Sunday, December 13, 2015

7 things we can learn from those other Griswolds

I love my name. When I got into TV my brother said something like, "cool so now you can change your name, I mean, no one will take you seriously on air with Griswold." Boo to that, I thought. Our name is awesome. It makes people smile. Laugh even. I don't care if they're laughing at me or my name's expense, I'm pleased to share the joy.

And now it's that time of year! I say my name on TV roughly four times a day. Yet, when I hear Chevy Chase bark it out from a TV I think it's the absolute coolest! Yes, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation makes us laugh, but it also speaks truths. 

1) Go big or go home. I think my mom is up to eight Christmas trees. This might be an exaggeration, it might be an understatement. I lost count of her trees and her Santas and her nutcrakers and her ornaments years ago. I do know each tree has some sort of vague theme she is really proud of. When she moved she needed a large basement solely for her Christmas decorations. On years when I'm going to be in Wisconsin for the holidays, I get about three phone calls leading up to the trip wondering if I'll be okay if she doesn't put up the medium size tree with travel decorations or her Charlie Brown tree or her flocked tree that goes on the table. I never have any idea what she's talking about. In fact, I know I'm going to get a phone call about this post in which she says, "Jenny, you know which tree I mean!" I don't. I can't keep track. But I love it. I love when Christmas throws up on my mom's home. It makes me happy. She is our family's Clark. (Case in point: we were home for Thanksgiving, and she had multiple turkey hats for us.)

2) Real trees are best! I mean, I don't recommend one that comes with a squirrel, but who doesn't love the smell of a fresh tree in their home. (I also recognize the fire danger, the issues with pets and children, etc.) I'm embarrassed to admit we went fake this year for practical reasons.  

3) Every family should have an Aunt Bethany. Not to make light of senility, but sometimes I wish I could pretend I couldn't hear or understand my family. Sometimes I wish I could just wrap up a Jell-O mold or some unwanted item in my home and call it a day. My Grandma Griswold was not an Aunt Bethany. She was very with it. That said, she had an awesome quality only that generation can pull off. She said whatever she wanted with no forgiveness. It was something to be admired. There are other women in my life with this characteristic, and I find my time with them to be incredibly entertaining. 

4) Yuppie, unhappy, too-good-for-the-holidays people are the worst. Bursting their perfect bubble is entertaining. That's probably not Christian of me. But whatever, it's not Christmas yet. And it's true. Sorry Elaine (or whatever your name was in the movie). 

5) Wouldn't life be better with an Eddie? Lemme tell you, it is. Mine's name is Amy. She is not poor, dumb, trashy or anything like Eddie in most ways. But my friend Amy has my back at all times. I could casually mention that someone got on my nerves once at work, and she will forever dislike that person. Girl is as loyal as they come. She would for sure kidnap my boss, wrap him up and bring him over if that's what I needed. She says the things I think but could never say. You should find your Eddie. 

6) Bring some Ellen sex appeal to the holidays. Sure we're surrounded by family. Sure we're celebrating the birth of Jesus. But a little shirt slit to show some cleave never hurt anyone. Personally I prefer sweat pants because they allow more room for cookies and egg nog, but feeling hot can help most situations, I've found. 

7) Believing is best. I've heard friends question when they will tell their kids about Santa Claus. I will most definitely keep that dream alive as long as possible. Ruby Sue needed a little joy. She got that from believing in Santa. We could all use a little magic.

Monday, November 30, 2015

9 ways my toddler acts more dog than human

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

But if that saying is true, I think my toddler is a dog.

1) The dog crate is a place of wonderment. My toddler has dozens of toys. Soft ones, singing ones, standing ones, toys you push, toys you throw, toys you climb on, they blink, they beep, they buzz. He has baskets full of sensory-stimulating objects in every room of our home. Yet his new favorite toy is the dog crate. He climbs in it. He climbs out of it. He opens the door. He giggles uncontrollable as he closes the door. (I, however, cannot close the door. Obviously that evokes tears. Obviously.) There is no place he'd rather be. I think he dreams about the dog crate. 

2) The best way to get food is to beg for it. My dog and son are on a joint mission to acquire food. I think they've had secret meetings to discuss Operation Food. They've probably hidden secret, drop-off notes for each other in the crate! These notes likely share tips for getting food. A plan of action might read as such: "While the bigger humans on two legs are eating, go up to them, make your eyes as big as possible, open your mouth ever-so slightly, and STARE! Not working? Feel free to implement a whimper. It also might help to touch the human."

3) Dog food is delicious. I can turn my back for a second, and my son has his head down and is in bee-line, speed-crawl mode to the dog food dish. Of all the food in the house, he believes this is the food that should be coveted most. Dog food is disgusting! He can't really have such poorly formed taste buds, can he? (Reminder for later: maybe I should start putting vegetables on the floor. I might have more success.)

4) Why walk? My 13-month-old still won't walk. It is quite obvious that he can. He will stand on his own and sometimes we see him shuffle but this is typically accidental and when he notices what he's doing, he falls to the ground and crawls. I think he's observed how we move and how the animal moves, and he's chosen the dog way. 

5) Water bottles are toys. Awesome toys. I can be in another room, and within minutes of picking up a water bottle I have both the dog and toddler cruising toward me. My thumb makes a slight crinkling indent and that's all it takes to summon the critters. They both want it. They want to crush it, they want to chew it, they can't even explain why they want it. They just want it now!

6) Everything is a choking hazard because everything goes in the pie hole. Most humans know that it's simply not pleasant to put things like plastic in our mouths. It's not just plastic though. It's everything. Dogs seem to use their mouths as alternatives to having hands. It's how they feel and assess what something is. Toddlers agree. Why look at something and grasp it with your hands when you can send it straight into the mouth.

7) Toy cleanup is unnecessary. Last night as I was waking up in the middle of the night to tend to a crying toddler I kicked a toy that started blinking and singing at me in the dark hallway. Two steps later I practically tripped and fell on a dog toy. I can clean up dog and toddler toys seven times a day, and yet I'll find them when I least expect it, ready to ruin my route.

8) Sounds work just fine. Both my toddler and dog can't form proper words, but they sure can whimper/cry or bark/scream. They do not seem interested in learning other ways to communicate. They believe these effectively do the trick. And they're right. My husband can be talking and talking and talking, and all I get is blah blah blah NBA blah blah blah South Park blah blah blah. Yet when the little ones (dog and toddler) make their noises, my ears perk, my head tilts, and I am ready to assess the situation and help.

9) Go ahead, poo away. Most humans have to put a little bit of thought, effort, planning, even patience into bathroom stuff. Not the dog or the toddler. Perfect strangers can be walking past and the pup just decides now is a good time and place to let it go. The tot can be in the middle of playing, sleeping, eating and his face scrunches up as he lets out a little grunt. I mean, c'mon. They do their business and then just expect one of the big humans will come clean it up. And we do! There's no effort to be more like us. He is completely comfortable in this dog-like way.

And I gotta say, when I look at the life our dog leads, I start to think, maybe I would choose that too. We'll see if my son heads to the human side, but at this point he seems to have it made as a human puppy. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

6 ways poo will take over your life

"Keep bathroom talk out of your marriage." "There are some things that should always remain private." The people who make these comments must not have kids. The people who say these things likely also believe that any time my husband turns the doorknob I should be awaiting with lipstick freshly applied, dishes done, toys put away, silverware polished and a smile that covers any issue that came my way that day. Yeah right.

Prior to having a dog and a baby, I cannot recall conversations I had with my husband regarding bathroom practices. We're pretty immature and overly open so I'm sure they happened, but I can't remember any. Now a day doesn't seem to go by without us talking about bodily fluids. On my list of things I didn't know about parenthood, this is number one: poo will take over your life. Here's how:

1) The progress report. If you are handing the child off to the other parent, you will inevitably ask, "did he poop?" Countless times before my husband even gives me a kiss after work, even before we say hello, I will have relayed our 13-month-old's bowel movement status. The update includes consistency and color. This is disgusting to write about. But I know other moms and dads know: THIS IS LIFE. 

2) Rock, paper, scissors for diaper changes. We've even made sporting event bets with the loser receiving the grand prize of diaper change responsibilities. It doesn't help that our son believes the changing table is a place of torture and likes to squirm and scream through the process. You walk away from a diaper change feeling you conquered the impossible while simultaneously feeling utterly defeated. We often wind up bribing him with candy. We're not proud of it. But a parent's gotta do what a parent's gotta do. 

3) Poogle. That's when you google poo. Yes it often includes an image search. I did it once to make sure my child was healthy. I thought, well I'm never doing that again. But I was no longer a poo-image searching virgin, and there was no turning back. I've lost track of how many times I've looked them up. I sure hope I'm not alone on this one because it sounds quite bizarre. To be clear, I always have a health-related reason.

4) The diaper-less child. They are dangerous. Things you want to keep clean will get pee or poo on them. During a recent diaper change, I decided my toddler could hold my phone. I looked down to grab a diaper, and he was sitting criss-cross applesauce while peeing. No diaper on. My cell phone in his hand. I'm pretty sure it remained pee-free. I've told myself it remained pee-free. You'd think I'd know for sure. I've learned ignorance can indeed be bliss.

5) Diapers have limitations. You will try to remind yourself to check your child before picking the sweet, little peanut up. You won't learn this lesson until you find yourself washing poo off your shirt in the middle of a park bathroom. A small child will ask you what happened. When you tell her your baby had an accident, she will make a I'm-only-7-and-I-feel-sorry-for-you face as she asks, "that's poo?" How did this happen to a college-educated, put-together woman? Simple. I heard my son crying and immediately wanted to help him. The little ball of bodily fluids didn't warn me that he had just had a major blowout that he would transfer to my shirt.

6) Nothing is sacred. Your toilet is not your throne. There is nothing personal about this experience anymore. You are a parent. Instead you will learn that sometimes a child will look up at you the entire time you're doing your business. You'll find yourself in Target holding the child while you're on the toilet, then conduct the oddest movements to try to pull your pants up with one hand as you oddly shake your hips. The whole time your child will be in a football hold that is dangerously close to becoming the Heimlich maneuver. I swear last time I did the baby/pants shuffle, my little one's gaze seemed to say, "mom, get yourself together."

But I am not put together. Despite what my manicures and round-brush blow dried hair will tell you, I am always seconds away from being covered in feces or urine. I know this. When people tell you that parenthood changes you they often are talking about the love you feel. Or the fact that you become selfless in a way you never thought possible. But let's be real, they're also telling you, you will be humbled in ways you can't imagine, and those ways often involve poo. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

What complaining parent blogs forget

7 ways babies make life harder. 8 pre-child moments you long to recreate. 9 things you can't change about your post-baby body. 

None of those headlines are real but all of them could be. And I likely would've gotten suckered into clicking any one of them. Give me a headline that points to a list of things and that click-bait has my cheek hooked faster than I can say, but it's 1 a.m. why the hell am I reading this. (Mental note: next blog should be a list of things I love to hate or hate to love about articles that have lists.)

Back to the task at hand. Whiny blogs. I get it, being a parent isn't easy. Andy was out of town this weekend partying with buddies at a college football game four hours away. And Jack decided it would be a good night to wake up three times. While feeding him during wake up number two, I realized I started feeling warm. I thought, oh he's sweating. Okay, I didn't think that, but I tried to convince myself. Truth: he'd peed through a nighttime diaper, through his pajamas and in turn through mine. I somehow managed to keep him attached to my breast (I don't think he even gets any milk anymore, it's just the only thing I could do to comfort him) while changing his diaper and clothes. See, I know how to complain with the best of 'em. Being a parent isn't easy. 

But guess what, it's awesome!!! Sure, a lot of the blogs eventually come to that conclusion but some don't, and that ticks me off.

I was recently reading a list of why it's impossible to get things done with a 1-year-old. The writer had incredibly valid points that I had lived and understood. It went something like: tell child not to dump contents of drawer, clean up contents of drawer, tell child not to put object in mouth, take object out of mouth, etc. etc. etc. It was spot on. (Below picture shows Jack deciding my shoes should not go on shelves.)


But after reading the list I went and played with Jack. I realized we were doing things on the list, but in between those things I was stopping and smiling. Then I was laughing. Then I was taking a picture to send to my husband. Then I was picking Jack up to hug him. 

The complaints sometimes leave out the joys. And that's sad. Because the highs are incredible.

Yes, it's tough. Yes, we need an outlet. Yes, we need to know we're not alone thinking it's difficult. But we also need to remember that we're unbelievably lucky to have a little person who thinks we're the sun and the moon. Community and reassurance are incredibly comforting. We need that to get through the sleepless, pee-soaked nights. 

But when I grow up and look back on these early parenting days, I want Jack's squealing, innocent laughter and cuddly hugs to come to mind faster than the days I changed a record number of diapers. So those are the moments I'm going to focus on most. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My home is open for candy

Disclaimer first: I'm not the most positive, optimistic person on the planet. I'm a news person, and we can be a different breed of sarcastic skeptics. That said, I constantly make an effort to see the rose-colored version of things. I believe it makes life more enjoyable. And I'm married to one of the most optimistic people on the planet. Disclaimer over. Now I ask, when did some people get so angry, so negative, so cynical?

Here's where my question stems from - Halloween. Growing up, the holiday was quite simple. You put on a costume (typically covered that costume with a winter jacket - I grew up in Wisconsin) and then went house to house getting as much candy as humanly possible. At some point your parents told you, "you're too old." Or you decided, "I'm too cool for this and too old." Then Halloween traditions eventually change, and you pinterest things like "candy-corn Jell-O shots." FYI: #pinterestwin

Well this year I heard an adult complaining about the quality of trick-or-treaters. She was crowd-sourcing thoughts on how to deal with parents who come with kids who are too young to be trick-or-treating. She suggested the adults are using the babies to get candy. She also questioned teens who are too old to be trick-or-treating.

How to deal with them? The answer seemed obvious to me - Give 'em some candy. I don't think there should be fun-size chocolate police.

I have no problem if you put a time limit on trick-or-treating. I get that. People knocking on your door super late at night asking for candy can be creepy. Go ahead, shut them out. And really, shut out whomever you feel like shutting out. It's up to you, but own it. And just know some of us will think you need to lighten up.

I guess this is my problem. I was one of those "parents with babies" trick-or-treaters. I dressed in costume because I'm a nerd, and I would like Jack to look back on pictures when he's older and know that I've always been like this. And I took him out trick-or-treating because we went with friends, (who have slightly older kids) and because I love traditions like this. I did not take him trick-or-treating because I was trying to take a disproportionate amount of candy. If I knew people felt that way I would have carried my little Yoda around the house and knocked on the doors of different rooms. Husband Darth could've handed out the candy. We had treats to spare, and I took the excess into work anyway. And by the way, we only took a few pieces of candy and against my wishes Andy fed some of it to Jack so we completed the proper trick-or-treating etiquette.

So back to my original question, when did some people get so angry, so negative, so cynical? Does it stem from a fear of not being safe? I get that, bad things happen. But bad things happening to innocent people handing out trick-or-treat candy are rare. Like really rare. Maybe we fail to see where people are coming from. Maybe that kid isn't wearing a costume because his parents couldn't afford one. I still think he should get some candy. Or maybe we allow negative people to perpetuate their negativity far too often.

Instead, why don't we see Halloween as a great time for kids to be out and having fun together. Hopefully their parents know where they are and, if so, it seems they could be doing worse things. It's a great, happy tradition, let's try to keep it positive.

I realize I kinda just ranted about people being too negative. Sorry about that. I just want my kid to grow up in a land of costumes and candy. I'm a realist so I understand we can't have it everyday but once a year doesn't seem like too much to ask for.

Oh, and in the future, my home is open to all on Halloween if you'd like some candy.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The fur is worth it

Two years ago my husband told me my three-year campaign to convince him to get a dog had worked. He grew up dogless. I can't imagine my childhood without them.

Reggie is a member of our family. I mean look at that face:

Before we got Reggie, I remember non-dog owners warning me that I might regret having a dog when we had children. They told me things like, "they get in the way, and their fur is everywhere which no new mother wants to deal with." I can honestly say there hasn't been a single day that I've wondered if getting Reggie was a bad choice. It was one of the very best decisions. And yet the fur issue is a real concern.

Reggie is a golden retriever. He covers every square inch of our home with fur. Once it's clean he seems to be able to repeat the fur invasion within a half hour. I have lint rollers strategically placed because we're always covered.

When Jack gets up after a crawling session he resembles a Maltese. The amount of fur Reggie churns out is actually quite impressive. Sure some times of the year are worse than others, but he's rarely not purging the pet fur.

Jack now likes to carry his sippy cups. He also likes to drop them. And pet fur sticks to their siliconeness like velcro. I tell myself it's kinda gross. The truth is, it's absolutely disgusting. Still, all this is worth it.

I wouldn't be giving the complete story if I failed to mention that we have a cleaning person who comes into our home. It's a luxury that we decided is important to us. I know not everyone can rationalize the cost, but if you find you and your spouse disagreeing on house cleanliness, it might be worth checking the budget to see if you can swing it. We are both busy people and being able to spend our time enjoying each other instead of being stressed and bitter about cleaning is incredibly good for our marriage. Again, I realize not everyone can do this.

So why is the fur worth it? I smile every time I walk in my house. Work can be stressful. Marriage sometimes involves disagreements. Children aren't always easy. But when I walk in the door, I smile. Every time. His ears perk up, his tail wags aggressively (sometimes knocking over things its path) and his deep chocolate brown eyes look up at me as if to say, wow I missed you, you make the world better, I love you, I'm so glad you're home, you should stay here forever. It's quite nice.

That loyalty never fades. If you're a loving, good dog owner, you will be rewarded for that affection every single day of your life. A dog's world is quite simple, and you are the center of it. Their love is 100 percent.

And one of the main reasons I embrace the fur: my son has a best friend. That 100 percent love extends to the entire pack. And Andy, Jack and I are Reggie's pack. Jack said the word dog (or his baby version of dog) before mama or daddy. He smiles every morning when he sees Reggie. He points and laughs when he sees him running outside. He gives him hugs. He climbs over him. He pets him and squeals with laughter. Jack is rarely bored when his doggy is there. Seeing that pure love and happiness exuding from them is priceless. And I know Jack will look back at his childhood with fond memories of his Reggie. And that touches this mama's heart. Now excuse me, I need to clean the fur off my keyboard while you enjoy more adorable pictures of the two beautiful buddies!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Happy Birthday to Jack. Well done to my breastfeeding self.

1 year. 12 months. 52 weeks. 365 days. No matter how you slice it, my son is one year old! I'm so excited for my little peanut. He wows me everyday with his constantly growing personality. It's mind-boggling to think back to my little nugget with matted hair, squinty eyes still covered in greasy ointment, and body movements that seemed to slowly slither. That was just a year ago.

And now, here we are.

I'm so proud of him. And I'm proud of myself. That's a big deal. In the Midwest we don't compliment ourselves like that. Pride is often kept in a corked bottle. We may look at it every once in awhile, but we're definitely not going to open it. And we certainly aren't going to serve it up for all to see. Maybe, just maybe, if we're really pleased with ourselves, we'll casually mention it to someone so they compliment us. Once they do, we may say, "oh no, not me, it wasn't a big deal." But we don't say I'm proud of myself. Well...Screw that. We should say it.

One thing I'm really proud of: Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is hard work. Really, really hard work.

My son did not have a love-at-first sight relationship my breasts. This contradicted some past observed male behavior so it came as a bit of surprise. Talk about a new and different kind of rejection.

I had made the decision that I wanted to breastfeed before he was born. I was committed, and I am a very stubborn person. Sure, I had read that not everyone has an easy time breastfeeding. But naive, pre-child me seemed to believe those people did not want it enough. The breastfeeding gods laughed at that and decided to show me otherwise. And boy, did they show me how wrong I was.

He wouldn't latch on. At the hospital they mentioned he was tongue-tied and did a procedure. Still, he was not interested. So I started pumping. I even got donor milk at the hospital (thanks to my lactation-consultant sister-in-law for letting me know that might be an option).

We went home with my newborn losing more weight than he should. Meantime, I was dealing with blood, sweat and tears - yes, all of them - trying to breastfeed. I took some of my anger out on my husband (sorry sweetie!). And we were going in for daily clinic weigh-ins to see if our son was getting enough milk. He wasn't for awhile. My husband looked over at me one day as I was trying to get the baby to latch on. The baby was screaming. I was crying. And I was exhausted. You see, I was pumping about every three hours while still feeding him. The whole process took about 45 minutes, then I repeated it about 2 hours 15 minutes later. My husband offered to help, but I had a notion in my head that I wanted the baby to know milk came from mommy, even if it was out of bottle. I was convinced he would someday latch.

I remember an old friend sending me a Facebook message saying her husband had to have his tongue cut twice for his tongue-tie because it wasn't done far enough back the first time. That stayed with me. I also became stressed one day and emailed a woman who ran a web site for women who exclusively pump. She was so helpful and reassuring! At the time, I thought that might be my only option for getting the little one breast milk.

When he was a month old, my amazing sister-in-law (the expert) came to visit for Thanksgiving. She took a look and said he could do it. I was inspired. Exhausted but inspired.

So I made another appointment with a highly-recommended lactation specialist. She looked at my son and said his tongue should undergo another procedure. She did it right on the spot. Still we didn't fully connect.

Then. It happened. Eight weeks after he was born. That's two months and a whole lot of pumping. My baby latched on. We did it. He started breastfeeding.

I was also able to save a lot of milk while pumping so he has made it over a year on breast milk. We hit our goal.

I now know some people can't breastfeed even after they go to great lengths. I also know some people don't want to breastfeed. This is not a blog to say, "you should do it my way." There are plenty of those. And I'm in no position to judge. I fully support moms who don't breastfeed just as much as I support those who do. We all have to find our way through this crazy parenthood thing.

So here's why I'm writing this. I was able to make it through because I had people to lean on. That support started with my husband but it extended to family, friends and medical professionals. Heck, I remember a borderline stranger even offering advice.

I'm an independent woman. Sometimes to a fault. But I allowed myself to say, I need help. And I got it. Because I wasn't alone. There are a lot of moms out there, and some of them have likely experienced your same struggles. I'm so glad I allowed them to help me. This can be applied to any number of mommy problems: potty-training, balancing baby and marriage, finding time to shower (that's real and probably affects aforementioned problem), learning the best sippy cup to use (weird thing to add to the list, but I just spent an hour reading online reviews for good sippy cups. I would offer suggestions, but I still have no clue), etc. etc. etc.

And I'm writing this because we make a lot of sacrifices to be parents. We don't look for a pat on the back. The best kudos we can receive is a well-raised kid. But that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't look in the mirror and say, way to go!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

He learned to walk while I was away...

If you are around me over the next couple days, consider yourself warned. My emotions are all amok. Next week - for four long nights - I will be away from my little peanut. I have not spent a single night away from my nearly one-year-old since he was conceived, and now I'm going for four. What was I thinking?

Well, to be fair, I was thinking this: you miss one of your very best friends, you haven't had extended quality alone time with your husband in ages, you love to travel, your son has fabulous grandparents and a great aunt who would love some babysitting time, and it's probably good for him too. Okay, that was a moment of rational thinking, let's now re-board crazy train.

My husband texted me a picture of our son last week. He was standing with a little bit of support, but he looked like he was ready to start moving. I smiled at the photo, and then I immediately texted my husband, "OMG, what if he learns to walk while I am away?" Don't mind the odd verb tense. I had a mental soundtrack of "Cats in the Cradle" playing. You know the song. The one that is an ode to preoccupied, bad parents. And now my baby could take his first steps when I'm six states away!

I think my husband has already noticed my stress. He asked me this weekend why I've seemed so tense. You see, he is fully capable of only seeing things half full. He thinks this trip is nothing but a great thing. He is the most positive person on the planet. I, however, am fully capable of being a big ball of worry.

And yet I'm reminded of a little advice I gave a friend recently. She returned to work after baby and seemed a little overwhelmed with balancing everything. I told her I often try to nap in the morning if the baby takes a nap. I feel guilty about it because it cuts into my time with him, however, I realize that a rested mama can be a better mama - I know this isn't always possible! But the same line of thought is applicable here. A refreshed mama who continues to add non-baby experiences is probably going to be a better parent. If I continue to pursue things I love, I'll be able to meet our child with a better attitude.

Not to mention, I should probably get over myself. I mean, I get to take a cool trip.

I am a realist though, and I know my mommy guilt rarely fully disappears. I just need to take a deep breath and push it down a bit.

Will I succeed? I hope so. And I plan to keep repeating my husband's favorite quote:

Even if he learns to walk while I'm away, I know his grandmas and great aunt will be great cheerleaders for his first steps. (But waiting a few extra days wouldn't hurt either - a mom can hope, right?)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cancer sucks

That's what his button read. My mom put that pin on our refrigerator along with all the happy, smiling faces and proud accomplishments. This was a word we could not use in our home, my mom said it was like a swear, but she still hung it up.

My dad was one of the smartest people I have ever known. He was a constant student of life. He loved to read. He was a psychologist. He had his Ph.D and a minor in philosophy. The man spoke slowly like he was going through the catalog of his brain before choosing each word. Cancer Sucks made him laugh.

I research everything. If someone asks a question or doubts information they are saying chances are I'm already on google finding out what I can about the topic. It can be an annoying habit for others, I'm sure, but I crave facts. I think it's a major part of my career that appealed to me. So when my dad was given the diagnosis, pancreatic cancer, I went to a computer. Typing the words pancreatic cancer in a search engine is something I wish no one else would ever have to do. At the time, the five-year survival rate was at 5%. I think it's at 6% now.

My heart told me my dad would defy the odds. My cynical - or maybe just realist - brain told me he probably would not. And because there was so much confusion and conflict spinning inside me, I was at a loss for words. I suspect my dad felt the same way, and seeing the buttons when he went in for chemo made him feel like he wasn't alone. Someone else understood that the emotions are too great to explain. You try to speak but the fear, the pain, the anger seem to rise up and choke you.

My dad died less than a year after his diagnosis. Without the major surgery he had doctors predicted he would have had two months. Last weekend would have been his 70th birthday. He only made it to 58. My dad was there to watch me take my first breath in this world. I was there, snuggled against him, as he took his last. Parents are supposed to go first, but not when their kids are 23 and 27.

My dad never met his daughter-in-law, son-in-law or four grand kids. He used to tell me growing up that he couldn't wait for me to be a mom and for him to spoil his grandchildren. It pisses me off that he missed out on this.

I'm not writing this just to rant. I'm writing it because we don't have to be the underdog in this battle forever.

My job has allowed me to help out with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in town. Today I also helped with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I saw so many survivors today. More than 10,000 people were there to support the cause in Omaha. Komen has a lot of support, and it's making a dent in our Goliath of a competitor.

Days like this are always tough for me. I see and hear from the families that feel so much loss. I look at the cancer patients who seem tired from the drugs and therapy. It reminds me of a time that I wish never happened. But it's important to look at how bad cancer is and tackle it. Cancer makes victims feel alone. It makes spouses feel alone. It makes children feel alone. It makes people feel alone because it seems to occupy our every thought and feeling. But those of us who have been touched by its poisonous, long-reaching, indiscriminate finger need to realize we aren't alone.

Cancer succeeds by dividing and spreading. We also need to multiply and continue to carry the message as loud as we can. We need to beat it at its own game. Because with research and support, we can win. The reason why is really quite simple: Cancer sucks. People don't.

Learn more about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network by clicking here.

Learn more about Susan G. Komen by clicking here.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

To minivan or not to minivan

Let's face it, parents, that is the question.

Let's take a little trip back in time. Not sure when. Probably circa 2005. I had no ring on my finger. I had no baby on my hip. I thought like this: When I grow up I won't live in a cookie cutter subdivision. When my family is able to take a vacation we will travel to exotic, real places not just amusement parks. Sometimes I'll wear high heels to the ballpark because my short legs look better when they're slightly elongated. And I will not allow practicality to kill my coolness. I mean, I think I'm succeeding in this department. After all,  I wear really thin RayBans even though my son could snap those suckers at any second.


More background: I grew up going to car shows. My father drove hand-me-down clunkers in winter so that when the salt cleared off the Wisconsin roads he could drive his Mustang in spring, summer and fall. Instead of investing our college funds in a bank (by the way, I'm so thankful my mom and dad had a college fund for me) my dad sank money in classic Thunderbirds and then sold them to send us to school. We grew up going to TBird shows. It was awesome.

My husband will tell you he's not really a car guy. That said, he's the son of one of the world's biggest car guys. My in-laws have acquired the most amazing collection of Mercedes Benz cars over the years. My father-in-law is also amazing with building things so he can find a good deal, fix it up, etc.

There's the background. Here's the current situation.

We have a 75 pound dog that likes to travel with us in a massive crate, and all of our family members live in different states than us. We hope to expand our family at some point. And right now, when we travel we are already packed to the gills. We take my crossover SUV, a Nissan Rogue, on trips because it gets better gas mileage than Andy's 1999 4Runner. We'd probably trade his in. We also currently do not have any car payments. Can I get a debt-free Hallelujah! So right now we're discussing options for a vehicle upgrade.

Sure an SUV sounds nice, but the best gas guzzlers seem incredibly overpriced, and I still feel like we'll run out of room if our kids choose to have friends or play a sport like hockey (compute: size of kid multiplied by three to get the weight and surface area of stuff you will need to transport). A minivan sounds practical. It sounds economical. It sounds spacious. These are good for a stingy woman who worries about things way too much and likes to know we're covered for decades to come.

But in the end it's not just to minivan or not to minivan. It's balancing the "what I want to be when I grow up" version in my head with reality. A huge swath of our population does not choose to drive a minivan because they want to be boring. They do it because it makes sense. Same with the cookie-cutter houses, the planned out trips, etc. etc. etc. I recently voiced these issues with my mom and with a sarcastic tone she said, "I was never going to live outside the city or drive a station wagon." The tone came because I knew she had done both. And the truth is, it made sense and she does not regret it. (Or at least not enough to tell her daughter that she does).

In the end, I realize these are first-world problems. And life is all about compromise. I still don't know what we're going to buy for our next vehicle. But I just keep hoping wedges are still in style when Jack starts taking part in extracurricular activities. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sure you have a sick kid. Must be nice. I used to say with an eye roll. I am eating crow for every meal today.

"Sure you have a sick kid. Must be nice." I used to say with an eye roll. I am eating crow for every meal today.

I was wrong. Really wrong. I was naive. Really naive. Or better said, I was simply a selfish single person in a way only a selfish single person can be. (Not judging, I used to be there too, and it had a wonderful side to it.)

I don't want to be one of those moms who is like, wow you just don't get it, life is totally different when you have kids. But it's true, life is totally different. I have not spent a single night away from my child since he was born. He's 10.5 months old. I have either pumped milk or breastfed him every single one of those days. Most days I've done both. I'm not a martyr. I chose this life. I loooove this life. But I also have a parasite of sorts. He lives off me. In order to keep him alive, I have to be somewhat less selfish than I was. These are facts.

Also a fact - I can be judgey. Not proud of it, just honest about it. I can't tell you how many times I used to sit at work and roll my eyes when we'd get a "sick kid" phone call or an email that so-and-so wouldn't be coming in because of a sick kid. Heck, I remember when a few of us joked about adopting and sharing a child just so we could get the sick-kid privileges.

This morning every single one of those eye rolls came fluttering back in my mind.

Typically I get our son dressed in the morning but my husband did on this Sunday. We were at the mall when I noticed a couple dots on the baby's neck. I said, what's that!? My husband: oh yeah, I noticed he had some of that on his body. Not sure what it is. Me: And you didn't think you should mention it? #men

We got home, and when I changed his diaper I noticed more polka dots. He seemed fine otherwise so we decided to wait until Monday and reassess.

I got up with him early and fed him and noticed they were covering a larger area. I called the doctor's office, and they said to bring him in.

Mind you, my husband recently started a new job and has been going to the office most mornings. Today he had an afternoon meeting scheduled, and I had an early start to work planned. So we were going to try a new daycare provider today. But the baby had spots.

I let work know that I wouldn't be able to come into my early meeting and arranged a backup plan for that. I had my son ready to go to the doctor. Oh no. My husband has the car seat. Called husband. Got car seat. Called doctor about being late. Went to appointment.

Doc took a look and said he's all good, just to keep an eye on x,y,z. He likely just has something viral, but it's nothing serious. He can even go to daycare.

At this point, it's easier not to re-rearrange daycare so I'll stay here a little longer, husband will come home from his meeting, then I'll go into work a little late because I had a potentially sick kid who apparently is just an oddly colored kid not sick.

I just wrote out the minutia of my morning, but I forgot something. My fears. My heart. I'm in tears writing this because yes there was a period of time this morning when I was convinced my child had measles and would need to be quarantined for a month. There was a period of time when I read about Roseola and determined I must have missed his fever a couple days ago, and if I missed it, does that make me the worst mom ever? And I spent a good six minutes staring at him hoping he could telepathically tell me everything he was feeling since he can't yet speak. Being a mom makes you feel helpless and yet you've never wanted to help more.

I feel like I've had a week in this day, and I haven't even been to work yet.

I expect there might be an eye roll from my childless co-workers today, and that's okay. It's good to enjoy any stage of life you're in. And if they want to think life is so much easier when you have kids because you get to take a sick day in their honor, well, we'll just let them think that. And then one day, maybe we can all have a crow buffet together.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Let's have a blog off: Andy versus Jenny JENNY'S VERSION

We're officially old. So old that at 11:30 p.m. on a Saturday night after already watching several episodes of an HBO series we said, "what should we do?" "I'm not tired." "I'm bored." "Let's go to a bar. Oh wait, we can't, we have a baby sleeping." Hmm. Me: "I should write a blog." Andy: "Let's have a blogging competition."

A what?

We'll set the clock at 15 minutes and each write a blog and then see who wrote the better one.

Now I am (periods for effect). I immediately began sizing up my opponent. Sure he's witty, sure he's smart, but I'm a professional writer. His spelling is atrocious. I can do this. Now what to write about? Should we pick a topic?, we asked. Should we write about the blog-off? When I asked that he made some snarky comment like, "well if you want to go that route." Dude is trying to get in my head.

I also can't help but think he's trying to push me to get writing this blog. He's good like that. Supportive. Wonderful. He knows I'm competitive.

I keep watching him type and then look at the clock. He's a web guy so he's a very fast typer. He also actually types in an ergonomically correct way which is odd to me. My wrists are typically on the keyboard.

Yet as I watch him I think he's cute, he's sweet, he makes me smile. I don't feel my typical surge of needing to win. I don't think it's because I've lost my cut throat attitude, I think it's just because my competitor is my teammate. My ultimate teammate.

So whether we're snuggling the baby, petting the dog. laughing, partying, fighting, eating, watching TV, playing video games, hugging, kissing or competing, it doesn't matter, as long as I'm growing old with Andy, I've won.
Above the line is my original blog post completed in fifteen minutes. Andy's post is here -- they are quite similar which we both thought was really cute.

We had a great time doing this and we hope one day to get feedback from people once this blog actually gets published and promoted! Please share your thoughts and consider challenging your significant other at something and sharing your results with me!!!

Jenny vs. Andy: Who's the Better Blogger: ANDY'S VERSION

Blog post guest authored by Andy Steingas

Jenny is a professional writer who constantly has writing deadlines, so she better beat me in this competition! I'm only embarking on this 15 minute challenge to see who can write the best blog with her because I want her to achieve her personal goal of writing more blog articles this weekend. So while I may not be the better blogger, I at least have a good argument about why I might be the better person!

I'm a believer that a good article should have some sort of arc. (I hate to admit it, but I heard that from RHWONY star Bethenny about two months ago and I couldn't agree more). Deciding what my arc would be took ten minutes before the competition officially started while Jenny took off her make-up and I setup the computers.

We're both competitive and tonight is the perfect night for this competition. For no reason at all, neither of us had a cocktail during the Husker game, the game was over, Jack was in bed early, and three episodes of VEEP was enough for the night. Neither of us are tired despite the fact that it's midnight. We were both thinking, I guess we'll just go to bed, but that's also a little depressing since it is Saturday night.  (In the back of both of our minds, we could probably find one other activity.) (Note from Jenny the editor: this comment has been changed slightly because boys will be boys and this is my blog) :-)

So here's my arc: If you are in any kind of long term relationship, challenge your significant other even if you are likely to lose. In the end, you'll end up winning either way!
Above the line is the original blog post written in 15 minutes by my husband Andy. My 15 minute post is here -- they are quite similar which we both thought was really cute.

We had a great time doing this and we hope one day to get feedback from people once this blog actually gets published and promoted! Please share your thoughts and consider challenging your significant other at something and sharing your results with me!!!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

I want people to do better. Be better.

I vividly remember being in music class in fourth grade. One of the known class clowns was goofing around. Our teacher said nothing to him, but then called me out for something very small. When I said, well what about him? He's been misbehaving all day. The teacher said, "I expect more from you."

What? That's not okay. I went home and retold this story to my dad - fully expecting it would end with some discussion about how my parents would be meeting with the teacher to make sure she knew how unacceptable her actions were. Boy, was I wrong. When my dad nodded in agreement with the teacher, I said, "but that's not fair!" His response, "Jenny, life isn't fair." He then went on to explain how it's a good thing that people expect more from me. I chewed on that for a bit. I think I'm still chewing on it. But he was right.

We aren't all exactly even. To set everyone's bar at the same level would leave some people feeling inadequate and others complacent.

I now work in a newsroom where I have more experience than a lot of my co-workers (certainly not all). This is a drastic change from my last job where I was the baby of the group. I learned from them. Now people sometimes want me to be their teacher. Wow. That'll test a person. Being a leader is hard. Being a leader takes a lot of responsibility. And I don't take either of those truths lightly.

Sometimes I worry if I'm being too harsh with people. I definitely worry that one day I may be too demanding when it comes to my son.

But then I remember this: I'm thankful every single day that people have expected more from me.

How much is too much SM?

Social Media! What did you think I was talking about? Sickos. Sorry, I just needed a cheap way to get you to read. I promise not to use that trick too often.

I just added a Snapchat account today. This is on top of three Facebook pages (more on that fiasco in a moment), Twitter, Instagram and Periscope. And yet I still feel like I'm behind in this fast-moving world. 

Part of it is my job. No one knows exactly what television news looks like in the future, so we news folk are trying to stay relevant so we don't go the way of Sega. (Big Sonic fan back in the day). 

Part of it is just staying connected and trying to stay relevant as a human. Obvious statement ahead: technology is constantly changing. And I want to be on the same digital page as my son as he grows up. (Scatter-brained interjection: have you seen this Amy Schumer clip? #hilarious #loveher)


But here's the conundrum: is my baby seeing me or seeing my phone in front of my face. Mainstream media recently picked up this study. It claims 54% of kids think their parents check their devices too often. 32% of kids felt unimportant when their parents got distracted by devices. Don't know about you, but now I feel like a bad person. Here's an article on this study.

I'm not sure what the answer is. But I do know I'm often asking myself, are you in this moment or are you thinking about how it might play on social media? When I'm not sure, I put the phone down. 

As for all the Facebook pages, I'm not really sure what happened. I had my personal page, and then I got worried about my online profile because well I was in my 20s, and I had fun. Then I started a work page. Now that there is no chance any "dancing on the table" shots will appear on any page (I've become far too boring for that), I should probably merge them. Oh, and I hit my friend limit on my work page and was confused by the follower thing so I also started a Fan Page. I'm way too unimportant for such a large footprint. If anyone has a solution to my conundrum, I'm all ears. 

Until then, I'll keep meandering through my social media confusion. And make sure Jack says mama before he says hashtag.

(I can't miss this opportunity to promote. Follow me on Twitter: @griswoldkmtv, Periscope: @griswoldkmtv, Instagram: @griswoldtv, Snapchat: griswoldnews,

"I think I should start a blog"

"Hey Andy, I think I should start a blog."

We were planning our wedding. Side note: I've had very dear friends who had binders full of wedding ideas before the rings were even on their fingers. And I think they're amazing people. This is my Midwesterner way of passively prefacing what I'm about to say to show I do not judge others not like me. With that out of the way -- I HATED wedding planning. Seriously. When people bring up wedding planning, I watch my husband take a deep, audible breath as every forehead wrinkle begins to protrude before he calmly says, "that was a rough time for us."

I can't remember which wrinkle-inducing moment it was. But we were "discussing" something about the wedding when I told Andy, I'm not alone, and I think most people feel like this is more stressful than fun, Andy said, if that's the case, then maybe you should start a blog. So I did. I titled it and everything. Then I decided I should probably search for bridesmaids dresses. By the way, the wedding went on without a hitch! It was beautiful. It was fun. And I got to spend the day celebrating with my favorite person. Much ado about nothing.

Now, fast forward three years ago. A couple weeks ago, I said, "Hey Andy, I think I should start a blog." Once again, I was stressed. Not in the same way as I was when I was wedding planning. I just needed an outlet. I love to write. I find it cathartic. I used to write more and in a different way in my last job and part of me misses that.

And maaaybe, I had just been looking at Instagram for a couple hours, fully convinced that I could make money doing this like all the fashion bloggers I see. (I'm not capable of being a fashion blogger). But c'mon, doesn't that sound awesome? You take pictures of yourself in beautiful clothes, then people send you more beautiful clothes, and then the checks come in. This is how it works in my brain, no need to burst this bubble for me.

So this is why I decided to start a blog. Will I be able to keep it up? I have no idea. Do I think it will be good for me to just write, I do. So I guess I should probably make it happen. I plan to talk about wife things, working-mom things, and just being-a-woman things.

By the way, am I alone with the wedding-planning hatred? (Midwestern me needs to once again note, my wedding and marriage are awesome!)