And Chances Are, if You Give a Teacher Appreciation…

And Chances Are, if You Give a Teacher Appreciation…

…she’ll want some paperclips to go with it.

All too often these days, our educators are ignored, bullied, and passed over.  They are the forgotten link in our kids’ success stories.  To be in such full view, they are certainly kept behind the scenes.  I really, really hate that.

All my life, I grew up loving school (with a few years exceptions, of course).  All my life, I had amazing teachers.  I also had amazing parents who never blamed my teachers for my own shortcomings, and they never let me not accept my own blame.  My parents, my very first teachers, taught me to love and respect the people who would shape my mind for many years to come.  My aunt, a teacher for many years, unknowingly taught me to admire and listen to those who had lived a life before my own.  As is such, I have the utmost respect for quality education and the fine women (and men!) who provide it to my own little ones.

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As most of you know, Gabe has had some learning struggles along his admittedly short school path.  I am glad to say that we’ve had some, for lack of a better term, crappy teachers.  I am thankful for them, because those women gave me the sight to see what AMAZING teachers he has also been exposed to.  Women (and men!) who have fought tooth and nail for my stubborn, hard-learning little guy.  They have loved and fussed, held up and nailed down my Gabe in a way that I so appreciate.  Their sticktoitiveness and gumption has made more of a difference in Gabe’s life (and that of my own!) than I’m afraid they’ll never fully know.

I have grown to not only respect these people, but also treasure them.  They are special people with some of the most enlightened souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.  In addition to their own very busy, hectic lives, they choose to not only take on my, what some would call “hard” (hell, what I would sometimes call hard), kiddo with gusto that I cannot fathom.  And not just mine, but countless others.  Today, in the world we live in, so many parents place blame where blame is not called for.  Our teachers catch the brunt of lazy parenting and, by due course, ill-behaved children.  It is unfair, hard work.  But they attend to it with grace and their own brand of stubbornness and make their way home with heads, and red pens, held high.

A simple thank you seems insufficient, but for now that is all I have.  So thank you, ladies.  Thank you so much for reaching out to my boy. Thank you for your time, your patience, your encouragement, and most of all, your care.  From the bottom of my heart, I am eternally grateful for all you have done.

To all you other teachers out there whom we’ve not yet met, apologies and thanks in advance.  I am sure we will encounter our fair share of even more mediocre individuals attempting to pass as teachers, but I do so look forward to meeting you nurturers.  The soul seekers.  The up-lifting, no-nonsense, believe in you-ers.  The mind shapers.  The EDUCATORS.

Happy Teacher’s Appreciation Week.  You are SO needed.

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Fifteen Things that Sum Up the Ridiculousness that is Parenting

Fifteen Things that Sum Up the Ridiculousness that is Parenting

I’ve learned quite a lot over the past six years as a parent. I’ve learned what to do and infinitely more what not to do.  Kids are often times the best teachers to have; from our kids, we learn how to live and how to love; how to be humble and how to be proud; how to keep it together when we ultimately just need to lose our shit.  You get the idea.  As a mom of two mad-crazy little guys, ages 2 and 6, I have begun to really lose my shit lately.  I’m not as cool and calm as I always thought I’d have been; my 12 year old self figured I’d be a hip, laid-back mom. BAHAHAHAHA.  These days, I’m so high-strung that a Stradivarius would be envious.  Thankfully, I have realized this and I am trying to find the humor in things that would normally set me off like a Roman Candle.  Because of my new-found work-in-progress, I have begun writing down little snippets of what parenting is to me.  Now, you may find yourself jumping on my bandwagon, and you may leave here today thinking I’m a total fruitcake (and… you’d be right).  Nevertheless, parenting is, like I said before, a life lesson for us all.  And so, for those of us who live in the real world of make-believe and near parenting-induced alcoholism, who also do not have the benefit of expensive live-in nannies, I present to you my list of “parenting is…”.  I hope it at the very least brings you a chuckle if not a Katniss-esque salute of sympathy.  I’ll be starting my list with one point that ventures towards the macabre — but I know y’all will feel me on this…

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  1. Parenting is: plotting out for weeks on end the murder of America’s favorite fictitious character, Mickey freaking Mouse.  Call it hateful, throw around the term “kill-joy”…. but that mouse is a parent’s nightmare on crack.  Now, did I personally always feel so violently towards the peppy, over-the-top excited little dude?  Nope.  There was a time I, too, was rather fond of Ears.  But Mickey Mouse Clubhouse has rendered me irritated, at best, with it’s unrealistic expectations of childhood behavior.  Not to mention, he’s Connor’s idol and a small mutiny occurs in our home every time that damn mouse is refused.  My mind is leaning towards a Saw like end to the Mouse.  I’m thinking a backwards mousetrap.  Too much?  Oh, well.
  2. Parenting is: wanting to get housework done, but the toddler is sleeping on the couch, and if parenting has taught you ANYTHING its, “Don’t wake the bear.”  Hello, Netflix marathon.
  3. Parenting is: stress eating cheap pizza because “For the love of God and my waistline, quit stalling and do your math facts!”  Move over, skinny jeans; the muumuu is strong with this one.
  4. Parenting is: hovering around the fridge, spoon in hand, avoiding hard stares and denying any knowledge about the banana pudding on the second shelf (behind the Country Crock, adjacent to the Dijon) and arguing that, “No! I’m not going to eat anything, promise! DON’T JUDGE ME, TODDLER!”
  5. Parenting is: a conundrum.  On the one hand, parents love to their kiddos sing pretty much anything.  On the other hand, hearing the chorus of any song over and over on continuous loop because that’s literally the only part of the song they know makes people want to pull their hair out and throw darts at the walls.  See also: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse freaking theme song.  Scooby Doo’s theme is equally annoyingly endearing.

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  6. Parenting is: telling the kids to shake it off after pretty much any injury, knowing full well that if it were YOU, you’d either A) swear at the air until the “ouchie” goes away, B) cry like your two year old who has been refused Micka Mouf, or C) stress eat anything that doesn’t move.
  7. Parenting is: repeating yourself calmly a thousand times over, in the most serene of voices, until something in you snaps and suddenly your neighbors all think you’re a metal-band groupie and, “Oh my gawsh, she ate a bat’s ear off, I swear!”
  8. Parenting is: hearing yourself say things — things that should never be said — and not knowing which direction the day will go afterward.  Case in point: I always say weird, off-the-wall things to my kids.  They do weird, off-the-wall things, after-all, and well… shit happens.  But the other day, I said within a five minute span, “QUIT LICKING THE DOG!”, “No, we cannot sell your brother.  No, I do not care that you need more Legos.”, “Santa does not bring presents to little boys who pull on their private area.”, “Please quit putting your butt on the window and put on some pants.”, “No, wiping your ass is not one of my favorite things to do.”  “No, I do not think I look like Velma.”, “We do not point guns at the mail lady.”, “No, I do not think she looks like Velma.”, “No, I will not smell your finger.”  Five minutes.  No lie.  I’ve thought about bringing my kids in for testing, but I’m afraid I’ll never get them back from testing.
  9. Parenting is: s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g  e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g… until your six year old breaks down that impenetrable code (damnit, ELA).  Then, parenting becomes speaking in movie references to anyone who will understand because said six year old is all, “I ain’t droppin’ no eaves.”
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  10. Parenting is: attempting to reason with a screaming, tantrum-throwing toddler, only to realize that it would be easier to do and sing the Hokey Pokey backwards and in Pig Latin.  It would also be more enjoyable.
  11. Parenting is: looking feverishly at that untouched bottle of wine in your fridge and managing, somehow, to save it for the weekend even when it’s been a Monday of a Wednesday.
  12. Parenting is: ending most days with someone in tears, someone else covered in Nesquick, and you on the verge of nervous breakdown… but, one way or another, finding the humor in it all, odds be damned.
  13. Parenting is: guidance, chauffeuring, chaperoning, disciplining, kissing booboo’s, and scaring away the monsters.
  14. Parenting is: being loved and getting to love.  It is special.  It’s a gift.  It’s humbling.  It’s pride-bearing.
  15. Parenting is: an experience.  Several experiences, really.  Ones that should be spent with your kids, not at your wit’s end.  It’s hard, it’s tiring, it can be a nightmare; but it’s worth it. They’re worth it.  And so are you, momma and/or poppa bear.

This Thanksgiving, I’m especially thankful for my kids.  I am proud of who they are — even if they drive me positively berserk.  They are my reasons to be thankful for anything; I am blessed beyond measure.  And tired.  I am so, so tired.  Time for the daily battle with Mickey Mouse.  I’ll give you a hint who wins: it’s not me.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

5 Reasons My Two-Year Old is Stripping

5 Reasons My Two-Year Old is Stripping

Ah, exhibitionism: it ain’t for all of us. My two-year old, however, has certainly taken a shine to it lately.  Usually for no rhyme or reason at all, at any time of day, I can find Connor butt-naked, riding some kind of toy or, like the other day, attacking his completely grossed out older brother, with nary a care in the world.  Take the other day, for example:  he had been playing in his room when the doorbell rang.  It didn’t occur to me then (though, perhaps, it should have) to check him out before he came bounding into the living room STARK FREAKING NAKED while I signed for a package from UPS.  I don’t know who was more mortified — me, or the UPS guy.  But Connor was delighted to show off his current lifestyle choice and showed zero signs of self-consciousness.

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This is a relatively new thing to Con.  Not too long ago, he hated being naked.  HATED. IT.  Like, “I will put on every ounce of anyone else’s clothing if I am not supplied with my own” hatred.  I’m not sure when the change occurred, but this new thing… I’m not feeling it.  Thankfully, he’s a little fella; I can still fit him in 24 month onesies without them looking all kinds of ridiculous.  I’ve thought and thought about what could possibly have triggered the new-found love for streaking; here’s what I’ve come up with.

  1. Luke Bryan.  No, I’m not saying Connor is stripping for Luke Bryan.  Keep your imagination in check, partner.  But the other day Mr. Bryan’s song Strip it Down came on, and while LB usually makes my kid cry (not even kidding — I always have to change the station in the car his songs come on), this time Connor stripped it down.  Subliminal message?  God, I hope not.
  2. Potty training.  Rather, the ongoing joke in this house that we call “potty training”.  For Connor, this simply means he sheds every piece of fabric and discards his diaper or PullUp accordingly.  But instead of running to the potty, he goes Marathon Man on me and runs, loose as a goose, through the house.  Kid’s pretty fast when he’s not suited up.
  3. He’s Tarzan incarnate.  He’s always had an affinity for the outdoors; perhaps he’s just trying to live out a past life?  We live in rural Louisiana; I can’t have little nude dudes running around my house.  They have laws for that around here, for crying out loud.
  4. He really enjoys grossing out our semi-modest six year old.  I really think I’ve hit on something here.  Connor comes bolting around a corner like a skinned squirrel and Gabe just dies.  Con thinks Gabe’s revolted cries for help is hilarious and climbs all over him like a spider monkey.  I’ll admit — it’s pretty funny.  Kind of contradicts my “keep to your personal space” rule, though.
  5. He’s a two-year old boy who has recently found every guy’s favorite body part and is innocently living the dream.  This is probably the real reason, although not as fun to think about like my Tarzan theory.  Gabe and Connor are night and day about EVERYTHING, and it oddly didn’t occur to me that they could be polar opposites on the subject of “modesty” (whatever “modesty” means in the light of little boys, anyway).  Gabe likes to be COVERED — even when he sleeps.  Connor, on the other hand, would be happy if I’d let him roam Target in the buff.  Obviously, that ain’t gonna happen.  I may as well let well-enough alone, though, and take solace in the fact that, for now, his little tush is still cute and said tush can fit into snap-able onesies.  Praise Jesus!  Hopefully this little phase of his won’t last too much longer… our UPS guy still can’t look me in the eye and with Christmas around the corner this could pose a problem.
Changing Leaves

Changing Leaves

It’s my favorite time of year again, y’all: fall.  Autumn.  Harvest…  whatever you like to call it.  I love the word “autumn”, myself, but living in a small-ish town in Louisiana, I get looked at funny when I toss that word around.  So I simply leave it at “fall” and go on with my days loving the cool(er) weather and, per the stereotype, pumpkin spice everything.  I loved pumpkin spice before it was trendy, so I make no apologies for the warmth and goodness of a good pumpkin-y, nutmeg-y latte.

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Anyway, I’ve always found that fall brings more changes than just crisp, cool air and falling, beautifully colored leaves; it always brings life changes — at least for me it does.  As if on pattern or cue, fall delivers to me different, sometimes intimidating, but always good change.  I seldom know what I or my family is facing, but I can usually rest-assured life will find its way of sorting itself out.  Fall has been closely followed by the birth of my children and brought with it the marriage of me and my husband.  It has been with me when I’ve faced new jobs and their challenges; it has even carried with it new friendships that I am blessed to still have today.  This year, it has given us the loss of my job.  As of last Wednesday, I am officially at SAHM status.  Things came up and it was made plainly evident that I needed to be home.  I. Am. TERRIFIED.

I have never not worked.  I have held at least one job (sometimes two or three!) since I could legally work and drive.  I had three jobs during my pregnancy with Gabe (talk about exhausting — working three jobs pregnant [two of which I stayed on my feet and even climbed ladders, etc.]), and stayed with my office job when I went back to school for my marketing degree (for which I still have not obtained).  I have always liked to stay busy and am not averse to working my tail off.  So this new stay-at-home-mom thing… it’s flooring me.  I love my boys, but I’ve never felt like I’m “stay at home” material.  I am gruff and grumpy… total momma bear.  I’ve never, ever been super good with kids and it’s always seemed easier for me to go to work and let them go to school or daycare for our “space”.  Admittedly, I hated only being with them from 5-7 every morning and 5-bedtime during our evenings and it really was vital at the time that both my husband and myself work; in today’s economy, it really does take two incomes unless you’re a Kardashian.  Well, I don’t know about you, but my hidden talent ain’t balancing a cup on my behind, so there goes that idea.

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Since I’ve been “home”, Connor and I have not been “home” for entire day… at all.  It may sound silly, but I get the housework done quickly and we bolt.  I’m too antsy to be hemmed in all day, so off we go.  What have we gotten done?  A little grocery shopping, a few errands here and there, and a lot of mall walking.  I’m pathetic.  I’m going to have to give it up eventually, I know.  But Ev can tell you — I don’t even do good staying home on the weekends.  I don’t have to spend a dime, but I absolutely do not want to be locked in a house all day.

But I have decided to make the best of it.  Starting Monday, Connor and I are going to do things at home.  He’s two, so potty training needs to take priority.  I forgot how hard that is to do in town (been four years since I’ve had a two year old, y’all) and he’s showing signs of being ready.  So I suppose we’re going to batten down the hatches and poop-proof the house until he gets the hang of it.  Tonight, we’re making homemade pizza and painting pumpkins (Gabe wants to paint his like Luigi from Super Mario®) after homework makes its painstaking existence known.  I have decided that just because I’m not used to being a SAHM, that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I will make the most of it even if it means I pull my hair out and look like Britney version 2007.  Afterall, fall has always brought with it changes for me — and how often has this season given me bad luck?  Fingers crossed for me, y’all.  Can you add SAHM to a résumé?  I already feel like a poorly informed, unpaid intern.  Sigh.

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Postpartum Depression and Turning Corners

Postpartum Depression and Turning Corners

Every year, I try my best to write about my personal struggle with postpartum depression.  It was such a huge part in the turning of chapters in my life, and I feel obligated to share with other mommas who may be experiencing, or could experience, the same hell I lived in for several months of my life.  PPD is left largely undiscussed.  No one really talks about the post-natal depression because it still widely viewed as “taboo” or a “non-issue”.  Hell, the “baby blues” are barely mentioned.  That fact has left me gobsmacked ever since Gabe’s arrival six years ago.  In fact, the longer I think about, the more ludicrous it’s absence in every-day talk seems to me.

Even knowing my family’s history of varied mental illnesses and depression, my OB/GYN at the time didn’t even warn me of the possibility that I might develop the problem.  I was very young — twenty at the time — and might have heard of PPD in passing, but never at length, and never from the one person who could have filled me in.  I don’t blame him in particular — I blame society, mostly.  A society that is in no way, shape, or form idyllic has these contorted views of what the “ideal” mother should be.  I’m telling you right now — the society that runs the world today should have no say in what an “ideal” mother is.  Plain and simple.

But backing off blame, I’m here to urge anyone who might have this problem or knows someone who might have this problem to seek help — NOW.  Asking for help is not embarrassing.  It does not make you a bad mother.  It does not take away from your parenting abilities.  IGNORING the problem, however, will absolutely emphasize the problem not only for the mother, but also for the people that surround her — including her child(ren).

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I have found that opening up a bit about my own conflict with PPD has helped a few women seek help and counsel regarding their own struggles.  It is still somewhat difficult for me to come forward with my own story, but it is something I am more than willing to do to spare anyone of the terror that went on inside of my own head.  So, here goes:

My Gabe was born on August 20th, 2009.  As luck would have it, my heart truly began beating on that day.  I, however, wouldn’t have that feeling of pride and warmth for several months after the fact.  All my life I’ve been told of these miraculous stories of “adoration at first sight” upon a mother holding her baby for the very first time.  That this feeling of pure bliss just soaks down into very fiber of their being without question and without exception.  A love that, as I’ve said before, is nearly nauseating.  I didn’t have those feelings.  In fact, I was very nearly numb to everything — except terror and the unknown.  The unknown of what I was experiencing; the surprising terror of being petrified — of an infant.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it and I was certain no one else would be able to, either.  So I kept quiet.  I kept quiet for nearly a year.

I’ll go to grave believing that a plethora of factors contributed to my depression; family mental illness, being overweight and in an unhappy relationship, working three jobs from sun-up to sun-down… I believe all these things contributed to my issues.  Add to that a rash of unstable post-natal hormones?  I was just waiting for someone to put me in a padded cell.  My attitude towards everyone, not just myself, was deplorable.  I couldn’t not cry — any and everything made me bawl.  I was living with my parents at the time and refused to be left alone with my own child — I was out of control on a downward spiral.  I needed help and I knew it.  But, due to my fear and hardheadedness, I decided to wait.  I waited almost too long.

For months, I would climb into my grandpa’s old leather chair when my parents would settle down for the night.  So every night from 10:30 to 4:30 the next morning, I would sit there, in my “safe place” — forcing myself to stay awake.  I feared that if I slept, I would hurt Gabe.  He slept soundly every night in my arms — never suspecting; trusting me fully.  He didn’t know that the person he trusted the most had no faith whatsoever in herself.  One day after a long night, I couldn’t tell if I was awake or dreaming.  Awful thoughts and fears poured into my mind as though someone had removed the top portion of my head only to fill it with fright.  Horrified and feeling monstrous, I finally sought help.  Adding to the fear of losing my mind, was the new thought that I could feasibly lose my child.  That the possibility of having my son taken from me could lie in whomever I sought counsel.  Sitting in the counselor’s office didn’t help any — waiting alone, wondering what would be said… what would be thought.  Finally, after what seemed like hours, my name was called.  I was led to another smaller office where I waited once more.  I considered running — I considered calling the appointment off under the guise of a “reschedule”.  What little common sense I felt I had at the time finally took course and I stayed, anxious and alone.  And then someone with the kindest eyes came in.  She held my hand.  She listened.  She let me express every fear I had, no matter how silly or unreal.  I talked until I was out of words and cried until my face was sore.  And after all was said and done, she hugged me the tightest hug I’d ever been given.  She assured me that I was not crazy and that everything would be fine; no one was going to take Gabe and no one wanted to.  To this day, I have not experienced the kind of relief that I did in that room.

We continued to meet for quite some time.  I was prescribed a strong antidepressant that gradually became less and less.  The last day of that prescription, I enrolled in a local college — I had been given two new reasons to live my life fully.  I finally had my little boy, even though I was never physically absent… and I’d been given my life back ten-fold.  It became my wish from that point to today to educate and spread the word regarding postpartum depression in its every form.  I hope you will do the same if you took anything away from this post.

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Postpartum depression is real and horrifying.  But there is help and hope.  For more information on PPD, follow this link.  If you or anyone you know is suffering from or could suffer from this problem, please seek help and encouragement.

Reliving the Terrible Twos

Reliving the Terrible Twos

Before Connor, I thought I had learned a lot about parenting in general.  Gabe was almost four when Connor made his grand entrance, and in nearly four years I considered myself a “parenting pro”.  These days, I consider myself a parenting buffoon.  Bill Cosby said it best when he said this in one of his routines:

“[Two children] qualifies, because a person with one child, I don’t really call them a parent… because there are too many things left out.  For instance, if something’s broken in the house, you have one child, you know who did it! See, you don’t have to go through “I… I… I…”. You know the child did it! Also, people with one child do not have to go through “Willyoustoptouchingme?” I mean, if you got one child and the child is doing that, then you gotta take it away.”

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And he was right, y’all.  The older I get, the funnier that man becomes to me.  I don’t care if everyone is butt-hurt over whatever happened forty years ago.  The man was a parenting genius, and it’s funny because it all rings true.

Like I said, before I had Connor I thought I had this whole parenting gig figured out.  Gabe was such a good baby and not that bad of a toddler.  I knew what he needed and what he wanted, and unless I was at school or work, he had my undivided attention.  When I was pregnant with Con, Evan & I included him on everything throughout my pregnancy and I can say with certainty that he never felt left-out or unwanted.  He loved Connor from the moment he knew about him (adores him to this day) and was over the moon when he finally got to meet “liddle brudder”.  I was positive that having two would be no different except for the obvious addition.  I was WRONG.

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Two years and a few figurative heart-attacks later, I realize just how retarded I must have sounded to anyone who already had multiple children.  My house is a wreck.  My nerves… they’re a wreck.  I have forgotten the meaning of sleep and sanity, and I’m still trying to figure out how it’s even humanly possible to be SO PISSED OFF at my kids and at the same time LOVE THEM EVEN MORE than I did prior to pissed off-dom.  It’s a crazy thing, parenting two children (or maybe just boys…?  dunno).  Don’t get me wrong — single-kid parenting had its challenges.  Like… ah, hell.  I can’t think of anything.  Because everything that I used to think was hard or a pain in the ass… it really wasn’t, in hindsight.  There was a point when Gabe was challenging and I remember thinking, “How… the hell do people do this?!”  And now all I can do is laugh at my former self.

Connor has surpassed, “challenging”.  If I’d given birth to Connor first, the likelihood of there having been a second child would have been… not at all likely.  Connor is night to Gabe’s day.  I’ve never met such a strong-willed kid.  At least, I’ve never met such a strong-willed child that I didn’t want to throat punch on occastion*.  Forget the terrible two’s; Connor knows no prejudice to any age.  After six months, the jig was up, and he went from sweet, tiny little thing, to HOLY HELL, DON’T GIVE IT FOOD AFTER MIDNIGHT.

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I love both of my boys, don’t get me wrong.  I only joke about all of this because I make horrible, ugly faces when I’m crying, and I’m not trying to do that to you guys.  That said, isn’t adding levity to some situations the best way to get over them or to keep one’s sanity?  Gabe has his faults, that’s for sure.  Connor isn’t alone in antics and shenanigans.  But Gabe isn’t as good at hiding his shenanigans; craftiness isn’t his strong suit.  That’s probably for the best since the (almost) two year old seems to think he’s Billy the Kid incarnate.  I am officially taking a backseat to parents who have more than two kids and who have not lost their minds.  Hats off to you guys — I really have no idea how you do it.  And SAHM’s?  Know that I’m sending you a mental Nobel Prize.  Staying home with 2+ ankle biters under the age of 18, and without visions of straitjackets in your head… that’s both admirable and terrifying.  Meanwhile, I’m over here trying my best to not spill my beer while I’m rocking in a corner come  two o’clock every afternoon.  All kids are different.  Maybe not wildly different as is the case with my boys, but they’re different nonetheless.  What discipline or praise may work on one child will probably not work on the next.. or the next, or the next, etc.

For example, Gabe came home the other day with a report on unusually bad behavior.  I took away Legos and anything with a screen.  His chore list increased, as well.  I told him that he could earn stuff back over the course of a few days if I received reports of good behavior.  Over the week, he steadily earned back his freedom.  I haven’t gotten a bad report on that kid since.

Connor doesn’t learn that way.  Let’s just say that we have a local exorcist on speed dial.  We’re still trying to figure out what gets his attention.  Granted, he is two.  But I’d already figured out Gabe’s kryptonite at this age, so I’m hopeful that Connor’s will turn up soon.

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Connor is not all bad, obviously.  He can be so sweet and he is smart and wildly independent.  I know his independence can eventually be great thing.  Gabe has to work for things; not that he’s stupid or slow, because he’s not.  But if you’ve kept up with my posts you know what little road blocks Gabe has had to learn around.  Connor comes by things naturally and with ease; he clearly does not have all the disadvantages Gabe does.  And I’m thinking that’s a big part of his current problem.  He knows what he wants and he knows how to get it; he just can’t quite figure out how to communicate that.  It will come, in time… and with that time his attitude will smooth out.  Until then, I’ll be over here hugging myself, with or without the help of a jacket.  The Terrible Twos are here… and I’m still not ready for them.
*No children were harmed in the writing before, during, or after this post.
**Day drinking was also not a factor.

Lackluster Potty Training 101

Lackluster Potty Training 101

Potty training.  It’s a bitch.  I hate it, y’all.  I know it’s a necessary evil, but gah.  It’s awful.  I started potty training Gabe around 18 months.  He didn’t care for it then, and, if I’m being honest, he still doesn’t like taking the time to go do the doo.  He does it anyway, obviously.  But he was a tough one to teach.  His SPD didn’t help matters and by the time the four year mark rolled around we were both a crying mess.  Finally he caved and I never figured out why he did.  I chose not to question the potty-training gods, though, and let well enough alone.

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Nearly two years later and Connor is actually showing signs of wanting to train.  So long as all he has to do is pull off all his clothes and run around bare assed.  The moment his little cheeks touch the plastic kiddy toilet, he’s up and done.  Running through the house in a flash.  Gabe liked books and small toys, so getting him to sit on the toilet was never an issue.  It was getting him to go while sitting on the toilet.  But Connor doesn’t like to sit still; he’d rather be climbing and streaking.  I figure he’ll be 40 by the time he’s finally trained to not drop trou and to use the toilet efficiently.

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Anywho.  A few years ago, Huggies had this PullUps commercial that I loathed.  I was a little bitter (okay, a lot bitter) about Gabe’s lack of progress and the Huggies mom was all put together and had built this sort of kinetic speedway for her kid’s first flushed BM or whatever.  Who the hell has the time for that?!  I mean, let’s be real here.  I’m not even going to lie; the whole premise behind it was genius.  And mad props to whoever put that bad boy together.  But I am not about to put together a kinetic freaking speedway the span of my entire house just because of a movement.  I’m not.  Because who’s gonna have to pick up that mess?  Mom.  Not to mention, that kind of thing gets to be expected and I am most definitely not constructing a different kind of celebratory racetrack every time one of the kids decide to save their underwear.  Not until I get a volunteer to do the dishes.  Which, with my luck, will never happen.

I’m kind of aggravated with all the hype of speed-training and over-rewarding-training.  Whatever happened to simple potty training?  Why make everybody feel like a parental failure and a potty training flop because we’re not throwing confetti and showing off engineering skills for something is natural?  It’s just ridiculous.  I mean, I’m not offended.  Really, I’m not even bitter (regardless of how the post sounds).  I’m just irritated.  Who the hell does that?  I’m the ultimate shortcut taking mom.  It’s not that I don’t care and it’s not that I can’t be enthusiastic.  But I keep it real.  And, real talk?  I’m up every freaking morning at five.  I get us all dressed and ready, fed, and chauffeured to various locations.  I work from 8-5 and in-between random doctor visits and occupational/speech therapies.  I maneuver around this errand and that errand and come home to clean my atom-bomb survivor house, cook dinner, and hose off the kids who appear to have trekked through a mud-pit at some point earlier in the day.  The fact that I’m not bribing my kids with candy and junk food is a friggin miracle and they’re doing good to get there chore list tackled.

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I guess bottom-line what really chaps me is this constant pressure to be a perfect parent.  I hung that dream up years ago.  And I’m alright with that.  Because making mistakes is part of the learning process.  And at the end of the day, I’m entitled to screw my kids up at least a little bit.  I love my boys and if I haven’t made that clear enough then I guess I’m not the mom I hoped to be.  But I make my kids learn by trial and error.  They have their own duties (even the one year old) and they answer for their mistakes (even the one year old).  They’re smart little guys and I put probably too much faith in their abilities.  So if my one-year old can load clothes into the dryer, wash his own hands, and bring me a diaper when he’s dirty, then he can potty train a la old school.  If constructing expressways in my bathroom is the only standing between me and good parenting, then so be it.  I’m too busy wiping butts and cleaning pee off the walls to care.

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Who Says I Can’t Have Non-Mom Friends?

I mean, seriously.  I’m not stupid; I know it gets harder to have non-mom friends, especially if you have kids under the tween years.  I have two little bodies in my care that come in waaay under that radar.  But I still have a handful of pals that aren’t moms.  I love them dearly and in a different kind of way.  Kind of in a, “I have milk, juice and boogers all over me, and you still call.  Or text.  Or Facebook.  Thank you,” kind of way.  I don’t get to see them often and it blows.  But I haven’t been cut off and they’ve never made me feel that way.

I’m tired of hearing other moms whine about not having those wild friends that they used to have.  Not being able to go out and get crazy.  Well honey, unless you’re a Kardashian or whatever, you kind of turned in your party-girl card for a mini-van card upon entry into the pregnancy zone.  Welcome.  Enjoy your stay.  Here’s a burp cloth; you’ll need it.

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There’s nothing wrong with going out with your girlfriends — whether they be fellow moms or not.  I went out recently with my usual trio and had a blast.  We went to Chili’s and hit up a few low-key bars and called it a night.  One of the four of us isn’t a mom.  We didn’t regale her with spit-up stories (not a ton of them, anyway), and she didn’t try to get us so hammered that we were in need of nanny care.  We had a good time just enjoying each other’s company.

Life does change, though.  And it has a funny way of doing so.  I used to have a phone full of numbers that I could call at any given point and have a buddy for a night out.  Wednesday night margaritas?  Tuesday night at Finnegan’s?  Why the hell not.  I lost those friends slowly when I got pregnant with Gabe six years ago.  At first I was bummed out.  Here I was, 20 and pregnant, with swollen ankles to boot.  And there were all my friends, 20 and bombed out of their minds, sans swollen ankles.  But it didn’t take me long to get out of that funk.  Nine months without a hangover was truly a blessing in disguise — even if it meant having cankles.  And, as luck would have it, I was never really alone.  Aside from the three jobs I was holding down, which pretty much kept me preoccupied, I still had friends that would take time to come see me.  Go have lunch.  Bring me sweet baby things.  So the absence of former friends, turned acquaintances didn’t really phase me.  I learned a pretty valuable lesson then and at a very young age: good friends are friends even when it isn’t convenient.  And my pregnant, waddling ass was anything but convenient.  As a matter of fact, the three ladies I went to dinner with are some of the very same who helped keep my chin up all those years ago.  And they were still around when I went through the same song and dance with Connor.

In short, we’re getting older.  Not old, just older.  We have responsibilities that must be seen about — nevermind that those responsibilities are under 4’0″ tall.  Going out and having a good time doesn’t have to stop just because the majority of our days are spent cleaning up ketchup from the walls and wearing the same shirt with the same strained pea stain for the third day in a row (no judgement if it’s actually a pee stain.  we’ve all been there).  But part of growing up is being able to separate ourselves from whatever distracts us from moving forward.  For example, the hubs and I canceled our cable not too long ago because every five seconds we were changing the channel due to not-so-kid-friendly programming… that, and both the kids figured out how to get the lock off the remote and discovered HBO (stay with me… there’s a point to this).  Point is, some people are like HBO; nice to have as an option, but not worth the hassle of changing every other scene.  Catching what I’m throwing?  Therapy, guys.  It’s expensive.  And it’s ALWAYS the mother’s fault.  And think of it this way: maybe saying goodbye to your HBO friends isn’t such a bad thing when your daughter wants to take pole dancing lessons and your son is giving his best John Travolta from Pulp Fiction impersonation to the preacher.. for the fifth time.

At any rate, whining about not having non-mom friends isn’t productive; it’s counterproductive.  Nobody likes a whiner.  Maybe it’s not the fact that you have kids that is a deterrent; maybe it’s because you whine about not having friends.  That’s pretty annoying.  So go find mom friends — believe me, they’re not rare creatures.  Find people who understand what it’s like to be thrown up on at midnight without it being alcohol induced.  People who have also had to pull Lego’s out of nostrils and ear canals.  People who understand what it’s like to hear continuously, “Mo-om!  I’m hungry! Sister hit me with a brush! Brother won’t get out of the bathroom! Wipe my butt!”

Or, hell.  Reconnect with some of your childless friends.  So what if they don’t have kids and you’re walking around with a kid strapped to your ankle?  It can be done.  I know this because I do it on the semi-regular.  Another fun little factoid?  The older we get, and the more we have on our plates, whether it be changing diapers or trading stocks on Wall Street, the less time we have for outside friendships.  It’s a suck-y fact of life.  But it’s a fact of life, nonetheless.  Embrace it, though.  It means you’re growing up.  And although adulting is not always fun, at least we’re not forty and living in our parents’ basement with ten-thirty curfew.

I don’t see my girlfriends as often as I’d like and I hate it.  But they understand I have a life outside of girls’ nights and ditto for them.  We have each other’s backs and ears when needed — and really, it doesn’t get better than that.  I can’t hang like I used to, anyway.  So until we all have the luxury of being empty-nesters, take people up on mommy-and-me dates.  Have a monthly girls night.  Whatever strikes your fancy.  Just make sure the only w(h)ine being served pairs well with cheese.

Meanwhile, until you can set up a sitter or wrangle up some of your favorites, watch this movie on your down time.  It’s worth the Redbox code, I swear it.

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Twenty-Seven

I turned twenty-seven on Saturday morning.

At 8:10 A.M. Saturday morning if you want to be über specific like my mom.  But it’s cool if you’re more into generalities.  I feel ya.

Anyway.  I’m twenty-seven now.  I feel no different than I did the year before or the year before that.  In fact, I feel better than I did after my twentieth birthday (hello, hangover!).  Now that I’m a responsible absent-minded mother of two, I have no time to properly cultivate a good (?) hangover.  And for that, I am thankful.  I was never good at that scene, anyway.  And for that, I am also thankful.

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I’ve learned a lot in my twenty-seven years on the planet.  I’m a little embarrassed sometimes at what I don’t know.  But, in a quote paraphrased from the humble-yet-wise Socrates, “The wise man knows that he knows nothing,”  I must be freaking brilliant because there are days I don’t even know where my own head is.  Sometimes, I feel like I know too much.  Y’all know what I mean.  Those little moments that spring up and you wish to God that he’d not forgotten to install the memory erase button?  Yeah.  We’ve all been there.  All too often.

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So here’s a list of things I’ve learned during my time on the planet.  Some are pretty obvious.  Some may be familiar to your own learning experience.  Some, admittedly, are kind of dumb.  You’ve been warned.

  1. No amount of fibbing, wishing, or praying can take back or erase a text message.  ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOU’RE TEXTING/IM’ing?/EMAILING THE RIGHT PERSON.  Take it from me and foot-in-mouth disease.
  2. Baby pictures always seem to come up in doubles and triples.  You burned the album of baby bath pictures?  Congratulations.  Keep looking, though.  ‘Cause your mom’s probably got two other identical albums stashed away for such purposes.
  3. You will get used to being puked, pee’d, and pooped on by your children.  No matter how old they are.  Other people’s kids… and other people?  You will still probably get queasy at the least and/or prepare for a body fluid domino effect at the worst.  Luckily, I seem to have inherited an iron gut.  Thank you, sweet baby Jesus.
  4. Anytime I hear, “MOM!” I turn around.  It’s a reflex.  I don’t care whose kid he or she is… I will turn around.  And I’ll probably answer.  Crying babies = ditto.  It’s a curse, I tell you.  I even hear it in my sleep.
  5. Road rage gets worse with age.  Add children to the mix, and it’s a homicidal breakdown waiting to happen.  Unless you’re super into finding “inner peace”.  In which case, you suck.  And you’re probably the reason my road rage is the way it is.
  6. I always thought that (road rage aside) I would be pretty reasonable growing up.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  I’m a woman and my mood has a hormone switch that goes from 0-60 in .00001 seconds.  Regardless, I always assumed I could keep my emotions and mouth mostly in check.  Again, enter children.  And if life has taught me anything, it’s that I can bark at my children any time of the day.  And that it’s out of love. . . mostly. But if anyone else barks at my kids?  LAWD HAVE MERCY, JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL… ’cause I’m about to come unhinged on you.  Back it on up, honey.  Back it on up.
  7. Groceries are mad expensive.  If groceries keep going on up, we ain’t movin’ on up to the east side.  I never thought that being an adult would be so costly.  I don’t know how I ever thought that, honestly, having grown up with two working parents.  But I got a good taste of it at twenty-one when I had Gabe.  And I’ve been a bit of a money hoarder ever since.  Don’t get any ideas and think you’re going to rob me blind, though.  The government’s doing a good enough job at that by…
  8. …”giving” me shit insurance.  The mythical definition of insurance is: the act, business, or system of insuring life, property, etc against loss or harm.  I’ve learned, though, that the literal definition of insurance is: to rob middle-class Americans blind before retirement so that retirement is only legends heard of as children.  True story.
  9. On topic with groceries: ALWAYS make a list and NEVER go hungry.  And if you have kids and can help it, go after nap time or “butt-crack of dawn” early.  Trust me.
  10. It took me some time, but I figured out that it isn’t the number of friends a person has at any given point.  It’s the quality of the relationships.  In my life, I’ve been blessed with great friendships.  Some have come and gone for a spell, others have stuck it out.  The relationships I have these days are precious to me.  I don’t see these people often and we can’t talk every day due to… well, life.  But I know if ever I need a hand, someone will come running.  And I’m proud to be able to do the same for them.
  11. I’m in the process of learning that sometimes all I need is the support from the hubs and that sometimes all he needs is my support.  Whether it be physical, mental, emotional… even silent… we’re a team.  It’s harder a road than I thought it would be some days, and other days it’s pretty easy to fall in line with.
  12. Marriage is hard in general.  But for us, divorce isn’t an option.  Because what good is holding guilt over someone’s head for 50+ years if everything ends seven years in?  I’m kidding, y’all.  Seriously, though. . . we’ve already experienced some hard-hitting stuff.  And it’s been tough.  And some days it might have been easier to throw in the towel.  But ultimately, he’s my weirdo.  So I guess we’re staying put.
  13. No matter what they tell you, childbirth is the easy part.  Third degree tear?  C-Sections?  Please.  Wait until you’re hiding in the pantry with a pint of Haagen Dazs and a shot of whatever beverage (adult or not) is within arms reach, praying that your kids won’t get up from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and discover your hiding place.  Parenting has it’s good days.  But it definitely has it’s “hide out in the pantry and pray bedtime carries it’s ass” days, as well.  But chillax — that should mean you’re doing it right.
  14. When you’re young, crying and flirting will probably get you out of a ticket.  When you’re a mother, you pray the police have a heart and let you go because, “the baby only sleeps when the car is in motion… and he’s about to blow a gasket.”
  15. The same does not apply to grocery store clerks who could care less that $0.78 a pound is ridiculous for bananas and that you missed the sale for teething biscuits.
  16. High school seems like an eternity.  College finals can be daunting.  Hold on, man.  The end is near.
  17. Family is pretty much an extraordinary thing.  And I’m not just talking biological (see #9).  My kids call my best friends aunt & uncle.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Because having learned about Gabe’s three girlfriends (two at school and one at daycare), I’m ready to call in the troops with our rocking chairs and guns in hand.  Paintball guns, y’all… don’t get your panties in a twist.
  18. A night out with the girls is amazing and just what the doctor ordered.  Whether you’re single, in a relationship, married/divorced with kids… whatever.  A night out with your pals is the ultimate in refreshing.  Guys, same goes for you.  Just keep it clean, ladies and gents.  Social media, you know.
  19. An evening out with the hubs/little lady is even better.  If you have kids, try not to talk about the weird stuff that comes out of their noses or how cute or hilarious it was because it kind of looked like Abraham Lincoln.  Talk about yourselves… or anything else, for that matter.  You only have a few hours to pretend that you’re childless.  Revel in it,
  20. I figured I’d be a “progressive” woman when I was younger.  That I could hang out with guy friends solo and still be in a relationship.  You can’t and, really, you shouldn’t want to risk it.  Not that anything would happen.  And I’m not trading in my independence for an apron and a 1950’s edition of Southern Living Recipes.  But unless Ev can be around, it can’t happen.  Ditto for him.  I’ve learned that things can happen, it’s my job as a spouse to try and keep things from happening.  Accidental or not.
  21. It took me several years, but it hit me a while back that my little brother is one of my best friends.  And why not?  We’ve seen a lot together.  My kids adore him.  He’s pretty cool.  It was one of the best realizations I’ve ever had.
  22. I have learned and relearned that you can’t make people love and respect you.  Those are two things that come naturally and cannot be forced.  It can be learned, absolutely.  And I’d say that a learned love and respect can be the best kind.  But you can’t make it happen.  And when you come to terms with that fact, you can live a more content life than you could imagine.
  23. I said it once recently, but it’s worth a repeat.  When I was younger, I was scared of everything.  I was content to sit idly in the background.  Having little ones changed that in me slowly but surely.  If you ever have the opportunity to have little ones and give up some pretty sacred pieces of yourself, do it.  It’s amazing.  Even on the Haagen Dazs days.
  24. Unless you’re born into money or have the power to summon wild wealth on a whim, new business ventures are scary.  But once you see things taking form and going forward, it’s a pretty cool experience.  Definitely equal parts cool and risky.
  25. Buying a house is a pain in the ass.  But to get out from under a rent note is a relief.  Moving is also a pain in the ass.  Find reliable friends to help.  Cook for them.  Laugh with them.  Mark boxes FRAGILE.  Drink after all is said and done if necessary.
  26. If you take note of nothing else I’ve mentioned, do yourself a favor and write this down: Remember to laugh.  It’s easy to get down and discouraged sometimes.  Remember to laugh… even if you have to find something to laugh at.
  27. Lastly, the past twenty-seven years has been a roller coaster of up’s, down’s, and twirly loops.  In twenty-seven years, Gabe will be nearing thirty three and Connor twenty-nine.  I’ll be fifty freaking four.  There may be grandchildren… possible retirement.  Who the hell knows.  I’m still learning how to navigate the ride, but I’m ready for the next go around.
Everything I’ve Learned. . .

Everything I’ve Learned. . .

. . . I’ve learned from my kids.  Everything.

I’ve learned how to live.  I’ve re-learned how to love.  I’ve learned how to hold my tongue and I’ve learned that sometimes I let my crazy out a little too long.  I’ve learned how to laugh and how to suppress one when they’ve done something “naughty but good Lord that’s hilarious”.  I learned how to hold my face in just the right way so as not to cry when Gabe broke his arm… because momma needed to be tough but gah.  I just wanted to bawl.  I’ve learned that expensive toys are fun.. but blanket fort Fridays are the best.  I’ve learned that they haven’t had all the learning time that I’ve had and that I need to be a little more patient.  How to read a book with at least five different silly voices.  How to sing songs over and over just so they’ll have sweet dreams.  How to be tough.  How to let up.  How to be a mom and how to let my kids be kids… although, that is admittedly a work in process.  That said, I’ve learned more in 5.5 years than I had in 21.  And to say it’s been informative, hectic, and humbling?  That’s putting it lightly.

My kids, man.  They’re nuts.  And they make me nuts.  Like, with the-fire-of-a-thousand-suns crazy.  Or cray.  Or whatever the kids are calling chaos these days.

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I am most definitely not a typical mom.  In fact, I’m the least maternal kind of mom I’ve ever known.  I can be crazy impatient and shockingly distant seeming.  I detest shrill noises (hurts my ears like you wouldn’t believe) and, to be honest, before I had kids I had only met a handful of ankle biters that I genuinely liked.  I love babies in all their sweet little ways and cuddles and coos.  But babies grow into tiny heathens and have more energy than I could ever have.  And it’s not that I don’t like them.  It’s that I don’t know what to do with them.  You know… being the “old soul” that I am, and such.

At any rate… I have these two mad-chaotic little guys who make me nuts and tired.  And just when I think I’m about to lose every ounce of sanity I have left, one of them does something crazy-sweet that makes me fall in love with them all over again.  And harder than I had before.  Love, love, love, love… crazy love.  And I think that’s the beauty of this parenting thing.  I do.  I think parents, even the not-so-great-at-it kind like me, have this innate gift inside of them.  That no matter how disappointed or angry we are at the moment… there’s always the moment after.  Always the reminder.  And it’s not always a fuzzy feeling kind of reminder, either.  No.  Sometimes, it’s a cold, hard fact reminder.  Sometimes, it’s an eye-opener.  Sometimes… sometimes, it’s a blast to the past that reminds us of our own former, and even present, ways.  It is for me, anyway.  I see the kids making the same mistake I very vividly remember making myself occasionally and I scream to myself, “Oh my God… there’s the gene pool.”  And it is.  But in those moments, I eventually find peace and wisdom.  And a little lot of humility.  And I can calm down.. and calm them down.. and reassure them that, “Hey.  I’m a little disappointed.  And that’s okay.  Because you’re mine.  And I’m with you.  And you’re with me.  Always.”

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I ask myself to ask God on a regular basis why.  Why was I given these kids with these particular problem sets?  Why do I never seem to be going in the right direction or doing the right thing?  Why do I stammer over my words and flip-flop around like I’ve no brain at all?  Why???  And before I can even ask him all the why’s… it flies at me.  Because no matter how frustrating or humbling or fearsome parenting can be… it really is a gift.  Every time one of the boys hug me for absolutely nothing at all.  Every hand-print picture (I’ve kept them all.  Every one of them).  Every kiss, every “I need you”, every blessing at dinnertime when Gabe says, “God is grace, God is grace, let us thank him for our food”…. everything.  No matter how horrible I feel.  No matter how enraged I’ve been.  No matter the broken dish or the spilled milk or the fight over the toy.  It all sucks.  But, then again, it’s all good.

I’m hard on my boys.  And I’m hard on them for good reason.  Sometimes, I am too hard.  And I hate it.  I do, truly.  But I want them to grow up capable.  I want them to grow up smart and independent and motivated and determined.  Not scared, like me.  Not timid and bashful and silent like me.  I want them to use their voices; I want them to use their minds and vision.  I expect them to grow up to work for their life — not to make their life, but so they might have one worth living.  To see the world.. to experience and learn, always.  To have a “can do” attitude.  So that one day, they won’t be like their momma.. terrified to walk into a freshman course on their own.  Terrified to speak to a cashier.  Scared to death to move.

That’s how I was until I held my boys.  Scared of the world.  Scared to live.  Until I held their little bodies in my arms.  And all that fear hit me and then began to fade away.  When the boys took their first breath, they gave me a life I never knew.  Each gave me a key to my whole new life.  And so every morning I wake up.  I roll out of bed and begin the monotony that is adult life.  Not out of obligation.  But out of desire.  So they can hold their dreams… not just wish for them.  And I’ll be the first to tell you, 5 A.M. sucks.  It blows.  And so does rush hour.  And people who melt chocolate into their copiers (yep. that happened).  And temper tantrums.  And blow-out diapers.  And eating dinner at 8 o’clock.  And the list goes on, and on, and on.  But my life would suck all the more if I did not have my crazies.  If I didn’t have someone to come home to every night.  If I didn’t have someone who needed me so hard.  I waited a long time for someone to need me… not knowing that was what needed.

So, all you tired and exasperated mommas out there thinking you cannot possibly handle one more tantrum in Target or one more blow-out at the self check out?  Or, “Why on earth are the fish sticks sticking to the non-stick pan and could you please, please, please stop whining?!”  I’m with you.  A hundred and ten percent.  But you’re doing fine.  And, hey — therapy might not even be a thing in eighteen years.  So just hang in there.  Do your best.  Say you’re sorry when you should and hold firm when they need it.  And when the clock strikes bedtime, pour yourself a drink and know that I’m downing one, too.  Only one, though… because my kids have all the grace of a peg-legged goat on ice.  But that’s alright…. because they’re worth it.  Every last bit.

Happy Mother’s Day.