Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fa-la-la-la-laaa, la-la-la-blah

Graham doesn't know if he wants Santa to visit us tonight. At least, he claims this nonsense every time I've found myself needing to remind him today that Santa is still watching and it's not too late to get on the naughty list. "I don't want Santa to come. I don't want any presents." Okay, suuuuure. And yet another exhibit into my case that he is a teenager trapped in the body of a 3-year old. His getting up at 9:00, 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. every day since I've been on vacation is yet another.

We made cookies for Santa tonight. (Take that, to-do list!!) Well, we made no-bake cookies for Santa. We put them in the fridge and the boys kept asking when we were going to make cookies. "We just did!" I explained. "But there is nothing in the OVEN!" they countered. You just can't get anything by them.

We had new master bedroom furniture delivered today - the excitement of the day, particularly now that we are trapped inside during a midwestern blizzard. So the boys just had.to.jump on our new bed. Which led to throwing pillows. Graham just couldn't stop throwing things. He had to sit in time out on his bed and when I came in to talk to him: "I just like throwing, it makes me laugh," he said. My heart melted for my boy. "Well there are certain places where you can throw," I attempted to assure him. "Where are these places? Will you take me there?" he said, eyes wide. I explained that I was talking about the place known as 'outside' and promised that tomorrow we could go out and throw all the snowballs he wanted. Come on, Mother Nature. Hear my plea, one mother to another.

If Mother Nature had a son, he would definitely be Blizzard.

Earlier this week we started our Christmas marination by driving down to Branson per my in-laws' invitation. We experienced a down-home Christmas complete with Silver Dollar City, an old-world Americana fun park, complete with electric light parade, steam engine choo-choo ride in the woods, and choreographed LED light Christmas tree (the futuristic part of the old world). I thought was quite the experience, and so did most of the four-state region. We were often engulfed in the masses, which Hubby Hawks loathes. "Get me out of here!" he would say while simultaneously being brushed against by five strangers. "Merry Christmas dear," I did my job as Blood Pressure Stabilizer. (He is going to LOVE Disney World next year!)

And Merry Christmas to you and yours from the Hawks Nest. And to all, a good night.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why I Am an Accenture Mombassador

Oh, Tiger. You certainly fooled us.

Weeks after your scandalous news broke, it’s not the fact that you aren’t the role model we thought you were. It’s not the fact that you are cheating on a Swedish model and having unprotected sex with random women you meet in bars and clubs. It’s not the fact that my husband has always looked up to you (*ahem*).

No, what I’m struggling with now is actually not even your fault directly. You see, it’s not about how you fooled us, but about how some of your sponsors are still fooled. I just can’t fathom why some of them are standing by you, you dirty, dirty liar.

Let’s take Nike, for example, which pays you $30 million dollars a year. You just paid one of your mistresses some of these millions. These are the dollars that hardworking Americans earn and spend on your sponsors’ products. The sponsors hand the money over to you. To sell more of their products. Do they think the American public is stupid enough to want to buy more of said products because you, the now exposed Tiger Woods, are telling them to?

"I think he's been really great. When his career is over, you'll look back on these indiscretions as a minor blip, but the media is making a big deal out of it right now," said Phil Knight, Nike’s chairman and co-founder.

A minor blip. The media is making a big deal. Is Phil Knight married?

Spokespeople are chosen to represent companies and their products based on character, likeability, and some perception that people want to emulate their actions. Do your sponsors really believe that we think you are still likeable? Yes, you are the greatest golfer to every play the sport, but doesn't likeability incorporate the personal, not just the professional? (And dear God, I hope people aren’t wanting to emulate your actions.)

Will moms start to think twice about buying their families Nike shoes considering Nike’s position? Is Nike considering their mom consumers in making the choice to disregard Tiger’s “transgressions?”

Some may argue that Nike believes Tiger’s image will turn around somewhere down the line. But it really doesn’t matter if or when Tiger ever makes a comeback. What matters is that right now, Nike believes that Tiger still personifies the qualities that it wants its spokespeople to have.

Should it matter to consumers that Nike is willing to show more loyalty to its fallen spokesperson than to its own integrity for being associated with an immoral cheater?

Kudos to Accenture for giving its consumers more credit than that.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Family Band

"Mommy, when you grow up you should be a rockstar. And I will be a rockstar. And we will play our guitars together and sing. And Daddy and Reid will be rockstars and you and Daddy will stand together and I will stand by you and Reid will stand by Daddy. And I will have a big boy microphone and Reid will have a little microphone because he's little and you and Daddy will have big microphones."

Oh dear God, in my son's mind we are not the Hawks Family... we are the Partridge Family.

The Partridge Family of Rockstars.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Liz isn't in the nest today...

...because I'm over at JessicaKnows.com - the blog of a colleague of mine in Fleishman-Hillard's Sacramento office, where I guest posted. Oh, and Jessica (whose last name is really Smith, not Knows) just happens to be one of Neilsen's Top-50 Power Moms, a major social media influencer and has all kinds of readers from all kinds of places. Check me out over there and leave a comment if you're interested in the discussion! And if not (hi, Hawks family!) and you just read here for Hawklet pictures, I'll be back soon!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reintroduction of the Raggedys

Once upon a time a little girl played with dolls. She loved her dolls and cared for them, tucking them into their little beds and ensuring their outfits were well matched. She arranged and rearranged and rearranged again the furniture inside her doll houses. She imagined a faraway kingdom ruled by her all powerful She-Ra and a herd of colorful My Little Ponies. Her Barbies had families and children and a Ken who never removed his tux, just in case he needed to get to a formal at a moment’s notice. Her Little People had neatly arranged streets between neatly designed block houses that were constantly remodeled to suit their ever-changing needs and furniture.

Then the little girl grew up and had two little … boys. They introduced her to an obsession with cars, trucks, tractors, trains. They showed her that little boys cannot play with said transportation objects without making a motor sound with their little voices. They baffled her with their desire to pretend-drive in the real car. They ran circles around her on their little feet and drove circles around her on their little cars. She laughed at how different her little boys were from little girls. She especially laughed when the little boys parked their cars in her old dollhouse, making it a house of garages, and when they tossed her old doll onto the floor in order to put their trucks to bed in her old doll bed.

But one day the girl’s mother pulled two of the little girl’s dolls out of an old storage box. And she introduced The Raggedys to the little boys. And the life-size dolls weren’t tossed to the floor in favor of trucks or cars. Not even for trains. They were giggled over. And carried around. They were hugged and analyzed and they even brought out a “wow!” or two.

And if even for one morning, and if even vicariously, watching her little boys the girl felt little again. Big and little, cars and dolls, boys and girls – the differences weren’t so glaring.

For a morning.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

When will VW get the mom memo?

The soccer mom is dead. She is buried next to the Astro mini-van. And if she wasn’t, I would kill her after watching videos like the one featured in this recent article.

I wasn’t sure whether I should feel offended or annoyed at the video, which is marketing the VW Routan. So I felt both.

The mom in question has an annoying mom-jean, bouncing around, hugging strangers kind of persona. Of course she speaks with a northern Midwest accent, youbetcha. To make it worse, this soccer mom has forgotten her children who are sitting on a street curb alone in the rain.
Did VW miss a little what-not-to-do-when-marketing-to-moms case study called Motrin Moms? Moms don’t like snark. They don’t want to be portrayed as disregarding their children. They certainly don’t want to be shown has having half a brain. They are tech-savvy, empowered multi-taskers in charge of the household after all.

For Pete’s sake, how many times are we going to have to keep regurgitating the Motrin Moms case before other major brands come around?

And they probably aren’t self-identifying as soccer moms anymore, even though kids’ soccer may very well be a big deal at home. Research has uncovered more than 50 mom sub-segments. Yet decades after the birth and death of the Soccer Mom, we still see her starring in mom-focused campaigns.

The Routan mom should be wielding a smart phone (not a clipboard!) where she manages the family calendar and 'to-dos.' And said to-do list wouldn’t include “don’t forget children.” She should be trendy (like her Routan?) and socially appropriate.

Of course moms appreciate humor in marketing. But it’s just not funny when the target is mom and particularly one we can’t identify with. We need to laugh with her; not at her.

Is this the consumer VW folks see when a mom walks into a dealership? Take the sterotype-colored glasses off, VW marketers. Not to mention the fact that if this is the type of mom driving a Routan, do you really think that’s the type of driver persona I want to identify with?

When did making-fun-of-mom become a marketing strategy?

So many questions. Such high blood pressure. (sigh)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Eavesdropping

Him: “Hey, what’s up.”

Her: “Not much. Got this pretty dress and everything so all’s good.”

Him: “That’s cool. I decided to go casual myself.”

Her: “Yes, I see that. You kinda look like you’re headed to a backyard bar-be-que. Are you?”

Him: “Nah, I’m stuck here for a while at least. I can’t drive.”

Her: “Yeah, me neither. This carpet is making me dizzy anyway. Probably wouldn’t be a good idea to get behind the wheel after my eyes being so close to this carpet pattern.”

Him: “I know, what is up with the carpet? If I hadn’t needed glasses before tonight, I would now!”

Her: “So did you hit the buffet?”

Him: “Yep, loaded a plate with bread and crackers. A little cake. Okay, a lot. I have a carb weakness.”

Her: “Oh, that explains why you have such a gut but chicken legs. Have you been working out?”

Him: “Hey now, I do my share of running, jumping, wrestling my dad, pushing my brother. I get my cardio.”

Her: “Okay, sorry I mentioned it! Sore subject, huh?”

Him: “No worries. Hey, is that the Cha-Cha Slide I hear?”

Her: “Oooh, Let’s go show ‘em how it’s done.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Best Friends

They don't yet realize what a precious gift a good friend is. All they know is they both love zooming matchbox cars and eating corndogs. It's a beautiful thing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Elmo Says Don't Pick Your Nose

The morning drive from our house to Mimi’s, where I drop off the Hawklets in the morning is rife with conversation. Yesterday, the conversation was mostly between Graham and me. I was doing the talking, he was doing the wailing. I was explaining to Graham that when one sits at the table in front of his breakfast not eating it, and then is forced to get in the car and leave with an empty stomach because he wouldn’t eat his breakfast, then perhaps the next day he can try eating the breakfast instead of staring it down, and we would all be much happier. These are really philosophical conversations we have on the platform of ‘how the world works.’

Last week, the conversation was between the Hawklets and I was a mere eavesdropper. “Reid, DON’T PICK YOUR NOSE! No, Reid! We don’t pick our noses! Put that boogie back in there RIGHT NOW!”

We’ve been working on poor Reid. He’s just at that stage that the finger and nose seem to have some magnetic qualities. We are often batting his little hands down from his face. Oh, right, and it’s flu season.

But now we have an advocate. Elmo has partnered with the U.S. government to back us up. So now when we tell Reid that his fingers and nose can’t come into contact, we reinforce it with “Elmo says!” He is catching on. Sometimes, we see a little finger start to make its way up and then his eyes meet ours and his little voice says “Elmo says” as the little finger retreats, back down to whatever object from which the sudden urge to nose-pick distracted him.

Thanks to all of this, Elmo is actually becoming quite an authoritative figure in our household.

I ask Reid to stop standing on his chair. He asks me: “Elmo says?” I say: “Yes, Elmo says get down.” He gets down. Voila!

Sort of like the new Simon Says game. Elmo says take a bath. Elmo says brush your teeth. Elmo says don’t hit your brother. Elmo says no wrestling in the bathtub.

Hey, Elmo is powerful. Even the government thinks so.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

"Be right back, Mom, we're just going around the block."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

So Much Gratitude

It was a long day. In other words, the boys passed up naptime for the-longer-my-eyelids-are-up-the-more-hyper-I-get time. Which made bedtime quite delirious. Which also made bedtime prayers quite bizarre. They went something like this:

"Thank you God for lightbulbs. God, and thank you for Target. And Lowe's, where the race cars are. Thank you for wheels on Reid's crib. God, thank you for shoes and socks. And thank you for Old McDonald's. And for food. I like milk. Thank you for Addison, and Addison's milk. Thank you for blinds and clocks. Thank you for books and toys. Thank you for our ottoman and rocking chair. They go together. And Jesus, thank you for God..."

It went on like that for quite a while. Until delirium finally succumbed to dreamworld. Sort of like a drunk finally passing out.

(Oh, and thank you, God, for sleeping, peaceful Hawklets...)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Overachieving Already

"It made the children laugh and play, laugh and play, laugh and play, it made the children laugh and play to see a lamb at school," I sang, proud of myself for getting all the way to the third verse, oh yeah.

He listened. Absorbed.

"Would you laugh if a lamb came to your school?" I asked.

"No."

"Oh, okay," I said, trying to remember the words to another song to keep things moving along. He had already had a testy morning. ("No Mom, don't park in the garage!" "No, I don't want to wear these shoes!" "Reid, DON'T TALK TO ME!")

But then, the rest of his thought spilled out.

"Because I would pet it. And then I would put a collar around it and attach it to one of those things (a leash? uh huh) and then we would go for a walk and I would walk next to it and pet it and then we would come back to my school and it would lie down on the floor and I would attach it to a string with black lines so nothing else could get to it and there would be a strap up here and I think that would be a good idea."

No.

The best idea.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Where have we been?!? Here's your answer

I think about a year ago at this time I was apologizing for my lack of posting. There's something about this time of year, the blend of summer into fall, that kicks me in the mom jeans and reminds me that I take on too much. And then I laugh and shrug it off and take on more because I thrive on having just a little more on my plate than I can handle. I come up for air every few weeks or so and tell Hubby Hawks that I just want to be a stay-at-home mom and he responds, "No you don't," and I say, "You're right, I don't," and dig back in.
It's that time again. Let's call it my annual apology. But the truth is, in the past several weeks life has caught up with me.

But two weeks ago, I took a chance to catch up with my life. In other words, we enjoyed a whole week of vacation. An unplugged vacation at that. No laptop (except one night of finance homework! Dear God, I'm taking finance!), no phone calls, no e-mail or blogging (though I admit I allowed myself a once-a-day glance at Twitter and Facebook, okay, there, are you happy?).

We went to one of my favorite places in the world - the family beach house that five generations of my mom's family have now enjoyed. And what exactly did we do? Allow me to explain...




We took turns flying airplanes...



We learned about people rescuing injured sea turtles...


We ran... we ran a lot...




Until we fell down every once in a while and posed...


And then got back up again and kept running...


And jumped. We jumped up and down and over waves and laughed as we jumped...


And we focused on what really matters.

Apology accepted?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Dealer Turned on Me

My beloved drive thru turned on me today.

I pulled into the Starbucks as I do every day, ordered my grande non-fat no-whip mocha, as I do every day, and waited for the barista to tell me it would be $3.84, as they do every day.

But today, something interrupted the flow.

“There’s been a little price increase” said the voice inside the speaker. “That’ll be $4.06.”

Wait, huh? Excuse me? Baking powder?

Starbucks must not have gotten the memo. There is an economic crisis going on. We are entering a recession. People are still losing their jobs.

Seattle is a part of this country, right?

But Starbucks decided now is the time to raise prices.

I tweeted about this immediately. Oh, take that! I’ll tweet you! And then I’ll blog you! And you’ll see!

I asked the barista at the window, after handing over my $4.06 if this was a national increase or local. And if it was on the entire menu or specific items. She clearly hadn’t been having a good morning thanks to the news. She informed me it was national and on almost every item and that her store had just been informed of it THIS MORNING. And then she instructed me to get online and send a complaint to corporate!

I considered doing a little math and figuring out exactly how much extra this will cost me over a year’s time and how many regularly priced mochas that amount would equate to and... Ugh, math.

(Which reminds me, my finance class starts tonight. Ugh, finance.)

But still.

Dear God, Starbucks, I feel guilty enough that I buy a grande mocha from you EVERY.SINGLE.DAY and how much that takes from my family’s budget. Why don’t you twist the knife a little more? Why don’t you pour some lemon juice on my paper cut? Huh? And while you’re at it, why don’t you just draw up the divorce papers my husband will be signing when he decides he can’t support my addiction to you anymore?!??

Consider it complained, barista.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Whole Lotta Love

Lately I’ve been concerned about how much gunk may or may not remain on the Hawklets’ teeth after they’re “brushed.” It just doesn’t seem possible that they’re ever truly “clean” and after several wrestling matches, where I’m cradling a Hawklet in a half nelson with one arm, toothbrush positioned in front of his sealed lips in my other hand, trying to persuade him to sing “E-I-E-I-O” ( the best thing I could think of that requires them to flash their teeth, at least every other letter), it’s easy to conclude that, yes: there has got.to.be.a.better.way.

Either that or I resign to the assumption that their teeth are still too new to start rotting already and surely there is some built in protection against cavities in such new teeth? Surely?

I mean really. What DID those cave babies do?

So last weekend I took a tip from Mimi. I got battery-powered spinning toothbrushes with awesome characters on them that are plaque fighters and make cool motor sounds and have on and off buttons!!

It worked.

It worked too well, in fact.

Now, I cannot get them to stop brushing their teeth. I am reminded of a book called The Wish Giver I read in elementary school in which a boy wishes to “put down roots” and starts to turn into a tree. Wish granted! You want toothbrushing children? Sure thing – how about they do nothing but brush their teeth! Problem solved!

They can’t bear to leave the toothbrushes in the bathroom. They brushed their teeth all over the house that first day. They put their toothbrushes inside their cars and drove them around. They rinsed them in every sink in our house – these new beloved toys called TOOTHBRUSHES.
Reid spin-brushed the inside of his ear. Eeeww.

“NO MOMMY, I’m NOT DONE BRUSHING MY TEEEEETH!” Graham screamed when I had the audacity to try to wrap things up. “I NEED MORE TOOTHPASTE! I NEED TO BRUSH THE FRONTS! I NEED TO SLEEP WITH MY TOOTHBRUSH!”

I explained that we leave toothbrushes in the bathroom by the sink. I assured him the very first thing he could do in the morning – just as soon as he opened his little eyes – was brush his teeth. That his toothbrush would be in the same spot where he left it, anxiously awaiting his next use.

This just wasn’t reassuring at all. Because when so deeply in love, nothing really can alleviate the pain of separation.

“BUT I NEED MY TOOTHBRUSH. I LOOOOOOVE MY TOOOOOOOTHBRUUUUUSH!” he sobbed.

It’s an expression of love I haven’t seen before. For the battery-powered spinning toothbrush. If only I could bottle even a bit of that passion and sprinkle it on myself in the monotony of day-to-day life. Like when I’m Swiffering or driving to work or, well …

Brushing my teeth.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

60 Reasons

Celebrating 60 years of my mom today, with 60 reasons why I love her:

1. Because of the look on her face the day she was anointed “Mimi” by my son.
2. Because of how sweet it sounds to hear my boys call my mother “Mimi.”
3. Because she never tells me how to mother, tells me what I could be doing better, or compares my style to anyone else’s, even though I know sometimes I could use the advice. Sometimes.
4. Because she made me collect "points" growing up to cash in to do fun things, and she gave me a clothing allowance and expected me to stick to it.
5. Because she cares for my boys during the day so that I can pursue a meaningful career with a little less stress. Nuff said?
6. Okay a lot less stress.
7. Because when people point out how generous she is to do this for us, she actually tells them that she’s the lucky one to get to spend so much time with her grandsons.
8. Because she’s always got wine.
9. Because she cooks the BEST Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, including special requests from picky sons-in-law.
10. And without help from us lazy children with zero cooking skills.
11. Because she kept all of mine and my sister’s artwork from elementary school and it now decorates the grandsons’ playroom at her house.
12. Because she has a playroom for her grandsons at her house.
13. Because she told me once, in high school, that money actually does not make the world go ‘round.
14. Because she taught me about faith, then stepped back to let mine blossom in its own way.
15. Because she put me on a plane to Madrid so I could go see the world. And she knew I’d come back.
16. And when she came to visit me, she brought me my favorite American shampoo and snacks.
17. Because of the look on her face when I, at about 16, asked her if she’d ever smoked pot in the ‘60s.
18. Because she somehow managed to raise two girls by herself, on a rural Missouri farm, while retaining her sanity and her calmness.
19. Because when I was in kindergarten, she was the mom who supplied apples for snack time, instead of cookies.
20. Because she still has a great relationship with her childhood best friend.
21. Because she dedicated her career to the success of children with both special needs and special gifts for too little income.
22. Because she still receives letters from former students telling her what a difference she made.
23. Because without meaning to, she taught me about the realities of marriage and what I wanted in a husband.
24. Because she ensured we were able to take family vacations every year to fun and interesting places.
25. Because she is so darn sentimental.
26. Because she ponders for so long about what to get my husband for Christmas every year.
27. Because she loves to read.
28. Because she forced me to listen to NPR every day growing up, against my Debbie Gibson-loving teenie-bopper will.
29. Because she always let me decorate my room however I wanted, including rearranging my furniture weekly.
30. Because she told me a story once of being at a Janice Joplin concert and leaving a bottle of liquor on the stage.
31. Because she bought me every.single.one of the Babysitters Club books.
32. Because she appreciates nice things without being pretentious.
33. Because she loves my husband as if he was her own son.
34. Because after she and my dad divorced, she did her best to ensure I maintained a good relationship with his family.
35. Because she has more toys at her house than I have at mine.
36. Because she’s a California girl.
37. Because she taught me about politics.
38. Because of her spaghetti sauce, fried rice, gravy and rice, and even crockpot chicken.
39. Because she let me bring friends to the beach every summer in high school.
40. Because she totally put up with my screening her calls in college.
41. Because she leads by example.
42. Because she is so giving of her resources to others in need.
43. Because in junior high when my sister and I just wanted to win the class can drive contest, she would not allow us to get food items that we would not personally want to eat.
44. Because she has cared for so many animals in her life, from pigs to chickens to cows to cats to dogs to a horse - many of whom were like children to her.
45. And she guided us through the heartache of umpteen pet deaths growing up.
46. Because she bought us the Ronco food dehydrator and never asked why we never made the fruit roll-ups or beef jerky we promised.
47. Because she introduced me to Jane Fonda and low-impact aerobics.
48. Because she dropped me off at Sandstone Amphitheater to meet friends for my first-ever concert at 15, on a wing and a prayer I would make it home later.
49. And I did. And she still asks herself why she did that.
50. Because she’s 60 and she just joined Facebook.
51. Because her middle name is Posey. It’s just loveable!
52. Because she took care of all of my tiny wedding details when I no longer had mental capacity for doing so.
53. Because she slapped my face the one time I ever used the “f” word in front of her.
54. And I deserved it!
55. Because she let us bring the baby chicks home to the farm after they hatched in our third grade class incubators.
56. Because she was such a Murder She Wrote fan.
57. And Dallas.
58. Because she believes in me, my abilities and my potential.
59. Because I know she is proud of me.
60. Because making this list was a breeze.

Happy birthday, mom! I love you!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Peanut Butter

“Mommy! Peanut butter!” he demands out of nowhere.

Daddy has just heated up some spaghetti.

“You want peanut butter instead?” I ask.

“No! Mommy! Peanut butter!” his demands are just as curt as before.

“Okay, I’ll make you peanut butter, sheesh!”

“No mommy,” now whining ever so desperately, “peanut buuutterrr.”

He points to the floor and my light bulb goes on.

“Ooooohhhh, you want to BE peanut butter! Okay!”

A sweet, sweet smile slowly takes over his porcelain face as he realizes I understand.

I lie down on the floor, arms outstretched, and he runs into them. I’m the bread. He’s the peanut butter. We are stuck together.

Forever.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ramblings

Last night, we went to California Pizza Kitchen, after opening the fridge to discover some water, lettuce, condiments… maybe some salsa? You get the picture. Maybe your fridge looks the same? Or, maybe not and you’re perfect, in which case we can’t be friends anymore.

We parked on the roof and walked down four flights of parking garage stairs. Graham pointed out that someone left their beer on the stairs. We pretended not to notice the urine smell. I was horrified that Graham was using the handrail as he bounded down each step.

“Stop touching that! Don’t hold the handrail!” I blurted.

His safety-first conscious (the part that mysteriously turns off right before he steps out into oncoming traffic) put a look of confusion on his face. “But mom, I’m supposed to hold the handrail so I don’t fall down. Do you WANT me to fall down? WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU?” I imagined him interrogating me. We washed hands inside the restaurant after I took the chill pill my husband offered and decided that washing away germs was the lesser evil when compared to falling down stairs.

Nothing like urine smell to kick the appetite into gear.

Sitting in restaurants waiting for food is not a kid-friendly activity. Thus we carry around the bag of tricks. It also holds diapers and wipes. Snacks. Matchbox cars.

These are the things that used to preoccupy the Hawklets. Not anymore.

(They do preoccupy Hubby Hawks, though. He showed me the hairstyle he gave to Wooly Willy. He was so proud.)

So with a table littered with matchbox cars, we shifted focus to the kids menu and crayons. The menu offered tic-tac-toe. So I decided it could become a teaching moment.

When did I become my mother?

Graham was interested at first. “Okay, I’m going to be ‘X’ and I’ll put an ‘X’ right here!” I demonstrated. “Where do you want to put your ‘O’?” I asked excitedly.

He saw right through. “I just want to put a ‘K’ there.”

While I’ve never actually read the rules to tic-tac-toe, something just didn’t feel right about that.

Today when putting books back on his shelf he noticed his “Baby’s First Bible” and decided it looked interesting. He wanted to take it in the car. But remembered as we were pulling out of the driveway.

“Wait! I forgot my God book! I forgot MY GOD BOOK!” he wailed.

“You can love Jesus even if you don’t read the Bible,” Hubby reassured him.

I guess we’ve been on a kick around here lately, because Reid now adds an “Amen” to the end of the ABCs. Sometimes he claps for himself and cheers, “Yay!” and other times, just a succinct “Amen.” It really adds some umph to an unexpected moment so now I’m thinking about adding “Amen” to the end of conference calls or emails.

Or blog posts.

Amen.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What Happens When Dad's Away

Apparently, this week the Hawklets learned a new word: “Toyota.” So now there’s an ongoing discussion between them as to what is and is not a Toyota.

“Is that a Toyota?”

“Hey, there’s our car. It’s not a Toyota.”

“No, Reid, our car’s not a Toyota, it’s gray!!”

Hubby has been away this weekend. I am a golf tournament widow. My intellect took a little weekend off as well. So the Hawklets and I have been enjoying eating whatever we want for dinner. Tonight, that meant McDonald’s drive thru for them. For me, it meant some mozzarella and then a bowl of Raisin Bran when the mozzarella wasn’t enough to tide me over. Graham was willing to give up his Happy Meal to help me with the Raisin Bran. As much as I appreciate help, I just couldn’t bear to allow him to give up his nutritious McDonald’s dinner to eat some cereal.

Last night, it was peanut butter. They only wanted one piece of bread though, so I can’t say they ate peanut butter sandwiches per se. Sort of open-faced peanut butter. I think I had some cherries.

I hope Hubby comes back soon so we can start eating normally again.

We had to make a Target run because mommy needed some nail polish and the Hawklets needed some milk. (Wow, I just re-read that sentence and pictured us all barefoot. I promise we were all wearing shoes.)

Reid decided he wanted to walk. Graham obliged my direction to ride in the cart. A couple of elderly women made conversation with them. They pointed out that Reid was such a big boy to walk by the cart.

Graham couldn’t let that one go.

“I’m a big boy, too! I go pee on the potty!” he assured them.

I spent most of yesterday convincing them that cleaning and playing are essentially one in the same. “Who wants to get the vacuum out of the closet?!” I asked excitedly. “I do! I do!” Graham called, running towards the door.

I had to force them to take turns with the Swiffer Wet Jet. It was just too much fun. I probably expended as much energy managing the turn taking as I would have just swiffering by myself.

I actually hate that thing, but Hubby insisted on it. So I’ve tried to convince myself that the film it leaves on our floors is a film of cleanliness. Perhaps a G-force barrier, keeping germs from penetrating. Still, the whole time I’m pushing it around, I can’t help but think I’m cleaning the floors with a giant maxi pad on a stick.

This morning they explored all the treasures we keep hidden in the basement while I did laundry. They found several old garage sale leftovers. First up, a pair of 5-lb. dumbbells. “Look, mom, we’re gyming!” Graham demonstrated.

Next, an old barbeque brush. Graham needed to brush my hair with it. “Well, mom, it’s not working. Your hair’s not getting pretty,” he sighed. “You should cry now.”

But it was actually the two of them crying after they had each hit each other over the head with the “barbeque broom” as Graham called it and I had to re-banish it to the basement.

Is Hubby home yet?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Yes, Virginia, there is a Thomas

"He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy...









...Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bathroom Humor

Breaking the silence following a rather noisy bout of 3 year-old flatulence on the potty: "Sounds just like a motorcycle!" (um, his quote, not mine)

I suppose this might be one of those moments only a mother finds amusing...

...a mother, Howard Stern, and a pre-pubescent Boy Scout troop.

The Look

This just in: Mom of six gets highlights!! (That b*tch! She must not care anything for her children if she chooses to coif herself! )

Remember mom jeans? Not cute. Why are they called mom jeans? Because women without children don’t wear them? Well… do they? Or is it because moms are naturally supposed to have upside-down-heart-shaped tushes and thus need the appropriate pants to compensate for the new morphed shape? A side effect of pregnancy and pushing, maybe? A mom stamp?

Naturally, moms are supposed to be frumpy and flabby. They are supposed to be dowdy with a pooch. They are supposed to be … oh sorry, I temporarily slipped into an alternate universe!

Is it news now that moms get manicures? Get their teeth whitened? Should Kate Gosselin be ridiculed for wanting a tummy tuck after housing six human beings inside there? I think not. There are far better reasons to ridicule Kate Gosselin that don’t include the fact that she got a tan, highlights and a manicure and thus no longer “looks like a mom.” The fact that she has changed her ‘mom look’ is not a news story. Come on, tabloids, I expect more from you!

I didn’t look so hot after giving birth to one baby. I can’t imagine what gross creature I would look like after giving birth to six.

I am a mom but I can also attempt to be the woman I was before being a mom (poor Hubby would probably appreciate that attempt). I have pushed two human beings out of my body after all. The least you can afford me is a mani/pedi/highlight/teeth whitening without ridicule.

Hey, I’m a mom – I have superhuman powers! I can certainly pull off both mom and woman simultaneously. Oh yes, hear me roar.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Should I be concerned?

"Remember, Mimi," he said, "we don't talk about boobs."


Friday, June 12, 2009

Hi, I'm Two


I’m my mommy’s baby. And I was quite a surprise to her. Then when I was born, I shocked everyone with my surfer blonde hair. These were just my first surprises of many.

I am sweet. No, really. I am usually smiling or looking very interested in whatever it is I’m supposed to be interested in. I very obediently go to time out when I need to. I am very kissable and I give great kisses. I also love to give slippy sloppies, which I made up. I give them on cheeks and they are both similar to and different from kisses and they involve a lot of slobber. I am inventive like that.

I also have this spot right between my chin and my neck where I am the most ticklish. And I love it when my mom buries her face right there and gets it. When she does, I laugh from a certain place at the back of my throat and she knows it’s the right spot.

I’m my big brother’s shadow. Most of the time. I will follow him around, mimic his words, his actions, play with whatever he wants to play with. And then just at the most strategic opportunity, when I’ve made him believe that he is in total control, I’ll grab his beloved car or tractor and stare him right in the eye, frozen, to test what he’ll do in return. Usually he cries like a baby to mom or dad.

When I cry, my face scrunches up, like it has since I was born, and I remind my mom of that time of my life and she smiles a little, even in my devastation.

But I’m not a baby when I take down my big brother and wrestle him around on the floor and show him who is boss. Fifteen months means nothing to me! I’ll take him on!

I’ll take the stairs on, too. One time I fell down them – oh yes, all 15 of them. Hardwood.
And I was fine.

I’m not clumsy, but I’ve given my parents their fair share of scares. Like the time I had everyone – doctor included – convinced that I might have diabetes. So my parents did finger pricks and glucose monitoring and smelled my breath and watched my wet diapers.
And I was fine.

(But, hey, who doesn’t love carbs? Are you with me?)

And though I’ve come unscathed from several near-misses, I do wear glasses. Well, most of the time – when I haven’t lost them, broken them, or chewed too many scratches into the lenses. I have nystagmus so my eyes shake and nobody but me knows how things look through my eyes. One day, I’ll let everyone in on my secret, but for now, I’ll let them keep guessing and figuring out ways to decipher what my eyes need and how they can help. A lot of times, people tell my parents how cute I look in my glasses. And my mom says, “thank you” and then struggles with that as a compliment. Because she wishes I didn’t have a reason to wear glasses in the first place. Though I am pretty cute.

In fact, I look sometimes like Ralphie from “A Christmas Story,” and sometimes like Dewey from “Malcom in the Middle.” And of course, other times like the kid from “Jerry Maguire.”

And my mom has a picture of me that she swears looks like George W. Bush. Hmmm…

My parents call me Doogie. I don’t know why and neither do they, but they always have.

My bubby calls me Bubby.

But I’m just me. I’m Reid. And I’m two.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eavesdropping at the Zoo

By Guest Blogger, "Mimi"

Graham to sheep: "Hi! My name ...

... is Graham. Your name ...

... is black sheep."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The obligatory stealing-a-candy-bar-from-the-grocery-store moment

Hey, you, grocery cart manufacturers. Guess what? My kids love your innovative designs. Grocery carts today are nothing like the metal grid boxes of my childhood. Particularly those that incorporate the plastic race car.

In fact, the older Hawklet begs us to go to Lowe’s constantly so he can “be Jimmy Johnson.” He even recognizes the street if we start to head in that general direction and gets excited in the car. We don’t watch racing at home. He just loves that Jimmy Johnson car cart at Lowe’s. And therefore he begs us to take him to Lowe’s. Wow, you Lowe’s marketers – good job!

I ask him what we need to buy at Lowe’s and his response is “everything and everything.” Now I love home improvement, but that’s maybe my limit.

The kid just LOVES the carts.

But those of you who thought that it would be such fun to put the “car” on the bottom of the cart – down at the floor level – rather than up top like the geniuses at Lowe’s? Now, come on. We’ve finally gotten past the point that they just walk out of the cart as we drive up and down the aisles. So that was an accomplishment. But last week – a different story. Last week my two race car drivers were hidden as we pulled through the grocery check-out lane. Down there in the narrowest of areas in the grocery store – the area in which they are surrounded by juicy tabloids, batteries, Tide-to-Go, and CANDY. Where they are hidden from watching parental eyes and where it’s just too easy to reach…out…and…touch…that…beloved…delicious…CANDY…

And they proceeded to help themselves.

And down there in their little race car, my two little drivers made it all the way to the real car before Hubby and I knew anything of their little trick. In fact, just like a little raccoon, Reid had already eaten right through the plastic sleeve around his selection – a Crunch bar. Graham, so much more responsible, was holding on to his Hershey bar. Saving it for later, perhaps. Mmm – hmm.

Upon foiling their plan, Hubby pivoted right around, carrying one, dragging the other, back into the store for the obligatory apology. He paid for the partially eaten Crunch – 40 cents (nice job, Reid, selecting the one on sale). Then Graham apologized to the grocery clerk and asked if she would buy the Hershey bar for him. I don’t think either of them cared much and obviously didn’t feel any shame or guilt.

Just another day in the life of a toddler boy. Another day, another milestone.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Am I that busy?

Two key emails have come to me from Mimi at work over the past couple weeks:

“Did you know Reid can sing the ABC song?”

“Did you know Reid can count to 10?”

Am I that busy or am I parenting a genius? A little of both?

Wordless Thursday because I was too tired on Wednesday


Friday, May 22, 2009

With My Listening Ears On

I won’t tell you where, because that would be like giving away too much information about how big of a nerd I really am, but I heard someone say the other day that they decided instead of talking to God in prayer that they would listen for a change.

Listen.

“Huh. So you listened to silence and called that prayer?” I skeptically thought. “How very profound of you, Bible beater.”

I try my darndest to be prayerful and to be thankful and to recognize in everyday moments that we are not in control. He is.

My two babies are my best proof of that.

And I try to be open – with the openest of arms – to wherever I am being led next.

Even though it’s not necessarily to the church pews on Sunday mornings. Because God knows spending my church hour disciplining rambunctious boys in the foyer isn’t necessarily getting me closer to God. It’s just putting me in a foul mood for the rest of my weekend. And I’m okay with that because I know that God doesn’t live at church. He lives everywhere.

So I thought about it. The listening thing. I wondered what you could really hear when you listen to God in prayer for once, rather than doing all the talking. Relationships are two-way streets after all.

And that night I tried it.

Lying in bed, I closed my eyes and prayerfully listened.

Guess what I heard.

I heard my husband breathing next to me. And I heard by babies breathing in the next room. I heard nothing else but the rhythmic chorus of peaceful breath. Sort of like a spirit in motion.

And what I heard reminded me that I am surrounded by love, by what really matters. That nothing else is more important. That he loves me because he gave me these three most wonderful people.

I listened to God and he certainly took the opportunity to make sure that I heard.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

On Defining Expertise

Quote of the day, from an internal presentation by a vendor: “…I mean, you don’t take product advice from strangers. You’re going to trust the recommendations of your friends more than you are from someone you don’t know personally…”

Oh. I am? And tell me more about me, Mr. Man, please. Introduce me to myself. Tell me what goes through a mom’s mind, from your personal perspective.

Because a few months ago, when Hubby and I were on the hunt for a new digital camera, from whom did I seek product recommendations? Virtual strangers. Moms whom I’ve never met personally who blog and post pictures on their blogs. Pictures that I like. Using cameras that apparently take good pictures. And we spent several hundred dollars on a camera recommended by such virtual strangers. With beautiful photography as evidenced here.

So there, Mr. Man. Welcome to the world of mom authority.

A common danger in marketing is that marketers sometimes like to answer a question or approach a problem from a personal place. “I don’t like that ad concept because it feels a little too [insert personal emotion here].”

But what does everyone feel? Maybe not what you feel. Are you marketing to a person like you? Or are you marketing to a market?

And what do men know about women? Ah, the age old question. How about a new one – what do women know about moms? Can you be a marketer to moms if you are not a mom? Yes, of course. But as many times as I say that, I find myself not completely believing in the statement.

A man can be an OB/GYN. A Caucasian person can be a professor of African-American history. But is their expertise restrained to surface level? A book level? Would personal experience make their authority stronger? As biased as it sounds, I think so.

More and more dads are blogging. Men are of course marketing to moms. Men are even creating social networks for moms to engage with each other. Like this one. That's right, the CEO of the second-largest and fastest-growing social network for moms is not a mom. Nor is he a dad. He is not even married. He is an entrepreneur to saw an unmet need for the mom market and pounced. But if he were a mom, would his personal experience being part of the target audience better inform his marketing decisions? Perhaps. Do I trust the authority of a mom who is telling me about moms more so than a 30-year old single male who is telling me about moms? Absolutely, 110%.

Being a mom does not make someone an expert in marketing to moms.

And being a marketer doesn’t either.

But being a mom marketer and a marketer to moms? I’d like to think that’s formulating something.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Conversations with a Three-Year-Old, Vol. 4

Him: “Remember when I was a baby and I was in your belly and I pushed your belly out?”
Me: “Yes.”
Him: “And Reid was in Daddy’s belly.”
Me: “No, Reid was in my belly, too.”
Him: “But who was in Daddy’s belly?”
_______________________________________

Him (pretending to drive, with me in the passenger seat): “Here we go, mom!”
Me: “Where are we going? California?”
Him: “Nope.”
Me: “Texas?”
Him: “No. We’re going to TARGET!”
_______________________________________

Him (staring at the t-ball, holding the bat, ready to swing): “I am going to hit you now.”
_______________________________________

Me: “Have a good day today.”
Him: “I will. And I will sit in time out.”
Me: “You don’t have to sit in time out if you’re a good boy.”
Him: “Yes, I will sit in time out.
Me: “No, you won’t. Just be good.”
Him: “I will push my butter (a.k.a brother). And then I will sit in time out.”
_______________________________________

Him: “One day, I will be thiiiiiis tall, and I will be Daddy!”

Monday, April 27, 2009

Does Your Child Like Square Butts?

A couple weeks ago, Hubby and I were wrapped up in our weekly "Lost" watching ritual (truly the only show we both are addicted to - between E! News and ESPN, we somehow meet in the middle at "Lost") and out of nowhere we were slapped by it. The dancing king mascot. The hotties stuffing phone books into their Daisy Duke shorts. The Sir-Mix-a-Lot (he’s a rapper, mom) cameo. The demoralization of a beloved cartoon character. Oh yeah, and Burger King wants us to buy kids meals.

Huh?

Yeah, you know – kids and square butts. I always think of the two together. You don’t?

Actually, I should mention that we don’t use the word “butt” in our house. It’s “bottom.” That’s my mother coming out of me. Which I am fine with.

I digress. Sitting there, still slightly confused as usual by the current "Lost" storyline, and suddenly finding ourselves even more confused by the use of phone books inside shorts and Sir-Mix-a-Lot in an ad, we turned to each other with furrowed brows and asked, “Was that a commercial for a KIDS MEAL?”

It was.

As I anticipated, the next day the blogosphere was abuzz. Moms were outraged, not only at Burger King for its obvious lack of appropriateness in kid-marketing tactics, but also at Nickelodeon for offering Sponge Bob up for such a crude spot that objectifies women. I mean, if I want my toddlers to learn about objectifying women, I’d expect that kind of education from MTV or "The Girls Next Door." Not you, Nick.

And then, it happened again. Last night, a couple weeks after our first square butt encounter, we saw it again. And this time, even Hubby was perplexed: “I can’t believe they haven’t pulled that ad.”

Note to Burger King: even my testosterone-filled husband finds your kids meal ad offensive. Something is really off here.

Other folks think we should all lighten up. What do you think? Should the fact that Burger King at least got people talking be considered a win? Or, was the hype worth the associated negativity? The use of Sponge Bob and tape measures sizing up female dancers’ square tushes certainly didn’t make me think about veering my car of toddlers towards the BK drive thru. You?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hi. I'm Three.

Hi. I’m three.

I am curious. I’m curious about whether I can get away with things that I know I shouldn’t do. I am curious about when the girls across the street are going to be outside next so I can ride my bike with them. I am curious about how I can capture any of the attention people give my little brother.

I have my mom wondering if the best resource for dealing with me right now would be Love and Logic or Raising the Spirited Child. I like to keep her guessing. Because I’m three like that.

Sometimes I’m spirited. Sometimes I just like to raise hell because I’m a boy and it’s fun.

I like to scream the same sound repeatedly at the dinner table. My voice sounds funny when I do that.

I’m not afraid of anything or anyone. But that scares my mom to death.

I’m a daddy’s boy, though, so it really doesn’t bother me that I worry my mom. I like to say that dad is “my daddy” and mom is “Reid’s mommy.” My dad then assures my mom that one day I will snap out of this phase. And she doesn’t believe him.

I think it’s funny when my mom and dad kiss each other.

I also think it’s funny when my brother laughs. It makes me laugh. And then neither one of us can stop laughing. In fact, the laughing just gets louder and more uncontrollable. But those are the belly laughs that my mom loves. But I don’t really care about that because I am daddy’s boy.
I have mastered the potty training thing, but sometimes I like to pretend that I haven’t. I get attention then - when I pee in my pants. I like attention. And I like to keep my parents on their toes. So it works out well that way.

I like to do things by myself. I call it “be myself” and my mom doesn’t even correct me. Because she likes to hear me say that I want to be myself. Because she likes who I am. Even though I like daddy more than I like her.

I am currently obsessed with driving. I will try to open car doors – doesn’t matter who the car belongs to – to get inside behind the wheel and pretend that I’m driving somewhere. If mom and dad tell me I have to get out of the car I start throwing a fit. I can really throw a good one! After all, they interrupted my pretending. And I really like to pretend.

I also like to shout ‘surprise!’ whenever I walk into a room. Sometimes people shout it back. I guess they don’t realize that I already surprised them, so they can’t surprise me back. Overall, I just like a warm reception. And people like me to walk into the room. They like having me around.

Even though I’m a drama king.

But what do you expect?

I’m only three.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Handy Dandy Testosterone

Me: "Hey, how did you fix the DVD player?"

Hubby: "I punched it."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Learning to Pitch

When my sister and I were young, we had three channels to watch on one TV in our farmhouse in rural Missouri. Weekend choices were typically sports that we weren’t into or infomercials. This was of course all before we moved into town and suddenly had *gasp!* cable and my mother had MTV ‘scrambled’ for fear it would turn us into rebel promiscuous teenagers.

One lazy afternoon camped in front of that TV in the basement, we saw it. We became enthralled. We could make our own fruit roll ups. We could make banana chips. We could even make beef jerky. Did I just say that? You’d better believe it. WE COULD MAKE OUR OWN BEEF JERKY!

It was the Ronco Food Dehydrator. We were sold.We memorized those message points, relayed so melodically from that oh-no-she-is-not-scripted hostess. We were as amazed at the demos as was that of-course-they’re-not-actors audience. We readied ourselves and went in for the pitch.

To mom.

We sat her down on the couch and convinced her that we would eat oh-so healthfully since all of our snacks would be sugar-free dehydrated fruit and such. We would waste less produce because once it started giving those about-to-start-turning-brown signals, we would just chop it up and make banana fruit or dried tomatoes. Or whatever. And we would make our own – healthy – fruit roll-ups! We would save money! And it’s so easy to clean! And so many trays – you can dehydrate so much at once! It’s a wave of the future – right here on the farm! We HAVE. TO. GET. IT!

She listened. She processed. She even had questions. But how much electricity does it use? Oh yes, she played right along. Except we were serious.

She must have admired the effort. The pitch. She made the toll-free call. We were in.

It came in the mail a little while later. We did make the banana chips, though they were a little more gooey than chippy. And we made the tomatoes. We put them in plastic baggies and snacked on dried tomatoes – because we could. We had a Ronco Food Dehydrator so we could snack on weird things like that that kids just do not snack on. Never got around to the fruit roll-ups or the beef jerky (can’t imagine why – I didn’t even learn how to brown hamburger until my senior year of college, yes I’m admitting that). But it was great.

Many years later, I gifted it to a friend in exchange for helping us move into an apartment. He was a fraction as excited as we were on that presentation day.

And now here I am in PR. Thanks Ronco Food Dehydrator.

And thanks, mom.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This one time…at the check-out stand…

“Sometimes at the check-out, I look around to see if anyone’s looking and then I pull some coupons out of my purse…”

WHAT? YOU USE … WAIT … COUPONS? Say it ain’t so, Flo.*

Flo works with me. We happened to both be caught in an around-the-water-cooler discussion recently about getting good deals. I mentioned I got my skinny jeans at TJ Maxx. I am not ashamed to admit it. Yes, I love to find a steal of a deal. Even at TJ Maxx. I get giddy. I run home and tell Hubby about my find and how much money I saved us, as if I unlocked the answer to some ancient secret code. I think about how my frivolous jeans aren’t taking anything away from the Hawklets, or our 401K funds, or our babies’ college savings. I feel good.

So it never occurred to me, I suppose - particularly in the current economy - that wanting to get a good deal could be embarrassing, something you’d want to hide, even from perfect strangers behind you in the check-out line.

Sshhhh! Don’t let them think we paid anything less than full price for this 12-pack of paper towels! Gah! I mean, we’re rushing right home to wallpaper the dining room with $10 bills after this, okay?!

Do you know these people who are embarrassed to use coupons? Are you embarrassed to admit you might use a coupon every now and again? That you might pop into Tuesday Morning to pay 80% less on that Ralph Lauren down comforter than you would at Dillard’s? (Well, only if your anonymity is protected by dark glasses and a wig, of course!)

Current studies show coupon usage is up by 15% over last year. We as a consumer society have enough stress to manage right now. Let’s give ourselves a break. Pull out those coupons and be proud. Wave them around. Tap dance on top of the check-out stand and sing a little song of defiance, “I got the best de-al! I got the best de-al!” Saunter into TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning with your head held high!

What’s the big deal? Exactly. It’s the big deals you could be missing out on. Too embarrassed to save? Seems that now’s the perfect chance to join the rest of the world and refuse to pay full price. Go on, you can do it. You know you want to. Your 401K wants you to, too.

*Names changed to protect the innocent over-spenders.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blogging Therapy

Hubby and I have had the unfortunate need to discuss grief recently.

I believe when people die, we grieve not necessarily for them, but for the sadness inside the hearts of everyone they left behind who loved them and miss them like crazy - for their loss. For those people who knew them best and have to go on without them.

Can you grieve for the loss of someone you didn’t know at all?

I’ve been reminded of this strange phenomenon of our digital society recently having stumbled upon a number of parent bloggers – both moms and dads – who digitally document the painful necessity to go on with life after death. I find myself fascinated with this blog genre. It’s not about product reviews or money-saving tips. To them, this is about putting one foot in front of the other each day, desperately hoping that with each step they are not moving further away from precious memories.

When parents have to go on without a child, or the other parent, their unique grief is so moving, so heart-wrenching to the naive rest of us. I find myself enthralled with their writing and shedding tears for these virtual strangers who have decided to share their intimate lives with the blogosphere. I grieve for their sadness. I don’t even know them.

The idea of ever losing one of my children or my spouse is so incredibly painful I cannot bear to think about it for fear my heart may stop beating.

And yet, these blogging parents - like this mother, this father, this mother and this wife - have decided to share their journeys with anyone who cares to follow them.

Perhaps it is therapy for them. And us.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cell Phone as Sitter

I received an email from a friend this week:“My cell phone has become water logged. Can you send me your numbers to save in my new phone?”

Been there, done that.

Hubby Hawks and I have replaced more than one mobile device thanks to Hawklet slobber rendering them useless after a few months. Are we bad parents because we allowed our babies to chew on our cell phones? If you’re judging, go ahead and consider the hoards of parents who give their kids cell phones to play with, to keep them occupied in the car, or to serve as mediator in the midst of a public tantrum, in the middle of the grocery store, strangers staring. If you’re judging and you’ve never mothered a toddler, oh you just wait.

We give them our old cell phones when we upgrade to replace the water logged broken down versions. They become beloved additions to the toy box. The Hawklets walk around the house pretending to talk to us, to their grandparents, to imaginary friends. They don’t want no stinking toy cell phones – puh-lease! They know the difference. Toddler-intended ‘cell phones’ are just not as exciting as the real things. (And don’t try to give them a kiddie lap top, either! Hellooo - Mommy’s lap top isn’t brightly colored with gigantic yellow buttons that play music!)

Now, organizations like PBS Kids Sprout have developed new ways to leverage the phenomenon of cell phone as baby sitter. Oh yes, plopping Junior down in front of the TV is so amateur! Now you can hand him your iPhone and he can walk around the house or sit in his carseat edu-taining himself with emerging digital media. This is not your mother’s motherhood.

The great cell phone phenomenon becomes a bigger issue when those toddlers get bigger. Now we are seeing the emergence of teen issues like sexting. What’s that, you say? It’s yet another reason that the thought of parenting teens scares the bejesus out of me.

But still, as a marketer, I’m fascinated at the idea that I don’t even know what these devices (let’s face it; they’re not just ‘phones’ anymore) have in store for us even three years from now.

And by, 'us,' you know I mean moms. Will we pre-order our groceries via iPhone, while simultaneously taking advantage of mobile coupons? Will our kids get homework help via a virtual iPhone tutor? Will I be able to scan the Coach store with my iPhone from outside and find out exactly how many of the Op Art Juliane handbags in black may or may not be in stock without having to find a parking space and lug two toddlers inside?

We likely won't have to wait even three years to find out.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Three Years Ago Today

Three years ago today, my contractions were starting. I was trying to get work done between them. And I managed to, thank you very much. I was preparing for the best day of my life. I wanted all the extraneous details and loose ends tied so that I could do nothing but gaze at my son, trace the wrinkles in his baby skin and ponder my new role of mother.

Here I am today, three years later, preparing for a rockin' three-year-old birthday. I have more loose ends to tie than I can count. I need to re-cover my dining room chairs, I need to make 35 cupcakes, I need to burn 10 kids' CDs and print covers. I have a grad school project due. The boys' dirty clothes basket is overflowing. I need to get 'real' work - the paying work - done between all these things. I am so tired, it feels as though there are little elves behind my eyeballs leaning up against them trying to pop them out.
And I really need to paint my front door because it is driving me nutty, but I have to let go of that one. I know - there are limits.

Oh, have I embraced that role of mother.

I took my birthday boy to the doctor today for a check up. I listened to new moms in the waiting room - strangers to each other - sharing their brand tips. 'Do you have a Bumbo?' 'Yes, those things are amazing!' I laughed to myself, both as a researcher of mom consumer behaviors and as someone who was not long ago in that same situation. Oh but now I am a sage, of course. [She says facetiously.]

I reminded my big boy that tomorrow is his big day. I asked if he was ready to be three. 'Not YET!' he replied. Duh, mom. He'll be ready tomorrow; not today. Everything has its time. It's rhythm. He obviously knows this better than I do.
My front door will get painted in time. For now, I'll soak in this day and the next and be grateful for my little life changer. For how he's inspired me. For the past three years. For what's in store for us.
Happy birthday, baby.









Monday, February 23, 2009

DVR: One of Many Mom Superpowers

Could DVR prevent the ‘gimmies’ evoked by commercials?

The older Hawklet has only recently learned what a commercial is. Watching a show he was particularly in to recently (God only knows what that was if not on PBS), a commercial appeared and he promptly commanded me to put his show back on. Sorry, bud, but if this mom was truly that powerful, I’d be doing a lot more than just skipping over commercials. I explained that I had no control over this interruption, and by the way, it is called a commercial. “A com-MERCIAL?” he asked, volume crescendoing as he elongated his pronunciation of this new word.

Hmmm…did I want him to be more aware of commercials? Not particularly. Had I just encouraged him to tune in to this newfound phenomenon? Ugh. I suddenly sort of regretted drawing his attention to them.

I also realized two things in the brief course of this exchange: 1) being a conscious consumer is definitely a learned behavior, 2) DVR might be one of the most mom-friendly inventions of the last several years.

We sheltered our Hawklet from too much TV-watching in the beginning stages of our parenthood, fearful of ‘those’ studies that ‘those’ third-party research institutes that I now can’t name offhand said would give him ADD. And, I am that nerd who took on a two-year independent research study as an undergrad focused on the impact that advertisements during children’s programming have on perpetuating gender and racial stereotypes. Gender and racial stereotypes and my Hawklets don’t mix. And ADD scares me.

And besides cautions around greed, ADD, gender stereotypes and racial profiling (as if that isn’t enough!), a recent report from the Center for Media Research pointed to the fact that even commercials embedded within sports programming are unsafe for kids. They are violent and sex-crazed. More characteristics with which my Hawklets don’t mix!

Did you notice the number of times someone was flung from a window, hit by a bus, trampled by an animal, or generally knocked unconscious in commercials that aired during this year’s Super Bowl? Ever considered whether those 30 seconds could be causing your little one stress? Me neither.

But this recent study showed that one in six ads aired during a football game is inappropriate for kids. This is Sunday afternoon television, folks, not after-the-kids-should-be-in-bed-anyway kind of stuff.

DVR can save us from fretting over such issues. So now it has received a spot on my favorites list. (And if you’ve been following along, that means it falls in line right after drive-thrus and VapoRub.)

Will those seemingly harmless interruptions during the quickly approaching March Madness spill over into your little ones’ psyches? Perhaps DVR could make your household’s March a little less Mad. You go, Supermom.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The ‘Back-Burner’ National Crisis?

For the past couple weeks I’ve been doing my best to not blog about Nadya Suleman. Don’t act like you don’t know who she is. You’ve been just as ...disgusted? sympathetic? ...okay, intrigued by her story as I have. But I just didn’t want to go there. Whatever I have to say, you’ve already heard it from the countless others who have taken one side or the other in their judgment.

Then today I decided to see what would appear if I searched simply for the word “moms” in Google News. Guess what – there was Nadya Suleman, of course, being kept company by a college reporter's take on Bristol Palin’s TV interview, a story about a 13-year old boy who has fathered an infant in the U.K., and a report on Travis Henry, the NFL player who has nine children by nine women. (I say ‘the’ realizing that it’s quite possible he’s not the only NFL player in this predicament.)

“Moms.”

I wasn’t necessarily expecting to be hit with controversy from that otherwise safe search term. I would have settled for a tips piece about working moms. I would have welcomed a feel-good feature about moms helping each other through hard times. Even a marketing trends story about moms and social networks. But instead I was reminded that there are a lot of national crises going on today, and some of them happen to center around parenthood and happen to involve little ones. This is not an exclusive club to which we moms belong, even though our members are responsible for raising our future leaders.

For her part Bristol Palin provided this sage point of view: “I hope that people learn from my story and just like, I don't know, prevent teen pregnancy, I guess.”

Things that make you go ‘hmmm’…

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Getting Your Groove On … in the Bathroom

It’s the newest dance craze sweeping the nation…er, uh, I mean it’s the newest marketing campaign aimed at moms of toddlers on that cusp of being ‘bid kids.’

And I can’t help but take note as one such mom in the throws of getting all jump-up-and-down-clapping-and-woo-hooing excited about peeing on the potty. Yes, I’m in that motherhood stage where talking about peeing and pooping is not only appropriate, but sometimes very exciting.

And what does this have to do with a dance craze? Oh yes, back to that.

Now, Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Pull-Ups training pants, which we use, has invented the “Potty Dance,” designed to get toddlers and moms dancing all Macarena-esque in hopes it will create a “ritual” that helps support that quest for big-kid-hood.

I wonder what those focus groups were like.

Just in case you don’t have enough to ‘teach’ your little one with regards to how this whole potty thing works, throwing some choreography in the mix is actually going to help. So the folks at Kimberly-Clark believe. What do you believe?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Reflections on My Reflection

When you look in the mirror, do you like what you see?

It’s one of the things I love to watch my Hawklets do – they get excited to see themselves in the mirror. They stick out their tongues. They smile. They point. They’ve never done anything any differently when they gaze at their reflections but stop for a minute, linger and flirt with themselves. They have absolutely no reason to want to change anything in that vision bouncing back to them. But what about the rest of us? At some point we lose this love affair with our reflections. We succumb to marketing messages that we need this in order to be a better wife, mother, person. We need that to look better, dress better, spend more, eat less. We need to change. We are not good enough.

I don’t want these messages polluting my Hawklets’ love affair with themselves.

Over the past few years, Dove has done a ground-breaking job attempting to make us all feel better about what we’ve got in a way that sells soap. Remember when sex sold? You know, the age-old marketing ploy that robbed you of your self-esteem? Your desire to gaze into the mirror and smile back? It’s not a new campaign, but the genius inside the reverse psychology Dove packaged up into a marketing powerhouse continues to wow me.

When asked, moms have actually named Dove as the no. 1 brand for health. For health? For health. This is not a brand prescribed by doctors. Unless you’re battling chronic dirt, soap can’t cure what ails you. Yes, hand-washing is important in germ fighting, but we’re talking about soap…shampoo…lotion…these things are not meant to remedy the ‘sick.’ But Dove is the perfect example that savvy marketing and brand positioning can elevate you to the perception that you are about more than being clean, smelling good, and accomplishing a daily ritual. Savvy marketing can make moms think you provide them with the balance for which they are constantly searching. That you can make them emotionally feel something. That you offer heightened self esteem. That you offer an escape from pressures to be perfect. These are heady issues. And this is soap.

Wow.

Dove, on behalf of moms everywhere who delight in seeing their kids love the little people who look back at them from inside the mirror, thank you and keep it up.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Making Us Proud

Just received this email from Mimi, our co-hort in training exercises:

"Graham has on big boy pants and he peed on the potty. His words - Mommy and Daddy will be so proud."

More than he knows!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Use for Old PEZ

PEZ was first marketed as a compressed peppermint candy over 70 years ago in Vienna, Austria. The name PEZ was derived from the German word for peppermint... PfeffErminZ.”

Now, at the Hawks house, PEZ is the tasty alternative to peeing in your diaper!

Yes, the potty training tips have run rampant in our circles of conversation lately, from putting M&Ms in a jar on the toilet, to putting Cheerios in the toilet water to play target practice, but I think we’ve created our own rewards system thanks to the abundance of PEZ we received in our Christmas stockings. (That's right, mom marketers, three different potty training strategies all which revolve around certain non-potty-related brands...!)

Peeing in the potty will score you two PEZ at the Hawks house. I’m not sure what pooping in the potty scores you, as we haven’t gotten that far yet. We should probably be ready. But so far, two PEZ for peeing seems to be working pretty well.

At least for now … so if you have a minute and any sort of potty training tip (brand-related or not), please leave it in the Comments section. Please. PLEASE! PLEEEEEAAAAASE! You don’t know how old it is becoming changing two toddler boys’ diapers.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Super-est Part of the Bowl

On the tails of a night of eye-peeling television advertisement watching, the mom marketer in me is stuck somewhere between giving pats on backs and putting people in time out.

The first commercial of the Super Bowl following the National Anthem was for … wait for it … Avon. Avon? As you can imagine, the men in my family room weren’t necessarily taking note. I think rather than spur makeup and jewelry party chatter, that Avon spot gave the guys a hall pass to the kitchen where the Bud Light sat awaiting some attention. For me, though, that Avon spot, so carefully placed at the pivotal moment between anthem and kick-off was the manifestation of what we know from research: that women are indeed in charge at home. We are the spenders. We are the decision makers. And we are watching sports, too, especially when we can make an event of it because we are the ones responsible for the family’s fun and togetherness. We organized the parties, we bought and prepared the snacks, we cleaned with our household products (although you know that at the Hawks house, Hubby and I cleaned together).

Yes, we females were marketed to in the Super Bowl! New proof we are slowly taking over world domination! And putting the ever-so-obviously-female Avon ad aside for a moment, women weren’t necessarily left out of the rest of the equation last night. Budweiser did its thing to capture its softer side with a horsey love story. Pedigree depicted women and some beloved, though oversized pets.

The problem, for me, was that while women were given some advertiser love, moms weren’t. Yes, women like animals. (Alert the media!) But what are moms looking for, separate from women generally? According to national researchers, like those at the Marketing to Moms Coalition, there are big differences. Last night’s major ad players didn’t seem to care.

Where were the funny mom moments? The spit up? The poop? If I’ve learned one thing from motherhood, particularly as a mom of toddler boys, it’s that bodily functions can be funny. (And sometimes those functions best be funny just so you don’t kill yourself.) And if I’ve learned one thing about marketing to moms, it’s that moms want more mom-centric humor in advertising. They want to know that advertisers understand their trials and tribulations in a humorous way, a way that includes kids, and that acknowledges the many hats moms have to wear.

So, I lift my Budweiser to you, advertisers. May you become a little more intimately familiar with me – and all my world-dominating mommy cohorts – before next year’s big game.

Thank you for listening. Apology accepted. Now give me a hug and time out will be over!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Conversations With a Two-Year-Old, vol. 3

Me: “Did you make anything at school today?”

Him: “Friends. Lots of friends.”
__________________

Him (at 4:00 a.m., sitting straight up on his pillow, wailing): “There are crocodiles in my bed!”

Me (pulling back the covers): “Hmmm…I don’t see any crocodiles. It’s safe!”

Him: “Noooo! There’s one right there! See it? It’s going to eat me!”
__________________

Him: “Mommy, remember when I was in your tummy and then I was born and I was baby Jesus?”

(Uh oh ... someone's confused!)
__________________

Hubby: “What do you want for your birthday?”

Him: “CAAAAAAAAAAKE!!!!”

(I feel the same way some days!)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Marketing to the Novice Mom (and that means you, too)

A close friend of mine is expecting her second child and we are quite excited to welcome her to the club of multiples – the club to which you have to demonstrate a man-on-man defensive strategy in order to make the team. The club of twice the exhaustion, twice the discipline, twice the worry, and twice the amount of unconditional love, kisses and giggles. Aaaww.

Marketing to the second-time mom is considered a great untapped opportunity because marketers are so focused on the first-time mom. The first-timer is registering for products she’s never used before. She is asking for product recommendations from friends, colleagues, and stranger moms on the street who appear to be enjoying their particular brand of stroller. She is reading the books and magazines and vowing to get it right, and not just inside the lucrative baby products industry. She is considering whether she needs new digital equipment to capture every moment, whether she needs a car or home upgrade to accommodate a new family member, whether she has enough life insurance, the right financial planner, and on and on.

But the soon-to-be second-time mom is both an expert and a novice. She’s done this before, this motherhood thing. She knows what to expect her body to go through; she doesn’t need the books or classes, or nearly as much advice. But she has also never mothered two at once and she’s suddenly doubly responsible, bearing double the weight of the world on her shoulders. She needs more of all those products she belabored for the first child. She is considering which decisions she made previously that weren’t so great – and she is upgrading to better options. She is figuring out how to do it better. And at the least, she is looking for those things that can make it a little easier to get through each day with twice as many children.

Yes, she is new at this, but so is the third-time mom, and the fourth-time mom, and on and on. In fact, every one of us as moms, no matter if we are expecting our second or seventh child, is both an expert and a novice. I don’t know what it’s like yet to walk my babies into the first day of kindergarten, to try to ease my child’s broken heart, or to survive driver’s license day (and each driving day thereafter).

Being a novice at every single stage of motherhood is one reason we are constantly in this evolutionary mode, and the reason we are part of such a powerful market, challenging marketers to keep up. The emotional factors that inevitably drive our purchase decisions are changing as quickly as our children are changing. The brand messages that meant nothing to me last week may be critical to me this week. If I got a Pull-Ups coupon in the mail last week, when my Hawklet couldn’t care less about the potty and was perfectly content to hang out with poop in his pants, I probably tossed it (right after changing a diaper, of course). But next week when we have an epiphany at our house and (wishful thinking!) start to get that potty thing down, where are those Pull-Ups marketing messages going to be?

It is also the reason that as marketers, we can’t market to moms generationally. A Gen-Xer mom and a millennial mom who are at the same momhood stage of novice and expert are keyed into the same prompts, no matter their demographic differences. A 40-year old mother of one toddler offers marketers the same opportunities as does a 20-something mother of one toddler.

Our kids – and their constant stages – teach us how to mother, guide our purchase decisions, and determine when we’ve advanced from novice to expert. And with each kiss and hug, they show us that we are all graduating with honors.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Why Did I Buy That?

I am not one to have a lot of buyer’s remorse. As a woman who literally rushes home from shopping trips to show Hubby Hawks how much I saved versus full price, (yes I have an affinity for Tuesday Morning and TJ Maxx), how could I possibly have buyer’s remorse? I am Mrs. Bargain Hunter, and if I regret a purchase, who cares? It was 80% off after all! I am actually saving money when I’m spending money! (Hubby is rolling his eyes at this moment.)

But in looking through pictures of the Hawklets recently, and at the toys, clothing, and surroundings of stuff in the photos, I started to ponder what drove me to purchase some of the more obscure items we own, and particularly those I select for the babes – you know, the things that you don’t research, compare, discuss, and belabor, like a refrigerator or a new car. The stuff you give a half-glance and throw in a cart while trying to keep two little boys from running off to another aisle or toppling over the side of the cart onto their heads.

Why did I choose those footed pajamas? Why those sippy cups? How did we end up with that particular toy car? Why are we so loyal to Tide?

It’s not that I have a problem with any of these things. I just wonder how they won me over -- how they beat out the other options to make it into my cart and eventually into my household, into our routine. How they wooed my psyche.

What drives my purchase decisions? I spend my professional days researching and strategizing around how moms decide to buy certain brands at certain stores at certain prices – the why, when, where, and how of it all. What moves me? And particularly, when I’m not paying attention?

Research shows word of mom is critical in this equation. But thanks to both anecdotal and academic data, I know it’s just that – an equation. One piece of the pie just isn’t going to satisfy me. I am no robot mom under the control of another mom, emulating everything she does or says.

But yet I am still under some amount of control by the especially savvy marketers who know that as a mom, I am more likely to pick up the thing that makes me feel like I am making the right decision for my child, the right decision for our budget, that is the right color and has intriguing merchandising, that I’ve seen other moms in my circle using or talking about, that is reinforced by some level of advertising, that has claims I can believe in thanks to appropriate PR (and give or take other various factors depending on the brand or product).

The things all around us in the Hawks household have somehow gotten it right – that mom equation. They won out over alternative options. They attracted my mommy hand, plucking them off the shelf, tossing them into our cart, bringing them into our home, into our routine.

And maybe – hopefully – they even gave me a new opportunity to show Hubby how much money I saved by buying them!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another First Checked Off the List...in the ER

I am a mom of boys. As the sweet, precious young child I was, I didn’t step foot in a hospital ER until I was 18 and my shin met the jagged edge of a glass shelf in the sweet, precious gift shop where I worked in high school. I was a good girl who played with dolls and castles and didn’t cause trouble.

But now I have two boys. They like to jump off couches, slide down stairs, tackle each other (and inanimate objects) and generally test the limits of their teeny bodies. Already.

And now the older Hawklet has moved on to testing the limits of his internal organs. One day he’ll learn that ethical scientists don’t experiment on themselves.

Last night as Hubby and I were finishing dinner, my Hawklet, who had lost interest in food quickly into the meal, walked back into the kitchen from the toy room chewing on…something.

Problem: we don’t know what that something was. Was it plastic? Was it a button? Was it sharp? Was it a toy? Was it a battery? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. That’s all the response we got. This was all right after we had begged him to spit it out and he gulped and announced what later made the nurses and doctors chuckle:

“Now it’s in my belly!”

Oh dear. And while I might have assumed that it was likely something small and likely plastic and likely on its way to my little boy’s little bowels, soon to meet his diaper, the nagging thought of an article I read eons ago about a little boy dying after swallowing a tiny piece of plastic that had previously affixed a price tag to a piece of clothing overran my thoughts. The even-keeled professional on the other end of the NurseLine agreed.

“Since we don’t know what it was, I have to err on the safe side and say you should go to an ER and have him scanned. If it was something sharp it could tear ulcers in his stomach, and if it was a little battery, it will need to be extracted.”

Sweet. A few hours and several SpongeBob stickers later, we crossed “X-ray” off his list of firsts. Been there, done that. The diagnosis? We are good, erring-on-the-safe-side parents, and he is a curious little guy who probably swallowed a tiny piece of plastic that will make its appearance very soon.

This morning he tried to confess:

“Remember yesterday when I ate Reid’s car?”