Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stress relief.

Work is out of control right now. I'm putting in long days, weekend hours, and feeling a little like my head might spontaneously combust. Within the last month my boss was laid off, my friend and extremely valuable marketing assistant Kate left to begin student teaching, and I inherited an additional job-and-a-half worth of work. No pay increase, no title change, no corner office. Just a heck of a lot more on my to-do list.

As you can imagine, I'm pretty crabby. And also fairly stressed.

Not helping matters one bit is the fact that we have historically spent the last week of January on vacation in Mexico. But, alas, parenthood has made us poor and even if we could afford to go on vacation this year I wouldn't have the time to do so given the state of affairs at work (because, you know, that might result in a DESIGN EMERGENCY. What would the people do without brochures? Websites? A comprehensive visual system? Or — gasp — a social media presence?). Yes, design is a life or death business, and someone has to be around to market/sell/write about it. And since my only remaining department colleague is going on vacation next week, I guess that someone is me.

Because I'm stretched pretty thin right now, things are slipping through the cracks — at home and at work. As a result, I'm constantly worried about one while doing the other. I feel guilty leaving work at 4:45 so I can get to daycare on time when I have tons to do, and I feel guilty staying late to catch up on the nights when Nate is home because I miss out on precious time with my son.

There's no easy answer to this problem, nor am I really even looking for one. It is what it is, and I know it won't be this way forever. But I'm at a point where I have so much to do that I can't really do any of it well. Or at least not as well as I normally would. And that drives me crazy, because — as you may have noticed — I'm a bit of a perfectionist. (Though I'm trying to let go, I really am...)

So, yeah. I'm exhausted and maxed out and I don't have the time or energy for anything except a lot of sub-par work and some equally sub-par parenting. Yet Monday night I spent THREE HOURS gluing conversation hearts to a ribbon-wrapped piece of styrofoam. May I present the second wreath in my DIY series?

The key to surviving stress is prioritization, you know. And the occasional mindless activity involving a hot glue gun.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Times are tough, so I've decided to start charging all of you to read my blog. I will accept cash, personal check, or Crate and Barrel gift cards — anything that will help me get my hands on this table. Perhaps you're short on cash but know someone who works for C&B and can get this for me at a discount? All reasonable offers will be considered. Especially since the internet is telling me there are limited quantities available in zip code 55435.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Playing catch up.

After taking an average of 200 photos of Calvin every month for the last year and a half, this month I've taken maybe 25. So that explains why it's the 27th of the month and I haven't posted a single picture of him. (Except for these, which don't count because they're reposted from last year.) While some of you may not care about seeing pictures of my kid, I know my Mom does — and I've noticed a sharp decline in the frequency of her comments this month. This serves to remind me, once again, that Calvin is the real draw, Nate and I are chopped liver, and no one really cares what kind of tights I'm wearing.

So this one's for you, Mom and Dad. And for my in-laws, who are lying on the beach in Mexico this week and next. A post dedicated entirely to photos of Calvin in January. He's pretty much wearing the same three outfits in all of them because I've only taken pictures of him that many times, but we all know my kid has more clothes than he knows what to do with.

With a mouth full of "pwetzels." Nate's mom gave me this awesome recipe for ranch pretzel sticks, and Calvin can't get enough. Last night, as I put him in bed (he was almost completely asleep) he said "pwetzels?" and then started crying when I said no.

I didn't think he could love his kitchen set more. That is, until he discovered his ability to "cut things" (wooden bread and vegetables with velcro in the middle).

I made this adorable dinner one night, consisting entirely of his favorite foods (ketchup on the side of course, no meal is complete without "dip" these days).

And was rewarded with his "meh" face, and a demand for more hot dogs.

Standing up in his chair during dinner. I'm not sure taking photos of his bad behavior is the best way to discourage him from doing it again, but whatever.

The Cozy Coupe's return on investment is immeasurable. Nary a day goes by without Calvin and all of his "guys" (I think he sleeps with eight stuffed animals now, plus a pillow?) piling in for a ride around the dining room table.

Watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He settled into that sweet look/setup all on his own.

This face captures Calvin perfectly right now.

And so does this one.

Love my big boy dearly and can't believe he'll soon be two!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fabulous finds.

1. Yesterday I bought the greatest invention known to (wo)man: A pair of reversible Spanx tights. Yes, that's right. Reversible. Black on one side, brown on the other, with a control top that doesn't dig into your waist. I read about them in some magazine and decided they must be mine, since I love to wear skirts in the winter but hate the cheap tights offered places like Target. I mean, why buy two cheap pairs of tights — one black, one brown — when you can buy one expensive pair that serves both purposes, is better quality, and sucks in your flab?

2. My beloved Boden has done it again. Look at this. And this. And oh my — this (I want that entire outfit). And then look at this. EEEEEE! Hopefully they'll expand the line a bit before I'm pregnant again, but I am loving the ruffle front and maxi dresses. Between Boden and Hot Mama (my go-to the last go-round), I might just break the bank next time I'm in the market for maternity wear. Which is not right now, in case anyone's wondering.

3. Inspired by all those fashion bloggers I follow, last night I decided to shop my own closet. I have an event tonight and I am so sick and tired of everything I own. I think that might be the result of two things: One, I put on a few pounds over the holidays and it's too cold to go anywhere or do anything active (plus there's that whole "tied to the house because I have a kid" thing), so I feel like a bucket of lard. Two, I wear the same stuff over and over again in the same ways. I have my go-to pieces, I style them the way I like them the first time, and then I just keep repeating that look over and over again. It's no wonder I get bored so quickly. So last night I decided to challenge myself a bit, and I came up with a cute twist on an old favorite:

Black and white tweed knee-length skirt
Black ruffle neck tank, tucked in (whoa)
Wide black belt at the waistline
Red cropped cardigan with pleated details and black/gold buttons
Black tights and black patent leather heels
Big gold hoops

It's not like I'm wearing a crazy outfit, it's just...put together. With this skirt I'd typically throw on a black turtleneck and tall boots and call it good. But this twist is bright and detailed and a little sassy. This morning I actually felt kind of cute for a change, and my feelings were confirmed when I came downstairs and Nate said "you look really cute!" So now I'm feeling inspired to try and branch out a bit more with what I already have. Don't worry, though, I'm not about to start posting pictures.

4. The biggest pants-related trend for spring? Wide leg jeans. HALLELUJAH! I've come to a place of acceptance with skinny jeans, even purchasing a pair of my own (though I continue to wear them with trepidation and a bit of fear), but fact is: there's no better look for a girl with hips than a pair of wide leg jeans.

5. Last but not least (and off the topic of clothing and onto my other favorite topic, food): I'm certainly not going to get any skinner making things like this (and who cares anyway, I have magic tights and wide leg jeans!), but don't you think this cake would be super cute for Calvin's second birthday party? Or, you know, Wednesday?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


"Ham! Ham! Ham!" shouts Calvin — morning, noon, and night.

"Ughhhhhhhhhhh," says his mom in return.

Am I the only one who had fond memories of reading Dr. Seuss books as a child and couldn't wait to read them to my own kids but then once I did realized they are really long and quite annoying? Making this even worse, my child refuses to read one book and move on to the's Green Eggs and Ham, and then Green Eggs and Ham again, and then maybe, if we're lucky, a round of Dr. Seuss' ABC before once again reading Green Eggs and Ham. And then we* have a tantrum because, SERIOUSLY, no. No more Green Eggs and Ham. ABC, fine. Ham, no.

I would not, could not in the dark.
I could not, would not in a park.
I don't like it one bit, Sam-I-Am.

*By "we" I mean me.

*The silly man being Dr. Seuss, of course. Not Calvin. I love Calvin. Which is why I read him annoying books over and over and over again. I just wish he'd branch out...maybe to Fox in Socks. Or One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Or Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Marriage, in a nutshell.

This morning:

N: Abby, your car won't start.

A: Okay...

N: You watch Calvin, I'm going back out to try and get it started.


Ten minutes later:

N: Got it started.

A: Oh, good. Thanks. What was the problem?

N: I think it's the sparkplug.

A: Really? How would you know that?

N: When I tried to start it, there was nothing. It didn't have that spark.

A: Hmm. Okay. What should we do?

N: Well, I think you should take my car to work and I'll try to figure it out.

A: Figure it out, like try to replace the sparkplug yourself??

N: Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's what it is, so I'll just take a look.

A (starting to laugh): Nate. Do you know what a sparkplug looks like? Or where it goes? Or what kind to buy?

N (offended): No, but I'm sure I can figure it out. I'll just go to the store and ask them what kind I need to buy for your car. I think it's pretty easy.

A (still kind of snickering): Yeah, no. Nate. It's freezing cold outside, you have no idea if it's actually a sparkplug-related issue, and you're going to get this figured out before you work at 11?

N (still offended, but not in the mood to argue): Fine, I'll take it in. Although sparkplugs are really inexpensive and if we have to pay someone to put it in...

A: Worth it!


An hour later, via text:

N: Weak battery. Gonna replace that and go from there.

A: So...not a sparkplug?

N: Not yet.

N. Smartalec.

A: I would have them check again. I'm pretty sure it's a sparkplug issue. It just didn't have that "spark."

N: So I'm officially not a mechanic. Shocker.


Thirty minutes later, at home:

N: You're not going to start calling me Sparky or something, are you?

A (laughing, all the while plotting out this blog post in her mind): No, of course not.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Investment strategy.

Nothing feels quite right when you're apart from your child. Your arms feel useless, your purse too light, your attention span too long. Everything's just off.

Mothers are used to carrying their child, their child's favorite toy, a blanket, a sippy cup, and a set of keys in one arm while opening doors and hauling diaper bags and laptop cases with the other. They're no stranger to digging through layers of daycare reports, day-old sippy cups of juice, diapers, wipes, blocks, and tiny toy cars just to find their cell phone — which is nestled in a bed of crushed Cheerios at the bottom of their purse. Moms are accustomed to keeping one eye on the friend with whom they're conversing over lunch and the other eye, both arms, and possibly a leg on their toddler, who can no longer be contained by a car seat or high chair in public places.

It's a shock, at first — the transition from caring for yourself to caring for yourself plus this tiny busy creature who needs everything, constantly, all day, every day. But shock slowly turns into reality and reality slowly turns into acceptance and acceptance slowly turns into the inability to imagine a life where you don't have a tiny busy creature demanding things of you every second of the day.

At first you hate it, but then you begin to love it. Crave it, even. Your child wants to be near you, on you, touching you, grabbing things from you, giving things to you. And this bond, which began to form even before your baby's birth, is made stronger with each morning hug, lovingly prepared meal, tuck of a blanket, kiss of a scraped knee, and midnight snuggle.

It's exhausting. But each of these moments is an investment in your child. In their lifelong happiness and success — and, by proxy, yours, too. So you do it, day in and day out. You feed, you clothe, you carry unbelievable amounts of stuff with you everywhere you go and only halfway listen to your friends at lunch. Motherhood becomes who you are. Not just what you do, but who you are. Try as you may to avoid that cliche, you can't. This job is all-consuming. It keeps no hours and has no limits.

Except time.

One day — all too soon, I imagine — my son will be grown. At college. Working. In love. Married. Having babies of his own. And when that day comes, it will just be me and Nate. And hopefully a dog, because I don't think I can live with that kind of quiet anymore.

It's easy to invest in our children, because they demand it. Loudly. Physically. And from the moment those shrieking pink bundles are placed in our arms, our hearts demand it, too. We love them, and we would do anything, anything, to ensure their safety and happiness.

When you spend your life investing in your children, as mothers inevitably do, it's easy to overlook the investment that started it all — your marriage.

I don't want to look over at Nate on the day our last child leaves for college and wonder who he's become. Or why I married him. Or what we're going to do now that it's just the two of us. I want to look at him and feel a deeper, more weathered version of the love I had for him the day our first child was born. I want to look in his eyes and see not just our past, but also our future. I want to look at him and smile mischievously because now we can make out whenever and wherever we want to, and I can finally buy a white couch.

More than likely I'll be lying in a heap on the floor sobbing, but when I finally stand up, those are the things I want to feel. Love for my husband. A still-strong connection to the man I married all those years ago. Excitement for a new chapter in our lives together.

Our children will always need us, in one form or another. And I know the investment I'm making in Calvin right now is a good one. But if I'm putting all of my love, attention, and energy into my son — and letting my marriage sit idly by during these busy years as a young mom — what kind of return can I expect from my relationship with Nate once Calvin is grown?

It happens all the time: the kids grow up, the parents break up. I don't want that to be our story.

Which is why, a few times a year, we take a break from our roles as Mom and Dad. Calvin goes to visit Grandma and Papa, or Nana and G-Pop come to stay, and Nate and I sneak away. It's never easy; we're full-time working parents, and the time we have with Calvin is limited and so precious. But we do it anyway, because it's important. It's an investment in us. In the foundation of our family. In our future together.

And during that time away from my child, my purse is lighter and my attention span is longer. But my arms aren't useless.

They're wrapped around the one I loved first.

What a difference a day [year] makes.

January 2010:

December 2010:

Well, that's kind of a shock.

Monday, January 3, 2011


I never make resolutions at the new year. I see no point in doing so — no one keeps them, myself included. We make all these lofty and demanding goals for ourselves at the beginning of the year, start out with every intention of achieving them, and then the collective momentum inevitably dies around January 15. By the end of the year we're all five pounds heavier, disgusted with ourselves for failing, and once again claiming "the diet begins January 1!"

So stupid.

I'm not big on the resolutions, but I'll admit there's something inspiring about a new year. January brings us a fresh start, a clean slate, an opportunity for reinvention. This appeals greatly to my inner perfectionist, which is probably why every year around this time I get the itch to reorganize my house, buy an entirely new wardrobe, and start using a planner. I want order and peace in my house, my closet, my life. I want to live in Pottery Barn, or at the very least a Real Simple magazine spread. I want a white couch and sparkling floors and big bowls of fresh lemons on my kitchen counter.

I want order and peace and perfection, but what I have is...chaos. Messiness. Lack of control. Snot on almost every item of clothing I own.

I have a kid, a dog, a husband, and a full-time job. Order and peace are not on the menu these days. Dishes in the sink, toys on the floor, fingerprints on every possible surface, a never ending pile of laundry, stacks of bills to be paid...this is what I have to work with right now. And by "right now" I mean "for the next 18 years, at least."

Reconciling my wants and my haves is not easy. I tend to set ridiculous expectations of myself — to be the perfect wife, mother, friend, employee, housekeeper, hostess — and I fail. Over and over again. And of course I do, because you can't have sparkling floors and a white couch when you have a family. You can't work full-time and make a gourmet meal from scratch every night. You can't carve out significant time for your friends when you barely have time to see your husband and child.

I don't need more failure in my life, which is why I typically avoid making resolutions. But what's the difference between making big unattainable goals at the beginning of the year and failing and setting small unattainable goals for yourself every single day and failing?

Yeah, not much. And that's how I arrived at this very important (and yes, quite obvious) conclusion:

Perfection does not exist.

I say that for my benefit, not yours. Although maybe you need to hear it, too?


This is my new mantra. This is my New Year's resolution. To let go of perfect. To stop expecting so much of myself. To just be. To enjoy my family. To embrace the chaos. To stop apologizing for the dust bunnies on my kitchen floor. To not feel bad if dinner consists of hot dogs and frozen green beans again. To laugh. To wear unflattering old sweatpants to the store on Saturdays. To say no when I can't — or don't want to — do something. To accept that romance at this stage of life might just be frozen pizza in front of the tv with the man I love. To do what's best for my family, even if others disagree. To let guests help with the dishes. To leave work at work. To bake a lot, and eat it. To drink a little too much wine once in a while. To let go of the guilt. To smile at the fingerprints coating my walls. To have joy. To praise God in the good and bad, knowing there's a reason for the madness. To let tomorrow worry about itself.

I'm not perfect, and I never will be. But I am perfectly loved by the one who created me. By a husband who adores me, just as I am. By a little boy who thinks I hung the moon. By friends who couldn't care less about dust bunnies. By a family who has always stood by me.

This year, I resolve to be happy. With who I am, where I am, and what I have. Because that's what I think New Year's resolutions — or any resolutions, for that matter — should be about: finding ways to be the happiest, most perfectly YOU version of yourself. There is room for self-improvement, sure, but there is also room for self-acceptance.

And the you-est version of me really likes to eat, so rest assured, there will be no resolving to diet anytime soon. But maybe a little exercise to balance things out a bit...
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