Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What a Girl REALLY Wants

One year old girl birthday gifts
The final countdown to the Little Lady's first birthday is upon us (we're currently at T minus four days) so I'm definitely going to start shopping for some gifts for her soon.  Probably tomorrow.  A number of people have asked me what to get Rose for her birthday, so I've been racking my brain trying to come up with a few things that I think she would really like.  After all, what do you get the girl who pretty much has everything, except for a competent Mother?  

We already have all of the usual first birthday gifts.
Play kitchen?  Check.  
Plastic push car?  Got two parked in the garage. 
Sand and water table?  Currently ground zero for a malaria outbreak on my back patio!  

What, then, would Rose really and truly enjoy if she could have anything in the world?  

1. An iPhone.  Rose spends most of the hours she's awake trying to steal my iPhone because apparently it's never too early for a girl to have a cell phone.  I don't know who she's planning to call since she has all of one friend, and neither of them can speak, but that's beside the point.  Girlfriend needs to stay up-to-date on all the current events so she knows what's going on when the other babies at the park are discussing Ben and Jen's divorce or Trump 2016.

2. Glasses.  She doesn't discriminate between Daddy's reading glasses from Costco and Mommy's vintage designer shades; she is an equal opportunity glasses destroyer.  If you are wearing glasses, especially if you need them to see, Rose will use all of her might to pull them off of your face.  No toy, no snack, can distract her from the lure of a pair of specs perched on a nose.  Beware the grasp of Rose because she is not one bit concerned about poking your eye out.  After all, you have two.  

3.  Coins, screws, buttons, or earrings.  Got a choking hazard sitting around?  Throw that item in a box with a bow and watch Rose be overjoyed!  Sister loves the taste of anything with the potential to block her airway, and she will be thrilled to eat whatever she finds between the cushions of your couch.  Don't spend your pennies on a fancy gift, give them to Rose and enjoy her unbridled enthusiasm.  Please come prepared with the knowledge of how to clear a choking child's airway.

4.  Bras.  Sure, puberty is (hopefully) about 11 years in the future, but that should never stop a girl from wanting a great piece of lingerie!  Rose has already figured out that more expensive bras are better.  She thinks that bras are one of the best things ever, especially when worn as a hat, or an eye patch, or used as a bowl for snacks.  Because Cheddar Bunnies taste so much more delicious when presented in something purchased at La Petite Coquette.

5.  Anything that is her Brother's.  That's right, anything that he doesn't want her to play with is exactly what she wants.  It might literally be a piece of garbage, or even a dirty diaper, but if Noah had it first, she wants it more than anything else in the world.  If you don't let her have it she will scream loud enough to ensure that our neighbor calls CPS, but as soon as Big bro no longer wants something Sister is done with it too, because it is her mission in life to drive him crazy.

I'm almost positive the one thing Noah wants for Rose's birthday is for her to go back from whence she came. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Baby You're a Toddler

One year old girl birthday

Did you know that the Little Lady is going to be a year old in 12 days?  Yeah, neither did I.  I was looking at my calendar yesterday, scheduling some work meetings, when all of the sudden it dawned on me that Rose's birthday is just under two weeks away.

Setting aside the fact that I am a negligent Mother who didn't realize that her daughter's birthday was just around the corner and, therefore, has not planned a birthday party, lets focus on what it means that Rose is turning one. 
 
That one year birthday feels like a big deal.  It's the turning point from baby to toddler, which means that these are my last few days of having a baby.  I admit to feeling a little bit emotional.  I didn't think that I would, since I know without a doubt that I don't want any more children, but I'm just a teensy bit sad that the sweetness of the baby stage is over for good.

*Sniff*.  Those aren't tears, it's just one of my eyelash extensions falling into my eye, I swear.

Five things I'm going to miss about having a baby:

1. The snuggles.  I know that right now those of you with newborns think that I am crazy and/or drunk, because you would give ANYTHING to not have a tiny human attached to your nipple at all hours of the day and night, but I assure you that I am totally sober and that you will be surprised how much you miss having a baby sleeping on your chest.  The only thing my kids are doing on my chest these days is climbing on top of me or looking inside my shirt and pronouncing my boobs to be "floppy", so yeah, I definitely miss being used as a pillow rather than a step ladder.

2. New baby scent.  Babies smell really yummy, sort of like sugar-dusted fresh bread with a side of warm milk.  You know what toddlers smell like?  Poop, playdough and popsicles, often all at the same time.  Please trust me when I tell you that toddler poop, unlike newborn poop, smells disgusting, and the scent permeates your entire house.

3.  The new baby excuse.  One of the best things about having a newborn is that no one expects you to be functional and it is AMAZING.  If your house looks like something from Hoarders and you haven't washed your hair in three weeks, everyone will just blame it on the new baby.  Wearing poop-stained clothing?  That's the baby's fault!  Eating off of paper plates because every dish is dirty?  That's okay, nobody with a newborn has time to load the dishwasher!  Not so when you have a toddler.  No, people expect you to be functional and have decent personal hygiene.  If you smell and your kids are wearing poop-stained clothes you might end up being visited by a social worker from Child Protective Services. 

4. Free stuff.  You know what people love to do when you have a new baby?  Bring you sh*t.  They bring you food, and gifts, and they come over and wash your dishes and do your laundry and hold your baby so you can rest.  Nobody comes to visit you when you have a toddler.  Sure, you would love a home cooked meal made by somebody else, and if you have to do one more load of dishes or laundry you might go postal, but ain't nobody interested in helping out a tired toddler Mommy.  The thrill has worn off and, let's be real, no one in their right mind wants to play those annoying games with your toddler - not even you.

5.  The quiet time.  Yes, you're exhausted and the thought of getting up for the fourth time in one night to feed your baby makes you (literally) cry, but I miss those quiet moments in the middle of the night when it was just me and my baby sitting in the dark.  Once your babies are older and on the move, the quiet moments are few and far between, reserved mostly for times when they aren't feeling well and they just need some Mommy love.  I wish that I'd savored those middle of the night moments a tiny bit more, when the sounds of nighttime surrounded us and we were both nodding off a little while she nursed.

Babies are wonderful, and while I'm kind of sad that Rose's baby stage is coming to an end, I comfort myself with knowing that I will sleep through the night tonight and tomorrow and, most likely, the next night, which, it turns out, is way better than new baby scent. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Love Thy Neighbor

By Allyson Haas
wolf sanctuary LA
Just hangin' at the Wolf Sanctuary as one does when being raised in LA
I'm not a particularly religious person.  Spiritual, yes, but traditionally religious, no.  I do, however, believe in the general testaments of being kind to others and loving thy neighbor (for the most part, though some of our neighbors are just flat out bad people).

I'm particularly fond of one of my neighbors.  She's my go-to gal in good times and bad.  Last week's spontaneous adventures to the wolf sanctuary - with her.  Sunday's trip to be wrapped in the embrace of Amma, the Hugging Saint - with her.  Honestly, she makes a trip to the courthouse to pay a ticket fun.  It's not just the good times that she's about either; she's one of those all-too-rare "ride or die" friends.

Take, for example, the night our poor dog Simon left this world too soon.  Without any extended family living within a 2000 mile radius, and not knowing who else to call, I phoned her in desperation at two in the morning.  Not only was she gracious about my call interrupting her slumber, but in under three minutes she was standing on our doorstep, having already taken care of Simon's final arrangements.  She stayed to watch C while we took Simon on his last car ride to the aftercare center, and by the time we returned she had gathered, washed, and packaged all of his things to be taken away.  She was our angel, and still is.

homemade risotto and pesto
No Easy Cheez in this care package
Which is why when she wasn't feeling well one recent night, and needed some kindness of her own, I felt compelled to put together a care package.  One serving of wild mushroom risotto, some homemade spinach basil pesto, a hunk of fresh baguette, and a few pieces of that homemade Butterfinger.  For a finishing touch: cutlery wrapped in a napkin and tied up with a pretty ribbon, and a classic cherry lollipop.  Treating people well is one of my favorite things; it never hurts to take good care of those you love, and it's so easy to brighten someone's day with the simplest of actions.

Plus I really need some good karma to balance out all the screaming/yelling/losing my s*it gentle guidance I've been giving this week.  C is taking to potty training like an elephant to roller skates, or not very well at all.  On the bright side, it's giving me plenty of opportunities to test out all of my non-toxic floor cleaner recipes.

Mushroom Risotto
Risotto sounds fancy, but it's actually super easy to make.  Just keep in mind that, like a whiny boyfriend (or child) who always needs your attention, it requires constant stirring.
1 cup arborio rice
1 carton vegetable stock
2 shallots, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Splash of olive oil
Some white wine
Some sherry or sweet vermouth
Some cream (optional)
2 pints mushrooms (I do one crimini, one white)
1/2 cup (more less depending on your taste) of grated Parmesan/Asiago cheese 
Fresh herbs*
*for this recipe I didn't have fresh on hand, so I used a heavy dash of Herbes de Provence

In a large pot (or saucepan), coat the bottom with olive oil and bring to low heat.  Brown the shallots.

Once browned, add rice and enough stock to cover.  Stir and mix until liquid is absorbed.

Continue to add liquid, alternating between veggie stock and either sherry or vermouth.  Note: each time add about a quarter cup and continually mix until absorbed.  Do this until you see the rice expanding considerably.  You can taste it as well - if it's crunchy keep adding liquid.

Once it's about done, I add about half a cup of the parmesan/asiago mix (make it easy on yourself and buy the already grated one from Trader Joe's).

When the cheese is melted and incorporated, throw in a spot of cream. Don't bother to go out and buy cream just for this recipe, if you have some on hand, throw it in.  You can also add a pat of butter for richness if you don't have cream.

When the rice is soft, remove from heat, portion, and serve immediately.  Or in my case, portion and give some to your neighbor.

Spinach Basil Pesto
Pesto also sounds fancy, but it is quite possibly the easiest thing to make.  It's virtually impossible to screw up.
Handful of fresh spinach
Handful of fresh basil
1/4 container of the TJ's Parmesan/Asiago mix
Olive oil to cover
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or, in my case, a baby food maker.  Pulse for about two minutes until you get a paste-like consistency.  You can add a clove or two of garlic and a handful of nuts if you want it to be like real pesto.  The Haasband doesn't like it that way, so I never do.  

I usually make this every Sunday and use it throughout the week.  Bake it on chicken, use to make a delicious Caprese sandwich, mix it in with quinoa pasta to make an easy "green mac and cheese" or mix it with some mayo to liven up a turkey bacon BLT. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

That's A Wrap

by Allyson Haas

Elmo wrapping paper

Saturdays. They used to mean lazy mornings with a newspaper and some good caffeine. Nowadays, they mean children’s birthday parties and sugar highs. Unlike most people, I relish these times. Two hours of supervised entertainment where my child can justifiably run around like a lunatic and I don’t get the “lady, control your kid” stares is my new idea of heaven. 

spray paint wrapping paper

Today’s party had a train theme, and C was over the moon about it. Saying he loves trains is an understatement.  I know, you can’t love an inanimate object, but I think his like for trains defies this grammatical rule. He had a blast. And I had fun prepping for the party. As soon as I get the invitation, I put the date in my calendar because otherwise, I’ll double book; it’s a bad habit of mine.  I don’t like to give run-of-the-mill gifts that will invariably end up in someone's re-gift pile, so each present is personalized in conjunction with the theme of the party and the child we’re celebrating. Since today’s theme was trains, we got the birthday boy a conductor’s hat, a t-shirt from Etsy with a train on it that said ONE TRACK MIND, a paint your own train set, and three tickets to the Griffith Park Southern Railroad train ride. Since I had but two minutes to wrap the gift, I just used some stencils and spray painted the boy’s name on the front. 

power rangers wrapping paper
We have another party tomorrow that has a Power Ranger theme. While not yet entranced by the lure of them, C did take an interest in the gift, which was a beach towel made to look like one of the Rangers. We wrapped it in white Kraft Paper and attempted to match the invitation.  Please ignore the fact that I can’t draw to save my life.

chalkboard wrapping paper
Who needs custom-printed gift tags when your kid can do this?
Every party is a chance to be creative, and C can join in on the fun. Usually, I’ll let him have at the underside of the gift with his own art supplies, kind of like his own signature. It’s cute, it’s personalized, and it’s different from what everyone else does. It’s also an easy way to ensure that the inevitable lost card and the "who gave you this gift?"question never applies to us.

DIY wrapping paper
Personally, I think printed wrapping paper is overpriced, especially since there rarely seems to be a large selection of unique designs, specifically ones that are appropriate for kids.  I use a variety of papers: black, white, or kraft, all of which can be purchased in large rolls for a lot less money, and you can draw, color, use chalk or whatever your fancy to decorate the packages.  Here's the bonus part of my present decorating: involving C in the drawing and painting means that I'm not spending most of my wrapping time attempting to keep him from sticking scotch tape in his hair or stabbing himself with the scissors in a misguided attempt at "helping" Mommy.  

princess wrapping paper

Yes, wrapping gifts for kids this way makes total sense, but I think that creating your own wrap is perfect for every occasion. I fete many a recipient this way; gender reveal gifts, baby shower gifts...simply decorate as befits the occasion. 

And just in case you need some inspiration for what to put inside all that gorgeous wrapping, here are a few of our favorite standbys:
  • Donation to the family’s favorite charity (Ronald McDonald House with a note stuffed inside a sleeve that holds the French fries)
  • Not a Box by Antoinette Peters, wrapped in a big cardboard box
  • Cardboard color kits  wrapped with white paper and a box of markers affixed to the outside
  • Anything from Splendid (preferably purchased at their sample sale)
  • Membership to a museum/zoo
  • Puzzles (to match the theme of the party)
  • Kid O Magnatab Alphabet or Numbers
  • Gift certificate to a nail salon for a princess party
  • Gift certificate to indoor play places (LA favorites include: Snooknuk, The COOP, PLAY, Peekaboo Playland)
Or, if you choose to get anything that makes loud, repetitive noises or requires assembly by a parent or legal guardian, a prescription of Xanax. 


Bonne anniversaire!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I swore parenthood wouldn't change my lifestyle. I was wrong.

motherhood humor
Reservation for four, at 5pm, please.
Back before I had kids, and even when I was pregnant, the Hubs and I used to talk about how we would never let parenthood significantly change our lifestyle.  We thought for sure that all these people with kids who no longer had lives were just doing it wrong and that we would be different.

Are you laughing at how delusional we were?  You should be, because parenthood completely throws your life into a tailspin.  If you think kids aren't going to dramatically change your lifestyle then you must be planning to pay someone else to watch them...24 hours a day.
 
1.  You will eat dinner at 5pm (or earlier).  It is pretty much guaranteed that you will find yourself at a restaurant eating dinner while other patrons are still finishing their lunch.  You would've been horrified at the idea of eating before 8pm prior to having kids, but now you are thrilled to eat the Early Bird Special if it means your child will go to bed at 7pm and leave you alone for a few hours to watch Game of Thrones while you drink a glass of wine.

2. You stick to a schedule and you do not deviate from it for anyone.  Your childless self thought that people like you were just party-pooper control freaks.  Now that you have a child who you really, really want to sleep, you understand the value of maintaining a routine for your offspring.  Guess what's more fun than a flag football game that starts at 11:30am?  Your kid sleeping through the night.  If it's scheduled during nap time, you're RSVPing "No".

3.  Last call is 9:30pm.  You know what I used to be known for?  Closing down a bar.  The only thing that slowed me down was trying to walk in heels after six drinks.  If you were having a party I would be there and I would stay until the bitter end, and I swore up and down that having a kid would not change that.  I may still be fun, but only if your party starts at 5:30 and ends at 9pm, because my kids don't care if I've had a late night.  They still get up at 7am, whether Mommy's slept it off or not.  So the only bar I'll be "closing down" is the one in my living room, and last call is at 9:30.

4. You dread traveling.  Traveling the world used to be your thing.  Exotic locales, tropical breezes, and international destinations are thrilling...until you have kids.  I can barely handle packing up all the crap I need just to take my kids to the neighborhood park, so there is no way I'm going to be jetsetting anytime soon with two little ones in tow.  Traveling is like the trifecta of parenting Hell: your children are off of their routines, in an unfamiliar environment without all of their favorite toys and food stuffs, and the time is different.  Crossing the International Date Line is a recipe for lost sleep.  I would rather jab my eyes out with a hot poker than take a plane trip across the world with my children.  Last I checked, vacation is supposed to be relaxing, so therefore it shouldn't involve taking kids along.  

5. You will want to sleep more than you want to have sex.  Way, way back, when I still had perky boobies and lots of energy and no children I never imagined that there would come a time when I would prefer sleep over sex.  Oh, I was so young and naive and well rested!  Sleep is a precious, endangered commodity in the jungle of parenthood, and you need as much of it as you can hoard.  There will be plenty of opportunity for sexy times when you're well rested and not in danger of falling asleep before you climax.

The reality is that once you have kids, life as you know it is thrown completely on its head.  But please, tell me how you're going to be different, and I'll smile and nod and look forward to running into you at my local sushi restaurant at 4:45pm. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Can't Stop, Won't Stop, Don't Want to Stop

by Allyson Haas
Crafts for Kids

It seems that the "Mommy Wars" are inescapable.  Stay at home versus don’t stay at home. Who spends more time doing what. Who is happier. It’s enough to make anyone go mad. Can’t everyone just mind their own fucking business?  To the Moms: Just Stop, an article that's been making its way around the interwebs this week, has my blood rising higher than the usual summer temperatures in the City of Angels.  The piece addresses the current wave of “Pinterest stress” sweeping the nation, with the main idea being that those of us moms who enjoy releasing our inner Martha Stewarts are stressing out the other Moms who work full time jobs.  

Look, I get that working a demanding job and then, at the end of a long day, coming home and putting on the Mom hat is intense. It’s high stress, it’s challenging, and it takes a certain kind of woman to be able to master its nuances.  After a short postpartum stint at my former corporate job it quickly became glaringly clear to me that I was not of this camp. So, I did what I assume most educated, responsible, and Type-A people do when they make a life changing decision: I created a spreadsheet. I’m kidding of course (but only a little). To show the Haasbund what it would cost to keep me home, I tallied up what I would have spent annually on a nanny and take-out food, and I presented it to him as a matter of fact. I showed him that the nanny’s salary was what was generally accepted in the marketplace and thus, should be seen as my financial contribution to the family. Though far less than what I used to make, we realized this was a better fit for our lifestyle. So I left my job, and I’m now “that mom” towards whom everyone is aiming their unjustified vitriol.

Harvest snack bags alphabet project for kids
Here's the thing: I actually really enjoy making things that are Pinterest-worthy; and I'm damn good at it, too.  It makes me happy to cook food from scratch and create a curriculum to guide my remaining weeks at home with C before he starts preschool in September.  I get that you might find it annoying that I make homemade Butterfinger candy bars, or that I draw designs on the snack bags for our Mommy and Me class, but my making and doing these things doesn't diminish the talents at which other Mommies excel.  

I certainly don’t begrudge you your sweet corner office and other awesome job perks like a) being able to use the bathroom by yourself or b) contributing to your 401K instead of your kid's piggy bank. I don’t get my panties in a wad that you decided to go all out for your big presentation and made it the best thing any client has ever seen, or that you won that new account and are going to get a sweet percentage of the deal. In short, I don’t take to the internet and bemoan my position in life because you decided to kick ass at your job. 

So for the love of all things civil, please JUST STOP bitching about the fact that I kick ass at mine. I love being a mom, and I’m unashamed about it. It’s granted me an outlet for a whole host of creativity I can now indulge, and it has taken me in some pretty sweet directions, including right here to this very blog.  Moms come in all different shapes, sizes and vocations. So pack up your insecurities and ship them back to the mailroom. I don’t do what I do to impress you. I do it because I enjoy it, just as you don’t rule the boardroom/operating theater/advertising agency to impress me. You do it because you like to, because you enjoy it, and because you're really, really good at it.  I’m content enough in where I’m at to celebrate your success and your good work, and I would appreciate being extended the same professional courtesy.  How about we all stop trying to one-up each other and instead celebrate our differences?

Now excuse me, but my 2pm is waiting; and he's very demanding, prone to tantrums, and really hates being in a dirty diaper.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Misadventures in Los Angeles: Arty Pants

Levitated Mass LACMA

As you all know, I've never been a huge fan of anything in LA except the weather, but last Thursday night I happened to be the Hubster's Plus One to an event where Mayor Garcetti spoke.  I'm as interested in politics as my son is in cleaning his room, but the Mayor is incredibly charismatic and passionate about Los Angeles.  He spoke with fervor about the growing art scene, the restaurants and the architecture, and I totally drank the Kool-aid.  I found myself nodding along, thinking, "yes! Los Angles is incredible!  It's amazing here!  It just gets better every day!  Why would anyone want to live anywhere else?!"

I suspect that my enthusiasm for LA was fueled mostly by the open bar and not being with my kids, but in all honestly it's not completely terrible here.  Yes, the traffic sucks, and there are potholes that could swallow up the Little Lady, but overall life here is pretty good.  I've met wonderful people, and there are some pretty great places to take the kids that don't happen to be amusement parks of strip malls.

LACMA is one of our regular destinations for kid-friendly fun.  I know that when you have little kids a museum is not always the first thing that comes to mind, but LACMA is definitely the exception to the rule.  Even if you don't step foot into any of the actual buildings, the grounds surrounding the museum are an excellent place for your kids to run around and tire themselves out.

Kids art LACMA
We're long time fans of the Boone Gallery, obviously.
There's a special room just for kids, where they can paint for free.  Called The Boone Children's Gallery, it's tucked inside the Korean Art Galleries but it's this magical place where there are nice, young volunteers who set your kid up with paints and paper and they can paint to their heart's content.  Which means that you can actually sit down and enjoy a minute of peace and quiet.  They also have story time on Mondays and Fridays at 2pm, and assuming that you have one of those kids who actually sit still for the length of an entire book, this too can be a relaxing time for Mommy. It's dark and cool inside the gallery where they do story time, so try not to fall asleep sitting up.  

Levitate Mass at LACMA
Levitated Mass.  I'm not sure, exactly, how a giant rock is considered art, but it's a cool thing to see, and your kids will wear themselves out running back and forth along the length of the walkway underneath it.  Anything that tires my kids out is a win in my book. 

LACMA with kids Noodles at LACMA
The noodles.  Hours of fun can be had dashing through the plastic yellow noodles.  There's a coffee shop located just across the plaza from the noodles, so if you go with a friend someone can keep a loose eye on the kids while Mommy gets her caffeine fix.  There are also chairs and tables in the plaza so you and your Mommy friends can bitch about preschools while your kids amuse themselves.

Metropolis II

Metropolis II.  Basically, this is a miniature city that takes up an entire gallery in the museum, with cars and trains running through it.  The cars don't run all the time - only during specific times on certain days of the week - but it's definitely worth seeing when it's operating.  My one disclaimer, however, is that it's really hard for little kids to understand that they can't touch the cars.  They want to duck under the ropes and play with the sculpture, and it's not exactly the most relaxing thing to have the guards constantly yelling at your kid to stop touching the ropes/sculpture/whatever.  I think Metropolis is really more for older kids who understand the concept of "not touching" and "art piece".

LACMA
Oh, and did I mention that LACMA offers FREE membership for your kids?  Free. Gratis. No cost.  Zero sheckles.  From birth until age 17, your kids get in free, and as their guardian you get free admission too.  If that alone doesn't convince you to pack up your offspring and get some of the "cutting edge art and culture" that Mayor Garcetti is so pumped about, then I don't understand you at all.  Heck, it costs at least $10 just to go to one of those indoor playgrounds, and at LACMA your kid can get the same germs for free!  Plus you can totally write in your preschool applications that you take your kid to the museum all the time; the Admissions people never have to know that your "cultural outings" consisted of Junior eating snacks and running around a giant rock.