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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Guardian Angel Too Soon

Four years ago today my dad became my guardian angel.  In some ways it feels like we just lost him yesterday. I can close my eyes and clearly see his face.  Yet there are days like today when I panic and my heart drops because I realize I can't remember what his voice sounds like anymore.

That first Christmas without him passed in a complete blur.  I didn't put up a tree, buy a single gift or have any reaction to the holiday music that seemed to be everywhere.  The only saving grace was my one and a half year old nephew, Mason.  A simple smile or giggle from him helped crack the deep depression my family had sunk into.  His little face gave us something innocent and pure to concentrate on.  Without him, we may not have made it through that first Christmas.

Children have a way of making you forget your problems and appreciate the little things.  Piper has helped my heart heal, while keeping my dad's memory alive.  When she smiles, her eyes crinkle like my dad's and you can't help but to notice the same mischevious twinkle.  I talk to Piper all of the time about her Grandpa Duda.  In fact, I have a photo of my dad holding me when I was a baby hanging in Piper's room.  She loves to look at the photo and wave to Grandpa.  There are times on my commute to/from work that I hear Piper giggling and talking in the backseat.  I have no doubt that Grandpa Duda is along for the ride and entertaining her.

Last year was the first Christmas that I truly felt like my old self.  Having a sweet baby as an intricate part of the celebration can't help but make you feel good.  This year, I look forward to watching Piper run around and play with her cousins.  I know my dad would be thrilled to see the kids.  He adored Mason and always said that next he needed a granddaughter.  Now he has two.  Piper and my three year old niece, Maddie.

Everyone always says that he is still with us and sees Piper, but what I wouldn't give to hug my dad one last time and to see him cuddle Piper.  For now, I'll go hug my little girl and today, we'll continue the tradition of sending a balloon to Grandpa in heaven.  Only this year, my guess is that the balloon will have Elmo on it.    

I feel blessed to have such a wonderful guardian angel watching over me and keeping my sweet Piper safe and sound.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Elmo the Extraordinary

It's amazing how an Elmo balloon from the dollar store can invoke pure joy from a toddler and make you realize that money doesn't buy happiness.  Delving into the frenzied holiday crowds of people shoving, pushing and speeding through parking lots highlights this point even more.  

I love this age and time of year.  Piper is fascinated with simple things like seeing an airplane in the sky, hearing a puppy bark or exploring an empty box.  Putting blocks in and out of an empty box can provide hours of entertainment.  It's amazing to catch a glimpse of the world through Piper's eyes as she's discovering new things.

I want to enjoy her fascination with Christmas lights, glitz and music as long as possible.  She claps her hands with glee whenever we walk through stores decorated for the holidays and greets everyone we pass with a big "hello" and a smile.  No one has every hesitated to smile back at her :-)

How great is it that at 18 months, I can purchase holiday presents for Piper right in front of her and she has no idea.  Heck, I could wrap up toys she already has and she would be thrilled to open them.  Now that's not to say I haven't fed into her recent fascination with Elmo.  Hence the balloon and an Elmo doll that's sitting high in the closet, wrapped and ready for Santa to put under the tree.  I must admit, I can't wait to see her reaction when she unwraps Elmo.  If Piper's reaction to the doll is anywhere close to her reaction to the Elmo balloon, it will be one of the best Christmas memories to date.

Monday, November 28, 2011

You Can't Win if You Don't Play

My obsession with entering sweepstakes dates back to 8th grade when I entered a drawing at school to win a life size poster of Michael Jordan and WON!  From then on, if there is a chance to win anything from a cruise to an Orbit stroller to an Amazon gift card, I will enter.  Most people don't enter because they figure the chances of winning are slim to none...which they are, but someone has to win and why shouldn't that person be you?

Every month I enter a series of sweepstakes on where they give away items from the issue.  This month, I actually one one of the drawings for a $250 shopping spree at LA MER Collections.  To be honest, I didn't remember entering the La MER giveaway, but was pleasantly surprised when I visited the website and saw all of the beautiful custom designed watches.  These aren't your everyday watches.  They are funky wraparound leather watches that I wouldn't typical purchase for myself, which makes the shopping spree even sweeter.  Earlier this year I also won a drawing for a free Taggies toy for Piper and also a gift card for Cold Stone Creamery.  

My all time big win was in 2008 when I wrote a two hundred word essay contest on to win an all expense paid luxurious honeymoon in Jamaica.  Most people get scared off by essays, but two hundred words is literally a paragraph.  When they called to tell me I won, my skeptical side kicked in and I thought it was a scam because it sounded too good to be true.  Turned out to be an amazing honeymoon.  We had a private villa, 24-hour room service, gourmet meals, water sports and spa services.  The only thing we paid for was a manicure I added onto the spa services.

The moral of the story is that you can't win if you don't play.  Who knows what you could win!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tiny Shopping Carts and Two Buck Chuck

Having a husband is great preparation for having a baby.  It's amazing how similar the "big kid" and "little kid" can be at times.

I usually enjoy going grocery shopping by myself.  As nerdy as it sounds, grocery shopping by myself is almost therapeutic.  I can aimlessly walk up and down the aisles and take my time choosing items.  This weekend I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe with both Ryan and Piper in tow.  Can you see the writing on the wall?

We weren't in the store five minutes when Piper was trying to stand-up in the cart and Ryan was MIA.  When I finally caught sight of Ryan, his arms were full of items, none of which were on our list or that we needed.  Three types of cheese, a six-pack of beer I've never heard of, sunflower seeds, pretzel bread and a package of scones somehow found their way into my cart.  Don't get me wrong, all of these items are tasty.  However, I try to stick to a weekly shopping budget, which was quickly getting out of hand.  This was the first of numerous disappearances that resulted in more items appearing in the cart.

Simultaneously, Piper is screaming "dadada" and once again trying to climb her way out of the cart as my leg gets rammed with one of those tiny little kid carts that Trader Joe has.  Those are the WORST invention ever.  I have never experienced a trip to Trader Joe where a child hasn't hit someone with the tiny cart or knocked down a display.  Don't even get me started on the chaos surrounding the sample counter in the back of the store.

By the time we were ready to check, I made my own addition to the cart - a nice bottle of Two Buck Chuck.  After spending $35 over what I had originally planned, we made it home where my big kid and my little kid had lunch and went down for naps.  

What did I do, I hightailed it to Target where I could sip a non-fat gingerbread latte from the in-store Starbucks and finally wander the aisles, all by myself.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Review: Mariola's Organic Spa and Retreat

I've driven by Mariola's Organic Spa and Retreat many times and have always been curious and wanted to try it.  I even looked it up online, but the prices were a little high for my budget.  When I saw a Living Social deal pop up for a hour massage, hour facial, 30 minute reflexology and 20 dollars towards product at Mariola's, I bought it in a heartbeat.  

I made the appointment three weeks ahead of time.  Luckily I wrote the date and time on my calendar because I didn't get a reminder call the day before.  When I arrived, I was greeted by a fantastically relaxing scent and serene atmosphere.  However, there was a bit of chaos as the gentleman at the reception desk helped a customer over the phone and another customer and myself waited to check in.  This resulted in my massage starting 15 minutes late.

Working over a computer, heavy bags and a carrying a 16 month old have made my upper back and neck a mess.  Needless to say, I was looking forward to a relaxing swedish massage.  What I got instead was extreme pain as the masseuse put all of her body weight into her elbow and dug it into my back.  I realize I have a lot of knots and tight muscles in my back, but it felt like I was getting beat up.  The masseuse also talked throughout the entire massage, so there was no way to actually relax.  I'm not a fan of being in pain the day after a massage.

Next up was the facial.  I always get nervous about facials since I have sensitive skin, but the esthitician was fantastic.  She used organic Hungarian mud to draw out toxins.  While the mask was setting, she massaged my hands.  And the best part is that she did it all in silence.  I was in such a deep state of relaxation that I almost fell asleep.  My skin was literally glowing by the time she was finished.  

I was looking forward to capping off the experience with a reflexology foot rub.  However, it turns out that the reflexology was actually supposed to be included in the massage.  I had thought my massage went a bit long to make up for it starting late.  Turns out that the combo massage/reflexology cheated me out of 15 minutes.  

Don't get me wrong.  It was wonderful to have an afternoon at the spa to myself.  But the spa experience wasn't all I had hoped it would be.  Although the spa was beautiful and everyone was very nice, I will probably not go back to Mariola's.   

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wommy Guilt

Piper's daycare number flashed on the called ID in my office phone.  Gulp!  The dreaded 2:30 pm phone call - "Piper has a fever of 102.9."  As I quickly gathered papers, closed out programs and shutdown my computer, I dreaded telling my boss that I would have to leave unexpectedly, again.

This is the third time in the last six weeks that Piper has spiked a fever at daycare.  Sweet P made it through her first year of life without even one earache, but then they started to come in waves.  One more earache within the next month and it will be time for tubes.  

When I told my boss that I'd have to work from home both Thursday and Friday, I could tell she wasn't happy.  It didn't help to have poor Piper screaming in surround sound during a conference call.  

This is where the wommy guilt tears you apart.  I feel guilty for not being in the office and then guilty for not giving Piper the attention she deserves.  My heart breaks as Piper grabs my leg, wanting me to pick her up and cuddle her.  But I can't until I finish the last minute deadlined project that's been dropped in my lap.       

My fellow wommies tell me that the guilt never truly goes away, but that you just learn to manage it better.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to manage the guilt of not being there 100% of the time for Piper.  Fingers crossed that a MegaMillions lottery ticket will come through sooner rather than later.     

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall into Fashion

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year.  I love to see the leaves change color, hot cider, college football, the crisp weather where all you need is a sweater and of course, Halloween.  Oddly enough for the Midwest, it is mid-October and 80 degrees.  Not the norm.  I should be enjoying the gorgeous weather before winter slush and snow bury me.  But I really miss those cool 60 degrees days.

This weekend we took Piper to the pumpkin patch.  There is something just wrong about wearing shorts and a tank top to stroll through the corn least for this Midwest girl.  I am so eager to wear my boots, sweaters and new corduroy pants!

You have to admit that Fall is the best fashion season.  You're not icky and sweating, your make-up doesn't melt off, there is no humidity so good hair days are back in rotation and all you need is a fitted blazer or funky sweater to be comfortable.  Don't even get me started on the fab shoe selection - suede knee high boots, stacked heal penny loafers, booties.

In the Midwest, Fall is over in the blink of an eye, so you have to enjoy it.  That's why I'm not thrilled about our mini heatwave.  Yes, I know I sound ungrateful, especially since the prediction is that we will have an absolutely awful winter.

No doubt that this warm snap be over in a week or so and I'll be eating my words.  In the meantime, I'll take the opportunity to get some more wear out of my open toe shoes and soak up the last of summer.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

8 Crazy Nights

I was at my desk feverishly trying to finish up projects and tie up loose ends before heading out on our vacation to St. Thomas when I got the dreaded call from Piper's daycare.  She had a temp of 102.5 and I needed to go pick her up and take her to the doctor.  Turns out my poor Sweet P had a double ear infection.

As I waited at the pharmacy, holding a sick little munchkin, I panicked even more about leaving her for a week long vacation.  On top of my separation anxiety, I had visions of her being up all night and not having mommy and daddy there to comfort her.  Turns out I had no reason to worry at all.  In fact, Piper had such a great time with Nina and Papa that she barely noticed we were gone.

By the time we left, the antibiotics had kicked in and she was full of energy.  During the eight days we were lounging on the beach and sipping pina coladas, the little nugget napped for two hours every single afternoon and slept for 11-12 hours most nights.  Incredible.  She learned new words, new songs and didn't have a single meltdown.  Ummm - the week before, there were meltdowns in Target, at daycare and at home.  It's true, grandparents have the magic touch.

Before now, we had only left her for one night with my mom and when we returned, she was super mad at us at gave us the cold shoulder.  Oh yes, a toddler with attitude.  We were fearful that upon returning from being gone over a week, Piper would absolutely hate us.  Our flight arrived late Saturday night.  On Sunday morning when we went to get her out of her crib in the morning, she stared at us in confusion.  I guess after a week of Nina and Papa getting her up, she was a bit surprised to see us.  It took her about an hour to fully adjust to the fact that both Nina and Papa and Mommy and Daddy were there.

It was amazing to see how much Piper bonded with Nina and Papa.  They live in Arizona and we skype every Sunday, but having them to herself for an entire week must have been heaven.  When we got home from dropping them off at the airport, Piper immediately ran to her playroom and called out "Papa." She walked around the house wondering where they went.  It will be interesting to see how she reacts when we skype this week.

We learned a couple lessons with this experience.  First, we can leave Piper and take a few days for some R&R, without feeling guilty.  Secondly, grandparents are priceless and we are incredibly blessed that Piper has such great grandparents on both sides.  Talk about a lucky little girl and a lucky Wommy.

Now to plan the next trip... ;-)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sun, Surf and Sleep

T-minus six days until we embark on our first Piperless vacation.  Months ago when we were planning our vacation to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, we were salivating at the thought of lying on a beach, enjoying a cocktail and sleeping in.  Now that it is less than a week away, I am panicking.

In 15 months, I've only spent one night away from Piper.  She spent that night with grandma and everything went great.  But when we got home, I swear she gave both Ryan and me the cold shoulder.  The little nugget definitely had an attitude and let us know that she knew we had left her.  After a week away she is bound to absolutely hate us.  Plus, I'm not quite sure how I'll deal with the separation anxiety.  Yikes!

Nina and Papa are coming in from Scottsdale to spend the week with Piper.  I have no doubt they'll all have a blast and she will be spoiled rotten.  As I'm compiling a list of lists (emergency numbers, Piper's schedule, like/dislike list, food like/dislike list), I'm starting to wonder if the lists are more for my own security and sanity than Nina and Papa's.    

Hopefully by day two of the trip, I'll be refreshed from sleeping past 5 am, enjoying leisurely dinners and adult beverages.  It will be easier to miss Piper while sipping a pina colada on the beach.  Geez - do I sound like a horrible wommy or what!?  

Nina and Papa have have promised to text photos and keep us updated of how the munchkin is doing.  Stay tuned to see how this wommy handles a week of R&R in the Virgin Islands.  Yes, I know, it's a tough assignment, but someone has to do it.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tears and Toddlers

This week at daycare drop-off there were some tears, but not from Piper.  I was the one who needed a Kleenex.  Piper officially transitioned from the infant room to the toddler room.  My Sweet P has suddenly become a big girl.

Piper's daycare is wonderful and her teachers are absolutely amazing.  In fact, her teachers have taught me as much as they've taught Piper.  Being a first time mom is completely overwhelming and I constantly asked the teachers for advice.  Heck, her main teacher has 15 years of experience with babies.  She helped me figure out when to transition to baby food and when to move to whole milk.  She calmed my nerves and let me know that everything I was worried about was completely normal.  When I'm worried about Piper not eating enough or not feeling well, her teacher would call to check in throughout the day to let me know how everything was going.  Piper adores her and so do I.

On our last drop-off in infants, I dressed Piper up in a special pink sundress, put her hair in pigtails with matching pink bows and put on her silver shoes.  We got there early and gave all of the teachers little gifts.  I gave Piper's teacher a hug and that's when the tears started.  Then I looked over and saw my Sweet P sitting at the table eating cheerios and she just looked so darn grown up...and the tears really flowed.  Yes, I realize she is only 15 months old, but seeing her next to the younger babies made me realize how quickly time flies by.  I plan to continue enjoying every moment!

The infant room is like a little cocoon and I love getting her settled and chatting with her teacher every morning.  I am going to miss that.

Word on the street is that Piper's teachers in toddlers are pretty fantastic too.  Maybe by the time she transitions to the next classroom I'll be able to hold it together.  Oh who am I kidding, I am sure I'll be the class cry baby once again.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Flat Irons and Dog Beds

I am always on the hunt for tip and tricks to make life easier, while still looking great and trying to squeeze a few more hours out of the day.  Here is a list of some of my favorite tricks from friends, family and colleagues. 

  • Use your flatiron to quickly iron wrinkles out of baby clothes.  Flatirons are small, so they can easily take care of tiny outfits.   Brilliant!
  • A stapler can be a quick temporary fix for a snapped slingback on a high heal.  Same goes for a pant hem that falls out in the middle of the day.
  • Take a hint from the cast of Jersey Shore and wear the shirt before the shirt while feeding your baby or toddler in the morning before heading to work.  That way stains and spit-up won't slow you down.  
  • A new plush dog bed makes the perfect rest spot for a toddler to snuggle in and relax.  I kid you not!  I bought Piper a pink fluffy dog bed and she loves curling up there to read her books.  It's the perfect size for her.   
  • Always carry ziploc bags in your diaper bag for wet icky clothes or waste.
  • Indulge yourself with a mink coat...for your lashes.  When your favorite mascara is on sale, buy a tube in brown and a tube in black.  Apply the brown, let it dry, and then tip just the ends of your lashed with the black.  I promise your lashes will look super long.  Don't believe me?  Try it and see for yourself.
  • Hit up garage sales in ritzy communities.  You can score practically new toys and clothes for a fraction of store cost.  I bought Piper brand-new Ralph Lauren dresses for $1 a piece.
  • Keep an eye out for sales at Ann Taylor, LOFT and Gap.  You can get classic basics for a great price and also some funky blouses that will spice up a basic suit and/or jeans.  Don't be afraid of color!  I bought a brightly colored watercolor-type sleeveless blouse from LOFT early in the summer and have worn it a ton, with suits to jeans to capris.

What tips and tricks are in your arsenal?

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Green Bean Bandit Strikes Again

Instead of a mask she wears a smile and instead of a cape she wears a pink tutu.  Her blue eyes are laser focused on the piles of green...that's green beans, of course.  According to her teachers, Piper is already infamous at daycare as the Green Bean Bandit.

As I've mentioned before, Piper is a veggie freak.  She loves anything green and green beans are her veggie of choice.  So much so that at lunch she devours her green beans and then starts quietly stealing from the plates of the other kiddies.  Not that they seem to mind much.  Chicken nuggets, pizza, ravioli and all other kiddie yummies sit untouched on her plate.  

Piper doesn't discriminate against veggies other than green beans.  She'll steal peas, tomatoes, lima beans, broccoli and cauliflower too.  Fair warning to all other veggie loving toddlers - guard your plate if the Green Bean Bandit is around.   She'll charm you with her smile and swipe your veggies before you can say the words "nap time."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Diaper Rash From Hell

Nothing breaks your heart more than when you're baby is sick or hurt.  Poor Sweet P got hit by a nasty rotovirus resulting in a diaper rash from hell.

On Tuesday I was working from home and had Piper with me.  As you all know, Piper is a big pooper, so a day with three or four dirty diaper isn't out of the norm.  However, I started to question things when we got to crazy explosive diaper number five and it was only 1:00 pm.  By the time I changed her diaper again, around 2:30 pm, I noticed her little tushy was bright fire-engine red.

Over the next few hours the stomach issues worsened and so did the diaper rash.  She screamed bloody murder during every diaper change and it made me cry seeing her in so much pain.  The next day the diaper rash was still pretty bad, but Piper seemed to be doing okay, so I took her to daycare.  This is where being a wommy gets really hard.

I wish I could have stayed home and cuddled with her all day, but I had a slate full of meetings and projects at work.  Talk about feeling like a horrible mother as I left her at daycare.  On Wednesday and Thursday her teachers said she ate okay, but was still having numerous crazy diapers throughout the day.    

My wommy group at work gave me a lot of great diaper rash advice.  One of the best tips was to not use wipes and instead clean her little bum with baby oil soaked cotton balls, which really helped.  The rash started to improve.

However, today, on the way to daycare, I heard Piper fussing in the backseat, which isn't unusual on our commute.  However, when I went to get her out of the car, I saw that she had a horrible poonami.  Both she and the car seat were covered in poop.  It was probably one of the grossest things I've ever experienced.

As I was my best to clean her and the car seat enough to head back home and to the pediatrician, I was in tears.  My poor little nugget was sick (and probably had been sicker than I thought for the past few days) and yet I was still taking her to daycare and heading to work.  Talk about wommy guilt.

I called my boss to tell her I wouldn't be in today and headed home to take care of Sweet P.   It turns out she has Rotovirus.  My peanut also lost half a pound that she can't afford to lost.   As we spend the weekend trying to get Piper to eat and drink, I will cuddle and hug her as much as possible.

On the upside, dealing with so many explosive diapers has helped to jump start my diet.  Talk about an appetite killer.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Green Goodness

If I didn't know better, I would question whether or not Piper is really my daughter.

This weekend, we went to out friend George's third birthday party.   All of the kids were having a blast in a big blow-up pool with a slide and sprinkler.  It was pretty awesome.  None of the kids had a care in the world, which is the way it should be.  They were laughing and splashing and only stopped long enough chow down on cake and ice cream.  That is everyone except Piper.  No - Piper would rather have green beans and blueberries.

My little nugget is the healthiest eater I know...much the opposite of me.  She wants nothing to do with cake, ice cream, muffins or basically anything that constitutes a yummy piece of heaven.  We tried to give her a taste of a Dairy Queen cone and she acted like we were torturing her.  Piper also turns her nose up at kid staples like hot dogs, mac&cheese and chicken nuggets.  But give her a plate full of peas, green beans and strawberries and she is a happy camper.  In fact, we have yet to find a veggie she doesn't like.

We usually feed her bites of what we eat.  So far some of her favorites include chilean sea bass, saffron risotto, avocado and spinach tortellini.  I kid you not.  Seriously, who is this kid!?

Check in with us a year from now and it may be a different story, but for now, we will enjoy our healthy little eater.  I kid about it, but am secretly pleased that Piper is such a healthy eater and says no to processed food.  Maybe I'll even pick up some of her will power and say no to cake and ice cream.  Who am I kidding.  That's never going to happen!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Free Gift With Purchase?

I am a sucker for beauty product advertising and I'll try almost any product, once.  Will it even my skin tone...prevent wrinkles...make my eyes sparkle...last all day?  Well then let me slap down my debit card.  But what really draws me in at the department stores are the gifts with purchase.  I love the mini make-up kits, tote bags, umbrellas and even got a cute necklace free with a perfume purchase.  However, it seems like the new trend is that the free gift with purchase is not always "free."

A few weeks ago, I was at Macy's and stopped by the Clinique counter to purchase some powder.  The sales woman told me that they were offering a gift with purchase.  Woo hoo!  She then told me that if I purchased another $15 worth of product, I would qualify to purchase the "gift" set for $35.  Excuse me!?  I am spending money on your product and am then rewarding with the option to spend more money.  That's ridiculous and horrible marketing, especially with our current economy.

One week later I was in New Jersey for my sister-in-law's wedding and stopped by Estee Lauder to get my make-up done.  I don't usually wear Estee Lauder, but knew that I had to purchase a product or two since they were doing my make-up.  The make-up artist mentioned that they were doing a free gift with purchase.  But low and behold, Estee Lauder's gift was actually free!  Guess which company I am now going to purchase cosmetics from?


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Target + In-Store Starbucks = Bliss

For the amount of money I spend at Target each week, I should buy stock in the company or at least be awarded VIP shopper status.  My local Target is now a Super Target with groceries and it just opened an in-store Starbucks.  I may just move in.

Ryan knows that whenever I make my weekly pilgrimage to Target that I won't be home for at a good couple of hours.  The addition of easy access to Starbucks caffeine will likely add on at least another hour.

Walking up and down the aisles of Target is oddly relaxing for me.  Yes, I embark on my standard route to get all of the staples on my list.  But in between, I like checking out the new housewares, decorations, clothes and sifting through the sales rack.  It is one of the only times of the week that I can just let my mind wander.  Plus, I can never resist a good deal or the dollar bin.  A purple faux snakeskin tote bag marked down from $19.99 to $3.99.  Infant tights for next winter marked down to $0.75.  Yes, please!

This week I had Piper with me.  I always talk to her throughout our shopping trips and this one was no exception.  We discuss different brands, what we need to buy, what's on sales.  Yes - people give us odd looks when they hear the full fledged conversations I have with an infant while shopping.  But who cares, we're having fun.

Piper is quite the flirt and likes smiling, waving and clapping for other shoppers.  She always makes lots of friends on our shopping trips.  The checkers all already know her by name.

Maybe I'll write Target a letter with the VIP shopper idea.  Although I can't claim the idea.  It was all my friend Sasha.  In the meantime, I'll continue to sip my skinny vanilla latte and enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted weekend errands and shopping.  My little utopia will now be referred to as "Tarbucks."


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sweet P is 1!

One year ago today Piper Ann arrived and brightened our lives forever.  From sleepless nights and poonamis to giggles and milestones, Piper has kept us on our toes.

Ryan calls Piper "Super Baby" because she started sleeping through the night at 2.5 months, loves vegetables, will take any combination of breast milk or formula (any brand) and beside the standard daycare issued colds/runny nose, Piper hasn't gotten super sick.  To say we're lucky is and understatement.

I remember the anxiety of taking Piper to daycare when I went back to work after three months of maternity leave.  How could I leave her with basically strangers all day long!?  Thankfully she absolutely LOVES her teachers and they love her.  We're beyond lucky in that department too.

At one-year, Piper already has a portfolio of artwork, two school photo sessions under her belt, a pumped up immune system and a flourishing social circle. Oh yes - she has a ton of little buddies...and they are almost all boys.  Uh oh - let's hope this isn't a reoccurring trend :-)

Over the past year, my life priorities and focus have changed.  My little Sweet P is at the epicenter and always will be.  I have enjoyed every stage and milestone so far and cant wait for what's ahead.  With the mischievous twinkle in her eye and spunky personality, I have no doubt life will always be fun and interesting.

Happy 1st Birthday to my beautiful little Sweet P!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Oprah's Surprise Extravaganza!

I woke up this morning still rubbing the stardust out of my eyes.  Tuesday was the filming of Oprah’s Surprise Extravaganza where a celebrity line-up representing the Oscars and the Grammys did not disappoint. 

Filmed at the United Center in Chicago, they had to reschedule a Bulls play-off game for the show.  Chicago locals will tell you that no one but Oprah could ever dream of making that ask.  Yes, Oprah knew about the show, but the celebs and their farewell messages were a surprise.  Check out a sample of the line-up. 

Beyonce, Usher, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Maya Angelou, Madonna, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, Patty LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Rascal Flatts, Michael Jordan, Jerry Seinfeld, Queen Latifah, Kristen Chenoweth, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Jamie Fox and countless others.

Although celebs were the main draw, one of the most powerful moments of the evening was a presentation by hundreds of Morehouse State graduates.  Oprah funded a college scholarship program for young men who wouldn’t have the means to fund a higher education on their own.  Many of these men were in the foster system, homeless or gang members and thought they had no hope of ever earning a college education.

Because of Oprah, these men are now executives, doctors, lawyers, hedge fund managers, fathers and role models.  They filled the stage and brought Oprah (and the audience) to tears with their stories.  Education is the key and knowing that someone believes in you is what can push you to overcome barriers and succeed.  

In the words of Glinda from the Wizard of Oz (and Oprah’s favorite quote) - “You always had the power.” 

Two shows were shot over a five-hour period and will air on Monday, May 23 and Tuesday, May 24.  Oprah’s final final show is top secret and will air on Wednesday, May 25.  Set your Tivo and DVRs!

BTW - in case you were wondering, there were no big giveaways.  Boo.  

Friday, May 13, 2011

Oprah - Here I Come!

Who has two tickets to be in the audience of Oprah’s Winfrey’s final show?  This girl!!!  I am so excited that I can barely stand it.  Plus, I am bringing my mom.  We are going to have a blast. 

About a month ago I visited and entered the online lottery for tickets to her final show.  I’ve tried to get tickets for years and haven’t been successful.  This time was no different.  I promptly got a rejection e-mail a few days later. 

Fast forward to Mother’s Day when I happened to check my e-mail early in the morning.  At the top of my inbox was an e-mail from Oprah Show Reservations informing me that two tickets were now available for the final show.  A mere stroke of luck or a miracle to mark the celebration of my very first Mother’s day?  I’ll let you decide.

I’ve been an Oprah fan for as long as I can remember.  I realize that not everyone is a fan, but for me, Oprah has always represented strength and opportunity.  She has taken risks and overcome adversity to pave her own path to success.  She makes it a point to encourage everyone to give back to their communities and always be proud of who they are and where they came from.  These are all lessons that I will teach the Pipernator

The moral of the story is that you can’t win if you don’t play.  In your personal and professional life, take some risks and challenge yourself.  Sometimes, your luck will turn around when you least expect it. 
The show films on Tuesday, May 17 and airs on Wednesday, May 25.  Check back next week for a recap of the show.  I promise to dish about all of the behind the scenes details of the show.  Fingers crossed for tons of celeb sightings and giveaways.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My First Time Celebrating Mother's Day as a Mommy

My house is a disaster zone - and I couldn't be happier.  Everywhere I look there are toys, bottles, tiny socks and cheerios.  Reminders of the little princess that is upstairs fast asleep.

As I celebrate my first Mother's Day, I almost can't remember what life was like before Piper arrived.  Sure, we had a clean house, disposable income, slept in on weekends, went out to fancy dinners and took last minute trips.  But what we have now is even better.  We have a family and I am a mommy.  Has it really only been less than a year that I became a mommy?  It's amazing how you can love some one so incredibly much and completely unconditionally.

My favorite part of the day is when I pick Piper up from daycare.  As soon as she sees me or even hears my voice, she goes crazy smiling, waving her arms and crawls towards me as fast as she can.  I seriously drown the poor kid in hugs and kisses.  Even if I've had the worst day at work, everything melts away as soon as I scoop up the little munchkin.

On this Mother's Day, I also want to celebrate my mom and mother-in-law for being such great wommy role models.  And thank you to Piper for choosing me to her mommy.  It has been quite a ride so far and I can't wait to see what's next.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Naked Baby at Applebee's

Naked babies and artichoke dip don't usually mix.  That is until Piper visited an Abblebee's in Niles, Michigan.

Piper recently embarked on her very first road trip - a five hour drive from Chicago to Livonia, Michigan to her Aunt Shanae's wedding shower.  Armed with food, snacks and toys, the drive there was a breeze.  Our superstar traveler slept and played for the entire trip.

After a great weekend of celebrating Aunt Shanae's upcoming wedding (of which Piper will be a flower girl) and receiving lots of hugs and cuddles from family, we headed out on the trip back to Chicago.  About an hour and a half from home we stopped for lunch at an Abblebee's.  Piper was in a great mood and excited to stretch her little legs.

Once inside, we were enjoying an appetizer when it became clear Piper needed to be changed.  I scooped up a diaper and a travel-size pack of wipes and headed to the bathroom.  My little angel had one of the worst poonamis to date.  We're talking poop squished up to her shoulder blades and out the sides of her diaper.  After I spent a good 10 minutes scrubbing Piper down with wipes I realized that the extra outfit I had was out in the car.

The look on my husband's face as he saw me walking back to the table with a naked baby was priceless.  It was the mommy walk of shame...and I was mortified.  By the time he got her a new outfit from the car, Piper was making new friends, had become the star attraction of Applebee's and she was loving every moment of it, waving and laughing.

I am going on record now with the prediction that Piper will grow up to be an actress...or maybe even a politician.  When she makes it big, I will be sure to embarrass her by sharing the story of the great Applebee's incident of 2011.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dark Circles Be Gone!

Almost any wommy will tell you that coffee and under eye concealer are absolute necessities when trying to navigate early morning meetings, without much sleep.  I have tried countless brands of concealer and have finally found a favorite, along with a few other wommy drugstore must-haves.  As for coffee, as long as it's hot and has caffeine, I'll drink it.

  • Amazing Cosmetics concealer is literally amazing.  A small tube for $28 will last you months.  The trick is to only use a teeny tiny amount.  A little goes a long way with this stuff.  I guarantee your dark circles will go deep undercover.
  • TRESemme fresh start dry shampoo is a life saver for those days you don't have time to wash your hair.  A few sprays, a brush through and your hair will look and smell freshly washed. 
  • Clinique Almost Lipstick in blackhoney looks dark in the tube, but goes on sheer and compliments virtually every skin tone.
  • Maybelline Lash Stiletto waterproof mascara will make your eyes appear more awake and your lashes look long and glossy.  It works better than the more expensive brands I've tried. 
I am a self proclaimed beauty product junkie and will basically try anything that claims to be anti-aging, skin brightening or glossy.  But I've found that the best way to perk myself up doesn't cost a penny.  As cheesy as it sounds, a smile and a good laugh are easy ways to brighten your face and lift your mood.   Give it a try.  I promise it will work.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Give That Girl a Set of Wings

Piper makes friends everywhere she goes and our trip to Scottsdale to visit Nina and Papa Jimbo was no exception.  This was Piper's first flight and I had visions of her having a meltdown capped off by an explosive poonami moments after take-off.  What happened instead taught me a very valuable lesson - never underestimate my daughter.  She turned out to be an all around traveling super star.

Piper sat on my lap playing quietly throughout the entire flight to Scottsdale.  She charmed our neighbors on the plane and other passengers greeted her by name at the baggage claim.  I figured we got lucky on the flight to Arizona, but was still edgy about the flight home.  Once again, Piper came through with flying colors.  She even helped a flight attendant hand out drinks, while clapping and smiling at other passengers. Come on, who can resist a happy baby.  

Besides getting showered with attention from Nina and Papa, Piper hit quite a few milestones during our trip.  She turned nine months, got her first haircut, went swimming in an outdoor pool and pulled herself up to standing for the first time.  Talk about packing a lot into a short period of time.  Why is it that the work week always seems to drag, but a week of vacation seems to fly by at warp speed!?  

Babies and children are much more adaptable than we give them credit for.  Sometimes I think we are the ones who put the pressure on ourselves and them. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Make Me a Bird

Tomorrow, we're embarking on our first trip with an infant.  Yep - nine-month-old Piper will be flying the friendly skies...or at least I hope they're friendly.

Pre-baby, I used to be a frequent business traveler.  I would cringe if I got stuck behind a family with children going through airport security.  It usually took them forever to get through with their kids, strollers and gear.  Ugh!  Even worse was seeing someone with a baby about to board the same flight as me.  I would pray that they sat nowhere near me.

Ironically, I am now going to be one of those people struggling with a stroller, diaper bag and squirmy baby.  I've gotten tons of great tips from other wommies like making sure Piper is eating at take off and landing, so that her ears don't hurt, or packing lots of snacks and toys to keep her occupied.  Frankly, my biggest fear is that we will experience an infamous Piper poonami minutes into our four-hour flight.  How lovely will that be for everyone in an enclosed aircraft!?

Luckily Piper is a happy and laid back baby, so chances are everything will go smoothly.  Just in case, I am going to make sure she is dressed super duper cute.  At least that way she will charm everyone before the meltdown occurs and she can get by on her cuteness.  Don't judge me for playing the cute baby card.  Desperate times call for desperate measures :-)

Stay tuned to hear how it al goes...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Good Bra and Good Friends

What do a good bra and good friends have in common?  They are supportive wommy essentials.  Becoming a mom and a wommy makes you appreciate these supportive friendships even more than ever...and it forges friendships you might never have imagined before.

I have have been blessed with a wonderful network of friends, spread out across the country.   These circles of friends hail from grade school, high school, college, internships and various jobs.  In fact, one of the tightest groups of friends is made up of former girlfriends of my husband's friends.  Did you catch that?  When I started dating Ryan, I became good friends with the girlfriends of his roommates and friends.  In the coming years, all of the couples broke up (except Ryan and me), but the girls all stayed close.  

My company has a "Mother's Room" for those who are nursing and pumping.  Who would have guessed that this small room would lead to strongly bonded friendships.  In the room, there is a notebook where wommies can share milestones, challenges, funny stories, advice etc.  It's kind of like a shared journal.  It makes you realize that you are not alone and that what your are going through is absolutely normal.  Keep in mind that most of us have never met in person.  We only know each other through the notebook.

We decided to schedule a monthly wommy luncheon so that we could get together in person.  The other wommies from the Mother's Room are from departments across the company that I typical would never have the chance to interact.  We don't live near each other.  None of us went to the same schools.   We don't work in the same departments.  Heck, I don't know if most of us would ever even pass each other in the hall before.  Nonetheless, these ladies have now become some of my closest wommy friends.

An acquaintance of mine once said that she had enough friends and wasn't interested in making more.   Can you ever truly have enough friends?  The answer is least in my book.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Blizzard of 2011 and Groundhog Day

Snow angels and groundhogs.  Who would have thunked it?  The great blizzard of 2011 paralyzed the Chicagoland area last night and today.  While most people were excited about the unexpected snow day, I was excited to have the day off to celebrate Piper's first Groundhog Day.  Yes, I said Groundhog Day and I know it's strange.

Years ago my dad and I started making a big deal out of celebrating Groundhog Day simplify because it is such a silly holiday.  It was a special quirky thing that we shared.  We'd call each other first thing in the morning on February 2, follow Puxatawney Phil online and send each other funny e-cards leading up to the big day.  All of our friends and family would make fun of us, but they couldn't resist the craziness and eventually joined in on the silly celebrations.

I'll never forget the first Groundhog Day I celebrated without my dad.  It was February 2, 2008, almost two months since we lost my dad to cancer.  That day was harder for me than his birthday or the anniversary of his passing.  I was dialing his number first thing in the morning when it hit me that he wasn't there to share our annual Groundhog Day chat.  My stomach dropped.

To be honest, it's still a bittersweet day, but it's definitely leaning more towards the sweet side of things with Piper around.  Although my husband thinks I'm crazy, Groundhog Day will always be a big holiday celebrated in the McGrath household.  Partly because I still think it's fun and silly, but partly because it will be a way for Piper to remember the grandfather she never met.  I have no doubt he is smiling down on her all of the time, but today, I am sure he is getting a chuckle about her Groundhog Day onesie.  He would be thrilled to know that we are carrying on the tradition.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rude is a Learned Behavior

I work at the headquarters of a Fortune 50 company with thousands of other people and it literally takes me eight to 10 minutes to walk from my car to my office.  Every morning on my walk in I do a little social experiment.  I smile and say "good morning" to every single person I pass, whether I know them or not.

It absolutely shocks me how many people walk through the halls looking down at the floor and don't respond at all to my greeting.  Have we really gotten to the point where basic manners have gone out of style!?  News flash - if someone smiles at you, smile back.  I promise it will immediately put you in a better mood.

As Piper grows up, I will teach her the Golden Rule - always treat others as you would like to be treated.  Here are some of the other simple, common sense manners I will teach her.

1.   Hold the door for people who are walking behind you.  If someone holds the door for you, remember to say "thank you."
2.   If someone lets you into packed traffic, acknowledge their kindness with a wave.
3.   Do not be rude to waiters/waitresses.
4.   When someone compliments you, accept the compliment with grace and say "thank you."
5.   If someone thinks enough of you to give you a gift or goes out of their way to do something nice for you, send a handwritten thank you note, not just an e-mail or text.

I don't buy it when there is a rude person and people make excuses for him/her by saying, "oh, that's just the way he/she is."  Unacceptable!  Rudeness is a learned behavior that people continue because no one calls them on it.  However, if rudeness is a learned behavior, that means it can also be unlearned.  I say we start a trend of kindness instead of rudeness.   Who's with me?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sick of Being Sick

Piper has already learned the fine art of sharing...germs, that is.  If anyone ever sneezed directly in my face or grabbed at me with gooey germy hands, I would probably freak out.  But when Piper does it repeatedly, there’s not much I can do.

One of the bad things about being a working parent with a child at daycare for the first time, is that Piper will pick up a boatload of colds, flu, chicken pox or a myriad of other things.  The good thing is she will build up a fantastic immunity and not get sick much down the line.  However, in the meantime, I seem to pick up the adult-sized version of every illness too!

I was warned that my first year as a new parent would be the sickest year of my life.  Since I rarely get sick, I thought this rule wouldn’t apply to me.  Boy was I wrong.   I’ve had more colds, sinus infections and flu-like symptoms in the past few months than I have had over the past few years.  It hasn't been easy struggling through a full slate of meetings and projects with a pounding headache, sore throat and runny nose.  More hot Tazo Passion Fruit tea and Halls, please.

All in all, dealing with colds and such is a small price to pay for cuddle time and showers of sloppy kisses from the Pipernator.  The little nugget is pretty hard to resist.     

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Every Girl Needs a Pair of Red Sparkle Shoes

Shoes, glorious shoes!  I love shoes, from pumps to boots to sneakers.  What I love even more is finding a good sale on shoes.  Today, Piper experienced her very first shoeapalooza.  We walked into Target for Kleenex, toothpaste and shampoo and walked out with eight pairs of shoes for Piper...and forgot the toothpaste.  You read that correctly - eight pairs!  I swear if we had been at K-Mart, they would have been forced to make a blue light special announcement over the store intercom.

I was going about my normal Target shopping when I happened to swing by the shoe department.  Okay, the truth is that the shoe department in any store has a magnetic pull on me...I cannot walk away.  The Target heavens opened up and bestowed upon me a 75% off sale on little girl sparkle shoes.  Within arms reach were sparkle shoes in red, silver, gold and black.  They were all marked down to $3.50.  I was so excited I started to feel faint.  This is what is feels like to be in the "shopping zone."  Keep in mind that Piper is only seven months and they only had toddler sizes.  Do you think I let that stop me!?

I picked out a pair in each color for her to wear next year.  Then the woman next to me pointed out where they had smaller sizes.  Much to my delight I found tiny sizes Piper could wear now.  Into my cart went black patent leather, brown suede with flowers and two pairs of pink shiny slip-on sneakers in different sizes.   Eight pairs of shoes for under $30.00!  The only person who could top me with that sale would be my mom.  So what if the teenage checker gave me a strange look as he rung up my purchases.

When I got home, I strategically hid the shoe bag from my husband already picturing him shaking his head and rolling his eyes.  Little does he know that this is only the beginning.  The poor guy has no idea what he is in for with mommy and the tiny fashionista duo.

Piper's baby book will now reflect that her first mommy/daughter shopping spree took place on January 15, 2011.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Poonami Madness

I've quickly learned that becoming a parent means you discuss diapers and poop way more than any person should.  No longer is celebrity gossip the hot topic with my friends.  Instead, we compare poonami stories. What's a poonami you ask?  A poonami is a crazy explosive diaper that squishes out of the top, bottom and sides.  Lovely, I know.  Piper is already infamous at daycare for her poonamis.

On the surface, people see Piper as a beautiful petite princess.  She always arrives at daycare dressed to the nines, usually with a matching headband (alternating between giant bows and giant flowers) or a saucy hat.  However, more times than not, when I pick her up, I am greeted by her teacher with a the plastic bag of grossness and Piper wearing the mismatched extra onesie and leggings I've sent for "emergencies." Oh yes, the bag is filled with Piper's poopie clothes.  It's always a thrilling treat to open up the bag when we get home.   My mother would cringe to know that rather than wash the really bad ones, I have been known to just toss the entire outfit.

Can my tiny fashionista really be so gross.  The answer is a resounding YES!

I have had to literally cut her out of at least four onesies so far.  There was just no possible way to pull it over her head without getting poop in her hair.  Piper also has wonderful timing, like creating a poonami five minutes after we give her a bath and get her cozy in her pajamas...or when we're running late in the morning and I am strapping her into the car seat...or, this is my favorite, on the 40 minute drive home from daycare in an inclosed car.

My theory is that she stays so tiny because everything goes right through her.  If that is the case, then I hope that Piper keeps up the good metabolism for the rest of her life.  Ironically, Piper doesn't smell so good right now.  Fingers crossed it's not a poonami.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

My name is Jen McGrath and I am a Wommy.  What's a Wommy?  A Wommy is a working mommy.  Before we get any further, I want to make sure no one is offended.  I know that stay-at-home moms are working moms and work incredibly hard.  However, I'm going to be sharing my personal stories and experiences about balancing motherhood with a corporate job (8-10 hours a day), a commute, daycare, attempting to squeeze in a trip to the gym, etc.  These are purely my stories and not meant to compare the pros/cons of moms who work at home versus outside the home.

That said - how was everyone's New Year celebration?  As a mom of a six-month old baby (sweet baby girl Piper), I stayed at home, rented bad movies and ate pizza.  Oh yes, times have changed.  In fact, it was at a crazy NYE party at a hotel on Michigan Avenue in 2002 where I met my hubby, Ryan, also know as Piper's baby daddy.  And you know what - I loved every moment of staying at home with Piper and Ryan.  Well, maybe I didn't love the part where I had to change an explosive diaper, but the rest was pretty good.  Yes, I may be getting old and boring, but I am okay with that.  

Stay tuned for more stories in 2011.  Now off to watch some football.