MMYFB: Another Mac and Cheese Post

Tonight, I changed into my running clothes in order to stand in front of the stove and eat my kids’ leftover mac and cheese.

I had good intentions. I really did. I was totally going to run. I put on my running clothes, fit my newly short hair into a little pony, and laced up my sneakers. Then I just checked Facebook “really quickly” and gossiped on the phone with my mom “for a bit.” The next thing I knew, my kids were whining about me feeding them because it was apparently past dinner time.

I still told myself that I’d run. Then, because apparently tonight we are living in an alternate universe, no one wanted any leftovers. Far be it from me to let leftover mac and cheese go uneaten. Seriously, has any mother in the history of boxed mac and cheese thrown out leftovers? No! Good mothers eat that shit directly from the pot while their children aren’t looking!

And since I am a damn good mother, I literally just found myself standing in front of my stove, eating mac and cheese from the pot, in running clothes I never ran in. Let’s be honest, this means I’m not wearing running clothes at all. I’m wearing stretchy, comfy clothes that I don’t have to pretend “shrunk in the dryer.” I’m also quite certain that the eating of the cheesy carbs has negated any last whispers of athletic motivation I had left.

leftover mac and cheese
What mother in her right mind would toss this?

Are you feeling bad that at 6:30 on a Friday night you’re already starting to drift off on the couch? Feeling guilty for ordering pizza yet again? Feeling lame that your wild Friday night consists of drinking wine and catching up on the latest episode of This Is Us (I’ll be right there with you in about an hour)? Well, Mama Makes You Feel Better tonight. Just think of a sad, delusional mother wearing running gear in order to shove cheesy carbs down her throat. I guarantee, whatever you’re doing is more glamorous.

 

Perfect on Paper

supermom

I have a friend who once dated a guy who was perfect on paper. Attractive, athletic, grew up in Europe, was Ivy League educated, and was working for an impressive firm in New York. He also turned out to have serious problems with communication and an internet browser history that was more than questionable.

The moral is, lots of people look fantastic on paper, but resumes, social media pages, or a friendly chat at the playground don’t tell a complete story. Still, we constantly make unfair comparisons. This was true when we compared boyfriends in our 20s and it’s even truer now as we compare ourselves to other moms in the carpool lane.

When we look at highlight reels of our peers, we can feel inadequate. As a woman and mother of daughters, I want to build other women up. I want to celebrate their accomplishments and provide other moms the accolades they deserve. But I’d be lying (as if I’ve never done that before) if I said that a little green monster didn’t infiltrate my thoughts now and again.

It’s totally natural to feel jealous. At least, it is for me. When I look at a mom who has it all together, I want desperately to feel happy for her, to acknowledge how hard she’s worked to get where she is. Many times I do. Sometimes, though, it’s just easier to feel deflated. Instead of looking at these successful women as an inspiration, I look at them as superhuman, someone I shouldn’t even strive to emulate.

And then, just the other day, I thought, “F*@k that!” I’m pretty damn good on paper, too. I work full time, write a blog, have had my writing featured in international publications, and am about to launch a local chapter of the Lady Project, an amazing non-profit women’s group, in my city. At the same time, I am raising two precocious, spunky daughters, volunteer at school once in awhile, run (okay, jog) pretty regularly, and try to get to a hot yoga class a few times a month. I have a circle of friends who are more like sisters to me and, with the help of incredible grandparents, my husband and I get more date nights than most. Also, my husband’s a stud and we genuinely love spending time together.

Maybe there are people out there who think I’m superhuman! I mean, on paper, that all sounds pretty impressive. If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, you know there’s more to this story. So much more.

Yes, I am successfully maintaining life with several balls in the air, but I’m also the epitome of a mom fail. I am a complete slob, I have anxiety about nearly every decision I make, I snap at my kids more often than I’d like to admit, and I might love wine and bourbon a teensy bit more than I should. If anyone takes a look at the “on paper” Teresa, they might feel inadequate.  If they were to see me right now, laying on my disgusting couch (seriously, one cushion has a smell), with my greasy hair up in a messy bun (not the cute kind), while I allow my children to go into their second hour of YouTube video watching? No one’s jealous. Maybe they’re starting to feel a little better about themselves (and a little sorry for me).

I am happy to announce the official mission of Mama Tries Blog:

To make all mothers feel empowered, supported, and inspired through life’s accomplishments and utter failures.

I want to celebrate women, both in their successes and in admitting their defeats. We are all part Supermom, but we are also all part Bad Mom. By admitting both, we can be inspirations and support systems to one another. Isn’t that what every mom needs? Well, that, a bottle of wine, and some sleep…    

Please stay tuned for a new blog series that brings the mission to life!

Mama’s First Meal Kit

meal k

Mama’s drinking wine tonight because she’s trying to convince herself that the novelty of a meal kit will result in her children actually trying chicken.

My children are picky eaters. I take that back. My older daughter is a picky eater. Her little sister is a big follower (seriously, that kids needs to learn some leadership skills). This means dinnertime without a drink is just basically masochism.

I tried to seriously pump up the picky one about meal kits until she was literally begging me to order one. Well, the day has come and the menu is chicken. Tomorrow’s menu involves mushrooms. These are two of her least favorite foods. I must also note that she’s never tried a mushroom in her life.

So, this wine is going to get me through the process of following a multi-step recipe to create a meal I am pretty confident my kids won’t eat. Cheers!

Liar Liar: Lies I Tell Myself

I’m a liar. I’ve admitted it before and I’ll admit it again: I am an equal opportunity liar. I lie to my kids. I lie to other adults. And today, I’ll publicly admit that I lie to myself. Hey, I may be a liar, but at least I’m fair. Here are my 5 most frequent offenses.

liar

I’m not drinking any wine tonight.

At 7 a.m. I am ready to face the day. I’ve got a cup of earl grey in my hands, the day is set before me, and neither of my daughters has sobbed because their sister is looking at them. I think to myself, “You know, maybe it’s good to take a night off once in a while. I think I’ll skip the wine tonight.” Come 5 o’clock and I’m trying to prepare dinner with one of my kids screaming in time out and the other crying on the couch because her sister just hit her for knocking over a block tower, and the only solution is sauvignon blanc. Then I tell myself that my dry day will be tomorrow.

mommywine

Organic mac & cheese is healthy.

Dehydrated cheese in any form probably shouldn’t be considered a healthy option, but the word organic is like a glorious invitation to lie to myself. You slap the words “organic” or “natural” on a box or wrapper and I’m willing to set everything I know about health and nutrition aside, if only to mitigate my guilt. If a company’s marketing department plays their cards right, I serve up mac & cheese or cheddar snack mix to my kids with the confidence of Jamie Oliver serving his kids kale chips and hand-battered baked fish fillets.   

mac n cheese

I can give my kids a haircut.

You know what happens when you mention homeschooling to a teacher? They start asking about parents’ teaching certifications or master’s degrees in the field of education. Well, guess who else has specialized training in order to learn their craft? In my time as an amateur children’s hair butcher stylist, I’ve transformed luxurious locks into an uneven bob and may or may not have given one of my children a mullet after a particularly unfortunate attempt to trim some bangs. Every single haircut I have given my children has ended in tears – there’s and mine. Yet, every six months, when their hair is getting a little long and ratty at the ends, I think to myself, “Well, I could probably manage a little trim…” And the cycle continues.’

mullet kid
You’d cry too if your mother made you look like a medieval page boy.

Someday my house will be clean again.

I have a friend who has been impeccably neat since birth. When we were in high school, her bedroom was immaculate while you couldn’t even see the floor in mine. She had a system to organizing her CD’s, while I once spent the better part of a week sleeping next to a pile of clean laundry on my bed. Now that she has three children, she has let her house go a little bit. Meaning – the horror – you might find a stray dish in the sink when you enter her kitchen. Someday, when her boys are older, her house will be clean again. Mine won’t. This does not, however, stop me from constantly  blaming my messy house on my kids, and crying that old mom lament, “Someday my house will be clean again.” Not if it never was in the first place, it won’t.

messy room
The kids are, truthfully, only about 60% to blame for this.

I’m not going to get upset if I read the comment section.

Yes I am. I most certainly am. Comment sections on the internet are where the world’s sociopaths like to come and play under the shroud of anonymity. They judge, they spew venom, they hurt, they enrage, and then they go on about their daily business while their innocent victims cower behind their computer screens and wonder what kind of world they are raising their children in. Every article I read on the Internet turns into a game of Russian Roulette. I hover my cursor over the comment section, thinking “maybe this time I’ll find some like-minded people and some mature discussion.” I won’t. It’s a bullet every time.

internet comments

You may be thinking that five lies isn’t so bad at all. That’s the life of a realist, not some delusional freak who lives in a fantasy world of her own creation. You’re right. Five lies isn’t bad. But I’d clearly be lying if I claimed that these are the only ones I tell myself. If I were you, I’d be pretty confident that a “Lies I Tell Myself: Part 2” was in the works…

Secrets of a Successful Mom: How to Manage Family Life Smoothly

By Guest Mama: Zara Lewis

If you’ve ever met a successful mom who hasn’t struggled,  she’s either not actually a mom or she’s in absolute denial that she, in fact, isn’t holding it together. And that’s okay – we’ve all got our coping mechanisms.

Taught that failure is the ultimate embarrassment and asking for help a sign of weakness, we tend to stumble and fall. Sometimes we fall so hard that our whole bodies and mind hurt when we try to get up. But once we do – the rise is as sweet as a Magnolia cupcake. But it’s hard, it’s so darn hard.

For all of you amazing moms out there, we get it – I get it. It sometimes feels like you are continuously failing, despite doing all in your power to make things happen. But, you are not failing. There’s no such thing as smooth operating – not when it comes to a family.

You are not alone; we mothers are in this whole jam together. To help you and your journey, we are giving you a few useful tips that will definitely have an impact on your family life.

Remember to Love Yourself

While you may think that you are doing just fine, you are probably not. If you spend more time convincing yourself that “I’ll be okay” than you spend actually being okay – it’s time you change something.

Remembering to love yourself is crucial. If you don’t, you won’t be fit for a functional life and your family will be affected.

Go back to what you used to love doing – writing, painting, DIY, drawing, singing, yoga, etc. – whatever has been relaxing. Go back to reviving your business, and do it from home. Renovate your home office, move from a standstill. You’ll be happy that you have.

What I did was buy one of those electric cargo bikes to blow off some steam and channel stress while working out. I’ve also reached out to my freelance employer and asked for my job back. I’m now 10 pounds fitter and much happier. On my way from work I can do all the shopping, while exercising and contributing to our family budget (again). It’s been only three months.

Establish Boundaries

Yes, you are a wife and mother and, somehow, it goes by default and without saying that you will be the one taking care of everything. Nobody’s denying your strength and capacity, but that’s not the point. The point isn’t to break – the point is to be fulfilled and happy about things that you do.

Don’t let anyone intervene with your “me” time. Ban the kids from your office, have a set workout time, or make a regular coffee date with friends. Let your husband take over while you go “away,” and do the same for him. If you set the rules early on, you’ll actually manage to have some time for yourself.

Know Your Family’s Rhythms

The key to properly designing your day is going with your family’s rhythms. Consider your children’s needs, your peak work hours, your husband’s meetings for the week, etc.

For instance, as I usually take a nap after lunch, I schedule all the work that doesn’t require too much focus for the afternoon and do everything that requires the most mental energy before lunch. If your kids are little, try to get them to sync with you to make your life easier. If, however, they’re already grown, consider all their habits and yours and make a schedule for the upcoming week.

Get Help

These are not the ‘60s and there’s no rule that says spouses, children or hired hands can’t help a mom out.

If you can’t go to your parents or in-laws for help, hire a student, or arrange a babysitting swap with neighbors. Use this time to get focused on your work, your leisure time, or fitness. Ask your spouse and the kids to help with housework or hire someone to come in and clean. You don’t have to do it all yourself.

Embrace Routine but Stay Creative

Staying on a routine is very important for both kids and parents. A healthy morning routine is crucial in starting everyone’s day right while other daily routines contribute to an efficient day. Nap time, leisure, self-improvement, work, hobbies, bedtime, dinner, after school, homework – they all benefit from routine.

However, don’t get too attached to routines, otherwise your life will start looking dull and suffocating. Be flexible. Routines change, naps go away, meetings get cancelled, kids become more proficient at chores. Shuffle things around so they benefit your personal, inner routine of, finally, loving yourself.

Dear fellow moms everywhere, your power is grand – don’t ever doubt it for a second. Your kids already believe in you, so it’s time you start believing in yourself. We’re in it together!

Zara Lewis (Twitter: @ZaraELewis) is a mom, fitness & yoga enthusiast and a regular writer for High Style Life. She is devoted to implementing healthy life habits in every aspect of life of her family and friends. She loves to share her parenting tips and is always open to learning some new skills, because for her parenthood is like going to school forever. She enjoys traveling, hiking, cycling and baking.

The First Leon: A Man Child’s Christmas

Mama’s drinking wine tonight because her third child is driving her a little bit insane. Didn’t know I had a third child, did you? You thought I only had two precocious little girls, right? Yes, in addition to them, I also have a man child.

That’s right, I have a 38-year-old man child living in my home, though, to be fair, I usually just refer to him as my husband.

What did he do to force me to reveal his true man child identity? He messed with Mama’s Christmas ornaments. Like he’s the sort of mischievous Elf on the Shelf that bored as hell creative moms have living in their house.

I bought some fun, festive LED-lit letters this week to jazz up our dining room with some Christmas spirit. I left the room for one minute. ONE MINUTE. And this is what I come back to.

He then proceeded to talk about how great it would be if we had a friend named Leon. He was dead serious.

Glass of wine poured.

 

An Uneaten Lunch

A single glimpse of my daughter’s lunch box brought me to tears this morning. It’s just a canvas case, clad in multicolored butterflies, and dirtied by peanut butter and the crayon she once used to proudly write her name on it. I saw just the top of it peeking out of her backpack and a wave of sorrow crashed over me.

Today marks four years since the Sandy Hook shooting. Four years since 26 lives, 20 of them first-graders, were snuffed out in a violent, senseless rampage. At the time, I was a mother of a two-year-old and a 5-week old.

Living in a postpartum daze consumed with diapers, feedings, and sleep schedules, I was somehow able to live for days seemingly unaware of the nightmare that occurred 3 hours from my home. I knew mostly what happened, but, perhaps out of sheer biological defense, I did not allow myself to fully register this cataclysmic tragedy. At a time in my life when a Target commercial could send me into hysterics, my hormones somehow came together to shield me from this event, knowing I was too fragile to handle its gravity.

It was several days after the shooting when reality came crashing down upon me. I happened across a letter written by Nelba Marquez-Greene to her daughter Ana, one of the first graders killed on that day. Her letter was a beautiful tribute to the little girl she would never hold again, but one line struck me to the core.

The layers of this are complex and while we may not agree on all pieces- perhaps we can agree that no parent, grandparent or caregiver should ever again put their child on a school bus only to have their backpack and uneaten lunch returned to them by an FBI agent and police officer- because their child was executed at school.

An uneaten lunch. Ana and her classmates never got to eat their lunch that day. Instead of being greeted by a child’s hug after school, 20 sets of parents were approached by FBI agents holding their children’s uneaten lunch.

For weeks I thought of these lunches. What do you do with an uneaten lunch meant for your child who is no longer on this earth? Do you eat the peanut butter and jelly sandwich that they couldn’t? Do you save the bag of popcorn as if it is a relic of your lost child? Do you throw it away?

For a few days, I had been able to disconnect myself from this tragedy, perhaps because the very idea of it was unfathomable. I was able to avoid the innocent faces that flashed on my television screen, willing myself to look away and not recall the color of their eyes. The image of an uneaten lunch? That I could not escape.

Parenting is difficult. There are days when I question every decision I make, from what I’ve served for breakfast to how I rushed through a bedtime song. I worry that I’m not giving my children everything they need. I lament that they don’t listen. I complain when they have exhausted my patience. I have made my parental rants, jokes, and self-proclaimed mediocrity part of my personal identity. Today, however, I remind myself that, while parenting is hard, loving my children is the easiest thing I have ever done.

Today, my older daughter is in first grade. She was sent to school, her lunchbox tucked safely away in her almost matching backpack. She was sent to school just like 20 other first graders were sent to school four years ago.

Today, I am a mother who must remain confident that my daughter will come home, as she always does, with her face revealing the evidence of a lunch that was eaten. She will give me kisses that leave me with the light scent of her cherry yogurt, and I will know how truly lucky I am.

Today, I will not get annoyed, as I too often do, that her lunch box is filled with crusts and dirty napkins. My reminder to throw her scraps away at school can wait for another day.

Today, I will be grateful for the privilege of packing a lunch for her again tomorrow.

Holiday Mashup

Mama’s making you feel better tonight with a good old holiday mashup. What’s a holiday mashup you may ask? My living room.

holiday mashup

The family is going to be chopping down a Christmas tree tomorrow, so my husband brought down the ornaments from the attic. Sounds like we’re pretty damn on top of shit, huh? Not if you look closely enough at this picture.

Sure, you’ll see some silver balls and leafy wreaths, but, if you look closely enough, you’ll also see some things that don’t belong.

Maybe you see a painting on the mantle with some hand prints. Those aren’t just any hand prints. Those are turkeys. That there is some old fashioned, homemade Thanksgiving decor. Not too bad. I mean, Thanksgiving was basically a week ago.

Look again. In case you were wondering, we aren’t goth. Typically, one would not enter our living room to find skull-emblazoned lacy throws hanging from the mantle. You won’t find my husband or me rocking heavy black eyeliner and Manic Panic. No, you’ll just find us on the couch consuming booze instead of taking down outdated decorations. That cloth, along with the terrifying booing pumpkin on the mirror, have been up there for a solid six weeks.

So, if you are lamenting the fact that it’s already December and you haven’t decked the halls in your house, yet – have no fear. At least your living room isn’t a holiday smorgasbord.

 

StoryWorth: The Perfect Holiday Gift

What do you buy someone who has everything – especially when “everything” is not hyperbole, but a literal observation of their basement? Finding the perfect holiday gift for parents, in-laws, and grandparents is one of the most daunting tasks of holiday gift shopping. My kids are insatiable gluttons who want demand everything. They’re easy. The 65 and older crowd, however? They don’t want any more “stuff” in their house.

If every knick knack you perused on Black Friday left you with nightmares of your future self tossing it in a dumpster after you shipped your folks off to the nursing home, well I’ve got the gift for you!

StoryWorth touts the tagline of “The most meaningful gift is family.” Of course that’s true. It’s also true that you’ll be kicked out of Christmas dinner (or at least gain a few dirty looks) if you arrive empty handed. Luckily for us, the perfect holiday gift is here. StoryWorth brings the gift of family to a whole new level.

How It Works

Each week, StoryWorth emails your gift recipient a question about their life. They then write or record their answer (story) which is shared with you upon completion. At the end of the year, all of the stories are bound in a keepsake book.

There are a range of questions that prompt recipients to share childhood memories or ask them about life’s moments that brought great emotion. Some questions allow the recipient to share their experiences during historical events, or even provide an opportunity to express their values and beliefs. Questions are sent to you ahead of time for vetting, and you are always given the option to select another question or even write your own.

Why It’s the Perfect Holiday Gift

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, my father-in-law is the most kind and thoughtful man. Buying gifts for him is nearly impossible, as we feel that, for all he does for us, he deserves a 6-month trip to Europe. It’s safe to say that gift ain’t coming from us anytime soon, so last Father’s Day, it was a Godsend when I stumbled upon StoryWorth.

StoryWorth has taught us so much about this incredible man. We learned that his childhood in Chicago epitomized the Baby Boomer generation (there were 40 kids on his block alone). We learned that his grandfather worked his way up from office boy to Vice President of a railroad. Who doesn’t love visions of their grandfather as a mischievous boy, sneaking coal into his brother’s Christmas stocking? Most of all, we have amazing stories to share with our daughters about their beloved Papa. Even as old women, my girls will be able to read these stories, written in their dear Papa’s own words, and remember his warm heart and gentle manner. They will also get to recall his favorite joke, which I’m sure thrills him!

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

The one criticism I had about StoryWorth is that, as the weeks went on, I feared I’d bought a completely selfish gift. Remember when Homer Simpson bought Marge a bowling ball that had “Homer” written on it? StoryWorth is like that. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to finding one of my father-in-law’s stories in my in-box. Whether they make me laugh or cry, these stories never fail to warm my heart.

As he does, my father-in-law made me feel much better about this. He reminded me that StoryWorth allows the recipient to reminisce about the good times in their lives, reflect upon the bad, and, most of all, it allows him to share his life with his loved ones. He also loves StoryWorth as it helped him to channel his inner writer. Seriously, here’s an excerpt from his answer to the question: “What is one of the bravest things you’ve ever done and what were the consequences?”

I think people are brave throughout their lives, doing little things and big things they know are right, and doing them fearlessly. Trying new things they know they won’t be good at right away, or things that might make them look funny at first. Getting up every day, going to school, going to work, doing things you like to do and things you don’t like to do, doing what you are supposed to do to support yourself and your family, and make the world a better place. That is brave. I guess brave is an attitude you have to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences.

How lucky are my kids to call this man Papa?!

The Most Meaningful Gift

StoryWorth helped me realize that there is no more perfect holiday gift than telling someone that you love them so much that you want to know them even more. This holiday season, if you are looking for the perfect holiday gift for a loved one, buy a subscription to StoryWorth. It truly is “the most meaningful gift.”

If you use the link below (or any of the StoryWorth links within this post) to order StoryWorth, I will receive a small commission. (I made it clear that, even in gift giving, I’m selfish, right?) Seriously though, please know that this is my first affiliate post. I sought them out because of how much StoryWorth has meant to my family. But if this works out, get ready for me to start schlocking things left and right!

www.storyworth.com/mamatries

StoryWorth: The Perfect Holiday Gift

This post contains affiliate links. Any purchases made through these links earn me a small commission.

Mama Makes You Feel Better: “Collection” Edition

cup collection
A view under the book shelf.

Mama makes you feel better because your kids have normal hobbies. Some kids collect things. Perhaps yours collect shells. Or stamps. Or Pokemon cards. Maybe you complain because sometimes your lives seem to revolve around that collection. Wow, that must be rough for ya’ll. Your kid showing an interest in something that can teach them about their world, their history, or ignite their imagination.

You know what my kids collect?

Used cups. That’s right. The little cups they use to swish and spit when brushing their teeth cannot be thrown away in this house. They are stored securely in their rooms. And by securely, I mean, they’re everywhere.

A glimpse under any bed, dresser, or book shelf reveals a collection worthy of awe and reverie. Used paper cup collectors from around the globe would marvel at what my children have meticulously collected.

What is the purpose of this collection? Well, who doesn’t find themselves in need of a cup now and again? Need a place to put the change you have stolen from your parents’ pockets? Grab a cup. Did a beaded necklace break and you’d like to store the parts so your mother can throw them away when you’re not looking fix it? Well, there’s a cup right behind the door jam perfect for that.

Whenever we attempt to dispose of a cup, my husband and I are met with angry protests. We have learned that our children are not above rummaging through the garbage.

When we last ran out of cups, my judicious daughters ran to their rooms to fill dust-covered cups with water. And we let them. Because it filled them with pleasure to make use of their beloved collections. Mostly, we were too lazy to go downstairs to fetch clean cups from the kitchen.

This Thanksgiving, be thankful that your children have not caught the cup bug. And by bug, I mean cholera. No one should be drinking out of these things…

cup collection
Every nook and cranny is filled in the little one’s room.