Sunday, August 6, 2017

School Supply List for Moms or You Deserve a New Backpack Too

It’s that time of year again! The calendar has turned a page and we find ourselves looking at back-to-school month – August! Soon our little darlings will be heading off to start learning again.* Are you ready? If you look at the ads, it’s like Black Friday for School every day. Crayons, 99 cents! Paper, college-ruled or wide-ruled, 79 cents! Pencils, $1.19! With deals like this and everywhere selling school supplies, school shopping should be a synch!

But you know it’s not simply that easy. You need to get CRAYOLA crayons, in a 37-pack, not a 16, 24, 36 or 64-pack. Those don’t exist? Surely someone sells them. And you need to get five folders. But not just any five folders – you need to get violet, plum, orchid, lavender and fuchsia. They are all five shades of purple but yet so very different from each other. Now run out and find them! (Side note, my teenage boy did not know what fuchsia was. He thought it was…purple.) Target is out of plum? Try Walmart. No, not that Walmart, I heard it from someone that the elusive plum folder is at the Walmart on 8th Street. What do you mean it isn’t a PLASTIC plum folder? It’s just a heavy-duty paper one? That won’t do! The list says it must be specifically a plastic folder!**

When I first became a parent of a soon-to-be kindergartener (oh so many years ago) I dreaded the school shots. Why are there 47 shots for kindergarteners? (PLEASE NOTE: I LOVE VACCINES. THEY KEEP SOCIETY SAFE FOR THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO TRULY CANNOT PROTECT THEMSELVES AGAINST CERTAIN VIRUSES. PLEASE VACCINATE. AND THIS BLOG IS NOT ABOUT VACCINATIONS SO WE’LL LEAVE IT THERE.) After the kindergarten shots, I took my newly minted five-year-old to buy school supplies as a reward. See, after you suffer through those shots, you will be rewarded by getting to go school shopping for the upcoming school year! Backpacks! Lunch bags! Pencil boxes! Do you know where this is headed? Na├»ve me had no idea I was venturing into one of the Seven Levels of Hell. Take one small area of Target, add 28 shopping carts, 36 frustrated parents (some smart ones stayed home and stuck their spouse with this task solo) and 900 kids all looking for the Dixon Ticonderoga pencils (did I mention you need to sharpen all two dozen of those pencils yourself?) This was not a reward – this was war! After searching for 15 minutes for a white, 1 inch, plastic binder, I found it 7 aisles down with the poster board. Oh Target, you mock me, toying with me and making me believe you’d put everything I need in the one place that has signs screaming SCHOOL SUPPLIES. Needless to say, I needed a nap and a bottle of wine when I was done. What the hell was that? Why does Parents magazine make this seem like a rite of passage? Oh, but because it is! It’s just that not all rites of passage are happy. How little did I know.

I quickly got smart and after that I started ordering the PTO School Supply box, that arrives in your child’s classroom at Open House, with all of the supplies, including Kleenex, except for the PE shoes and paint shirt. Does it cost more? Who the flip cares? How much is your soul worth? Mine is worth at least a $60 box of school supplies.

This got me thinking. Why isn’t there a School Supply list for Moms? We survived the summer and now will get to survive the upcoming school year. We will get to learn different teachers’ nuances – is this the year we have homework every day or never? Will there be a lot of parental engagement in the weekly special projects? Do we need to build a realistic looking dinosaur out of cereal boxes that still looks like our five-year-old made it? Do we bring snacks? Can they have peanuts in them? And do you have all the paperwork done? Did you sign the form for Tylenol, concussions in sports, vaccines, and permission for them to photograph your child? Don’t forget to bring it with you to the Open House! Oh there is so much to do. Look Moms, we need to get ready for this year too. 

Here is my suggested School Supply List for Moms:

  • Wine/Beer/Cocktail supplies – you either are celebrating the end of summer or celebrating the beginning of the school year
  • A new “backpack” aka purse of your choosing
  • New “PE” shoes
  • Magazines for killing time: People, Cosmopolitan, and Vogue are all acceptable – you need to read something with very little substance after you spent the summer reading books, magazines and blogs full of ideas to keep your kids entertained and engaged
  • A fancy new calendar so you can keep track of all of those new dates for sports, homework and field trips
  • Highlighters and fancy pens for your new calendar - you can get stickers too if it brings you joy
  • New podcasts for waiting for pick up/drop off/practice
  • Frozen meals for those nights that dinner is after practice (Look, you can be super and make these yourself. You can also buy a box of frozen burritos at Costco. No one is judging.)
  • A haircut for that new style you found on Pinterest
  • It goes without saying…new school clothes
  • Calming tea (You know there will be a pre-school-year assignment that you will receive at the school open house. It will involve a paper bag, scissors, crayons, 17 pictures of your family and thoughtful stories about your summer. This will be due in 36 hours. Cue Mission Impossible music.)
  • A full tank of gas because the bus schedule never goes smoothly the first few days
  • Kleenex because, sometimes this can be a little teary for someone (I’m talking to you Mom.)

I also suggest scheduling a playdate with one of your favorite mom friends to celebrate getting these little bundles of tan joy (you used sunscreen!) off to school with only minor glitches. You forgot the earbuds? Hey, last year I forgot poster board for my middle schooler for the whole year and guess what? He still moved up a grade. It will be okay. (But don’t forget that school paperwork – you won’t get further than a few days into the school year without them kicking you out with it. There is no coming back from forgetting the school paperwork.) 


You made it! You pulled it off. You found the Crayola washable fat markers in a 12-count box at the last minute at Walgreens. You only forgot snack on the second day of school but you rallied after that. You are winning. Celebrate! Time to go to Coach for that “school bag” and then treat yourself to an adult juice box (yay for boxed wine!) Here’s to another year of school!

*Actually, if you are a good parent, they were learning all summer with your reading programs, math websites and fulfilling science excursions you took them on. If this is you, you are my hero. And if this isn’t you, you are my hero. So tired of summer guilt…that’s a whole other blog topic.


**To my teacher friends who make these lists…I love you. I know you have your reasons for this treasure hunt/wild goose chase we go on every year to find these school supplies. And I also know you are probably pulling out your hair to fill your own child’s school supply list. I see you. I hear you. Plastic folders ARE better than paper ones. Except that in 2015, an orange plastic folder Did. Not. Exist. I kid you not. I am still traumatized.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Switching Super Heroes or Grab Those Bracelets


This week I realized I’m been going about this life balance stuff all wrong. All those blogs, articles, books, podcasts, posts, etc talk about how we are all trying to be Super Woman. All day we try to be all things for all people. We get up early in the morning for “me” time at the gym, treat ourselves to a shower long enough to shave our legs, run around getting the kids ready for the day, go to work all day where we will be brilliant and articulate (despite always always being sleep deprived), get the kids from their after  school programs, take them to their next after school activity, make dinner, clean up dinner, do homework, make lunches, get everyone ready for bed, rest and repeat the next day. We are Super Women.

But ladies, we’ve been cocking this up. We have been trying to emulate the wrong super hero. I just saw the Wonder Woman movie and had an epiphany. We’ve been modeling Super Woman when we should have been Wonder Woman. Now there’s someone I can get behind. She is a complete bad ass. She’s got some bitchin’ bracelets, a lasso of truth and one really fantastic shield. She can accessorize and kick butt. She is my new idol. I don't know why I didn't realize this sooner. I had Wonder Woman Underoos when I was a kid and if I had them now, I'd wear them every day.

First, let’s talk about that jewelry. Her bracelets can deflect bullets! Her shield can protect her from grenades! What’s not to love!? It’s fashion and function together at last! And as a mom, who hasn’t felt someone shooting bullets at her once in a while. Whether they are words, a brush off, a messed-up deadline at work, forgotten homework or an impossible schedule to coordinate, we are dodging bullets and grenades daily. And how often have you stood your ground, braced yourself, bounced those bullets off your bracelets, and plowed ahead? Probably all the time. You are channeling your inner Wonder Woman. Don’t get me started on that lasso of truth; what I wouldn’t give for that!

Did you notice how Wonder Woman really only worked on being amazing at one thing at a time? She was going to stop war. Granted, it’s a lofty goal, but still, it’s just one goal. She’s not trying to be a super mom, a super spouse, and a super career woman. She does one thing at a time. Maybe we should try to just be really good at one thing and then give ourselves a pass on being mediocre for the other things. The priority can change daily, even hourly. But what if we just try being good at one thing at a time? I think this is what people call being in the present. Can “save the world” be a goal? Sure, just maybe don’t plan on cooking three course meals on the same day you save the world. It might be a good day for take-out. No judgement.

And when things didn’t go her way, Wonder Woman took a moment and completely regrouped. She didn’t charge ahead blindly and she didn’t have a pity party longer than about a minute. She took some time to realize the guy she killed didn’t stop the war. We all hit speed bumps sometimes. Don’t we all need a little time to reflect when we have a setback? Yet how often do we take a moment to do that? A quick breather, a time out, a moment to just sit, might be all we need to get back in the game and end war…or whatever battle it is we are fighting.

So maybe next time we have over filled our plate with too much to do, too high of expectations and a healthy sense of self-doubt, we take a moment, change our capes, grab our bracelets and shields, and put on that fancy Wonder Woman headband. Deflect the bullets, focus on the goal at hand, and kick ass. Power on my friends.

Friday, July 7, 2017

MILF or Mom or Find the Closest Mommy


Every story has two sides. What I am about to tell you is no different. I’m not proud of my dual reactions, but this is a safe space, right?

This past week our family went on our annual pilgrimage to the great state of Ohio. It has been a traditional since I was a little girl to go to Cedar Point, the Roller Coaster Capital of the World. It has some of the world’s tallest and fastest roller coasters. Since these coasters are so amazing, so are their lines. A short wait would be 45 minutes. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve waited over two hours to ride a coaster and it was worth it.

We were at the end of a 12-hour day at Cedar Point and decided to squeeze in one last ride. It was only a 45-minute wait after all! As we started the long maze of line, four young teenage girls cut in front of us. My freshly minted teen boy was not amused; apparently a long wait trumps cute girls. We tagged behind these girls for over 30 minutes, watching as they giggled, flirted with other boys in line and compared silly stories.  

Then they started to look very serious and concerned. They looked over at us. I was at the point in the day where I was pretty much oblivious to everything because I was chilly, hungry and tired, which means I was barely paying attention to my own flesh and blood, let alone some teenage girls who cut us in line. One of them, who must have been the brave one, came up to me and said, “I need to tell you something.”

Me: “Okay…”
Girl, leaning in to whisper in my ear: “I just wanted to let you know. See there’s this guy in line…”
Me: “Okay….”
Girl: “He’s been grabbing all of our butts and we saw that he was trying to grab yours too. I just wanted to let you know. It’s that guy over there.” (she glances in a general direction of the 100 people closest to us)
Me: “Um, okay, thanks for letting me know.”

For the rest of the wait, the girls gave me knowing looks and gestures, again, in the direction of the closest 100 people in line.

I’m not sure I reacted the right way. The question is, were the girls concerned for my butt safety and general dignity or did they want me to confront this guy as the closest adult female in the room. Was my butt grab-worthy? Am I still young enough to have a butt to grab? Because if so, that’s pretty much a compliment to a 40-year-old woman struggling with a fat thyroid and a janky leg. But if I was supposed to do something about this, then I was the person they considered the closest Mom around. Like when we tell our kids, “When you are in trouble, find a mommy.” Am I the Mommy or the MILF?

I know all about bystander intervention. It is never okay for someone to touch someone else without their permission. And if I knew for sure which person it was that assaulted these young women, I know I would have intervened. But I didn’t know for sure and I wasn’t going to start a rumble by throwing out accusations based on assumptions. If I was supposed to be the resident Mom of the line, it was my duty to stand up for these girls.

And yet…I was a bit flattered. Maybe they told me not because I was the old female adult nearby but because they thought I too could have been grabbed. Did someone actually want to grab my butt? I mean, if he did, I would have jacked him. No doubt about it. But it would seem like proof that I hadn’t lost “it” yet. Oh the struggle!

So I did what I could. I kept an eye on the girls and did surveillance for any other questionable behavior. If I had seen any grabbing or inappropriate gestures, I would have nipped it in the bud, and probably not in a nice way because I’m not that nice.  Because even if they had told me as “one of the girls,” I am still a Mom and I’ll Mom surrogate kids if they need it.

My boys (all three of them) wanted to know what the girl had said to me. I said, “Oh, some guy is grabbing butts and they wanted to warn me that he tried to grab mine too.”

The reactions were what I expected. My husband immediately swelled up and said that he’d handle it. He sees me as a MILF (hopefully.) My Moose swelled up too and said he’d knock someone out. He sees me as a Mom, who he is planning to protect. The Squirrel cared less. I reassured them that I could take care of it myself but they were very cute.

Becoming forty has been challenging. I feel like I’m supposed to be old now but in my mind I’m still somewhere in my late 20’s. (Until I try to move – knee surgery was a bitch!) Am I too old for tattoo jewelry and hair chalk? I am too young for mom jeans (right?) Being in your thirties is cute because it’s like being a mature twenty something. But 40? That is significant. Forty means mortgages, chauffeuring kids to practices and Friday night grocery shopping. I have a body I no longer recognize and a to-do list a mile long.

Maybe I’m just at a crossroads, one foot in the land of MILF and one foot squarely in the land of Mom. And those lines probably blur based on how I’m feeling that day and who I’m with. Do I need to go to the garden and pretend to know the difference between a carrot and a weed? Then I’m a Mom. But if I’m having a beer at the pool? I’m probably more of a MILF then (depending on the number of beers I’ve had.)  

Some people might argue that you can be a Mom and MILF at the same time. I don’t know. If I’m in full out Mom mode, I can’t just flip that sexy switch. But if I’m in MILF mode, and someone needs a Mom, I’m there. At the end of the day, I don’t really care if someone grabs my butt, but don’t be messing with the kids, even the teenage girl ones. Because Mama Bear is coming out. And you will be dealing with a lot more than my cheeks. I guess finding the closest Mommy is actually good advice after all, even if she’s feeling like a MILF. Maybe we can be both after all.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if you had interviewed for the job of parent? Do you think you would have gotten the job? I’m not sure my references would have checked out…

COVER LETTER
To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you today regarding the open Mom position in your company. I have included my resume but I did want to highlight a few accomplishments during my 12 years of Mom experience with my previous employer.

I was very excited to see that you are looking for someone who has experience, possesses creativity, management and organizational skills, event planning expertise, baking and cooking skills, and budgeting knowledge. I have vast amounts of experience in all of these areas. For example, I instituted our new Wake-Up Wednesday policy, which dictates a fresh home cooked breakfast every Wednesday morning so my children have something to look forward to in the middle of the week. I treat each birthday as an extravaganza by throwing at least two parties in addition to what we call Mommy-Child Day, where we do whatever the child wants to do for the whole day.

But it isn’t all fun and games. I make sure we read, have clean clothes, do our homework, and eat healthy meals. I also coordinate the before and after school and weekend activities to provide enrichment beyond the classroom. In my spare time, I maintain our accounts and budget for expenditures.

I look forward to hearing from you soon regarding your open position. I feel that my experience and enthusiasm would be a good addition to your team.

Sincerely,
Jenny

REFERENCE CHECKS
Reference Number One: Moose

Please tell me about the candidate’s strengths:
She has a lot of strengths. She makes really good monkey bread.

Please tell me about the candidate’s weaknesses:
She doesn’t always follow through. She started Wake-Up Wednesday, which is great. But she says that we don’t do it in the summer because every day is like Friday so we don’t need a special breakfast in the middle of the week. So she can be a bit unreliable. She also gets upset about the house and says we have to start helping. I’m not sure if she is good with time management if she requires so much help to do her job. I can also tell that time management is a weakness because she frequently seems frazzled with the simplest of schedules, such as having a birthday dinner, concert and basketball practice all on the same night. Because of her lack of planning, she had to learn how to tie a tie while waiting for her enchiladas at the restaurant. What a scene!

And she does complain about not having enough down time when she has a reasonable working schedule. We give her from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. off every day, unless one of us is sick or forgets to get a uniform washed for the next day. I think eight hours is plenty of downtime for one person.

Tell me about a time she had to handle a difficult situation:
Once I asked a simple question about the human body and got a 45 minute talk about the birds and the bees! And she seems to think we should talk about this stuff openly and often! Wait, did you ask how she creates difficult situations or handles them…?

Would you hire her again?
Yeah, she’s pretty good. She does make really good monkey bread. Although I would like her to reconsider her Summer Wake-Up Wednesday policy. She does do a good job with birthdays, except for that one time when she planned my party over a holiday weekend and only one person showed up. I think this goes back to her planning skills…

Reference Number Two: Squirrel

Please tell me about the candidate’s strengths:
She makes good cinnamon rolls, but they are out of a can…She also makes pretty good bunny voices for my stuffed rabbits. Oh, and she buys me good presents. Can I talk about my dad now? He is so much fun – he takes me on snowmobile rides, four-wheeler rides, gets me Icees whenever I want them…

Please tell me about the candidate’s weaknesses:
She says no. A lot. Like all the time, all she ever tells me is no. She says something about making a bad life choice, but I have yet to see her credentials to make that determination. For example, she says I can’t drive until I am older despite the fact that I have driven a Gator (with assistance.) She also makes me read when she can do it perfectly well herself. So I’d say she gets a little overzealous with the delegation.

Have we talked about her physical limitations? She took an excessive amount of time off the job this summer for her knee. Clearly she has some limitations now – she says she can’t lift me up anymore. What do they do with horses with lame legs…?

Tell me about a time she had to handle a difficult situation:
Have you heard about the time she dropped the jar of spaghetti sauce at Hy-Vee? Right in the check out lane. Sauce and glass everywhere. She tried to play it off cool, but I like to remind her of this incident even though it’s been three years because it’s important to keep the help humble.


Would you hire her again?
Well, it would really depend on if she changes her attitude. I have told her on multiple occasions that I can replace her. Those kind of remarks seem to work for a while but then she returns to her usual self. There was a time where she put the wrong cheese in the snack that I requested. I pointed it out to her and boy, she did not respond well to the constructive criticism. How is she supposed to get better if she won’t listen to feedback? So I’m really on the fence with this question. Maybe if there was a probationary period…

DECISION: SECOND CHOICE; MAKE OFFER TO MARY POPPINS FIRST

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

When You Try Your Best But You Don't Succeed or The Self-Inflicted Shame Wound

Disclaimer: Everything below is a self-inflicted wound. At no point did anyone imply that I am a horrible mom or accuse me of being neglectful. I took care of all of that on my own.

Friends, let me be honest with you about my summer. While at times you may have seen me smiling and heard me say uplifting, optimistic phrases, please make no mistake that this past summer was an intense struggle both physically, emotionally and spiritually. If you need to get caught up, it’s important to know that for a variety of reasons, both healthy and unhealthy, exercise is a vital component to my life. And in May, possibly as a result of my relationship with exercise, I had knee surgery which turned out to be more invasive and intense than expected. It landed me in a knee immobilizer for about 10 weeks, five of which I couldn’t put any weight on my leg, and then very very slowly I gradually added in weight-bearing and flexibility. It has been five months since surgery and I am still in physical therapy and am currently working on using stairs. This summer my stress outlet, aka exercise, was taken away from me and my immobility left me rumbling with multiple demons ranging from body image issues, to worthiness to perfectionism and shame. For the first few days, going to the bathroom on my own was my major accomplishment for the day. It took me three weeks to be able to put on my own shoes. Getting dressed left me breathless. In July I started the tedious process of relearning how to walk. From May through August, I rarely got a night of sleep due to pain and restlessness. I could not carry a cup of coffee or a plate of food due to the crutches and had to rely on everyone around me to feed and water me. To put it lightly, this summer was a challenge.

In addition to the physical challenge, summers have historically been busy times for my husband, who works long hours and would unpredictably work late or early. There were days he would come home just to get something out of the oven for dinner because I could not lift and bend at the same time. At my own job, we were short staffed all summer and our admin and I were trying to cover two individuals’ jobs and our own. Due to my physical condition, making it through a work day was a test of my endurance that by the time I got home I literally had just the energy to feed the kids if Pete was working and ask them to get ready for bed. There were many tears of pain, frustration and guilt this summer. Every day ended in exhaustion, followed by nights of despair from trying to sleep, all to be repeated again.

Friends, what I am saying is that this summer sucked. I tried to make the best of it and enjoy everything I could but make no mistake. I did not experience this summer as much as I survived it. And I did survive it. I’ve run a few marathons and this summer felt like hitting the wall with a hill up ahead and four miles to go. When the end of August rolled around and I was finally moving better, starting to exercise (albeit slowly) and finally sleeping at night, I looked back on those months, panting, hands on thighs, and thought, how the hell did I get up that hill of life this summer? We didn’t move forward this summer but we didn’t move backward, right? I don’t want to call it pride, but maybe I felt relief that we had made it to the other side. I was actually looking forward to starting the school year.

We were incredibly fortunate to get an amazing teacher for the Squirrel in first grade. She makes me excited to send him to school every day. I feel like she will “get” him and his quirks; it is going to be a great year. And in her amazing-ness, she believes in additional phone conferences to supplement the traditional conferences. Last week was our first phone conference where I learned that my Squirrel is woefully behind in reading. I immediately flashback to the Moose’s struggles in first grade with reading. Six years ago when I heard the Moose was behind in reading, as one does with their first born, I jumped to the conclusion that he would never go to college, he would never get a “good job” and would be illiterate for the rest of his life. Naturally I freaked out. We had epic battles over sight words and reading to the point where I flipped out and that moment still holds a place in my Parenting Hall of Shame. I promised myself after my experiences with the Moose that I wouldn’t overreact again should this happen with the Squirrel.  (FYI, the Moose loves reading now and I have the insight of knowing that things will turn out okay.) I (fake) calmly tell the Squirrel’s teacher that I’m not going to freak out. She tells me that he says he doesn’t read at home and we don’t read to him. Cue that scratchy record sound where everything stops. Then she tells me that it may be time to panic. Fuck.

As much as I try not to, I go straight into that shame spiral. First, I did read to him this summer. It was one of the few activities I could do with the kids. But I’m not going to lie. We didn’t do sight words and I didn’t force him to read to me. I just couldn’t. My energy was wrapped up in me this summer. I was just trying to get through the summer and had to put my health above things like sight words. I thought I had made peace with the guilt of not being able to be Super Mom this summer. Consider the peace treaty over. I let down my Squirrel and now this amazing teacher thinks I’m a horrible, neglectful mom who doesn’t care about education or her child’s future. Spiral, spiral, spiral.

You know that Coldplay song, “Fix You”? “When you try your best but you don’t succeed….” That’s me. I tried my best and you know what? I didn’t succeed. I let all of this sink in for a while. I really did try my best. And my best wasn’t my typical best, but it was the best I had. And for the first time in 12 years, I had to put my wellbeing above my children’s so that I could get back to being Super Mom. Despite my battles against it, I had to succumb to my physical needs and rest after going to a grocery store. I had to take two hour long naps with ice packs after outings. And yes, things like sight words took a back seat this summer. And now I’m paying the price. My demons are saying that excuses like knee surgery and a crazy work environment are just cheap excuses for dropping the ball on something as important as my Squirrel’s reading level. And while I’m making a list, there are a lot of other things I’ve let go – can I please get a piece of paper and pen so we can write them all down?

In my usual fashion, I want to keep this all to myself and beat myself up for being the terrible parent that I am. Because as I’ve learned, shame thrives in secrets and really, this is my penance for my neglect. However, in a rare moment, I break down and email a friend and explain the situation. She reassures me that I’m not a horrible parent. That this summer was particularly rough. And she offers help, not judgement. I text another friend who also reassures me that things will all work out, that I am good enough. And here I sit, telling all of you my story now. But the purpose of my story has changed. I’m not telling you so you can tell me that I’m a Good Mom. I’m telling you because sometimes your best won’t be enough. And that sucks. But that’s still okay. We fail sometimes and it doesn’t mean that we are horrible people or parents. There are times we will be running our hardest and think we are close to that finish line, when we trip and fall. The fact that we are willing to get up, dust ourselves off, and start running again is what matters. We may not win every race, but if we try to finish, that’s what matters.

Much to the Squirrel’s chagrin, the town library sent us home with a stack of books to work on. And his teacher has sent home books and sight word lists. And I am only in physical therapy once a week now and am only working on learning how to go up and down stairs. I’ve learned how to walk and have use of both of my hands and while I’m not running yet, I’ve started the race again. And just like it was with his big brother, I know that we will get him back on track. And thanks to all of the time I spent sitting this summer, I’ve been meditating regularly which certainly helps when I’m working with the Squirrel now.

And I’m back to being proud that I survived the summer. Just because I didn’t succeed at everything doesn’t mean that my best wasn’t amazing. It was. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

It's Not About Pintrest or Upgrading my Super Mom Cape

A year ago we moved into our house. Right away I could tell I was in trouble. I’m a competitive person and I had moved next door to a Super Mom. She always wore a smile, she had proof of Pintrest hanging from her door, she was always running her kids to various activities, and her front porch was always tastefully decorated. Great. So she worked, crafted, kept her kids involved and smiled about it? I simply cannot compete. No lie, it’s been a year and while I found our wreath hanger, it is hanging, empty, on my front door. When I leave the house with the kids to go to various activities, I am usually hollering (not smiling) to see if we remembered everything. How did this lady have everything together? And here’s the rub. She was really nice too. She welcomed me to the neighborhood and was perfectly fine when my boys invited themselves over or bombarded her in her driveway with 20 minute long stories of how we went to the park. Super. Mom. I admitted defeat within the first 6 months…after I bought a bunch of Halloween decorations at Walmart on November 1 last year – a girl can dream, right?

And then, more suddenly than the word “suddenly” conveys, she was gone. She was younger than me and she died. I don’t know what happened – she was a healthy young woman – and frankly, it isn’t my business. What matters to me is that this amazing mom is gone. And she left behind two young boys, a grieving husband and an incredibly long list of friends and family. I wish I had known her better – I always thought we’d have more time to get to talk as our boys grew up. Friends, it is so sad. It is sad in a way that just makes you stop. And I don’t stop often.

What I do know is that she had just spent the weekend camping and having family time. Photos show unplugged time spent outdoors with smiling kids and parents on a beautiful day. And what struck me is that we really don’t know when our last day will be and without knowing it, this mom got to spend it, soaking in her kids, on a great day. I reflected on my moments before we found out about our neighbor, and they were spent doing housework while yelling at my kids to stop fighting and sending them to their rooms. This day does not reflect every day in our lives, but it represents quite a few of them. This is not the kind of mom I want to be.

I struggle to just be. I usually want to be productive in some manner. I’ve been working on just enjoying the moment – notice how I can even turn that into something to do. But my neighbor’s passing made me think of things I might be missing out on by constantly ticking things off a to-do list. I wanted to be a more relaxed mom, a mom who could let things go, could let kids be kids. I wanted to enjoy every moment that I have with these little beams of light that are my children. I wanted them to be happy all of the time.

So for a few days, I did everything I could to refrain from yelling at my kids or getting frustrated with them. For their part, they made sure this was a challenge. At one point, after patiently telling my Squirrel he could either stop climbing up on the entertainment table or he could go to his room, he looked at me, put his hands on his hips and simply said “No.” No to what I asked. “No to everything you just said,” he replied and walked away. Clearly this wasn’t working. But I needed to remember that every moment could be our last – what if something happened to me or God forbid them – and our last interaction was a standoff about using my furniture like a jungle gym. I can’t have that! But my kids were acting like assholes and I didn’t know how much longer I could tolerate it.

My neighbor boys are wonderful little kids. They are polite and curious and I genuinely like it when they visit. And it occurred to me…my neighbor and her husband were raising great kids. And great kids are loved on but also have rules to follow – you cannot have anarchy-style parenting and well-behaved children at the same time. I have no doubts that she would have told her kids to stop trying to climb up the bookshelves and to put their clothes away. And I realized that being a Super Mom means there has to be a balance, love and boundaries. It is not the outside of the house that makes you a Super Mom, it's what happens on the inside of the house. And I knew my neighbor knew that.

So now I remember to practice more patience than before. I remember to slow down, sit down and talk about the things that excite them, even if it is Minecraft and Pokemon, even if I have a million things to do. I have rebooted our bedtime routine so that we snuggle in my bed and read stories at night. But the Moose and Squirrel still have chores to do and rules to follow. Because being a Super Mom means not raising assholes. Love doesn’t mean letting anything go, never saying no and not giving our children responsibilities just because chores are boring. It means that when someone comes out of their room after a time out, they know that you are there waiting for a hug. And that yes, the dishwasher needs to be unloaded (AGAIN!) because families help each other. And yes, I will read you another story. If anything should happen to me, my legacies are these two little boys and I want them to be fantastic men when they grow up.

A year ago I thought I needed to up my game by decorating more and looking like I always had my shit together. But that’s not the case. My neighbor continues to inspire me to take the time to slow down, to love on my kids while maintaining boundaries, and to smile while doing it. She may be gone, but her husband and children reflect the kind of person she was. She is still a Super Mom and I see proof of it every day. So while outside my wreath hanger is still empty, things have changed inside. Thanks Sally.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Hard Reset or What Apps Have You Downloaded Lately

Ever have that moment where your phone is all messed up and the only way to fix it is with a hard reset? It used to happen to me all the time with my first smart phone and I'd have to reload all my apps again. Oh it was so frustrating! The only good thing I can say about it is it gave me an opportunity to look over all my apps and do a little editing. Did I really need Angry Birds Space? Probably not.

This year I turned 39 and I decided it was going to be my best year yet. I was going to get in fantastic shape, become zen, make healthy meals, read stories to my kids every night and finally get my shit together so I'd start my forties on the right foot. Oh how ironic that statement is. Instead two weeks after I turned 39, I ended up in a surgery that would have me sitting around helpless for six weeks. And after those six weeks, I'd get to learn how to walk, sit and climb stairs all over again. It was going to be at least an eight week recovery. If you are doing the math, that means 2 months, which is 1/6th of my best year ever! And after two months of slow recovery, I'd be physically weak and completely out of shape. Even after I learned to climb stairs, I'd be out of breath when I got to the top. 

So when I woke up from surgery, my first reaction was "WHAT THE FUCK!" followed with tears. Look, I'm a hustler. There is always more I can do, more I can accomplish and it is my 39th year - my last year before my 40s. This was going to be a banner year of awesomeness. I have an addiction to busy and I was going on a bender this year. And all of a sudden, now I wasn't. 

Just like a crappy phone, I needed a hard reset. And I got one. I didn't want it, in fact I was kicking and screaming against it (mentally, although if I could have pulled it off physically, I would have.) Jenny does not sit. Jenny does not do still. And yet that's all I could do. How would I be successful and be new and improved if I could not "do"? Just like on my shitty Samsung phone, all of my apps were removed and it was up to me to decide which apps I wanted to use my storage on again.

I'm not going to lie. That first week I sat and sulked, mad at the world. If I can't exercise or take care of my family or even get a goddamned cup of coffee, then there really is no point. I ranted at my surgeon that I COULDN'T DO ANYTHING! According to my husband, this was not one of my finer moments. Fortunately things like going to the bathroom and taking a shower took up a lot of my brain power that first week. And then one morning I woke up and realized, maybe there were some apps I could add back in. They may not be what I would have called awesome before, but they were things I could do and hadn't spent a whole lot of energy on in the past.

I decided if all I could do was sit, then I would meditate every day. At first I meditated on how I was told I couldn't run again. But then I started meditating on patience and compassion for myself. I decided my new exercise goal was to rock out my rehab and did physical therapy every day, often twice a day. If I could only do leg lifts, then I would do leg lifts. But instead of thinking about what I couldn't do, I'd start doing what I could. I downloaded the Meditation and Compassionate Exercise apps.

I added in the Help App, which has a helpful notification to say "Yes please" and "Thanks" when someone offers to help. This includes when my friends have to bring my plate of food to the table and clear my place. It is so hard because it is humbling to not be able to feed yourself or clean up after a meal. And it still takes a toll on me to say "Yes, it would be great if you could hold my glass." But my Help App pings me and reminds me to say yes. Eventually I won't need help with meals or picking up my shoes anymore but I will probably need help with bigger things. And hopefully it will be easier for me to accept that help.

I downloaded the new Mom App. The update eliminated things that didn't really matter to my kids, like being the one that packed the lunches or always made sure they have clean clothes. Don't get me wrong, those things are really important. But I don't have to be the one who does them. Instead, this app encourages me to sit down with them and read or just watch a movie. And when I move up levels, this app challenges me to play more and stress less about small things that don't really need to get done immediately. 

One of my favorite new apps is the Cleaning App. It has a great feature that delegates cleaning to multiple people. In fact, you have to enter in the names of everyone in your household and assign them chores. It is fantastic. You actually lose points if you do all the cleaning yourself.

One of the original apps I didn't want to let go of was the Perfect App. It had been my favorite app that I spent way too much time on. The Perfect App had all kinds of settings. Settings for being the perfect mom, the perfect wife, the perfect homemaker, the perfect physical specimen. I could log everything I ate, drank, how much I exercised and how little I slept. I could check in on Facebook and see how everyone else was doing too. My hustle addiction and eating disorder LOVED this app. And the best part of this app was that I never could beat the game - there was always a higher level that I could never achieve. Sitting was not an option on this app. I checked in on this app all the time. But now I couldn't even play the games on this app. I had forgotten my password. This put the "hard" in hard reset. The Perfect App hasn't been added back - I just don't have the storage for it right now and I hope I don't ever have the storage for it again.

They say it takes 21 days to create a habit. I'm on 43 days now. I make attainable goals every week - things like mediate, get off of Facebook at night, sleep more,and stop eating chips (unless you are at a Mexican restaurant because I said attainable goals, not insane goals.) I'm going to try to remember that I have limited storage and that I need to prioritize how I use it. It turns out we can't simply add storage in real life. I can't pay Apple to increase my cloud because I keep adding too much to it. Instead I have to make choices on how I spend my energy. Despite how painful this experience has been mentally, emotionally and physically, I'm glad I had an opportunity to have a hard reset. It was probably the best way to start my last year before my 40s. Who knew that this really would be the year of awesome after all.