Saturday, December 26, 2009

Best Mom Tip #73: Offer a toast

Jay and I are not poetic people. We are pretty practical and we don't often record our emotions or even life's events.

But we are very grateful. We celebrated our 12th Christmas as a married couple this year. Since that first one we've had 5 addresses, 5 jobs each, 6 cars, at least a dozen vacations, and 2 and 1/3 kids. We've had our cars towed at least 3 times, had roof leaks at least twice, had a busted water main line, and had to replace an HVAC system in July while I was 8 months pregnant.

We've paid for a Master's Degree, supported each other through periods of unemployment, and experienced both raises and pay cuts. We've gone to funerals for grandparents and great aunts and uncles, weddings for siblings and cousins, and to the hospital to visit at least 10 new babies. We buried my beloved aunt for whom my daughter is named.

We almost lost my dad, we watched our siblings become adults, and we prayed desperately for the health of lots of friends and relatives.

There are a lot more things--it has been 12 years. But through it all we have developed one toast that we offer up for every Christmas, Valentine's Day, and anniversary: To more of the same.

So for this year and the next 60 to come, "to more of the same."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best Mom Tip #72: Take deep breaths

I went to the doctor this past week and HL3 had a good, strong heartbeat (we called our first child HLB for healthy little baby before she arrived). It is always reassuring to hear that beautiful sound especially at this point in the pregnancy when you don't have many other symptoms. I am lucky in that I don't show weight immediately, but the downside is that when I'm pregnant it takes me a really long time to actually LOOK pregnant. The result is that I just look chubby until the 6th month or so. It is not good for my ego. With no obvious bump and no more nausea I was getting a little nervous.

Anyway, I feel the need to take deep breaths because I am worried about I will manage loving all three of my babies. And how I will give them attention. And I will sleep. My son keeps waking up in the middle of the night for some unknown reason that I can't figure out and I find myself thinking "how will they ever all sleep through the night?" I realize that lots of people have more than two children, but they are not my immediate family members so I feel out of my element.

So deep breaths. I have 6 months to figure it out.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Best Mom Tip #71: Keep your options open

So today I am 12 weeks pregnant with my third child. I am excited and nervous and decidedly disappointed with the general reactions of our family and friends. I should have told them I was getting a puppy. I'm aware I have another kid under 2 and, yes, I have a firm grasp of biology. I am intentionally having another child. On purpose. Right now.

Jay and I just didn't feel done after the last one. Well, we did for about 5 months, but then we started sleeping again and we realized we liked the chaos. I really like my children. And who regrets another human being to love and be loved by? Also, these are the people who will take care of me in my dotage so I'm o.k. trying to stack the deck in my favor. Surely one of them will want to take Mom into their home when I'm no longer able to order myself dinner--because heaven knows if the children are grown I certainly won't be cooking.

The baby is due in June, which is great for this school year, but means I have to again make decisions about working or not come August. Or what I will do with myself if I stay home. Who knows what my life will look like 7 months from now--well, louder and with me responsible for more poop, but other than that I'm not sure. I'm trying to keep my options open.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Best Mom Tip #70: Don't wear holiday sweaters

Really, people. Holiday sweaters are ridiculous. I went shopping today and saw three grown women, all aged 35-45, wearing matching holiday sweater vests. One of them even had on reindeer antlers. I just don't get it. What do you look for when you find the perfect one? "Oooohhhhh, that one has FORTY-THREE different kinds of puffy ornaments! I must have it!"

One of my coworkers had a pretty rough parent conference back in October that went on forever. I asked her if there was another teacher in the room because I saw a woman wearing a Halloween sweater and teachers are notorious for wearing horrible themed clothing. Pencil-shaped button covers, Christmas ornament earrings, even Valentine's Day apparel all seem to be acceptable to my fellow educators. It turns out that the sweater belonged to the parent who is, in fact, a teacher at another school.

I cracked up. This woman really thought that the best way to get her points across about her child's education was to wear a shirt with 18 pumpkins on it. OF COURSE, people will take you seriously. You look like a small child's craft project gone awry. Or, at best, like your grandmother held you down and crocheted you.

Buy some real clothes. Give the sweaters away to people you want to make look frumpier.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Best Mom Tip #69: Be Thankful--but defend yourself at the same time

So it is Thanksgiving today and I am very grateful for my life. My kids are healthy and we have good jobs. We have a house that, although it has its quirks, is certainly big enough for our family. My brother-in-law won't be going to Iraq again this Winter. My brother and his wife are expecting a baby girl--their first child. Our parents are healthy. Our finances are mostly in order. As I woke up this happy morning I was thinking of all of these things.

And then Griffin cried loud enough and long enough that we let him into our bed. Then he climbed all over us like we were jungle gyms. He elbowed me in the chest multiple times and plopped down on my stomach.

The first words Jay said to me this morning were, "Dammit! I've been kicked in the nuts twice!"

So be thankful. But maybe wear a cup. Parenting is a contact sport.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Best Mom Tip #68: Become president

Bed time tonight:

My Daughter: "Mommy, will I go to my same school when I go to elementary school?"
Me: No.
MD: Why NOT!!!???
Me: We have to pay for your school now. Regular elementary school is paid for by the government.
MD: Mommy, have you been president yet?
Me: No.
MD: Has any girls been president?
Me: No.
MD: I would like to be president so a girl could be president.
Me: I would be very happy if you were the President.
MD: I would be very happy if YOU were President, Mommy.

So dream on. One of us needs to become the President. My daughter's looking for a girl in the job.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Best Mom Tip #67: Do jumping jacks

While getting ready for bath time my daughter realized that her bath water hadn't yet been run. She ran into the play room naked and said, "There's no water in my bath tub.....Jumping Jacks!"

Then she began to do 4-year-old naked jumping jacks. I think my day would be a lot more interesting if I finished every sentence with a physical command. Things like, "Get out your notebooks....push-ups!" Or, "study for your test...arm wrestle!" Maybe I'll try that tomorrow.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Best Mom Tip #66: Sing Along

While I was doing bedtime with Charlotte tonight she asked me to sing her a song. She was pretending to be a puppy so this request was made with a series of barks and woofs between each word. I sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and she barked along with me.

Ruff, ruff, woof, woof, ruff, ruff, woof
ruff, ruff, woof, woof, ruff, ruff, woof.

It was beautiful. I finished the song without laughing, but there was a smile in every word. If only you could bottle that...

Best Mom Tip #65: Take the kids to Grandmama's

I left my kids at my parents' house to spend the night tonight so that Jay and I could spend the afternoon reading at Starbucks and then go to a movie. I ate ice cream for a snack, Mexican food for dinner, and had a coke at the movie. Which was The Hangover. And was very funny.

But I felt guilty that I was happy about leaving them and then sad that I would miss them being asleep in my house. I am a mess of angst. Maybe the teenagers are rubbing off of me. At least I didn't get turned away from a Rated R movie like the kids in front of me. They grumbled, "I knew we should have gone to Regal!" Hee hee. Stupid kids.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Best Mom Tip #64: Live your dreams

O.k., I don't want to live out this particular dream. Last night I dreamed that Jay and I managed to forget our children in our car in the parking lot of a hotel. We were chatting away in the hotel room when I suddenly realized that we'd left the kids in the car.

I desperately ran to the parking lot where people were crowded around our car talking about how horrible it was that some woman had left her kids in the car. To make things worse, the kids had opened the car door and my son was eating some poisonous red berries that were on a nearby bush. About this time one of my students showed up and said, "if you can't handle these kids, you'll never be able to teach Freshmen."

I might be feeling a bit overwhelmed. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to forget my children in the car, but apparently I don't think I can manage all the pieces of my life. Stupid I need more fuel for my neuroses.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Best Mom Tip #63: Assume you have no idea what you're doing

This may not apply to you, but I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing with my life. I stopped blogging because I went back to work this past August as a high school teacher. For a while it was great--I got to open a new school and deal with all the funny parts of being a teacher. For instance, last week kids were caught having oral sex in a stairwell. Why the stairwell? Why not a bathroom or empty classroom? And if you're going to go so far as to commit a misdemeanor, why not just skip school? There's a movie theater across the street. You could just go to the matinee.

Anyway, now I'm bored.

School is still fun, but not the challenge it used to be. And now I have these two kids who had swine flu and I had to go to work. Now that the thrill of working again is over, I'm dissatisfied again. Is there something wrong with me? Am I just never going to be satisfied? Am I stuck in some horrible transcendentalist phase of my life where I'll just stare at ponds and wonder about the meaning of life?

If that's the case, I might just start to hate myself. I'm really not much of a philosopher--I usually just start wondering why these people don't have jobs.

So, again, I don't know what I'm doing with my life. Maybe I could be an astronaut...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Best Mom Tip #62: Don't correct your gym instructor

Today I learned that the incredibly perky woman in front of the room in any woman-centered excercise class does not ACTUALLY want you to tell her how many reps you are on. Apparently, this is some sort of schtick she uses to get you to do more. Since I am able to count really well, I just find it annoying when she yells "I think that was just 20" when we all know it was really 40.

Back in January I joined my local YMCA because, although I had lost 35 pounds since my son was born in August, I still weighed a good 30 pounds more than I really wanted to. Also, I couldn't wear any of my clothes.

I started slowly by meeting with a trainer and setting up a strength training program that didn't tax any of my hurty joints. It's now been about 4 months and I have lost 20 or so pounds and my back doesn't jiggle any more. But I got bored in the weight room so now I take classes 5 days a week.

Which is why I've learned not to argue with the teacher. She just makes me do more scary ab excercises. Today I also mentioned that her missing cat was probably eaten by a coyote. I don't think we'll be hanging out any time soon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Best Mom Tip #61: You don't HAVE to share if you don't want to

You may have noticed that I haven't posted anything for about a month.

"What is wrong with her", you've been thinking. "Doesn't she know that I need something to use up 45 seconds of my late afternoon sugar crash so I don't fall asleep at my desk?"

Well, honestly, I've been kind of depressed about being at home and wondering what I want to do with my life and being really grumpy in general. A lot of people benefit from writing those thoughts and feelings down, but I just wind up wallowing in my funk when I talk about it more.

So I've ignored you all. Sorry about that. I'm feeling better now and I can probably comment on my life at home with little kids without sounding bitter. For me, being completely honest about everything I've been feeling would just make me sound ungrateful and unloving toward my beautiful children.

We live in a world where everyone shares everything all the time and it gives us both a sense of self-importance and a belief that we're entitled to know all about people we don't even know. I almost bought the new People magazine where Kate Gosselin talks about how she and Jon might break up.

I am genuinely curious about their marriage--and then that made me feel creepy so I put it back down and just got my tube of cookie dough. This family is losing itself because so many of us are interested in their lives.

Obviously I don't have a TLC show or several book deals, but I still felt like I could relate to something in their lives--maybe if they hadn't talked about every aspect of their lives for so long they wouldn't have to address marital issues in national magazines. Sometimes, DOING life instead of TALKING about your life is more productive.

So I'm only going to share when I feel like it. Consider this my philosophy: The unexamined life IS worth living--at least for a month at a time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Best Mom Tip #60: Don't look back

I made the mistake of turing around once when my daughter said, "Mommy, look at this," and now that's the only phrase I hear. In the car. At the park. While trying to make dinner.

Yesterday it was while I was on the floor of her brother's room trying to lower the crib mattress by myself and holding the mattresss part up by my feet.

Often my reply is "I'm driving the car and I cannot turn around right now." This has very little effect on a 4-year-old. I am inevitably doing something like carrying a pot of boiling water or unloading knives from the dishwasher when she suddenly discovers the BEST TWIRLY SKIRT EVER that I simply MUST LOOK AT RIGHT NOW!

She is wonderful and cute--but she drives me nuts.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Best Mom Tip #59: Get healthy

Yeah, I know.  You don't need to feel guilty about something else and you certainly don't need it from me.  But I feel a LOT better since I've been working out again. 

My latest pregnancy left me with quite a few aches and pains and I had to start completely over with my excercise routines.  Instead of running, I started lifting weights with the help of a coach at the YMCA and it has made a huge difference.  For the first month I used no-impact machines for cardio workouts.  

I'm now able to jog on occassion without feeling like my knees might collapse under me at any point.  My back doesn't jiggle when I go over bumps anymore.  I can wear a good deal of my old clothes.  And I'm not nearly as tired as I was--although that might be becuase both of my children usually sleep through the night at this point.  

I'm not ready to go to the beach and feel as carefree as I did at 20, but that may never be the case.  And there are new wrinkles on places like my stomach that I notice now that some of the fat is gone.   But still, I'd rather be wrinkly and fit than have taut skin simply becuase it's being stretched from the inside out.  

Go for a walk.  Without your children.  It really does make you feel better. 

Monday, April 6, 2009

Best Mom Tip #58: Cross something off someone else's list

I have been feeling quite annoyed with my everyday life lately. It is pretty mundane and nothing is ever really "finished." The laundry will be dirty again tomorrow. We will continue to use plates and glasses--unless we go with paper plates, but that would just make me feel guilty about killing the earth.

I got a dress altered last week, but that required me to undress in a room lit with fluorescent lights so that task didn't really make me feel accomplished, either. I went to the eye doctor and spent $85 for drops because I got something in my eye. Necessary, but not exactly a feeling of success to have that done.

But I also did something off of my husband's list. We have an 11-year-old truck that my husband loves. It has helped a LOT of people move (you know who you are) and has gone camping many times (before our kids were born we actually camped in places that required 4-wheel-drive on occasion.)

Unfortunately, this wonderful truck doesn't fit our entire family at once and that has made it a bit obsolete for our current lives. Over the years, the paint on the hood of the truck wore off while the rest of the paint job remained and this one thing had been preventing my hubby from selling it. (That, and his sadness over the loss of his truck, I'm sure.)

It was hard for him to take it to be painted during the workday so I took it upon myself. I got my mom to watch the kids (they won't fit in the truck, you know) and I took it to get it painted. Then I drove my husband to work for a couple of days and he hitched rides home from friends until we got the truck back.

Now the truck is for sale and it looks like we're in our last week or so of truck ownership. It is the most success I have felt in weeks. I got a big thing off of our list that has made my guy feel better.

It isn't exactly the feeling I had when I solved a major problem at work and felt the satisfaction of a job well done, but it mattered to someone else. And the truck won't need repainting again tomorrow, so it beats out "fed and bathed the kids" on the satisfying task scale.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Best Mom Tip #57: Pull that car over RiGHT NOW!

I actually did it. I followed through with the age-old threat and pulled the car over in the middle of a drive. I got laughed at by a pedestrian and studiously ignored by the business-at-lunch set. But I did it.

We were on our way home from the gym a little later than usual and it was time for lunch. My son has been battling a nasty cough, so when he fell asleep in the car I didn't want to wake him up. He hadn't slept well the night before and sitting up allowed him to breathe a bit easier.

So I went throught the drive-though at the Chick-fil-A and my daughter and I had a "car picnic" at the park while my little baby slept. Then we decided to go for a ride to let Baby Boy sleep a little longer. This is where the trouble started.

We had a pretty good ride, but I noticed that it was about "nap" time (really just quiet play time in her room) and, more importantly, the bathroom break that accompanies nap time. I turned for home and my angelic daughter went nuts.

She started kicking the seat in front of her, flailing her arms, and screeching like a banshee. She, of course, woke up the baby. I took it for a couple of minutes and then I had this thought--"I want to spank her until she stops crying." Since this is an irrational thought, I realized that I might not be handling the screaming as well as I imagined.

I pulled into a parking lot, yanked her out of the car, and plunked her down on the curb. I told her that people couldn't act like that in my car and she could get back in when she could behave normally. It took about 5 minutes for the blubbering to stop, by which point she was covered in snot and beet red. It was not attractive.

I did feel a little guilty when it started to rain and the temperature dropped pretty rapidly. I stayed outside the car with her (no calls to DFACS, please) and eventually she started laughing. I don't know why. But at least she stopped crying and I didn't beat her or sell her to gypsies. Score one for Mom.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Best Mom Tip #56: Play dress-up in the mall

I went shopping with my mom, my sister-in-law, and my kids last week. We had a great time and there was someone to hold the baby while I tried on dresses. The best part was when my Little Princess came into the dressing room with me to try things on.

It's Prom season so there were LOTS of ridiculously sparkly gowns that my daughter thought were amazingly beautiful. So I let her try them on. She was particularly enamored of a blue, green, and teal dress with a sparkly fabric and rhinestones on the bodice. It was quite mermaid-like.

We both tried it on and then I started on the more appropriate sun dresses for my Easter attire. Little Princess put on every dress I tried on. She went out of the dressing room for the opinions of our other shoppers each time I did. She twirled even though the knee-length dresses were dragging the floor and they really wouldn't stay up.

And she felt beautiful. And fancy. And very grown-up. We had milkshakes to celebrate our shopping success.

On the way home she said, "Mommy, I didn't want to behave well the whole time, but I did anyway." It turns out that after choosing her own dress she was done with shopping and was not interested in what anyone else was going to wear. It apparently took all of her 4-year-old strength to keep from pitching a fit in the Macy's. That and a milkshake. How did she get so grown up?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Best Mom Tip #55: Watch them sleep

You probably don't need to be told this one. I bet you go into your kids' rooms at the end of the day and make sure that they are still breathing. You cover them up if they've kicked off the covers. You check to make sure the room isn't too hot or too cold. Maybe you refresh the water on the nightstand.

You should also just stand there for a minute and look at that little face in repose. See how sweet those little eyelashes are against her cheek? Look at that little bow of a mouth as he breathes in and out. Isn't it funny how they sleep with their behinds in the air or their arms flung out to the sides?

Now try to remember this moment tomorrow. When she decides that the bananas are too brown and throws them in the trash where you just put the raw eggs. Remember this when he colors on the carpet with the special permanent markers he found on Daddy's desk. Picture that sweet little body tangled in the covers when she has dressed herself in your silk blouse and then washed her baby doll in the sink.

Take a moment to drink in the beauty of a sleeping child. It might help your child make it alive and kicking to the next night.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Best Mom Tip #54: Thank a soldier

My 7-month-old son met his Uncle Christian for the first time today because my brother-in-law is newly returned from Iraq. We are very grateful that he made it home safely after a 15-month-long deployment in a war America is talking about less and less often.

Last night, while at my parent's house, a childhood friend of my brother's dropped in to see us all. He was with his wife and new baby and it was fun to see people we've known since we were kids showing off our beautiful children to each other. He will be shipping out to Afghanistan, coincidentally with my brother's brother-in-law (his wife's brother), in a few short months.

These men and their families serve our country in a very tangible way both while deployed and while at home. When our friend returns from Afghanistan, his baby will be walking, talking, and playing--but probably won't be comfortable around his Daddy. While he's gone, his wife will be doing it all single-handedly and worried about his safety.

When I am tired and disappointed about something in my everyday life, I remind myself that our military families are out there doing it with a war in the middle of their lives. Thank a soldier. It puts things in perspective.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Best Mom Tip #53: Read the internet news

This isn't rocket science, but it saves my sanity often. I can't really watch the news on TV because Little Princess asks things like, "What happened to that little girl?" Ummmm...she was killed by her heartless mother? Or "Do people get hurt in wars?" Yes, but I'm sure your uncle is fine today.

And I have to turn the channel quickly before I get asked what child molestation or rape mean. I just want to know if there were any major world events I should know about--I'm not quite ready to explain sex and the ways in which it is perverted in our world to my four year old.

So, I check CNN, MSN, and wsbtv (our local news station) every day. That way I know what's going on and I don't have to try to explain how that woman had 8 babies in her tummy and why people are mad at her. Or what a Ponzi scheme is--which is good because I'm tired of hearing about that one. Why is it a bigger deal when rich people lose their money to a scam artist?

And in these days when I don't work outside our home, it gives me something to talk about with my husband other than our children's bodily functions, when the bug guy is coming, and whether or not we have any clean underwear. That alone is worth the price of our internet access.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Best Mom Tip #52: Say goodnight to sleep

I don't think I've slept through the night for an entire week straight in four years. I have definitely not had a good night's sleep every night for two weeks in a row in over 4 years.

It started while I was pregnant with my daughter and I had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Then there were the contractions that woke me up every night, but never progressed to labor. Then, of course, there was the screamy newborn who, it turns out, DID actually cry more than most babies.

Last week my baby son got an ear infection (actually two, one in each ear) and my biggest tip-off was the fact that he didn't sleep as well as he usually does. Then the antibiotic upset his tummy and he wiggled and cried about his ears AND his belly. The Little Guy is feeling much better and has been back to his usual sleep patterns since Monday, so last night it was his sister's turn to keep me exhausted.

Little Princess has a stuffy nose so I left her a box of tissues and a glass of water by her bed if she woke up and needed them. She did wake up and reach for her tissues, but she chose to carefully pick them up bring them (and her water glass) into my room to set them on MY nightstand. Then she crawled into bed and wiggled in between my husband and me.

All night long she kept waking up and climbing over me to get a tissue and a swig of water. After she was done blowing her nose loudly in my face she would hand me a snotty tissue to place over near my glasses on the bedside table. She breathed heavily through her mouth directly into my nose and stole my pillow.

By the light of day I am very annoyed with her and myself for letting this happen. In the middle of the night, I couldn't figure out what was happening and I was too tired to fight.

I may be the only person on earth who starts drinking Red Bull just so I can defend my place in my bed at night. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Best Mom Tip #51: Clean the smelly things

One of my biggest frustrations about motherhood is that I am never finished with all of the mom chores. Whether or not I work outside the home, this is always the case. When I work, I don't have enough time to get everything done. When I stay home, we're always messing up what I just cleaned.

So I'm focusing on the things that smell funny. That pretty much covers kitchen, bathroom, laundry, and the kids themselves. I do the dishes, take the kids to the doctor, get everyone bathed every day, wash the clothes, and clean necessary parts of the bathroom. The sweeping, picking up toys, and making the beds only last about 15 minutes anyway so I'll get to them when I can.

I'm curious to see if this idea could work in other areas of my life. What if I only pay attention to the coworkers or students who smell funny? What if I only pay attention to the car when I notice a new odor? It might not work forever (eventually, the car will break if I only fix the brakes when they smell hot), but I think I can get away with it for quite a while.

Honestly, this plan has me focusing the most on my children, which is where my priorities lie anyway. Off to change another diaper.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Best Mom Tip #50: Ask your kids questions

I asked my daughter what Bible verse she learned at church on Sunday--after a few minutes of concentration she said, "God takes care of me. 3 Peter Pan." I think it was actually from the book 1Peter, but I'm pretty excited about reading that new Peter Pan book. Seems intriguing.

I asked if she had brushed her hair and I got a 5 minute monologue on the positives of wearing a headband--you don't have to clip anything, which is sometimes hard, and your hair looks very pretty.

I asked my baby boy if he was hungry and he said, "uuuuuhhhhhhhhh." I'm very confident that was his version of "YES! YES! YES!"

Best of all, I play a game with them both called "who's the best." I say, "who's the best baby in the world" and my boy grins. I say, "who's the best big girl in the world" and my daughter raises her hand.

And daughter says, "who's the best Mommy in the world" and yells her answer--"Mama's the best Mommy in the world!" When I don't feel like I'm doing a good job, I just ask my kids questions. It's great for the soul.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Best Mom Tip #49: Act like you don't smell anything

My almost-seven-month-old son has developed a routine for any car ride lasting longer than 15 minutes. First, he spits up on himself no matter how long it's been since he last ate. He manages to coat the car seat straps and himself every time. Next, he talks for several minutes about life and, by the inflection in his voice, the things that annoy him--having a wet neck is probably one of those things. He then removes at least one of his socks to chew on, which leaves it so soggy it cannot be put back on until it dries. He follows "sock time" up with a bowel movement. Finally, he falls asleep.

The result is that when I get anywhere that requires more than 15 minutes in the car, I arrive with a grumpy/sleepy baby with bare feet, a front that smells like barf, and a behind that smells far worse. My dreams of graceful entrances to hip parties didn't come true before I had kids, but I'm facing the fact that they are really never going to happen at this point.

My daughter helps out the process by giving me a running commentary of what he is doing in the car. "Mommy, he sneezed, but there was no snot. Well, there's snot on the car seat, but not on him!" Or "Mommy, he smells like poop. Poopy, poopy, poopy (in a sing-song voice)."

This adds to my general state of frazzled-looking Mom when I arrive at my destination. So I'm pretending like I don't smell anything and that my children and I all look just as fresh as when we first got dressed--20 minutes ago.

Update: After I finished this post, I took my son to the doctor. He filled his diaper on his way there so that we arrived incredibly fragrant. Then we were given a prescription for Augmentin that required another visit to the pharmacist. Motherhood is great, isn't it?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Best Mom Tip #48: Count your blessings

If you read this on a regular basis, you will have noticed that I haven't written yet this week. I'd like to apologize and offer a reason for my absence. Basically, I haven't felt like writing about silly things. Right now three families I know are dealing with medical problems that are shaping their everyday lives--it just didn't feel right talking about my at-home pedicure (which is not NEARLY as long lasting as when I pay for them).

One of the families just found out that the wife's long battle with cancer is almost over--she's been given less than 6 months to live. They have two children under the age of 10. A woman I know from college took her son to the doctor last week because he had a headache. This week he is a cancer patient who has undergone brain surgery and is looking at 8 months of chemo and radiation. He is in the 1st grade.

The third family is actually expecting twins, which is wonderful. But the mom has been ordered on bed rest and they have a not-quite-two-year-old to take care of. This woman works full time and quitting her job 3 months early was not part of the plan. I don't know what that will mean for their finances and, of course, we're concerned first for the babies. But again, my annoyance at the rate at which my son outgrows his clothes seems irrelevant.

My family is healthy and in this economy we are grateful to have more than we need to live on. It's enough to make supremely grateful--even if my son's new favorite sound is "high-pitched screech of a hawk dying."

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Best Mom Tip #47: Don't talk to strangers

My husband's birthday was this week so my children and I headed to our regular grocery store to buy him some birthday cards. This was quite a weighty decision for Little Princess because being 4 requires that you really debate the merits of pop-up cards. It also means that you forget what you're doing when you see sparkly cards that you might like for yourself. After the 4th or 5th suggestion of a Barbie/princess/rainbow birthday card I reminded my daughter that these cards were for her father.

That's when she loudly yelled, "He's NOT my father!"

My husband and I have been married for 10 years and he is most definitely the father of my children in every sense of the word. My daughter, however, calls him "Daddy" and she felt that father and daddy didn't have the same connotation, which is why she protested my statement so vehemently. All of which I felt the need to explain to the people standing nearby who, from my point of view, were giving us odd looks.

I knew they were thinking, "how sad that that woman is forcing her children to buy cards for some new guy in her life and trying to pretend that he's their father. Or maybe he IS the baby's father. She'd have to be pretty fast moving to have that baby AND a new guy. So the older kid must belong to someone else and the BABY is the new guy's. But she does have on wedding rings--maybe the older kid was from a first relationship and now she resents the new marriage. Poor little girl. "

I attribute a lot of internal monologue to people I don't know. That's probably why I began to correct my daughter in a commanding tone, making sure that I pointed out that my husband IS her father. She continued to argue over me every time I said the word father, so I'm pretty sure that if any strangers WERE listening, I just made it worse. And since none of the strangers would make eye contact with me, my only recourse was to have a conversation with my daughter that I intended for the innocent bystanders to overhear.

By the end of the card-shopping adventure even I began to believe that my husband is not actually related to my daughter and that we're really just forcing her to try to love him. This is, of course, the same store where I had my recent embarrassing pharmacy incident so I've decided it's best if I just don't talk to strangers anymore. It's bad for my self-esteem.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Best Mom Tip #46: Read Allison Wonderland

Yesterday my daughter told me all about how she really loves Alice in Wonderland. She described her dress (kind of a purple-y-blue in real life, Mommy) and how there was a cat. It took me a minute to realize that she kept calling Alice "Allison".

It turns out that in Little Princess's world Allison is just one member of the fortunately named Wonderland Family. Her version of the story involves pictures from her Disney book, drawings from the original Alice in Wonderland, and her own imagination. It is actually quite an enjoyable tale and doesn't involve nearly as many drug related events as the actual story does.

This morning I heard her telling her dolls that Daddy was going to give a Dumbo to his clients. In reality, my husband was presenting a demo of his company's software, but a Dumbo does sound like more fun. Since he will also be attending the Texas State Rodeo as part of this client visit, it really doesn't seem so far fetched that there would be an elephant in addition to the horses, bulls, and BBQ.

I've decided that I'm going to try to imagine the world as my creative little girl hears it. She can't yet read so she's not hindered by seeing the words written down. She just takes what she hears and squishes the information into a more-fun version of what her day is like.

Allison Wonderland isn't doing anything special when she attends the tea party--that's what every day is like for her. And Daddy is a superhero who takes Dumbos on planes to clients with rodeos. I wish I were 4.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Best Mom Tip #45: Play with their toys

I can't tell you how much fun my new dollhouse is. It has all sorts of furniture and tiny food for the kitchen. There are area rugs, a laptop computer, and a very nice coat rack. I especially like the changing table for the twins' room. And the canopy bed for the older sister is the envy of my actual, real-life daughter.

Technically, the doll house belongs to that real-life little girl, but I get to play with it on a regular basis. At the end of the day, I help reset the furniture and I rearrange the rooms the way I would like them to be. I put the family at the dinner table and set out the vegetables and cupcakes for them to eat. Then I start to work on the Barbies.

I can remember finding my Barbies in different positions when I was a little girl and wondering why my mom was playing with MY toys. I now realize that it's because moms don't really HAVE their own toys, but they're still fun to play with. So now I treat toy clean-up time as a way for my to get my toy fix. The kids think I'm overzealous when it comes to putting things in their place--I think the doll family really appreciates my help in creating traffic flow from one room to the next. How else will that mom ever have time to sit down at the laptop and write her own blog? Now if only the giant Mommy who owns my house would show up and clean...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Best Mom Tip #44: Paint your face

This is me getting my face painted at Epcot. I realize that I look like a fool, but my Little Princess thought that this was the best make-up job EVER and she got one to match.

I spent the entire rest of the day wondering why people were looking at me like I was crazy--then I'd catch a glimpse of myself in the shiny facades of the World of Tomorrow and remember that I looked like a Rainbow Pop had been smeared on my face.

My daughter's reaction to her reflection was somewhat different--every time she got to see herself she would smile and preen and talk about how wonderful her glitter lipstick looked. There were lots of kids with their faces painted, but I only saw one other adult with hers done in the three days I spent inside the Walt Disney World parks. Even if she hadn't had the face of a cat painted on her, I would have recognized a kindred spirit. She was the OTHER mom still smiling at the end of the very long day at Disney.

By embracing the silliness of childhood, the Magic Kingdom held a lot more magic and I certainly couldn't take myself too seriously. I like being one of the kids every now and then.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Best Mom Tip #43: Girls' Night Out

I can't tell you how much I appreciate the monthly girls' night out I go to. There are single women, married women without kids, and other moms who go. It's not always the same people, so I meet new women sometimes. Sometimes it's just me and friends I've had for 15 years. We talk about jobs, kids, husbands, books, movies, church, and occasionally politics.

We confess our parenting mistakes--no, your kid is not going to be crazy because you broke his lego tower; yeah, you probably shouldn't get that mad at a 2 year old--and laugh at stories that don't involve our own embarrassing moments. Sometimes we pester our friend who's having twins to tell us what it feels like in there (her answer is "crowded"). We usually check up the birth horror stories if there are non-moms in attendance.

Last week I talked a lot about the Twilight books that I just read so that I could relate to the teenage girls I volunteer with a bit better. Not exactly saving the world, but funny to share and I did help one friend understand why, in the movie, they all just stare at each other a lot. One friend is probably moving to Maryland to follow her husband's dream job. One friend is trying to decide whether or not to go back to work now that the kids are a bit older. Another single woman is moving in with a friend to save money and get her finances on track in this economy.

There was probably a 10-year age range at our last gathering and we certainly were in different stages of life. But there was never a break in the conversation, no one got mad or bored, and we closed down the Starbucks AGAIN. I couldn't help but think that old "if women ran the world thing" about how there would be more talking and less fighting. I'm not sure if that is really true, but there would certainly be a lot more understanding if we all just chatted about our lives for a few hours once a month.

As always, I left inspired, encouraged, and laughing. Find some girls to go out with. It does wonders.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Best Mom Tip #42: Bathe quickly

I spend a lot of time herding people out of the bathroom so that I can take a shower. I just want to stand in the warm water in peace and get clean while hearing nothing but "ssshhhhhhhhhhh." That never happens.

Someone always cries or needs help finding a shirt or just wants to chat about what they're thinking about. Today I was interrupted by my daughter yelling "I'm bleeding!" She was playing a "game" where she batted the door to my closet back and forth between her hands while talking to me during my shower.

Inevitably, she managed to smash her finger in between the closet door (which is inside my bathroom) and the bathroom sink. The shower had just started to get really warm and certainly didn't want to leave it's wonderful warmth, but there was a little girl crying.

I got out, wrapped up in a big towel, and washed, medicated, and bandaged a very slightly bloody little finger. I gave her a kiss on her Dora band-aid and returned to my shower. I had only managed to wash my hair before the tragic finger-squishing incident.

I'm sure that one day after everyone grows up and goes to college I'll be able to take baths alone. Right now it's just an occupational hazard that I will try to avoid by bathing in under two minutes. I doubt I will be successful.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Best Mom Tip #41: Look under the bed

I found a pumpkin under my daughter's bed today. An actual used-to-be-alive pumpkin. It was one of those small pumpkins that you can use to make a centerpiece or something like that. She got it at a Fall Festival we went to in OCTOBER before Halloween. Valentine's Day is on Saturday and I just found a pumpkin in her room.

In case you are interested, small un-carved pumpkins do not rot through their outer skins when kept in a temperature-controlled room for 4 months--a fact for which I am incredibly grateful. I shudder to think what might have been under there if I hadn't noticed it for another 4 months. Ants? New baby pumpkins? A brown lump of goo? Yeeccchhhh.

I have a friend who once found a stash of food wrappers under her son's bed. He had been sneaking granola bars or fig newtons or something like that and hiding the wrappers so his mom wouldn't find them in the trash. She, too, was thankful she discovered them before the crumbs drew a slew of pests to nest under her boy's bed.

I do look under the bed for clothes and toys, but the pumpkin was tucked up near the foot of the bed in the corner so unless I looked from the right angle (from the foot of the bed as close the wall as possible) I couldn't see it. Consider this a public service announcement--go look under your kids' beds. There could be produce under there.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Best Mom Tip #40: Keep your head up

Motherhood is far more embarrassing that I thought it would be. My kids do gross things in public, say inappropriate things to strangers, and sometimes repeat things I'd rather they didn't. But I also embarrass myself without their help at all.

Recently, my 6-month-old son had an ear infection that wouldn't go away. All moms know how to treat this ailment: start with Amoxicillin for 10 days--if that doesn't work follow with Augmentin for 10 days--then Omnicef, then scary shots, etc. The Amoxicillin didn't work so I had to go back to the pharmacy to get a prescription for Augmentin. I got it filled at about 10 in the morning, but Baby Boy wasn't due for another dose until just before bed time. When it came time to give him the meds, my husband said, "this bottle says Amoxicillin on it."

Frustrated and angry, I drove back to the pharmacy to point out the mistake and defend my precious baby who was this close to taking the same ineffectual medicine for another week. When I got there, the same pharmacist was still on duty, in what must have been the longest pharm shift on earth. To his credit, our pharmacist didn't act as though I was crazy at all when he pointed out that the bottle said Amoxicillin PLUS Clavulanate, which are actually the ingredients in Augmentin. The bottle didn't say Augmentin because most pharmacies only provide the generic version, which is what my pharmacist had done.

He also didn't act as though I insulted his intelligence by returning to the pharmacy to make him fix his egregious error. I suppose I could have called. Or looked it up on the internet. Or asked him when I got the medicine the first time. I made the situation worse by saying that my daughter took the brand name when she was a baby. He, of course, had actual medical records at his fingertips and ran down the 5 or 6 times I gave the GENERIC version of Augmentin to my daugther over the past 4 years. I thanked him for his help and went home.

It's difficult to embarrass oneself in front of a man who already knows what birth control you use, that you've needed hemmoroidal ointment, and that you've used a topical cream to help restore balance to your girly parts after childbirth. But I managed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Best Mom Tip #39: Know a good knock-knock joke

Who's there?
Dishes who?
Dishes the police! Stick 'em up!

Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you gonna open this door?

Who's there?
Boo who?
Why are you crying?

Aren't knock-knock jokes great? My 4-year-old is currently VERY into knock-knock jokes. This is the one she made up today:

LP: Knock-knock.
Me: Who's there?
LP: Bottom
Me, with great reluctance: Bottom who?
LP: Bottom gonna slimer the whole house and the entire world and then gonna take a rest and do it again.

Then she cracked up. I don't know what slimer means and I don't know how a bottom would do that. I'm pretty sure that if it is a real thing, I've had a little bottom or two slimer me and I didn't find it at all funny.

My favorite part of the joke is that it has a definitely threatening quality. She caught part of a commercial for The Godfather on TV yesterday and she seemed way too interested for a 4-year-old girl. Next thing I know her dollhouse will be a compound and Barbie will wake up with a My Little Pony head in her bed.

Who's there?
An Italian guy with a giant florist's box. Don't open the door!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Best Mom Tip #38: Hit Disney in February

I realize that you may not have the opportunity to go to Disney World in February, but I don't think I'm ever going to go back in the summer. Granted, I haven't been to Disney's parks in 20 years (ran the marathon there in 2004, but we didn't visit the parks) so I'm obviously not a huge Mouse fanatic. But February was a great time to go.

Those pink mouse ears at the bottom of the picture belong to my Little Princess and we only waited for about 10 minutes to get to meet Mickey and Minnie. We waited 15 minutes to meet Cinderella, Belle, and Sleeping Beauty.

My daughter smiled for three straight days as we rode Dumbo 5 times, went in the "spooky house" as she called it, and saw a variety of character-laden parades and dance numbers. My 6-month-old son mostly just slept, but even he got into It's a Small World.

After dragging them both around the parks for three days my feet hurt, my back hurt, and my legs felt like lead. We had a blowout diaper in Epcot that resulted in throwing the garment away. We even had to buy new socks. We ran out of formula in the Magic Kingdom and had to buy some from the Mouse. We got rained on for 6 straight hours. But we had fun--ever ridden the Jungle Cruise in the rain? It's pretty enjoyable when you don't have to wait in line.

We walked on to Space Mountain while one of us stayed with the kids and did the same for Big Thunder Mountain. We rode Pirates of the Carribean three times and didn't wait at all. I don't plan on becoming a Disney family where we visit every year, but I can't wait to go back in another few years when my son can say, "I want to ride Dumbo again!"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Best Mom Tip #37: Get kid confidence

I have to apologize for my absence this week--my family and I have been at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. We had a great time even though we rode "It's a Small World" three times and I can't get the song out of my head. I fully intended to blog while I was there, but our Disney hotel charged 10 bucks for 24 hours of internet access and I couldn't bring myself to spend any more than I had to.

There are several blog-worthy items from this week, but I want to focus on one from the very start of our trip. As we were just beginning our drive my beautiful daughter said, "I'm glad I get to be with Mama and Daddy and my brother on our trip. And myself. I'm glad I get to be with me."

Little Princess has no self-doubt at this point. When we bought her a Sleeping Beauty nightgown that goes all the way to the floor, she danced around our hotel room wearing her new digs and her new mouse ears. She twirled in the mirror and admired her rainbow face paint from Epcot. She talked non-stop about everything that remotely caught her eye and it never occurred to her that we might not want to hear what she had to say.

Most of my friends and family would say that she inherited that last trait straight from me. Most of them don't know that at night, I ponder all of the stupid things I think I said during the day and wonder if people got bored with me. What happened to my kid confidence? It's in there, I know. I usually feel pretty confident, but I don't remember the last time I thought, "I'm glad I get to be with myself."

My daughter has taught me yet another valuable mom lesson. I AM glad I get to be with myself--I'm pretty interesting. I have entertaining thoughts and ideas that deserve to be admired even if I don't share them with others. Although several of them are currently set to some repetitive music...It's a small world after all, it's a small world after all, it's a small world after all, it's a small, small, world....

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Best Mom Tip #36: Love your body

I am humbled. Today when I was at the gym I saw a woman who looked to be in her late 50s come in with her husband. One of the trainers came over to help them since this woman was in a wheelchair and, as far as I could see, could not completely control any part of her body. Even her mouth moved awkwardly when she tried to speak. The trainer and her husband got her out of the wheelchair and onto one of the weight machines for her regular routine. It took three people for this woman to complete some pretty basic exercises and I have never been more impressed with anyone.

Most days this would have inspired me, but today it was particularly appropriate. Due to the joys of facebook I have reconnected with several of my old friends from high school. Usually this is nothing but fun, but lately I have reconnected with people who live far more glamorous lives than I do. I was feeling particularly down today and I had about convinced myself that there was no point in going to work out since I will never be as fabulous as my friend the Rockette/Broadway star/lawyer-in-training who works for the U.S. Senate. Yes, that really is one person.

I was also thinking that my hair cut looks a lot like the Albino torturer from the movie Princess Bride (see photo below). And that my thighs are horribly dimpled and pasty. And that my skin is bad. And that I'm starting to have wrinkles and pimples at the same time. Really, it was time to eat some cookie dough and call it a day. But I didn't. I still went to the gym and look at what I found. A woman who refused to give up even though her body didn't cooperate with what I'm sure she expected of it.

What kind of example do I set for my daughter when I think badly of myself? I am strong and loved, even if I'm not going on dates with Oscar winners (still the same friend--really). My body deserves some credit and I love every not-exactly-perfect inch of it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Best Mom Tip #35: Move like a kid

As I have mentioned, I have put on few dozen pounds since my latest pregnancy. I am working to get it off by doing the standard grown-up things. I work out 5 times a week: 3 days are strength training, two days are more intensive cardio. I might also throw in a pilates class or two. I have stopped eating cookies (my all time favorite food--not kidding) after the kids are in bed. And I'm sure that in 6-8 weeks I will see some sort of weight loss. Or I will gorge on cookie dough because I am too impatient to cook it and just start wearing fat clothes.

For the most part, I enjoy working out. It relieves stress, makes me feel stronger, and increases my flexibility and energy. But you know what? It's not exactly what I would have called fun as a kid. My daughter, on the other hand, sees the world as a jungle gym. She says she's doing exercises, but what she means is that she is attempting to jump from the couch to the chair without touching the carpet. Or that she's going to use the hanger thing in the car to swing out of her side of the vehicle.

She also dances. We were getting the oil changed today and there was an old Mickey Rooney movie on the TV that involved lots of dance numbers and some sort of "puttin' on a show." Little Princess asked me if she could put down her Barbie and take off her coat so that she could dance around the Jiffy Lube a bit better. If I lived my life like that I'd never need a gym membership.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Best Mom Tip #34: Hug them anyway

My kids are not always in the most lovable of moods. My daughter, the princess, is in a phase that involves a lot of stalling, negotiating, and extreme slow motion. Sometimes, when she's frustrated or tired, she picks at me on purpose. She'll act like she wants to snuggle and then covers my nose to see if it annoys me. She'll start kicking me and when I tell her to stop she'll say she's just doing her exercises and her feet need something to press against.

I know that these actions are her way of getting attention when she feels vulnerable for some reason, but they still drive me kind of nuts. This week, I started hugging her every time I get really annoyed with her. Instead of fussing or putting her in timeout, I ask if she needs a hug. She usually says yes and after the bear hugs are over, we can move on.

I'm pretty sure that most of this has to do with her insecurity about her little brother who is still rather new (5 months) to our family. Today she came to the door of the bathroom while I was using the facilities and shouted, "I need a hug from Mama!" When I came out of the bathroom she was gone and playing in her room, but the baby was crying so I picked him up. Little Princess then showed up and said, "you still can't give me a hug" complete with pitiful face and downcast eyes.

I put down my boy and wrapped her up in my lap. We played Sharks in the Water and saved countless stuffed animals from the ravenous sharks that live in the carpet. She can still push my buttons, but I'm going to keep hugging her anyway.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Best Mom Tip #33: Make a mom resume

I've been feeling a bit down about myself lately. I'm much jigglier than I used to be--except in the places that I wish had a bit more jiggle. I don't currently like my hair or my clothes. I don't always have the patience with my beautiful children that I should. I'm not a particularly good housekeeper and I really don't cook all that well. Honestly, I'm not a good housewife.

I AM a good teacher, but I've chosen to leave my profession for a little while to be with my kids and save some money on daycare. I could, of course, return to my job, but as you all know that comes with it's own host of stressful choices. And working or not really isn't the point. The problem is more that I have pretty high expectations for myself and I get really frustrated when I don't meet up to them.

Hence my mom resume. Instead of focusing on what I do wrong--daughter's room is messy, bathroom is worse, laundry is dirty--I've decided to make a list of the skills I possess as a mom. Unlike my real resume that lists the skills I have in the work place, these are things I have become good at since becoming the Mommy. They're not particularly marketable, but they sure are useful at home. So here goes:
  1. I can change a diaper with the fewest possible number of wipes, coat a baby with diaper cream, and redress said baby in under a minute.
  2. I can argue with the insurance company about a wide variety of items that have resulted from their ineptitude.
  3. I can read a bed-time story with silly voices and great inflection in order to thrill a preschooler.
  4. I can kiss boo-boos and make them stop hurting.
  5. I can be the safest place in the world for two small people.
  6. And I can do numbers 1 through 5 all at the same time.
My mom resume is just getting started, but I feel better already. What can you do just because you're the mom?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Best Mom Tip #32: Embrace family vacation

In about a week I am venturing to the land of Mouse Ears with my husband and kids. We will be driving 8 hours from Atlanta to Orlando to visit Cinderella's Castle--I realize there is an entire park near the castle, but my 4-year-old daughter couldn't care less about anything that isn't princess related. Our last semi-extended car ride involved a lot of barf and a good deal of cleaning on my part so I have some reservations about this trip.

But if my own childhood has taught me anything, it's that the unplanned events of family vacations are always the most memorable. There was the time my dad was yelled at for photographing the crown jewels in England. There was the year that we couldn't get through the metal detectors at the airport on our way to Boston. We also saw a male stripper in Scotland, but that's too long of a story for right now.

Most memorably, there was our trip to D.C. that will forever be my number one family vacation. My mom drove into a restricted area of the Pentagon. My brother and I left my dad standing at the entrance to the National Archives security screening because, again, he kept setting off the metal detectors. He was saying "I just want to see the Constitution" the last time we saw him. My parents had us paged in the Smithsonian.

We also watched Bill Clinton get nominated for President on our hotel TV and listened to my mom explain what it meant to her to see someone of her generation get ready to run the country. My brother got sick and our pediatrician called in a prescription from another state--who would do that these days? Right after that my mom merged into traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue (you could drive on it then) and was stopped rather abruptly by the Secret Service riding in a Suburban.

Mom had waited for the police cars to pass, but didn't really pay attention to the limo bearing the American flags behind them. The Secret Service drew their weapons on our minivan. My brother and I hit the floor of said minivan. It is still one of our most talked about family moments (that and the stripper, of course).

So here's to the painful drive upon which I am about to embark. I'm going to spend a lot of money on park tickets and I probably won't get to ride Space Mountain. My daughter is thrilled about the princesses, but she is quite wary of people in costumes. That seems like a recipe for a freak out. Who knows if the cops will make an appearance, but there's a good chance. I am, of course, related to my parents and the Griswolds have nothin' on us.

Whatever may come, it will be a memory for my kids. Our first real family road trip. I can't wait to see what happens.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Best Mom Tip #31: Record your kid-isms

My daughter used to say we were going "upchairs" instead of upstairs. She used to say, "I want budder on da top an' da bomun" instead of "butter on the top and the bottom." We still sometimes say that it is "chiyyi" outside when the weather is a little chilly.

But these kid-isms are fewer and far between as she rapidly approaches school age. She still says "dolly" instead of doll. She occassionally metions something that happened back when she was "free" instead of three. I like that one because it sounds like she's been in some sort of bondage for the last few months. As in, "back when I was free I didn't have to clean my room by myself."

Her last true little-girl word is "clo," which in my daughter's world is the singular of the word "clothes." She came running down the stairs last week and said, "Mommy! When we go to Disney World I'm gonna take a dress-up clo!" I find myself avoiding using the correct terminology so she won't figure out that she is mistaken for a little while.

My beautiful girl now has a little brother who is still in the cooing and grunting phase so I certainly have a few more years of cute kid phrases to remember. But this time I know how fast they pass by. What if I don't remember "upchairs" anymore? What if I start to get those cute kiddie words mixed up and I don't remember who said what?

I don't think my life will be worse if I don't record these somewhere (a notebook, a baby book, captions in photo albums), but I do think it will be richer when I'm older to look back at their frist attempts at language. Until then, I need to go pick out a clo to wear.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Best Mom Tip #30: Wear Sunglasses

Let's say that you've started using make-up brushes and getting your eyebrows done on a regular basis and you're feeling far more fabulous about yourself. But what happens when you have to get a kid to a doctor's appointment on time and someone barfs on you on the way out the door? How are you supposed to look amazing then?

My answer is to wear sunglasses. Get really big, movie star-type lenses that cover the entire top half of your face. No one can see if you've failed to put on mascara. No one will notice the gigantic bags under your eyes that came from staying up all night. No one will be able to tell that you have a look of desperation in your eyes.

Best of all, you can pretend you don't see people if you'd rather not make eye contact. So what if you recognize that woman who always looks perfect at PTA while you're picking up your 4th prescription of the week? If you've had someone else's bodily fluids on you in the last 24 hours, I give you permission to look right through her. Even if you do feel as though you look particularly ragged, acting like you think you look like a million bucks goes a long way toward making you believe it.

This may not work as easily for you if you don't happen to live in the sunny South like I do. Even when the temperature drops below freezing down here you can still be blinded by the sun, so sunglasses are pretty common year round. But if you live somewhere a little darker, you're going to just have to gather your confidence to pull this one off--besides, no one can question you if you refuse to look at them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Best Mom Tip #29: Buy nice lingerie

I'm going to be honest, I haven't actually done this yet. But I am inspired to do so based on a comment my daughter made this weekend. I was getting dressed and she came in before I had on pants. She's learning to read so she was intently staring at my underwear. She said, "Mommy, I like those underwear--do they say Target on them?"

I have no shame in shopping at Target and I did, in fact, purchase those particular undergarments there. But you know what is not sexy? Target underwear. In my defense, they actually say "Fruit of the Loom" on them, but I'm not sure that's better. What's definitely worse are the circumstances under which I bought them.

When I was pushing 200lbs while pregnant with my son I realized that all of my pairs of underwear were making marks on my hips that still hurt even after I took them off. So, off to Target for new undies. I bought the largest, most granny-like underwear in the store. They did come in multi-colored prints so my daughter thinks they are beautiful.

The main problem is that I am still wearing them often because they are the newest, and therefore least hole-y, underwear I own. But they are HUGE. I've lost a good 35 pounds since the baby was born--why am I wearing giant, ugly, underwear?

My mom said recently that she was o.k. when her mother started showing up in the mirror, but she has been pretty shocked lately to see her grandmother in there. We can't prevent eventually turning into our mothers and grandmothers, but we can certainly think "grandma seems to have a sexy secret" when she stops by.'s time for all of us to buy at least one pretty bra or pair of underwear that really fit. And then wear them on a regular basis. We must fight against schlumpiness at all costs.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Best Mom Tip #28: Keep your mind sharp

Parenting requires an enormous amount of patience, time, and answering questions. Your kids will inherently know how to push your buttons and make you crazy. And they will challenge your ability to think creatively on a regular basis.

I have been told impossible statements like "Mommy! I bite-ed my teeth!"
I've been asked questions like "Mommy, what does my hand smell like?"
I've had exchanges like this one:

Me: Quit challenging every single think I say!
Kid: I'm NOOoooOOOT! (said with a great whine)
Me: If you question me one more time I'm taking that away!
Kid: Why?

You really only have one option for dealing with this kind of thing--you've got to have entertaining responses. You bit your teeth?--well, make sure they don't fall out. What does your hand smell like?--Your hand smells like jell-O. The trick is to confuse and distract the kid so that they then think about something else and you can continue to try to remember what you needed from the grocery store. When you're stuck in a cycle of why, try to use big words so the kid has to think really hard about what you mean.

If all else fails, you can act like Angela Hoover from and send them to "go ask your father."

Best Mom Tip #27: Remember your tax deduction

There is a lot about being a parent that feels rather like drudgery. There's a lot that feels as though this might be a thankless job (at least until your kids start thanking you for what a good job you've done). That's when I think about my tax deductions.

When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I went away for the weekend with some friends who had kids. Their then-4-year-old daughter barfed in the car on the way down the mountain. The dad, who had paper towels in the car (I was so impressed with that at the time--since our car-barfing experience, I have some, too), cleaned everything up and told us that this was why we get a tax deduction. We laughed at his joke, but I now think he was on to something.

I'm pretty sure that tax deductions have to do with making taxes more "fair" for everyone, but it makes me feel better to imagine it as some sort of governmental "thank you" for raising the next generation of tax payers. Whenever I'm doing something gross or repetitive that no one is going to fully appreciate, I just think "this is why I get a tax break." It makes me smile for the moment.

This morning, for instance, my son had one of those explosive diapers that soaked his PJs, his sleep blanket, the sheet, and the mattress pad cover. While I was rinsing off the clothes in the toilet before getting them in the washer, I thought "this is why I pay less taxes." While I was washing my dry and cracked hands for the 432nd time this week, I thought "I'll enjoy my refund in March." When I finally got him cleaned up and he then spit up in my hand (why did I try to catch it?!!), I thought "maybe I'll spend my refund on a purse."

I'm sure one day, when my children are grown and have their own kids, they'll say thank you for all of the hard work. Until then, I'm going to remind myself that Uncle Sam thinks I'm doing a good job--he even gives me money for it.

The clip from YouTube below includes "The Taxes Song" followed by Vice President Elect Joe Biden's response.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Best Mom Tip #26: Put SEX on the schedule

Yeah, that's right. I said "sex." Hee hee. Sex. Sorry... after teaching high school for several years, I can' t help myself. Now I can move on.

The reality of becoming a parent is that no matter what kind of sex life you had before children, it will certainly be different after the little darlings arrive. Even if you're the kind of person who can offer the name of a good bedroom trapeze company or who can quote stripper pole prices off the top of your head, you're going to have some issues getting your acrobatics going if there is a baby in your bed. Or if you've been up every 23 minutes for the last eight days. Or if you went to bed covered in spit-up because you couldn't bring yourself to bathe. You get the point.

The solution? Put sex on your calendar. I don't mean literally... there is a limit to the amount of information that should be readily available to everyone who enters your kitchen. But make an effort to actually plan to make a little whoopie. Couples make budgets and grocery lists and packing lists--why not schedule a little bonding time for the two of you?

There are generally two different categories of responses to this suggestion and you can find out which one you fall into by answering this question: Which is more important to your overall well-being--having enough Tide in your laundry room or having enough lovin' in your life?

If you answered Tide, you REALLY need to put sex on your calendar. You probably lie awake at night thinking of all the things you didn't get finished today and wondering how you will get them all done tomorrow. For you, sex might actually be the LAST thing on your mind when you crawl into bed. You need to plan for it in order to get in the mood. That might seem unromantic, but you're the one who said you'd rather have laundry detergent than sex so you may not be the best judge of romance anyway.

If you answered lovin' and you can't imagine that anyone would care about laundry over sex, you probably think this seems like a boring idea. Sex should be spontaneous and a response to how much you want your partner--this is true, but it's hard for a lot of people to overcome the pressures of their day and transition into a more romantic state of mind. Knowing that you're going to have sex can actually make you feel more romantic. It's a happy cycle--kind of like when you drink more water you find yourself craving water more often throughout the day. When you plan for more sex, you want to have sex more often. Good, right?

To be clear, I don't mean making every Thursday "Happy Night" or whaterver you want to call it. I mean intentionally sitting down with your calendar for the week and figuring out which two or three days work for you. If you can't wait for the season premiere of LOST and The Others aren't what gets you in the mood, maybe you don't plan sex for that night. But, really, you have TIVO, don't you? And decide what time you'll be getting busy, too. That way you can't stay up too late and then be too tired to do what you planned to do earlier in the week.

I've talked to every woman I know about their sex lives at some point--apparently I know a lot of really free people--and every one of them has talked about the challenges of rekindling the romance after having children. This idea can work--even if you only do it for a week or two. What have you got to lose? Even if your DVR doesn't work and you don't find out if Jack returns to the island, you can probably live without knowing. But you can't live happily without making love to your spouse.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Best Mom Tip #25: Get a job--or stay at home

But whatever you do, be content with your circumstances and stop trying to figure out who's right. I am truly tired of both men and women claiming to know what is "best" for children when it comes to whether or not a woman has a job outside the home. The studies that have been done over the past 35 years have been confusing at best--your kid might be more aggressive if he attends daycare, but he might also have a more advanced vocabulary and better social skills. So for the moment, let's just pretend that we all agree that kids will thrive wherever they are and, instead, focus on you.

I hold degrees in economics and education so not only do I know the practical concerns moms have regarding working, I have also been trained to asses those problems. I once wrote an entire thesis concerning the wage disparity of women in the workforce, so if you tell me that your career will suffer because you stay out of the concrete jungle for 5 years, I absolutely believe you. But if you say you can't possibly leave your kids while you go to work, I believe that, too.

The problem is that there are pros and cons to whatever you choose. I went back to work full time after my daughter was born. The next year I chose to work part time followed by two more years of full time work. This year I have been at home since the birth of my son last summer. Every option has had things I loved and things I wish were different. The one thing that I DO know--because it was true no matter what I chose professionally--is that if you are unhappy where you are, your kids will feel it. And that really can affect their development.

If you have a career that you've invested in and that gives you a personal sense of accomplishment, really take the time to enjoy those feelings. Pay attention to the money you bring in and how it makes you feel to be a financial contributor to your family's team. If you've chosen to give up your job and keep the kids, hug them in the middle of the day and be grateful when you don't have to schedule doctor's appointments around conference calls and client visits.

And above all else, imagine what it is like for the women who haven't chosen your path. If you work, take any stay-at-home moms you know out for coffee. They could use the adult conversation and you probably have an extra $2.50 to spare. If you stay at home, offer to keep your working friends' kids when school is out for the day or help carpool for extracurriculars that begin before 6:30. We're in this together, people. Let's act like it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Best Mom Tip #24: Call your mother

Yesterday I was scrubbing the kitchen sink in my bathrobe while my daughter danced around me and my son watched us both from his vantage point on the floor. Suddenly, I had a revelation: I remember this. Except in my memory, I'm the one dancing in circles and it was my mom doing the work. I still dance around pretty often (see Tip #2), but not with the same twirly vigor as that of my 4-year-old.

I had never so vividly felt like my mom before (except maybe when I went bathing suit shopping while pregnant and saw my mom's legs in the mirror). I actually thought, "I am my mother." For me, this isn't such a bad thing. My mom is a wonderful mother--the kind of person that other people's kids ask for advice and words of wisdom. In fact, I still have friends ask me to ask my mom something they're wondering about. She was also an elementary school teacher for 33 years so her understanding of kids is quite astounding.

Still, it is pretty shocking to realize that you are old enough (and grown up enough) to be playing the role of mom in your own memories. I don't feel like a grown-up most of the time. Usually, I feel like I just got to this point somehow and my poor kids--especially my oldest--get to stumble along with me.

But what if your own mom felt like she was just making it up all the time? Doesn't that make you feel better? I'll bet that your mother, however good or bad she may have been, felt that she, too, was just a couple of parenting mistakes away from raising an always-in-therapy-surrounded-by-cats-future-guest-on-Maury. So call your mom. See how it felt to be in her shoes when you were a little girl. She must have done something right--look how wonderful you are.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Best Mom Tip #23: Invest in Purell

Children are disgusting. They are so disgusting that if these people weren't born of your very own body, you would not touch them with a ten foot pole. Personally, I think that they are disgusting as part of an evolutionary plan--their only natural defenses are being both cute and gross. Your baby smiles at you so you don't abandon her at the grocery store. She poops on you to ward off jackals.

Unfortunately for you, they don't really seem to grow out of it. I have seen my daughter lick both the bottom of her shoe and her hand after touching a public bathroom. That latter event was willful--I was saying "don't touch anything, don't touch anything" as a kind of OCD mantra when she put her hand on the wall of the stall. I grossed out so she licked her hand. Serves me right.

Your 6-year-old will spill milk in his room and fail to tell you until maggots are growing in your home. Your 9-year-old will go swimming in a lake in his underwear, let them dry out, and put them back in his drawer because they seem "clean" to him. All children ages 11-13 are so repulsive that educators put them in their own schools in most parts of the country.

As a teenager your sweet daughter will share her lip gloss with her friend Jenny because Jenny's lips are cracked and she usually borrows her boyfriend's chapstick, but they just broke up because Jenny found out he's also been dating Mandy the Slut and they were caught kissing at a party last night and Jenny is so upset, how could she (your daughter) NOT share her lip gloss? It will not occur to your little girl that she has just shared germs with Jenny, her boyfriend, Mandy, and whoever else Mandy has been kissing lately. And don't even get me started on the teenage drink-sharing phenomenon.

Your only way of dealing with the nastiness is to coat yourself in hand sanitizer. Carry it in your purse, your glove compartment, and any other vessel you can think of. Buy gigantic refill bottles of the stuff. Boil things on a regular basis. One day, when they don't live at home anymore, you might have a clean house. By then, of course, it will be the eerie quiet that will drive you nuts.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Best Mom Tip #22: Light candles

And not just in the bathroom. Candles make you feel fancy. They remind you of romantic dinners, wedding proposals, and your honeymoon. They feel like something special is going to happen and that you should be snuggled in next to a fire with a glass of wine.

Granted, those moments are all a little more rare now that I am surrounded by very small people. By the way, that "pitter-patter of little feet" expression is just plain wrong. My world sounds like a herd of thundering elephants. But I guess the "thud, thud, thud of little feet" didn't sound as quaint. Anyway, candles can make you feel elegant even when you're not doing something that's going to make it to Page Six.

For instance, last night we had spaghetti for dinner (sauce from a jar, pasta from the store brand) with raw spinach for dinner. Not one single goddess-like moment in that. But then I lit a single pillar candle that lives on our kitchen table and suddenly, it was a MEAL.

When you light a candle for dinner, you become the Zen master of family cuisine. You have so much extra time and energy that you, beautiful woman that you are, have created atmosphere in your home. Your family will be impressed and will behave as though they are out in public. The parents in your household will feel more amorous. Really, it is worth the 3 seconds it takes to light the match.

Just be careful to put the candle in the center of the table--Zen masters don't burn their kids' fingers.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Best Mom Tip #21: Buy makeup brushes

There's not much about my life that is glamorous no matter how many times I spell it along with Fergie. For the most part, I feel pretty schlumpy on a daily basis. It's hard to keep my "head up, shoulders back" posture when I'm lugging a baby carrier, a diaper bag, a balloon from Chick-fil-A, my purse, and grocery bags. I often have spit-up on me and I wipe a lot of runny noses. Last night my daughter told me I needed to start taking showers because my hair smelled funny (in my defense, I DID take a shower yesterday and wash my hair-- maybe I'm just bad at it).

So to prevent myself from totally giving up and buying that horrible blanket with sleeves that makes you look like a Jedi Knight in training, I'm going to keep putting on makeup and using makeup brushes to do so.

Most of the time, my makeup application occurs in the car at stoplights. Yes, I am that person. I realize that I am both tacky and ridiculous, but I do it anyway. Lots of days I forget to wear makeup completely and sometimes I don't dry my hair--these two decisions mean that for the rest of the day I look like I'm getting over a bad cold. Although that may be true of some days, there is really no reason to look like I've been ill just because I got a bit lazy. Makeup brushes can fix all this.

When you use actual brushes to apply makeup, all of a sudden it's not another chore or item that has to be done before you can leave the house. It becomes ART. Well, not really art, but enough like art that it seems fun. You start channeling Carmindy from What Not to Wear and thinking how great you look now that Stacey and Clinton have made you over. You are ready for the red carpet and your Stuart Weitzman heels. Harry Winston has sent over diamonds. Try it and you'll see what I mean. Next up, airbrushing on my foundation.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Best Mom Tip #20: Remember that they learn it by watching you

My little girl does a darn good impression of my frustrated look. She can mimic back my husband's "do you think I buy that?" expression. I'm pretty sure that her dramatic sigh (that I find so very frustrating) is something she's heard around the house before. She doesn't gossip about what's going on in other people's lives, but she may not realize that her father and I do so because she can't spell yet. I am suddenly very aware that everything I say and do is for an audience who finds me to be the ultimate guide in how to be a woman, an adult, and a mom. And that is really scary.

If my kids were to see only my faults and foibles, I could pretty easily wind up raising people who:
  1. Eat out a ridiculous amount to avoid cooking
  2. Leave laundry "on deck" in what is affectionately called Mt. Laundy
  3. Tug on their clothes and frown at their faces in the mirror
  4. Force their spouses to constantly tell them how wonderful they are due to extreme insecurity
  5. Get visibly and vocally frustrated with their children for being so.....very......s..l..o..w..
  6. Watch an inordinate amount of "reality" TV (I'm glad Bob won Survivor)
  7. Waste money on magazines like "Runner's World" even though they haven't actually run in over a year and a half
  8. Feel superior to other people intellectually (I'm hoping you've all stopped reading before this one and I can confess without anyone noticing)
  9. Forget to call friends on their birthdays AND
  10. Obsessively worry if they are good enough at anything for anyone to like them
Now, you may not think that any of these things are all that awful, but remember, I kept all of the really juicy stuff private because I am insecure (see numbers 3, 4, 7, and 10). The point is, we all have these little eyes and ears waiting to see how we deal with anger, frustration, money problems, plumbing problems, heartache, backache, love, and loss. And they will remember. They will learn how to deal with these things based on how we as moms (and dads--hi guys) deal with these things. They will carry our morals and values out into the world.

Sure, their own personalities and experiences will come into play as they grow and learn. But first and foremost, they will learn it by watching you. For all you children of the '80s out there, I've added the original "I learned it by watching you" PSA below.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Best Mom Tip #19: Embrace the Momnesia

Mothers are blessed with a peculiar form of amnesia that erases the emotions, smells, and personal pain of motherhood--I call this event Momnesia. And I think that you need to just let the Momnesia take over and white out all the messy, disgusting, and hurty things that have happened to you as Mom. It helps you to feel less bitter toward your children.

Before I had my first child I wrote a list of things that scared me about becoming a parent. One of these fears was that maybe children really weren't all that great, but that your brain just screwed you over when you gave birth and you could no longer remember all of the bad things associated with having children. It turns out that this is correct to an extent--you remember, but it doesn't seem all that important.

Although childbirth hurt a good amount, I find myself totally believing it was worth the pain and downplaying the effort in my memory. Although I begin to gag when I hear people hock up a chunk of spit, I picked up scoops of barf with my bare hands while wearing heels and a skirt because my baby girl was sick. I have changed feces-filled diapers at gas stations, in the trunk AND bucket seats of my car (the trunk was easier), and on the floor of a Target bathroom. I have not slept through the night for a solid week in four years. I have been peed on, pooped on, thrown up on, bitten while nursing, kicked while sleeping, and horribly embarrassed during a public temper tantrum. And I just don't care.

Momnesia is why, even though we had a recent car ride that resulted in gonzo vomiting, I'm still planning to drive the kids to Disney World, ride on some spinning teacups, and get back in the car for a really long time. Momnesia allows me put the kids to bed every night totally assuming that we will all sleep until 7:30. Momnesia lets the kids snuggle up to me in bed or on the couch even when I know this is the greatest likelihood of someone sneezing in my mouth. Momnesia is why my daughter has a baby brother.

I once really feared that this would happen--that I wouldn't remember how bad things were, but that some biological imperative would convince me that I needed children. I was afraid that I wouldn't be me anymore and that the new me wouldn't even notice that my life was gross. What if motherhood changed my perception of myself and the world around me and I didn't like the changes? I lived a fairly self-centered existence with a lot of free time before my kids--what if I lost that girl? What if I now found myself making decisions for other people instead of for myself? All these fears might be true of my life now, but fortunately for me, I can't remember.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Best Mom Tip #18: Ignore your kid's stats

Your kids will be given statistics to cover every aspect of their lives while they are with you. Height/weight percentiles, IQ tests, recital scores, reading levels, batting averages, class rank, SAT scores. You're going to get Varsity team rosters, honor roll lists engraved in school hallways, and official-looking documents detailing your kid's mastery of scissors. And you, concerned and proud parent that you are, are going to want to share this information with others. I'm asking you not to do it. Just put down the report card and go see what's on Oprah. Because, for the most part, this stuff is crap.

The problem with all of these statistics is that human beings don't really categorize well. Your kid might be brilliant, but be totally unable to carry on a conversation with a fellow 6th grader. How do you quantify that? No teacher ever says, "Billy is in the 86th percentile in non-awkwardness." Of course not--you just find out that Billy can't read as well as 40% of the other kids and then you obsess about why Billy is falling behind in reading and why you've failed as a parent (you've always been an avid reader, but your husband on the other hand...) and how he is ever going to pass his driver's test and get into college and find a wife if he's basically as dumb as a potato. Or something like that.

As a teacher, I have known children with genius IQs and ones that had IQs just above the level to qualify as mentally disabled. Although useful in determining why a child might be having problems in the classroom, these pieces of information did not predict success in life. I have seen kids with amazing athletic ability, but no sign of tenacity who quit at the first sprained ankle. I have known kids who beat themselves up over SAT scores because it meant the loss of Princeton, when they could have gone to a state school for 2 years and transferred with a little more effort. I've known incredibly intelligent kids with no friends and phenomenal athletes with no morals.

My own son came into the world in the 95th percentile for both height and weight. My daughter was in the 5th percentile. They are both average and perfect right this moment.

In the future, I will be proud of their work ethic and how they treat others. I will be proud when they keep trying at something that does not come easily for them. If their IQs turn out to be above average, I will thank God that there is one less mountain they may have to climb and then I will put away the report so that they don't think they are better than other people. At least I'll try--it's hard to keep such amazing talent to yourself.