proud to now own.

My very cluttered magnet board. I'm of the "have stuff all over your fridge" school of thought. But you can't hang stuff on stainless steel, so I had to come up with an alternative. For me, kitchens need clutter. And lots of pictures.

My shiny new (untouched) cookbooks, and adorable pitcher.

Plates Nate bought me. I swap them seasonally, but these four are my favorite.

My red ceiling. Which I hated at first, but now love. Everyone notices it — kind of hard not to.

And, finally, my sweet baby's handprints. A cheesy little mother's day craft at daycare. Having this taped up in the kitchen makes our house feel like a home.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Strawberry Seusscake.

Something about this series of photos reminds me of a cross between Strawberry Shortcake and Dr. Seuss.

I think it might be the hair. And probably the strawberry.

Four days.

Two days is the amount of time Nate and I have decided we can spend together without driving each other crazy.

We're not used to being together all that much. For the past nine years, Nate has worked jobs that require evenings and weekends. And I've worked a nine-to-fiver. A typical week for us includes maybe two nights together at home and possibly a weekend day. Some weeks we barely see each other. Those weeks are rough, but we're used to them — we've each settled into our own routines at home without the other.

Which is why we tend to drive each other a little batty when we're both home over a long weekend. And this weekend we were both off for FOUR DAYS.


But Friday was one of those magical days that rarely happens — a day when we're both off, but our daycare provider is not. Hooray! Off to daycare went Calvin, and off together went we. We slept in, went out for breakfast and lunch (and wine), and did some shopping. We spent a few fun hours with Calvin in the evening, then ended the day with the worst movie ever made: Couples Retreat. We felt severely ripped off by Redbox. I'd like my dollar back, please.

And then Saturday morning I got to go see Eclipse with a friend (judge away, I don't care, it was awesome). Later that afternoon the three of us went to our little neighborhood pool. Where we actually saw a neighbor! How cute.

On Sunday we celebrated the 4th of July by taking Calvin to the zoo. Which was really just a trip to the farm, with lots of adorable pictures and a quick stop by the bears and fish. And then Nate and I watched Valentines Day and ate Culvers. Yay for french fries, romantic comedies, and America!

Today Nate played golf, then we went over to see our friends the Vuongs and meet their sweet baby girl, Kiley. She is precious. I thought maybe my uterus would start quivering at the sight of a newborn (an adorable GIRL newborn, I might add), but I left feeling surprisingly okay with just the one boy child I have. He's kind of a lot of work. Plus he woke up at 4am this morning, so I think I'm just too tired to quiver.

Turns out it was a full, fun weekend at home with the two I love most. Minimal crazy-making by the husband and quite a bit of cuteness from the small one.

Hmpf. Four whole days. Who knew?

Fun at the farm:

And the picture I can't stop laughing over:

I love both of my crazy-makers to bits.
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