I Don’t Want To Go Back In Time

I cannot tell you how deep I had to dig to keep my emotions in check this summer and how deeply I will fall into a cocktail (or five) when school starts again.

But today, I snapped out of survival mode and realized that I made it. I MADE IT!

My oldest starts 3rd grade tomorrow. “I don’t need you to drive me to school on the first day,” he said. “I can take the bus.” He looked at me and grinned and all the sudden I could see what he’s going to look like when I send him off the college, and I felt momentarily sad.

His little brother is starting Kindergarten at the same elementary school this year, and my long time dream of putting both boys on the school bus and waving goodbye will finally be realized. Can I be honest? I’m not sad, or weepy, or wistful for when they were smaller. I’m proud. I’m elated, actually. I’m happy to have made it to this point in one piece, and I don’t want to go back in time. I want to revel in this.

No one wears diapers anymore.

Everyone talks in coherent sentences.

I’ve taught 3 human beings how to use the toilet and how to stay with me in the store; things can only continue to improve from here.

13501704_10157371526855508_3880075954978899445_n

Summer, 2016

I see photos of myself from 8 years ago when I first became a mom and I feel a little sorry for that version of me. I don’t want to go back in time and be her again. I don’t want to hold my babies or rock them or see them in their infancy or wish for time to go backwards. I MADE IT, which means I have overcome obstacles, which means I have hope to continue overcoming obstacles, which requires me to continue moving forward.

This summer, I got soaked with water by the boys, who thought it would be funny to spray me after I asked them repeatedly to turn off the water. My kids kept me so busy that I never got around to changing clothes, until hours later, I realized that they were dry again.

This summer, we were lazy. I let them have unlimited screen time and we all ate junk food and laid around the house like total couch potatoes. It was amazing. Now I understand why people make this a full-time thing.

This summer, I didn’t work out. I didn’t weigh myself. I put on the same, falling-apart, ill-fitting bathing suit day after day and got in the pool with my kids. I’m 10 pounds heavier than I was last summer, and caring a lot less about how fat my thighs look.

This summer, I really enjoyed my kids. I did. But now, I’m ready for them to go to school, because I need to shake off the experience of having people with me 24/7 for three straight months, and that can only be done by using expletives and bargain shopping alone. By myself. Without anyone hiding in the clothes racks.

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Toddlers: Making Fools of Parents Since The Beginning of Time

Toddlers love to make fools of us.

Have you noticed? They wait until you’re in a busy parking lot unloading a month’s worth of groceries to melt down and act demon-possessed. They scream for waffles and you finally break down and make waffles and then they scream “NO WAFFLE! YUCKY WAFFLE!” and throw it on the floor.

You are so hungry from all of the intense parenting that you dust it off and eat it yourself. But then they cry because they are hungry.

They cry because you ate their waffle.

Cry car

A toddler will proudly recite her full name and phone number over and over, yet when asked to repeat it for an audience (after you have bragged about it incessantly) she remains silent because she’s too busy pooping her pants to be bothered.

Last week, our city was shut down due to severe weather. All of the kids were home, but Robbie was at work because car dealerships never, ever close, even in the face of imminent tornadoes and hail. After all, someone somewhere might still trek out in the middle of destruction to buy a brand-new car, because obviously the best time to make an investment is when you have to drive it home in a hailstorm.

I was already having a hard day because between weather warnings, Asher, the 4-year-old, got super sick and threw up everywhere. I asked Maverick to take his little sister somewhere else in the house to play while I cleaned up the mess. It took me a good 30 minutes to get myself, Asher, and the house back under control, and by the time I was done, the other two were done playing.

Maverick pulled me aside and said, “I think Pepper has one of my marbles.”

I looked at her. She stared back silently.

She had a marble in her mouth.

After I freaked out and removed it, I made a huge production of telling her that only food goes in our mouths. She just laughed.

A few minutes later, I was standing in the play room when she walked up to me with a AA battery in her hand. I took it from her and asked, “Where did you get this?” I discovered that she had removed the bottom of an LED candle that requires two AA batteries to work. I had one of them, and the other one was missing.

I forced myself to remain calm as I searched for the missing battery. It was nowhere to be found.

“Pepper, where is the other battery?”

She looked straight at me and said, “I ate it. It’s in my tummy.”

That is when I panicked.

I made Maverick help me look — his little brother was still sitting exactly where I’d left him, with a mixing bowl in his lap in case he needed to throw up again — and we couldn’t find it anywhere. I asked her again where the battery was and she said, this time more emphatically, “IT’S IN MY TUMMY.”

I called 911.

The nice lady on the other end of the line said yes, my child definitely needed to go to the E.R. I told her to send an ambulance, because I didn’t know which one of my family members I would be able to get in touch with, and I was home alone with the kids … one of whom was projectile vomiting.

The next 20 minutes were a blur of frantic phone calls and adults arriving to help — first, my dad, followed by my in-laws, and finally, the ambulance.

The EMT’s acted like they had ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD, meandering slowly up to my house and into my kitchen. I mean, I understand that a child swallowing a battery is not as emergent, as, say, a child who fell in glass. Because that has also happened in our house, a few years ago. But still — to me, this was emergent.

They slowly nodded their heads and said yes, she needed to go to the hospital to get checked out, but they couldn’t take her. Not because taking her would leave us with an astronomical ambulance bill. Not because they needed to leave and assist someone who was about to bleed to death. Nope. They couldn’t take her to the hospital because they didn’t have a car seat.

I’m going to let that sink in for a moment.

“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, I’M TAKING HER,” I said. And we left.

The emergency room was packed. Cell phones were blaring with severe weather warnings and they had us all crammed in the interior of the hospital, away from windows and doors, so there was nowhere to sit and there is no telling what kind of illness we picked up there.

Pepper ER

Once we were in a room, the nurse was incredulous: “You think this kid ate a AA battery?” And I said, “THAT’S RIGHT” and tried not to snicker as he had this ridiculous line of questioning with her wherein she repeated everything he said and made him look like a absolute moron.

***

Nurse: “Hi, there.”

Pepper: (Silent stare.)

Nurse: “What did you do with the battery?”

Pepper: “What did you do with the battery?”

Nurse: “Did you throw the battery away?”

Pepper: “Did you throw the battery away?”

Nurse: “Did you put the battery in your tummy?”

Pepper: “Did you put the battery in your tummy?”

***

We got an X-ray.

Our toddler did not eat a battery. She was also growing increasingly annoyed with us and with the entire situation. I was past my breaking point and started feeding her half-wrapped candy from the bottom of my purse just to keep her happy until we could get the hell out of there.

We paid $150 to the hospital for their services, marking the THIRD TIME WE HAVE DONE THIS SINCE 2016 BEGAN, and went home.

The tornadoes headed East.

Robbie went back to work.

And I mustered, from the very bottom of the deepest reserves, the energy to uncork a bottle of wine.

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An Open Letter To My Children

Dear Children,

I hope that by the time you read this letter you know how much your father and I love you and how we want nothing more than to give you the world. But one day you will come to understand that if we gave you the world, you wouldn’t appreciate it. You wouldn’t live in it with the same pizzazz and gusto as you will if you have to work for it.

We want you to work hard to earn what you have.

It is hard to watch you struggle to learn things on your own, and sometimes I have to fight the urge to swoop in and do things for you, but I try really hard to stand back. I watch and I wait. Usually you can figure it out on your own.

That’s what life is like as a grown up.

Don’t rush to adulthood. It’s hard here. But also, we don’t want you dragging your feet when you’re old enough to be responsible for your own laundry and bills. My job is to put myself out of a job. Don’t expect me to treat you like you’re 7 when you’re 17.

We want you to follow your dreams, live your life to the fullest, and become who you are meant to be, but following your dreams is really hard. No one talks about that part. There will be times when you have no money. Your pride will take a beating. You’ll wonder why you’re putting yourself through this torture. You will feel like you have nothing new to offer. You’ll want to give up, because everything is terrible.

You might come back home and sit on the couch and stay there for several days. It’s okay. We’re here.

But one day out of nowhere, doors will start opening and they will keep opening if you keep working hard and treating other people with respect, and all of the sudden you’ll realize that you are LIVING the dream you once had.

To push through the hard stuff, you have to be persistent. You have to be fueled by something.

What fuels me is the fear of being forced back into a mauve cubicle. I also fear failure. I’m not sure what will fuel you, but it’s usually a terrible experience. That’s why when bad things happen to you, I’ll encourage you to press on. Better things are coming.

They really are.

Halloween

“If you are lucky enough to find a weirdo, never let them go.” — Unknown

I hope that you fall in love with a person who makes you feel like the best version of yourself. I hope you find someone who makes you laugh and who inspires you. If you can’t find someone like that, get a dog.

I insisted on having the three of you because I know what it feels like to be the only child. You are each other’s people, and I hope that you all stick together when weird family stuff happens. If you start acting crazy when I am on my deathbed, I will come back and haunt you.

Motherhood is my greatest joy. It is my greatest achievement, producing the three of you. But I am many other things in addition to being your mother. I have to be, to hold onto who I am. Never allow yourself to be absorbed into anyone else, even your own children.

Whatever you are, be that.

And whatever that is, I will always love you.

Love,

Your Mother

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Going Nuts

Maverick is now at the age where he quietly listens to grown up conversations. He doesn’t jump up and down screaming. He doesn’t try to talk over us. He doesn’t interrupt every 5 seconds. He doesn’t pull on my leg and yell “MOMMY!” the whole time. He doesn’t throw tantrums.

He’s 7 now. I like 7.

My son is a joy.

It was hard getting to this place. It took years for me to learn how to be the mother that he needed. I didn’t understand what I was dealing with and I made a lot of mistakes, but we learned and failed and apologized — together. Because just like he needed to be taught self-control, I did too. And just like he needed to be taught to listen, so did I.

And now we’re here, just enjoying the feeling of not drowning.

Last weekend, I took Maverick with me to my parent’s house to see family that was visiting from out of town. We all talked for hours, forgetting he was there. He sat and listened intently, his big hazel eyes shining with interest. Every once in awhile I stopped and watched him, relishing how grown up he is.

My mom has cancer, and while discussing her treatment options with us she mentioned that she definitely would NOT be taking a particular kind of medication because it might make her, and I quote, “act like a squirrel.”

Me: “What do you mean, ACT LIKE A SQUIRREL?”

My mom: “It might make me think I’m a squirrel. Like I’d want to climb trees and hoard acorns.”

Me: “I … I don’t understand.”

(Pulls out phone to Google medication name + “squirrel-like behavior.”)

My mom: “I don’t understand it either, but all I know is that I will NOT be going that treatment route.”

My dad later explained that when the doctor mentioned to my mom that this treatment might make her act “squirrelly” he interpreted it to mean that it might make her crazy. The unpredictable, irreversible, no-cure-for-it kind. So maybe she might end up thinking she was a squirrel, but most likely it would either make her cancer-free, or crazy. She’s not willing to take any chances when it comes to her sanity, so she struck that option from the list.

I can’t say I blame her.

On the way home, Maverick asked a million questions from the backseat about Grandma becoming a squirrel.

Fast forward a few days and I find these sitting on the kitchen counter.

Hoarding acorns just in case.

Hoarding acorns just in case.

“I’m collecting acorns for Grandma,” Maverick said. “Just in case she goes squirrelly.”

The best thing about 7 is that this newfound grown up behavior is tempered by innocence and fun. I told him I’d start a collection bowl for the nuts he gathers during the day.

Just in case.

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Negative Moms Prevent Pin Worms.

My 7-year-old informed me the other night at dinner that I’m “kind of a negative person.” I think Robbie saw the crazy flash in my eyes, so he immediately said “YOUR MOTHER IS SUPER FUN.” (No one believed him.)

I want my kids to see my fun side, but it’s hard to show it — especially for people like me who are very goal-oriented and focused on results.

Okay, FINE. I’m uptight.

In my defense, someone has to be. I mean, if I were as laid-back as my husband … I really don’t know what would happen. Probably nothing. But also, maybe something terrible. Like pin worms.

I think this picture proves that I'm not COMPLETELY uptight.

I think this picture proves that I’m not COMPLETELY uptight.

Every day in parenthood, there are approximately 67 tiny goals to accomplish between the time I get up and the time I go to bed. Put on clothes that make me look like a mother and not a hooker. Ingest coffee while it’s still hot. Pack three semi-nutritious lunches.

School drop-off presents its own unique set of goals: Keep my composure in the face of tantrums. Refrain from screaming at the woman who damn near ran over my child. Try not to look too excited as I hurry back home.

Back at home, I begin my next set: Write. Laundry. Call my mother.

You get the picture.

I am regimented and focused and uptight, but it’s not because I’m unhappy. It’s because I have a lot of worries. I worry about my children. I worry about my parents. I try not to talk about it too much, but my mother has cancer. That’s concerning. Maybe men do a better job of compartmentalizing everything, but my entire life is a jumbled up heap that tumbles around in my brain like shoes in a dryer.

I have a lot of joy in my life, but I have lot of stress as well.

Until I figure out how to keep my worries from manifesting in negativity towards my immediate family, I will be referring to myself in the third person. Hi, I’m Negative Mommy. For example, “You don’t want to miss the bus today, Maverick, and end up stuck with NEGATIVE MOMMY all day.”

I tested this out a few mornings ago when he was dragging his feet.

He got on the bus.

Maybe I can make this work out in my favor after all.

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Be Who You Are.

Maverick, my 7-year-old, recently walked up to me and said, “You are who you are, Mommy. And you’re just right. That’s what you always say to me.”

I stared at him, speechless.

“Don’t let anyone judge you.”

And then he walked away.

I have poured my heart and soul into my children, and there have been times when I felt like my spirit was breaking. Or maybe it was already broken. It can be hard to tell the difference.

I fuck up all the time. Daily. Multiple times per day.

I’m probably not supposed to admit that, right? I’m probably not supposed to say that I screamed like a lunatic this morning when the kids wouldn’t stop fighting. I’m so calm, until that one thing — like milk boiling over on the stove, or poop that gets smeared all over the toilet seat  — sends me over the edge.

I don’t give myself enough grace.

When you’re doing the impossible, you should give yourself some grace. My kids, who see the best and worst of me, give me grace. They somehow absorb what they see and hear, assimilate it, and regurgitate it in their charming kid way.

Pepper will say “Maybe way-ter, okay? WAYTER,” when I ask her if she’s ready to take a bath.

Maybe later.

I say that a lot.

My middle child uses big words in an attempt to sound important. “Actually, Mommy …” He says “actually” all the time. I guess I do too, but it’s a lot cuter when he says it.

But what my oldest said — you are who you are, and you’re just right — struck me. I’ve said that to him, many times. I believe that for my children, but do I believe it for myself?

I have to model what I want my children to value. And even though I feel like a dismal failure most days because I haven’t done enough or said enough to make me feel like I truly nailed this parenting thing … these moments drop out of nowhere that remind me that I’m doing a damn good job.

12074510_10156342999505508_4436001455448041056_n(If you liked this post, then you should follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!)

Surviving An Indoor Playground In 6 Easy Steps

I live in the Deep South, where soaring temperatures and obscene humidity levels make being outdoors a miserable experience for approximately one half of the year.

It’s not that I hate being hot. Many lovely places — like spas, saunas, and beaches — are hot. Being hot in the right situation is acceptable to me. What I find unacceptable is the feeling of makeup running down my face, my inner thighs sticking together and ripping apart when I walk, and what happens when a sweat-covered child lands in dirt.

Indoor Playground image

Because of these reasons and more, I know the location of every indoor playground within a 20-mile radius and I visit them on a rotating basis. But be warned — indoor playgrounds are just as wretched as their outdoor siblings. The temperature is more tolerable, but there are a lot of other things to watch out for … like the poop diaper that someone left next to the inflatable ball pit.

Here are some tips to help you navigate your way through what may be the germiest, most obnoxiously tolerable place on Earth: the indoor playground.

1. Stake your claim. Indoor playgrounds are crowded, so staking out prime seating is a top priority. Ideally, you should be near an outlet, the bathroom, and within earshot of your children. Wait, no. Scratch that last one.

2. Bring a friend. You may be tempted to go alone, since the indoor playground is a confined space and there is little chance of your child wandering off. But who’s going to catch you up on the latest gossip or discuss nipple hair with you?  Who will hold down the fort while you go look for the child you lost track of because you were so wrapped up in talking about anal sex? Your friend. Bring the nonjudgmental one.

3. Smuggle in alcohol. What?! Don’t judge me. We all know that intolerable parenting situations are much easier to handle when you have a glass of something in your hand. Pour your beverage into a benign-looking container, bury it in your oversized purse, make eye contact, and try not to look like you’re being a totally irresponsible rule-breaker. Sneaking vodka into an establishment full of giant inflatables was the only way I made it through my last trip. I offer no apologies.

4. Leave your pride at the door. It’s likely that you, your children, or all of the above, will make complete asses of yourselves before you make your exit. Go in with that knowledge, and you will feel a lot less embarrassed when your child screams “MY DADDY HAS A BIG PENIS!” Encourage your kids be as loud as possible while they aren’t in your house. Revel in the fact that you won’t have to clean that glass door that your child is licking. Whatever your kids are doing, worse has happened here. Trust me.

5. Be prepared — for anything. A throw up, a poop, a hunger, a thirst, a headache, a period, a nervous breakdown, a fire. Ready yourself for the world to end right there on the bumpy slide … because if the kid going down right before your kid has diarrhea pants, it might.

6. What happens in Vegas … you know the rest. Did you show your literal ass when you bent over to help little Jimmy get out of the toy car? Did your deodorant fail you? Did you cry, scream, or curse in front of small children? Did you over-share and immediately regret it? Did your toddler throw a tantrum and slap you in the crotch? It happens to all of us, because playgrounds — indoor and out — are terrible, God-forsaken places and motherhood can be a real bitch. The good news is that once you leave, you can just forget any of it ever happened and enjoy the silence of worn-out children.

Unless, of course, one of you touched that abandoned poop diaper.

Never touch the poop diaper.

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This post originally appeared on Scary Mommy.

13 Surefire Ways To Make Life Difficult For Your Family

After writing this post yesterday, several people have emailed or commented asking to see my list.

You know … the list. The one I pull out when I have heard too much needless whining. The one I refer to when I have picked up other people’s dirty clothes for too many days in a row or spent time cooking a meal and breaking up fights and keeping a toddler from touching the stove, AND NO ONE EATS IT.

That.

This list strikes fear in the hearts of those who have to live with me. Want to compare notes? OF COURSE YOU DO!

13 Surefire Ways To Make Life Difficult For Your Family:

  1. Omit items from the grocery list that everyone else likes, and buy what I like instead. Example: instead of Honey Nut Cheerios, I will buy fat-free granola with dried berries. Instead of whole milk, I will get almond milk. Instead of sweet tea, you will drink PLAIN WATER.
  2. If the situation in #1 grows dire enough, someone will eventually suggest going to the store. I will then produce a lengthy and complicated list of hard-to-find items. Can’t find the fresh coriander? LOOK HARDER.
  3. Fail to charge all of the iThings.
  4. Lose the chargers.
  5. Insist that we listen to the “Sunday Jazz Brunch” Pandora station all. weekend. long. It’s good for brain growth.
  6. Assign additional chores to anyone who talks to me. “Oh, hi! I was about to ask you to fold these towels!” or, “Hello, child! You have so much energy. Here’s the Windex — you’re 4 now. You can totally clean windows.” Pro tip: this one is my favorite.
  7. Go on a health kick. The mere idea of throwing away all of the Pop Tarts makes them gasp in unified horror.
  8. Suggest a bike ride and then say, “Daddy will take you! Have fun!” Disappear.
  9. Enforce educational-only books and TV shows for as long as it takes for them to become sufficiently educated.
  10. Sing in the car.
  11. Stop washing clothes. Hint: no one will notice or care until they start running out of underwear. Prepare to look confused when they ask where all of their underwear went.
  12. Consider military-style consequences for unwanted behavior, i.e. push-ups, digging holes, and running laps.
  13. Leave the house.

Adios

Bonus points: hang this banner in a common area.

I found this on Pinterest, and it is amazing. I have no idea where it originated from, but I WANT ONE.

I found this on Pinterest, and it is amazing. I have no idea where it originated from, but I WANT ONE.

There you have it! My list is ever-changing and ever-growing. What’s on yours?! I’m always looking for new ideas.

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