An Open Letter to the Parents in my Child’s First Grade Class

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I am deeply sorry. Truly. I humbly ask you for your forgiveness, though I surely do not deserve it.

My transgression is one that I’m sure you believe to be inexcusable. I agree. Had I been on the receiving end I’d think the same thing. I’d be cursing your name, gossiping about you, and questioning your ability to function in society, let alone raise children in one. Please believe me that I know what I did was wrong. It was a mistake. An honest mistake made in a mother’s rush.

I am so sorry that I hit “Reply All” in response to the email asking for Halloween party volunteers.

You see, I never get to volunteer for school day events. As you know from my email, my work schedule rarely allows me to get to school while it’s in session. I long to experience the climate of my daughter’s school while the students are there. I desperately want to see her interact with her classmates and teachers. If I could be a fly on the wall of my children’s classrooms, I would spend all day spying on them. So when I realized that I actually could volunteer for this event, my excitement caused me to act in haste.   

Please know that this one act does not define me. I (almost) never do this. In fact, when I saw an email at work recently that asked people to kindly respond only to the sender and not to all, I scoffed. What heathens were on this email list that would need such a reminder? What kind of adult doesn’t know that no one else cares whether they are attending a meeting? By my own standards, I am one of those heathens in need.

The minute I received a “Delivery Failure” notification, the first thing I felt was confusion. How could my email have failed when I’m simply replying to an … Ohhhh, noooooo. If I could have taken back what I’d done just a moment before, I would have. But that’s not how life works, is it? Decisions, mistakes, actions made in a split second do not get a do-over. Think of the utopia we would live in if they did.

I understand if my infraction ostracizes me from the PTA or earns me a cold shoulder at birthday parties. Sure, I could argue that my intent was not to inform you all of my work schedule or my willingness to send in a healthy snack for the party, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? Negligence, after all, is just as alarming as a flagrant misuse of email.

All I ask is that you not force my daughter to pay for my mistake. Sure, she’s posted random YouTube videos to my Facebook page and accidentally called folks and left them 6 minute voicemail messages, but believe me when I say that she would never do this. I’d like to say it’s because I have raised her well, but, after tonight’s incident, many of you will likely assume she was just lucky enough to be born with character more becoming than her mother’s.

Regardless, please don’t allow a child to suffer for the sins of her mother. I beg you, fellow first grade parents that I have wronged, please don’t cancel playdates with my daughter or skip her name when writing birthday party invitations (unless it’s at Chuck E. Cheese, and then feel free to “lose” her invite). I promise to do better next time.

All I can do now is ask for your forgiveness. If it helps my case, please know that this incident has left me with a greater sense of empathy. No longer will I be filled with a fiery rage when I receive an email that I, under no circumstances, needed to read. Instead of assuming that the sender has deliberately shattered the laws of email etiquette, or, perhaps worse, lives in a bubble and is unaware of it, I will consider alternatives. Perhaps, it was a simple mistake and I shall react with kindness. Unless someone sends me a group text. Then it’s war.

Yours in Regret,

Teresa

Mom Guilt: There’s Only One Solution

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There’s only one solution.

I have spent my entire day feeling guilty. All encompassing guilt that has seized control of my every thought, making me second guess every decision I’ve made within the last 24 hours.

What, you may be wondering, did I do? Cheat on my husband? Nope. This Mama digs her guy way too much to do that. Plus, what parent on earth has time for adultery? Book a solo spa vacation for myself? That seems fun in theory, but I hate being alone. I’d be bored after the first hot stone massage. Rob a liquor store? Please, as if they wouldn’t recognize me. So what was I agonizing over all day?

Staying home with my sick child.

My 6-year-old daughter had a fever last night. I knew we were in major trouble when she didn’t want dessert and actually requested we bring her to bed. After the kids were asleep, I hopped on the computer to request a substitute for work the next day and got to work on my sub plans. That’s when the guilt started in. My students have an assignment due the day after tomorrow. What if they have questions? Will some of them have anxiety because I am not there to answer them? Will their parents complain that I wasn’t there the day before it was due? Nevermind that it’s 2016 and my students can always email me questions and that they’ve had a week to work on this with me present. Still, I felt guilty.

I woke up and checked my email to discover that they were unable to find a sub for me. I now pictured the stress my absence was causing other people at work. Who was frantically trying to get people to cover classes for me? Who was giving up their much needed prep time so that they could fill in for me? Whose day had been disrupted because I didn’t go to work?       

Then there was my daughter’s after school club. The one I had no business volunteering for, yet I was supposed to teach that afternoon. I couldn’t meet with the other volunteers last week in order to plan because I had a meeting when they were getting together. Plus, because of my work schedule, I will have to arrive to every session 15 minutes later than the others. And now I wouldn’t be able to attend the very first session. I emailed the volunteer coordinator and one of my fellow volunteers to explain the situation. My daughter was sick, I’d have to stay home with her. I got a nice reply letting me know that they would find coverage and sent well wishes to my daughter. It should have been done, but guilt had other plans.

I spent the entire day agonizing about missing a single one-hour session of Arts and Crafts Club. How will they cover for me? How many people will be put out by my absence? What will my fellow volunteers think of me? I fantasized that my daughter would be well enough by the time it started at 3:30 and that I’d be able to fulfill my commitment. A mid-afternoon fever took care of that dream. I seriously considered making arrangements for someone to come watch my sick child so that I could go to the school and help out. Leave my sick child so that I could volunteer at an after school club. Thankfully, common sense prevailed on that one…eventually.

Guilt is an evil mistress. Because no matter what decision I made today, she would have been there, whispering in my ear. No matter what I did, I’d be letting someone down. No matter what I did, I would be causing someone extra work or hardship. If I’d gone to work, I wouldn’t be there to care for my sick child. I’d be asking my in-laws to expose themselves to pungent kid germs. I’d have felt guilty. But I didn’t do those things. Today, I made the right choice.

Today, I felt guilty for doing exactly what I needed to do as a mother.

Guilt comes easily to a gal like me. A people pleaser who has a crippling fear of saying no to people, a person who will subject herself to anxiety and massive inconvenience just to make other people happy,  I care what other people think. I care about other people’s feelings.This is never going to change. I never want it to. Sure, I could do without guilt and anxiety, but all of that comes in partnership with an intense sense of empathy. I don’t ever want to take on a “screw it” attitude. I don’t want to think that my problems are more important than anyone else’s. I never want to lose my connection with the world around me. So what’s the solution when even doing the right thing still results in crippling guilt?

Stop imagining that the world is full of assholes. Profound, I know. Today I realized that my guilt is rather insulting to the very people I am concerned for. Am I not assuming the worst in people by feeling this guilt? My guilt is telling me that my co-workers, family, friends, and neighbors are incapable of empathy and understanding. Haven’t I given up prep time to cover a co-worker’s class? If I had received an email from a volunteer, wouldn’t I instantly reply that I hoped their child felt better and not have given it another thought? Wasn’t it pretty goddamn arrogant to think that no one else would give me the same courtesy?

It takes a village, and today I realized that guilt makes you the village idiot. Have faith in your fellow villagers. Do your part when others are in need, and they will step in for you. The next time guilt tries to whisper in your ear, you tell her that your village is too good for her. And if any of the villagers prove guilt right, kick that asshole out of town.

 

Breaking Up With Summer

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Summer. Look what you’ve done.

Sure we have a few weeks left until the equinox, but, essentially, summer’s end has come. As a gal who has spent the last two months reveling in sunshine, lazy mornings, and pool time, I don’t welcome it. In fact, the end of summer leaves me feeling like a discarded teenage girl who has been unceremoniously dumped by the love of her life.

Remember that girl in high school who was desperately in love with her boyfriend, ditched her friends to hang with him exclusively, and could be spotted writing his name in hearts on her notebook? Remember when he dumped her and he was no longer the dope dude she was going to marry some day, but the evil bastard who needed to be destroyed? I’m that girl. The ex is summer.

Sure, I could make myself feel better by thinking of all the joy that fall has to offer, like hay rides with the kids or a wardrobe that hides the effects of the sangria and s’mores I indulged in this summer, but I’m not ready to move on yet. In order to give fall all of myself, I need to get over summer. Fall deserves that much.

So, allow me to channel my inner angsty teenager and focus on all the nasty shit summer has put me through.

Putting My Kids Into a Hot Car

Trying to put my three-year-old in her car seat on a hot July day has done more damage to my back than any amount of winter shoveling ever could. No matter how long I run the air conditioner, the seat is still too hot and that kid contorts herself like a Cirque de Soleil acrobat in order to wriggle herself free of my grip. This is especially awesome when some impatient dipshit thinks it’s a good idea to wait for a parking spot inhabited by someone with kids.

Home Invaders

There’s nothing like the first flying insect of the summer season coming into your house to make you long for an icy, barren January day. You know what was in my house this summer? A cricket. Apparently a cricket in the house is considered good luck, but when you see a bug the size of a small rodent spring across the room at you, it’s a tad disconcerting. Plus, I had to catch and release the damn thing because the Internet told me I’d face several years of bad luck if I killed Jiminy Cricket.

Tent Time

There are certain things people ask of you only in the summer months. One of those things is going camping. Oh, it’s summer you say? So it sounds like fun to you to erect a shelter the size of a powder room, cram into it with your entire family, and wake up damp, cold, and uncomfortable? Thanks for the invite. Now I get to choose between being labeled a diva or lying awake at 4 a.m. convincing myself that I can hold my pee until dawn.

Holy Humidity

Summer heat always arrives with it’s douchey counterpart, humidity. I don’t know about you, but I never feel quite as confident as I do than on a day my hair grows exponentially larger with each passing moment spent outdoors. Add to that enough sweat to make people wonder whether I’ve peed my pants, and I feel simply irresistible.

Long Days

Who, other than a vampire, hates long days of sunshine? Parents who like watching Netflix with a glass of wine in their hands at 9 p.m. It doesn’t matter how opaque their blackout shades are, my kids are not sticking to their 7:30 bedtime in the summer months. This means that when I’d typically be considering a third glass of wine and one more episode, I’m getting someone a third glass of water and begging them to read the next book on their own.

I feel ready to move on already. All I need is for fall to swoop in with a pumpkin latte and summer will just be somebody I totally never stalk on Facebook.

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Whatever. I never loved you anyway, Summer.

Sexism at the Olympics: Guilty as Charged

There has been a lot of hype lately about the sexism in the reporting of the Olympics. Obviously these people have never sat in a room with my mother while watching the Games.

While at her house watching the women’s team all-around gymnastics competition, I couldn’t help but find a certain theme to my mother’s commentary. Allow me to share with you some of her direct quotes: “She has a very Russian face; what a beautiful girl.” “Why does she have to wear all of that glitter around her eyes?” “My God, doesn’t she have the most flawless skin?” “Did you see the bodies on those female swimmers the other night? Their shoulders are just enormous.” Comparatively, she makes Dan Hicks sound like Gloria Steinem. When I brought my mom’s comments to her attention, she argued, “They’re all amazing athletes. I mean, can you critique their athletic prowess at all? It all looks incredible; this is all I have the ability to comment on.” She had a point.

A Spectator Sport

Sure, when a gymnast makes a critical mistake, I can see it. However, when an athlete has completed a superhuman feat on a four-inch beam and a judge has found ways to knock three tenths of a point from her, I’m thinking, “Damn, what did she do wrong? I wonder how she gets her smoky eye makeup to stay put through all of that sweat when my eyeliner smudges after I so much as sneeze.” I can’t help it that my thoughts immediately go to such a superficial place, but do they make me an anti-feminist sexist?

I did a little soul searching and made it a point to be mindful of my thoughts while watching male events. Was I solely focused on their athletic abilities and determined minds? Was I in awe of their training schedule and dedication to their sport? In other words, did I root for them for the very reasons that they are competing in the Games? In a word: no.

I found that I watch the men with the same exact critical eye. I am simultaneously intrigued and disturbed with the length of Michael Phelps’s arms, and I know for a fact that I am not the only one who has serious opinions about Ryan Lochte’s hair (not a fan). Furthermore, do you think I wanted Nathan Adrian to win because I have a deep respect for this training ethic? Hell no! I cheered for him because his goddamn smile makes me weak in the knees. I immediately felt better knowing that I am not sexist. I’m an equal opportunity, superficial, social commentator. 

The Human Touch

NBC’s chief marketing officer John Miller was criticized for commenting that women watch the Olympics because of the reality television aspect of it, and Lord help me, the Olympics have shown me that this woman certainly does. I love the Olympics because it’s all one big human interest story. I route for the athletes whose stories are told, ones who’ve overcome extraordinary obstacles or demonstrate the character of a person I want as a role model for my daughters. Does the fact that I watch the Games just as Miller described mean I am not a feminist? I’d argue it means I am.

Athletes like Kathleen Baker, who has overcome Crohn’s disease, amaze me. I cried along with Simone Manuel as she made history as the first African-American woman to win an individual medal in Olympic swimming. I root for Aly Raisman, not just because she is so skilled on the beam, but because she is the embodiment of sportsmanship, always cheering on her teammates. Not to mention, I could spend everyday of the rest of my life watching her parents watching her perform.

I demand the same from the male athletes. I thought Michael Phelps’s angry pre-swim face was funny, but I prefer Michael hugging his family in the stands. I fell in love with Ryan Held when he cried on the medal platform and I was rooting for Conor Dwyer because his family just seemed so sweet and supportive. You see, whether male or female, I want to connect with the athletes I am cheering for. I demand they are all-around good people. I want my children to see that, regardless of gender, talent or accomplishment, what matters most is what kind of people we are and how we treat those around us.

Like a Mother

The role models aren’t just limited to my children. There has been criticism of how competitor moms are being portrayed by the media, but I can’t help but feel more in awe of these women because they are mothers. One article wrote about the coverage of Olympic medalist Dana Vollmer, arguing that the constant mention of her new motherhood “implies that women who have children are then incapable of all the things they did before giving birth.” Maybe because we kind of are…to an extent.

After my first baby I was basically incapable of bathing on the regular let alone training for the Olympic Games. The fact that this woman was able to keep her body in peak physical shape throughout 9 months of pregnancy, recover from childbirth, postpartum everything, and train hard enough to participate and excel in the Olympic Games sure as hell seems newsworthy to me. No one questioned Michael Phelps’s ability to perform when he had a three-month old because Michael Phelps didn’t carry or deliver his son. (I’m actually super impressed that his wife was able to travel to Brazil with her three-month old, as I’m fairly certain I was still up all night crying with my first baby at that point.)

Bringing up Vollmer’s baby is not sexist, it goes to show the world that she is a freaking superwoman. I could hardly write a coherent sentence or walk a mile after I had a baby, and this woman has the passion, drive, and dedication to be an Olympian? If that doesn’t make you want to start belting out, “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” I don’t know what will.

The Olympics are a time for nations to unite in the spirit of competition and friendship, a time for us to celebrate the human spirit and watch in awe as athletes perform seemingly impossible tasks. In the midst of it all, our commentators are faced with the not-quite as difficult task of instantly finding the right words to say, during some of television’s most dramatic moments. Plus, maybe they’re just trying to give superficial, reality-loving moms like me and my mother exactly what they want. So, let’s just cut them a little slack.

How Doing Nothing Did Everything for Our Summer

This morning I woke up in a panic. On summer days, I allow my children to be my alarm clock. Today, I woke up with a start, realizing that the amount of sunshine gleaming through my bedroom window was far too powerful for 7a.m. I turned, expecting to see my husband missing, in my sleepy haze wondering if he’d gotten up with the kids and was letting me sleep in. But there he was, tucked under the covers, snoring gently. A glance at the clock informed me that it was 8:45, and that was when the panic truly set in.

I don’t have a newborn if that’s what you’re thinking. The days of waking up, terrified that something was wrong because your infant was actually sleeping are long gone. No, I was sitting in bed, full of anxiety, because I was afraid that my daughters, aged three and six, would miss our scheduled summer activities. The ones scheduled by me.

I have the summers off and am beyond grateful for the opportunity to spend time with my children, a luxury I know other parents long for. I do not send them to camp because, in the springtime – when camps begin filling up – I am swamped at work, missing them dearly, and fantasizing about our long, glorious summer days together. Come August, when I have broken up roughly 89 sibling squabbles and waded in the suspiciously warm local kiddie pool a dozen times, I am regretting that decision just a little bit.

By week one of summer vacation, I felt that the only solution to my children’s wild behavior and my boredom was a strict adherence to a schedule of my own creation. If my children were entertained for every minute of the day, not only would we be making memories for them to reminisce about for years to come, but their lack of boredom would mean there would be no reason for them to lash out at me or each other. That sounds pretty Type A of me. I assure you, I am what most people would consider a Type J. Which is why this didn’t quite work out.

Each day would revolve around one or two “events,” like a visit to a museum, a local water park, or an art room. All meals and snacks would be systematically scheduled around said event, and would be mini-events in their own rites. Downtime? Also scheduled. The iPad and television would be used at certain times of the day (like when Mama was making meals or trying to take deep breaths in a corner somewhere). My children would have a routine and we would be a happier family because of it…is what I thought.

Painting pottery - just one of our scheduled summer events.
Painting pottery – just one of our scheduled summer events.

Instead, this schedule created a morning of mayhem. Every morning began with a hurried breakfast, angst over what to wear (my three-year-old never wants what I have picked out and my 6-year-old is constantly asking to wear seasonally inappropriate attire, like a long-sleeved velvet dress on a 90-degree day). Then there came the point in the morning where I start shouting, “We are not leaving this house until your hair is brushed!” while one of the girls attempts to slyly stick the hairbrush under a couch cushion.

On average, it takes us an hour and a half to get ourselves ready for the day’s “event.” This means that lunchtime is often delayed, causing everyone’s blood sugar to drop to level “cantankerous.” By 3 p.m. everyone is angry with each other and I begin counting down the seconds (hours) until it is socially acceptable to start drinking wine and for my husband to arrive home from work.

On this particular morning, a dollar showing of Minions was on our agenda. Showtime was at 10 a.m. which meant we had about 40 minutes to get out of the house in order to get there in time. I had a choice: have an even more harried morning than typical so that the rest of our day could go as planned, or just throw the schedule out the window and let the morning play itself out. I reluctantly chose the latter, preparing myself for countless cries of “She’s copying me” and laments about boredom. What I got surprised me.

Going with the flow, when my older daughter asked if she could make everyone breakfast, I obliged. She was soon happily filling up bowls with yogurt and granola, something I never would have allowed her to do if I was worried about getting to one of our events on time. She happily talked herself through the process as if she were hosting a cooking program and beamed with pride as we all gobbled it up. The girls then asked if they could put on some make-up and I obliged, with the condition that they had to ask before they put on each new product – I’ve learned my lesson. They even put on their own tunes.

Just flipping her 45.
Just flipping her 45.

When the inevitable squabble occurred (One unstructured morning helped our overall morale – it didn’t make us the Von Trapps), it was resolved in less than 5 minutes. Why? Because no one’s patience had been tested. I’d spent my morning sipping earl grey tea – finishing both cups while they were still warm. My children were still in their pajamas, their hair in messy pony tails leftover from the day before. With no one agitated after a chaotic morning, I could react calmly and rationally, choosing to listen to my daughters rather than immediately scolding them. They, in turn, were able to listen to each other and come to an agreement. And okay, fine, for purposes of full disclosure, it also helped that the iPad they were fighting over died while we were reaching a resolution.

The afternoon led us outside where the girls snipped kale from our garden and I picked some zucchini to bake with. When I realized we were out of chocolate chips, we slipped on our shoes and took a stroll down the street to get some from the local convenient store. With the oven on, everyone was getting hot, and when the girls asked if we could head to the pool, I was relaxed enough to actually want to go myself. Two hours later, we came home, put some clothes on over our chlorine-soaked bodies, and when my husband arrived home, went over to my in-laws house for a lovely birthday dinner for my mother-in-law.

What's summer without freshly picked veggies?
What’s summer without freshly picked veggies?

When we put the kids to bed that night, everyone was worn out. The kids fell asleep within minutes of putting their heads on their pillows and I was right behind them. Laying in bed, I wondered why everyone was so tuckered out after doing nothing. That’s when I realized that doing nothing was our event of the day. Doing nothing meant putting on pink eye shadow and eating chocolate chips out of the bag. It meant diving for sinking toys in a pool while your mom chatted with friends. Doing nothing was playing a harmonica at the dinner table and eating home-baked blueberry pie. As I dozed off, I realized that, sometimes, the “event” is letting our day reveal itself to us.

Make no mistake, this does not mean that there will be no more events planned for this summer, but that we need to schedule in some time to breathe. Let’s be honest, if we let the day reveal itself to us five days a week, I’m fairly sure our next “event” would be a trip to the pharmacy to pick up a king-sized bottle of Xanax for Mama.

Creating Vacation Moments on a Family Trip

It can be quite easily argued that any travel involving kids is a trip and most certainly not a vacation. I’d agree. If your time at the beach involves attempting to reapply 50 SPF sunscreen onto a damp, sandy child, you are not vacationing. However, it is absolutely possible to make sure your next family trip has vacation moments. Follow these tips and luxuriate in vacation bliss…until your kid’s next meltdown.

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The beach was like this the whole time. No one ever cried about getting sand on their hands, or water on their face, or…

Go with another family with kids.
Sure, the kids will fight like siblings at times, but they’ll also get along for extended stints that will allow the adults to sit and drink. Siblings might play together for twenty minutes, but a group of kids can entertain themselves with a game for at least an hour, or, as I like to think of it, two glasses of wine. Just make sure you travel with a family you can be in close quarters with and not want to murder. A close family friend you may just want to maim; a golf buddy may not make it back alive. Travel friends need to be those who, like family, won’t sever all ties with you after you spend half the trip talking about your gastrointestinal difficulties or when it turns out that your two children, individually, cry four times as much as their three combined.

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Buy your husbands a keg.
Of course any vacation is going to involve copious amounts of alcohol, but if your husband brings a keg, you will most certainly find yourself on a vacation. It seems counter-intuitive, but trust me on this one ladies. Men like a challenge, and you know what happens to a keg once it’s tapped? It immediately starts going flat. Your husbands will be so motivated to kick this keg while it’s still got some gas, that they will do anything to find a way to conquer it – like offer a ladies night. Yes, it’s so they can sit around drinking beer and playing poker without your judging eyes, but, when it means you and your girlfriend find yourself out at a dinner where no one orders chicken fingers and you get a proper drink, who cares what the reason is?

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Book a house with an outdoor shower, preferably filled with bees.
There’s been a lot of hype recently about hiding from your children in the bathroom. Perhaps that works for people who, unlike me, have locks on their bathroom doors. At home, our bathroom is most certainly not a sanctuary, as every shower involves, at best, one of my children opening the bathroom door and letting the heat out, or, at worst, flinging the shower curtain open and asking me about various moles or why my stomach looks “squishy.” An enclosed outdoor shower is one of life’s greatest luxuries. Not only do you get to cloud gaze while rinsing your hair, but the shower itself locks, which means I can bathe without the threat of my children’s harsh bodily criticisms. Add a family of bees who likes to show up every time the water turned on like we did, and your children won’t go within a ten foot radius of that thing. Locks and bees mean one thing – a spa vacation every time mama showers!

Trust me when I say you should all feel relieved that there's no photographic evidence of this.
Trust me when I say you should all feel relieved that there’s no photographic evidence of Mama’s “spa vacation.”

Go to a restaurant where the median age of the other customers is 72.
Again, this sounds stressful and terrifying, and it is…at first. Then you realize that everyone in the place is either dying for grandkids or misses their own. If you and your children stroll into a restaurant crowded with 30- or 40-somethings, then turn around and walk back out, because these people are currently basking in the glory of a childless night and may pay-off a waitress for the opportunity to spit in your entree. The older set though? They’re desperate for some interaction with the little ones. If you find your table beside that of an elderly woman, sit back and bask in a meal filled with cocktails and adult conversation, because she would love to engage your small children in chit chat and offer to give your baby a bottle for the entirety of your meal.

Even a grump like this was able to win over the older set.
Even a grump like this was able to win over the older set.

Swallow your pride and bring the damn iPad.
Bringing your child to the beach is one of life’s most exhausting experiences. The packing, the constant vigilance, and carrying a toddler while trudging through hot sand leave you depleted. Imagine how your nap-less kid feels. I am all for limiting screen time, but when my children have been running around in the sun all day, what they need before dinner is not a game of kickball in the backyard. Just like me, they need to chill. Let the kids veg out in the late afternoon with a video so you can sip a cocktail, read some Yelp reviews to help select the evening’s restaurant choice, and update your Facebook page. Just make sure you crop out any of your crying kids in the photos you post so that everyone in your news feed can be jealous of your VACATION.

This picture alone makes me feel relaxed.
This picture alone makes me feel relaxed.

Any family trip is going to be filled with countless “are we there yets,” tearful toddlers, and stressed-out parents. But follow these tips and those moments will be lost in a sea of vacation memories.

Pants on Fire 2: Lies I Tell Adults

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I’ve made it clear that I have no qualms about lying to my children. What I might not have revealed was that I also have a tendency to tell the occasional white lie to adults. One could say that I’m an equal opportunity liar. Below, check out my favorite lies to tell fellow adults. Not that I have ever lied to anyone reading this. These are lies I tell other people.

I’m a Social Drinker

This one is told to my doctor when asked, “How frequently do you drink alcohol?” and is often followed by an awkward fumbling of my words that goes something like this: “Oh, you know, like just socially. Like, if I’m out for dinner, or, you know, like a glass of wine with dinner, like just, like a glass or two of wine during the week, maybe a few glasses a week, I’m not sure the exact number. Yeah, I guess you could say I’m a social drinker.” All the while my internal monologue is saying, “Why are you still talking? Stop talking! Now she’s assuming you are an alcoholic. She’s going to give you a pamphlet if you don’t shut up. What have you done?!” This is not to say I’m passing out with my wine glass every night (that’s just an invitation for spills, and there will be no wine wasting on my watch), but the word “social” is a bit of a stretch here. “Social” implies that I am surrounded by other adults, perhaps clad in a cocktail dress and chatting about Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne the latest episode of Orange is the New Black, not that I am rocking faded, stretched out yoga pants and drinking wine while hiding from my two small children.

My Children Have Extremely Dry Skin

I like to pull out this one when I notice that one of my kids is rocking a marker streak across her arm for the third day in a row. I hate giving my kids baths. Whether it’s because they don’t want to get in, don’t want to get out, or both, someone always cries. Plus, our water pressure has the same velocity of the spittle exiting an 8-year-old lisper’s mouth, meaning the hair-washing process – every child’s favorite part of bath time – takes no less than 15 minutes per child. Basically, bath time always results in Mama yelling (on a bad day) or forcing herself to take several meditative deep breaths (on a good day). So I lie and claim that my children have exceptionally dry skin, and that a daily cleansing would be detrimental to their health and comfort, when really it’s just detrimental to Mama’s emotional well-being.

We Choose Adult Babysitters Because They’re More Responsible  

When I was eleven, strangers used to hire me to babysit their four children, which typically included a baby. Nowadays, the PTA would have you arrested for leaving your children with anyone other than an adult whose background check reflected a lack of criminal history, a laundry list of personal and professional references, and a decent credit score. I can smugly report that our amazing babysitter is an adult with a degree in childhood education (a certification which, incidentally, comes with a state-mandated background check). You know why we really hire her? She has her own car. Which means that we don’t have anyone to drive home after dinner. I’m sorry, but asking a mom on a date night to not have a drink is like asking a fraternity to throw a party without a keg. That shit ain’t right. So, I pretend that my choice of babysitter is all about my parental responsibility, when, in fact, it’s so I can visit the gastropub up the street, unabashedly throw back a cocktail or three, stroll home with my husband, and watch our babysitter drive herself away.   

Excuse the Mess

Like a size two mom who claims she constantly eats garbage and never works out, I get great satisfaction from standing in a tidy home and claiming that I haven’t cleaned at all. “Excuse the mess” typically passes my lips following a two-hour cleaning marathon. My husband and I would have most likely pulled a divide and conquer, which entails putting on a movie for the children and then each of us taking a floor of the house and attempting to scrub away the filth that has accumulated since our last cleaning…roughly 8 weeks prior. Inevitably, our cleaning frenzy ends with a house that looks…decent – like the state of a typical family’s house if you dropped by on a Tuesday evening. When people arrive to our home, I like to say, “Excuse the mess. We’ve just had such a busy day, we didn’t really have time to clean before anyone came over.” The hope is that our guests assume we live like regular people instead of filthy animals, when, in reality, our “sparkle and shine” is their midweek disheveled. If you drop over unannounced, don’t expect this lie. Expect us to be pretending not to hear you knocking while we feverishly try to shove all the laundry and toys into the nearest closet.  

 

25 Questions I Had While Watching Goonies as an Adult

goonies

A favorite family activity in my house is “Family Movie Night.” It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to pop some popcorn, snuggle up together, and have fun as a family. Let’s be perfectly honest though – it’s 20% about family bonding and 80% about being able to recline on the couch while my children are awake.

Another perk of movie night is that, thanks to our rule that the movie has to be one that we my children have never seen before, we get a break from watching the latest American Girl movie for the 37th time. Now, not only do we get to recline, we also get to rewatch all of our favorite 80s movies. Back to the Future, Big, Spaceballs – these movies defined my youth and movie nights allow me the chance to step back in time and relive the magic that delighted and thrilled me as a child. They also helped me realize how epically effed up 80s kids films are.

My children love watching these 80s films, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve wondered if all of my neurosis are a direct result of viewing these films in my formative years. On many movie nights I wonder if, someday, my children will sit in their therapists offices and recall the time they were 5 and 3 years old respectively and their parents sat them down to watch Princess Leia, wearing nothing but a gold bikini, chained up by Jabba the Hut.

The film that seems to have resonated with my kids the most is one that was a most treasured favorite of mine: Goonies. The tale of a group of kids finding pirate treasure – foiling a crime family and saving their town along the way – basically blew my mind as a child. After watching Goonies, rainy days turned into attempts to break into the attic and hours of rummaging through old boxes in the basement in the hopes of finding a treasure map. As an adult, Goonies has just left me with a lot of questions, the least of which is why I didn’t know they used the word “shit” roughly 80 times in this children’s film.

Coincidentally, none of my questions in regard to Goonies has anything to do with the fantastical elements of the kids’ actual quest to find One-Eyed Willy. Instead, most of my bewilderment is a result of the more mundane and “realistic” plot points of this film, none of which I ever questioned in my youth.    

The following is a list of the 25 questions I had while watching Goonies as an adult. I suggest you re-watch it with your kids (I swear they won’t repeat any of the bad words afterward) and see what I am talking about.

  1. Whose idea was it to begin a children’s movie with a man hanging in a cell?
  2. No one notices that a man is pouring gasoline all over the entrance to the county jail? Isn’t that the kind of place that would typically be heavily guarded?
  3. If their house is being demolished in 48 hours, why hasn’t anyone started packing yet?
  4. Why is the mom letting her able-bodied sons hang out and watch music videos instead of helping her pack?
  5. Does Rosalita seriously believe everything that Mouth is saying? Like, instead of suspecting that this is just a 12-year-old punk messing with her, she chooses to believe that the attic is full of sexual torture devices, and that this kid knows about them?
  6. If she really does believe that she’s about to get involved with drug trafficking and that there’s a chance they are going to lock her up in a cockroach infested closet, is she that hard-up for cash that she’s willing to stay?
  7. Why is Mikey’s mom so calm about Data destroying the door, but freaks out by the sight of potato chips on the floor?
  8. Wouldn’t the museum have asked for all of their artifacts back long before this scheduled demolition?
  9. If Mikey wanted to get the map out of the frame, why didn’t he just drop it onto the floor himself? Why does he need Chunk to do his dirty work for him?
  10. What kind of Spanish classes is Mouth taking? How does he know how to translate 17th century pirate dialect? Who is teaching this kid the Spanish word for “ye”?
  11. Why aren’t the Fratellis getting out of town?
  12. Wouldn’t there be a lot more police presence in the area after a jail break?
  13. Why would Mama Fratelli let Mikey use the bathroom? I mean, even if it was an emergency, doesn’t she seem like the type of lady who would just let a kid pee his pants?
  14. Why are they feeding Sloth giant portions of slop? When it comes to slop, isn’t a reasonable portion enough?
  15. I realize Troy and his cronies probably like their girls svelte, but, when pulling up the well’s bucket, did they really confuse the weight of a letterman’s jacket with the weight of Andy, a teenage girl?
  16. Whose idea was it to have a major character of a light-hearted children’s adventure film be a man who has physical abnormalities and developmental delays caused by the abuse inflicted on him by his own mother when he was an infant? How did that play out in the pre-production meetings?
  17. Nobody in Astoria has ever wondered where the hole in the seaside rocks led to? In three hundred years, no small kid ever wandered in there and discovered a giant lagoon with a pirate ship?
  18. Did Chunk’s family stop on the way to see their child – who has been missing for 24 hours – in order to get pizza?
  19. While it’s a nice gesture to offer Sloth some free room and board, shouldn’t Chunk run that idea by his parents before extending the invitation?
  20. Why does Troy’s dad drag him to all of these business deals?
  21. Are Mouth and Stef getting together here? Isn’t he a lot younger than her?  
  22. If Rosalita’s knowledge of English truly is as poor as we have been led to believe, how does she know what the father is about to sign?
  23. After being treated so poorly by everyone, why does Rosalita even give the jewels to the family? I mean, I think we’ve established that she needs the money.
  24. Why does everyone assume that the Goonies get to keep the jewels? Wouldn’t they belong to a museum? At the very least, wouldn’t they be tied up in litigation for years?
  25. What octopus??? This is the one question I actually did have as a child, and it remains. Seriously – they talk about how scary the octopus was, but there never was an octopus! As a child, this was a great mystery. As an adult, I know this scene was cut, but now just wonder why the editors allowed this flub.

Regardless of these questions, Goonies will forever be a beloved classic, one that I am glad is in heavy rotation at my house. Because Corey Feldman yelling shit is, in my humble opinion, way less offensive than Caillou’s whining.  

 

Your Emoji is a Tragedy: How to Use Words Instead of Emojis to Express Your Support

When someone posts about a somber event on social media, the only thing that eases the pain is seeing a broken heart emoji in the comments. Because, if you’re a self-righteous bitch like me, your overwhelming sense of judgment and condemnation momentarily trumps the sadness.

In the past, we had time to craft personal, heartfelt sympathy cards to loved ones who suffered a loss. In 2016, we live in a global community where life’s most important events – both tragic and wonderful – are shared through social media, email, and text. We find out about engagements, births, marital problems, diagnoses, children’s ER visits, and even death right from our phones. As a result, we often find ourselves with the daunting, time-sensitive task of reacting to news before it finds itself lost in our newsfeed. In our haste and sympathy, we fear we won’t properly articulate our thoughts, and, like the mom who’s so stressed about whipping up an organic, vegan meal that she ultimately decides to cook her kids mac and cheese, the pressure makes us give up all together and send an emoji.  

Before clicking, we need to ask ourselves, in what way is a yellow frowny face with a single, giant tear dripping from its eye an appropriate response to tragic news? Do we assume that an adorable image is the comfort and support anyone is seeking? Have we convincing ourselves that a stock image can truly capture our sentiments and relay them accurately to a grieving friend? We shouldn’t. There’s a reason there are no emoji sympathy cards.* They are a bit tasteless.

This is not to say emojis don’t have their place. I have had entire text conversations with my girlfriends that are 90% emoji. My husband and I have even been known to text each other the most random emojis we can find (he is partial to the tempura shrimp), just to show we are thinking of one another. And bored. Probably very bored. The point is, emojis are for casual texts and comments only.

That’s all well and good for the celebratory cocktail emojis, but you may be wondering – if they are indeed offensive – why there are emoji options that are clearly for tough times. It’s because they are for your everyday faux tough times. A praying hands emoji is a perfect reply to a friend asking if you can get a sitter for drinks this Friday, but not an appropriate response to finding out that her grandmother just passed away. Furthermore, a broken heart is a quick, handy reply when your friend posts a picture of an empty wine fridge. Or a shattered wine glass. Or an empty wine bottle. Or…well, you get the idea. It’s best, however, to keep that fractured heart emoji to yourself when she texts you about her husband’s affair.  

Sometimes, there truly are no words. This does not mean there should be emojis. In fact, if a tragedy occurs that renders you speechless and bereft, it probably means that you should, under no circumstances, be letting your finger anywhere near an emoji icon. I get it. Tragic news is difficult to share and painful to hear. Coming up with the right words can seem like a formidable task, but now, with this handy list, it’s one you don’t have to tackle. The next time you read some unfortunate news and your thumb is inching toward an emoji, use one of these wordy phrases instead.

  • Sometimes there are no words. I’m so sorry.
  • Please know that I am thinking of you.
  • I love you.
  • I can’t imagine what you are going through.
  • I’m here for you.
  • Sending you love/prayers/positive thoughts. Don’t use slashes. Choose one, or use more and make use of commas and that handy word “and.” Use of an Oxford comma I hereby leave to your own discretion.

Now you are prepared for the next crisis! Just don’t be so eager to use one of these bad boys that you wish any ill will upon anyone. If you do, I’ll have to throw a devil emoji your way.

*Editor’s Note: At least, I really hope there aren’t. I was too afraid to Google it.

new-emoji-sticker-cute-free

 

The Five Most Horrifying Words to a Parent’s Ears

“I can do it myself” are the five words all parents of infants fantasize about. If you have not yet had a baby grow into a toddler, you may be under the false assumption that these words mean your child has become independent and you, in turn, will gain back your ever-desired adult freedom. You would be wrong. So wrong.

Parents of toddlers who insist on doing it themselves know that life was a hell of a lot easier when mom and dad did it all.  Here are the absolute worst situations for your child to say this dreaded phrase.  

Wiping

The most soul crushing realization of potty training is that you still have to wipe your child when they use the bathroom, and you can no longer wait for a commercial break to do it. So it’s no wonder that parents fantasize of the day when their kids can finally complete this horrific task on their own. And then that day comes and you realize you didn’t know how good you had it.  Kids are the worst wipers. They either use too little or too much toilet paper, and they almost never leave the bathroom, shall we say…fresh.  But once they have it in their heads that they are doing something on their own, they don’t want you to be any part of it.  So in order to keep things hygienic in your home, you find yourself shouting “bend over right now!” while chasing a pantless kid more often than you’d like to admit.

Making Lunch

Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich solo takes roughly three minutes.  Making one with the help of a three-year-old takes a solid 45.  My children, both thrilled and terrified to be given permission to use a butter knife, dip this deadly instrument into the jars with the speed of a slug and the precision of a drunk girl in stilettos. Several “little tastes” along the way add minutes to the process and an array of bacteria to the jars that your kids have double-dipped in.  Because they have spread the jelly everywhere except the bread, instead of enjoying a sandwich of your own, you will spend your lunchtime cleaning sticky goo from every surface in your kitchen. Inevitably, your kids will realize and admit that they lack your cooking prowess after all, throw out their version, and ask you to make them another sandwich.  

Bathing Themselves

Oh fantastic, now not only do you get to go through the painful process of getting your child into the tub, work on the futile task of trying to prevent them from drenching the entire bathroom with water, and then drag them out before their lips turn blue, but now you get to do all of that and end up with a still stinky toddler.  Toddlers are fantastic at scrubbing their tummies with a foamy shower poof, but inept at washing their private bits and that weird place under their neck that they use for food storage.  This means that you now have the choice of having the stinky kid in school or holding down a slippery, wet child in the tub in order to clean their nether regions.

Pouring drinks

The day my daughters channel their inner Sally Draper and fix me a Manhattan will be the day I know I’ve made it as a parent, but we’re a long way away from there in my house.  At this point, it’s a miracle if one of them is able to carry a carton of milk the entire three feet between the refrigerator and table without dropping it and splattering milk on every surface within a ten foot radius. This is before they even attempt to pour anything into a cup, inevitably creating a river of liquid they will either casually stroll away from, or use an entire roll of paper towels to haphazardly wipe up. In order to save yourself from an afternoon of cleaning and an evening of “find the sour milk smell” a week later, when your kids argue that they can pour their own milk, you suggest they instead help themselves to a sugar-packed juice box from the pantry.   

Washing the Dishes

My five-year-old has a fascination with washing the dishes, and, since, in 2016, we are the only house in America without a dishwasher, I’d love nothing more than to let her do so.  I learned the hard way that it’s best to wait until a kid knows how to tie her shoes before giving her free reign over your kitchen sink.  Kids do not know how to wash food and grime from dishes, but will insist that they do and will beam with pride at the “clean” dishes in the drying rack. Re-washing them in front of their proud faces will only damage their fragile egos, so you now have to wait until after bedtime, when you are completely drained of all energy, to re-wash the load.  This wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if your kids hadn’t also “washed” all of the clean tupperware they pulled out of the drawers – you know, “to help.”    

Getting Dressed

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so allow me to present the following photos without further comment.

Image-1 Image-1 (1)

So, parents of babies, the next time you are changing a diaper or fixing yet another bottle, appreciate how good you have it.  Actually, that sucks too, so just pour yourself a glass of wine and know that, it might not get easier in a year or two, but you’ll be too drunk defeated to know the difference.  

If you dig this post or any others, please consider feeding any semblance of an ego my children have left in tact by giving me a nomination for the Mumsnet Blogging Awards!

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