Birthdays: It Takes a Village

My son turned 10 earlier this week. That’s the big time, people. Double digits. We wanted to make this birthday special, not that their other birthdays suck or anything, but still! This is 10. So, we went a little bigger than normal. If there’s one thing I know about parenting, it’s that many hands lighten the load. I’ve written before about how it really takes a village to raise a child. This is especially true when it comes to birthdays. Because, my friends, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not the Pinterest mom. I don’t do themed birthdays. I don’t make fun prize packs and organize games that enrich their minds while stimulating their interest in underwater basket weaving. I invite kids over. I feed them. They play. Everyone has a good time. There are presents and cake. Sometimes they argue amongst themselves. Sometimes a kid skins a knee. And, for the most part, it’s fun.

But, my kids do value the Pinterest-worthy birthdays. I mean, I would, too, if someone threw one for me! Their grandmother on their dad’s side passed away several years ago. She was the crafting queen. She could turn an old sock into a Broadway puppet. These days, their stepmom fills that role. She made some awesome cupcakes for my 10-year-old to take to class on his birthday. She has the patience and creative spirit to do it. I, on the other hand, yeah… well, here’s what it looked like when I made rum cake in a fancy castle pan. Pinterest fail.


But, I am not alone. I mean, come on, there’s an entire Pinterest Fail website filled with other moms like me. In fact, one of my best friend’s daughter’s birthday is the day before my son’s. She struggled with the same problem I had. Her daughter had high expectations of what she wanted for a birthday banner. My friend, yeah, well, we’re a lot alike. So, she reached out to another friend who does do crafty things – and does them well. And, tada, she got exactly what her daughter wanted.

The thing is, in a world of Pinterest and constant status updates on social media bragging about how great you are and how perfect your kids are and how you managed to bake a cake while in spin class and learning French while volunteering at the homeless shelter for cats and helping your daughter’s girl scout troop all at the same time, there are real moms out there feeling a little less than perfect. I know, I know, people really only like to post the good stuff and everyone struggles with their own things that they don’t care to post about. All I want to say is, own it. I’m owning the fact that I am not a crafter or a Pinterest mom, nor will I ever be. And, I’m owning that I am not afraid to reach out to others who are crafty to make fun things for or with my kids. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses (ahem, feel free to scroll back up to refresh yourself with my cake monstrosity) and that’s okay. Because, it truly does take a village to raise a child – or at least provide awesome birthday decorations for them.


Two Hours of Free Time?

With the long Labor Day weekend approaching, some businesses are closing early. Some folks are even getting a half-day off work. One of my best friends (who often times serves as my unofficial editor of this site) is one of those lucky folks. Her work gets out at 1pm. Her daughter’s school isn’t out until after 3pm. Enter two hours of free time. What exactly to do with those two precious hours – hours spent without one’s children or spouse – came up for discussion in her office. And the unanimous decision that was arrived to did not surprise me: shopping.

All these adults with children – when given the freedom of two unexpected hours of free time – arrived at the same conclusion – they’d all rather shop child-free. No kids hanging on carts. No children demanding you buy them the Sugar-Os with Spiderman on the front of the box. No kindergartener waiting until you’re standing in the ice cream aisle with a pizza in-hand for them to tell you they “have to poop RIGHT NOW.” (Not that any of those incidents have ever happened to this mommy. Oh no, never.) Instead – these parents would get two hours – no strings (or kids) attached – to wander the aisles at their own speed. To smell all the deodorants. To browse books, and not ones that have bright, colorful drawings of bears riding bicycles on the front covers. To look at – and even (gasp!) try on clothing without a child laying on the floor of the dressing room, trying to army-crawl under your stall into the next one – staring up at you and loudly stage-whispering, “Mommy, why are you so fat?” These are the moments parents look forward to.

These are the moments I get (and take for granted) every other week. When my kids are with me – I am pushing the cart with kids hanging like slabs of meat off either side, making driving in a straight line an unaccomplishable feat. I am the one holding a pizza box inside the women’s restroom while my 5-year-old takes his sweet time in the loo. I am the one breaking the hearts of my three kids and making them roll their eyes simultaneously when I tell them to read the ingredients of the sugar cereal box to me and explaining why we won’t be buying it. And then, I’m not. When my kids go to their Dad’s house, I’m the lady wandering the aisles at her own speed – staring at the sale items and pushing my cart with ease in a straight line. I’m also the woman who turns suddenly when she hears a kid scream, “Mom!” in the store and the one that smiles at the little baby in the line in front of me at the register. It’s a weird kind of dichotomy. From non-stop cacophony to silence. Just like that.

But, don’t go thinking this post has gone all dark and dreary on you. I can say I love love love my time with my kids. I can also say child-free time is necessary to your sanity!!! Two hours of not being responsible for another human? Two hours of not wiping someone else’s butt or nose while you try to grocery shop? Yeah. Yeah, I get that. I totally understand why this was the task of choice by all these office workers. So – my parental friends – enjoy! Take those two hours. Just for you. Stop. Enjoy the flowers. (No, really – you can look at the floral department at the store without fear of your kids wanting to tear blooms off a $75 bouquet.) Try that new bra on. Buy a book – and not one that consists solely of rhyming couplets. Enjoy those two hours. And then, enjoy picking up your kids from school. Because children of parents who take time to find mentally balance are all the better for it. And so are you.

The Unsung Hero in your Kitchen

Every day, she serves you. She always keeps things just where you left them. She makes sure that wonderful pot roast you made last night (do people still make pot roast?) stays fresh to provide dinner for another day. She puts up with your kids constantly pulling on her, grubby hands and all. She takes the abuse of having to be “on” 24/7. Until, one day she doesn’t. And that, my friends, that is the day you realize how much you’ve taken her for granted. Your refrigerator, that is.

All those countless times I’ve opened my fridge doors and stood there, pondering what I would make for dinner (yes, exactly the thing our parents scolded us for when we were kids), I honestly never thought, “Hey, I wonder how much longer this fridge will last.” Because you just expect it will work. It’ll keep doing its job. But, like the book says, “Everyone poops.” Fridges, too. And yes, yes, I do think it counts as pooping when you come home to find a soupy mess in your freezer and water from the ice machine gushed out on the ground, pooling up under your floor and destroying the planks in the process.

You never realize how good you have it, until you’re elbow deep in your freezer at 10:30 at night, sorting the salvageable (veggie burgers) from the unsalvageable (room temperature fish) when all you really wanted was to indulge yourself in a bowl of freaking ice cream that is now a container of thick liquid. Or, when you are deciding exactly what makes the cut of the sacred space in your cooler – eggs, yes, pickles, no. No, you never take the time to think, “Wow, having a working fridge is just swell.” But, you should.

You know why you should take a moment to be thankful for your refrigerator? Your hard-working, unappreciated, unsung hero of your kitchen? Because they are ridiculously expensive to replace! And, it’s a real pain in the butt to do so. I now know way more than I ever should about options – stainless steel or white, french doors or a side by side, freezer on top or bottom. And I know about the reality that your old, defunct fridge has to go somewhere. Putting it out to pasture is not free. Either is the cost of a new water pipe, because apparently the new one shall never use the old one. It may actually be a commandment.

So, my friends, when you go to make dinner tonight or when you open the doors of your fridge to gather the stuff to make lunches in the morning, take a second to appreciate that old gal. Tell her thanks. And keep an eye on the sales, because you never know when her day is coming.


The Great Mommy (and Daddy) Network

This week, my husband is working out of town. I may have mentioned this. It leads to a lot of this mommy shuffling things and schedules around to make sure the kids are where they should be when they need to be there. (When people jokingly say their children’s social calendar is busier than their own, they aren’t kidding!)

One wonderful thing that has come of this, is the stepping up of The Great Mommy (and Daddy) Network. This is your group of friends/close acquaintances/family that pitch in to help you out when you need it. This school year, my major need has been after school care. The place my 4th grader goes won’t take kids as young as kindergarten. So… unless I wanted my 5-year-old wandering the streets for a few hours until I get off work, I needed to come up with a plan. And, as a new article points out, finding after school care is no easy task. Plus, if you’re lucky enough to find a spot, its expensive. Enter The Great Mommy (and Daddy) Network.

This year, it’s a tag-team effort between two awesome friends who perform both taxi service and day care. I was blessed to have a friend (my kindergartener’s best friend’s mom) offer to watch my youngest after school. She meets with yet another friend of mine who picks my kids up and delivers the youngest to her. If it weren’t for these two ladies, I don’t know what I would do. Every day, they perform the child shuffle – around their own work schedules – so my kids have somewhere safe to be after school.

Then, tomorrow, my mom is coming over in the morning to get my kids off to school so I can make it to an early morning meeting a few towns away. The last time she was over, she left me flowers and cleaned my bathroom. Now THAT’S awesome. (Thanks Mom!)

If it weren’t for mommies and daddies filling in, stepping up and helping out – where would we be? Broke. That’s where. Because, what these folks provide is an invaluable service. A service that I’m really hoping is redeemable via offering to watch their kids on date night and plying them with bottles of wine or coffee gift cards…



A Morning in Quotes

This morning was slightly more chaotic than usual. My husband, who usually makes the kids lunches and drives them to school, is out of town. So, it’s all me. Yeah, I know, moms do this every day. But you see, we have a system in our house and the system works! So, I’m proud to say I was proactive and made the kids their lunches last night. Oh, and before I fell asleep I saw a friend’s post of her daughter harvesting kale. Kale, I thought. We have kale. I can make a healthy breakfast for my kids. (Another Brilliant Mom Idea.) And with that, I give you the following one-sided conversation which is essentially a summary of the two and half waking hours I spent with my three kids this morning.

Good Morning!

It’s time to wake up!

Do you still want to work out with me?

Guys, this is mom’s time. If you’re just going to argue, go back to bed. (I work out every morning and they always want to “help” which typically means they sit on the couch under a blanket and watch me workout.)

Stop fighting over the blanket.

Put away your blanket.

Come on guys, let’s get dressed.

Seriously you guys, go get dressed.

Get off the couch.

It’s time to wake up! (See how we’ve circled back?)

Yes, its green stuff. It’s kale.

Kale won’t actually kill you.

Did you wash your hair?

Then why is your hair still dry?

No, you cannot wash your hair in the sink.

Yes, you have to wash your hair all the way to the front.

The shampoo doesn’t wash out by itself!

Stop hitting your brother.

Go to your room. You can come out when you behave yourself.

You can have the toy back when you can be kind to one another.

Where is your lunch?

Did you remember your lunch?

Is your lunch in your backpack?

Where is your coat?

Why don’t you have socks on?

I love you, have a great day!

No, you cannot bring your whoopee cushion to school.

Dinner Conversations Not for the Faint of Heart

The other night, we sat as a family having supper and discussing our days. It’s the typical dinnertime routine in our house. Usually, we discuss the best parts of our days. I’d watched a video earlier in the week where TobyMac talked about asking his kids, “What did you see God in today?” So, we discussed that as well. And then things got dark.

We showed our kids a video about the dangers of meeting strangers online. It’s basically a scenario set up by a dude who runs a Reality TV show on the web. He’s worked out a situation with the parents of preteen girls to convince these girls online that he’s actually a teenage boy, and then ultimately make a plan to meet up. The girls have no idea he’s actually much older. So, they of course – stupidly – agree to meet him. The parents are always with him when they meet up and it typically ends with the parents screaming in disbelief at their daughter and the daughter, in turn, sobbing and apologizing.

After we watched this video, we asked our kids what they thought of it. What was the problem with meeting someone you don’t know? We talked about stranger danger – but then we mentioned what could have happened to these girls. The list was long – and terrifying: abduction, injury, murder and rape. Rape was an interesting subject to explain. They asked me what it meant and then one of my kids defined it for us: “doing sex to someone.” Well, yes, but… We explained further that it meant to force someone to do something without them saying okay first. I’m sure even that definition could use some help.

Man, dinner was not quite what I was expecting that evening. Sometimes the atypical conversations are what you need to break routines and really get to the heart of some serious life lessons. Especially considering our typical dinnertime conversation somehow circles back to farts.


Passing On Our Fears




Open water


They are all the focus of horror movies (well, I’m not sure about the leeches one, but still…) and they are all the center of my nightmares. My kids know I hate clowns. They know, because I have had some sort of reaction around them when encountering one. Every year, our community has this big indoor trick or treat event. And every year, there are freaking clowns wandering around to eat greet our kids. And every time I see them coming, I make an NFL-worthy swerve and run. (I am not a sports person. I am sure there is a term for this kind of play.) While I have tried to not let my children see my fears getting the best of me, there are just times when I can’t avoid it.  But, I’ve tried really hard to not show them how much it impacts me.

Last month, I was down visiting my brother in Michigan. We all went out on his boat into Lake Michigan for a sunset cruise. It was breathtaking – the gorgeous colors of the sun reflecting off the water. They all jumped in. All of them but me. Because I was afraid of the water. I’m not the best swimmer and there’s just something about open water that gives me the heebie jeebies. Then, my brother told me I really should get in. And I started thinking about it. I was scared. Of what, exactly? My brother and nieces were all in the water. If I was really concerned that this was a dangerous situation, wouldn’t I be stepping up and saying something to protect them? No. I would not. Because my fear was exactly that, MY fear. And, I was letting it get the best of me. So, I took a baby step. I asked my brother to jump with me. And to hold my hand. I’m a 35-year-old woman. But, man, that really made the difference. We held hands, we neared the edge of the boat, we counted to three, (I had a floatie tube to hold on to. You gotta conquer your fears, but every little bit helps!) and we jumped. When I hit the water, I kept dropping down, down, down. And then, buoyancy kicked in and I started rising up, up, up. That process seemed to take a lot longer, and just about the time I thought I was never going to reach the surface, I finally did. I took a big gasp of air. My brother was saying something about the water being “magical.” I started doggy-paddling my way to the boat ladder while saying, “it’s. not. magical.” But, it kinda was. I wish I would have been able to get past my fears enough to stay in the water longer and enjoy the moment. But, I am now enjoying the memory of jumping. Of just doing it. Of pushing past my fears to make a choice to experience something in life. And that, that is what I want my kids to see and learn from me. Not to be afraid of clowns or sharks, but to push past those fears and not let fear be the master of your life.

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