The Princess Pandemic

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Recently I got involved in a conversation with a group of moms at our neighborhood pool about a horrible epidemic that’s invading our preschools and playgroups that should be avoided at all costs. I call it the “Princess Pandemic,” and to a lot of moms, it’s worse than an outbreak of head lice at a daycare center.

The topic came up after one of us brought a magazine with Kate Middleton on the cover to a pool play date (it totally wasn’t me – ok, yes it was – I was dying to find out who made those adorbs tangerine skinny jeans she had on!!!). It then evolved into a princess-bashing, feminist jamboree.

Our chat went something like this…

PC Pool Mama: “I’m so sick of seeing her on the cover of magazines. It is so wrong to teach our daughters that they should aspire to be princesses.”

Me (deciding not to go there when I realized the gals from Teen Mom were on the cover of the magazine she’d brought with): “Why? I think Kate has mad style and seems nice enough.”

PC Pool Mama #2: “It’s so unrealistic, and it’s sending the wrong message. I plan to encourage my daughter to be an architect or an engineer.”

Me (only half joking): “What if she doesn’t want to be an architect or an engineer? What if she hits 25 and genuinely wants to be a princess?”

We all had a chuckle, changed the subject, and I forgot all about the Princess Pandemic until it came up again a few days later when I overhead a conversation between two other mamas in the park  (well, it was more like me eavesdropping, but still):

PC Park Mama: “Did you see what Dave’s mom said about the baby on Facebook? She called her a princess!”

There was that word again. Princess.

PC Park Mama’s friend: “Ohmygod, that is so backward. Well, at least she didn’t call her a cutie pie like my husband’s boss did. So condescending!”

Condescending? Complementing a child’s looks is off limits too? As I eavesdropped on the two Femimamas, I quickly made a mental list of the words I typically use to pay respects to other people’s kids. Words like “doll,” “cutie,” “adorable,” etc., all came to mind.

Then, I checked back on some of my recent Facebook comments:

“What a doll!”
“He could be a model!”
“Your girls are gorgeous!”

Oh, shit. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

Have I been offending my friends all this time when I really just wanted to tell them their kid was pleasing to my eyes?

I took stock further: There was The Bear’s pink, princess-themed first birthday party (complete with crown), and the pink tulle tutu I got her for Christmas.  The fact that I propped her up on the couch to “watch” the royal wedding with me when she was only two months old.

The Femimamas would’ve fainted at all the Princessy-ness… or burned me at the stake. I started to fret: should I have thrown The Bear a Gertrude Stein-themed party instead? How many people are mad at me for calling their kid “cute?” Has being a stay-at-home mom made me a softy?

Back when I was a little girl, I remember Barbie’s girl-power fueled anthem cheered, “We girls can do anything!” It was so cool to me that Barbie could be an equestrian one day and a fry-girl at McDonald’s the next! Today, Barbie’s unrealistic body measurements and permanently arched high-heel-ready feet are symbols of what girls shouldn’t—or, physically can’t—aspire to be. I played with Barbies until I was 14 and I turned out… just fine… Right??

My mini freak-out lasted about 30 seconds until I shook off the self-doubt and gave myself a reality check. I consider myself a feminist and stand up for my ladyrights when I think they’re being infringed upon. I worked my ass off to succeed in a male-dominated industry and I’m proud that I can hold my own in a roomful of male executives with Ivy League pedigrees.

I want those same things for my daughter (that is, if that’s what she wants). A plastic princess crown and a love for Kate Middleton’s orange skinny jeans isn’t going to change that, ever.

The way I see it, everyone should aspire to his or her own version of greatness… there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be a princess, or at least aspiring to be treated like one. That doesn’t make you any less of a badass, ladies. It might make you a little more relaxed, though.

Oh, and to you Super Femimamas: Rock on, sisters. But if you’re seeking compliments on your kids’ intellect and not their looks, stop posting pictures of those adorable cutie pie baby dolls on Facebook 😉

Off to my princess tea party!

xoxo

Erin

Don’t Ring My Doorbell: I’m Afraid of You.

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So, I have a confession to make: I am utterly terrified of people coming to my front door. I literally just hid, crouching on the floor in my kitchen for 10 minutes, to avoid whoever rang my doorbell at noon on a weekday. It’s just the latest quirk on my growing list of rookie suburbanite neuroses.

Maybe it’s that I used to produce crime shows for a living and I’m a little spooked about home invasions, angry former interviewees, murderers posing as book salesmen or jealous exes (hello… remember Amy Fisher?!). Or, it might be that I just got a little too used to city living in an apartment building with video entry and I’m lazy.

But maybe it’s something deeper. Would I rather they email or text me first? Does this speak to larger deep-seated issues I might have about face-to-face contact in today’s text-email-Facebook-Twitter dominated landscape?

Nah. I love me some face-to-face action.

My fear of uninvited doorbell ringers stems mostly from the fact that Bruce Willis (our dog, not the actor, but maybe he’d go nuts too) goes ape whenever anyone rings the bell. This usually ignites a chain reaction that involves The Bear either waking up early from a nap and/or freaking out and chasing the dog, resulting in me chasing both of them, tripping, bruising something, and finally, once I’ve corralled both of them, angrily answering the door with an irate “WHAT,” only to discover that the person has left. So, I’ve just stopped answering altogether.

I’m shocked (and, clearly, dismayed) by the amount of unexpected people that ring our doorbell on a daily basis. At least once a day, and it’s never anyone I know. Sometimes it’s a neighborhood kid asking for a donation for his sports team (we usually oblige), but more often than not it’s the paid employee of a company asking—nay, telling—me to buy something.  So far no murderers, but then again, I only open the door one out of five times (usually when they’ve seen me in the window and I have no choice). I’m pretty positive those four unanswered doorbells saved all our lives.

My doorbell fear goes both ways, too. Two winters ago, when my brother-in-law was running for Alderman in Chicago, my husband recruited me to go door-to-door with him on a cold day to get signatures on a petition to get my BIL on the ballot… I suspect it was because I was 7 months pregnant, and the sight of a chubby, huffing, puffing, Preggo with a clipboard, pen and a smile would be disarming. I was terrified then, too. What if we caught someone on a bad day, and they came to the door with a baseball bat or a shotgun? Or, god forbid, what if they (gasp) yelled at us for bothering them?

In the end, it worked out pretty well… most of the people either happily signed or politely declined. There were a few Grumpies, but no baseball bats. [Also, I made sure to look extra pregnant and winded when they looked through their windows before opening. I think that was the trick. My BIL is a pretty stand up guy, too :)]

My husband had a hearty chortle last week when I told him I wanted to post a “No Soliciters” sign on our front gate. “Only you would be afraid of little kids coming to the door asking for money,” he laughed. Have I transformed into one of those hypothetical angry people I was afraid of encountering back on that blustery door-to-door day in Chicago? Sounds like it, huh?

Because I’m not really the unfriendly weirdo I seem like from my story above, I’ve decided to create my own sign for our front gate, to help clarify my neuroses:

Murderers: Keep out (obviously).

Salesmen: Leave me alone; our spare cash goes to The Bear.

Kids asking for money: Only when it’s not nap time.

Girl Scouts selling cookies: What the hell took you so long? Get in here, kid!

I’ll keep working on my front door phobia, but until then, Friends, if you’re planning to drop by for a visit, call me first. Otherwise you’ll know where to find me when you have to crawl in through the window because I don’t answer: under my dining room table.

Have a great night, Friends!

Oh, and thanks to everyone who’s started following me on Twitter (@eluda, @MommyTestDrive)! It makes me feel so loved! Post your Twitter name here and I promise I’ll return the favor!

xoxo
Erin

Where’s the party… and my credit card?

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Happy Monday morning, friends!

Hope everyone had a relaxing weekend. Unfortunately, B had to work all weekend, so The Bear and I were on our own for most of it, but we did have a fun visit Saturday with good friends who just moved to LA from Indianapolis. It’s always great spending time with old friends.

So, here’s one of many things I’ve learned from six months of living in the suburbs: ‘Burb ladies love throwing parties where their guests can buy something. Chances are, if you creep through a gated community on a weeknight in my town, you’ll find a chatty group of thirtysomethings drinking Shiraz and trying on dangly earrings or smearing on lip gloss with a Q-tip while an attentive hostess fills their glasses and touts the wonders of this incredible, not-available-in-stores product. Be it makeup, baby clothes, adult clothes, wine, candles, purses, sunglasses, jewelry, even essential oils, the options are numerous and sundry.

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When I was invited to my first product party, it was a couple of weeks after we moved here. I was desperately seeking lady friends and time outside the house sans The Bear, but thrown into a bit of a tizzy by the invitation.

Questions began circling my head: If I went, did it mean I’d be obliged to buy something? If I did buy something, would I then be talked into selling the product too? If I said yes, could I make money doing it, or would I have to invest lots of cash into my new business, then be forced to explain to my husband when I got home that I drained our savings account so that my new friends wouldn’t be mad at me? What about if I didn’t buy something? Would I be shunned by all the partygoers and promptly ousted from my new spot in their social circle? The unanswered questions (though clearly neurotic and ridiculous) were too numerous: I turned down the invitation and stayed home to watch re-runs of True Blood.

Weeks turned into months, and with new friends came more turned-down product party invitations… but there were also conversations that went like this:

Me: “Hey, where did you get those adorable bracelets?”

Friend 1: “Oh, I went to an XYZ party last week. I thought I’d just go to get a night away from the kids, but the jewelry was actually pretty cute, so I bought some.”

Or…

Me: “What’d you do last night?”

Friend 2: “Rosemary threw a party where you could buy skincare products. They smelled weird so I just hung out and drank wine.”

Or even…

Me: “So how did you girls meet?”

Them: “At a purse party. We really hit it off because we both like clutches.”

Hmm….

There was absolutely no talk of being tied down and forced to write checks… or of being tricked into investing your savings into a line of scented candles. Could it be that my city girl sensibility of being suspicious of everyone and everything was preventing me from actually having fun and meeting people in my new suburban environment? I hated to admit it, but it was probably true…

Last week I decided to meet up with a work-at-home mom friend of mine who sells essential oils. She occasionally hosts classes where attendees can buy them, but—you guessed it—I’ve never made it to one. I get migraines and was hoping she could help me treat them without having to rely so heavily on my usual cocktail of Excedrin, Gatorade and a nap (impossible with a toddler), so I gave her a call.

After an hour of chatting about the company she works for, and sampling some of her deliciously scented wares, I cautiously settled on a couple of oil blends (reviews to come) and promised to try more when I was ready. “I’m not ready to invest too much in this…” I started. I flinched, waiting for her to push back and try to convince me that it was smarter to buy the whole kit. Amazingly, she didn’t. She even pointed out a few money saving tips as I picked my way through her catalog. She just wanted me to feel better…and I did, immediately. But it had nothing to do with my migraines; I was so refreshed by the ease of the whole experience that I vowed right then and there to accept my next product party invitation.

The moral of my little suburban tale is this: before you make assumptions about something you’ve never done before, stop acting like a neurotic shut-in like I did and give it a try. No one will force your hand, you might actually find a product you love (or in my case, need) and maybe, just maybe…you might make a new friend (cue rainbows and unicorns). Am I being naïve? Jaded City Erin says maybe… but sassy suburban Mommy Erin says, “Free wine? Where’s the party?”

To get you (and me) started on your new adventure, I’ve put together a little guide for any other suspicious newbies out there looking to navigate their local product party circuit and maybe even hoping to start their own work-from-home business:

Mary Kay: The grandmama of all direct buy companies, MK has been around since 1963. I can remember going to a Mary Kay party when I was in college, and looking a little garish afterward, thanks to the orange-y lipstick I tried on, but I know moms today that absolutely swear by MK’s night cream as a miracle cure for diaper rash! Who knew?!? Consultants for Mary Kay make up to 50% of every sale they make, a percentage of their recruit’s sales, and there’s the famous pink car—consultants can “win” it after they hit certain lofty sales goals. Parties are an opportunity to try on makeup and skin care products after the consultant gives you a spiel on what’s new.

Imagelia sophia A direct-buy jewelry company that has been in business for 30 years. A family-run company, feminist ideals, lifetime replacement guarantee, and huge variety. Consultants keep 30% of their sales and party hostesses get “paid” in product discounts and free jewelry. Their prices seem a little hefty to me, though. Despite the “lifetime replacement guarantee,” $98 seems like a lot to spend on a set of faux gold bracelets I could probably get for $8 at Charming Charlie. But, as a costume jewelry addict, I could be convinced to spend at one of these parties.

CAbi: An abbreviation of Carol Anderson by Invitation (she’s the designer), CAbi is a women’s clothing company that bills itself as the “ultimate personal shopping experience.” Their colorful (ok, very colorful) sportswear is designed to mix and match, helping women max out their clothing options. Parties are like miniature fashion shows, with a CAbi consultant introducing the line and helping attendees try on clothes to show their friends as they nibble on food and have cocktails. CAbi has a user-friendly website that helps its clients accessorize their CAbi designs, plus a blog with recipes, fashion tips, etc. CAbi lists their consultants’ median income at around 20K for 2011.

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Pampered Chef is geared toward all things kitchen, from gadgets to cookbooks to cutlery. Pampered chef parties are designed to feel like you’re inside a Food Network cooking demonstration, with the recipes geared toward showcasing PC’s featured products. Anything with food sounds attractive to me, so I’d be excited to attend one of these. PC hostesses get free products, hefty discounts on products and free shipping on anything they buy. Consultants make anywhere from 20-25% commission on sales and get perks like vacations and jewelry when they hit certain sales goals.

Miche (pronounced mee-she) is a newcomer to direct buy products compared to the others on this list, but is gaining popularity due to its unique design features. Miche bags have interchangeable “shells” that can quickly be swapped to match your shoes without having to dump and transfer the contents inside. It’s a cool idea, and the prices are pretty great (around $20-$40 for the “base” bag and $15-$45 per shell), considering how many options you can create with one “base.” Consultants can make up to 35% commission on their sales, and party hostesses get discounts and freebies. Check out my friend Tiffany’s Miche page here. Tiff is hosting her big product launch party this week!

ImageWhen it comes to direct buy opportunities, my list is just a microscopic sampling—there are hundreds of these out there… maybe even thousands. Some ladies get involved strictly for the social aspects and freebies, but it sounds like you can actually make a pretty decent income if you become a sales consultant, which explains why so many stay-at-home moms are joining the ranks and becoming work-at-home moms (or “naptime entrepreneurs,” as my friend Claire likes to call it!). I’ll be sure to ask at my next party and update this post accordingly!

Oh, and to my beloved girls here in town who might be reading this today and thinking “pssh, I’m not inviting her to any more of my XYZ parties.” Please keep inviting me! I promise I’ll be there next time with a bottle of wine… and my wallet, just in case 😉

Happy partying, friends!

xoxo

Erin

In the words of Ice Cube…

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“Today was a good day.” –Ice Cube

It’s amazing how much my criteria have changed lately for what makes me consider a day “good.” For prolific rapper Ice Cube, back in the glorious ‘90’s, it was watching Yo! MTV Raps and not getting car-jacked on his way back from playing basketball with his homies (among some other things I probably shouldn’t go into on a g-rated mommy blog).

I’m sure if you asked Mr. O’Shea Jackson today to make an It Was A Good Day 2012 reprise, it would be vastly different and would include things like “got asked to do Are We There Yet 2,” or “polished my awards” or hung out with my wife and kids.”

Back in ’92, I would’ve told you that a good day entailed my hot rollers warming up in 10 minutes instead of 12 or hearing Informer on B-96 on my way in to school.

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Ten years ago, it was getting smiled at by the hot guy in my building or finding Seven jeans on sale at Macy’s. Three years ago it was making a sale at work so I could get a bonus, or not having to wait for the bus in subzero weather. Today it’s making it through the morning without getting scrambled eggs thrown at me.

In homage to good days and to my love of gangster rap in a former life (now it’s only Toddler Tunes, I promise), I have decided to grace you with a poem—set, of course, to Ice Cube’s It Was A Good Day—that showcases my very own good day criteria as it’s evolved over the past few decades.

MOMMY TEST DRIVE’S TRIBUTE TO GOOD DAYS

Just waking up in the morning and I’m feeling odd

I don’t know, but today seems sent from god

New J. Crew catalog, found my clogs

And my hubby fed the kid so I could write my blog

The Bear took a nap, had time to shower up

Finally got a call from a mom I met on Meetup

Hooked it up for later at the Gymboree

Thinking will I make it with my clothes stain-free?

I gotta go ‘cause we got a hot play date

Fill up my travel mug, and add a little Coffee Mate

Had to stop at a red light

Looking in my mirror not a tantrum in sight

And everything is alright

I got a text from my sitter and she can watch The Bear tonight

Parked in a loading zone, no ticket on my car

Said I ate fruit for lunch but really had a Snicker’s bar

Second nap, no problem, had time to primp

Bought myself a mug online that says, “this Mom’s a pimp!”

Got invited to a party where they sell you Mary Kay

I can’t believe, today was a good day

 

Keep on rockin’ those good days, my friends!

xoxo

Erin

Domestic Goddesses: I Salute You!

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I have a deep, dark, dirty secret I need to get off my chest. But first, let me tell you a little story…

When we moved into our three-bedroom rental house in January, I was excited to embark on exotic adventures as a suburban domestic goddess. It was all so new and uncharted to me. I couldn’t wait to actually drive to the grocery store and park in a real parking lot, to sweep leaves off my very own patio, to eat at the Olive Garden. But, more so, I was excited to play house: to welcome my husband home every night with a home-cooked dinner, a sparkling clean home that I’d spent the afternoon meticulously scrubbing and polishing, and our daughter fed, bathed and blissfully asleep. If I was going to be a stay-at-home mom, I was going to kick some serious domestic butt at it.

Poor, sweet, naïve me.

Some quick back story: despite growing up in a small Indiana town until college, my primary residences over the past decade and a half have been small, urban apartments with little to no maintenance required. Pre-baby and pre-California, I worked 60+ hours a week and usually just came home from work and ordered takeout with my husband while we watched TV. On weekends, we’d give the apartment a quick once-over, then go watch the Bears game with our buddies at a bar or something. With dual incomes and no kids, we could afford a cleaning lady every other week and we each did our own laundry.

That was easy-peasy. I was excited for a new challenge.

To launch Operation Domestic Goddess, I conducted some hefty research: looked up household cleaning tips on Pinterest, made a laundry schedule, Googled recipes for DIY toxin-free cleaners, made weekly grocery and errand lists and bought a Swiffer. A Swiffer! I was ready.

And then, I was sweaty.

Not only did I need a second shower on cleaning days (when is there time for a second shower, let alone a first?), more importantly, my kid was usually forced to sit inside all day while I scrubbed the toilets, mopped the floors and changed the sheets. And the house still wasn’t really that clean most of the time.

“How do domestic goddesses do it?” I wondered, as I slathered hand lotion on my scaly palms. Or, more pressingly, when? With my mother-in-law visiting later that week, I couldn’t leave the fate of my dirty house up to me. I decided to call in reinforcements.

So, here’s my big, nasty secret: two days later and full of shame and self-loathing, I “borrowed” my girlfriend’s cleaning ladies. While The Bear and I took the dog to the park and visited friends, the dynamic duo of Maura and Maria did everything from vacuum out our fireplace to remove the cobwebs that I thought were too high to reach so I’d just accepted them as décor. I hardly recognized the place when we returned home later that day.

I thought about not telling my husband, to let him think I’d done it all on my own, ala Celia Foote in The Help. But the second he walked in the door with a puzzled look on his face as he inhaled the sweet aroma of the toxin-free citrus vinegar spray I’d lovingly made (then abruptly given to the cleaning ladies and skedaddled out the door), I caved. I’ve never been a good liar.

B wasn’t mad that I’d spent a few extra bucks on the Washing Wonder Twins – quite the contrary, actually. He was proud of me for delegating and happy that I was in a good mood. He was also grateful that our shower was no longer scummy. Now, Maura and Maria come once a month to help with the “big” stuff (and of course, before all mother-in-law visits–not that mine would mind if the house is messy; she’s pretty great), and I continue to use my Household Cleaning Chart and homemade cleaning spray for what I can manage while The Bear naps—and in between blog posts 😉

In closing, I say hats off to you, super mamas (working and stay-at-home) who have multiple children and bigger houses than mine who do it all. Keeping your house clean, your bills paid, your marriage exciting, your sanity intact and your kids entertained—and, let’s face it – alive—is a mere mirage in the desert of domesticity.

Oh, and PS: if some of you aforementioned super mamas have clandestine cleaning ladies too, I promise: your secret’s safe with me.

With that finally off my chest, I’m going to leave my messy kitchen until later and take my daughter to the park.

Have a great week, everyone!
Erin