Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best Mom Tip #17: Dull your sense of smell

Motherhood brings with it a wide variety of new and interesting smells that are sometimes difficult to deal with. When your kids are babies you have the poop/spit-up/baby shampoo combination that could tax even the most sturdy of noses. As your kids become school-age you get the barf/fruit snack/lice shampoo trifecta. In middle and high school your kids (especially boys) begin to fluctuate between actually stinking of BO and smelling like a ridiculous amount cologne.

These are not the smells of the world of non-parents. My life used to smell like coffee shops and book stores. Movie popcorn and Sno Caps on a Friday night for dinner. Chinese takeout when there was no food in the fridge. Any barf or BO belonged to me and therefore, wasn't nearly as gross. I never barfed in the car, spilled milk without cleaning it up or telling anyone, or refused to admit that I might need a bath.

Generally, if I smelled bad, it was because I had been doing something productive like training for a marathon. Now if something smells bad around me, someone is probably sick. I would love to just pawn off all of the smelly things my kids require on someone else, but I don't think there are any takers. Since I have to deal with the stinkiness because my kids need me to do so, I have decided to try to kill my sense of smell. According to my online research (Health A to Z:Smelling Disorders), I have a few options:
  1. Take up smoking.
  2. Eat a lot of paint chips.
  3. Enter a nuclear facility without hazmat gear.
  4. Roll around in insecticides for a really long time.
Most of these actions would require me to get a baby-sitter. Smoking is really just too expensive in this economy. I guess I could try to eat old lead paint after I put the kids to bed. I'll let you know if I come up with an option that seems reasonable.

In the meantime, we "Best Moms" have to snuggle a kid who smells like barf from time to time. We have to use strange-smelling medicines and bath products to keep them clean and healthy. We have to change their diapers, get used to spit-up, and do all of this without throwing up our own lunches even when our children have just gotten rid of theirs. It's a smelly job, but somebody has got to do it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Best Mom Tip #16: Go to Wal-mart on a Friday night

I have to give credit for this one to my friend Dave, who has three beautiful children of his own. When I was pregnant with my oldest, Dave told me that when I was feeling bad about my abilities as a parent I needed to take the kids and head to Wal-Mart on a Friday night. I wasn't really sure what Dave meant back then, but in the last few years, as I have become more and more ensconced in the role of Mom, I have come to understand exactly why this is such a boost to my ego.

First of all, if you haven't actually been to a Target or Wal-Mart or other similar store on a weekend night, you have no idea how many people will actually be there. The place is packed. Getting a parking place is like parking at the mall on December 23rd. There will be a wide variety of families wandering the through the sea of cars and abandoned carts. Every now and then a kid will dart out in front of your car, causing you to slam on your brakes. This will be the first thing that makes you feel better about yourself--I may have yelled at little Jimmy today, but I didn't let him play in traffic.

Once you get into the store you will see most, if not all, of the following:
  1. A child who, every time his mother looks away, tries to tip over the cart with his sister in it
  2. That same mother who will never notice what the kid is doing because she is checking out all the boxed wine on sale
  3. A series of children who are dressed in wildly inappropriate ways for their ages--3-year-olds in belly shirts; high heels and shorts on a 7-year-old
  4. At least one kid ordering his or her "regular" at that weird food court thing near the door where they sell old hot dogs, pizzas, and slurpees. This will usually be close to 10pm and will count as that kid's dinner.
  5. A pre-teen boy asking a lot of really pointed questions of the 18-year-old clerk at the gun counter
  6. Someone yelling at their kid in a language you have actually NEVER heard--even while watching the UN in session on C-SPAN8
  7. A kid eating candy that he may have stolen, or may have just found open on a shelf
  8. If it is summer, there will be a very large pregnant woman buying a very small bikini while wearing short shorts and a tank top--this isn't actually parenting related, but her other kids are probably embarrassed
  9. A kid on a leash
  10. A 12-year-old who has been put in charge of her 3 younger siblings while they all run around yelling
After about 20 minutes, you will be renewed as a parent. You may not have it all together, but you're doing o.k. Grab some Sam's Cola and head on home.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Best Mom Tip #15: Rejoice

Being a mother involves a lot of worry. The world is a scary place and our little ones (even when they are fully grown) are out in it without body armor. We worry when they are sick. We worry when they begin a new phase of life--will they like the new school, is that guy REALLY her best choice for a prom date? I once read somewhere that being a mom was like having your heart walk around outside of your body for the rest of your life and that seems pretty accurate to me.

I remember my mom staying up all night watching my brother sleep and praying that he didn't get worse in the middle of the night after a particularly scary injury. When I went into labor with my son in August I called and told Mom that we were going to the hospital, but to take her time because the baby would still be a few hours--she said, "we're leaving right now."

Sometimes all the worry and all the "doing" of being a mom overshadows the simple joy. Last night, Christmas Eve, my daughter threw up all over my car on the way to visit my aunt for dinner. This was no "motion sickness'' where we pulled over and she felt a little ill. This barf would have made a drunk frat guy proud. I found myself covered in vomit at a BP on the side of I-75 thanking some guy who was moving from Florida to Missouri for the industrial trash bags he had in his van. He could also have several hostages in there, but I'm going to believe he is a great guy.

Once we got my little girl cleaned up and in her pjs, she wet her pants. Fortunately, by that time her barfed-upon clothes, stuffed animal, car seat cover, and floorboard mat were coming out of the dryer and I changed her clothes again. I'm sure my cousins are all having a perfectly lovely Christmas, but I wouldn't know because I didn't get to talk to them.

We have all had moments of extreme worry when the doctor said a test didn't look normal or when we're making a decision that could have lasting repurcussions. But for most of us, the sicknesses will be like the one my daughter the human faucet currently has--gross, time consuming, and completely harmless. Most of the time raising children will involve a lot of worry over pretty minor things and a lot of time taking care of those things for our little ones. So for this moment--this one, perfect moment when gatorade popcicles make everything better--I'm going to rejoice. My kids are relatively safe and healthy--I have a lot to be thankful for. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Best Mom Tip #14: React like the President

I'm talking Bush here and no, I don't mean use "enhanced interrogation techniques" to discover where your toddler hid the car keys. (Side note: my brother once hung our family's car keys on the Christmas tree so you might try looking there if yours are currently missing.) What I want to discuss are the cat-like reflexes that W displayed while dodging some pretty dangerous shoes last week.

An Iraqi journalist, angry over--well, I don't exactly know why he was angry, but I'm sure he had a reason--threw his shoes at the President during a press conference. In the Middle East this is considered incredibly insulting and degrading and much of the region has responded--both positively and negatively--to the incident. In the U.S. this event is considered incredibly funny and much of the region has watched it over and over on YouTube.

There is a lesson here for us moms, however, that no media outlet I've seen has addressed. When you're the mom, you have to be able to move faster than you ever thought possible. You need eyes in the back of your head and a "spidey sense" that alerts you to imminent peril for your offspring.

Are the kids too quiet? Somebody is probably climbing the bookshelf. Did you hear an odd scraping sound? That was a kid dragging the kitchen chair over in order to reach the shelf above the stove with the knives stored in it. When my daughter was about 18 months old we were visiting a friend's house and she managed to tip forward one of those room dividers that is also a picture frame--this is a large, heavy object made of wood and glass that weighs about 60 pounds. Somehow, and I really am not sure how, I moved across the room and caught the thing just before it crashed into my precious baby's head.

All moms have this ability in us somewhere, but I think we could probably learn a thing or two from our President. I imagine that ever since that time he almost choked on a pretzel he's been running reflex drills to speed up his response times. So I encourage all moms out there to do the same. See how fast you can unload the groceries; have someone toss you the baby's bottle without warning; run in heels down the stairs.

We've got to stay alert--we may one day be able to save our children, not just from falling furniture and kitchen tools, but salty snacks and foreign footwear as well. If you happened to miss the President's moves, check them out at the video below from YouTube.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Best Mom Tip #13: Buy a good pair of fat jeans

If you have given birth, you know that your body changes in ways that will never return to their previous state. This is not to say that you will be fat for eternity, but you will NOT be "just like your old self." Before I had my oldest child I really rebelled against this thought. I saw people who were thin and fit after they had children and I thought that people who complained about their post-baby bodies were just lazy. Then I had a child.

I was not fat by any means once I had the baby, but my body didn't look quite the same. I changed bra sizes during and after I finished nursing. Who knows what will happen when I finish nursing this time. My favorite pants just didn't fit the same even after I lost all the baby weight. I'm pretty sure that if I had measured beforehand, I would discover that my rib cage is actually wider than it was before I gave birth. I also have permanent bags under my eyes, but that may not be pregnancy related.

Every woman has this revelation and the ones who swear they are just the same after childbirth are lying. Sure, Heidi Klum looked great rockin' the new Victoria's Secret underwear on the runway 2 months after giving birth. But she still didn't look like she did before she got pregnant. She was rounder. Softer. Beautiful, yes, but not the same. And since I really didn't look like Heidi before I was pregnant, I am probably not going to be entering that Project Runway look-alike contest now that we have both given birth more than once.

So what are we mortal women to do? Buy some good fat jeans. And eat well and workout and refuse to give in to the bulge of middle age. But first buy fat jeans. Get goods ones--ones that flatter your shape and have some stretch to them so that you aren't constantly tugging at your clothes. I've had good luck with Levi's 512--tummy control; waistband that doesn't create a muffin top or look like high-waisted mom jeans; slight boot cut so there's no taper.

Your fat jeans aren't forever--they are for running errands with your 2-month-old during the day and lounging in at night. They are for wearing out when you are 3 months pregnant the next time. They are for going shopping in once you've lost the weight and you've realized that your favorite designer jeans are a little bit uncomfortable now--they just don't hit you right anymore.

Being a mom often means forgoing things for yourself and not paying attention to your personal appearance, but it doesn't have to. Although you don't want to buy an entire new wardrobe every time you gain a little weight (due to babies or otherwise), you can get new jeans and fake the rest. And when you feel better about yourself--when you feel like you look decent and not unkempt--you have more patience, more confidence, and are generally a nicer person. Your kids will tell you that you look pretty no matter what--just do this one little thing for you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Best Mom Tip #12: Wake up in love

Preferably with the person with whom you share the bed. I saw a sign on a store that sells iron beds that said "wake up in love." My first thought was that this was quite a promise for a bed store. But my second thought was that it was good advice.

I wake up in lots of things, but love is not usually the first thing on my mind. Sometimes I wake up squished between various family members. Sometimes I wake up being "whispered" to by my daughter. I often wake up summoned to the aid of my newborn by cries in the middle of the night. On one memorable occasion I woke up in barf.

Usually I wake up in disappointment that it isn't at least 15 minutes later than it is. My daughter, who has an amazing internal alarm clock, comes in every morning at 7:15. She then gets into bed with me to snuggle for 15 minutes before we get up. Invariably, she wiggles so much that it annoys my husband, traps my breast between her elbow and the bed, and kicks at least one other person in the groin.

My husband and I then grumble our way into the morning, sore and a little confused, with diaper changing for him and breast feeding for me. There is the general cat herding that is involved with getting my daughter ready for the day and packed for school. There is frequently an issue over the bathroom--priority goes to the one who might wet her pants.

But I, like so many Americans, am going to put my trust in advertising and--at least for this week--wake up in nothing but love. Hugs and kisses for everyone and a general sense of gratefulness that we're all crammed into bed together. There are a lot worse ways to wake up.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Best Mom Tip #11: Cut yourself some slack

I remember my mother nursing my brother in the front seat of our car while I rolled around in the back seat. Seat belts were something we only used when we were going a long distance or on the freeway. I always slept on my stomach so that I wouldn't choke if I spit up. I think this may have been a rationale encouraged by the rash of celebrities who drowned in their own vomit after OD-ing. My mom certainly wasn't negligent, it was just how things were done in the '70s.

Today, however, the list of items moms are expected to protect against makes the Ten Commandments look like a remedial course in obedience. Latch systems, back is best, breast is best, PBA-free, lead in toys, avoiding all alcohol/mercury/cold cuts while pregnant--these are the things today's moms have to learn upon entering motherhood.

To be sure, research in modern science and technology has made the world a safer place for babies and children. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a real concern--you having the champagne toast at your brother's wedding before you realized you were pregnant is not. I have a friend who tells this story: "When my mom was 3 days from her due date, she set down her highball glass, put out her cigarette, and went in for an X-ray. Only then did she learn that we were twins."

This friend (along with her brother) is a perfectly wonderful adult who suffers no ill effects of her mother's moderate indulgences while pregnant. I am in no way condoning a mom engaging in behavior she knows to be bad for her baby--but if, on occasion, you find yourself doing something that goes against the harping voices of the "experts" you can probably relax a little.

Life is full of danger--we do the best we can to protect our kids from it. But life is also full of joy and excitement. And I, for one, would hate to miss out on the adventure because I forgot to pack the hand sanitizer.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Best Mom Tip #10: Have a beer

I don't really like most beers. And since I am a nursing mom, I'm not drinking at all right now. But there's something about kicking back with an adult beverge every now and then that helps you savor the moment and enjoy being a grown up. This beer actually belongs to my husband and it wound up spilled on the carpet in our playroom, but more on that in a minute.

Lately I've been going to a lot of really loud, child-based activities that have left my mind a bit frazzled. There was the Christmas program, which had three highlights: my kid single-handedly holding up the hand motion responsibilities for her entire section; the kid who flapped his hands against his ears for the duration of the show; and the kid who performed with such gusto that I fear his high school career aptitude test is going to reveal the word "televangelist." I've also made cookies, gone to a preschool party, and made gingerbread houses. None of these things are relaxing to dear old mom.

So last night my husband and I relaxed a little. I had chocolate milk to his beer, but the attitude was the same. Things were going pretty well until I, not realizing that the near-full beer was sitting on the floor, knocked it over. My husband came back into the room to see me on all fours attempting to remove the beer from our carpet. I was feeling pretty annoyed that chill time had turned into yet another menial housework opportunity when my son started "talking" to me in his 4-month-old way.

I looked up, tired and frustrated, and asked him if he could please just go to sleep like a normal baby and let Mommy rest. And he laughed. A full-on belly laugh that was the first of his little life. If you've ever heard your baby laugh for the first time, you know what this does to your heart. Melting is not strong enough of a word.

I have never had a "beer night" that I enjoyed so much as the one where the carpet drank the beer and I heard my boy laugh. Maybe one day, when he's over 21 and mature enough to want to avoid getting drunk, my little guy and I will toast each other over a cold one and I'll tell him about his first beer night.

Best Mom Tip #9: Act like you're enjoying yourself

I was assigned frosting for my daughter's school holiday party. Every household is expected to help with one party a year and I dutifully signed up for this one because I thought it seemed like the time of the year that I would feel most festive. My sole task was to bring frosting for kids to smear onto cookies that someone else made.

I'm not sure if the room mothers thought I couldn't be trusted with more or if I somehow have to work my way up to actual food, but the bottom line is that I had to attend an hour long party with the baby in tow in order to deliver frosting. I, along with several other moms and two dads who came especially from work, sat around and watched our kids eat a giant cookie covered with frosting and whatever toppings they wanted (brought by another mom).

This is not my idea of a good time. I've seen my kid eat cookies. With frosting. And sprinkles. We actually made cookies at a friend's house the next day. People who know me understand that I am not exaggerating when I say that I would choose to eat cookies above all other foods. I did not actually get to eat a cookie at this party, however, so I basically just used 1/4th of the very short time my little girl attends school in order to watch OTHER PEOPLE EAT COOKIES.

But I smiled. I engaged in boring chit-chat with other parents (how old are your other children? how long have you been in Atlanta? can you believe the weather?, etc.). And I got this response from my daughter--"I saw a baby and then a Mommy and then I realized that it was you! I love you, Mama." How can I resist that?

Thus, today's lesson. I don't enjoy the musical stylings of 4-year-olds. I don't like changing diapers. I hate the smell of most children's toiletries. But my kids think I'm having a great time, so after a little while, I actually do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Best Mom Tip #8: Wallow in your guilt for a while

I have apparently been starving my 4 month old son. He came into the world at 9 pounds and really packed on the weight for the first two months. These last two months, however, he lost a pound. I have been breast feeding him exclusively and have been really proud of myself for being able to give him the best nutrition possible, so I was both shocked and really bummed out that I've actually been totally ignorant of the fact that he was hungry.

I had to start weaning my daughter at 3 months because I went back to work full time and pumping breast milk in a high school is quite challenging. Walking in on your history teacher with a giant plastic duck attached to her naked breast is enough to get a straight kid thinking about alternative lifestyles. So since I decided not to hog the teacher's bathroom for 30 minutes during lunch or traumatize my students during 3rd period, my eldest child got formula during the day. I felt horribly guilty about this.

I also felt guilty that I even went to work at all and I especially felt guilty that I enjoyed it. I really liked lunch (and I was eating at a high school cafeteria) because no one touched me. I felt guilty because she had an ear infection that I didn't notice for a while. I felt guilty because the first day I went back to work she didn't take a nap for the entire 8 hours (she was 14 weeks old) and when I picked her up her glassy-eyed expression looked like she'd been hitting the 'shrooms a little hard.

I haven't felt as guilty with my son because I generally do a better job at parenting--or at least I don't make the same mistakes as I did with my daughter. So the guilt I feel at starving him is pretty awful. My husband says helpful things like "you shouldn't feel guilty." He doesn't seem to realize that I don't really have a choice.

So I am going to wallow in my guilt for a little while. If the baby whimpers before nap time, I will snuggle him for two hours to try to make up for not feeding him enough. I will interject what a horrible mother I am into conversations--like "hi, Jane, I'm sorry about your dog dying, but I'm starving my son."

Then I will shake it off--because I'm sure I will do something else to feel guilty about tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Best Mom Tip #7: Imagine

All the people. Livin' for today. You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. Maybe someday you'll join us...Wait. Sorry. I went hippie there for a minute. I can't promise that it won't happen again, but I'll do my best.

I really do have an active imagination. Even as an adult I have "played pretend" when no one was watching. I've given speeches before Congress, greeted foreign leaders as the first female president, accepted an academy award for best supporting actress (I went with supporting actress because even in my imagination I know I don't have the looks to be given the lead in anything. I figure that character actress is my best shot). I've even practiced my Oprah interview about how I just knew that I'd be a writer someday. Oprah, then so enthralled with my sense of humor, tells everyone to go buy all the books I've managed to get published and I am then filthy rich and somehow, thin.

But I never really realized what a great parenting tool my imagination could be until I had a little girl. Earlier this week we pretended that my bed was Santa's sleigh and that we were riding through a forest. My beautiful daughter started this game and pretty soon we were soaring through the sky, hugging each other tightly so we didn't fall out. We also had to keep checking on her baby brother to make sure that he was warm enough since we were way up high. At one point she fell out of the sleigh and landed on the moon. We had to convince Santa to swing back by and pick her up.

She doesn't actually believe that Santa is real--I know, I know...I am probably Scrooge, but a strange guy who sneeks into your house at night always seemed both creepy and unlikely to me. My daughter just loves to play wild and fanciful things. And I can use my own imagination to help hers to grow. We play "sharks in the water," a game where all the carpet in the house is water and we have to avoid the sharks. Sometimes we give the sharks a good talking to, sometimes we grow big and eat the sharks first. Sometimes we snuggle and build a fort out of pillows to protect ourselves from wiley fish with teeth.

One day, when my children are grown, I hope that they play pretend with their own kids. It is a lot more memorable than doing the laundry together.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Best Mom Tip #6: Get your eyebrows done

I was driving over a speed bump near the grocery store last week and my back jiggled. My back. Jiggled. I told my husband that I had back fat and that it was actually beginning to move as though it had a life of its own. He laughed and told me I didn't have back fat and that I was being silly. I said that if it isn't back fat, then my butt is taking over and would soon be covering my entire body.

After that conversation I decided that it was time to take matters into my own hands and do something that makes me feel better about myself. This is where the eyebrow waxing comes in. Getting your eyebrows done has lots of positive benefits. It only costs about 10 bucks. It is on a part of your body that doesn't gain weight. It opens up your face and makes your eyelids look less droopy (which is great if you are sleep deprived). It also only takes about 10 minutes to have done. And you can probably take your baby with you if he happens to still be small enough to be confined to a carrier.

I could have chosen other things to do to make myself feel more attractive--pedicures, new makeup, a haircut. And all of those things have their place. But nothing is quite as fast of a fix as the eyebrows. I didn't have to negotiate child care, I didn't need to work it into the family budget (especially since my new investment plan--keeping our money in a mattress--isn't gaining much), and people don't normally know what you've done differently. They just notice that you look nice.

So if you're having a frumpy-feeling day or your back is channeling St. Nick and acts like a bowl full of jelly, go get your eyebrows done. It's a quick pick-me-up and as far as I know, it doesn't do anything bad to the environment. In a few weeks I'll go again to get my "face lift." In the meantime, I've also joined a gym and packed up all my maternity clothes so I don't get complacent about the newly expanded junk in my trunk.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Best Mom Tip #5: Accept a certain lack of privacy

Becoming a mom means you lose a little bit of your air of mystery, to say the least. Suddenly, there is someone who thinks it is perfectly acceptable to demand you bare your breasts and feed them every 2 to 3 hours no matter who may be nearby. You find yourself getting creative with blankets and jackets to cover yourself in restaurant booths. You may start to invest in things called "hootie hiders" or some other cutsie name that is supposed to make you feel better about playing the role of milk cow in public.

After the nursing phase is over, you still don't really belong to yourself. Your children will stick their little fingers under the door while you try to use the bathroom. Once they get over that phase, they'll just stand outside the door and yell questions like "Mommy, what is wrong with the dishwasher? I was just playing with the handle and now the kitchen is soapy!"

Getting dressed is another fun activity for two (or three or four). Once when I was getting dressed I found my daughter studying us both in the mirror. I was expecting something sweet like "I love you, Mommy" to come out of her mouth. What I got was, "Mommy, I have a little bottom. You have a big bottom. A big, biiiiiiiiiiiiiiig bottom." I remember this every time I get a look at my big "bommun" (as she pronounced it at the time) in the mirror. Or the side of a building. Or those weird mirrored columns in the mall.

I guess my point is this: I am not going to be alone again until all my children are teenagers and they no longer want to talk to me. So as up close and personal as my life might be sometimes, I'm just going to grin and bear it. I draw the line at leaving the bathroom door open while I'm in there, but otherwise, it's not such a bad thing to give my kids access to me if they need it. We have locks on the doors if we really need to keep them out of our bedroom.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Best Mom Tip #4: Trust your man--even if it hurts.

I went into labor with my son 11 days after my due date. In August. In Atlanta. I outweighed my husband and was pretty close to edging out my brother who is a very large, very fit cop. I was swollen, grumpy, and verrrrrrry puffy. When I finally went into labor it was late at night and we went into the whole "hurry to the hospital in the middle of the night" routine that is so popular on TV.

I knew from my appointment earlier in the day that I was already 4 centimeters dilated and I also knew that I had been having regular contractions for the entire afternoon. We needed to get to the hospital quickly and this was my husband's job.

For some reason he decided to take an alternate route to get there. I was breathing through my contractions when I looked up and had no idea where we were. Now, to get to our hospital from our house you travel on two surface streets and one freeway. My husband, however, had decided to go through an office park in order to "avoid the street lights" as he explained to me. It was about 1 am and I can't imagine that these street lights would be much of a deterrent to us, but to him they seemed like a big deal.

So there we were, winding around curves as I tried to breathe normally and not wince every time my enormous body swayed like an elephant with the movement of the car. Personally, I thought that this was a pretty stupid plan and by the time we got to the speed bumps outside the hospital, I had nothing nice to say about the ride.

But here's the thing: I chose not to complain. It wouldn't have done any good--what was he going to do, turn around and start over? He was doing his very best to take care of me and of our baby. He would lose an appendage before he caused me pain.

So I "relaxed" and let him take care of the driving without thinking about it again. My husband saw his son come into the world knowing that he did his part to keep us safe. I figure if I can let my controlling self take a back seat while in pain, I should be able to do it when the dishes aren't done "right." That might make me the best mom ever.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Best Mom Tip #3: Pretend you're driving a limo

When my daughter was a few weeks old, my husband and I visited my parents who live about 40 minutes away from our house. My precious infant screamed bloody murder the whole way home. I felt like we were listening to cats being tortured or perhaps the sound of happiness dying. It was horrible.

That was when we began to pretend that our car was equipped with a glass window between the front and back seats like in a limosine. Now when there are awful noises from the back seat--like my daugther complaining that she only got to hear "Frosty the Snowman" 3 times in a row--we press the imaginary button on the dashboard, make a little "rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr" sound like the window is rolling up, and carry on a perfectly normal conversation.

We imagine the rowdy prom kids in the back have begun experimenting with the mini bar and that any minute we'll get pulled over because they're hanging out of the sunroof. On occasion, we've discussed how nice it was of So So Def records to pick up this new artist and his entire drunk entourage from the airport in a limo. If we're feeling a bit risque' we'll try to avoid noticing what is going on with Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton back there before the awards show.

None of this makes the noise any less invasive, although it does give me a moment to regain my patience. Eventually, I always go back to the contortion moves necessary to find the pacifier and return it to the baby or attempt to pick up the doll that's fallen in the floorboard. We may even listen to Frosty one more time. But for a few minutes, I'm living the glamorous life where the unruly children don't belong to me and the barf and bodily fluids I have to clean up belong to the stars.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Best Mom Tip #2: Put on your dancing shoes

My pregnancies have left me with a variety of odd and embarrassing physical ailments. They range from a broken tail bone to a toe that falls out of joint to hemorrhoids and they show up to harass me at the most inconvenient times. I tell you this to explain why I was standing at the pharmacy counter waiting for a prescription for FOREVER with my children in tow.

Usually I work in picking up prescriptions with the rest of my grocery shopping so we don't just stand there waiting. Unfortunately, I required a prescription for a problem relating to the behind region and I needed to get this issue resolved quickly so I made a special trip. This left me trying to find something to entertain my daughter while we waited for the pharmacist to finish his job.

It was at that point that the grocery store radio started playing a little James Brown. We started to "feel good" with our feet and my daughter loved it. Motown doesn't get much airtime these days and my little one had never heard this particular song. The fact that Mommy knew the song AND wanted to dance thrilled her. We were whipping out swing moves and imitating the "hardest working man in show business" right there in the Publix.

Suddenly, I didn't feel so down about my broken down body. It can still bust a very small move when it wants to. And we were having a great time. Sure, the other shoppers gave us a wide berth, but that was probably because they were awed by our dancing. So I plan to keep on keepin' on when the music moves me--or until the pharmacist says "Ma'am, your procto-zone is ready."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Best Mom Tip #1: Remind yourself that TV isn't real

It seems obvious that TV isn't real until you start to believe that you could have a life like that if you only tried harder. Sometime in the last decade the character Rachel on "Friends" had a baby. All her friends were gathered around her and there was much love and rejoicing. There were, of course, the required jokes about the pain and the cute discussions about names (she eventually stole the name "Emma" from Monica), but overall, Rachel had a great pregnancy and birth. And I believed it. Even though I knew that TV relationships and TV sex weren't real life, I somehow didn't apply that to pregnancy and motherhood. I actually bought what they were selling.

The catch, of course, was that Rachel wasn't pregnant. Jennifer Aniston wasn't pregnant. Nobody on the show was having a baby and they certainly weren't taking that baby home for a few weeks of hell at the hands of a newborn. So when my own precious daughter came into the world I was totally shocked. I had no idea that babies were so HARD. I was beyond tired (and I actually ran a marathon in the same year she was born) and I couldn't imagine ever being able to do anything fun again.

That part is over now, but I still fall victim to what TV is telling me. That Electrolux commercial with Kelly Ripa (see it from YouTube below) doesn't just make me want a new refrigerator--it also makes me feel like I should be trying harder. I'd NEVER be able to go to my fabulous job, simultaneously host a slumber party for the kids and a cocktail party for the grownups, and wear heels at the same time. How does she DO it?

Then I remember that she only does it for the 30 seconds of the commercial--I bet in the morning, before Regis comes over for their organic breakfast feast and before they hop into the town car that chauffeurs them to work, she has frizzy hair and nasty kid germs on her, too. She's not amazing because she does the impossible--Kelly, and every other mom out there, is amazing because she puts her heart into her life. TV can't ever compete with that.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Beginning: How I Know I'm the Best Mom

My daughter runs free and laughs every day. She is beautiful and full of life and I delight in her. My son grins at me and snuggles close and and is far more mellow than either my daughter or I (he takes after his father). I know I'm the best mom because my kids tell me so. And I bet yours do, too.

I, like every other woman I know, constantly compare myself to other women. I was trying to explain to my husband the other day what it feels like when I don't get the laundry done, lose the 15 pounds I'd like to blame on the baby ( but really are the result of eating cookie dough), have anything interesting to say about the world because I was covered in poop and/or barf today, or generally fail at my self-assigned duties. I don't just think I've had a bad day--I think I'm a bad mother, an unattractive woman, or even worse--BORING.

I imagine all the other thin, well-groomed women making their eco-friendly organic dinners with patience and grace as their children play with educational toys and never watch TV. Or, if the moms work outside the home, the thin, well-groomed women pick up a delicious organic meal at Whole Foods on the way home where they then have scintillating conversations about office politics with their husbands over wine and cheese. My reality is that we get take-out at fast food places when I just don't feel like cooking, I'm trying to limit my 4 year old to less than 8 hours of TV a week so she doesn't become antisocial (which I read was a possibility last week), and my husband and I talk after the kids are asleep and during the 18 different reality shows we record on our DVR (can you BELIEVE the 6 people left on Survivor:Gabon?).

But then it occurred to me: my daughter thinks I'm the best mom in the world. My son isn't old enough to even know there ARE other moms out there. I am their MOM. Sharing with other moms has always made me feel better so I thought I'd create this blog as a way to share my tips--gleaned from my own life and the lives of friends--for being the best mom in the world. If you don't think it's possible to be the best mom, just ask your kids. They really are the best judges of character.