Saturday, December 17, 2016

33 Parenting Truths Learned over a Decade+ of Parenting

My oldest recently celebrated his 11th birthday.  This means that I have completed over a decade as a mom. I mention that because, let's not kid ourselves, it's really all about me. 

Some of you reading this might be at different parts of your parenting journey. In the spirit of sharing information, let's take a quick look at some of the parenting truths I have gained about mommyhood over this past decade:
  1. Parenting is one part love, and three parts not swearing in public.
  2. Small children don't know or care about being late, and warnings about being it are fruitless.
  3. When you sign a mandatory three-page waiver before your kids can go play somewhere, someone is coming home with a broken femur. 
  4. You have absolute power over the music in the car as long as you pick something your kids like. 
  5. Whoever decided a three-week-long winter break from school was reasonable should get coal in their stocking this year.
  6. Wearing anything white around your kids and expecting not to have to change within the hour is either idealistic or idiotic.
  7. Nothing good ever comes after a sentence that starts, "You said...."
  8. Drinking beer at Chuck-e-Cheese at 2 p.m. on a Saturday is not day drinking; it’s coping.
  9. Parenting opinions are like buttholes because everyone has one. Expressed opinions about someone else's parenting are like buttholes because when you do it, you are one.
  10. The human body has fluids that come in all odors, colors, and viscosities, which, at the end of any given day, you will find on your shirt. Or theirs. 
  11. If every once in a while your kids tell you they hate you because you are the meanest mom in the world, it means you're probably doing it right.  
  12. The five stages of negotiation with a toddler include Bargaining, Pleading, Threatening, Yelling (theirs) and Tears (yours).
  13. People that think pets are like kids are deluded.
  14. If you teach your small children the actual names for their genitalia, be prepared to hear them discussed loudly in a public restroom more than once.
  15. Free time is a resource more elusive than enriched uranium.
  16. If you have a job while you have small children, going to work is like going on vacation.
  17. If you work from home, you likely need a vacation.
  18. Binge-watching Netflix does not count as a vacation.
  19. Wearing dangling earrings around your toddler is like playing Russian Roulette with your earlobes.
  20. Car seat buckles were designed to break your spirit.
  21. If your phone/tablet/coffee table is cracked in two places, it's still like new.
  22. Pinterest can scroll forever with content that makes you feel inadequate.
  23. Old people that miss when their kids were little never felt the crusty bump of boogers on their iPad screen.
  24. You will string together the most ridiculous sentences ever uttered, such as, “Hey You two! I told you no mouth kissing.”
  25. You will always sniff brown sludge of indeterminate origin even though you know there is high probability it’s poop.
  26. Moms are glorified wait staff. And nobody tips.
  27. Christmas morning is not a joyous holiday; it's a deadline.
  28. Daylight savings time and summer vacation are two archaic societal conventions and that have outlived their usefulness and must be stopped.
  29. The tooth fairy is a witless, unreliable twit.
  30. The only thing a stay-at-home mom of small children wants for Mother's Day is not to see her children that day. At all.
  31. Whoever decided we should build a trap to catch the leprechaun that comes to your house on St. Patrick's Day deserves a swift kick in the shamrocks.
  32. Losing weight from breastfeeding is a myth; wearing maternity pants to your baby's first birthday party is the truth.
  33. One glass of wine is nice. Two is better. Three means you aren't going to sleep that night.

What would you add to the list? I'd love to hear your additions in the comments below. So I can steal them for my twitter feed.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Life Lessons from My Younger But Wiser Daughter

I am the mom, so honestly I should be the one teaching the life lessons to my daughter. And I do, like how to avoid gassing people with her Tinkerbell perfume by spraying it in the air and walking through it. Or how to sneak leftover Halloween candy into a movie theater.

However, she has a fair amount of lessons to teach also, like how to convince her little brother to dress up like a fairy princess or feign sleep in the car to avoid interacting with the family. Here are just a few more things I have learned from her over the years.

#1: Never wear anything that’s uncomfortable.

My daughter has been known to put together ensembles that run the gamut from classy to clown suit on any given morning. There was a time when her sartorial statement might pair a sundress and earmuffs. While my example indicates she lacks a discerning eye, this is not the case; she has exacting standards. My daughter will not wear anything that is itchy/tight/hot/painful. I once bought her a super cute T-shirt with a sparkly purse on the front of it. It featured two of her favorite things: sequins and accessories. Since it was a sequined accessory, this one was a double whammy! She loved it. But her delight devolved to disdain when she wore it. The applique was itchy, so the shirt was a no-go. On the other hand, I have a pair of boots that peel the skin from my heels. I never wear them, but I hang on to them. In fact, I have moved them three times so far. Why? Because they are cute. Who is the grown up here anyway?

#2: Poop anywhere.

It doesn’t matter if we are in a port-o-potty at a parade route or a church bathroom in a wine country town. If my daughter has to go, she goes. Talk to her during? No problem. Hear an impatient fellow-patron knocking on the door? Sure. Wrong time of day? What’s that? It might be her superpower.

#3: You can never have too many best friends.

I grew up with a definite sense that a best friend was an item one had in the singular. You might have a lot of good friends, but there was only one best friend. My daughter does not share my view on this issue. If you ask her who her best friend is, you could get a list with as many as six names on it.

#4: Fairies are real.

When she was in Kindergarten, my daughter convinced all six of her best friends that fairies were real. She explained how you write the fairies a note and hide it in the backyard. The next day you went out to see what they left for you. Needless to say,  I was on the business end of a couple of pointed comments at school pick up from her friends' parents after this phenomenon swept through the hallowed halls of her grade school. I could understand the other parents’ ire. Luckily for me, she forgot about it after a few days—which was great because I heard the fairy was running out of the pink Post-it notes she was using for her correspondence.

#5: Anyone can have a bad day.

One year my daughter wrote a letter to Santa with what she expected on Christmas morning. Her list included an iPhone, an iPad mini, and, my personal favorite, a puppy. I told her Santa wasn’t going to bring her any of these things. After an exhausted sigh at my ignorance, she explained, “Mom! I only put those there so he would get me what I really want.” Diabolical.

After mailing her letter sans zip code because “Santa doesn’t need one; he’s too famous,” we got a letter back. Santa, the geriatric genius, told her she had been a very good BOY this year. I was fuming and silently rehearsing my pissy phone call to the North Pole’s answering service. My daughter, however, quietly folded up his letter and said, “I guess Santa was having a bad day.” Crisis averted.

I suppose the real life lesson here is that learning is a two-way street. After all, it’s clear upon reflection that she is more mature than me in a few areas anyway. Perhaps one day when I grow up, I will be as wise as she is.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Holidays Make My Tinsel Twitch

There are only 35 days until Christmas. Yep. You read that right. If you are anything like me, that number makes you sweat a little and sneak a glance at your clock to see if you could argue with a straight face that it's 5 o'clock somewhere. Especially since the amount of work I have done on Mission Christmas Morning Magic is exactly bupkis/zilch/nada/nixie.

I see Christmas morning differently as a mom. Moms are responsible for the holiday magic, without any magic help whatsoever. Mom is the big kahuna as it pertains to how much Mele will be in the Kalikimaka. It is no longer a time of wonderment and magic. It is a deadline.

Moms have a lot to do on a regular old day, especially when the kids are too little to serve as slave labor. Granted, non-mom-type-people likely don’t know what we do because a lot of it is invisible to everyone else. Ever wonder why there is always toilet paper under the bathroom sink when you need it? How do those ubiquitous juice box straw wrappers find their way from the floor to the garbage? And do you have any idea who empties the trashcan in the garage? Hint: It’s not elves.

But the holidays pile on additional responsibilities for us moms. We shop for gifts for everyone we know. We wrap them up with Pinterest-worthy sustainable paper and handmade bows made from organic silk and unicorn horns. And we deliver said gifts to the recipients, thanking the baby Jesus that they don’t have surge pricing on shipping at the holidays (or do they?).

We also are responsible for the three stages of a party: party planning, party catering, and party cleaning. Even if we are merely party attending, this requires phoning, texting, emailing, and posting desperate status updates to score a babysitter. (Do babysitters have surge pricing, too?)

We bring a covered dish everywhere. I like to keep one in my trunk for emergencies, next to the white elephant gift that I recycle from year to year. Let’s not forget the decorating of the tree, the inside of the house, the outside of the house, and, of course, the cookies.

Does writing out this list make my tinsel twitch? Does a reindeer poop in the woods?

The thing is, I forget the pain of the season with time, like childbirth and high school. In fact, I was excited about the Holidays last year. I switched on the Christmas carols and bought eggnog the day after Thanksgiving. I hummed "It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" strolling the aisles at the grocery store. My cup was full of holiday cheer and it runneth over.
As for all the work involved with the holidays, I had a 3-step plan:

  1. Do a little bit every day 
  2. Don't overthink it
  3. Whenever possible, do less instead of more. 
I worked my 3-step plan. And yet, on December 8th last year, I Googled how to get a marijuana prescription for anxiety.

So how did last holiday season go from the most wonderful time of the year to lawn seats at a Dave Matthews concert? Maybe it’s hormonal. Maybe it’s poor planning. Maybe I got Christmas cocky, and my do a little every day was a little too little every day.

The holidays are a happy time—for everyone else! Behind every merry Christmas, there’s a woman with a frazzled expression and flask hidden in the waist of her yoga pants. And in the flask is all that’s left of her Christmas cheer.

This year will be different. I will embrace my inner Grinch right from the start. I still love Christmas, but in the married-for-25-years way. I see its faults, and I don’t like them, but I can live with them. After all, Christmas comes but once a year.

And thank goodness for that.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

25 Things My Mom Never Said in The 70s

Moms have a great way of telling it like it is. My mom said things to encourage us to be our best and to show us who was the boss when we were too big for our britches. However, I can guarantee she never would have said any of the following 25 things:

25 Things My Mom Never Said in The 70s

1.      Do you have your seatbelt on?
2.      Put that baby on its back to sleep!
3.      Sure, you can have a play date with the kid up the street. Just let me call her mom and arrange it on our schedules.
4.      Stop that! We do not drink from the hose! Get one of the bottled waters.
5.      Are those popsicles organic?
6.      Of course, you can have your own phone! I always feel bad that I am on it when you want to talk to your friends for hours.
7.      What can I make you for your lunch today?
8.      Make sure you get the mosquito repellent that doesn't have DEET in it.
9.      We are going to eat less red meat around here.
10.  Does anybody know where the baby wipes warmer is?
11.  Naturally, you can have a Disney Princess at your birthday party. We’ll have her set up next to the petting zoo behind the bounce house. Now, what should I put in the gift bags for your guests?
12.Thank goodness I'm number 13 on the waitlist for the right preschool.
13.  Come on, kids. We are going to the store. I'm all out of Dreft!  Do we have enough car seats?
14.  Finally found the perfect gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free biscotti recipe for the school “winter holiday” party.
15.  Do you want a timeout?
16.  Is that a participation trophy? Wow! What an accomplishment!
17.  Do you have your bike helmet on?
18.  Wow! Gas is only $3! Thanks, President Nixon/Ford/Carter!
19.  Do you know if the new station wagons help reduce your carbon footprint?
20.  Any sentence that uses the word "sustainable."
21.  Oh no! I'm a week late to send out the invitations to your little brother’s preschool graduation!
22.  Heavens no, you can’t ride in the back of your dad’s pickup truck! It’s not safe.
23.  I’m sorry, Betty. I’ll have to call you back. My daughter wants to ask me something while I’m on the phone.
24.  You know, lLaying out in the sun all day with no sunscreen slathered in baby oil makes you look like a leather handbag when you are my age.
25.  I got a job! And it pays the same as my male counterpart’s does!

My mom was a fabulous 70s mom. My mom could change her John Denver 8-track tape and open a can of Shasta cola while driving down the interstate at 55 mph. She didn’t worry about her carbon footprint or genetically modified organisms in the Cheez Whiz she poured over the broccoli that came shaped like a frozen cube. She wore a bikini top and track shorts the whole summer long and made it look good. She also spanked us—hard, I might add—and not one of us is a delinquent sadist today.

Times have changed, and, in many ways, for the better—if only for the fact that my kids have no idea that broccoli comes frozen in a cube. Also, who can argue that sunscreen is not a good idea?

Some things are worse, of course. Does anyone besides me have heart palpitations about birthday parties for their kids? And Preschool graduations are squeal-worthy cute, but not essential.

Sadly, some things are not as different as we would like (number 25).

What hasn’t changed is how much we love our kids. That’s a concept that my 70s mom never failed to communicate to me or my brothers or sisters. That is way cool, awesome possum, groovy to the Max, dig? *
Was your mom a 70s mom, too? What are some things she would never say?

* She would never have said any of these phrases either.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Helping Your Children Find a Path to Happiness

We all want our children to be happy. The trouble is there is no guarantee of what will make them happy. But we try, nonetheless.

When they are young, we make most of their choices. As they mature, however, they make their decisions. So what do we do when our children make a decision we know will make them unhappy down the road? Do we step in or step back? How do we help them find a path to happiness?

I am an ex-actress who is now a writer. My journey from writing to acting and back again is a long one spanning nearly twenty years. I won’t bore you with the all the details, just a few of them. My hope is my story will ease your mind about the choices your children make.

In high school, I developed a love for acting and writing. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer could have been actress or journalist, depending on the day.

I didn’t always want to do those things. At the age of eight, I told my parents I would never marry, become a scientist and live with them. Forever. They must have been thrilled with my plans.

Despite my issues with realistic career choices, at age 18 even I knew an acting career was risky. I had also abandoned my plans to be a scientist (too much math) and living with my parents (too much supervision). So when it came time to fill in the bubble on my college paperwork for “major,” I skipped acting and the sciences, and instead chose “Journalism.”

Journalism was a practical profession. Respectable. A career where one could expect to earn a living. And, as far as I could tell, there was little math involved.

I went to a state school in Kirksville, Missouri, touted as “the Harvard of the Midwest.” Knowing what I do about Ivy League schools now, I can assure you this was false advertising. I enjoyed none of the advantages a Harvard graduate does, in the Midwest or anywhere else.

My Journalism 101 professor was a slim fellow in need of a haircut. He wore a plaid button-down shirt, chinos, and worn topsider shoes. He carried a messenger bag slung across his body, its strap cutting a diagonal across his thin chest. He had pudgy white cheeks like a child’s and wore Lennon glasses before they were fashionable (again).

I expected to be inspired. I was disappointed.

His entire first lecture described journalism as a miserable profession. A job where you made less than $18,000 a year, which even then was a meager sum, and that was just when you were employed. Furthermore, when you were lucky enough to have a permanent gig, you were on call 24/7 and expected to thrust a microphone into the face of a grieving mother that just discovered her child died and ask her how she feels.


While I knew Journalism wasn’t a cakewalk, I didn’t picture anything quite so desolate as what he described. I left class feeling snake bit, the punctures of his lecture’s fangs allowing my journalistic enthusiasm to leak out with a slow, pathetic hiss.

I had an epiphany. If this bleak and challenging career path is what I’m in for, then I may as well suffer for the art I really love…acting!

I told my parents I was going to be a Theatre major but not to worry; I would get my minor in Music, to “fall back on.” They didn’t say a word. I took this to mean they were once again thrilled with my plans.

Acting didn’t work out. It turns out not everyone who decides to go for stardom makes it. Who knew?

I needed a job. I became a sales rep for an alternative radio station. It paid 100% commission. My desk was so close to the back door that when people went out to smoke behind the station, the snowflakes would spatter across my desk.

Not that the spattering mattered. No snow got on the phone that I used to get smacked with rejection all day.

I didn’t bother looking for another job, however. Where else would a Theatre major (with that helpful Music minor) get hired that didn’t involve the phrases “Would you like to see a dessert menu?” or “Do you need a different size of the curvy, boot-cut stonewash denim?”

Without any other choice, I survived my first job in sales. I bounced around for the next couple of years, always taking a better opportunity, and always learning more about how to be better at my job. At the top of my sales career, I was the Director of Client Relations for a marketing company in Southern California. So hey, it worked out fine in the end.

After I had left this job to raise my children, I missed it. Being a mom was not enough. One of my ex-team members reached out to me in my mommyhood five years ago and asked if I wanted to write some copy for my old company. And just like that, Lively Copywriting was born. I am one of the work-at-home-moms otherwise known as WAHMs.

When I decided to be a theater major, my parents were less than thrilled and probably terrified for my future. However, if they had tried to convince me to return to my Journalism major or even to my original dream of spinster scientist, I wouldn’t have listened. Wisely, they didn’t.

When your son or daughter comes to you full of exuberance about their decision to major in Elizabethan Poetry or Pottery, don’t despair. Our job as parents is not to control what our children do as adults, but to lay the foundation of confidence and determination that will help them find happiness, whatever twisty-turny path they choose.

When I went to college, I was a Journalism major. When I left it, I was a Theatre major with a Music minor. Now I am a writer and a WAHM. I made my choices. I lived with them. My journey led me here, and I can assure you it’s a happy place.

That is a good thing because if there is any truth to Karma, my kids are going to test my theory when their time comes.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Last First Day of Kindergarten

He looked up at me with blue eyes. They seemed to know who I was even before I introduced myself. I was struck by how bright blue his eyes were, even more so than his brother and sister. When I looked back into the blue eyes that were neither scared nor sad, he found his way right into my heart forever.

He is my third child, the one we never planned to have but came anyway. And the child that completed our family in ways we couldn’t have imagined back then.

I remembered that moment as we stood in the crowded line on the sandy asphalt outside his classroom. He was watching the door, the sharp rays of the early sun making him squint on this warm August morning. He was holding my hand—my actual hand, unlike just a few short months ago when all he could manage was to hold two of my fingers. He had his new canvas bag over his shoulder packed with a snack and his headphones. The lights on his brand new shoes dormant as he stood still and quiet by my side, waiting patiently and confidently for the bell.

His classmates were lined up patiently, too, accompanied by the loving throng of parents, caregivers, and grandparents that had shepherded them to this moment. He waved to his friend, the one he introduced himself to yesterday at orientation. His friend waved back and smiled. In spite of the growing dread in my belly, I smiled at his mom. The other mom returned a tight smile, seeming nervous, absently resting her hand on her pregnant belly, no doubt wondering how she got here today and how the little kicking being that was still sleeping inside her womb just yesterday could now be waiting to start the first day of Kindergarten today.

Our teacher invited us in the classroom. She had instructions for all of us, like where to hang our student’s tote bags and where to put the snack for recess. We diligently complied. It was crowded and noisy, but we all managed the tasks at hand.

I helped my son get his snack in his cubby and hang his bag. Then, when this official business was complete, he turned to me and hugged my legs before he let me go and made his way to the rainbow rug, where he plopped down crisscross applesauce in an orange square. He looked around at his classmates already on the carpet and then turned to me with a thumbs up. He would be okay. I might not. My throat tightened, and my eyes brimmed with tears of pride and dismay. 

He was a Kindergartner now. And there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I made my way to the back of the classroom behind the other parents to get some photos. Some of them were experiencing this wonderful/terrible experience for the first time; the joy of participating in such a significant milestone while shouldering the heartbreak of letting their child go, even if it’s just a little. I took photos and tried to hide my tears. I wanted to set a good example.

To be honest, I find it a little silly that I felt wrecked by this important rite of passage. After all, I have stood here before, watching my two other little babies take their leave of me.  I know he will return to me in just a few short hours, all smiles and gleeful cries of “Mommy!” Not 15 minutes after our reunion later, when he’s already wearing me out, I will wonder why I ever felt crushed about the idea of leaving him on his first day of school. I will return to my grouchy musings about whose bright idea it was to start school on an early dismissal day. Or why on earth there are still so many weeks off of school. I will resume my furious searches online to discover just exactly what is the point of a “minimum day.”

After roll call, his teacher read a story about the first day of school and the exquisite pain of separation. It ended with the main character learning the sign for “I love you.” She taught the class how to make the sign with their chubby little hands and encouraged them to show it to us in the throng of anxious and doting faces that surrounded them. He found me and smiled with his whole face, proud to hold up the sign, his first lesson in “big boy” school.

It was time to leave. The teacher reassured us all that she would take wonderful care of our little babies. The air was thick with mixed emotions, both smothering me and thwarting my efforts to keep it together.

As I reached the door, I looked back once more at my baby, my last baby, happily taking in this moment. I felt overwhelmed with pride and love. But the tears came anyway as I left, mourning the loss of these years when he was my little buddy, my constant companion, my lunch date, and my Costco-run partner.

Now he is my kindergartner, my school-aged child, and the last of my tribe to enjoy a significant landmark on his journey to independence that started years ago, even if I didn’t notice it until today. It was the last first day of Kindergarten, beautiful, if tragic, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.