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Momedy

Finding the humor in motherhood

Penchant for Punctuality

There’s a scene in Aladdin where he’s trying to win over Princess Jasmine, and can’t think of a compliment to offer her.

My opinion is that she should have seen this as a sign to send Aladdin packing. I mean the man swears he’s in love with her and isn’t just after her Dad’s job, but when challenged, he can’t think of a single thing he likes about her. Red. Flag.

Anyway, the genie was disguised as a bumble bee and offering up potential compliments for Aladdin to choose from, and from them all, he chose “punctual.”

In an uncharacteristic bout of good judgement, Jasmine bristles at this. (About a minute before stepping onto a magic carpet with a stranger.)

Her reaction, along her impossible body standards and impossible hair length/volume, was lost on 9-year-old me. All I heard was that Aladdin thought she was punctual.

“That’s it,” I thought. “That’s what men want.”

From that moment on I’ve been punctual to a fault. (And luckily I found Eric, because as it’s turns out I don’t think that is what men were looking for.)

But something’s happened as I add more kids to my family. My penchant for punctuality has turned into a tendency for tardiness.

The first week of back-to-school, as we transition from summer with all the kids at home to fall with at least half of them gone full days, I suddenly find myself with all this time. I deep clean my baseboards, I organize closets, I wash my hair … I even have time to clean the bathroom thoroughly enough to get the perma-urine smell out of the bathroom floors (along with researching ways to help a 5-year-old remember not to turn with his whole body to talk to you while peeing.)

This is my favorite week of the year.

But something happens by the third week of school. Somehow that time is gone. It’s a strange phenomenon, because the minutes in the day don’t change, the school hours don’t change, but somehow I swear I have about three hours less than I did.

First-week-of-school-me packs a variety of healthy foods in a bento box for each child’s lunch, showered fully dressed. Third-week-of-school-me throws a fig bar and a questionable apple in a brown paper bag and shoves it in their backpacks as they run out the door, my hair still wet from my shower. Mid-October-me stands in the driveway in my towel and yells through the open bus window that I don’t care if they don’t like Salisbury steak, they’re ordering it.

And somehow by this point in the school year I am always, always five minutes late. At best. Usually it’s more, depending on how quickly Starbucks is fulfilling their mobile orders, because #priorities.

First-week-of-school-me took the time to wipe my children’s faces and make them somewhat presentable as I sent them off into the world.

Mid-October-me unleashes them on the public looking like this:

First-week-of-school-me cooks them healthy meals full of seasonal produce.

Mid-October-Me lets them finish off their birthday cake for dinner, and share it with the dog.

First-week-of-school-me is at the gym four days a week. Mid-October-me embraces my Winnie-the-Pooh body type and opts for sleeping in.

I’d like to say it will get better, but historically it’s all downhill from here until New Years, when I’ll have another burst of energy and kick off 2022 with a fresh menu board and equally fresh, bathed children. For that one, glorious first week of January, I’ll be on time again, maybe even a few minutes early.

Until then, Aladdin definitely wouldn’t want anything to do with me.

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

Everyone has a favorite child. I’m certain of it, the way I’m certain that one of my children will have a sudden bout of irritable bowel syndrome three minutes after I’ve cleaned the the toilets.

I don’t think the favorite is always the same, I think it’s whoever is easiest for the parent at that particular time. Still, it’s not something a good parent should admit.

I keep the current favorite child status stashed in the part of my brain where I keep the things I’m ashamed to admit. It has some pretty disgraceful companions up there, like the fact that I often* eat that special treat one of the kids is saving on the counter and then tell them the dog did it.

*often = all the time. Absolutely all the time.

Or that sometimes I’ll just throw away a toy that’s been on the floor for a week because I’m too lazy to go find the set it belongs to.

Or that I think they were homely as babies.

Tell me that one’s not just me. That I’m not the only parent to have that moment where you look down at your infant and hear Kevin McCallister saying “Buzz, your girlfriend! Woof!”

Most often this happens to me when I’m looking back at baby photos of my kids who have since grown into the features that made them … awkward … as infants. Like this picture of my daughter, who has grown into a beautiful little girl but in this baby photo bears a striking resemblance to Junior Sinclair.

Or this one of my son, who I happen to think is the cutest baby in the history of babies, but who also looks a little* like Quasimodo when he sleeps with his eyes open:

*a little = a lot. Like 110%.

I have a theory that the one you think is the most awkward is your secret all-the-time favorite. Like “yeah he looks like a baby falcon, but he’s my baby falcon.”

And there you go. Sunday night’s reminder that if you’re feeling like you blew it this weekend, if you’re feeling like an awful parent, at least you didn’t just tell the world* you thought your babies were ugly.

*the world = five readers. Maybe less.

What was she wearing?

Somewhere out there, there are parents who never lose track of their kids. Those parents don’t impress me. They’re not my people. The parents who do impress me are the ones who, when they do lose track of their kids, are able to describe in detail what the kid is wearing, right down to the socks.

I couldn’t any more tell you what Evelyn was wearing this morning than I could tell you what she was thinking last week when she walked right past the bathroom to go pee outside. If I lost her, I’d be screwed. I couldn’t tell you what she was wearing. I couldn’t tell you if her birthmark is on her left or her right hip. The part of my brain that keeps track of those details atrophied when she was born. It disappeared along with my pelvic floor muscles.

Lottie would be easy enough to describe, even without specifics. I’d just tell someone to look for a little girl in a fancy dress and superhero shoes.

As for me, if the kids ever lose me in Costco — rather, if they fail to see me tuck and roll under the pajama table for a quick power nap — describing me to whoever they find to help will be a cinch.

“My Mom’s name is Melissa. She’s wearing a hooded jersey flannel she’s been in since 2014, and she looks like Charlize Theron. In Monster.”

“Oh yeah, I saw her,” they’d say. “She’s the one who took her baby out of the cart to make room for another cheesecake.”

The problem (there’s only one?) is that if I don’t get dressed immediately, I don’t get dressed at all. I walk downstairs in my pajamas to make coffee and let the dogs out, and suddenly I’m making breakfast, cleaning up the breakfast, packing lunches, packing snacks, filling water bottles, finding lost shoes, looking through the take home folders I should have looked through the night before, brushing hair, brushing teeth, wiping butts, changing diapers, listening for the school bus, waving for the school bus to please wait just a minute longer, forcing crying kids onto the school bus, buckling a 3-year-old and baby into the car, kenneling the puppy and finally taking a sip of that coffee. Next thing I know I’m getting out of the car to walk Lottie into preschool when I look down and remember I’m wearing Fila sweats and Crocs.

The worst part about this is that I’m still on the mail lists for my former favorite retailers, and they like to taunt me.

Talbots, (because if I’m going to look like I’m 60 I may as well dress like it) sends me catalogs with pictures like this.

“Get outside in terry shorts,” they say. “Take a carefree bike ride.”

Once upon a time, I liked to bike too. Probably in terry shorts. But now my carefree bike ride looks more like this.

I’m a pack mule. And pack mules don’t wear Talbots terry cloth shorts, they wear Fila sweats and Costco brand scuba jackets, because they need all the pockets. All the time. For all the snacks. This keeps the hands free for carrying all the bikes and scooters their kids swore they’d ride the while way themselves.

Someday I’ll get back into real clothes. Maybe even more than one outfit a week (no promises). But for now, I’m easy for my kids to identify. And that’s all that matters.

My Co-Parenting journey with YouTube, and other Parenting Tips

I’m fairly certain the five regular readers I have all know me personally. But, in case you don’t, I am currently raising four kids under the age of 7, and doing my best to remember to feed a Great Dane and a French Bulldog at least once a day.

Ever since kid #2 came along, spending time in my house has been peaceful in the way that curling up inside a snare drum is peaceful. It is eardrum-piercing loud in here.

For the last few years I’ve been running a small custom cake business out of my home. Usually I leave the finished cakes in my garage fridge, to be “picked up at your convenience,” aka “to be picked up when I’m gone so you can’t hear me screaming at my spawn to stop screaming.”

Sometimes my plan falls through, however, and a client will come to pick up a cake when all of my creatures are home. This goes one of two ways. The first is when I fail to see them as they’re pulling in, and they end up at my door. This scenario is less than ideal. As they cross the threshold into my kitchen, their eyes are inevitably drawn to my naked firstborn, who has chosen to leave the bathroom and wipe her butt IN THE KITCHEN because she’s the child that can’t stop talking to me for anything. At anytime.

Next their eyes rest upon the Great Dane who is busy cleaning the table with her sizable tongue.

And then I turn around, holding their cake out like a gift, with the Frenchie strapped to me in a baby carrier.

These clients are generally the ones who don’t place repeat orders.

The second scenario is slightly better, and this happens when I see their car pulling in. The Great Dane is quite helpful in signaling their approach, and by the time I’m out the door, cake in hand on the stoop, she’s towering over me on the other side of the door, foaming at the mouth and making noises you’d usually have to go to a shuttle launch to hear.

These clients are more inclined to order again, but as naked kids 2 and 3 streak past the door trying to convince the other dog to be Sven in their nude remake of Frozen 2, I am asked something along the lines of “How do you do it?”

I have an answer for these curious minds in my back pocket, and that answer is “not well.”

Exhibit A.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I’ll give you a hint. Shoes. This was a fashion choice I didn’t notice until we arrived at her school this morning, and when questioned she told me she couldn’t find the match so she just put on the next shoe she could find.

I can tell you exactly where the match to the one shoe is — on the roof of their playhouse. I’m pretty sure the other match was thrown away when I was channeling my inner Marie Kondo and decided that constantly picking up little shoes doesn’t bring me joy.

The other answer I give — and I’m hoping I’m not the only work-from-home Mom to say this — is that since the middle of 2018 I’ve been coparenting with YouTube.

And I’ll tell you what, while I am generally too busy (that’s a synonym for Lazy right?) to be the crafty, educational and outdoorsy parent that I set out to be, YouTube picks up the slack.

Their current obsession is two brothers from Indonesia. Or maybe it’s Minneapolis. I know nothing, other than that these two brothers are usually shirtless and digging underground water slides in the jungle, or building four-story structures out of vines.

There is some sort of music involved, but as far as I know there is no “hey kids don’t try this at home” type of warning.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I’m in the kitchen meal prepping for the week and Alex comes in with a bowl full of leaves and asks me to melt them for him them in the microwave.

At the same time, Evelyn comes in wearing rubber gloves and asks me for a rock she can use to grind mushrooms.

The first thing I asked was if these were the kind of mushrooms that would taste good sautéed in butter or if they were the kind that were going to cause her to see Jesus in her bike helmet.

Because from the look on her face, it seemed like she’d maybe already gotten into some of the mushrooms.

She didn’t get my reference, which made me feel like a good parent in that she hasn’t discovered that side of YouTube yet.

As it turns out, they were using the “melted” leaves and the mushrooms to make paint. Paint to be used on the water slide they’re planning to dig in the backyard.

I immediately ripped off my apron, put Alex’s leaves in the microwave, handed Evelyn the biggest rock I could find and asked if I could please be there when they asked my actual co-parent if they could dig a waterslide in the yard he seeded three times this summer.

Which takes me back to my original “how do you do it” answer of “not well.” Feel free to follow me for more parenting tips.

Eat to Live

I love food. Not like a normal “well this is delicious” love, but LOVE love. Like Noah loves Allie in the Notebook love, like “say I’m a bird!” love and “If you’re a bird, I’ll eat that bird” kind of love.

Forty-five minutes into my first date with Eric, he told me “I’m more of an ‘eat to live’ person, not a ‘live to eat’ person.”

Well, I thought. That’s probably it for us then. I was about to excuse myself to the bathroom where I could sneak out the window, but then the waiter stopped by and Eric ordered a whiskey on the rocks, and I thought I’d at least give him another ten minutes.

I’m glad I stayed, and luckily he has so many amazing and endearing qualities that I can look past his lack of culinary appreciation. So here we are nine years later. With four kids. You know who else eats to live and doesn’t live to eat? Kids.

My niece Annie is probably the only person under 8 who appreciates food as much as I do. Unfortunately for me, I don’t live with Annie.

What does this mean? It means that on Monday, my menu board looked like this:

I can say with 200% certainty that this menu won’t change until January.

See every fall I get this burst of inspiration to start cooking healthy meals again. I say ‘again’ because I get that same burst of inspiration at the beginning of summer when I think of all the fresh produce that will be available to me.

Then I remember that my minions don’t eat fresh produce, and that any fresh produce I invite into my home will die of neglect three weeks later . And that I somehow have even less time for cooking in the summer than I do during the school year, and so my kids end up eating nothing but Uncrustables, salami, cheese sticks and whatever they can find under their car seats on the way to the pool.

So then fall comes, and I have more time, and it’s soup and comfort-food season, and I get all inspired again.

But somehow every year I forget that I’m still cooking for my same eat-to-live husband and kids, and that not one of them will join in my appreciation of autumn veggie grain bowls or Kung Pao cauliflower. And as much as I love to hear “I don’t like this it’s gross” before the food even touches the table (from my kids) or “I struggle with the texture” after one bite (from my my husband), I usually end up throwing in the towel by September 15th.

I have very few pictures of my children smiling while eating, but the ones I do have sugar in common.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C

If I had taken a picture of my kids during dinner on Monday when I served them the grain bowls, it would have looked more like this:

Or this.

So here we are. I haven’t changed the menu board for this week because I have a feeling the roasted veggies with green harissa sauce that I’m planning for tonight will go untouched and that by tomorrow I’ll be serving a variety of Cheerios.

Four

It’s been a few years since I’ve posted. In that time, our mini-tyrants have continued their reign of terror — and we’ve added a fourth and final child to the small army of our own making.

Life with four is not that different than life with three, except that I’ve had to let a lot of things go. Just small things, like basic hygiene, housekeeping, good parenting and clever blog-post titles.

On the plus side, the giant mountain of laundry serves as a great dog bed, so we’re saving some money there.

Oh yeah, we also got a puppy. He’s wonderful — he’s made it his personal mission to teach me everything I’ve always wanted to know about getting the smell of urine out of almost every surface in our house.

The biggest change I’ve seen is that as the number of children and animals goes up, the level of supervision goes down, which leads to a lot of what I prefer to think of as teachable moments.

For example, this morning while I was putting Fitz down for a nap, Evelyn left poop outside Alex’s door as a “prank.” Actual human feces. On my floor.

Once Fitz was down, I *calmly* sought her out to amend the fecal situation, and found her in the garage pouring glue into her brother’s shoes.

It’s fine. We’re fine. Everything’s fine.

After having a little Come to Jesus about which pranks are funny and which are just plain mean/gross, Evelyn learned how to properly clean up both poop and glue. See? Teachable moment.

This stage of life — particularly Evelyn at this stage of life — is really helping me learn to relinquish control. I’m told this is good for me, and I like to believe it’s true

I’ve given up any say in what they wear.

It’s kind of fun watching their own style emerge. Evelyn’s signature look of the summer is “crazy cat lady but also tennis pro” chic.

House projects I’d usually have done myself have become family affairs.

Doesn’t that look fantastic? 😬 Someday we will host company in this room and I like to think I will be able to look past the imperfections to the memories my kids made and the pride they feel in having helped transform their old toy room into our new dining room. Maybe that same day I’ll finally be able to get all the blue paint off of Lottie.

I’m also learning to let go of managing their every moment. When I do choose to focus on folding some laundry or doing the dishes, they either need to help, or they need to find ways to entertain themselves. It’s good for them. It builds character. It might also build resentment, as lately they’ve been looking at me with less adoration and more loathing.

I’ve gotten pretty good at reading looks. Evelyn’s is the facial equivalent of the middle finger. Lottie’s is contemplative, as in she’s contemplating murdering me in my sleep. And Alex is just making motorboat noises. 🤷🏼‍♀️

They’re turning on me. Which I’m actually fine with, if it unites them and keeps them from turning on each other, which happened less than a week into summer.

Anyway, stay tuned. If I don’t post again for another two years, take it as a sign that my tiny army has overcome me.

Platitude attitude 

There are a good many things that make me feel old these days.

Saying things like “a good many” for one. A newfound interest in birds, for another. The fact that half the voters in the 2020 election don’t remember a time when McDonalds had twist cones.

But nothing makes me feel older than the sudden awareness of just how quickly time is passing.

Notice I didn’t say “it goes so fast,” because if there is one thing I hate hearing, it’s that. There’s nothing worse you can tell a young mother with anxiety. I know how fast it goes, trust me. I blinked and my newborn was 5, and now all I can think about is how in 3 1/2 years we’ll be halfway done having her under our roof. Unless I have my druthers and our kids live with us forever. (See, I said druthers, I’m old.)

There’s nothing I can do to stop the velocity of time, so I’ve done the only thing I can do — try living each day completely in the moment. Like it’s my last.

The only problem with that is that no one in their right mind would choose to do laundry on the last day of their life, which eventually leads to this:

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Even Pippa looks terrified of that laundry mountain.

Another problem is that no one would diet on the last day of their life, which means I eat in a way that could very well make today the last day of my life.

This morning as I was laying out my sweatpants for an easier outfit change immediately upon re-entering my home, my kids were engaged in a chorus of their favorite song, “Mom.” They don’t sing it as much as they yell it, in rounds. The result is that the word “Mom” is almost constantly ringing in my ears at a pitch that only dogs should be able to hear. In that moment I thought about another least-favorite platitude of mine, the “you’re going to miss these days” one. Am I? 

There will be parts of this stage I’ll miss greatly. The fact that all my kids are safe under my roof every night. The cuddles and sticky lollipop kisses. The fact that they want me around. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s not okay to sometimes loathe how much they want me around. I mean I would occasionally like to shave my legs without company. It’s okay to look forward to the day I get the flu and can actually rest quietly instead of having to wipe butts and referee fights with a 104  degree fever.

My point is, if you’re prone to these platitudes, I get it — it’s an easy thing to say to young-ish Moms and sometimes you’re just making conversation. But maybe next time try adding “you’re doing a great job” or “here take my massage certificate, I’ll take your kids home and fold your laundry.” I mean, just a for-instance. 

Ho Ho Hold on a sec…

Every year I involve myself in a little gamble called “How early can I put up a real tree and expect it to live through Christmas morning.”

These were my stairway greens last year on November 25h. They were in a pile of brown needles by December 12th.

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It’s been getting progressively earlier every year, because those of you who know me know I basically turn into Buddy the Elf the day after the kids go back to school. It takes all the self control I have not to decorate for Christmas before Halloween.

I love almost everything about this time of year – the music, the movies, the magic.

This year there’s only one thing I haven’t been loving — It seems like the Christmas season presents a lot of opportunities to directly oppose the things I try to instill in my kids the rest of the year.

For example.

Me 335 days a year: Be kind and choose your words very carefully.

Me in December: Let’s sing this super fun song about the Grinch where we call him “an appalling dump heap.”

I’d probably steal someone’s Christmas too if that someone told me my heart was an empty hole, but also that it was a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots.

Another example:

Me 335 days a year: Do not go anywhere with a stranger. Never EVER take or eat anything a stranger tries to give you.

Me in December: Let’s read this magical book about a little boy who is lying in bed one night when a stranger casually pulls up to his house in a freight train. The boy sneaks out of his house, jumps aboard, eats everything thrown at him … and not only does it all work out for him – it works out so well that he gets to meet Santa!

I love me some Polar Express, but let’s talk about how the parents manage to sleep through their kid sneaking onto a freighter. I wake up in a panic when the darkness of my room is disrupted by the silent brake lights of my neighbor pulling in at 9:45. If Tom Hanks showed up in an express train trying to abduct my child, I’d be the first one out the door, and with some choice words for him. The first of which would probably be a request for his autograph.

This one has less to do with my kids, but I also get irrationally angry every time I watch Miracle on 34th Street. Particularly at the part where a single Mom gets a note at 10pm that says “Meet me at St. Francis after midnight mass” on Christmas Eve and somehow makes it there. How did she procure a last minute sitter on the biggest holiday of the year?? Christmas miracle indeed. Also I’d like to know how she can afford a penthouse apartment in NYC on a retail salary, but that’s a different discussion.

Movies aside, the season as a whole continues to usurp all my hard work the rest of the year.

“We need to put healthy foods in our body before we have treats, but here! For the next 30 days start your day with this sugar bomb from your advent calendar.”

“It’s important that you do the right thing even when no one is watching. But also, The Elf is watching! Santa is watching!”

I love the magic of the season, and I love seeing it reflected in my kids eyes … so for the next 30 days I will continue to walk the fine line between enforcing what I usually enforce, and making a few exceptions for the holiday.

In the meantime, my tree will be going up in 48 hours, and I will be sitting in front of it drinking eggnog for the remainder of the weekend. Singing The Grinch.

 

 

Summertime, and the living is ….

In three days it will be August 1.

At our house, August 1st is when the wheels really start to come off.

At this stage of early parenting, preschool has been out since the first week of May which means all three kids and I have now been together all day, every day for over 2 1/2 months.

If you’re needing a visual representation of where that much quality time with a 4.5 year-old will get you, here you go:

June 1:

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August 1:

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Historically I’m not great at reading looks, but that one pretty clearly says “I’m thinking about killing you in your sleep.”

(“Because you won’t let me put dish soap on the water slide”)

Summertime at this stage of life is a lot like bedtime at this stage of life.

Bedtime is by far the most overpromised and undelivered part of early parenting. Despite knowing better, you have visions of sweet snuggles and quiet lullabies. I blame diaper commercials.

Turns out is very little sweetness involved. Instead, it’s a lot of loud demands and angry screams for more water, more snuggles, doors open, lights on, socks on, socks off, more covers, less covers, different covers, different parents.

By now I know I should lower my expectations, but my inner optimist just can’t do it.

Summer is the same way. When we’re on month 8 of a long winter and we’re all staring longingly outside, all these optimistic plans start to fill my head. Where we’ll go, what we’ll do, outings we’ll take…Writers live a rich fantasy life and I’m no different.

Come mid-February you can find me daydreaming about baseball season for example. I picture us strolling out of Miller Park as a family in the summer evening twilight, eating cotton candy together.

In my fantasy I conveniently forget two things.

For starters, cotton candy ends up looking like this and therefore requires significant cleanup, which is never popular with the child. This leads to screaming.

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Second, and most importantly, another result of cotton candy looks something like this:

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More screaming.

Then there is the sibling dynamic to take into consideration. Early in the summer I walk in to find a scenes like this:

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Fast forward to today, when we had our first ever bite wound, and I think it’s safe to say they’re ready for some space.

Activity planning also takes a pretty significant hit. Arts and Craft time early in the summer was both well planned and well supervised.

Meanwhile this morning I sent Evelyn out to the garage in her pajamas and told her to draw a self portrait with sidewalk chalk.

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Is it obvious we’ve been potty training her brother? 🙈🙈🙈

Meanwhile back inside, the supervision has also gotten a little lax.

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You get the picture.

One of the trainers at my gym likes to say “finish as strong as you started” and it’s safe to say I’m not doing a bang up job of that.

I like to think that maybe as the kids get older it will get better. And if not, at least future me is getting some early training in spending the summer with a teenager, every time Evelyn looks at me like this.

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