the dress shirt debacle

It's been a big deal week for Steve. His boss' boss, the Sales Director for North America, is in town checking things out. I don't know about you, but if I were Steve there would have been multiple episodes of stress dry heaving happening. In anticipation of his visit, I suggested Steve bring some of his stuff to the dry cleaners. Nothing like clean and freshly pressed to give you an extra kick of confidence right? Allow me to also mention that the guy coming is about as formal as you can be, with man accessories to boot. We will just call him extremely polished. Steve is a jeans and t-shirt guy who happens to wear a suit to work everyday. He takes care to look appropriate, but his boss clearly takes presentation to the next level and then two more levels after that.

He dropped some shirts off on Saturday and went to pick them up Monday afternoon. His boss would be coming in Tuesday and Steve had to look his VERY best Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Fancy lunches, cocktail hour with his team, an amazing dinner, and a 24/7 grilling by the visitor. The dry cleaner did not have his shirts. In fact, they had no record of them being received period.

I'll let that sink in.

I went into panic mode. He could make something work for Tuesday, but it was less than ideal. I went into damage control mode. He asked me to grab him something new at Kohl's. I briefly considered this, but then realized he was going to be out at dinner until after bedtime and I wasn't exactly in the mood to iron a new shirt on top of all my other single parenting duties. I had seen in my inbox that the Anniversary Sale was happening at Nordstrom and I dashed over there at the end of my workday. I found an amazing lilac shirt, deeply discounted, and a phenomenal tie to go with his navy suit. The salepeople snapped into action; launching a search and rescue mission to find his size in the back, then arguing amongst themeselves about which tie would be best, ripping open the packaging and ushering the shirt upstairs to alterations to be professionally pressed at no extra fee. I felt VERY taken care of and when I walked out of the store, I thought I had just saved the world. I hung it up in his closet and gave myself a high five.

Later that night as I sat typing away finishing the work I had put off to make my Nordstrom detour, Steve walked downstairs and told me, "it's a beautiful shirt, but it's the wrong size."

I had asked for the correct size, I had typed it into Notes on my phone and showed it to the salesguy before he started his mission. I never touched the shirt as it was ushered around the ties looking for the perfect match. I was disappointed that I had not in fact, saved the day. I was very hard on myself. I couldn't sleep I was so upset. This shirt had caused major chaos in my day.

Thankfully, this happened that night too. This is after three weeks of swim lessons at camp. Our non-swimmer now swims under water and fetches things from the bottom of the pool.

I made time in my schedule to return to Nordstrom the following day to exchange his shirt for the correct size. I thanked them profusely for going above and beyond to help me, but told them how disappointed I was when it turned out to be the incorrect size. I had not in fact saved the day. They took care of it immediately, got him the correct size. He is wearing it today actually, his boss' last day in Boston.

He actually shared the story with his boss, who I think found some humor in it. For a guy like him, the cleaner losing your stuff is his worst nightmare. Good news is the cleaner found his shirts and he picked them up yesterday. I'm hoping his new shirt puts a little spring in his step today, a boost of confidence, and a funny way to conclude the dry cleaning disaster story with his superiors.


I gave Steve the best night of his life last night. I'm sure he will be thanking me for weeks, smiling at me across the room, bringing me dark chocolate sea salt caramels.

I let him sleep with the air conditioner on.

The Thermostat War rages all year round in our house. In the cold of winter, I sneak it up a couple degrees after I have already put on an additional layer and pulled on my mittens. I relish in the warmth of a 68 degree house when I can steal it away. I saunter back to the thermostat after we've gone to bed to click his 64 to 65. I add blankets to the kids' beds, pull on socks to sleep, and sigh loudly and defiantly because THE COLD.

When spring hits, the War takes a momentary pause and we open the windows, enjoying the fresh air. We eat dinners on the porch, we spend a few nights watching television out there with wine, me under a blanket. Sometime between April and May the first heat hits and my opened windows are no longer welcome and Steve starts getting itchy to hoist the air conditioners upstairs. I fight this as long as I possibly can, mostly because we have an enormous unit that stays in the dining room window year round. That one unit cools most of the house and I am usually able to push him off until mid May or June. Once the 90 degree days start, all hope is lost and he will spend a morning placing units in windows. The War rages on.

Our home enters a dark time between June and September. I keep the curtains drawn to keep the heat out, the bedroom doors close and the cool air gushes in behind them, whirring away from the time we get home until we tuck the kids into bed one last time.

I spend much of my evening searching for my snuggi to escape the fan Steve turns on the moment he sits down in the family room. He claims I cannot feel it, but c'mon, we all know that isn't true. I sigh. He tells me to turn it off, but I don't, because no one wins this fight. If I'm warm enough, he's hot. If I'm too cold, he's comfortable.

This War has been raging a long time. Last night, with a cease fire agreement to leave the air conditioner on all night, I tucked myself under three layers of covers and turned away from the window hoping the blowing wind would keep away. A girl showed up in our room at 3:55 AM because "something beeped in her room." Steve put her back to bed, checked on the little man sleeping his second night in his "transitional" toddler bed, and promptly went back to sleep. I struggled desperately to get back to sleep, feeling the cool breeze, the loud whirring, and ended up cocooned into the blankets, with the comforter blocking my face from the offending air. While I lay there struggling to sleep, I realized this is a new battle in the War.

The last time we lived with air conditioners (before last summer, our first in this house), was our tiny little one bedroom apartment in Brighton. There I slept with the air conditioner approximately 6 inches from my face and it was a hot summer and all, but I hate sleeping with it on. I don't sleep well, I wake up frozen, I don't like it one bit. When we moved to Natick we were introduced to central air. The War was still on, but the air conditioner battle went away and as long as we could reach some sort of compromise it went largely unnoticed, though I still spent a great deal of time under a blanket. Fairfield, Stratford, a summer at Kiki and Papa's while we relocated. Air, Air, Air. This battle with the all night air conditioner is new and I dislike it immensely.

I imagine that in 40+ years as we approach our 50th anniversary, we will still be arguing about the thermostat. No one wins. I think that would be my advice to new couples. Never suffer in silence, compromise where you can, and every once in awhile give him a night he will never forget.

mommy's boy

Steve and I tried your wonderful suggestion to initiate a Daddy and Connor only activity this weekend. It seemed simple enough; a Tag Sale run on the way to pick up breakfast for the fam. We got through it, and I use that term loosely, it didn't go nearly as well as we hoped. Per Steve, he spent most of the time Caroline and I were gone clutching his sippy cup, his monkey lovey, telling Steve over and over again that he wanted Mommy. Deep Sigh. It's a start.

I've thought about it a lot and with the two of them at home, there is less of us to go around. What I mean is, there is less time I can give to talking the kid screaming for me off his ledge. It has just been easier to pick him up, put him on my hip, sit him beside me on the counter. Well played, ConCon, well played. You may have safely secured your spot as "baby" in McCasa. I blame myself for part of this mommy obsession, so I am taking a very active role in correcting it.

It's simple operant conditioning right? Squawk and get picked up. Scream for Mommy and she relents. Why would he think it should be any different? It will take some time to fix, but we have already gotten him to a point where he looks at us after his shower and declares that Mommy will put on his pj bottoms and Daddy will take care of the top. That's a win, albeit a small one, but a win nonetheless.

It will happen and boy, I'd be lying if I told you that there wasn't a piece of me that enjoys being his special grown up. We have a deep and special bond right now that I will miss when it morphs into something else in a year or two. Still, when your boy walks around telling you he is "mommy's boy," you have to cock your head to the side and say, hmmmmm? Is that okay? This is a time in his life I will have to hold close, knowing that each step away from his mommycentric ways is a step toward healthy and appropriate independence.

Peril and pitfalls in life as the preferred parent

Connor is mama's boy, there is absolutely no denying that. He is my little snuggler, who rolls over in bed next to me after we read Harold, and fits himself perfectly against me, just enjoying the quiet peace of that moment. Perhaps that is leftover from that horrific terrible first year when we spent too many nights like that to count? I often wonder, did I do something to cause this clear preference for Mommy? If I had worked part time like I did with Caroline, would he feel more secure in our relationship? Is this lingering from our new routine wherein mommy is the dropper and picker upper? It does seem to have gotten worse since April, but maybe not?

In connor's daily life he gets up and wants only me to retrieve him from his crib. He will then only allow mommy to get him dressed. He has taken to being mommy's shadow to the point that I am tripping over him putting cereal on the table and pouring milk. I somehow detach him from my shoulder at school, until I pick him up and he is requesting that I stop the car to hug him.

How sweet you say?

When we do finally get home, he is often briefly distracted by a rake in the garage, but only briefly. He wants to be beside me while I cook, wants to stir whatever is in the bowl on the counter, stands beside me while I change out of my work clothes. Caroline relocates his chair to her side of the table occasionally and when she does this he pushes steve out of his spot, demanding that mommy sit there.

Yeah, see there is another parent here who has to deal with NOT being the parent of choice. He has to deal with him screaming for me from the family room while I do something upstairs, or hold him at the shore while I bring Caroline out into the surf, or while I go for a quick run. He screams holy hell until I return and while it feels good to know I am so meaningful to him, damn boy, give us a break. Allow me to run without running against the clock of steve's patience. Allow me to come inside from watering all the plants each night without feeling like I have abandoned him for a week with the kid who cannot be satisfied if you are not momma.

I resent that he cannot just cope for a minute and get through it. Steve resents that he cannot take my place, that Connor does not value him the same way. You know who also gets the shaft? Caroline. She never gets to sit next to me in a restaurant by herself. It often ends up being steve on one side of the booth and the kids and I on the other. She never gets to sit with me, snuggled up together, without someone trying to push his way between us.

I worry it will damage our mother daughter relationship. I worry that if we don't work harder at this that it will not ever improve. I keep telling myself that he will snap out if it someday soon, realizing that mommy cannot pitch to him the way daddy can. That day is just not coming today and I know I need to do something to change this. We try not to indulge him, to force him to accept daddy, but that only makes it worse. We compromise, "mommy will put on your pj top, daddy will put on your bottoms." Even Caroline hisses at him, "it can't always be mommy!" I know his reliance on me is hurting her. I know how frustrating it is for steve to try to fill this role he will not allow. When I come downstairs or back from a run or finally swim to shore and he tells me that "your son has been crying to 20 minutes straight," I cringe. It is just as perilous being on this side, but I know that is hard to see.

I know this is common for his age, but we need some improvement here. Any suggestions?

of pains and inspiration

I posted on Facebook over the holiday that I had tried stand up paddle boarding. All summer we've been watching people paddle by, looking casual and ripped. I say outloud each and every time, "that just looks like fun and it must be such a workout!" I heard about a local surf shop that rented boards by the day, so I booked one for the holiday. I picked it up on the 3rd on my way back to the beach, took only right turns because I had declined the roof rack tie down (dumb!), and triumphantly headed down the steps to try this thing out. Each time I attempted to stand I fell in, it was like log rolling only worse, and when my father in law wonderfully came over to steady it for me, it made no difference. Splash, splash, splash. We watched an experienced windsurfer neighbor attempt it and when he had some difficulty, I was feeling a little better. I vowed to try again in the morning.

Morning came and brought with it showers. The forecast looked pretty rough, so I pulled on my suit and headed down again into the waves, alone, this time wearing a life jacket. The current took me out far, way beyond my comfort zone. I paddled around on my knees, steadying myself and my nerves, willing my body to STAND UP, but I couldn't. I was paralyzed out there, surrounded by deep water, in the rain and I worried as only someone my age could about the possibilities of falling, hitting my head, being out so far, not having a buddy with me. I was out there for about an hour, but I never worked up my nerve, not even once, to try to stand up on my stand up paddle board.

Wrapped in a towel back at the house, we surveyed the beach opening up the way and saw that the planned beach races for kids were being set up. The rain had stopped, the sun was coming out. The kids got dressed in two minutes flat and we were dashing off to the starting line, taking a few practice runs across the course. The five and under girls were first and Caroline lined up. Each year since she learned to walk we have brought her down for the races and each year she has either refused to run or run with tears streaming down her face. We weren't expecting anything different this year, but when the man holding the bull horn yelled "GO!" that girl took off. I could barely believe it, running right at me, SMILING. No one was more astonished than her when the judge came over and handed her 75 cents for WINNING. The girl who refused to run had won the race. Could two weeks at camp really change a girl this much? Caroline could not wait to tell everyone at the house about her win and show them her prize. "What should I do with it Mommy?" "What do you think? Buy real estate? Make a gutsy investment?"

She had overcome and I was now inspired and even more determined.

I walked that paddle board back down the beach, zipped up my life vest, paddled out, and stood up all in the same breath, or at least it felt that way. I didn't fall once the rest of the day, not once. It was just as much fun as I had imagined and the work out, yeah, I cannot walk down steps or sit down in a chair without wincing. Balancing on moving water in a half squat for over an hour will do that to you. You want a ripped body? Get yourself on a stand up paddle board. Don't think you can do it? Just think of Caroline, the fastest girl five and under.