Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chocolate and the Art of Binge Eating

Chocolate, sweet chocolate.
Used with permission from Microsoft.
Rayne was supposed to be in Chicago for work Tuesday through Thursday this week, plus he is going to a pre-bachelor party on Friday for a friend (read: will return home late and hammered). To preemptively get me in his good graces, he ordered me toffee from one of my favorite chocolate stores, Lake Champlain Chocolates.

"Don't eat them all at once," he cautioned when he gave them to me Monday night, knowing full well, I can only suppose, that I am powerless in the face of a box of good chocolates.

I'm really not so good at delayed gratification when it comes to sweets. I ate half the box Monday night and the rest for lunch yesterday.

He'll never know, I reasoned.

Then his flight was canceled due to bad weather in Chicago.

"Are there any chocolates left?" Rayne asked me over dinner last night.

"Ha-ha," I replied with a sheepish grin on my face.

"Why didn't you save any?"

There are a multitude of reasons, but here is the true one, the one I gave him, paraphrased for your convenience:

If there are ten chocolates in my pantry, I might as well eat them all at one time. Because then I only hate myself once that day (for that reason, anyway). If I eat seven pieces in the afternoon, I know full well I'm going to eat the other three later on, at which point I will hate myself again. So really, it's better to shove those last three pieces in my pie hole and save myself from the roller coaster of two bouts of chocolate-induced self-loathing in one day.

The sad thing is that I can see the logical flaws from an intellectual standpoint and yet, this argument makes perfect sense to me.

Anyone else get it?

Now, if you'll excuse me, my darling son is making room in the wine fridge for his toys by taking bottles out. I'm such a good mom.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Yahoo! Debacle: Who's Really the Lazy One?

Commuting: Still the American Way
(Used with permission from Microsoft)
The media are all atwitter with Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s most recent edict eliminating telecommuting and work-from-home arrangements for all employees. The internal memo, leaked via All Things D, targets even those waiting for “the cable guy,” that bane of our modern existence.

To call Ms. Mayer’s decision disappointing is an understatement. One would have hoped that the nursery she had built in her office signaled not hypocrisy and one-percenter cluelessness but an understanding of the plight of working parents – or, I daresay, of anyone with extra-professional responsibilities who can’t afford a couple (or ten) personal assistants.

Yet, she had her reasons, chief of which, I suspect, was to send a signal to investors and the rest of Silicon Valley that she is “serious” about turning Yahoo! around. And in this country, we still believe working from home is tantamount to playing.

No matter how many studies (thank you New York Times Motherlode Blog) confirm that flexible work arrangements do not decrease productivity, supervisors across the nation bow and scrape to the popular notion that employees working from home are freeloaders who take advantage of their flexible schedules.

There are reports from anonymous ex-Yahoos (the unbelievable yet real, self-appointed internal moniker for Yahoo!’s employees) who have applauded Ms. Mayer’s move, citing workers who did, in fact, abuse their off-campus "benefits."

Here’s the thing. There will always be people who take advantage. You can put a firewall up on every external system on the planet, and someone will still be using Microsoft Word to compose a break-up e-mail at work. Instead, putting systems and infrastructure in place, as explained in this excellent Fast Company article "3 Ways Marissa Mayer Did Us A Huge Favor," can help monitor worker productivity. For those who are truly abusing the system… well, the virtual unemployment line is filled with people waiting for the chance to work. 

But reorganizing your business model to account for flexibility and work-life balance is difficult and tiresome, isn’t it? Much easier to rely on lazy shortcuts to seeming serious.

Thanks a lot, Marissa.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Playground Pariah?

Used with permission of Microsoft.
The other day I took Henry to the public library. I figured I could get him hooked on a new Dr. Seuss book and perhaps save myself from the agonizing 45,273rd reading of "Green Eggs and Ham." (Thank you, thank you, Sam-I-Am.)

Henry, of course, had his own ideas, which mostly included crawling and toddling around, re-shelving books (because he's so "helpful") and babbling loudly to other toddlers also helpfully rearranging the library.

At one point, he became oddly fixated on grabbing another little boy's pacifier out of his mouth. I say oddly because Henry hasn't used a pacifier since he was about six months old. That the boy was probably closer to 18 months -- definitely bigger than my petite 14-month-old -- did not deter him.

At first I intervened, grabbing Henry's hands and saying firmly the pacifier wasn't his. He would not, however, be swayed from his goal. To defend himself, the little boy took the pacifier out of his mouth and hid it behind his back, swatting Henry's hands away. Finally, he pushed Henry down and walked away.

Henry didn't seem to mind; after all, he hadn't had far to fall. He briefly babbled with two little girls before returning for his prize. Once again, the little boy tried to keep the pacifier out of reach; when that failed, he pushed Henry down again. And Henry went away.

I've seen this sort of scenario play out again and again on the playground and at the dreaded Babies and Beer. Unless a child is much bigger or about to hurt Henry -- or vice versa -- I rarely intervene. The way I see it, kids learn from one another's reactions, not from mommy's admonitions.

But in Brooklyn, it seems like a parent's sole purpose is to keep children from touching others and being touched. Simply letting children play? That's crazy-talk. If your child takes a toy and you don't return it immediately and soliloquize on sharing for all to hear, you're a playground pariah.

Yeah, I tell Henry to share and all that. But if he takes a toy from another child, odds are someone else will take that toy from him. And so it goes. I don't get too worked up. Maybe I have the luxury of being calm because I have a mild-mannered child who is neither fazed if someone takes his toy nor wont to hit or bite to get it back. All I know is, none of it seems as urgent to me as it appears it is to others.

Truthfully, I, too, fall prey to the suffocating unwritten rules. I redirect Henry to another part of the playground if he seems to be too interested in one child. Who wants to be a playground pariah? Indeed, part of the reason I sat back and let the library episode unfold was because there was a babysitter with the other boy, and she didn't seem to think it was so bad. In fact, we both laughed as the two little wills battled it out.

Don't get me wrong. If Henry started being aggressive, I would definitely step in. And if another child was hurting him, I would also intervene.

But harmless playground socialization -- 'I want that block,' 'Give me your leaf,' 'If you take my pacifier I'll push you down' -- well, that's how they learn, isn't it? In my mind, it's better to teach Henry to fend for himself a bit than do everything for him.

Which is just the topic of an excellent article a friend of mine shared on Facebook recently, "Three Huge Mistakes We Make Leading Kids... And How to Correct Them," by Tim Elmore. One of the three mistakes is "rescuing too easily." In our quest to make the world wonderful, just marvelous, for our precious offspring, we send them the wrong message.
Sooner or later, they know “someone will rescue me.” If I fail or “act out,” an adult will smooth things over and remove any consequences for my misconduct. Once again, this isn’t even remotely close to how the world works. It actually disables our kids.
I could not agree more.

Henry only had to be pushed twice before he got the message. How long do you think it would have taken if I had grabbed his hands away every time?

It's hard to watch your kid get pushed down, even when you know he was the instigator. But it's a microcosm of conflict he will experience in the real world. And later, the consequences are more striking.

Am I crazy? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the line between interfering and not.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Take a Seat... It's My SITS Day!

To my regular readers:

Today is my SITS day! What is that, you say? I thought you'd never ask.

Here is an excerpt from The SITS Girls' About page:
When The Secret is in the Sauce (aka The SITS Girls) was founded in 2008, its objective was simple: To create a space where bloggers could find their tribe and grow their audience....
Today, the brand is managed by women who are passionate about blogging and creating a resource for others to find support online and learn the skills they need to become social media savvy. Our network of 40,000 members come to The SITS Girls site to see who we are featuring from the blogging community, learn the technical skills they need to be successful online, and chat in our discussion forum.
The site has tons of tips, tools and tricks for new and seasoned bloggers alike. I only wish I had found out about them before I started my blog.

If you are a blogger, you can be featured and showered with love by other bloggers in the community. Go here to sign up!

To my SITS Girls:

Welcome to Urban Moo Cow! I'm Deb. I live in Brooklyn with my husband, our 14-month old son, Henry, and a neurotic corgi named Hudson. Once, in the sleepless days of Henry’s first weeks, I caught my husband beaming at us nursing. You are a very good Moo Cow, he said, kissing me on the head. A nickname was thus born. Urban Moo Cow chronicles my (often humorous, sometimes poignant) transition from young urban professional to young urban professional mom.

You can read more About the Moo Cow or just plunge in. Below are some of my favorite posts to get you going, or you can go over to the Label cloud in the sidebar and pick a topic of interest.

Funny Posts

Serious Posts

Mushy Mommy Posts

Thanks for stopping by. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and G+!

Gratuitous cuteness. You're welcome.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Marshmallow Goes to the Summit

I don't love Valentine's Day. I don't like any of those Hallmark holidays -- Mothers' Day, Fathers' Day, Grandparents' Day, Secretaries' Day -- in part because I am at heart a bit of a curmudgeon, but also because they are contrived to make us buy things we don't need.

I do, however, love Rayne. Every day, not just on Valentine's Day.

I wrote yesterday about my slow-poke skiing -- my Marshmallow style to his Storm Trooper. But today was sunny and beautiful; I really got in my groove.

I was shredding that bunny hill, let me tell you.

I jest. I was going legitimate speeds on legitimate Blue trails all morning. It was fun. Because really, I'm not a Marshmallow. I'm a Blue Shredder who needs time -- tons of time -- being a Marshmallow before I feel comfortable getting up to regular speeds and trails.

After lunch, I was eager to show off my mad skillz to Rayne, who had spent the entire morning skiing the "Northwest Territory." The name alone is intimidating.

We did a couple of blue runs together. After each one, I was like, "I'm fast now, right?"

"Yes, my love, you're very fast," he would respond. "I only wait one-fourth the time for you." That is, before he bombs past me, regardless of how fast I'm carving up the mountain.

On our third or fourth lift up, we could see the summit straight ahead.

"You could definitely do the summit if you wanted to," Rayne said.

"I guess. But I don't want to," I replied. "It wouldn't be fun for me."


Silence. We watched people skiing down the summit trail.

"That's a Blue trail down the middle," Rayne remarked.

"It's Blue?"

"Yeah, the Black trails are on the sides, but the middle under the lift is a Blue."


"You could totally do it."

I considered my options. Finish the day as the Blue Shredder. Or, prove to myself (and the blogo-ma-sphere) the Marshmallow could go to the summit.

"Okay, let's do it," I said.

So we did. We took the chair to the peak (9,000 feet!) and I went pretty slowly. If you had been skiing near me, you would have heard a faint, high-pitched eeeeeeeeeeeee as I traversed the trail. My quads were burning. I knew I was making it more difficult by going slowly, but I preferred to be in pain than scared. Some things never change.

At the Summit of Mt. Bachelor, Bend, Oregon.

When we got to the very bottom, 3,000 feet later, I was happy, tired and finished for the day. Rayne accompanied me to the lodge (because it was Valentine's Day) and we each had a spiked hot chocolate with whipped cream.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

I would never have gone to the summit with anyone else. I love that he does crazy things because it makes me think those things are possible. And because I trust him implicitly, I'm not as afraid as I would expect myself to be.

There are so many things I would never have done were it not for my crazy, risk-loving husband. Ski the summit -- or at all, for that matter -- climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, run a 200-mile relay race, leave my job....

He makes me better. That's why I love him.

Love in our pre-Henry years.... 
Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Skiing, a Window to the Soul

Mt. Bachelor, central Oregon.
The Moo Cow family is in Oregon skiing this week. Grandma watches Henry at the house we rented in Sunriver, while Rayne and I ski at Mt. Bachelor. It's definitely a win-win situation.

I'm not the greatest skier. I started late in life, and I'm by nature a cautious perfectionist. I stay in bounds on the Green and Blue slopes. I take a lesson every time we go out. My form is perfect; I turn beautiful Cs and Ss. 

But I am slow. Like, really, really slow. Rayne told me that my form and my speed don't coincide. I look like should be going much faster.

"I feel like I'm watching a ski movie in slow motion," a college friend now living in Oregon said the other day as he waited for me to traverse the decline over and over, moving only a few feet vertically with each turn.

He and Rayne did Black Diamonds and moguls today while I spent the morning on the Sunrise Express lift to the Marshmallow Trail. I was perfectly happy with this arrangement. I'm a Marshmallow kind of gal, you feel me?

My husband, on the other hand, is a risk-loving maniac. He grew up skiing on the west coast (read: way superior to northeast skiing). His favorite move is to wait until the person with whom he is skiing gets almost out of the sight and then BOMB down the mountain at full speed. He loves skiing through trees, up the sides of trails and over jumps. He has a helmet that makes him look like a Storm Trooper or a James Bond villain.

These two styles of skiing also define our general approaches to life. I study before saying anything because I hate making mistakes; Rayne will talk until you call bullshit on him. I only buy things on sale; Rayne buys what he likes even if he doesn't need it. I was the valedictorian of my high school class, have three Ivy League degrees and still don't know what I want to be when I grow up; Rayne studied Finance at the University of Oregon, showed up in New York without a job or an apartment, managed to land at Goldman Sachs and has subsequently built a successful hedge fund career.

What can I say? As a wise sailor once noted, I yam what I yam.

What is your ski personality? Marshmallow? Storm Trooper? Something in between?

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Open Letter to the NYC Department of Ed and the Teachers' Union

Used with permission from Microsoft.
Dear New York City Department of Education and United Federation of Teachers:

That's right, all of you.

I believe in public school education. In one of the richest nations in the world, it should be a given.

Yet, my husband and I are facing the prospect of paying 20 to 30 thousand dollars per annum for private school because the New York City public school system is, to put it nicely, sub-par. If you consider that we hope to have two children, and they will go to school from ages 3 to 18, the sum total of our children's education will cost 600 to 900 thousand dollars.

Then, of course, there is that little thing called college, but the federal government will be happy to saddle my children with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt of their own to pay for undergraduate education, not to mention graduate schooling if they so choose.

Does that make sense to you?

Sure, I could probably find a public elementary school in Brooklyn for my children to attend. All I need to do is pay a consultant two hundred dollars an hour to help me figure out where to move so that when you rezone the districts again in two years, we'll have a fighting chance of being eligible to attend one of the five or so good schools. That is, if we can afford to live in those areas as a family of four.

And then, apparently, entrance into our zoned public school is not even guaranteed due to overcrowding. Can that be right? I'm still sorting it all out.

Look, I've met the above-referenced consultant; she is warm and knowledgeable. She deserves business in the current environment. All I'm saying is, I shouldn't need a consultant to figure out kindergarten.

In any case, we'd still have to pay for middle and high schools because, let's face it, you've failed altogether in those departments. Likewise, there is no real opportunity for public pre-school (the limited seats in the Universal Pre-K program don't count, sorry). So assuming it is possible to obtain a six-year reprieve with elementary school, we're still looking at around a half million dollars for our children's pre-college education.

If I went back to work full-time and we scrimped and saved, we might be able to pull it off. Of course that would preclude giving my children an opportunity to see the world, to explore the outdoors, to learn outside the classroom, to play a sport. Never mind pulling together the down payment to fulfill the American Dream of home-ownership.

Does that seem like a fair trade-off to you?

I love New York. I want to stay, but you're making it difficult. I've lived here for over twelve years, not including two years in the 1970s before my parents, too, got the hell out of Dodge.

By the same token, the suburbs, where I grew up, nauseate me. I dislike the environmentally unfriendly sprawl, the social isolation, the comparative lack of art and theater. I detest car culture. Former co-workers in Westchester would drive five blocks to go to lunch unless I insisted we walk.

You are driving me out of the city, like countless others. I don't want to leave, but I'm starting to think I have no choice. As annoying as the predicament is to me, however, I am lucky to have the ability to leave if I so choose. I cannot say the same for millions of others. That is the real tragedy.

I know. The problem of public education is seemingly intractable. Is it money? Is it department politics? Parental malaise? The teachers' union? Safety? A sudden onslaught of kids with ADHD? I don't care. You've had fifty or more years to figure it out, and you have failed us.


Urban Moo Cow

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Sleep-over, Sleep-inner

When we returned home without the baby, I'm pretty sure Hudson thought all his calls to the Bloomberg Help Desk had finally paid off.

You got rid of the baby? His puppy eyes asked, with a mixture of excitement and confusion. LET'S PLAY!

Alas, it was not to be for Hudsy, as we left again a day and a half later and returned with Henry in our arms.

In the interim, Henry had his first sleep-over at Nana-and-Papa's (one word, irrevocably coined by my now four-year-old niece) made possible by the success of my bittersweet quest to wean my little boy off the breast.

Rayne and I? You thought we went for a ski weekend, didn't you? Nope. As it turned out, the nasty Norovirus going around had other plans for my poor hubby this past week.

Instead, we brunched at a suburban diner near my parents' place before driving back to Brooklyn empty-handed. We I napped. Then we walked an hour in the dark cold to a hip, no-res bistro in Greenpoint. Because we could. We returned home via the leisurely and inexpensive subway and watched television at full volume with all the lights on. It was the cheapest date we'd had in over a year.

Then we slept from midnight to 11 am.


Truth be told, we both woke up well before 11 am -- me at around 8:30 am; Rayne didn't even look at the clock -- but neither even considered telling the other. We drifted in and out of dream-like states until 11:15 am.

Such silence. Was it always like this? Did our pre-parent selves simply fail to notice?

Sleep, glorious sleep. I missed Henry's little face, but not as much as I thought I would. Then again, it had only been 24 hours.

"When do you think we'll go back to sleeping in as, like, a lifestyle?" Rayne asked over pancakes at 1 pm.

I stared at him blankly. Did he mean when our children would cease to wake up at the crack of dawn? Like the teen years? Or when they were completely out of the house, i.e., twenty years from now?

"Do you think," he continued, "when Henry is a teenager, we'll all sleep in?"

"I don't know," I responded. "Theoretically. But I don't remember my parents sleeping in when I was a teenager."

"We'll sleep in, but we'll think 9 am is sleeping in."

"I think as you get older you don't want to sleep as late anymore."

Silence. My husband looked dejectedly at his half-eaten "hippie" pancake (as he calls the whole wheat/Aunt Jemima mixture I force him to make us) covered in organic maple syrup and organic cultured butter.

I thought of how my mom always says she can never sleep anymore for all the worrying she does.

"Screw it," I said suddenly. "We're going to sleep in again. Even if we're not sleeping, we're going to be that old couple who just hangs out in bed all morning."

"Okay, then."

And that was that.

We're going to be sleep-inners again some day. You heard it here first. Who's with me?

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Baby Toes

We're done weaning. We've been done for a couple of weeks, actually. I don't think it's a gross exaggeration to say that I'm devastated. He came off the breast so easily -- and my milk dried up so quickly -- that I feel like a jilted lover.

We need to end this relationship.

Two weeks later he's with another woman.

Wait... I changed my mind!

But it's too late.

This morning I held Henry in the nursing chair as he sucked down a full eight ounces of cow's milk. I caressed his little foot, acutely aware somehow that I am living my life, so to speak, as opposed to preparing for the next phase. You know: After high school is college, then a first job, followed by graduate school and a first "real" job, the one that prepares you to climb the ladder of your chosen career. Then finding the one (finally!), engagement and marriage, pregnancy and now... life.

Henry has his dad's feet: little rectangles, almost as wide as they are long. But his baby feet have an additional feature, that little roll of fat right on top of the arch, giving them the appearance of two edible tamales.

He drank peacefully as I ran my fingers up and down his arch. I put my finger underneath his toes near the ball of his foot, but he has lost the plantar grasp reflex that enabled our hairier forebears to cling to their mother, quite literally for dear life.

Ah, the inexorable, bittersweet march of time.

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