Scenes from A Greek Pizzeria & Restaurant

When I was little, one of my favorite parts of visiting “Gramma&GrampaInHope” (this was all one word in my head, with a second word for “Grandma&GrandpaOnTheFarm” – that’s right, I hashtagged before hashtagging was a thing. Take that, hipsters.) was going to The Store with Grampa. We’d get up early, have a slice of Entenmann’s Cheeese Danish,

CheeseDanish and head off on the one mile commute to The Store. Another fun fact about my childhood, there was an ironclad rule when Dad was driving that no one was allowed to ask “Are we there yet?” until we saw the store.  My brother once tried to see how many times he could fit the question in between there and the house – that did not go over well.

Once Grampa unlocked and checked for burglars (family legend says he once found one who got stuck in the ceiling on his way through the crawlspace), I would come in and wander the aisles, check out the cold cases of milk, bug the heck out of him for baseball cards and bubble gum, and then I would spin and spin on the lunch counter stools until I got dizzy and fell off or got yelled at to get out of the way for the breakfast customers.

TheStore The lunch counter at The Store fascinated me. In a town with a population that still hasn’t hit 2000 as of the 2010 census, a place like this is the original social network and REAL “where everybody knows your name.” It’s where I learned the differences between coffee black, coffee regular, and coffee light and sweet and the joys of a corn muffin cut in half and toasted with butter on a hot grill and topped with strawberry jam. Seriously, try that sometime. I still order it at diners and it’s never, ever lost it’s touch. And there were always stories being told – the regulars would come in, get their coffee and their newspaper, and shoot the bull for hours. In the summer, the tourists would stop by and get their pictures taken because The Store was used in scenes in Friday the 13th, and there were some TV specials filmed there too. And inevitably, one of them would park smack in front of the sign with an arrow pointing out the road to the Land of Make Believe amusement park and ask for directions – the favorite response was “Oh, they closed down two years ago!”

The Store has created a permanent soft spot in my heart for these little hole in the wall restaurants that are run by families who are all about being right in the thick of their neighborhoods. So you can imagine my delight when my husband introduced me to Ted, way back in the day when we were just dating. Ted is a Greek immigrant who runs a pizzeria with his wife, Peggy. If you go in there at lunchtime, the place is packed with all the local office workers grabbing a bite to eat. We usually go at night, when it’s slower, and Ted and Peggy have time to come sit and chat. And just like The Store, there is always something to chat about!

Scene 1 – Paul and I come in, and Ted announces “It’s my birthday! I buy a cake. You have some with me!” and plunks down these gigantic pieces of tiramisu. Later on, we pay our bill and yell back to Ted “Happy birthday again!” Peggy puts her hands on her hips and shakes her head. “Did he tell you it’s his birthday? It’s not. His birthday is in March. He just likes cake, so he invents extra birthdays a couple of times a year.”

Scene 2 – I come in alone. Paul and I are planning to meet there, but he’s stuck in traffic and told me to go ahead and order. Ted tells me if I beat my husband more often, he wouldn’t be late anymore. When Paul finally arrives, Ted yells at him for keeping me waiting, then feeds him a heaping platter of onion rings because traffic must have made him very hungry.

Scene 3 – My bestie and I have a running joke about competing to pick up the check when we go out to eat. This has been going on for years, where we have stolen each other’s wallets, “forgot” to tell the other one that a place is cash only, flagged down a waitress to pay the check while the other one is in the restroom, etc. But my personal favorite is the time that I took them to Ted’s for dinner and stopped by at lunchtime to pre-pay the bill – I slipped cash to Peggy and told her to tell me if it wasn’t enough. When we came back for dinner, Anne and Mark thought they were being all sneaky trying to distract me so Mark could run up and pay the bill as soon as we ordered. Ha ha!

Scene 4 – Last night, we took PJ there for the first time since he’s started sitting in a high chair and eating finger foods. Ted and Peggy both made a big fuss over him, which the little ham ate up! And right when we were about to leave, Ted conjured up a couple of balloons and tied them to PJ’s foot (don’t worry, Paul is holding the string and didn’t let him grab or bite the balloons!). They both thought this was the funniest thing ever!

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Even though The Store is now an antiques shop instead of a lunch counter, I’m so glad that there are still people like Ted out there keeping that kind of family business going strong. It’s easy to get caught up in a fast food, generic coffee world but if there’s a little place in your neighborhood that you’ve always wondered about, why not give it a try? Just don’t ask for directions until you’ve carefully read all the signs, ok?

PJ’s Diary: Declaring Independence

Listen, Mommy, we needs to talk. I’m getting all growed up now, and I think it’s time for me to move out. Thanks for teaching me everything I need to know!

I can feed myself now…

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And brush my teeth…

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I’m getting real good at crawling, when the cabinets don’t jump out and bite me. I even gots my own house to come home to after parties!

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I can work like you…

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And I even know how to turn on my fishie lamp!

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So I guess that’s everything, right? Thanks for all the yummy snacks…

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Except the eggs, I didn’t like those at all! I’ll be back for the stories…

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But I think I’m ready to take on the world!

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Just one thing before I hit the road…do you think you could be a pal and change this diaper?

9 Months Already?!

My baby boy is 9 months old today! So even if he hadn’t been all impatient about his early arrival, he’d probably still be at the point where he’s spent more time out in the world than growing in my belly. What a strange feeling!

He is crawling like crazy now, which is why I’ve been far too tired to write lately, and into everything. Every. Thing. I think we’re doing pretty good, so far only one instance of: “Uhhh, where’s PJ?” “Isn’t he in there with you?” “No, I thought he was in there with you! … Crap, here he is in the office taste testing the cats’ food.”

Other than his questionable taste in protein, it’s fun to watch him figure out new things, like his babysitter’s workbench.

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Even starting his own construction company! “Seriously? A picture now? I’m on the phone, can I catch you in five?”

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And how much fun finger foods are…

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Even when the food is actually Mommy’s…

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We’re going to call that stolen cupcake practice for his first birthday. 

Happy 9 months little man!

PJ’s Diary: Winter Decathlon Standings

I don’t get all this #SochiProblems stuff – MY Winter Olympiad is going swimmingly. I just received my standings from the Baby Olympic Committee (BOC) and I’d say my medal hopes are good.

Event 1: Cheerio Curling

Currently in first place. My sweepers, Roxie and Velma, have done an excellent job helping me get my missiles right on the button.

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Event 2: Cross Country Crawling

Mommy keeps stopping me just when I’m about to break my records – no fair!

Event 3: Mirror Dancing

Going well, but getting some stiff competition from that handsome boy in the moose onesie.

Event 4: Couch Skeleton

Again, blocked by Mommy. The BOC really ought to do something about the lousy officiating in this house.

Event 5: Bouncer Jumping

My best hopes for an individual medal. I shall bounce bounce bounce and make Tigger proud.

Event 6: Toy Hockey

Naiiillled it. Call me PJ Oshie!

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Event 7: Floor Slaloms

One unfortunate wipeout this morning but Mommy kissed it and got me back in the running. BOC complaint withdrawn…for now.

Event 8: Carseat Bobsled

I don’t like this one, but at least I look cute in my uniform, right?

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Event 9: Speed Crawling

An unfortunate third place ranking. Those kitties are FAST!

Event 10: Marathon Sleeping

Disqualified.  I just get so huuuuungry!

Altogether, I think I’ve got a strong program here. Mommy says she’ll give me a gold medal if I quit trying so hard at Couch Skeleton.

Hmmmmm…..naaaah!

The Mom Workout Plan

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– Spot baby toes disappearing behind recliner that is blocking a tasty collection of electrical cords.

– Sprint across living room.

– Scoop up giggling, wriggling 16 lb weight.

– Dance around like a crazy person to distract wriggling 16 lb weight from thwarted suicide mission.

– Squat to deposit culprit in his favorite play spot.

– Repeat squats at least 10 times as play spot is not exactly right and needs adjusted until it’s exactly the way it was the first time.

– Tiptoe across living room back to what you were doing earlier.

– Listen carefully…

Yup, time to start over.

If A Reporter Stays Inside…Will We Still Know It’s Snowing?

You know what is even more boring than the umpteenth snow day during the bajillionth storm this year? TV coverage of the umpteenth snow day during the bajillionth storm this year. Seriously, reporters. SHUT. UP. We know it’s snowing. You know it’s snowing. It’s February in the northeast. It happens. Daytime TV is terrible, but watching reporters stand outside pointing at empty roads and bothering the few people who actually need to be outside is infinitely worse.

So what have we been doing on our snow days? I’m sad to say that my husband doesn’t share my views on the scourge of “snow as news” reporting and watches it, even texting me updates when I manage to escape the viewing area. “Oh wow, it’s really snowing hard in Allentown!” “Guess how much snow they got in Doylestown?” ::sigh::

PJ and I have kind of got into our own snow day routine:

5:00 am – He wakes me up for his first breakfast

5:30 am – Back to bed.

5:45 am – Realize I’m not going to fall back asleep.

6:00 am – Make coffee, do my yoga practice, decide what to do with the day, start on whatever work I brought home.

Sometime in the morning….PJ wakes up for his second breakfast. Then he likes to “play independently,” which is currently code for “Play nicely with my favorite toy until I think Mommy isn’t paying attention and then crawl as quickly as I can towards the radiators. Or the cats. Or their toys. Oooooh, a fuzzy!” He’s even developed a new laugh just for cat chasing. Which is quite handy, because it lets me know when I need to catch him before he gets too close to their food dish and lets the cats know when it’s time to skedaddle. Although he did manage to sneak up on and catch Roxie once today – he was quite proud of himself and she was not impressed. And then it’s time for Breakfast #3, in the high chair, where he will redecorate my kitchen with liberal splashes of oatmeal and Cheerios. Then we cuddle and read stories, and he takes a nap while I clean or finish up work. And rinse and repeat.

And somehow, in all of this time, I’m able to tell whether or not it’s still snowing by…get this…looking out the window. I know, crazy! And meanwhile that poor girl from Action News is still outside in her parka, desperately trying to think of something, anything, else to say about the weather. Even PJ has reached the point of rolling his eyes and sticking out his tongue at these overly dramatic updates.

I didn’t teach him that, honey, I swear!

PJ’s Diary: Go, Baby, Go!

Guess what guess what guess what!  If I stick my hiney in the air, and reeeeach out with my hands, and shuffle my knees, I can crawl. I know, I couldn’t believe it either! But then I saw all my toys on the shelf and I just had to go get them.

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And then…get this…I found out that it works in other rooms too. Crazy fun! I found a doorstop in my bedroom…

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A leftover Cheerio in the kitchen…

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And I even played hide and seek with my kitty friend Velma! Where is she? I can’t find her anywhere!

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Tomorrow, I think I’m gonna try finding out where Mommy keeps all my yummy snacks!

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Mmmmmm…coookies.

To Give And To Receive…A Liebster Award!

Thanks very much to Tales of A Twin Mombie (love the new name, by the way!) for nominating me for a Liebster Award! For those of you not on WordPress, the Liebster Award is about sharing our favorite blogs to help others discover them. So I have 10 questions to answer, and then nominate 5 of my favorite reads to answer 10 questions that I come up with.

So here goes, my 10 questions answered!

1. What led you to start your blog and how long have you been blogging?

My first blog was on MySpace, and then I took a long break. In March of 2012 I began a blog for work, about home improvement and home services. If you have a question about a heater, I’m your girl (with some help from the husband when I get in over my head haha!) I began this blog in August 2013 for a couple of reasons – one, so that my grandmother can keep up with PJ’s adventures and two, because when PJ was in the NICU there were topics that I had a hard time finding resources for online and I wanted to talk about them in case other people had the same problems. The biggest one was the challenge of teaching a preemie to breastfeed – most information about breastfeeding issues relates to newborns, not 2 month old babies that had to start on a feeding tube and a bottle. Now that we’re past that stage, it’s for the fun of figuring out what he is thinking and writing about it!

2. What did you accomplish in 2013 that you feel the most proud about?

Hands down, being successful in that tube to bottle to breastfeeding transition. The first day that he really got it was one of the best I’ve ever had.

3. If you could recommend a MUST READ, what would it be and why?

There are a lot of books that I come back to often, and it’s so hard to pick just one. But I’m going to go with Jane Eyre, because reading it again last year made me realize what a badass feminist she was, way before there was even a phrase for being a badass feminist. It’s pretty great.

4. When you are feeling stressed out, what is something that almost always works to calm you?

This may be a cheat to get around the one-book question above, but reading anything by Agatha Christie while drinking tea, especially if it’s raining, takes me straight to a happy place.

5. What TV character do you identify the most with and why?

I’m going to say Claire Dunphy from Modern Family. She means well and tries really hard, and sometimes she pulls it off, and other times she’s just awkward in the cute and quirky way that I always hope my awkwardness comes off as. Is there such a thing as aspirational awkwardness? Also, we both have husbands with big hearts and habits that drive us crazy, but we wouldn’t trade them in even for a really cute fireman.

6. If you had to give yourself a superhero name, what would it be and why?

I hate those name calculators because I always end up with dumb ones. Most recently, Green Pizza. Next!

7. What do you admire the most about your husband?

I love that he goes out of his way to help people who need him, even when it’s not convenient for him. There’s hardly a weekend that goes by without, “So and so needs me, they’ve got a problem with their whoosiewhatsit. Do you mind if I run down and take a look at it?” It’s definitely an example I want PJ to follow growing up.

8. What is your guilty pleasure? Something you shouldn’t indulge but just have to sometimes?

Netflix binges. If I get a hooked on a show, I just can’t stop until I’ve seen them ALL. This actually came in handy over the summer with the NICU and teaching PJ to breastfeed – spending all that time stuck in a chair, you have to do something! It was Grey’s Anatomy and Doctor Who for me.

9. What’s your occupation? Do you enjoy it? Why or why not?

I am a marketing coordinator, and I specialize in social media marketing. I love my job. People look at me funny when I try to explain what I do, but trust me, “working on Facebook” is very little Candy Crush, and a whole lot of data and analysis. Including work and personal accounts, I write for three blogs, manage  four Facebook pages, three Twitter accounts, two Google+, Pinterest, and a LinkedIn Page, and spend a lot of time digging deep into Google Analytics. And the rest of my working time I manage TV, radio, billboard, and print advertising. It’s a really big plate, but it’s a lot of fun and I’m always learning new things.

10. Three favorite online shopping websites?

With all the time that I spend on social media, I’m not actually a big online shopper. I research products online, but tend to buy in person. But I have recently started ordering my groceries from Peapod.com which I HIGHLY recommend to anyone with young children or any other reason that grocery shopping is a pain. I shop online, and they bring everything right to my kitchen table, easy peasy.

My five nominees for this award are:

The Culture Monk: Kenneth writes about social justice issues with a lot of insight and compassion. I’ve learned a lot from him about how people outside my own personal circle live, and I always look forward to his posts. Plus, he has an endearing obsession with good coffee.

Cabernet & Breastmilk: Another blogger I have learned a lot from! She writes a parenting blog in “Lesson” formats that have made me smile, nod, and bookmark for future reference. If you have a little one, are wondering what to expect, or want to take a trip down memory lane, check her out.

Making It With Danielle: I confess, I first started following this blog thinking it was my crafty neighbor Dani! I figured out pretty quickly that it wasn’t, but was glad for my mistake because this Danielle also posts an interesting mix of projects and recipes (one of which I actually made for neighbor Danielle, bringing it all full circle).

The Dreaded Odyssey: The actual blog of my crafty neighbor Dani. I’m hoping this award encourages her to write more often, because I love her posts! She wrote one about her contributions to the Neverland nursery, which is of course one of my personal favorites.

Tales of A Twin Mombie: I’m not sure if this is allowed, to renominate the person who nominated me, but this is a blog that I never miss a post of so it feels wrong to leave it out! We connected as moms of preemies, and I love the way she writes about her two little men who are seriously adorable.

So here are my 10 questions:

1 – Chocolate or vanilla? Defend your choice in 10 words or less.

2 – If you could wake up tomorrow fluent in a new language, which one would you pick and why?

3 – Pick someone famous to be your new BFF. Who and why?

4 – What’s something stupid that never fails to make you laugh?

5 – Worst thing you ever had to eat?

6 – Your blog pulls a “Julie & Julia” and gets mega-famous. Woo hoo! Who do you cast to play you in the movie?

7 – What was your favorite Super Bowl commercial this year?

8 – You become dictator for a day. What pet peeve do you outlaw, and what would be the punishment?

9 – If you could eat unlimited amounts of any one thing without getting fat or sick from it, what would you pick?

10 – Name something perfectly ordinary that totally creeps you out.

Ping back to this post please so I can see your responses!

An Open Letter to Matt Walsh, From A Working Mom

Hi Matt,

We’ve never met, but I’m a reader of your blog. I found you when your post about encountering a reader and a mom with a screaming child in a grocery store went viral. Our babies are the same age, 8 months. I love the way you write about your children, and especially your wife who I can tell you respect and appreciate very deeply. I think that if our kids were ever in a play group together and I had the opportunity to get to know “real Matt” as opposed to “blog Matt,” I would probably like you. But I wonder whether you would like me, or if you would despise me the way I feel that you do after some of your posts.

There are many ideas you’ve written about where we agree, some where we disagree but you’ve made me think about issues in a different way, and others where I just could not disagree more. Most of those have to do with how you view the role of women. I loved your first piece about stay at home moms, and your passionate defense against the asinine “But what do you do all day?” dismissal of that profession.

And then you wrote about chivalry. For the record, I always smile and say thank you to anyone who holds a door for me or any similar act of kindness. If it’s a two door situation, I will hold the next door for the person as well. So I am a fan of this kind of polite behavior and wish more people still did it, and will be teaching my son to demonstrate it. But going into a discussion of how men do this for women to prove that they can physically dominate us poor little girls but choose not to by serving us instead made me a little uneasy. If I thought for a second that the nice man holding the door for me at Wawa was doing it not to be a nice, decent human being but to say “Hey lady, I could beat you to a pulp right now if I wanted, but I don’t, so aren’t I great?” I would probably consider throwing my coffee at him – but that would be a waste of good coffee, and as parents of 8 month olds we know that just isn’t done, amiright?

Your second defense of SAHM’s was pretty good too, but took a few swipes at those of us who work that I didn’t feel were necessary.  The contemptuous reference to “outsourcing our Mom duties” was a bit annoying, but nothing I haven’t encountered before. By the way, this is my little one during some recent “outsourcing,” it’s actually one of my favorite pictures of him because he’s clearly having a great time!

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But the piece that finally drove me to write this, because quite honestly every time that I’ve sat down to write anything else since you published it I haven’t been able to, is about the gender pay gap. Specifically, that you don’t think it exists, or that if it does it’s all well and good because, hey, women don’t do the valuable work anyway (except at home). We’re waitresses and hair dressers (who like to be called stylists, by the way), not pilots and construction workers. We don’t have big, manly muscles to do real work. I could go on, but I got your idea – you’re apples, we’re oranges, and there’s no need for anyone to worry about how and why women make 77 cents for every dollar men do.

Here’s where you’re really going to despise me, Matt. I do worry about it, and think that it’s really irresponsible of someone like you with a large audience to get on your soapbox and say “Nothing to see here, folks, forget about it.” Let’s look at an apples to apples situation, and I will show you how working women, especially women with children, earn less than their male counterparts because of a system that is biased towards that happening.

You are correct that statistics show a leveling playing field for younger, college educated women to join the work force on an equal pay footing with their male classmates. Hooray for progress! But the problem starts showing up later down the road – men and women are perceived differently for exhibiting the same behaviors. Aggressive men are promoted, aggressive women are reprimanded. Men claim credit for their work within teams, women give more credit to group efforts – and when it comes to promotion time, guess who gets it?

And when you start having kids, the system kicks into overdrive. My husband and I work for different companies in the same industry. My company was very generous and understanding with my extended maternity leave to care for a preemie. My husband’s company pressured him to report back to work the very next day after the baby was born. When the baby is sick or our sitter cancels, I am the one to stay home most of the time. My husband does sometimes too, and would split that time with me more equally except that when he does take “baby time off,” he is expected to explain, not about what’s wrong with the baby, but why his wife can’t do it. Which puts me in an awkward position when there’s a sick baby situation of being both directly accountable to my own boss for any time I take off and indirectly accountable to a boss at a company I don’t even work for for any time my husband takes off. The kicker being that my husband still has vacation days left, so he gets paid either way, and I don’t because I used them all over maternity leave.

So just within my own household, there is a gender wage gap. I’m not talking about our different salaries for the different functions we fulfill in our industry, but about the cold, hard fact that my W2 is significantly lower than the previous year’s, and my husband’s is not, for no other reason than that I had a baby. I didn’t suddenly lose all of my skills, or change jobs, or give up any of my responsibilities, but my earnings fell off a cliff not just in relation to my childless self, but also in relation to my also-a-new-parent husband.

And just to be clear, I’m not saying I should be paid for hours that I didn’t work and don’t have vacation time to use. I am not saying that I resent any minute I’ve spent with my child instead of in my office, or that my husband does either. What I am saying is that the gender gap in the American work force is not a myth. It’s not a feminist plot to destroy society as we know it. It’s not a bunch of waitresses whining about how much more airline pilots make than they do.

I know your great disdain for government, and I am not a public policy expert to take you on in that sphere anyway. But how about things that businesses can do, without government intervention, to keep that playing field as level as it can be not just post-college, but throughout all of working life?

First, managers can make an effort to recognize aggression bias and stop penalizing women for behavior that is rewarded in men. Second, family leave policy shouldn’t only be acceptably used by mothers. Third, the bias against the long term unemployed is getting a lot of attention right now because of the people still struggling to find work after the recession, but it’s always been a factor for women who take years off to raise children. If employers who are consciously trying to overcome this bias now because of the recession apply that same consciousness to women returning to work, that could help close the gap as well. None of these things require legislation to happen, but they do require people to acknowledge the gender gap’s existence. Not just employers, but people. Until my husband can spend time at home with our son without getting questions about me from his boss, his coworkers, and others, and until I can think about what another baby would do to our, instead of my, earning potential, it’s flat out wrong to say that the gender gap doesn’t exist.

You may not ever see this, Matt, but if you do, I hope that I have returned the favor of the food for thought you have given me in your work. Be well, and keep loving that family of yours so fiercely, I look forward to seeing more of your adventures in parenting!

– Shanna