This Blog Is Awesome

Child free people are constantly bombarded with questions about when they will create their own genetic masterpieces and comments about how very wonderful children are and what amazing joy they bring to your life simply by being born. Then, in the very same breath, the questions and comments turn bitter. “How can you afford to fly to Vegas/go out drinking/go shoe shopping so often?” and “You’re so luck you get to do so many awesome things.” A friend of mine, faced with this phenomenon recently, posted on Facebook, “No, it’s not “lucky” that I get to go do awesome things…It’s because I chose not to have kids.”

Of course parents, including myself, jumped on that immediately, but I understand it in the spirit it was intended. It subtly (unintentionally) implied that being a parent somehow made life less awesome, but he only meant to defend his own awesomeness. It is easy for him to do the things he enjoys because having children is not on that list right now. And that’s cool, too. We seriously need to lay off people who do not want kids, whether they just aren’t ready yet or don’t plan to ever be ready. It’s not like we have a human shortage. There are plenty of people mass producing children. No one should have to defend their choice or how much they enjoy their child free lifestyle

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What kind of marketing tactic is it to tell someone how beautiful and amazing an experience is while simultaneously blaming it for sucking the fun out of your life, anyway?

I’ve been a parent my entire adult life. I have wondered from time to time over the last 18 years how my life would have been different if had not had children. (You know those people at the bar that are always there, usually a hot buttered mess slipping off their bar stool and slurring in your ear? I sort of fear I might be one of those without kids.) I’ve never wondered if my life would be better. I have an awesome life. I’ve gone to many of my dream concerts and I plan to go to more and dream up even more. I take the kids to some of them, but prefer to go to most of them alone or with friends. We travel with the kids because it’s something we both enjoy. I went on a road trip across the southwest with my family and can’t wait for the next one. We also travel alone and with friends. And more than once I have stood in a room full of my favorite musicians, both “famous” and local, and experienced a spine tingling performance, the kind that makes you close your eyes and listen, thankful to be there for that spontaneous moment and realize, “my life is awesome.”

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On A Pale Horse at Wooly’s

Maybe that’s not your thing. Maybe you’re thinking, “Meh, music. The southwest is hot. Boo roadtrips.” One man’s trash is another’s treasure. One man’s hobby is another man’s hell. You’d rather fly to Italy or get your master’s degree. I know those parents, too.  I’m not wealthy, I have a small home daycare. My friends aren’t loaded, either. We’re just normal people with normal jobs who choose to continue being awesome, even with children.

Parenthood gets a bad reputation because it is exhausting, expensive and time consuming. So is anything else worth doing! Immersing yourself in your hobbies, pursuing your career, following your dreams, all of it is mind boggling difficult if you are doing it right.  If you commit yourself to one thing it will make the other things more complicated, but not impossible. I have a friend going back to school right now so he doesn’t have much money left for going out as much as he used to and often doesn’t feel like it after hours of studying complex math. (I’m so with him on that.) That doesn’t make continuing education less worthwhile and it doesn’t have to make his life less awesome. If you are doing what you want to be doing then your life is awesome. If you are measuring your life against someone else’s idea of awesome it will never be awesome.

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My awesome family (before Little S) at the Grand Canyon

If you feel like having kids has made your life less enjoyable you may need to shift your priorities before you lecture your friends on all the reasons they, too, should reproduce. Logically you know your kids aren’t the problem, or you wouldn’t be trying to get others to join you in parenthood. The problem is that you are not doing the things that excite you and make you feel fulfilled. Don’t blame your kids for that and don’t be jealous of your child free friends. Find a way to make it happen. Create your own awesome.

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How Not To Fail At Valentine’s Day This Year: A Guide For Men

Why February 14th Is Important (Hint: It has nothing to do with cupid.)
I don’t hate snow. I might come off that way a lot and I may have even said that, but it’s not what I meant. I don’t like being cold. I don’t like driving on ice. I don’t like driving on the same roads as other people driving on ice. I don’t like standing in below zero wind chill trying to stuff my children into their safety harness in their “not-too-puffy but just puffy enough to need a readjustment” coats. I don’t like it being dark before dinner and I don’t like scraping my windshield before 7 a.m. I don’t like wet shoes, mucky carpets or slush. Other than all that, I totally dig winter. The day of our first snow the Barkeep took the boys outside to build a snow pirate. I went outside to take a picture and the snow was still sparkling white. It was sunny and warm enough to stand outside in just my sweater. If that were a true Midwestern winter day I would welcome it with open arms and an open heart. It was a freak of nature brought on by global warming. It was a tease. That was December. It’s February now and I am officially over winter, snow, ice and scraping my windows. I’m day dreaming about road trips and a dry yard for the children to run in while I soak in the sun.

I’m convinced that this is the true purpose of Valentine’s Day. Winter needs plenty of holidays to break up the monotony and misery. I may not leave the house between mid-November and March if it weren’t for delicious turkey, Christmas shopping and fancy dates with wine and chocolate.

Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day is the official holiday of high expectations and disappointment. Our expectations are set high by the industries that profit from them but their marketing teams are selling women an idea while selling men a tangible item. We want both. (Speaking in general terms. I realize we all want something different. Don’t email me. Seriously.) I have a word of advice for women with high expectations that will eliminate most chances for disappointment. I can’t say all, because, let’s be honest with ourselves and each other, some of us have terrible taste in partners. He might be a jerk and there is nothing I can do for that. But for the rest of you, my advice is simple: Just tell him what you want. Do not hint. Do not suggest. Do not simply hope he knows. He doesn’t. Not because he’s a jerk but because he is a man. (Don’t email me. I don’t care how awesome your husband is or that he buys you the exact perfect gift every time. I’m speaking in general.) Tell him what you want. Cut the picture out of a magazine. Write it down. Make the reservations yourself. Set a reminder on his phone. Let him know what you want, when you want it and that it matters to you. If he still doesn’t deliver… that is another blog for another day. My condolences.

The Gift Guide
Results will very based on the female you are trying to woo, and the first step to gift giving is thinking about the recipient.  When they say, “it’s the thought that counts,”  that does not mean, the thought of buying a generic gift at the last minute. It means putting thought in to what your Valentine cherishes and carefully picking a gift based on that. Some girls may not want any of the typical gifts. I asked to go see A Good Day To Die Hard for Valentine’s Day this year. One year I asked to see Friday The 13th. Think before you buy, craft or book.

Flowers: When buying flowers for your Valentine consider her décor, her style and her favorite colors. A dozen roses is a romantic touch. but perhaps she’d like something with a little more personality. There are so many types and colors and possibilities. Don’t be afraid to ask the florist for suggestions, but be prepared with information about what the recipient likes.

Candy/Food: First of all, is she on a diet? Forty to fifty percent of Americans make dieting a New Year’s resolution, so keep that in mind. Is there Lean Cuisine in the freezer? More celery in the fridge than usual? Did she order a salad for dinner? Skip the candy. If not, you can’t go wrong. Candy is awesome.

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Speaking of awesome, for our first Valentine’s Day, the Barkeep made me a veggie lasagna. Can you cook? Then save the candy for dessert. Edible arrangements are also a fun gift. Cute cupcakes. Homemade cookies. Think outside the heart shaped box. She will appreciate it. If you have kids, keep in mind she might actually want to eat some of the deliciousness by herself without hiding in the bathroom or making anyone cry. Buy them their own, or better yet, give her some alone time with her chocolates.

Jewelry: I have to admit this one is beyond my expertise. I like jewelry from the clearance rack at Target, the stuff so big and sparkly no one else will wear it so I get it 70% off. I did have a beautiful diamond necklaces from the Barkeep that I lost somewhere in the house. Sometimes when I get home from the bar my jewelry makes me feel claustrophobic and I start taking it off as I walk in the door, leaving a sparkly trail behind me. So, expensive jewelry is maybe not the best idea for me. We have three cats that also like sparkles and whisk them away to the playland that is our basement, never to be seen again.  I enlisted the help of some female friends and it turns out I’m not the only one who shouldn’t own something that cost a car payment unless it is the size of a car. Other important tips: Check her jewelry box, does she prefer gold or silver? Does she have any allergies? If you want her to wear it everyday you should tone it down so it’s more versatile. If it’s only for special occasions it can be a bit more fun/colorful/fabulous.

Perfume/Smelly Goodness: First, check her perfume stash. Is she almost out of something? That means she likes it. Tell a sales associate what she prefers and see if they have suggestions, or if she is really almost out just buy her more. Does she even have a stash? Maybe, like me, she prefers scented lotions. I used to have a slight obsession with Bath and Body Works until I discovered Etsy. And then this happened.

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That is not food, boys, that is a selection of bath bomb cupcakes from Five Sisters Apothecary in Iowa. The most awesome thing about 5SA in my oh so humble opinion is the Batsmoke line of products. If your Valentine is also a mother she wants needs Batsmoke. Bath goodies are one way to give her the gift of relaxation, but don’t stop there. Clean while she pampers herself. Take care of any the tedious chores that usually fall on her list.

Stuffed Animals: You get away with this once. There better be flowers or jewelry attached. Or cash. Or your Valentine better be sixteen.

Those are just the most common tangible gifts given for Valentine’s Day. That list is not complete and should not be the basis for a “but the author of that blog you like said” argument. Just in case, I interviewed a group of exceptional women, the kind any man would be lucky to call his Valentine, and we compiled a list of both common and unique gifts that are both store bought and intangible.

Behold. the list:

  • tattoos
  • live music
  • The Book of Mormon (in the theatre, not that actual book), or any other live performance
  • a clean house (I cannot stress how many times this was mentioned.)
  • pedicure/manicure (any other fun thing we can’t afford for ourselves makes a great gift)
  • spa day
  • massage
  • get my hair done
  • a good book (and time to read it)
  • ipad/tablet/kindle
  • steak or lobster dinner (meals we can’t usually afford, Vday is a good excuse to splurge)

Actual quotes from real (amazing) women, about what they really want:

“Something from Tiffany’s. They have cheaper gifts. Goddess I’d love to get one of those blue boxes.”

“Pick a movie you know we’ll both watch, or a Wii game or something.”

“I’m big on pampering and having stuff done that I usually do. Heaven is “you go shopping all day” and coming home to dinner and a clean house. Or a bath drawn. Or the kids at my parents and candlelight pizza. Being allowed to sleep in. Paint my toenails. Brush my hair out. Arrange a date night down to the sitter and stay home with a fire and a movie and take out. A break from responsibility.”

“On the tangible gift side- pjs. Gift cert for my hair guy, day spa, or Sephora. Jewelry is good- it lasts. A new purse. Sex toys.”

“Never underestimate the power of coming home to a clean house. When [My Husband] cleans the house, I melt. It really sets the tone for a romantic evening in. I don’t look around at clothes and pop cans strewn about. It’s much sexier for him to strip off my clothes and toss them to the side if they land on a clean floor as opposed to a landing on a random pile of kid toys. It’s hotter if our primal sexiness is what is messing up the house.  It’s a simple, cheap gesture that goes a long way.”

“Arrange the kids to go to his mothers so we can sleep in, be romantical, I can pamper myself with a pedicure while they’re gone and not feel guilty about not waking up with them when he does, make me dinner, do some household chores (i.e. the garbage).”

“[My Husband] has been making an elaborate amazing candlelit meal for the last few years and I love the thought he puts into it. Usually dinner is followed by massage. I bought him a tool box and I’m sure I’ll massage him too. The good kind with oil and followed by sex.”

“Remind them about the flowers for no reason too. It can be just one. It doesn’t have to be expensive.”

“So I would have to say chocolate – the good stuff and “hey honey I paid the phone/cable/water bill” would be awesome.”

“‘Honey I took care of all the bills this month’ would garner him all sorts of things he loves in the bedroom. Mostly cause me doing it involves taking 3 kids out to do it…”

“I would like some me time. If he could make everyone disappear, including himself for a lil bit and give me some gas money to go somewhere and take pictures or something, that would be awesome.”

After that these beautiful insights the conversation quickly dissolved into “I like cheese” and “I like bread” so I will spare you the rest of the quotes, but girls like food, too, buy us some.

I am not including a list of gift ideas for men, because seriously, we’ve got this.

Thank you to the beautiful women of SIA for their inspiration, help with jewelry shopping tips, and these quotes.