That’s my girl: How parenting changed when I had a daughter

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When Parker was born, I was so happy to have a boy because I thought that whatever child I had next, he was the big brother. When Celia came (my husband first announced her as a boy because her umbilical cord was hanging between her legs!), I couldn’t wrap my head around having a girl. Every woman looks forward to raising a girl–because well, we’re girls and we want to relive all of our girl stuff with them. But, when I couldn’t stop referring to her as “little buddy” as an infant, I knew Miss Celia was going to teach me a big lesson: raising me will not be the same as raising Parker, Mom. So buck up.

Celia’s eyes are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Everyone remarks about her baby blues (which are my Dad’s eyes by the way). She’s so happy and so sweet. She waves to people in Target and bats her eyelashes at all the older boys at day care. 16 months old. Pure toddler trouble.

This week, she started to pull my hair and pinch me. And is not responding too well to correction (she laughs at me, great) I don’t remember Parker ever doing it and she has never done it to my husband- proof that the teenage years will be semi-tortuous and frustrating. And proof that: I am raising a girl.

I talk a lot about how frustrating my Parker can be. I’ve written many a post about him and his adorably infuriating antics. His sister, I believe will be a whole different ball game of infuriating. Like girl-infuriating. Like hormonal infuriating. Like me when I was a kid.

My Mom likes to recall the time she sought a psychologist’s help with her out of control three year old. The psychologist told her to sit on me. When I wouldn’t stay in time out, when I wouldn’t listen. Sit. On me. If the fact that my Mom had to sit on me gives any indication of what little Celia is going to be like, well, I’m in trouble. Big trouble. Already I can see her little spirit developing. And I see a lot of little Bridgette in that spirit.

Already she is asserting her independence, her willingness or unwillingness to follow directions and already has that Daddy-only sweet face that melts his heart. As a girl myself, it is occurring to me–slowly–how scary it can and will be to raise a girl. I mean, raising a girl with texting and the Internet and Facebook? Oh my goodness.

But more it’s the pressure that comes to mommies– former little girls, all of them–about raising girls. We are girls who doubted ourselves, our bodies, our personalities, our reputations. We are survivors of girlhood. And none of us intended on going back. But now we have to.

There are things I never want my daughter to have– a chubby phase, boys make fun of her, heartbreak, a mean friend, be the subject of gossip, and I can’t do anything right now to prevent that. A lot of it is by chance, by circumstance and by way of when-you-have-tough-crap-you-learn rationale.

I also want her to be things I was not: good at sports (not a cheerleader), musical, artistic. I want her to be me without the bad stuff and then add in about 5x all the good stuff. Is that too much to expect?

Well, I have recently been clued in to some Moms of teenage girls about the “street angel- house devil” philosophy of teenager-hood. This was after witnessing firsthand a girl speak sweetly to me and then less than five minutes later speak to her mother so rudely and inappropriately that I almost stepped in myself to go all pissed-off- teacher on her ass.

For twelve years I have been teaching teenagers English. So I’m well versed in teenage-ese, right? Wrong. When it’s my own daughter, I will be as effective in figuring her out as I am in doing a quadratic equation. And even though that’s roughly 13 years away, I’m scared already.

When I look at Parker, I just see a boy. A boy I will feed and love and hug and be proud of. He will be a man soneday but I will always see my baby boy. The little redhead that toddled around saying “To invictadee and Bee-YON!!!”

But when I look at Celia, I see all the insecurities I don’t want her to ever, ever, ever have. I see all the tribulations I wrote about in my diary from age seven on. Why is that? Was my girlhood so bad? Were my mistakes so huge? No and no. But every struggle I had as a little girl, teenager and twenty-something somehow hovers above her sweet, beautiful head.

And I can’t help but think of the old saying my own Dad repeated to me, “A son is a son until he takes his wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.” And so, Celia, we’re in this for the long haul kid. So buck up.

Today, I am making a commitment– to put up with the metaphorical hair pulling that comes along with raising a little girl-person– as long as she forgives me for all I have done wrong someday– and does this long before I forgave my own mother.

And, somewhere along the way, I hope I can see– as I was so positively sure my Mom never did– what it’s like to be my daughter and how that may not exactly be a walk in the park. I mean, I guess I won’t be as fascinating to her as a Tween as I am right now. And I think I’ll learn to be okay with that (someday).

And, together, mommies and daughters everywhere can embrace the love and the love/hate- the pinches and the pulls– the power struggles and the surrenders, the Absolutely Everything that is the making of a little woman– my Celia–strong, beautiful and sweet.

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12 Days: 11 Pipers Piping (Well, not really)

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11 Great Gifts on the Fly

Shortcut Girl is not just about shortcuts, she’s about making your life feel like you barely do anything and still achieve pure awesome. Here’s 11 gifts on the fly for you whether they be the “OH crap!” gift when someone else gives you one and you are caught empty-handed or for a hostess of that fabulous party you are going to.

1. Mason Jars. Get one, two, three or four and fill with treats. Candied kisses, candied nuts, candy canes, holiday M and Ms, anything that looks colorful in a jar. (For nuts: bake nuts at 350 degrees on baking sheet with spray olive oil and sprinkled sugar for about 15 minutes)

2. Pump up the jam. I have never made jam but after looking at the directions online—ding, ding! You can TOTALLY do it. And you already have the Mason Jars so it’s really a cinch.

3. Single cookie boxes. In the dollar section of Target, they sell great cookie boxes. If you need a teacher or secretary gift (just a little somethin’), you can bake your own treats or find some delectable at the bakery section of your grocery store. After all: who says no to a cookie?

4. Flavored Gloss. There are flavored lip glosses at Forever 21 (not that I shop there;) for $1.80. Get an assortment and put them in mini gift bags (Dollar Store section of Target). Great little sweet gifts!

5.Cup of Trader Joe’s. Since coffee is ever so popular, putting some of the individual one cup mixes of coffee in a nice little mug for your favorite coffee lover is a cute little gift.

6. Trees. I have a co-worker who shares a love for just the right combination of peanut butter and chocolate. The Reese’s Peanut butter trees are out folks. Tis the season. Binge on them while you can.

7. Reindeer cookies. There are very few Martha Stewart moments of my life. But last year’s reindeer cookies were one of them. Big hit at the party we went to. I do have to say they can be expensive, so be careful when you get into the grocery store and start buying reindeer garb.

8. Wine socks. Buy your favorite soft pair of socks and put them around your favorite flavor of vino. Great for a hostess gift or a good way to hide the booze you are bringing to your child’s preschool teacher. Just kiddingJ

9. Christmas mixes. Mix tapes are a thing of the past, but mix CDs still have a place in our heart, right? Make one for a friend going on a road trip for Christmas or your grandmother who has not yet discovered digital music. I highly recommend Mariah Carey on this mix. Maybe even both versions of All I Want for Christmas is You.

10. White Trash Okay, I’m a little embarrassed that my Mom made this stuff and called it White Trash. But it is pretty awesome. Chex mix, pretzels and nuts all covered with white chocolate. The best is my friends asking each Christmas, “is your Mom going to make her white trash this year?” Yes, yes she will.

11. The IOU. What we don’t give enough at Christmas is our time to people. Whether it’s a visit, a lunch, a movie or making dinner together, it’s not about the gift, it is the time too. Putting a date on the calendar for your next get together with your favorite person is just what the doctor ordered.

Girlfriend Gifts: Help a sister out

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In this post, I got a lot of feedback for a piece of advice where I said, “Don’t mistake your husband as a best girlfriend. He can be your best friend but only a girlfriend can be a girlfriend.” There are certain things that only the women in our lives can help us with– listening, listening and more listening– mainly.

I was thinking today how gift giving for my girlfriends went out the window when we all had kids. Above picture is of me and my college partner in crime whooping it up at a recent trek back to campus, namely our sorority. It becomes a kind of unspoken agreement. “No, no gift, let’s just grab dinner sometime so we can actually have a full conversation.”

So, this post is written in mourning of the girlfriend gift. The most fun gift to buy. Sad face.

Just like women dress for one another, we also love to buy for one another. Finding just the right fancy notebook for your teacher friend or the special comfy socks your BFF likes to lounge in is– comforting in some way. So, here’ s a list of my favorite girlfriend gifts— to give and to receive.

Disclaimer: Some of these I have not actually given, but if I was giving gifts out to all my girlfriends, this is what they would get. Think of it as my own little episode of Oprah’s favorite things. Girlfriends of mine, consider yourself gifted!

1. Lattes, lots and lots and lattes. Like girlfriend gifting, coffee with friends also went out the window with having kids. Lattes are pure luxury. Enjoying them with a friend— even more luxurious.

2. Manicures or pedicures in one another’s company. A fun date? Go for pedicures and insist on paying for each other’s. The idea that you are treating your friend and treating yourself at the same time is intoxicating.

3. Nick Arrojo dry shampoo. My hair and hair routine have been revolutionized by this product. If the smell alone does not draw you in, the saved time in the morning will.

4. Candles. Nice stinky ones. I don’t know why but relaxation and cozy to me is always a candle burning in the Winter time. It’s makes you want to cuddle under a blanket and watch Pretty Woman on TBS.

5. Trip to the movies together. No talking needed. Just popcorn, bottomless cup of diet Pepsi and Taylor Lautner. If that’s not the perfect girlfriend date, I don’t know what is.

If you can’t get any of these things for friends, maybe make a date for a drink or dinner, as I have with my college girlfriends. A time for everyone to chat about preparing for the holidays, laugh at your latest Mommy faux pas and just take the time to love on and appreciate the women who have been your supporters through all of life’s ups and downs. Whether it’s a partner to watch girly movies with or someone who will compliment your cute outfit, us women need each other.

Shortcut Girl’s Guide to the Holidays

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Whether it’s a shortcut or just a friendly reminder to take a breath and enjoy the holly-jolly-yes-by-golly holiday time, I thought I’d put together a post of things to remember from Thanksgiving through New Years. I pretend to have a lot of wisdom and advice in this post– but like most things, I’m still figuring this all out myself- holiday after holiday.

1. Free shipping is your friend

Online shopping can be convenient, but the shipping costs make the trip to the store a lot cheaper. So, going for the free shipping is always a good idea. On Amazon, place your orders in $25 incrememnts in order to get super saving shipping (free). For Target, order an extra item to make $50 for free shipping and return it later. Wal-Mart has something just as good as free shipping— in store and site to store pickup. You can ship items from orders online to the store for free and can also have items pulled from their inventory to pick up that day. All you do is show up to the layaway section to get your items. Best thing is— items are boxed up from their shipping to hide from little eyes you might have shopping with you.

2. These are a few of my favorite things

Sometimes it’s not the little kids we have to worry about having meltdowns, it’s the big kids (er, adults) too. We all have those things we perceive as dealbreakers. Holiday time is no different. Whether it is the grandmother breakfast you have arranged or the great Victorian stroll in your town, make your kids and spouse/siginificant other aware that these things are your favorite things. No one wants to see you crying in your hot apple cider because your Christmas decorating soirée went awry.

3. Wrap Party

I love to wrap and look upon the task with great anticipation. When we were young and childless, my friend Stephanie and I used to go shopping and then wrap everything that night over wine and snacks. It’s still one of my favorite things, but now I have to be much more selective when I do it. I try not to do it too early but I also like to “wrap as I go” so it’s not too much of a job at the end. I have never done this but have always fantasized about having friends and family over one day (during nap time) to wrap their Christmas items. I like it so much and find it pretty relaxing. There is nothing, to me, like listening to Christmas music or watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation during a big wrap fest. That’s the holiday to me. Feeling wrapping overwhelmed? Enlist your girlfriends, sister in laws, husbands, brothers, sisters, children. Break out the bubbly and listen to some Mariah Carey. Celebrate every part of Christmas, even the chore-y parts of it.

4. Holiday Journaling

When I open the Christmas decorations every year, my new favorite thing to discover is the Christmas journal I created three years ago. I keep family Christmas cards, favorite memories, special gifts and special traditions in the journal. It’s nice because you rediscover and relive your holidays each year and it also helps me remember the little things we have created since becoming a family. It’s a great place for reflection and will help us to clue the kids in on all the crazy things we did around the holidays before they could remember. I hope to let the kids write their own memories in there someday.

5. Don’t be afraid of new traditions

Being a kid who didn’t grow up with a ton of traditions, I am always excited to make them with my family. Excited may be an understatement. I get giddy for tradition like that Target lady gets about, well, Target. One thing my family always did Christmas morn was have bagels and cream cheese during a present “break” (This was the hardest part of Christmas morning for me as a kid, but I relished in the “we’re not done yet!” part of the ritual). We still keep this tradition at each Christmas only Michael has placed his own twist on it with incorporating lox (much to my Mom’s disgust:) Whatever tradition you are honoring or trying to honor, don’t limit yourself. New traditions can be invented every year, and even if you never repeat them- you can always give them a good shutout in your holiday journal:)

6. Give
Starting Black Friday, you and every other American are going to be swamped with advertisements asking you to buy, gift, wrap and surprise your loved ones with tons of stuff. Take the time this holiday to show each other and especially your children, nieces, nephews, neighbors the value of giving to those who are less fortunate. Whether its making a personal goal not to pass a Salvation Army kettle without digging in your pockets, or adopting an unfortunate family, I guarantee the feeling you get from that will trump your disgust in the Black Friday craziness.

7. Little Miss Homemade
You might not be able to sew a stitch or find Pinterest something like a gallery d’arts de overwhelming. But doing a homemade gift or treat for any event of the Christmas season will make you feel good right down to your toes. Take a picture of it, repin the crap out of it, brag to all your co-workers. It’s The holiday, after all. You’re an old fashioned kind of girl, and dammit, you deserve recognition.

8. Find the magic
Find your favorite little person and drive around looking at Christmas lights. Visit Santa at the mall, take a ride on the Polar Express, do a sled ride through your backyard. Read: do everything you did when you were a kid and then some. Not the things that cost money or were about gifts- the things that made you get butterflies in your stomach. That’s what the holidays are for.

9. Don’t get the blues

With the economy, the loss of loved ones or just missing your brother in Texas, it’s easy to get the holiday blues. Combat the blues with acting in that person’s memory, sending a card or video to someone who you think might need it or placing a phone call/ Face time Christmas morn. This time of year is emotionally charged and sometimes can make us get a little melancholy. One good idea is emailing someone “the 12 days of you” and give them something each day in the proper numeration that tells them you are thinking of them. It’s sure to lift your spirits and theirs too.

10. Celebrate your mate

One thing I know I can be guilty of three years into having children is forgetting that Michael is a big part of Christmas too. He really showed me up last year and had a video slideshow ready to go Christmas morning. It made me cry happy, happy tears. One of my favorite memories for the memory book. Make a special date or set aside a time to celebrate and chat with your special someone without the troop of in laws surrounding. Sometimes it’s just sipping egg nog and looking at the pretty lights, sometimes it’s wrapping gifts together (see #3). Whatever it is, just make sure you remember and appreciate each other. No gazing in each other’s eyes required.

11. Recycle

We’re not talking about your fruitcake boxes here people, we’re talking toys for the kiddos. The thing I have really gotten excited about the past couple years is using old hand me down toys or used toys as gifts for the holidays. It’s thrifty, it’s a great shortcut (no staying up until midnight putting things together!) and it’s just a great relief to you when it comes to the question, “Will they even play with it?” They may not, but based on the awesome price and the fact that you didn’t have to trample anyone at Black Friday for the deal, haven’t you already cut some corners? Plus, you can just put it on Craigslist or another local swap site next year! Gently loved toys are better if recycled, haven’t you seen Toy Story?

12. Music and Food

If nothing else, there are certain treats and tunes you MUST indulge in at holiday time. My Mom’s peanut butter chocolate candies are one and All I Want for Christmas is You is another. It’s just the holiday law.

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8 Shortcuts You Haven’t Tried Yet

1. Dry shampoo: For the girl on the go who does not want greasy hair!
2. Smooth shave: Smooth legs, no expensive shaving cream!
3. “Cheater” Homemade pizza: Thai Chicken. Make it for your friends, it’s better than delivery.
4. Dump cake: The birthday cake that you just didn’t have time to make!
5. Editing your own photos: The professional look without the professional cost.
6. A sock bun: For the days when you just can’t handle your hair.
7. Yoga for the mind: Generating gratitude to help center you.
8. At home highlights: Do-it-yourself make over, right at your bathroom sink.

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