What’s In Your Friend’s Grocery Cart?

When I head to the grocery store I have a few lists – my mental list, my husband’s written down list of things he’s noticed we need, and lastly my subconscious list that gets triggered as I walk the aisles (or depending on how hungry and/or PMS I am the evil list that somehow throws the Mallomars into my cart).  My cart more or less always looks the same, filled with the basics that make up our family’s diet.  It never occurred to me that these items were unique, interesting or in any way different than anyone else’s.  But, a while back I went to Costco with a friend I don’t usually shop with and she looked in my cart and said, “Wow, we have totally different carts.  I would never buy any of that stuff.”  I looked in her cart and thought pretty much the same thing.

There we were – two very good friends, with fairly identical parenting approaches, the same political views, the same family backgrounds, even similar husbands and kids who adore each other, with two completely different grocery carts.  How different could they be?  Well, I’ve written before about my disdain for prepackaged, portioned snack food.  My friend is the queen of those items – it’s one of those short cuts that make her life easier so it makes sense for her.  She’s a big Vitamin Water drinker.  Me, not so much.  I am a vegetarian (though I eat fish so technically I’m a pescetarian).  So, my cart was full of clams and sardines for various pasta sauces, frozen wild salmon and shrimp and lobster salad.  Hers was full of chicken nuggets, canned pasta and soup.  We joke that my daughter is a fruititarian so I had enough fruit to open a farm stand.  She had applesauce and fruit snacks.  She likes one brand of turkey and yogurt; I like another.  Ditto for toilet paper, paper towels and bread.  I need dark chocolate and good balsamic vinegar in my pantry at all times.  She needs baby carrots and multi-grain chips and salsa.

The funniest thing about looking at our two different carts and cracking up is that the biggest, most obvious difference between us is that I cook almost every night and she doesn’t.  Her priority when shopping is to get the things for in between her children’s meals since a lot of nights they order in or go out and lunch is taken care of at school.  My priority is to fill up on staples and fill in on the fresh stuff so I don’t have to run to the market every day.  I’m looking at three meals a day, she’s usually only looking at one; and that’s breakfast.   But none of this had ever occurred to me until that day.

It’s a strange thing grocery shopping with a friend.  Unlike clothes shopping where you are helping each other out or asking opinions food shopping is very utilitarian and at the same time way more revealing.  So next time a girlfriend is going food shopping make it a date and I bet you’ll learn more about your friend and her family than you ever realized before.  (And if she’s one of those people who can buy bags of potato chips or giant boxes of Oreos and not eat them herself you may want to reconsider your friendship)

This post originally appeared on nycmomsblog

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Is A Blog the Sweetest Form of Revenge?

Over on NYCmoms today I’m talking about whether or not a blog is the place to get even or at least get angry at people in my life.  Personally I think I’m too afraid of offending people I know than actually being honest when it comes to issues with family and friends, and it turns out even casual friends.  I don’t review products that I don’t like either rather than write something mean about them.  Politicians and the like are fair game but the people in my circle, however distant they may be from its center, are basically off my slambook radar.

I remember a writing teacher in college who told me that Eugene O’Neill sealed his autobiographical play Long Day’s Journey Into Night in an envelope for his publisher and that it wasn’t to be produced until 25 years after his death because he couldn’t bear to have anyone related or close to him see it.  While it didn’t quite work out that way, I understand that push-pull between wanting to write your story and yet respect the characters involved in the truth.  Then there’s Truman Capote who went the other way and betrayed all of his friends when he wrote a sordid short story revealing and trashing his best friends’ marriage.  He would have loved blogging no doubt.

So, there it is – the eternal personal blogger’s  or “generalist’s” conundrum:  What is personal and what is private and where do the two meet?  Read the original nycmoms post that started the debate

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NYC Moms: The Seven-Year Redecorating Itch

When we moved into our apartment seven and half years ago it was in “estate condition.”  This is New York Real Estate lingo for absolute disaster.  It was a sponsor apartment meaning even though the building had gone Co-Op in the 1980s some tenants remained renters and the landlord just waited until they died or moved until he could sell the apartment.  So in we walked to an apartment with 80 years of lead paint, linoleum layers upon linoleum layers, fake wood paneling and a kitchen and bathroom that hadn’t been touched (or cleaned) in about 30 years.  We were young, had twin 4 month old babies, and knew that this was the best apartment we could afford – and that we even lucked into – this being Manhattan and all.  So we put in our Ikea kitchen, a new bathroom and the best floor refinishing and paint job we could afford after spending most of our savings on a down payment.

Now we’re seven years in and everything is falling apart.  The microwave – kaput.  The dishwasher sounds like a motorboat.  Our fridge broke down in the heat of July.  The dimmer switches stopped dimming, the floor boards creak and moan, the paint is chipping and cracking despite our contractor swearing that he skim-coated the walls, and most of all we’re still looking at furniture that we swore would be temporary when we moved in with infants but now has become unwelcome permanent members of the house.  Luckily I won a consultation with an amazing interior designer at our school’s auction and called her up hoping that she would come over and whip up floorplans and furniture ideas that would be both shockingly low in price and amazingly cool in concept.

Well, it didn’t go exactly like that.

Instead she walked in and I could almost see the sadness in her eyes.  This was not going to be as simple as flipping the couch and bookcases to opposite ends of the room.  No, she regretfully informed me our apartment needed a serious facelift.  A Joan Rivers style suck it in, pull it up, and reconfigure it makeover starting with a massive stripping of all the prewar woodwork (and the 90 years worth of paint), a new wood floor and a true skim coating of the walls.  No new furniture or lighting fixtures, or anything really until the underlayers and bones were put back into perfect shape.  Why spend money on Chanel if you’re going to forget the Spanx underneath that makes it all look good?

And I agree.  But, of course our entire redecorating budget disappears in a puff of lead dust once it becomes a renovation budget.  There’s the part of me that’s angry that our contractors didn’t do it right the first time.  The part of me that wishes we knew what the hell we were doing when we bought our first apartment and a huge fixer upper at the same time.  And the part of me that thinks we won’t be in this apartment for more than a couple of more years so who cares (but knows deep inside that that is what we thought over seven years ago when we bought it and yet here we are.)  I often think of what Oprah says on those Nate Berkus redo shows where he swoops in and works his magic – that a home should rise up to greet you when you walk in the door.  I feel like my home is sitting in its underwear with its hands down its pants, nursing a six pack and flipping the remote, barely registering my existence when I walk in the door.  And really, no one needs to see that.

This post originally appeared on nycmomsblog

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My Seven-Year Old Does Not Need a Bra, Thank You Very Much

My daughters hate labels.  I don’t mean they hate the “name” brands, I mean they actually hate the fabric labels inside of clothes.  They tend to itch and rub.  They also hate seams, appliqués and embroidery that can be felt on the inside.  In other words, I have to touch everything I buy for them from the inside out.  They inherited this from me no doubt since I have an aversion to all stiff and rough material and have the kind of skin that is easily irritated.  So now that my daughters have gone through yet another growth spurt I found myself heading out to replenish all the basics in their wardrobe with the simple requirement in my mind – no secret agitators allowed.

At first this directive seems simple enough: avoid the graphic laden clothing, stay away from shirring and smocking and hard sewn on images.  But while shopping in Old Navy I encountered something even more insidious, something I never expected in the little girls section – a shelf bra.  I picked up a cute little tank top and there it was, a slab of extra material with a strip of elastic across the ribcage.  All I could think was why?  Why on earth would a seven year old (or 5 or 6 year old since those had them too) need a shelf bra?

This new inclusion of a shelf bra wasn’t just confined to Old Navy.  I found the same thing at Justice clothing store.  Who are these people deciding that our little girls need something like this?  I could understand a lining on something white or pale pink that’s not made of the best fabric, but a shelf bra?  Just this week a British retailer pulled padded bikinis aimed at 7-year-old girls.  They were accused of promoting sexualization of children, but they defended the padding as saying it provided more modesty.  This of course is just ridiculous.

I don’t know if a shelf bra in a little girl’s tank top deserves the same kind of outrage as a blatantly padded bikini, but it seems to stem from the same inclination of a fashion industry that pushes tush-baring low riders and shelf bras for kindergarteners.  I thought all I had to do was look out for clothing that would rub my daughters’ skin the wrong way – instead I found clothes that rubbed me the wrong way for a whole different reason.  So, no I won’t buy the teenage clothes shrunk down to little kid size and buy into the aging up of little girls.  What’s next?  Thongs for six year-olds?  Oh yeah, they already tried that too

This post originally appeared at nycmomsblog

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First Sign of Spring – Vomit!

The trees are budding, the robins are returning and the hats and gloves have come off.  But, that is not how I know it’s spring.  How do I know the weather has turned for the better?  I spent all day Sunday throwing up!  When I picked up my daughters from school two days ago a little girl was heaving up her lunch on the sidewalk.  Three of my friends’ kids have now spent their requisite 24 hours unable to keep anything down.  Ah yes, spring has sprung.

After spending an entire fall and winter in a flurry of Swine flu vaccinations and hand sanitizer pumping I forgot about the dreaded stomach bug that wafts into New York City on the first stirring of warm air.  Why?  I’m sure there is some scientific reason for the change over from respiratory to gastrointestinal viruses but I don’t think it matters.  All I know is that now that I’ve been a parent for almost 8 years this spring stomach bug is a more clear indicator of the change in seasons than the groundhog.

So, I’ll be enjoying the daffodils as they start to peek out from under the slushy dirt and walking back and forth to school in the warm sunshine.  But, make no mistake the “throw-up” bowl is coming out from underneath the sink cabinet where it’s been stored all winter.  And I’ll probably shove a few paper towels in my purse just in case.  After all, I can never remember from one year to the next if Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, but I will never forget that time my daughter threw up Oreos and blueberries at 3 am.   It was the unfortunate end to a glorious spring day.

This post originally appeared at nycmomsblog

I am one of THOSE PTA moms – and Proud of It!

In the last few months I’ve read several blog posts railing against the PTA moms at various schools.  The complaints are usually the same – they’re overbearing and pushy, busy bodies trying to vie for the principal or teacher’s attention, do-gooders who get off on making the rest of the parents feel bad.  Yeah, yeah.  I get it.  At my very first Parents’ Association (PA) meeting at my daughter’s private preschool I actually raised my hand and told the PA President that I thought she was condescending and wrong when she made a derisive comment about how no one gave enough to the school and not to count on scholarship parents for anything.  That led to quite the nasty back and forth, and needless to say confirmed all my worst fears about those kinds of groups – and let’s be honest, those kinds of moms. Continue reading

You Call This a Playdate?

Here’s the thing about the word playdate, sometimes the “play” part goes well, and sometimes, well, it just feels like a date.  An awkward, stressful, when-will-this-afternoon end date.  In the toddler years it’s usually a double date with the stranger mom or nanny in tow and then you have to make conversation, which in New York City usually centers around the awful school process, the teachers at your current school, or the kid who still isn’t potty trained or picks his nose and wipes it on other kids.

Thankfully, my daughters are almost eight years old so we are now in the drop off playdate stage.  These playdates have their own set of expectations.  I used to know what these rules were – give a snack to stave off any hunger related meltdowns, keep the playdate to an hour and a half maximum, and basically leave the girls alone with a bin full of Polly Pockets.  But, this year something changed.  This year everyone got a Wii.  And somehow, I have no idea when, the Wii went from a playdate taboo to a playdate must.

I was against the Wii as a playdate toy on principle.  Exactly what that principle was I’m not sure, but I did think that screen time is not interactive together time and isn’t that the point of a playdate?  Especially for my daughters who are identical twins, creating these one on one playdates with friends individually was something that I thought was really important.  How could playing on the Wii compete with the friendship creativity that arises from playing with their American Girl dolls and stuffed animals?  But then the inevitable happened.  We had a playdate with a girl who didn’t want to play anything.  She wasn’t shy, she just wasn’t interested in doing anything and it was making my daughter crazy trying to please and entice her into a game – any game!

Then this girl noticed the Wii sitting there on the floor winking its little yellow light at her.  At that point it was either the Wii or calling her babysitter to pick her up early.  So I struck a deal with my daughter, she could play the Wii but only if they did something active and together.  We plugged in the two Disney Dance, Dance Revolution Mats and they had the time of their lives dancing together.  And when my daughter let her friend create her own Mii at our house her friend exploded with happiness.  She couldn’t believe we would have a virtual version of her living forever on our TV.  Seriously, this was the tech  equivalent of giving someone one half of a “BFF” necklace, and it had the added bonus of implicitly saying, yes, you will come over again.

After that playdate I have allowed the Wii as long as the other parent approves too.  We’ve worked out new rules now for these playdates – they can’t be all Wii, they have to be active, and everyone has to be able to play.  And I’ve come to realize that playdates have to evolve, not just because my daughters are older but because the toys at their disposal have grown up too.  Although my poor downstairs neighbors would probably much rather my daughters and their friends stuck to playing with the dollhouse instead of dance, dance, dancing on their heads.

This post originally appeared on nycmomsblog