Ten things I’ve learned.

This summer, both of my kids have birthdays. My daughter will turn 4 at the end of this month, and my son will turn 3 at the end of August. In these last 4 years, I have learned so many things. Things about motherhood, myself, my husband, and everything in between. Lessons that I would never have learned if it were not for having my two little ones in my life. Here’s just a few of the nuggets I’ve picked up along the way:

1. On almost no sleep, I can take care of 2 children, clean the house (many, many times), take care of a dog, go food shopping (to more than one supermarket), do the laundry, make breakfast, lunch and dinner for everyone, read many books, run around at the playground, give baths, and re-clean whole house. I take back every complaint about being tired pre-kids. I knew nothing. In fact, if I could ever go back in time and hear myself say “I’m so tired!” at any point before children, I would slap the crap out of myself.

2. The toilet is the best seat in the house. And it is sometimes (sometimes) the only place I can get 5 minutes of privacy. It is ideal for sorting through mail, reading magazines, checking email and even having a snack. Sure, my feet may go a little numb, but that’s a small price to pay. I’ll lie about pooping to get as much time in the bathroom as possible. And now that my kids are old enough to stay alive on their own for a few minutes, I use that lie a lot. My kids think I poop several times a day. My response to “Mommy!!!!!!!! Brody hit me!!!” is “Mommy’s pooping!!!”

3. I could probably get by with doing my own laundry once a month. Ok, so not things like underwear, but the rest, yup. I am so on top of my kids laundry it’s ridiculous, but when it comes to my own, I slack off. The jeans I’m wearing today? They probably haven’t been washed in weeks. Do I care? Have they been puked, peed or pooped on? If not, then no. (In all honesty, if the answer is yes, I’ve probably used a baby wipe on them and kept wearing them.)

4. My marriage can withstand a lot. For a very long time, we had screaming infants at all hours of the day. It took a toll on us, but we came out of it stronger. Closer. I strongly think that how you handle situations helps to define you. Well, I think we did ok there. We are a better couple now. We got this shit covered.

5. I learned how to organize. This is actually a big one for me-I suck at organizing. I used to live with messy piles everywhere. Kids have forced me to become organized; life with kids can be tricky enough-messy piles make it worse. Now, everything in our house has its place. The only glitch? My husband never wants to get rid of anything; he’s a bit of a hoarder. We once had a 30 minute discussion about why he should or shouldn’t get rid of his Polo teddy bear. (Remember Gund teddy bears? It was one of those with a Polo sweater.) The end result? Peace out, bear. But it’s an ongoing battle. Good thing I have lots of baskets. But that damn bear will not be in one of them.

6. I learned I love being a mom. Like really, really love. It is my most favorite job ever. Sure, I might complain that my kids have been screaming all day or that one of them mashed a banana in my hair, but the instant I’m away from them (ok, sometimes it takes a bit longer than an instant), I miss them. I can’t imagine my life without them. They bring me pure joy. Bring a mother is amazing, and I’m one lucky girl.

7. Thanks to my son, I think I have earned an honorary degree in paleontology. I have read more dinosaur books than I ever thought even existed, and know so many different ones it makes my head spin. Every day, between all the books, watching Dino Dan (who is cute but kinda needs a slap in the face) and Dinosaur Train, I have gathered tons of dino information. All those years, I really didn’t know exactly what Ross from Friends did. I do now.

8. I truly, truly know what unconditional love is, and it’s incredible. There is just nothing in this world that could make me not love my children. Love like that is really something else. It’s actually like nothing else.

9. I can make a boo boo better with a kiss. I can make monsters go away by singing a silly song. I can make my kids’ bad day a good one by taking them out for ice cream. I know that my son likes his waffles with syrup on the side and always wants his bread toasted when I’m making him a sandwich. I know just the type of dresses to buy my daughter that will make her happy and where we keep our stash of “secret chocolate”. (Not to be shared with her brother or daddy.) I know how to line-up my son’s stuffed animals/toys on his bed just the way he likes it, and I know to put a box of tissues on my daughter’s bed at night because she’s always blowing her nose. Those things, and a thousand more just like them.

10. I’ve learned that what I like writing about the most is my family. It’s funny, I went back through all my blog posts today, and I was upset that I named my very first post “This is not a mommy blog.” Why was I so intent on saying that? It seems silly now, thinking about it. So silly, in fact, that I went back and changed it to “This is not just a mommy blog.” Because I am, first and foremost, a mommy, and it is my most treasured job. So I am going to write about that, and about all the other things I love.

So, thanks so much for reading my mommy blog.

Oh, and the family and I are on vacation starting this Saturday for a week, so I won’t be writing. I’ll be too busy doing all the same stuff I normally do, just somewhere prettier. Aka, vacation with kids. (An oxymoron.)

a letter to my (child-less) friend

Having a baby is life-changing. Truly. Absolutely everything in your life changes. Everything. Including your friendships. Some of your friendships will be strengthened, some will just change a bit, some will be challenged, and some might end. They say a true test of a friendship is how it withstands major life events. And not many life events are as major as having a baby. This is especially true when you have friends who don’t have children. Some of your friends will embrace the new you and love your child and become an aunt (or uncle) of sorts. Some may stay in your life but be a bit more distant. And some may flat out bail. I had all three happen to me. I have to say, I never thought that having a baby would result in the end of a friendship, but for me, it did. I think it’s hard for women without children to relate to what one goes through with a baby, and some just don’t want to. It got me thinking-if I could say something to a friend like that,  what would I say? So I wrote a letter and it went like this:

Hello, friend. I know it’s been a long time since we’ve talked. Or gone shopping. Or gone out for cocktails. Or coffee. Or anything. I really do miss doing all those things. Really. But the truth is, having a baby is like nothing I ever dreamed of. It’s wonderful, my baby is precious and  I know how lucky I am.  But holy shit, is this hard. No one can prepare you for just how hard it is. I can’t remember the last time I slept for more than an hour. Showering? Can’t remember the last time I did that either. I’ve been wearing the same t-shirt for 3 days and it’s completely covered in spit-up and I’m pretty sure there’s some poop on there too. I think I had dinner yesterday, but yesterday is pretty much a blur since the baby’s colic is at an all time high and she pretty much screamed all day long.  My husband and I are both so strung out and tired that we seem to be bickering nonstop. I don’t think we’ve had a civilized conversation for weeks. We sure do have a lot of conversations (if you want to call it that)  in the middle of the night as I frantically surf the internet typing things like “how to get your newborn to stop screaming.” I’m also pretty sure that my house is fit for an episode of Hoarders. There’s at least 3 empty pizza boxes on my kitchen table right now and the same dirty dishes have been in the sink for about a week. But I really do miss you and I’m hoping this gets better soon.

I saw that you called last week. (or 2 weeks ago? I’m not sure). I went to call you back-I was dialing your number, and then the baby had explosive diarrhea that was so amazingly disgusting (how such a little thing can produce such foul excrement, I’ll never know) and I had to run to clean it up. I was going to call you after I gave her her bath, but then I had to feed her, and that took forever because she kept screaming during her feed, and I was crying because my one boob has contracted mastitis and I’m in so much pain I want to cry every time she latches. (Honestly, I’ve been crying a lot these days.) After that was done, it was 2AM and I didn’t want to wake you.

But thinking about it, it was Saturday night, and you were probably still out having a great time. I hope you were wearing those amazing shoes and that hot dress you bought last time we went shopping-that outfit looked amazing on you. I’m afraid the dress I bought that day won’t fit me for a long, long time. It’s ok, I bought few dresses (in a MUCH bigger size) from Target that should get me through the summer. They’re not very cute, but right now I’d be happy with anything without vomit. We’ll be rocking our outfits together again soon.

I know that you can’t relate to any of this. And that you don’t want to talk about breastfeeding, poop, spit-up, or diapers. I get that. A year ago, I didn’t either. I will try my best to not go on and on about all things baby, but please understand that it’s hard. My baby is my whole life right now, and right now I don’t know anything else. I live and breathe baby 24/7. Please forgive me if I go on about how cute my baby looked in the new outfit I bought her (at least someone around here looks cute), or how she smiled at me for the first time the other day, or how hard I’m working at breastfeeding. Please bear with me. It is where I am in my life right now. I know it changes our friendship, but I value you so much as a friend and I truly hope you will hang in there with me. I wish I could say that I’m the same person you’ve always known, but the truth is, I’m not. I’m a mother now, and that does change things. It changes everything, actually. I now have this little person that my world revolves around. I would do anything in the world for her. I would die for her. And her needs come before everything else. So even though I might not be able to spend hours at the mall or at Sunday (champagne) brunch, I hope you still will want to be in my life. If I forget to return your call, please know it’s not that I want to talk to you. If I can’t make it out for cocktails at the latest trendy bar, it’s not that I don’t want to. I just can’t right now. To be honest, I won’t be able to do those things a lot in the future, but when the baby is a little older and I can leave her with my parents, I would love to go out. And when I do make it, I will really, really do my best to not talk baby all night. I probably will a little, but I’ll keep it at bay. Because I really do want to hear about the new guy you’re dating. I’m sure he’s great. If you like him, then he must be great because you’re pretty amazing. And when I can, I would love to meet for coffee. I hope you don’t mind driving up to my neck of the woods so I can be closer to home in case I need to get home quickly; I know it’s a little further, but I really would appreciate it.

I know things will never be exactly the same. Having a baby changes everything. I’m struggling right now and it must feel like I’ve totally forgotten you, and also like I’m completely unrecognizable. Just know that I love you, my friend. And I’m still here.

I had some major baby blues after both of my children were born. Although I was never officially diagnosed with post-partum depression, I am positive that I was suffering from it. It made every day difficult. I cried a lot. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling the way I was feeling. It was like I was in a fog. Or like I was in the bottom of a really, really big hole-and I just couldn’t climb my way out of it. I’m sure that as my friend, this was challenging to deal with. I must have been hard to relate to, or understand, or even be around. But a true friend hangs in there with you. A true friend will see that you’re in a hole-and throw you a rope.

Friendship is give and take. Sometimes you need to give a lot. And sometimes you need to take a lot. True friends will do both. And those are the ones you’ll want to keep forever.

A perfect fit.

I’m so often surprised at all that being a mother has taught me. And equally, how much my children have taught me. When you think of a parent and child, you always think of the parent as the teacher. But often, it is actually the child that teaches. And they seem to know just the lesson that you need. It’s as if their little souls had a sit-down meeting with God before they were born. And they discussed where they were going, who their parents would be, and what their parents needed help with. For instance, that meeting with my kids would have gone something like this:

God: Welcome, little one. Your parents will name you Zoe.

Zoe: Well, that sucks. Can’t they name me Dora?

God: Sorry kid, they’re pretty set on Zoe. And you’re very needed. Your mom and dad are decent people and hard workers, but they sleep waaaaaay too late and can be slobs. And your mother is the most unorganized person on Earth. (And I should know.) She’s also a little impatient, moody and has a bit of a temper. Can you help her out with that?

Zoe: Thanks so much for sending me to two mean lazy slobs. Was there no one else?

God: There is, but you are perfect for them. That’s what I do. I send you to who I think needs you the most, and who you need the most. You are meant for each other. You will help them to be better people, and they will love you and teach you everything. And your mom will buy you really cool clothes-she’s good at that.

Zoe: Oh, alright.

My beautiful daughter has taught me oh-so-much. She was a very colicky infant and basically screamed for the first 4 months of her life, and it tested me in ways that I’ve never been tested before. It put a strain on my marriage. But it also made me, and my marriage, stronger. She taught me to love deeper than I ever thought was humanly possible. Zoe is kind, gentle, generous, loving and caring. When she hugs you, she hugs with her whole body and squeezes as tight as she can. She loves fiercely. And I am in awe of her every day. I think about the kind of woman she’ll be one day, and I tear up because I just know how wonderful she is and how wonderful she will be. That girl is special; there is no denying it.

13 months after my daughter was born, there was another conversation.

God: Welcome, little one. Your parents will name you Brody.

Brody: Cool. Will there be waffles there?

God: Oh, yes. Lots and lots of waffles. I am sending you to a family where there is already a little girl. You will be best friends.

Brody: Are her toys cool?

God: Very. And she will share them with you. You will be quite a character, Brody. You will make your parents want to laugh and scream at the same time. You will be funny. You will be very stubborn, just like your mother, and it will help her be less stubborn. You will teach her not to sweat the small stuff.

Brody: What does that mean?

God: It means that sometimes your mom gets upset at things that don’t really matter. You will help her to stop doing that.

Brody: How?

God: By doing so many things that will drive her crazy she will have no choice but to only get upset about a few of them.

Brody: Right on, I’m down with that. As long as there’s waffles.

Or something like that. Children are such an amazing blessing. A gift. How many gifts teach you patience, unconditional love, understanding, compassion, empathy and about a billion other things? None. (Although I do have a pair of shoes that I swear when I wear them, I’m smarter.) Our children bring out the best possible person in us. And yes, sometimes the worst. They make us the best possible version of ourselves. It’s like you become who they need you to be. Because God thought long and hard about what you are capable of, and sent you the child who would help you realize that. And on the flip side, some kids need a little more love and attention. So God sends those kids to parents who can do just that. Maybe sometimes it’s because those parents are broken-or have a void and need something to fill it. Enter those special kids. I think those sit-down meetings took just a little bit longer.

On this Mother’s Day, I am feeling so incredibly grateful. And proud. Proud of the people my children are becoming, and proud of my husband and I for doing alright at this parenting thing. I might have a few Cruella deVille moments here and there that I’m not especially proud of, but I’m pretty sure God knew that would happen and knew my kids would forgive me. Because we are all a perfect fit.

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What’s in my bag? Well, it ain’t pretty.

Have you seen a feature bit called “What’s in my bag?”-where celebrities and the like empty out their purse to show you its contents? I’ve seen it in Us Magazine, InStyle and numerous blogs. And it always makes me feel like crap. Its always beauty products that look like they were just bought, a cell phone, a wallet, and some jewelry (Because you never know when you’ll need a pair of chandelier earrings. ???) It’s always so…..pretty. Every time I see it I wanna say bitch, please. These chicks need to take a look at my bag. Granted, I don’t carry around a dainty clutch, I carry around a diaper bag that might as well have been made by Samsonite. I pack as much crap in that thing as possible. Because I have found that in toddlerdom, (pretty sure that’s not a word but it needs to be) every time you don’t have something, that’s when you need it. Today, I was at the park with some other moms and their kids and a mom said to me “What don’t you have in there?” Well, nothing, really. Remember the bag from Mary Poppins-the one where she pulled everything out of it from a brush to a coat rack? It feels like that sometimes. And it made me want to take inventory. I got home, emptied it out, and took pictures. I didn’t clean it up first, either. (Which is why I had to vacuum afterwards-I took home some wood chips and dirt from the park.) So here it is. Here’s what’s in my bag:

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Gross, right? And to clarify: those napkins are soaked in grape juice (actually so are some of the tickets), the green cup was my veggie juice from this morning and I’m pretty sure it smells like ass right now, and if you look closely you can see bits of dirt and wood chips. Here, see:

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A ball (because my son always freaks out when we’re at the park and other kids have a ball and he doesn’t), the grape-juice soaked napkins, the grape juice, pop chips, Desitin, cheddar bunnies, oyster crackers from my soup at lunch yesterday, a coffee sleeve, tickets from a kid’s play place, an empty water bottle, keys, a jammy sammy and a mystery brown paper bag.

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And here we have my phone, diapers and wipes, a spinosaurus (duh), hand sanitizer and cleaner, a piece of a broken toy, sugar in the raw (I find that a lot of places don’t have it), my wallet and a rubber band. (and what the hell is in that paper bag?)

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Grape-juice soaked napkins and receipts and a Mickey Mouse band-aid. There’s only one band-aid becuase my daughter likes to put them on for fun. So then when she walks out of the house covered in band-aids, I get all kinds of fun looks.

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Here’s my daughter’s inhaler (that thankfully hasn’t been needed in a long time but you never know), 15 different lip products, and a baggie of crayons.

Also in my bag is Tinkerbell, Batman tattoos from a birthday party, 2 pairs of sunglasses, straws and a note from my eye doctor. (from 2 months ago.)

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It almost all went back in. And I found out that the mystery brown paper bag had my daughter’s pound cake from our Starbucks trip yesterday. Score! I have dessert for tonight now.

And now you now what I haul around every single day. And most likely why I have back problems.

Why I can’t write about shoes today.

I was going to do a post today about shopping for kid’s clothes. I started it a few times, got up, did something else, came back to it, but I’m just not feeling it. At all. Sometimes, with all that is going on in the world, talking about where to get cheap shoes seems so……insignificant. When I heard that an 8 year old boy died in the Boston Marathon bombings, a familiar heaviness and deep sorrow came over me. It is the same feeling that I experienced after Newtown-which affected me so profoundly I often am at a loss of words to explain it. Events like these affect every single human being. Every single one. But as a parent, the effect is a bit different. For me, the Newtown and Boston events triggered a grief so deep-but also a guilt. Guilt about being able to hug my babies-give them their bath, get annoyed that they’re not eating their veggies (again), read them their favorite book. And the parents who lost their kids can’t. Shortly after Newtown, my daughter had her preschool Christmas show. It was the first she had ever participated in. It was the cutest thing EVER. But as soon as it started, I started to cry. Not because the show was that good, but because I felt guilty. I was so blessed that I could watch her. That I could be there as my daughter donned her angel wings and sang Christmas songs. That she could giggle onstage as she forgot the words and dance all around-looking to make sure we were watching her. I thought of all those parents who were robbed of that experience. And it hurt my heart. I find myself feeling these exact emotions again now. I took my kids to the park today to meet some of my daughter’s preschool friends and their moms, and immediately I thought about that 8 year old boy in Boston who went to the big race to watch his family’s friends cross the finish line. I then felt guilty about asking what kind of pizza all the kids wanted when we went out to lunch afterwards. But I know life goes on. And we all must continue and do our best to appreciate every single minute that we are blessed enough to have.

Another thing came to my attention yesterday. A mother’s blog. A blog that was only meant as a way for her to update family and friends about her young son’s health condition. It’s called Chasing Rainbows. (http://www.kateleong.com/  -please read. You will never forget it.) It’s about a beautiful family that has overcome more hardships than most families dream of, yet still hadn’t come across their most difficult one-losing their 6 year old son, Gavin. He was born with a mysterious genetic condition, giving him life-long health issues. After a long list of issues, he fell very ill and eventually progressed to brain death. His family made the decision to donate his organs, which they did yesterday. This family’s story really affected me. For one, my job before I became a stay at home mother was an organ transplant coordinator. I would have been the one to come to Gavin’s mother to talk to her about donating his organs. Then I would have monitored, cared for him and kept him stable, treating him as necessary. Next is finding recipients for his organs and bringing him to the operating room, where surgeons would remove and prepare his organs to be transplanted. I know the process all too well. What I don’t know about is being on the other side. About having to say good bye to your child. About having to leave his body, knowing that afterwards he’ll spend the night in a cold morgue and not in your arms. I know nothing about that.

I know nothing about going to a marathon and when it’s over, not being able to go get pizza and ice cream and talk about how much fun you all had. I know nothing about dropping my kids off at school and then going to a firehouse and waiting to see if they walk in to meet me there, only to find out that they were killed by a psychotic gunman. I know nothing about those things. And I pray to God that I never do. I pray that you don’t either.

I know that life goes on. But for now, I just can’t post about shoes.

Judgy moms suck.

I think it is in women’s nature to be a bit judgmental. Before you get all offended and say “Wait!!! I’m not judgmental at all!!”, stop and think. Have you ever said “OMG….WTF is that chick wearing?” or “I would never let my kids (or dog/cat/whatever) behave like that!” Chances are, you’ve said something similar at some point. It doesn’t make any of us bad people-we’ve all made a snarky comment or two (or a thousand.) What I have found, however, is that this characteristic multiplies by a trillion in many women when they become mothers. Not all, mind you, but many. You know that mom-the one who gives you bitch-face when your kids are acting up at the supermarket-as if she’s saying in her snooty head: “My kids-who take French lessons and can play 7 instruments while wearing nothing but designer bloomers-are perfect and would never act like that.” Or the mom who turns her nose up at you when she sees you take out Chicken McNuggets at the park for your kids- because she only feeds her kids organic and raw fruits and vegetables that have been locally grown and then blessed by the town high priestess and whose proceeds go to starving children in Africa. Yeah, that mom. I first encountered those moms a couple of weeks after I gave birth to my daughter. I was breastfeeding and really, really struggling. By struggling I mean crying almost all day everyday, slamming my head against the wall, and not sleeping for more than 30 minutes at a time. I had no idea what I was doing and was so tired I was speaking in tongues. Not a pretty scene. I didn’t really have any close friends who could help me with this issue and I needed a lot of help, so I turned online. There are quite a few resources online for breastfeeding mothers, and I was hopeful they could help. I “liked” a few of the sites on facebook and signed up for updates from a few pages. Honestly, I did get some good tips, but what I found the most of was judgmental mothers. I read things like “I saw a woman in the mall feeding her baby a formula bottle and I was so disgusted I almost threw up”.  Seriously? WTF? I added my two cents (a bitchy retort) and got the hell outta there. There seems to be a really big battle between breastfeeding moms vs formula moms, and I think it’s the most ridiculous thing ever. But it doesn’t stop there. Just yesterday I was visiting one of my favorite mommy blogs-Baby Sideburns (flipping hysterical take on motherhood-you will laugh your ass off.) and the post was this:

“You know what totally sucks? When you’re looking at some super hot nanny take care of a little toddler and suddenly the toddler looks up and calls her mom. WTF, she’s a mom and she looks like that? Okay, now I feel even shittier about my frizzy ponytail and mom jeans. Didn’t think that was possible.”

Funny, right? Well apparently a bunch of troll moms didn’t agree. The comments that ensued lit a fire under my ass. They called this mother (mind you-a woman they’ve never met/seen and could even very well be fictitious) a bitch, a lesbian, a bad mother-stated that the time she took “primping” was taking away from her time with her kids; the awful comments were endless. Like it’s inconceivable that a woman could be  a good mother and be presentable. Well, of course I chimed in again. (I’ve never been good at keeping my mouth shut.) What was supposed to be a funny comment-giving the readers an “I’ve been there too!” response, instead ignited an all out bitch-fest. But why? As mothers, aren’t we ALL trying to do our best? We all have good days and bad days. We all struggle. We all love our kids unconditionally and would move heaven and earth for them. So doesn’t that make us all on the same side?

Now I’m not saying that all of motherhood is a battle. Of course it is wonderful, rewarding, full of love and amazing. But it’s also a battle. And as fellow mothers, we should support each other and lift each other up, not judge, belittle and tear each other down. So next time you find yourself horrified at the poor mom whose children are acting all Exorcist-like and are on the verge of having their heads rotate 360 degrees and spew steaming green projectile vomit, why don’t you instead pat her on the butt and say, “Carry on, warrior. Six hours til bedtime.” (A fabulous quote from Glennon Melton of Momastery.) Because you know you’ve been there. And if you haven’t, you’re headed there. But it’s ok, you’ve got your team behind you.