16 August 2010

New Location for Blog

Update your RSS feeds and bookmarks:

I'm moving the Zora-related stories to Tumblr and renaming it "Life with the Redhead."

My longer pieces will now be posted on Javagrrl Cafe on Wordpress.

28 July 2010

Online Shopping and the Working Mom

When I read that 84% of moms at work spend between 15 minutes and an hour a day shopping online (Loechner, Media Research Center, July 15, 2010), I wasn't surprised. After an evening or a weekend with Sweetpea + spouse, I relish the quiet time at work and the opportunity that it gives me to get things done.

What kind of things? Example: I've run out of both moisturizer and allergy medicine. I know that it would be less expensive for me to run to Costco to replenish my supply, but instead I found myself browsing the virtual aisles of Amazon.com. Sure I'll have to pay for shipping, but a trip to Costco in Pentagon City has NEVER been an in-and-out trip. Parking, toddler wrangling, incidental purchases, plus the ridiculously long lines mean that I may save a few bucks on the items, but I've lost a lot of a finite, treasured resource: time.

What's your time worth? MSN Money's Know the Value of Your Time Calculator can help you figure out the value of your leisure time. After plugging in the numbers, I learned that my leisure time is worth just under $40/ hour. This means that even if I pay an extra $10 for shipping moisturizer and allergy medicine instead of languishing at Costco, it's worth it.

Of course, all of this assumes that you have discretionary funds to buy back your time. Some months you may not have the extra money and off to Target and Costco you must go. But consider this take-away from AOL's "Mall Behind the Spreadsheet" Report:

[Women] control $4.3 trillion, roughly 73 percent of U.S. household spending.1 And they do it all while juggling work, home and family life. Many – particularly moms – manage to shoehorn 27 hours of activities into the standard 24-hour day.2 It should come as no surprise, then, that 40% shop online during work hours. (But don’t tell them we told you.)

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23 July 2010

An Example of a Conversation Between Toddlers

The Scene: Zora and Will are watching Ice Age: The Meltdown for the umpteenth time on couch. At nearly 3, they are already multitasking and reading a National Geographic Kids Magazine at the same time. They are discussing the best way to navigate the maze and get the hikers to the cabin.

22 July 2010


We were having one of those nights when The Routine had gone to pot. Instead of sticking to the normal bedtime, R and I were trying to decide how to occupy Zora and Will.

"Should we do a m-o-v-i-e?" Rodney spelled.

"A movie?" Zora squealed. "Moo-oo-vee," she sounded out, demonstrating the power of phonics much to our amazement. Could our three-year-old really spell?!

She proceeded to turn over her hands and show us her palms. "See! Nothing in my hands!"

Now we're going to have to spell in different languages. Sigh.

20 July 2010

Hot Pockets!

Pulling on a pair of shorts, Zora looks down and notices the pockets.

"I have pockets," she says brightly. Then in her toddler falsetto: "Hot pockets!"

Not familiar with comic Jim Gaffigan? Check out this video:

The Problem With "I'll Just Do It Myself"

Like a lot of can-do moms, I'm hesitant to ask for help around the house and with child care. I like being in control. I enjoy wearing the mantel of competence as much as a pair of sweats with an elastic waistband. But after a while, all this doing gets tiresome.

For those of you like me, you know what comes next: bitterness from lack of recognition, looking heavenward and wondering why the heck something that's flamingly obvious to you is not obvious to your spouse, and then the inevitable: Nevermind! I'll just do it myself.

So what would happen if I delegated responsibility at home. What if I asked for help?

Things wouldn't be done right, of course. We'd run out of dental floss. Zora's clothes might be mismatched. Or she might subsist on a diet of tofu, hot dogs, and blueberries. And if I asked for help, well, then I'm not the Great and Powerful Mom that I thought I was. Besides, shouldn't Rodney realize when it's time to pay the nanny? Shouldn't he know where the diaper bag is?

Not necessarily.

Five words have really helped me: Honey, I need you to...

...watch Zora so I can exercise on Saturday mornings.
...put on her shoes in the morning while I brush my teeth.
...pick up something for dinner on your way home.

I was reluctant at first. I felt like I was skipping out on my responsibility. Then I had to deal with the question, if I'm not super woman taking care of everything that needs to be done, then who am? Working through that question is turning out to be more challenging than doing everything myself.

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25 May 2010

Negotiations About Movin' On Up

We bought our 2 bedroom 1 bath condo in S. Arlington at the height of the real estate boom in 2004. Eight hundred square feet wasn't posh, but it was enough for me and my husband. If he was watching a movie, I could go into the Study (our second bedroom) to read or surf the Web.

When Sweetpea arrived in 2007, friends and family asked us if we'd be moving to something bigger. Nah, we said. How much space can a baby take up? One kindly old lady even said we could let Sweetpea sleep in a bureau drawer. We splurged on a crib.

But that crib meant no more study. And then where to put the Rainforest Jumperoo? And the stroller? And the high chair? Baby accoutrement seemed to be designed for 2,000 square foot homes, not pint-sized pads.

I started fantasizing about the type of home that would've made me shudder in my early twenties. You know, the kind with a yard, a driveway, no assigned parking, and maybe, just maybe, more than one bathroom. When I was feeling especially extravagant, my dream bathroom would feature two sinks. Crazy! I know!

"So what do you think about getting a bigger place?" I asked my husband.

He looked concerned. He wondered aloud about having enough for retirement, and Sweetpea's college fund, and that three to six months of living expenses that Suze Orman told us that we needed. All reasonable concerns. Instead, he said, "I think we can make this place work. I'd like to try a live below our means."

A reasonable response. A green response. People in Manhattan raise children in small apartments. People in Hong Kong live in 100 ft X 100 ft spaces. Maybe I was falling prey to the American ideal that bigger is better.

I reminded myself of these things when I lugged my groceries from the parking lot to the front of my condo, and then up a flight of stairs, while trying to make sure Sweetpea didn't run into the road. I reminded myself of this when I tried to drown out the sound of my husband's sci-fi t.v. show while typing in the bedroom with the laptop in my knees. I reminded myself of this when trolling for a parking place at 10 o'clock at night, because there wasn't a single spot in my lot.

My husband tossed out inventive storage solutions: hang our bikes in the stairwell, and use a pulley system to lower them down (I imagined him coming home to find me squashed underneath my hybrid bike); spend extra money on closet organization (we did and what a difference!).

But there were some things we couldn't get around: We could never have more than one friend over because of the lack of parking. My in-laws couldn't stay with us because there was no where to sleep except the couch, and no one wants to sleep on a couch once they're over the age of 25.

We endured. And then one day last month, my husband agreed to consider moving if we could get the numbers right. Since we download our finances on Mint.com, determining our monthly expenses was a snap. Once we did that, we figured out where to cut back (Coffee, Books, Eating Out, Target), so that we could handle a larger mortgage. We tapped an uncle for a loan, and through a realtor learned that we may be able to make a little money on the condo. 

Suddenly, that shining 3BR, 2BA home shifted from "would-be-nice" to "possible," all because my husband and I sat down and had a conversation about (gasp!) money.

18 May 2010

Everybody Poops, But Where Does It Go?

We didn't quite make it to the bathroom, so we had to dispose of the, ahem, evidence after the fact. After the toss and the plop, Zora said, "Bon voyage!" and waved her poop good-bye. Then she turned to me.

"Mama, where does the poopy go?" she asked.

"In the sewer," I told her.

"Ohhh. With all his poopy friends?"