10 Tips For Surviving Your Kids’ First Summer at Sleepaway Camp

1 Comment

First Summer at Sleepaway Camp

The contract is signed, the payment has been made and there is no turning back. Panic, fear and anxiety set in and you can’t breathe. Your child is going to sleepaway camp.

Sleepaway camp can be a rite of passage, and the decision to send your child away is a big one. The first summer, (and the preceding months) is especially big. Kids learn responsibility without a parent rushing to solve every crisis. They take care of themselves and work things out on their own. My son, Ben, was ready last year, but letting go of my first-born proved much harder on me than him. I’d left work a decade ago to focus on my kids and one was already leaving me. It was a mini “empty-nest syndrome.”

When D Day (departure day) arrived, Ben showed his first sign of fear, “I’m not sure I can get on the bus.” The voice in my head shouted “stay home, don’t ever leave me, I’ll take care of you forever,” but I got my shit together, told him all the other new kids were anxious and once he got there it would be fine. Slightly terrified, he got on the bus, waved goodbye and he was gone. I then did what any sane, rational mom does; I took daughter to a 9AM movie, got her popcorn, M&M’s and cried as she enjoyed Monsters University.

I won’t pretend I didn’t spend all day for two weeks hitting refresh on my computer looking for pictures of him and analyzing every picture posted for signs of happiness or misery. I won’t pretend I didn’t check my mailbox every day waiting for that first letter. And I’ll admit that I cried when I did get that first letter, and every one after. That’s more or less how it goes for seven weeks.

In the end we all emerged from battle war-torn but better for having served. Ben had a great time and grew in ways both expected and unanticipated. My daughter missed him but mostly enjoyed her time at home alone, queen of the castle, and recipient of well-needed second child attention. It was a good summer. If you’re where I was last year, here are some tips for making the transition easier for all of you.

Before the summer…

1. Picking a Camp. There are countless camps to agonize over, options a plenty: co-ed, single sex, close to home, far from home, special hockey program, state of the art gymnastics facility, lake, pool, split session or full session. A friend/owner of a sleep away camp wisely told me, “At the end of the day, they are all just cabins in the woods.” Decide on your top “musts,” tour a few camps and then trust your gut. As long as a camp falls in line with a few of your top priorities, after that, they are all cabins in the woods.

2. Try and connect with a kid in your area before camp starts. Having a familiar face helps and it’s also great to get the real scoop on camp. Returning campers can clue you in to a few key things you need to get that no camp packet or online guide will tell you. Do this a few weeks before camp so you can stick the extra stuff into his duffle bags and he won’t have to carry it on the bus.

3. You will be given a list of camp essentials, follow this list and do not get anything new that you absolutely don’t need to. Stained socks from baseball season, that almost too small fleece that won’t fit in September, perfect! There is no guarantee what will come home and the condition it will come home in. The exception to this rule is the ONE trend that all the kids will have. Last year it was Nike Elite socks. If it’s reasonable for you, let your kid can be in on it. Don’t agonize over the rest of it. Which shower caddy you choose really doesn’t matter, trust me.

Once they’re there…

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. SPF, showers, nail clipping, hair brushing… camp moms/directors will make sure 85% of this happens. My son came home with a little more sun on his face than ever before, dry patches and an overall stink. I just power washed him as I did every single item that made it back and all came out smelling fresh, if a little worse for the wear.

5. They will get skinny, they’re eating, calm down. At camp, kids run around for 7 hours straight, 7 days a week for 7 weeks. There isn’t enough fuel to keep up with the activity. If your child has an eating issue talk to the director. Otherwise, counselors will let you know if your kid isn’t eating well and in the absence of that alert, don’t freak out. Or, freak out but now you’re prepped for it. As soon as they get home they will gain weight. Ben came home with a huge head and rail thin body. He promptly gained 10 lbs. and was back to his fighting shape.

On Visiting Day…

6. Ask the right questions. Are you lonely, when do you get the loneliest? How is your bed, are you the first to fall asleep or the last? What are your friends like, are you left out? How is the food, are the counselors cool? Do you cry, how much do you miss us? If I let you come home would you? Do you talk to anyone? It’s SO tempting to poke the bear. DON’T. The first words that popped out of my mouth after 3 weeks apart were “are you ok?” “Yeah mom, I’m cool.” He gave me thumbs up and walked back on the field. All I needed to know was summed up in two words, “I’m cool.” There will be a time to get the answers to all your questions and it’s a few weeks after they get home, not the first visiting day.

7. You will be tempted to turn your car into a mobile Dylan’s Candy Bar. Don’t. Find out what your camp policy is regarding candy and crap. Some let kids keep it for a week, some take it away the next day. Bring your kids favorites and bring one thing for the bunk to share, a Cookie Cake is a great idea. You can buy one at the market or go nuts and have a bakery custom make it in camp colors. A little something small for your kid is nice too. A new baseball hat or sports jersey can pep a kid up.

8. Do NOT inspect the cubbies or bathrooms. They will be a mess and they will be gross. I have a feeling the girls bunks may fare better than the boys but it’s all going to be a shit show. Spare yourself.

9. Leave fast. When the bulk of parents start to leave, grab a bunkmate and a counselor. Hug goodbye near the bunk and leave, looking back only once. We were a classic rookie family, making a classic rookie mistake: We had let it linger. It’s easier for you to leave him than for him to be left.

Back at home…

10. I’ve heard some kids have a bitch of a time upon re-entry and that the only thing that helps is time and space. Ben arrived home like he never left. As much as I missed him, after all the agonizing, it slipped away and 48 hours after he came back I was ready to ship him out again.

Finally, a month or two after camp ends is the time to have the talk about everything you wanted to know. Over dinner one October night you can finally unleash all the question you bottled up. The experience is still fresh enough in his mind to answer 75% of your questions. 74% don’t even matter. Ask if they want to go back; it’s the only question you need answered. Ben’s response? “Oh yeah, I’m going back.”

Sleepaway camp isn’t just a great way for a kid to take some safe space and gain independence, it’s that for a parent as well. And you will survive.

Promise.

10 Reasons It’s Awesome Having Twins

62 Comments

1. The 2 for 1 deal. I did not enjoy pregnancy and counted down the days until it was over and I could shed the 75, yes 75 pounds that I gained and feel like I had some control over my body again. Having twins is incredibly hard, but knowing I’m not going to be pregnant again (or at least for a very, very long time) is a big plus.

2. The attention. Being pregnant with (and being a mom to) twins, you feel like a celebrity.When they’re babies, everyone you walk by will enthusiastically exclaim, “Is it twiiiiiins?!?!” The answer to this question is so painfully obvious that some could find it annoying, however when you are stuck in the house with twin babies feeling like you have absolutely no idea what you are doing day after day after day, any human interaction feels like a win. Especially one where you play the rock star.

Related Post: The General Public on Twins

3. Loving your husband even more. A dad of twins is essentially a second mom. At 3AM when you are each semi-awake with the twins and are both covered in equal amounts of milk, poop, drool and probably your own tears, you realize wow, I love this guy even more than the day he was tearing up the dance floor to “Take me Home Tonight” at our wedding.

4. Photos Opps. I mean, hello?

twins

5. Double the milestones. So far raising twins has been hard. Like harder than running a marathon hard (I have run a marathon and trust me this is wayyy harder. Some days I honestly feel like I would enjoy running 26.2 miles over caring for twins). But of course, there are moments that make everything worth it. First smiles, rolls, steps, hugs, words. And the greatest part is, if you miss the chance to catch one of these spectacular moments on camera, you have a second chance with the other kid usually only days away!

6. Best Buds. I have not experienced this one yet (even though people keep telling me they will be “instant playmates!”) since right now they mostly try to grab, bite, knock each other over and cause general harm to one another. But I’m ready and waiting for the day that they play peacefully together while I sit on the couch and watch anything on Bravo while drinking a hot coffee.

Related Post: The Twin Diagnoses

7. The Ultimate Excuse. Can’t fit into any of your pre-pregnancy clothes 18 months later? Does your stomach look like road map that a tractor drove over? Haven’t so much as looked at your husband in 3 days? Having take out for dinner 5 nights in a row? Don’t want to go to that wedding shower? Ignore all phone calls? Cancel plans last minute? It’s fine, you have twins!

8. The Twin Bond. My guys just started talking a lot, and in the morning they wake up saying, “Hi brubber!” from crib to crib. Holy cuteness. I mean, come on! I melt.

9. The Kindness of Others. I live in the northeast which is not known for being the friendliest of places. (Hello, did you hear about the winter we just had?!) That being said, it’s humbling how much family, friends, and strangers are willing to help when it comes to twins. And we’ll take it.

10. Endless Entertainment. Twins are Expensive with a capital E. But the good news? There’s no need to pay for expenses like cable TV or movies at theaters. Who can beat this?

5 Pregnancy Milestones (You Won’t Find In Books)

48 Comments

Pregnancy-Milestones

1. The first day you wake up and don’t feel the urge to vomit. There’s no denying it: The first trimester is a real bitch on your appetite. After a few too many trips to the porcelain gods, you eventually learn to subsist on crackers, toast and ginger ale, pathetically nibbling on them like some sad supermodel while your friends and partner nosh on pad thai and pizza (jerks). However, one day you will wake up and feel fine! Actually, you’ll feel more than fine. You’ll feel absolutely, positively, fantastic—and ravenous, like a bear that just woke from hibernation. Instead of beelining to the bathroom, you’ll sprint to the kitchen in a state of pure mania and start inhaling anything, and everything, in sight. Bacon-wrapped pancakes with a side of chocolate-dipped potato chips? Sounds delightful! Dig in, girl. You deserve it.

2. The first time you slip on maternity jeans and have a slight pantgasm due to the sheer comfort and freedom. You’ve been trying to get away with your normal pants for a while. Maybe you’ve even bought some of those belly-band-belt-extender-thingamabobs to squeeze a few more weeks out of your pre-prego pants. However, there eventually comes a day when your desire to actually breathe whittles away your last ounce of pride and you give in to those dreaded two words: maternity pants.

The funny thing is that once you do give in, you realize that maternity pants are the SHIT! I mean they really, truly are. The first time you slip those bad boys on is a magical and wondrous moment. Your belly runneth over, but it doesn’t matter because those elastic panels are more comforting and forgiving than your very own mother. In this euphoric state, you may even feel the urge to kiss your pants (and if you’re still in the privacy of the dressing room, by all means do).

Related post: A Guide to Your Pregnancy by Trimester

3. The first time you have to walk away from the stench of your own fart. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned—or a pregnant woman who’s just passed gas. Seriously, those things are lethal. They should come with a warning label.

I remember one time my husband and I were babysitting his cousin’s 16-month-old son. At one point, I really had to let one rip, so I did. After releasing my ass bomb, I meandered to the other side of the room to evade my own odor. Within seconds, my husband wrinkled his nose and said, “Oh, man! I think Dylan just took a massive dump in his diaper.” Now, I could have tried to blame it on the baby. It would have been so easy. However, I fessed up to the fart. My husband stared at me with such a horrified look of utter disbelief, followed by (thankfully) an uproarious laugh. He honestly couldn’t believe I, his formerly hot wife, was capable of emitting such a stench—and frankly, neither could I. It was disturbing.

If—wait, let me rephrase that, once—you start having epic pregnancy farts, my best piece of advice is this: have a sense of humor about it. Maybe buy a whoopee cushion and play pranks with your significant other.

4. The first time you step into the shower, grab your razor, and realize—shit—you can’t see your va-jay-jay anymore. This is a slightly terrifying moment, despite the obvious warning signs of its eventuality. Before this pubic milestone hits, you’ve usually been hunching over for weeks, contorting yourself in all sorts of positions to catch a glimpse at your hoo-ha, then feverishly weed-whacking it before you lose a visual contact (or your balance).

So what should you do once your belly blocks your lady bits? Well, if you’d like to take a gamble on your muscle memory, you could say a silent prayer and swing at it blind. Or, you could invest in an anti-fog shower mirror. Lastly, you could go just say screw it and go au naturel. (Maybe just warn your partner ahead of time. Then again, don’t. You can do whatever the hell you want! You’re the one that’s pregnant, after all.)

Related post: The Six Stages of Pregnancy

5. The first time your nipples leak. Yes, in addition to your boobs getting bigger and your areolas taking on a darker color (and possibly more amoebic shape), you may look down one day and notice a wet spot or two on your bra—or worse, your actual shirt. So what the heck is this foreign liquid spilling out of your nipples? It’s called colostrum and is basically nature’s way of testing out the plumbing before Game Day. If you find yourself with two leaky faucets, you might want to invest in some nipple pads. But hey, on the bright side, guess what? Your plumbing works! Congratulations (sort of).

Ain’t pregnancy grand?

The Danger of Swearing Around Children

112 Comments

kids-swearing

Me to Bridget (age 9) when I fail as a mother: Honey, I’m sorry I lost it with daddy in front of you today.

Bridget: You mean when you yelled you were sick of his fucking napping all the time while you slave away?

Me: Yes, I did use the F-word and it was very wrong, but I never say that in front of you.

Bridget: That’s the fourth time you’ve said the F-word in front of me.

Me: That’s not accurate.

Bridget: You yelled What the fuck?! at daddy that time at the train station at The Grand Canyon in front of everyone.

Me: Because your father just had to “quickly buy food” before the train left and we almost missed it and it was the only train out of that godforsaken Grand Canyon where hundreds of people die every year, as documented by Over The Edge: Deaths in Grand Canyon, when they get too close to the edge for a photo and the wind knocks them over and they fall five thousand feet. Let’s not mince words, your father almost killed us.

Bridget: And you said the F-word that time you, me and Clare were in the McDonald’s drive-through when you were going to buy us McFlurries and Clare was kind of mopey and you said you were “so fucking tired “of throwing us Harry Potter birthday parties and assembling our Tiny Tykes swing sets and cooking everything without cheese because we hate it, when we couldn’t even be nice to you.

Me: What children don’t like cheese?

Bridget: And then you called me a little fucker when we were on the subway train going from the airport toParis.

Me: I absolutely did not call you a little fucker, I called you a little shit because I thought you told me to “shut up.”

Bridget: But I didn’t tell you to “shut up,” I told you to “stop it” when you were trying to make me laugh when I was tired.

Me: But I thought you said “shut up.”

Bridget: But I said “stop it.”

Me: Well who can hear “stop it” when someone says it so pitiful-quiet after I’m taking them to Paris where they get to eat macaroons and ride on a ferris wheel over the Seine. I mean who can hear that after they haven’t slept on a twelve-hour flight to reach a destination that will make some fucking childhood memories?!

Bridget: That’s five times you’ve said the F-word in front of me.

Me: I consider that entrapment.

(The fucking end.)

The Daily Costume Changes of a Toddler

15 Comments

toddler-clothing

6:54 AM: Baby sports fashionable owl pajama set from classy Carters line. Baby is so excited to greet new day that she unloads her bladder all over them.

7:03 AM: Change baby into onesie bearing the name of my alma mater. Feel this applies too much academic pressure on wee one. Change her into onesie that says “Diva Brat.” Husband views onesie. Has heart attack.

7:28AM: Feed baby breakfast. Baby sneezes while ingesting a jar of green beans. Change baby into a bright floral t-shirt and matching leggings. Husband comments that she looks like she belongs on a cruise ship.

9:12 AM: Surprise visit from friend. Quickly change baby into outfit friend gave us: Pink velour tracksuit with misspelled version of baby’s name on it.

10:32 AM: Friend leaves. Immediately change baby back into cruise ship attire. Burn track suit.

11:14 AM: Baby consumes a bottle of bubbles, then spits it back up. Try to change baby into a onesie, but she spots her old Halloween costume (Tinkerbell wings and nylon skirt) and insists on wearing it.

Related Post: 25 Ways To Annoy A Toddler

12:14PM: Baby still wearing Halloween costume.

1:14PM: Still.

2:02PM: Sharpie is very hard to get off nylon.

2:28PM: Manage to wrestle off wings and put her down for nap.

2:32PM: Worry that baby will be too cold; add wool pants, socks, and a hoodie.

2:40PM Husband comments that her room is approximately 90 degrees, and I will be arrested for child endangerment.  I remove the socks.

4:00PM: Baby has a birthday party to attend. Change her into a cute sundress with a tulle skirt and sequined heart decal.

Related Post: 25 Ways You Know You’re a Parent to a Toddler

4:05PM: Husband comments her outfit is perfect…for dancing on a Mardi Gras parade float. I ignore him and add bedazzled sunglasses.

4:28PM: At birthday party, baby mistakes Mickey Mouse cake for stuffed animal and hugs it.  While baby tries to lick her dress clean, change her into the only other thing in the diaper bag: her bathing suit.

5:46PM: Strip baby naked for bath. Baby is happiest she’s been all day.

7:23PM: Change baby into pajamas and put her to sleep. Realize that I have been wearing the same green bean-stained, urine-soaked, cake-covered shirt all day.

This is How Dreams are Shattered

263 Comments

family1

When Hubby and I were first married and would attend mass on Sundays, we would always find ourselves behind a couple who had five sons. Even though I wanted a big family, I would nudge Hubby every time and say, “FIVE boys…that’s my nightmare…five boys.”

I eventually learned that the mother of these actually very well-behaved five boys had suffered through cancer and lost a leg. My new thought became, “Cancer…that’s my nightmare.”

Five years ago this month, my nightmare became a reality when my five-year-old son was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

In the spring of 2009, I was four-fifths of the way to my perceived nightmare. I had four little boys under the age of six…and I was going out of my mind! Not that I would have ever admitted that to anyone, because, after all, it was my choice to keep having babies. But their energy, their “busy”ness, their movement, everything was becoming overwhelming to me in a way I had never imagined. In the weeks leading up to the diagnosis, my nightly prayers would include, ‘God please, help me, let something change so I can be a better mom.’

Things did change, but in the worst possible way.

The morning of Wednesday, April 22, 2009 was like any typical morning at our house with toaster waffles and Playhouse Disney on in the background. That week, everyone in my house had been sick with a tummy bug, so my nerves were already frazzled. My oldest was still in bed; so I figured it was his turn to be sick, and I let him sleep. While my 15-month-old was busy destroying the house, I was packing lunches for an Earth Day picnic my oldest suggested we take.

It became later in the morning, Playhouse Disney was still on, every kitchen cabinet was emptied, and Lil’ C was throwing tantrums. As I took him upstairs to his bed for his morning nap, I realized that one of my five-year-old twins, Joey, was still in bed. He had been up and been to the bathroom, but had returned to bed. At some point, he had even thrown up on the floor next to his bed.

I attempted to wake him and ask him if he knew he had thrown up on the floor. His answers were slurred and groggy. He couldn’t seem to look at me, and was instead looking off to the left of me. And his body was jerking in a way I had never seen before.

It slowly dawned on me that something was seriously wrong, so I called Hubby at work. Choking back tears, I said to the receptionist, “Can you get him? I think there’s something really wrong with our son.”

He came to the phone right away, and as I described what was going on with Joey, Hubby slowly suggested maybe I should call the pediatrician. I kept talking and kept watching Joey’s vacant stare and jerking body, and I realized, I have to call 911.

The minutes that I waited to hear the sirens approach my house were agonizing, but soon the paramedics arrived and swarmed in – four from the fire truck and two from the paramedic truck- and began to work. First was a barrage of questions for me: Did he have any pre-existing medical conditions? Could he have ingested anything? Had he recently hit his head? Had he recently been ill? The answer to all of their questions was no, except for the last one. They concluded that it was probably a febrile seizure. That brought me temporary relief; but then again, I knew he hadn’t had a fever.

My dad arrived to watch the other boys while they were putting Joey on the stretcher, and I was relieved I could ride in the ambulance with him. I remember thinking I wished I had my camera because Joey would get a kick out of his ambulance ride once he was better.

En route to the local Children’s Hospital, the EMT and I chatted about our kids and preschools until Joey’s seizures became worse, and the sirens were turned on. At this point I knew there was something more seriously wrong with him.

Once at the hospital more questions: Had he hit his head? Yes, I decided to tell them about his hard fall three months earlier at hockey skating lessons. That had to be it, right?

Please let that be it.

He was taken to get a CT scan, and then, in deadpan, the ER doctor said to me, “Well, bad news, it’s a tumor.”

My mind immediately started racing. I could still hear the doctor talking, but it was as if he was at the end of a very long tunnel, and I couldn’t make out anything he was saying. Instead I was thinking, We’re supposed to be on a picnic for Earth Day right now, a picnic Joey planned. We were going to clean up the park. How does a little boy who can plan that have a tumor?

“How does a five-year-old get a brain tumor?” I blurted out. The doctor didn’t respond. He just turned his attention on Joey once again.

I called Hubby at work and blurted the news to him. There was a millisecond pause, as if he was trying to wrap his mind around it before he said, “I’m coming.”

People tend to say that rapid fire, stressful events “were a blur,” but I remember every agonizing moment after this. I remember meeting the neurosurgeon, waiting for the biopsy, the details of Joey’s ICU room, the parade of nurses and residents, the exact way my stomach felt and how my knees buckled under me when we learned his cancer was inoperable, terminal.

This is something no parent sees coming. Three weeks before his seizure, he was a happy, energetic, creative child with a clean bill of health from the pediatrician who had performed his kindergarten check-up. But yet, there were the excruciating headaches he had gotten at least three times, so severe that he had vomited each time. I wrote them off as migraines or allergies and was just getting ready to call the pediatrician about them. Obviously, it wouldn’t have mattered. The surgeon surmised that the tumor had probably been growing shortly after birth.

That day five years ago changed our lives forever. Joey lost his battle to the cancer beast on June 10, 2010, so that “crapiversary” is upon us as well. He was just six years old. I feel like there is less laughter and exuberance in our house. I feel like Joey’s brothers don’t know what to do without him. And sometimes I feel like his dad and I don’t know how to be happy without him.

Three months after Joey died, I found out I was pregnant again. I was scared to have another baby. I didn’t think I would be strong enough to handle it, but I was. In many ways, this little baby has healed us. He is a tiny little Joey reminder for us, and perhaps the answer to my prayers for something to change. Without him, I am certain I would still be in the deep depression that I suffered after Joey’s death, and my family would be even more shattered than it already has been.

I can’t really say if losing Joey has made me a better mother or not. It does make me more conscious of the things that used to trouble me. Messes on the floor, noise, broken toys, lost shoes, and general chaos don’t bother as much anymore. Today, the perfect family is about love and laughter and remembering that we have each other right now, in this moment. I choose to find happiness in small places and instances because those are what really matter. There will always be an ache in my heart where I miss my sweet boy, but I force myself to think positive thoughts about the future. I try to ignore the feeling that the family that grew out of my dreams – the family that was once picture perfect to me – has been shattered irreparably.

6 Unlikely Perks of Motherhood

21 Comments

reasons-to-have-kids

Motherhood comes with a ton of hardships like sleepless nights and diaper blow-outs. Fortunately, it also comes with some perks you might not have expected. Obviously, there’s the whole endless love part and hugs and cute baby onesies, but here are a few other benefits that are pretty sweet, too…

1. Tax refunds. Upon my first post-kid visit to TurboTax.com, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the universe (er, well, the government) wanted to monetarily acknowledge all the hard work I’d been doing in the baby maintenance department that year. I typed in my new addition and BAM- I just doubled my tax refund! Of course, it didn’t come close to covering L&D costs, diapers, or my many trips to the therapist (kidding, kind of), but I guess that’s a bone to pick with the insurance company. Yay for totally awesome tax refunds that make life with kids a wee bit more manageable!

2. Blaming your love handles on your last pregnancy. Even if you were pregnant like five years ago, you can totally still blame your undesirable parts on baby-making. Complain about them if you want- “babies ruined my body” or revel in them, but either way, the battle scars and tiger stripes are not your fault!

3. An excuse to get out of pretty much anything. Between nap schedules, lugging a bunch of crap everywhere you go, or dropping half your paycheck on a babysitter, trying to make plans as a parent sucks. Luckily, people with kids can relate. A simple “we don’t have a babysitter” or “Johnny threw up” should be all it takes to get you out of pretty much anything, ever. Your friends who don’t have kids will probably always think that you’re lying, and sometimes you might be, but usually, you just wish you were. Either way, you get to stay home with your wine and PJs because going out is so 2009 (or whenever you decided to have kids).

Related post: 28 Reasons Kids are Awesome

4. It’s almost acceptable that your house is a pig-sty. Unless you have a dear, old cleaning lady named “Urma” who lives in your guest room and is basically a human dust-buster, your house is probably a disaster. It’s okay, mine is too. I try to clean it up but the truth is, I’d have to spend my life nonstop cleaning in order to make my house even mildly resemble something “presentable” and I’m just not prepared to spend every waking moment like that. You shouldn’t either. Life is too short. I have kids and a messy house. Besides, does anyone really care besides my mother?  

5. All of the really delicious kinds of chicken nuggets on the market. There used to be, like, one or two kinds of chicken nuggets in the world. As a kid, I thought they were awesome but they were probably just ground up guts dipped in bread and toxic oil. These days, nuggets are way more adult-friendly and some of them are pretty healthy, too. I just have to make sure I buy enough so I don’t accidentally eat half my kid’s dinner as my own appetizer.

 6. Exploiting your kids for millions of dollars on the internet. I’ve yet to hit the million dollar mark, but there are tons of ways to exploit your kids for financial gain these days! Our generation has the ability to turn even the ugliest of moments into a blog post, a book or at least a Facebook status update worth a few “likes”. But there are tons of outlets for you or your kid to be the next sensation! Toddler having a tantrum? No prob. Just break out the iPhone and YouTube that shit.

See? So many reasons to be thankful for your kids!

Related post: Five Reasons to Have “One More Baby”

On Moving…and Moving On

46 Comments

baby-steps

We’re selling our home and moving. I know what you’re thinking. You’re totally jealous, because packing up a house you’ve lived in for six years, and while three kids are living in it, sounds like your idea of a good time.

I can assure you—it’s a mixed bag.

“The goal is to make it look like the prospective buyers’ home, not yours,” a realtor matter-of-factly advises.

I get the carpets cleaned. I scrub the dirt off the walls. The nail polish streaks, the grimy handprints, the errant crayon markings—it all (thankfully) comes off.

I straighten the closets, donate furniture, toss applesauce and breakfast bars long past their prime, gather and organize dozens of stray coins (husband’s), Lego pieces (kids’), and travel-sized moisturizers (mine). I tuck away the baby clothes and sleep sacks my kids have outgrown and we no longer need, until…

I unearth memories.

I find an old picture my husband took of me hours before he proposed. My eyes are cast downward as I stare intently at a VHS (!) case in a video rental store (remember those?), deep in thought over what to watch that night (oh our twenties!), flat-stomached (remember that?) and content. I look at it for a long minute. For some reason, I leave it out on my dresser.

I put away picture frames holding images of the boys—some showing those sweet, plump-cheeked baby faces I can hardly remember, others the playful smirks of a toddler.

I hide the kids’ favorite bedtime stories in drawers, pack up the “daily sheets” chronicling their years at day care—I’ve saved every one. I put the water table out by the curb on trash day, wistfully recalling the fun the boys had playing with it. This winter’s cold made it crack right down the middle.

I purge my closet and get rid of the skinny jeans. It’s liberating. I finally trash my law school outlines, but I keep that naively optimistic college paper on The Social Contract. Tucked away under the bed, of course.

I part with the rocking chair my mother had when I was a baby. After all, one arm is broken. It’s time.

I tidy and scrub and clean and conceal.

I try to make it seem like we never lived here. But we did.

This is the carpet on which my sons did “tummy time,” learned to crawl, and then walk. These are the hallways we paced to soothe our newborns to sleep. That’s the roof deck we ran to when my feisty firstborn would only settle in the fresh summer evening air. There’s the front stoop I sat on to pass the lonely, lovely days of my maternity leaves.

See that scratch on the back of the kids’ bedroom door? That’s from when my son kicked it so hard during a tantrum that he knocked it right into the bookcase. See those marks on the bottom of the kitchen cabinets? They’re from when my boys rode their bikes along the length of our first floor to blow off steam before bed or during the long, endless winter days when we couldn’t get outside.

See this staircase? That’s where I lay when I was in labor for the first time. From that top step, we counted and measured the intensity of those sweet, early contractions—the ones that started it all.

That front door? We walked through it with each of our babies as we brought them home from the hospital four blocks away. That rocking chair in the corner? I nursed all three of my sons there while “Baby Mine” played softly in the background.

Now we move on. It’ll be good for us, I know. A new state, new schools, new jobs, new friends, a new chapter. It’s good to have a fresh start sometimes.

But oh how I’ll miss these playgrounds! These familiar streets. The way my kids know the way from home to school by heart. How we can hardly make it to the corner without passing a friend or neighbor—how those have become one and the same.

But as I’ve cleaned and purged, I’ve learned. It’s not about these four walls. It’s not the house that makes it a home. What we’ve created here—this family, these memories—they’re coming with us. It’s not about the things, or even the places. It all makes you who you are. And you take that with you wherever you go.

We’ll do our best to make this house look like someone else’s home. For now, though? It’s ours. And in some way, it always will be.

The Joys of Working From Home

47 Comments

Working-From-Home

DING! It’s hard to tell which notification just came through over my phone, above the noise of Monster Math Squad and the rat-a-tat of my fingernails on the keyboard. All I know for sure is that I have about six million more things to do today, and only have time for about three and a half before the evening bus runs, bringing home my 12 and 13 year olds. And then it will be on to homework and supper preparations, and then bath time and bed time, with more than a moderate amount of refereeing all the kids thrown in for good measure. If I’m lucky and determined enough, I might even squeeze in a bite to eat while it’s warm, and a hug or even a kiss from my husband when he comes home from work.

“Momma, do you need to check your emails?” sing-songs my adorable four-year-old with widened eyes. Bless him. He probably knows more about the notifications on an iPhone than any adult in my circle of acquaintance. He should; he hears them enough. Now if only he were capable of answering any of them.

I had thought when I decided to work from home that it was the best idea in the history of EVER. “What’s not to love?” I said to my oh-so-naive self, three years ago. I get to have a career that I love, bank a paycheck, stay home with my babies, set my own hours, be here when the kids need me, keep my resume from going stagnant while still not missing a moment of these precious years with the lights of my life…It’s the perfect solution!

I’ll pause right here and be really, really clear: It is fairly fantastic, and I wouldn’t trade a second of it for all the salt in the ocean. I know that I am extremely lucky to be working from home. I love my kids, I love my job, and I love our life.

But let me explain to you why it’s not so perfect…

I work from home with a four year old. I could probably just stop right there, and if you have ever spent any quality time with toddlers or pre-schoolers while trying to complete a NON-child-related task, I’ve pretty much said all you need to hear.

Back in the early days, I tried to set up a home office in the spare bedroom. YES! I said to myself. I’ll set my stuff up in here, away from the TV, away from the kids, where I can have some peace and privacy, and get some REAL work done. That lasted about a month or so. No matter how much I wanted it to, I just couldn’t schedule myself a block longer than half an hour away from something that needed done, and I really can’t get anything meaningful accomplished in 30 minutes. I didn’t want my toddler unsupervised for ten minutes, let alone hour blocks! And so I thought to myself, I’ll just work while he’s napping or playing or watching TV. Newsflash: They don’t nap forever. They won’t play by themselves forever. And there’s only so much TV that I can conscientiously allow him to watch at a time. And so I resolved that I’d work sporadically during the day, while spending time with the little one and doing housework, and then quality time with the rest of the family in the evenings, and just get the bulk of real work done at night after everyone goes to bed.

And here we are. I haven’t had a date with my pillow before 2 or 3 am in over a year, and it’s usually closer to 4 am, although I have been known to still be up when the birds start singing. I subsist on caffeine and nicotine and Google Drive. I can’t remember the last time I spent any meaningful amount of time in bed, erm, doing laundry, because my husband has to get up early to go to a “real” job. We get sitters and we have date nights, but I really miss going to bed as a couple. Sleeping or not, there’s comfort in not bedding down alone every morning as the sun comes up while everyone else is getting ready to start their day.

Need I even mention the friends, family, and neighbors who think that working from home is synonymous with having loads of free time to do whatever, whenever you choose? Or these precious gems:

What do you DO all day?
Why do you stay up so late?
Can’t you just do that tomorrow?
If I were home all the time like you, my house would be immaculate!
I wish I got to sleep as late as I wanted!
I wish I got paid to sit at home all day!
Must be nice to get to work in your pajamas!

…Ok, I’ll give you that last one. That shit is pretty sweet. I have been asked by my kids why I’m putting on nice clothes and makeup, only to reply to them that Mom has a video conference for work and doesn’t really want her boss to see her looking like the ‘before’ picture in a makeover shoot.

Working from home is not some clever euphemism for lazing around at home with the cherubs while still drawing a salary. If you want to get paid, you have to churn out real work, just like at a “real” job. Just because I don’t have to drive across town to an office building and punch a time clock doesn’t mean that I’m not a productive member of working society. And just because my sleeping hours aren’t ‘normal’ sleeping hours doesn’t mean a damn thing either. (Do people throw that at night shift workers? I just don’t get that, and never have.)

I could probably go on and on, but the bottom line is that while it all seems like the best of every world, I still feel like I’m failing something somewhere, trying to do too much all at the same time. I can’t fully focus on my child as much as I think I should, because work needs to be done; I can’t fully focus on my work as much as I think I should, because my child needs my attention; and both need to take a time out when the dryer buzzes or we won’t have any clean towels at bath time! I’m just always on the clock. And, although I do feel like I’m always slighting something because of the hectic mess that is my life, I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. I thrive on chaos and wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I actually had any real downtime.

Oh, wait. Yes, I would. Sleep. It’s called sleep, if I remember correctly. It rhymes with “heaven” and tastes like cotton candy. I’m sure I’ll get around to that in time, but right now, it’s almost daylight- time to get everyone up for work and school and start breakfast and throw in some laundry before I call it a night. Err, morning. Whatever.

Making The Beds

92 Comments

bedding

Some days I am a halfway decent parent and human being. SOME days. And, some days, I am appalled that any hospital let me leave its premises with a human infant…four times.

Today was the latter.

It has been awhile since I last changed sheets. Maybe during the last ice age. 1 queen size, two sets of bunk beds and a crib make that, let’s see, 2 + 4 and carry the 5 x 500 pillow pets and 15 stray socks found where sheet meets mattress = It’s a lot of bedding, ok?

I avoid this chore like exercise and volunteer committees.

I was lovingly placing the finishing touches on the 3 year old’s bottom bunk when my 8 year old said, “Mommy, can you make my bed too?”

And I said, “Of course sweetie! Your bed is next.”

And I was so very proud of myself for the next 3 minutes…until…

I attempted my climb to the top bunk which may as well have been Mount Everest. The top bunk is not built for Mom thighs. The ladder mocked me. “Oh, look…the big one is trying to climb us. Look guys, she can’t even figure it out. Seriously, she’s going to slip again.” So, when I reached the summit, imagine my shock.

It was like prison up there.

No sheet. 15 books under her pillow. No fitted sheet. No actual sheet. Did you hear me…NO SHEETS. And, we could talk about the mattress, but, I don’t want to. Because, it’s not even a mattress. It was a toddler bed pad – split into three separate sections. It’s thin and oh my God, I am the worst.

I said, “Ummm, you don’t have any sheets. How long have you been without sheets?”

She said, “I don’t know. A while, I think.”

Related post: Bunk Beds Are Evil

I said, “Why are you sleeping on the thin bed pads? How did this happen?”

She said, “I think something happened when you were fixing the beds last time. I think you couldn’t finish? I don’t know. I don’t remember. It was a while ago.”

Her memoir, “I don’t remember. It was a while ago.” is sure to be the new Mommy Dearest.

NO MORE SHEETS. EVER!

The only thing missing up there was a metal cup for her to rattle against the bed guard.

Don’t worry, it gets better, because the unused top bunk of my son’s bed was luxuriously appointed with a double mattress, an eggshell mattress topper, sheets, two pillows and several blankets so that the invisible person who sleeps there can get the good night’s sleep they so richly deserve.

I spent the next 2 hours dragging mattresses and fluffing pillows and rearranging bedding. I tucked corners and put the softest sheets I could find on poor Cinderella’s bed.

How did I miss this? For weeks *cough…months*. How is it possible? Right, the ladder. That bastard.

I give kisses at the bottom of the bed. Nobody puts baby in a corner, unless it’s the corner of an unmade prison cot bunk bed.

Upside: I walked away with a new appreciation for my daughter. That girl is the opposite of a diva. She never complained. Not once. She never asked for a sheet. She never complained that her mattress pads were uncovered and probably drifting apart every night. She never balked or fussed or did anything but kiss us goodnight and climb up to her totally barren wasteland of a bed.

The old fable says that a princess would be able to feel a pea under a stack of dozens of mattresses, but, I’m pretty sure a real princess would do exactly what my daughter has done – kissed her family goodnight and made the best of things.

So, despite my utter failings and flailing, we have ourselves a bona fide princess.

I hope she marries royalty. We could all use some Egyptian cotton up in here.

You Have a Good Looking Cervix and Other Positive Reinforcement

37 Comments

little-girl

The other day, someone said I had a good-looking cervix. (Okay, it was my OB/GYN.) But still, “Your cervix looks good,” coming from someone who spends her day assessing cervixes (cervices?) sounded like pretty high praise, especially considering the fact that I didn’t even try to make my cervix look nice. Before I could respond with a casually humble, “Oh, thanks! Just born that way!” she went on to say, “Yes, it looks completely normal for someone who has had three children.”

Oh.

It was one of those compliments.

Like the time my four-year old commented on my “pretty-smelling perfume” only to point out that “it’s actually probably the dish soap I’m smelling.”

Or when my first-grader responds to my new knock-knock joke with “Haha! That’s a pretty good one, Mommy. But you’re still not as funny as my teacher.”

So maybe my cervix is only Post-Three-Kids normal, and maybe I only smell like perfume when I’m washing dishes, and maybe I’m no longer the smartest or funniest person in my school-aged kiddo’s life. That’s okay! Because I’m a mommy and I am loved by these three children unconditionally.

Unless I cut their waffles too small.

Or pick out the wrong socks for them to wear.

Or run out of orange juice.

Or am unable to immediately locate the precise, minuscule Lego piece absolutely necessary for the Cross-Wing Battle Droid Transporter Starship or whatever it is currently under construction.

Or forget the name of the My Little Pony… you know, that one from that show we saw one time last year where she was with the other one and she had white hair or maybe lavender hair or was light blue?…and WHY DON’T YOU REMEMBER HER NAME, MOMMY?!

Or tell them it’s time for school, or bed, or to put away the iPad.

Or sneak spinach into their smoothies.

Or notice that they need their fingernails clipped.

Or suggest that their incessant whining and complete lack of rationality indicates a need for a nap.

It’s not just compliments that can be hard to come by when you’re a mom. It’s a thankless job and we’re overworked and tired, so sometimes I find myself using selective listening to hear what I want to hear, instead of what my kids are actually saying.

“How many more bites do I have to take?” becomes “Mom, thank you for providing me with this healthy and delicious dinner!”

“I’m not wearing that” becomes “I picked out my own clothes, Mom. And I put my laundry in the basket.”

“But I wanted PANCAKES!” becomes “Fresh, homemade waffles? You’re the best, Mommy!”

“Mooooooo—-oooooo—-ooooommm!” becomes “It’s okay, Mom, we worked out the problem on our own and reached a mutually agreed-upon solution.”

And you know that silence that follows every sentence you say, then repeat, then yell, as you try to get three children out the door in the morning? They’re not ignoring your “Put your shoes on!” direction, they’ve already put them on….and their coats and their backpacks (which they packed themselves). They’re standing, ready to go, by the door as you leisurely finish your last sip of coffee and calmly find your keys (on the key hook, where they should be, of course).

A Mommy can dream, can’t she? Or at least, pretend.

Although they might not be the best at verbalizing their love and appreciation, these little beasts still show it.

They snuggle in tight while reading books.

They draw pictures of me surrounded by hearts and rainbows and stars.

They hug me with both arms around my neck and say, with heartfelt sincerity, “You’re the best Mommy I ever had!”

And when they help me put on my tiny kid-sized fairy wings, layers upon layers of sparkly necklaces, and a shiny (slightly cracked) tiara, they look at me sparkly-eyed. They tell me I look beautiful. And though my mascara is smudged, my ponytail is sloppy, and I have once again forgotten deodorant, I believe them.

Who needs a gorgeous cervix or fancy perfume when you’ve got all that?