Super(Bad)Mom: The World Traveling Mom

When I was thirteen years old, I went sledding at a local golf course with a friend. We were meeting a group from the all-girls school that I would be attending the following year. I was the outsider. Middle school girl politics being as they are, I was a bit nervous. As soon as I reached the top of the hill, a blonde girl I’d met just once before grabbed my arm and ingratiated me into the group by inviting me to ride on the back of her sled. I hopped on and went for a ride that’s still going on twenty-three years later. Whether it’s convincing me to ride a zip line, stay in a grass hut in Panama, or start a non-profit, I’m incredibly grateful to still have this blonde girl by my side, convincing me to take a plunge.

Now it’s my turn to make her take one, as I forced nominated her to be Mama Tries Blog’s very first Super(Bad)Mom!

My friend Lea is the ultimate supermom. She’s also incredibly humble, meaning she answered only three of the questions for the “super” portion of Super(Bad)Moms, and only with one to three word answers. The “bad” mom portion was much lengthier. It’s a good thing my first featured Super(Bad)Mom is a friend I can call out on her BS, because the joke’s on her — instead of writing the supermom portion in the question/answer format I planned, I am writing a narrative about how fabulous she is (which will make her cringe to no end).

A quick glimpse of Lea’s Facebook page reveals an enviable life and family. She is a gorgeous mother of three ridiculously adorable little boys, all under age 6. She and her husband not only manage to dress and feed the boys everyday, but also make sure they are all enjoying life to the fullest. On a Saturday, she’s likely to invite our family on a hike when we are still in our pajamas and trying to figure out how we can stay like that all day. Seriously, they go on hikes – a lot – with three energetic little boys, one of whom is a baby!

When she’s not taking advantage of local offerings, Lea is bringing her family on a boatload of vacations. I have low-grade anxiety for at least a month before taking my kids on a trip an hour away, but she takes her boys on incredible vacations at least four times a year. They have passports for God’s sake! I don’t even have the patience to bring my kids to get passport photos taken, let alone travel outside the country with them.

How does a full-time teacher and mother of three children continue traveling the world? In Lea’s case, it means taking on even more responsibility. Lea excels in everything she does. Determined to continue living her dream, she became a consultant for Rodan & Fields. In less than two years, her “side hustle” is not just giving her some extra spending money. She has built a thriving team, won awards, and has even created training videos for other consultants around the world – all while continuing to teach and raise an amazing family. On top of all that, she saw a need in her community and proactively filled the void, starting a local chapter of the Lady Project, a non-profit women’s social and philanthropic group.

Whether it’s work, her family, entertaining, or supporting her friends, Lea is the epitome of a supermom. Her drive and ambition are inspirational and have made me a better person. Without her encouragement and example, I never would have taken the steps to start this blog.

She had a baby three months before this was taken. It’s not right.

Because here’s the thing – Lea isn’t perfect. There are no perfect moms. Just perfect Facebook pages. Lea is just like every other mom begging her kids to eat breakfast and stop fighting each other. As I’ve written before, that’s where the inspiration lies. If we know women like Lea also struggle with day-to-day mom life, we can certainly work our mom asses off and accomplish some of the great things she does, too. When I saw her ability to juggle chaos, a full-time job AND a side gig, I was out of excuses. It was time for me to be proactive in making my writing dreams come true, too.

Now that I’ve made Lea seem like the ultimate Supermom, I’ll let her tell you about her Bad Mom moments.

What is the most embarrassing thing one of your kids has ever done or said? My five-year-old, Eamon, recently announced to a table of guests that his mom LOVES spicy foods, but sometimes it gives her diarrhea.  Really I had just gotten over a stomach bug, but thanks for that Eamon.

Tell us about one of your kid’s worst meltdowns. Not really a meltdown, but when Eamon was two his eye swelled shut from a bug bite. We brought him to the ER and they gave him steroids.  The doctor warned us that the steroids may make him a little hyperactive, but we poo-pooed it and went straight to a restaurant for dinner. Big mistake! Eamon became delirious at the packed restaurant and was laughing extremely loudly and then proceeded to throw his food. He nailed another table across the restaurant with his corn on the cob. We took our food and bottle of wine to go!

Restaurant dinners with kids are always more exciting when one of them spills his milk.

What is something your kids do that drive you crazy? All 3 repeatedly asking for refills of drinks at the dinner table.  We keep a gallon of milk on the table now.

What is something your kids have done this week that has annoyed you to no end? I caught one sitting on my bed pillow with no underwear on. *editor’s note: I really wish there was a photo of this one.*

What is something you have allowed your kid to do this week that you know you probably shouldn’t have. Bought Pokemon cards as a reward for expected behavior.

What is an unhealthy food you feed your kids? We frequent the Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru for munchkins more than I’d like to admit. I also let my kids eat jars of salsa con queso — so I can eat it, too.

Are there any dangerous activities you let your kids participate in? The boys love to jump off the couch onto a pile of pillows, topped with a dog bed.

These boys like to keep playtime safe.

What is a typical morning like at your house? I pretty much have a panic attack every weekday morning trying to get all of us out of the house by 7 AM. Maybe once every two weeks it goes smoothly, but most days you would actually see me and Jerry sprinting around the house getting all the things together that we should have the night before. Add an uncooperative kid (or two or three) and I pretty much lose my mind. It takes me the entire car ride to work to calm back down. Sometimes I worry that I am creating anxious children and that they will have childhood memories of their mom yelling “Eat! Take another bite! Eat faster! We are going to be late!” As of now they do not seem concerned at all though! They could not care less if they’re late, and I think they just wonder why Mommy goes mad every morning.

“Why Mommy goes mad every morning.” We are not alone, ladies. We are not alone.

Mama Makes You Feel Better Because

IMG_9340While my husband was away in January, my mom kindly babysat the girls and slept over. While getting dressed the next morning, she hung her nightgown on the bathroom door, and forgot to bring it home. It has remained there ever since. In that exact spot. For nearly 5 months. It finally took my 5-year-old to remind me last week to get Nonnie’s pajamas off the door and give them back to her. I obliged – but paused to first take a photo. The new look of the downstairs bathroom sure is going to take some getting used to. It’s just so bare now.

Mama’s Drinking Wine

IMG_9203Because my husband bought Trix. Trix! Have you tried this stuff lately? Like, since you’ve been an adult? Each delectable bite transforms you into a carefree sprite, and allows you to experience all the joyous memories of your childhood for another glorious time. It also has 10 grams of sugar per serving. That’s six glasses of wine (I did the math). “Don’t have that and you can have 6 of me,” my glass beguiles. Childhood shmildhood. I think any reasonable adult would know what my (obvious) choice was.

Mama’s Drinking Wine…

IMG_9165Because she spent more than just a minute praising her daughter for a doing such a wonderful job on the school work that was in her folder. “Wow! Great job doing every question (since someone typically likes to skip some here and there). All right answers (again, sometimes it’s boring to try and answer every question correctly). Way to go! I am SO proud of you!” Needless to say, there’s a reason the wine glass is covering the “name” portion.  Which is also the reason for the wine. Trust me when I say it wasn’t my daughter’s name I discovered written there. Mama pours wine while trying desperately to remember if she said anything like, “This is the best school work you’ve ever done.”

The Struggle is Real

I’ve mentioned before that my teenage rebellion manifested itself in sharing toothbrushes and sitting on public toilet seats.  As an adult, my defiance comes out in equally brazen acts, such as feeding my three-year-old watermelon.  Because surely everyone knows that watermelon consumed by anyone under the age of four is poison.  Well, it is according to my family.  

Like most Italian families, my brother, cousins, and I shared a childhood steeped in tradition, which, along with a strong sense of family values and a killer meatball recipe, came with a list of insane rules we were forced to follow in order to maintain our health and well-being. My brother and I recently compiled a list of the deranged rules that were ingrained in us as children – rules that we refuse to instill in our own kids, though the strength to do so sometimes takes every fiber of our beings. These rules are constantly looming in the backs of our minds, haunting us, and making us wonder, “what if?” more often than we’d like. Surely, they will only be fully erased from our psyches after years of intensive therapy.  

1. Never dive or jump into a pool or body of water.  You must wet the neck, ankles, wrists, and all other pulse-points before slowly wading in. The process, when done correctly, should take a minimum of fifteen minutes. Otherwise, you’ll surely die of shock. Like most of these rules, this one came with anecdotal “evidence.” A woman from my grandparents’ church marched in a parade on a hot day, jumped in a lake to cool off, and died of a heart attack. Or was it a woman from another town? Another country? Whatever. Details were few. With the benefit of hindsight and 75 years of collective wisdom, my brother and I now know that this story is nonsense. Did the parade route end at a lake? Was she marching in her bathing suit or did she just rend her garments before taking her fatal plunge? Did she have a preexisting medical condition? But here’s the thing – this hindsight and wisdom does nothing for us now. The damage has been done, and we both wince every time we see people jump in a pool without cooling their core temps.

2. Speaking of pools, most people are aware of the “no swimming within 20 minutes of eating” rule. For safety’s sake, my family extended that rule to baths. That’s right – no eating within 20 minutes of taking a bath. The death rate of bathtub drownings due to eating-induced cramping being so prevalent and all.  

3. Don’t assume that, following a large meal, you can safely choose to take a shower. Showers are discouraged until well into the teenage years, as, surely you’ve heard, slipping in the shower and breaking one’s neck is an epidemic.

4. Never sit in direct line of a breeze, whether natural or produced by a fan or air conditioner. A stiff neck and respiratory virus will most definitely ensue. Furthermore, don’t refer to anything as a “breeze”.  Regardless of temperature, knots, or barometric pressure, all air flow shall be referred to as “wind” or “draft”.

5. No going to bed with wet hair. Like a breeze, this practice ultimately leads to severe illness. I once casually mentioned to my mother that I did not dry my girls’ hair before bed and, based on her reaction, I spent the remainder of the evening waiting for her to show up at my door with a hair dryer and social worker.

6. Digestive systems of children under the age of ten are unable to tolerate untoasted bread. Serve your toddler a piece of bread and you’ll find a 60-something-year-old woman snatching it from their plate to throw it in the toaster.

7. Don’t ever look into a microwave. Oh I’m sorry, I suppose you want to develop cataracts.

8. Never wear sunglasses indoors. Cataracts aren’t bad enough for you? “Slur” your vision by wearing sunglasses in the living room – I dare you.

9. A hotdog at a baseball game will – more likely than not – cause sickness or death. Spend your childhood watching hundreds (thousands?) of people eating hotdogs and wondering why mankind is so reckless and depraved.

10. Nothing but ginger ale and saltines for 2 days after throwing up. Because the only thing worse than a norovirus is being systematically starved by your loved ones.

11. No writing on yourself with pen, because that would lead to blood poisoning. We were warned that coloring on our arms with a Bic was perilous, so it was safe to assume that getting an actual tattoo would be akin to freebasing heroin.  

12. Always drink a lukewarm glass of water after eating ice cream in order to prevent the shock to your digestive system. Because what kid wants the taste of mint chocolate chip lingering in their mouth?

13. No taking an outdoor nap on rock/stone/marble during the summer. The cool stone would cool half of your body while the other half would be hot from the air. The result? Permanent paralysis and/or nerve damage. Can we just take a minute to mull over the fact that this is an actual rule that someone thought up, believed, and taught to their children?

14. And finally, thanks to my cousin Cathy for reminding us of the cardinal rule – never do anything that makes you sweat.

Try as we might to argue the outrageousness of these rules, my grandmother and grandfather lived to 102 and 101 respectively. While the Mediterranean diet they strictly adhered to has been studied and touted immensely, I can’t help but wonder how much of their longevity they would have attributed to the avoidance of drafts.  I’m suspecting 80%.

Please comment below with any crazy rules your family had, if only to provide me and my brother with some sense of normalcy. Check back for a link to a GoFundMe page we will use to pay for our sessions with a psychoanalyst. Just kidding – Rule #15: those guys are quacks!

gregg and me
Like most Italian kids, we were allowed to risk exposure to “wind” in order to tend to tomato plants.

Raising Your Holiday Game

We are failing our children.  Do you realize that, with Easter’s passing, my children will not receive a bucket of candy until the final day of October?  Worse yet, unless one of them loses a tooth, a mythical creature will not enter my home until the arrival of Mother Goose, our Elf on the Shelf, in late November.  How are my children supposed to have a childhood filled with magic and wonder if they are to go over a month without a holiday that is celebrated with a stranger breaking into our home and leaving them gifts and high fructose corn syrup? Our children deserve better, which is why I have devised this handy schedule of mythical creature visits around holidays that have been deprived of their untapped potential for far too long.  

New Year’s Day

We’ve all watched the ball drop in Times Square, but this New Year’s, a jolly old soul who looks an awful lot like Dick Clark will be heading over to my place after the confetti has cleared in order to leave a package on the foot of my children’s beds. It will be filled with sugary cereals and video games that they can use to feed and entertain themselves while my husband and I nurse our hangovers in bed.  

Valentine’s Day

Valentine cards might be suitable for some parents, but why allow school to have all of the fun? Come February 14th, Cupid will be visiting our home, leaving his mark on all that he touches by  hiding conversation hearts in every corner and turning everything, from our cereal milk to our bath water, his signature red.  Sure, red dye might make your home look like a crime scene, but it’s all in the name of creating lifelong memories for your little ones.  What were you going to do you selfish twit, go out to dinner with your spouse?

Memorial Day

Can someone explain to me how our children are supposed to appreciate the sacrifices men and women have made for our country if no one gives them a gift that rings in the summer? This Memorial Day morning, my children will scurry outside in their pajamas, open up our backyard grill, and discover that a Union soldier has filled it with Freeze Pops, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, new bathing suits and sunscreen!

Flag Day

This year, my children will start their day with a game of capture the flag that will make the Hunger Games look like a Maypole event. The winning team earns a chest full of Bomb Pops – eat them before they melt! The losing team…wins the same. Because what’s better than a participation trophy? A participation gift that causes Type 2 diabetes, hyperactivity, and attention disorders.

Fourth of July

Parents, this is your day to wake up before dawn so that you can arrange for the ghost of Ben Franklin to visit your home before your children rise, leaving them Pop Rocks, sparklers, cherry bombs, and other explosive devices. Because nothing says the holidays like a visit to the ER.

Labor Day

Saying goodbye to summer isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely less painful when visited by Jimmy Hoffa. There’s a reason his body hasn’t been found yet – he’s alive and well and leaving my children a trail of chocolate coins that leads to a glorious discovery. My kids will go crazy for the briefcase full of cash that Jimmy leaves for them to buy their back-to-school wardrobe.  

Election Day

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, or as my kids call her, Bazooka Betty, doesn’t visit your house to supply your children with a canister full of rock hard bubble gum and freshly sharpened number 2 pencils? Oh, sorry, I didn’t know you were raising your kids to have a complete lack of respect for our electoral process.

Thanksgiving

We have allowed this holiday to be a day about gathering with family for the sole purpose of expressing gratitude for far too long. From now on, the Thanksgiving Pilgrim will be leaving a cornucopia of small gifts (like bicycles and iPads) for my children before throwing a turkey in the oven for our family to enjoy come nightfall. And don’t even get me started on Thanksgiving desserts. When a fruit and vegetable are the featured ingredients in your dessert, something is amiss. Move over apple and pumpkin pie, the Thanksgiving Pilgrim will also be bringing tasty treats made exclusively of corn syrup and red dye – all in the shape of feathers!    

Do your children a favor and make their childhood magical by teaching them that a holiday is not a holiday at all unless they are receiving gifts and childhood obesity from someone other than their parents.

You’re welcome.