Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Roller Coaster

That moment when you are at the top of the roller coaster and there's that little pause right before you take the first big plunge down the tallest hill. That's what being a parent to an almost 12 year old feels like.

As a parent you go back and forth between thoughts like, "This is going to be so fun!" and also "Nope, don't like this. I changed my mind. I want to get off this ride!"

There's nothing that can truly prepare you for the twists and turns ahead. You can read about it or listen to what friends thought about it when they were on it but that's not the same as actually riding the ride. Teetering at the tippy top is where you really get an idea of what is coming.

Image- Morguefile.com

Twelve years sounds like a long time... unless you're a parent.

There were certainly days that dragged on and on. Where it seemed like the click, click, click of the roller coaster car ascending to the top would take forever. It felt like the diapers would never end and then one day they did. It felt like the butt wiping would never end and then it did. It felt like the having to hold their hands in parking lots would never end and then it did. It felt like they would never learn to do anything for themselves and then one day, they are a capable human.

There is a shock to it all. It takes your breath away to know that your child is slowly turning into an adult.

They are right alongside you. Learning to navigate the ups and downs, the changing body, the hormones and the higher expectations and bigger responsibilities. Along with being able to do bigger and way cooler stuff then when they were in diapers.

What else can a parent do but offer to hold their hand if they get scared but at the same time tell them to throw their arms up and enjoy the ride?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

You’re Good at Door Decorating and Other Lies my Kids’ Teachers Have Told Me

It started innocently enough with a group of school moms deciding to surprise all the teachers with decorated classroom doors for Teacher Appreciation Week. It should have been a red flag that all the other moms were so much more excited about this than me. I volunteered for my daughter’s prekindergarten classroom. I perused Pinterest and found literally hundreds of “Thank You Teachers” door decorating ideas. How hard could this be?

A blank canvass for me to completely humiliate myself with

I retrieved a giant piece of paper from those massive paper rolls from the school supply room. The plan was to get it ready at home and then all the moms were meeting on Sunday night to hang them. That way on Monday morning all the teachers would get to school and be surprised when they got to their classrooms.

I wanted to be really prepared and on top of things. Unfortunately being the procrastinator that I am I waited until a few hours before it was time to go to start putting my door covering together, I had found an elaborate example with flowers and vines that took up practically a whole hallway rather than just the door. It said, “Thank you for helping us grow.” 

I thought to myself, "That is way over the top. Who in their right mind has time for something that extravagant? I will do a much simpler and more reasonable version for my door. Besides, we were just Mom volunteers, no one was going to expect perfection, right?"

“Let’s do this!” I psyched myself up as I started to hand write the saying and about halfway through realized that it was not centered. Also my handwriting was nothing to brag about. “Damnit. Oh well, I just need to get this done,” I told myself and began cutting flowers out of construction paper and positioned them here and there. 

At this point my kids realized I was crafting and insisted on helping. Now the flowers were all in one corner and the rest of the door blank. My door was looking more like a table covering that you lay down so kids don’t ruin it while they do art than my Pinterest inspired vision of simplicity sheek. 

I was running out of time so I packed up what I had and headed to school. The PreK classroom was right by the entrance so I got right to work. I unrolled my primitive piece of art and used what felt like an entire roll of masking tape to secure that sucker to the door. It was too small. And the window was covered. The principal gave us explicit instructions to not cover the windows on the doors. I had to cut out a rectangle to make it clear. With the window chunk went the Th in Thank you. Fuck.

I was trying to figure out how to fix it when another mom walked by and offered assistance. She was all done with her door and had extra cut out letters left over. Cut out letters! Of course, why didn’t I think of that? I suddenly felt a like an idiot with my shitty handwritten letters. She put a T and H on the window. You could still see in the window but now the word Thank was complete again. I stepped back, hands on my hips and breathed a sigh of completion as I gazed at my finished product. 

“Where’s your border?” The other mom asked me cheerily. “I can get it started for you.”

Ummmm.... What the hell is she talking about? “I, uh... we were supposed to have a border?” I stammered.

“Oh! I mean, you can do whatever you want,” She said, “but a border really helps bring it all together. I have loads of extra if you want to use one of mine!” She unzipped what I thought was a suitcase but was actually a crafting headquarters on wheels. She had several rolls of different themed bulletin board borders. “Here, try this one. I think it matches your flowers perfectly.” 

“Ok, thanks!” I said and started to attach the border around the outside of the paper. She helped me the way my daughter’s teacher helps her write her name. I could tell she genuinely enjoyed putting together creations like this. When we were all finished, I thanked the mom for her help. “What door did you do,” I asked.

“Kindergarten!” She smiled excitedly, “Do you want to see it?” 

“Sure!” I was pretty sure she was way more interested in showing me her project than I was in seeing it but I was curious what she had come up with. We walked down the hall to a door straight off Pinterest. Not only was it exactly the right size, but it had the window cut out perfectly and a perfect border made of hundreds of paper coffee beans. She had printed out pictures of everyone in the class and cut them in circles. In place of the Starbucks symbol on cups that were cut in half and glued to the door so that they stuck out were 20 adorable gap toothed smiles. The tops of each cup were filled with crumpled up white paper that looked like cream. The background was a mix of green and black chevron stripes and burlap. In elaborate cut out letters in various fonts it said, "Thanks a Latte!"  

Oh shit. Oh fuck. Oh no, no, no. 

I suddenly felt like I was wearing sweatpants at a black tie event. The other mom beamed at my stunned reaction. “Wow,” was all I could muster. 

What was I thinking going for simplicity? I suddenly took notice to what was happening at all the other doors in the school. All of them, with the expectation of mine, looked like the examples that I saw on Pinterest. My daughter’s poor teacher was getting the short end of the stick. Maybe I could run to the craft store and quick get back to add some more stuff to my door. It was too late though, all the moms were finishing up and then the school was going to get locked up.

The next morning I brought my daughter to school and did a sort of walk of shame to her classroom. Her teacher was wonderful and deserved just as Pinteresty a door as all of the other teachers. My daughter beamed when saw the door to her room. To her, it was a masterpiece and she was too young to be embarrassed by her mediocre door decorating mother. “Mrs. Smith! Mrs. Smith!” she shouted, “Did you see the door? Did you see the door? My Mommy made it! And I even got to help!”

I half smiled. Maybe I could away with saying my 4 year old did it all on her own. 

Mrs. Smith gave me a giant hug. A genuine hug, not the quick hello kind. “Thank you so much for this!” she told me with tears in her eyes, “It was such a lovely surprise when I got to school this morning!”

“You’re very welcome!” I said, “I’m sorry that your door isn’t as fancy as some of the others.”

“Oh it’s wonderful! I actually hate decorating my door so I’m always happy whenever I don’t have to do it. But seriously, it’s just so nice to be appreciated. I was not expecting this at all.”


“It’s nothing compared to all you do for the kids,” I said.

“Oh, I love these kids. Your daughter is such a sweetie too. She is such a good listener.”


My mind flashed back to a half an hour ago when I had to tell her 15 times to get her shoes on. “Well I’m still sorry that your door isn’t Pinterest worthy like the others.”

“Stop! You took time out of your life to do this for me and I’m truly grateful!" 

I gave her a skeptical smile.

"I’m serious, now stop.” she ordered me.

Damnit, now she had me tearing up. Even still, next year I’m buying the teachers bottles of wine and I will leave the door decorating to the experts.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Moms are the strongest people I know

It was the man bagging my groceries who said this to me. I was juggling a fussy baby on my hip, a toddler who had just discovered those God forsaken toy displays near the register and another kid who was continuously grabbing candy bars and begging me to buy them.
Picks up a butterfinger, “Can I have this?”
“No, put it back.”
Picks up a snickers, “Can I have this?”
“M and Ms?”
While fishing out a buy one, get one free Spegettios coupon that I could have sworn I had shoved into the abyss of my diaper bagearlier, the cashier asked me, “Do you need help?”
I was a little confused. Help with what exactly? I could really use someone to do my dishes or wash my laundry. I could use someone to watch my kids so I could take a shower. 
I quickly realized she meant because of all I was carrying. “I’m fine,” I told her. “I’m used to it.”
That’s when he said it. “Moms are the strongest people I know. Seriously. I see you guys in the store every day, carrying your kids or pushing two carts.”
His words blew me away. 
I don’t work out, not in a traditional sense. But I guess I do lift weights. Well a weight. She started out at around 9 pounds and has been steadily increasing in weight every day. She has a nice little case she fits snugly in and keeps her safe when we travel. I carry her around in her carrier everywhere until my arm feels like a wet noodle and I don’t think I can carry her another step. Of course I always do, because that’s what moms do.
I run. Not long distances or anything, but in short sprints after toddlers squealing with glee as they b-line it towards the road. 
I play chase and hide and seek. I push swings and play catch.
I host high calorie burning dance parties in the kitchen.
I climb those mother effing fast food play structures after a kid who decided that they cannot go down the slide nor can they go back down the tunnel from which they climbed up, but must just sit there and cry.
That’s a sampling of my exercise routine. Not all that impressive compared to some, but this stranger, a man who if I had to guess was unmarried and had no children of his own, recognizesMoms as the strongest people he knows. 
Thank you man who bagged my groceries. Thank you not just for making sure my bread didn’t get squished but for acknowledging my strength and that of all my fellow moms.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Don't Nurse and Prime

My first child was born in 2008. Which technology wise would be considered,  I don't know, not the Stone Age anymore, but maybe the Victorian age. I owned a Dell desktop computer, remember desktops? That was it.

No smartphone, no tablets of any kind. Gah, just reading that makes it seem like a million years ago rather than just 9. 

At the time when I was getting up multiple times a night to nurse my newborn baby I had no Amazon prime, no Candy Crush, I didn't even have Facebook yet. 

We had free cable though. The people who lived in our apartment before us must have had cable and no one from the cable company came to unhook it. We simply just never got around to notifying them of their shortcomings.

So that is what I did to pass the time during middle of the night feedings. Around 4am everyday there was a channel that played Saved by the bell reruns. I probably watched every episode, even the college years, during my son's first year of life. 

Fast forward to now. I had my fourth child in September of last year. Boy has a lot changed. I now possess the power of the universe in the palm of my hand. By that I mean I have an iPhone. With, among other things, Amazon prime. 

You know that saying, don't drink and prime? Yeah, don't nurse and prime either. 

Christmas Eve when Brad, my husband, and I were taking stock of all the presents we'd collected and hidden all over our house and cars, Brad pulled out two identical Imaginex The Penguin toys and gave me the "WTF?" look. 

Shit! I forgot I ordered that on Amazon and then when I was shopping at the mall I bought it there too. 

This repeated a few more times. 

More recently, it was a pair of shoes for myself. I actually got something for me instead of the kids for a change. 

They were too small. 

You know, Zach Morris never showed up on my door step two days later in the form of shoes that don't fit me.

By the way, what's with your shoe size changing after pregnancy? Haven't we been through enough, what with pregnancy and childbirth and all?

It's never been a good idea for me to buy shoes online. I need to try them on. Especially after just having a baby. Stupid deal of the day got to me. 

Kelly Kapowski would never encourage you to hurry before this deal ends. 

If you find yourself up in the middle of the night with your baby and are perusing Amazon, hopefully you will be smarter than me. Maybe be saved by the "save for later" feature. 

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Who's Next?

I love history. I love studying WW2. My mind always wanders to the mothers. Not just the mothers of soldiers far from home, but the mothers in England and France and Germany. Civilian mothers getting the shit bombed out of them. 

How scary it must be to live in the midst of war. How terrified I would be for my family every single day. How lucky I am to live in times of peace. 

Peace. Where is the peace? 

I was a sophomore in high school when Columbine happened. It scared the shit out of me. The thought that anyone could turn anyplace into a war zone was terrifying. 

As the years went by, the shootings just kept happening. 

They have become commonplace. Like the bombing raids of WW2, they have become a part of our lives. 

The war ended though. The bombs stopped. 

The shootings though, they are not coming from one entity that we are able to defeat. 

They are random. They are for different reasons. The next shooting victim could be any of us. Any of our children.

I used to think, well thank goodness we live in a small community. This kind of thing won't happen here. My kids' school will never need to go on lock down.

It has.

No one would ever open fire at a peaceful walking bridge near a park. Not in my area. Not a place I love to take my kids. Not a family that could just as easily be my family.

It happened.

Last May the Trestle Trail shooting took the life of a father and his daughter as well as another man who were out for walk on an exceptionally beautiful spring day.

Now it's a nightclub in Orlando. It should go without saying that fact that it was a gay nightclub is irrelevant. A family can get gunned down on a Sunday walk or kids going about their day at school or a gay man dancing with friends. It really doesn't fucking matter. 

Just any ordinary place turned into a war zone.

A war we don't know how to fight. A war we are losing. A war where the enemy walks among us undetected.

All I can think is, who's next?

Will it be you? Will it be me? 

Someone you love? Someone I love?

We all continue to go about our lives as usual. What else can we do? Not knowing when or where the next shooting will be or who the next victims are.

I think of all that was lost to win freedom in WW2. I think of my brother in law who spent nearly a year of his life in Afghanistan to fight for our freedom. A year he'll never get back. A year that will be with him for the rest of his life.

What are we saying to our veterans when our civilians are living in fear? They gave so much so we could have peace. So mothers could know that their children are safe going about their ordinary lives.

Instead mothers live in fear. We are all living in fear.

Fear of getting shot simply because you exist. Simply because you were in an ordinary place that someone thought should become a war zone.

Fear of returning to a beautiful park and trail because it's now the place where a deadly, random shooting took place. 

Fear to go out to a nightclub. Fear that nothing is going to change.

Fear of not knowing who's next. 


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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Morning Sickness Has Made Me a Terrible Mother

This is my fourth pregnancy. Every time I’ve been expecting, the first trimester has been hell. I feel like shit, am tired all the time, puke my guts out, have an aversion to coffee (which is not helpful with the tiredness) and have constipation.

I am not complaining about these things because I’m not grateful for my children or am insensitive to those who wish they were pregnant. I complain about these things because they fucking suck. It is no fun to feel like shit for weeks straight, no matter the reason.

I hate morning sickness. Even the name, which we all know is stupid because it lasts all damn day. I hate the lack of energy. I hate that I break down crying because I ordered pizza again instead of making dinner for my family. 

I hate that my kids spend all day in front of the TV because Mom just doesn’t have the energy to get off the couch today. I hate that my dishes pile up until we have no more clean forks or spoons. I hate that there is no clean underwear because the laundry didn’t get done, again. 

Most of all, I hate that it makes me feel like a failure. 

It’s not that I don’t notice the piddle on the seat or next to the toilet that my son left, or the toys piled up on the floor, or the sheen of dust covering every surface, it’s just that I don’t have the energy to do a damn thing about it. 

So, my house is a mess. My kids are not disciplined consistently. We eat lunch late, dinner late, we’re lucky if anyone gets breakfast. 

I feel like I accomplished so much in a day if I do so much as run the dishwasher, wash a single load of laundry, take my kids to the library or park, or take a shower. 

All of this makes me feel like a lazy piece of shit.

I shouldn’t feel like that, I know I shouldn’t. I am growing a human being. That’s kind of a big deal. Expect, moms are supposed to do it all, have it all, or whatever. We are not supposed to get sick or tired or moody. We are not supposed to let morning sickness kick our ass.

You’d think I would be used to this by now. I’ve been down this road four times now, but it doesn’t get any easier.  Maybe I just don’t know how to cut myself a break. 

My two year old daughter walks in on me puking in the bathroom. “You sick Mama?” she asks, “You need band-aid?”

“No,” I tell her, in between heaves, “Mommy will be fine.”

She leaves and comes back with Goodnight Moon and leaves it on the bathmat. “Here you go Mom, book make you feel better.”

Her sweetness does make me feel better. 

I know this won’t last forever. In past pregnancies I have gotten a second wind around the time the second trimester starts. I am eagerly awaiting that second wind.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

A Surprise, Not a Mistake

Growing up, I loved the show, "Roseanne." I remember once DJ's sisters told him he was a mistake. Roseanne lovingly told him he was not a mistake, he was a surprise. He asked what the difference was.

She told him a mistake is something you wish you could do differently, a surprise is something you didn't know you wanted, but are really happy once it's there. I always thought that was really sweet.

I am expecting a surprise.

Here's how the story goes. My husband finally scheduled his vasectomy for the middle of January. We had taken our time making things officially final. I should say, I was not ready to make things so final, even though I knew my husband was done, stick a fork in him, done.

I was done too, expect when I saw a baby. Then my ovaries would twitch out in excitement. "One more! One more!" they would chant.

I said a prayer that God would help me accept that our family was complete, or if it's not, then let that happen. Whatever was meant to be, help me be okay with it. My husband took this to mean that I prayed to get pregnant. Not exactly what I meant, I think, but God answers prayers in mysterious ways.

I went with him to the vasectomy and watched the whole procedure. It was kind of satisfying that the tables had turned and here he was the one having his man parts mangled after I had gone through so much with my lady parts for our three children. Of course he was hopped up on pain killers and local anesthesia. My last two births were unmediated, so I still have one up on him.

It was bittersweet for me, but I was at peace with our decision.

Fast forward 5 days. I was supposed to start my period. I didn't. My pants felt tight, my boobs hurt. I dug through our bathroom cabinets for a stray pregnancy test I thought might be in there.

Two pink lines.

Five days after my husband's vasectomy I found out I was pregnant with our fourth child.

Imagine Credit: MorgueFile.com

I immediately called my husband. His response was that of someone finding out about a death in the family. I cursed myself for ever thinking that I wanted four children. Most days I felt like I couldn't handle the three children I have!

We were freaking out. How could this be? This is a story you hear about happening to other people, this doesn't happen to us!

"A guy at work's brother in law's cousin's friend had 3 kids and he and his wife wanted just one more. You know what she had? Triplets!" my husband informed me. "That's gonna be us! You're going to have triplets and we are going to have to get one of those giant bus vans!"

As time passed though, the shock wore off and the reality of another (one) baby settled in. We told friends and family. Some of them knew of my husband's vasectomy and were quite surprised.

In Dad is Fat, Jim Gaffigan writes about when you are expecting your 1st child everyone is thrilled, there is a baby shower and endless advice. Your 2nd child, people are still thrilled, but there isn't a baby shower.

When you are expecting your 3rd child, you start losing the crowd. The congratulations are always preceded by a "wow." 4th child, there is audible nervousness in people's congratulations, which now include multiple "wows." **

I'm finding this to be way too accurate. Not only do I have the strange reality of squeezing in one more before the final curtain call, but this is our fourth child. "Four children! Can you imagine? In this day and age?"

At one point, I told my husband that I just don't want to tell anyone anymore about this pregnancy. Although, I don't know what it's like to be a teenage mother, I feel like that is all I can think of to compare it to. I feel like people look at me as if I was 16 and my boyfriend just left me.

What's so hard with just saying congratulations? It's not like we're in a position where we can't afford another mouth to feed, are in a unstable relationship, or live in a box or something. As unexpected as it may be, we will gladly take another baby. We want this baby. We love this baby.

This isn't another one of those, "things you should never say to a pregnant lady" post. This isn't a "we need to be more politically correct" post. This is simply my story, my feelings.

One of the things my husband said while we were still in shock over the whole situation was, "Well, at least this will make one hell of a blog post!"

I laughed, yes, what a crazy story!

This isn't the post I had thought I'd write, though. I was totally unprepared for people's reactions. I didn't think that was what this post would be about.

Another thing Jim Gaffigan wrote was that he was 1 of 6 children. He told people, 6 kids, Catholic. Catholic being the explanation for the large number of kids.**

At least we're Catholic, my husband reassured me. We can just be like, 4 kids, Catholic.

Just don't mention the part about the vasectomy to the Pope, okay?

**Here is the book I was referring to- Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan. You can check it out on Amazon. I was not given any compensation for mentioning this book. I just think it is really funny.

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