Suburban Snapshots

My Nana Would Not Suggest Grapefruiting

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Women, friends, wives: I'm about to level with you. I'm going to tear a page from my Nana's playbook and tell you how to please your man. This does not in any way require you to purchase a grapefruit but go for yours if that's your thing (I'll want a review.)

Y'all have to stop re-loading the dishwasher and re-folding the damn laundry. Girl. Your husband thinks he's doing something pleasing to you, and when you come and un-do it like that he's left feeling incompetent and unappreciated. Now don't kiss his ass for folding a few hand towels, but hold on the criticism or wait until he's out of the house to wash everything again with the right fabric softener. I die a little inside when Steve inevitably holds up something of mine that went through the dryer, but you know what? I probably shouldn't have tossed it into the hamper like a lazy twat.

The same goes for raising your kids together. Listen, Steve does plenty of things in ways I never would. We were parented differently and it affects how we each handle Anna. Obviously I'm right in my criticism 100% of the time, but I still let him do his thing. Sometimes this means biting my tongue bloody to keep myself from contradicting him. If your child is not in peril, if your husband isn't being an enormous jerk, if the real issue is that he's not doing it the way you'd do it, take a breath. Let him handle it. If something he does really bothers you, bring it up later, directly. I find, "She was a real pill today, I just think you might have been a little harsh" works better than, "Why not send her to Guantanamo next time?" or "Were you raised in an Eastern Bloc orphanage?"



You have to let your man be a man. I once reprimanded a smart, hilarious blogger friend who "couldn't leave the house" because her husband had taken over kid duty and naturally, there was utter mutiny. I reminded her that she married an adult, that he helped father these children, and regardless of having two kids clawing at him like an open car window on a chimp safari, he was totally capable of managing them in her absence. So she got to go out and he was left to feel capable and needed. I assume she came home buzzed and got lucky.

A few weeks ago Steve and I were arguing about money or he was nagging me about how hard I hit the brakes or some crap and I said, "Listen, when you want to criticize something, think about whether it'll achieve any result other than pissing me off." We all choose parenting battles, if we didn't we'd be correcting our kids constantly and pouring vodka in their our Cheerios. This applies to marriage too—for today I'll ignore the shirts he left on the dining room table because I want to talk to him about his parenting grenades.

I realize I'm coming from a specific set of circumstances: one kid, a hard-working husband, and a sense of humor to temper my frustrations, but I've definitely done things to make Steve feel less like a million bucks and more like the sticky Canadian dime that lives at the bottom of my purse. I'm sure that sometimes I still do; marriage has a huge learning curve. I also know that you all are pretty spectacular and probably not married to assholes. Your men are capable of work and their work—like yours—deserves appreciation.

Just like kids, I believe adults try to live up to the best you see in them. Because of kids, couples sometimes have trouble just seeing each other at all. We can expect more from our spouses and show that we believe they can handle it. Then maybe, maybe the grapefruit.

How to Be Married to a Blogger

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My husband has come to tolerate a lot from me because of this blogging gig. He still doesn't love my after-hours on the laptop, my constant online communication because, "There's a really hilarious conversation happening in my blogger group right now," or the way I put lots of our personal stuff on blast, but he supports me and loves me, and he knows that somehow I find this mostly pro bono gig pretty fulfilling.

Understand that Steve is a quiet guy; it took me six months of living in the same 500 square foot apartment with him before we ever uttered two words to each other. I didn't know he had a family until we'd already made out under a halogen lamp on a filthy sofa the way you only do in your 20s. He's quiet and his tastes run toward short women in tube socks on skateboards, and yet he seems to appreciate my big frame and bigger mouth. But he didn't really sign up for the Mr. Snapshots gig and I give him a lot of credit for letting me run this production pretty much as I please (I always check with him before I share anything sensitive, like the marriage counseling stuff or the vasectomy.)

Last week when the parody I created started to appear on national television, he walked over to me, put his hands on my hips and whimpered, "Honey? Can you please not get famous?" Steve works in a blue collar job with big, bearded men who spend their days hauling, lifting and smoking, and it's understandably awkward when a guy in the garage asks, "Hey Steve, your wife gonna make any more videos?" Because that can't not sound like I run a porn empire from my guest room.

Being my husband isn't easy work, so I've got the want ad all ready in case he ever decides it's just too much.

My sincerest thanks to our blog-widow spouses who do the dishes while we struggle with perfect titles, who don't question being handed a camera and told to "shoot now and ask later," who take on bedtimes and overtime because of Twitter parties and project collaborations, and who almost always know exactly when to shut up and look pretty and when to say, "I'm proud of you, babe."


Secrets and Lice

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

"Hi Brenna. I've got Anna in here in my office and I think I've found a couple of nits in her hair. You don't have to pick her up, just check her over at home."

Anna's sailed through at least seven previous lice outbreaks—in all of her preschool rooms, in kindergarten, in camp and gymnastics. Her hair is always dirty and it's short. I'm not the type to carry hand sanitizer or to own Lysol (I know you guys are dying to come over now), I don't quietly blame other parents or kids if mine gets a cold or a stomach bug. Shit happens. When you have a kid, shit happens times infinity.

I checked her at home and found one adult louse and several nits. I texted the parents of her two best friends. I emailed her teacher. We combed, picked, Cetaphiled, combed, picked, checked, picked. We're still in the process of making sure she stays clear. My entire block is itchy. I've designated one biohazard hamper to toss her blankies and sleep stuffies. I've had to ask my first grade girl to not hug anyone and to sit still for hours while we comb and pick at her, and to quote a friend of mine, she's handling it like a Viking. Do you have any idea how much first grade girls hug? It's Woodstock all day long.



I know I share more than most and it's for a good reason—lots of people think they're alone in things, and I mean anything from picky eaters to hungover spouses. So I told Facebook about Anna's lice even knowing that several of her friends' parents would see it, even though it was the day before our Halloween party. You know what happened? I started getting messages from other parents in her class that they were also dealing with the outbreak.

I see these people every day, but no one wants to talk about lice. I respect that—no one wants to be a pariah. I also know that the scenario is completely different with older kids. But here's the other thing, parents of those still too young for Facebook: If we talk about it we can help stop it. Also, maybe that one annoying kid will stop asking for playdates.

We can't all shave our children and burn our houses to the ground, but maybe we can learn to be more open about our pestilence for the sake of other families. For the sake of all our sanity.

My Whole Neighborhood Is In This Parody

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

For months Steve and I have been trying to figure out the balance between letting Anna use the iPad and give us peace and quiet, and having her do more interactive things, like reading and giving us peace and quiet. She watches a lot of Nerdy Nummies and pop videos because her dad never makes her turn off pretty girls she loves to cook and dance, and Katy Perry's art direction is every first-grade girl's dream.

The week she decided to play "This is How We Do" on perpetual repeat, just before I snapped I realized how perfectly suited it was for a parody.

It took me three weeks and several friends to make it happen, and honestly you guys, I don't even know if it's funny. I've watched this so often and listened to the song so much that I dream in day-glo bubblegum Candy Land. SEE WHAT I MEAN?

Thanks to Allison Hart for her consult on the kitchen scene.

Monday, Party of Three

Monday, October 13, 2014

This entry is part of the Monday Mornings photo series Mommy Shorts created in partnership with Allstate, a company that is dedicated to helping families live the Good Life. You might not consider rushing kids out the door while choking down a half-frozen toaster waffle the Good Life, but I know you'll still find beauty in these morning routines.

In my twenties, I'd get out of bed at 8:00 a.m. and be out the door by 8:30. Remember those days? When you only had you to get ready and whatever, this thirty-cent frozen burrito will make a fine lunch. In my twenties I wore make-up and drank terrible office coffee. I'd take a twenty-minute train ride full of commuter germs to my office next to Fenway Park. On good days I didn't have to sidestep vomit or rats. In my twenties my built-in workout was a half-mile walk and third-floor cubicle.

Now I'm up by 6:30 most days and still rushing to get out of the house two full hours later. And I don't even bother with make-up anymore. I commute to my dining room table, but in between I've got to jockey for elbow space in my kitchen while my husband and I make lunches. I time my shower around his schedule knowing that regardless of when I climb in, my six-year-old will suddenly lose interest in the iPad and urgently need to pee. Now my built-in workout is the walk and gab-session with a pack of neighborhood moms to and from school each day. We grab our coffees and our kids and spend five blocks hurrying them up while wishing we had a few more minutes to talk before work kicks in. It's all very suburban and I wouldn't trade it for all the uncovered coughs and urban wildlife of my city commute.



I'm not the mom who's going to tell you to cherish every moment. You spend twenty precious moments each morning just begging someone to get their socks on, don't you? I don't know that I'll look back and miss yelling, "Tootsie Rolls are not breakfast!" but I know these elementary days are fleeting. This week I've noticed that Anna's too tall for almost all of her pants, and her face...there's something different. It's longer, more defined — she's a real kid. Still, I hope to look back at these photos someday and wonder when she was ever so small.

Here's a peek into my Monday. I shot these with the help of a self-timer and a spare husband (thanks Josh). Thanks to Mommy Shorts for including me in this series, it's always nice to think like a photographer again.

The morning iPad standoff. This is Steve's fancy man-robe. He's not psyched about this photo
Let's not talk about this room or the fringe
God bless her, she still believes my morning Facebook check is "work"
Preparing to pack her all-carbohydrate lunch
There is one cheese stick under all that starch
The shoe tying, it's a miracle
Her friends want to know why she's still in a "baby seat"
We were out of eggs and half and half, because Monday
The Kid Parade
The Mom Parade
Back at the office

Fall Stuff I Like
No Pumpkin Anything Edition

Thursday, September 25, 2014

This post is not sponsored, it's just fall, and each season I find myself changing wardrobes and learning to love new things (tights) and let go of others (shaving). Here's what I like lately — some of them are splurges but I never splurge unless: It will match everything else I own/I will wear, use or carry it almost daily/I can hide it from Steve.

1. Rent the Runway ($30-$300) I've rented two dresses and joined the Pro program because it saved me $50 on my anniversary rental. Granted, I could easily buy a nice frock or two at Marshalls for what it costs to rent one (mine were about $100), but I've never worn dresses that felt so amazing on my body. The customer service is excellent despite the lack of a published phone number. My emails are always met with a pleasant response and if needed, a quick reconciliation. I'm making up excuses to rent dresses now.

2. American Apparel leggings ($28-$38) I am not a small person, and I mean that (See below. That's me with a fully-grown adult man.) I'm almost six-feet tall and roughly 35-30-46. Dat azz makes it hard for me to find things like tights, undies, bikini bottoms (sub-shout-out to Athleta's Full Tide bottom), and leggings that fit well, don't bind and are long enough. I take an XL in these  and they are so comfy, they don't slide down, they haven't yet stretched out, and compared to the $12 pair I bought from Old Navy that tore in two wears and were capri-length on me, worth their price. I have both winter-weight and jersey versions and they are constantly on laundry rotation. These are a key part of my fall/winter Mom Uniform.



3. Pack-It lunch bag ($20) A friend recommended these to me when Anna's camp lunch kept getting hot during the day, and my daughter who eats exactly two food items would come home with most of her lunch intact because, "It got mushy." Her tin lunchbox felt like an armpit. You've got to remember to put the Pack It overnight in the freezer and you have to wash it by hand when it comes home full of grass clippings and stained with let's-not-even-ask, but it does what it says and keeps her lunch cool for hours. They also have excellent customer service.

4. Timolino tumbler ($25, I know, but read) I googled "best travel mug" and this was America's Test Kitchen's top pick. So I bought one for Steve, promptly filled it each morning before he could ("Why does my tea mug smell like coffee?" — Steve), and bought a second because he kept sulking at me. I am not lying when I tell you that I can fill this with coffee at 8 a.m. and still have a warm sip in the bottom at 3 p.m. I wouldn't close the lid and toss it full into a briefcase, but I can close the lid and shake it to mix the cream up without so much as a drop escaping. It's also fun to watch the people in line next to me shield themselves when I do that. The mouth hole fits a straw for cold drinks. I donated all my other travel mugs to Goodwill because I am a true philanthropist.

5. Hue Denier tights ($14) Like the AA leggings, these stay in place, and they're soft and cozy without being binding (as in, I can wear them without feeling like I should be strung up in a Little Italy shop window). They have a cotton crotch so Anna can watch me get dressed and then yell that I'm gross for not wearing undies, and probably tell her friends over lunch that her gross mom doesn't wear undies, and then I notice the principal looking at me disapprovingly or maybe I'm imagining that part.

6. This soup recipe ($10) Just make it, adjust the spiciness to your liking. You can find the paste in the ethnic section of almost any grocery store. You can even use veggie broth and get rid of the chicken for a vegan version that is just as good as the original. Give it to people you might need to help you move one day.

Lastly, there's a pair of knee-high, low-heeled black boots on my list, but I don't know how much I truly love them because I have to wait for Steve to do something REALLY dumb before I can justify buying them. I'll keep you posted. What are you guys into these days?

Ten Years and a Hundred Yeses

Thursday, September 18, 2014

You'll think about leaving when you can't stand his tone of voice or his running critique of your driving. You'll fantasize about what it might feel like to spend money without having to justify every purchase. You will wonder why he didn't comment on how obviously fantastic you look today. You'll want to smother him for snoring and leaving sealed lunch containers in the sink, and you'll calculate how many years you have left until the sound of his cereal crunching drives you criminally insane. You might imagine warming yourself by the fire you'll kindle with the hundreds of piles of papers and receipts he deposits all over the house. You dream of spending a full day in winter with the thermostat cranked into the seventies.

Still, you hug him while he folds the laundry and ogle him when he gets out of the shower. You tell him to take care on his motorcycle and schedule his doctor appointments. You cook his favorite food and buy the good beer, and you try to remember to get your wet towels off the bed before he gets home. You're secretly proud that he still gets carded even as you're called "ma'am," and not as secretly take some credit for how well he's aging. Even though you might never agree on a budget you try to spend less, and he learns that splurges are a necessary part of living. Each day without trying, you appreciate something about him — that he gets up early and works hard, that when he hears a tiny voice call for Daddy at 2 a.m., he goes, that he listens to you tell the same story ten ways to fifteen different friends without comment. That he understands you're just a little crazy sometimes.

Your first "yes" is the one that gets cake and a champagne toast, but the truth about marriage is that you will decide over and over again to say yes. Yes when it's not brand new anymore. Yes when the frozen slice of cake is long gone and the forks are tarnished. Yes when you're flat broke and on each other's last nerve. Yes when you've been hurt. Yes when the work never seems equal. Yes when all you want is space. Yes when there is no resolution. That early yes is important. It gets you here, and this place is really good. But there's devotion in these later yeses, there's time and joy and disappointment, there's knowing that marriage is a choice you make again and again.

Today marks ten years of yeses, and and I'd repeat every one.