Finding the humor in motherhood

Parks and Rec

Yesterday was a special kind of frazzled, with a trip to the gym, a big grocery run, Home Depot and a dance recital dress rehearsal squished into our regularly scheduled swim lessons and speech, each one inconveniently located at least 25 minutes from the next.

The official start of summer break means that all three kids come along with me for these shenanigans, which I always thought I handled with grace and composure, until three different people at Costco stopped me and asked if I needed some help. This coupled nicely with everyone else at Costco making some sort of comment about how I had no room in the cart for merchandise, which believe it or not I had become aware of without their help, as I piled a bag of broccoli florets and lemons on top of Lottie.

They’re right though about the lack of space, as you can see in the Home Depot selfie that we took for Sweet Baby Ray so he knew we’d visited his favorite place without him.


The official start of summer also means that we will soon be frequenting the one place I despise more than anything else on earth — The Playground.

When whoever designed the first playground sat down to do so, I believe he started by saying “how can we combine Melissa Berg’s two greatest fears?” (And I say ‘he’ because no Mother would build a structure for toddlers with a gaping ledge at the top of a two-story rock wall).

My fear of heights is relatively well managed because I avoid heights like the plague. Not all heights — I can be in a skyscraper and not flinch when I feel it shift with the wind — but put me more than a few feet off the ground with no railing and I’m as jumpy as a virgin at a prison rodeo, to quote Blanche Devereaux.

There is one thing worse than being more than a few feet off the ground without a railing to hold me back, and that’s my children being more than a few feet off the ground without a railing to hold them back.

My kids have some wonderful qualities that I admire, but coordination is not among them. Their legs have been known to give out from underneath them for no reason at all. Today Evelyn was just standing in the kitchen talking to me when her knees buckled and she went down in a heap of princess dress and tears.

Meanwhile Alex has picked up the habit of craning his head as far around as he can get it and staring back at me as he runs full speed ahead, usually into a wall, doorframe or tabletop.

Neither  is a tendency that you want in a child who’s running across a play structure 15 feet off the ground with the sole intent of catching up to his sibling and tackling her.

Of course, every playground has a designated toddler area. This would be fantastic except that ALWAYS right next to the toddler apparatus some a-hole has gone and built a 12-year-old-only playground that is so entirely enticing to young children that they might as well have dipped it in rainbow sprinkles and surrounded it with free puppies and filled the sandbox with Dum Dums.

So you spend at least 15 minutes of your allotted 30 minutes of park time explaining on repeat to your two-year-old why two-year-olds aren’t allowed on slides with no sides and rope walls that even a chimpanzee would struggle with.

And then there’s the fact that you absolutely cannot escape being a helicopter Mom at the playground. And not just with your kid.

Last week we spent our whole walk to the playground reviewing (my) playground rules, at the top of which is “no climbing up the slide.”

Then we arrive at the park to a scene like this:


It’s not that I don’t think slide climbing would be a good way to hone the gross motor skills that my kids lack … it’s that the minute they start to scale the slide, a kid appears at the top who wants to descend it as intended. Then I have a choice to either ignore what’s going on and see if they can work it out for themselves, which makes me a jerk of a parent, or hover and/or bark commands from across the playground, which also makes me a jerk of a parent.

This continues when I have to tell Random Kid A that he cannot throw woodchips at my baby and Random Kid B that he cannot pull down my daughter’s shorts and Random Kid C to please not push my son from behind as he’s trying to get back down the stairs because he’s changed his mind (thank God) about attempting the slide from Hell. Random Kids A, B, and C. These are the credits in the movie called “Why Is Every Other Child at the Playground Unsupervised?”, starring me.

The other playground options are equally unappealing, as my children cannot seem to grasp the concept of not walking directly in front of moving swings, and for some reason there are always 100 lb. 15 year-olds on these swings. I can get on board with the sandbox, despite my hatred of cleaning sand out of everything for the next 140 days, but the sandbox always seems to be on the other side of the 12-year-old-only playground and thus we’re forced into another 15 minutes of explanations.

So that’s fear #1, wrapped up into a not-so-pithy explanation. Fear #2   is bees, which there is never a shortage of at the playground thanks to all the wood chips and sticky little hands covered in juice and sugar.

My fear of bees is substantial and all consuming and I’m 110% aware that they can smell this and so they seek me out. I’ve been known to turn over patio tables in my quest to escape a bee … in fact a bee is probably the one thing that could make me forget my fear of heights, as there’s literally no height I wouldn’t go to to escape one.

See this scratch in the side of our playset?


That’s the remnants of a power washing gone bad, as I was mid power-wash when a bee started chasing me and I let the hose get away from me. This thing wraps around the play set like a crazy straw.

I blame My Girl, really, for this fear. That movie funeral absolutely gutted me and I have despised both mood rings and bees every since.

So I’m either hovering over my kids like a crazy person, or running and jumping and screaming to escape a tiny insect like a crazy person. Basically, playgrounds turn me into a crazy person.

But on the bright side, it gets us out of the car, where we’ve seemed to reach an unspoken agreement that we will be listening to A Million Dreams on repeat until further notice. While I’ll be thankful for a break from that, A Million Nightmares will be keeping me awake until my kids develop some better coordination or the weather turns cold, whichever comes first.

Mommy’s Just Tired, Guys

One of the hardest parts of parenting, I think, is the plain adulting of it. Becoming the orchestrater of holiday magic instead of the recipient of it. Being the one who has to double check (or in my case quadruple check) locks and burners before bed to ensure the safety of not only you but your little ones as well.

The second hardest thing about parenting is having to parent while hungover. Truly, you have not “adulted” until you have struggled through 24 hungover hours while listening to the sound emitted from this face:


The owner of this face does not give one iota that I am hungover. In fact I think he knows, and is punishing me for leaving him in favor of a place where the G & T’s flowed like water. It’s worth noting that this picture was taken around 4:30 p.m. and Alex is still in his pajamas, a real testament to the state I was in

Parenting with the flu has the potential to be worse due to its longevity, except for the fact that when you have the flu you have a valid excuse to ask for help. Meanwhile I don’t feel right about calling in reinforcements simply because I wanted to squeeze every last drop – literally – out of my rare night away.

The source of my headache was a wedding Eric and I attended on Saturday night, which was beautiful and wonderful and filled with so many of my favorite people. It was also the first wedding I’ve been to in a few years that I haven’t been pregnant for, so I actually had the energy to stay until the end. I haven’t seen the end of a wedding since my own.

I felt about as elegant as I could feel in a dress I’d had to rent because nothing in my closet zips over my post baby rib cage, and when my accessories for the night looked like this:


For anyone reading this whose boobs still resemble boobs and have not started “searching for quarters” as my sister hilariously calls it, those are breast pump accessories next to my jewelry, and trying to use them while in formal wear deserves to be an Olympic Sport, or at least something you should be able to medal in.

Since having Lottie I haven’t had more than a glass of wine or maybe two, so I’ve yet to have to “pump and dump” to avoid intoxicating my child. I texted my best friend who is also my nursing guru to ask her if she thought I needed to do so tonight.

“Depends,” she said. “They say if you feel drunk, you should dump it. If you didn’t feel drunk you’re probably fine.”

There’s a thinker.

Alcohol affects me weirdly now postpartum, and there was one occasion a few months ago that I had to sit in my car and sober up for an hour after drinking ONE craft beer. Lucky for me on that night I was parked next to a Walgreens so I was able to purchase and consume one ENTIRE bag of fun sized Easter Kit Kats to expedite my sobering up. (See above, where I blamed my post-baby bone structure for my inability to fit into old dresses.)

Saturday night, however, I was not so affected by what I drank. I drank the perfect amount — just enough to get me onto the dance floor, but not enough to make a spectacle of myself at the late night food table.

“Awesome!” I thought. “I don’t need to dump this.”

At that very moment my childhood bestie sent me this picture of the two of us with our husbands, along with the caption “What the hell?”


I did a quick comparison between this and the one Eric and I taken earlier in the evening …


… and decided that there was enough of a difference that I should probably dump everything immediately.

I should say here that nursing did not come easily to me with my first two. I threw in the towel within a few weeks with both Evelyn and Alex. Partly because both times I got mastitis, and partly because I was ready to have my body back to myself.

Nursing is actually going well this time around, probably because by now I know that I will never again have my body back to myself, and so I’m much more relaxed about it.

Even so, this was just about the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.


So difficult, in fact, that I desperately tried to think of any other use for it, including three low-point minutes where I seriously considered using it as coffee creamer:


Oh well. I came home to my delightful children and somehow both Eric and I survived the day, with the help Annie and her cast of orphans who entertained my children for the first time from the big screen.

But it makes today the second Monday in a row that I’m doing both Monday and Sunday’s tasks after boycotting them on Sunday, which is a perfect example of the adulting part of this parenthood thing that can be a real bummer.

But the gig comes with its perks, too, like the sweet, unprompted hug and kiss I got from my son this morning … right before he puked in his carseat. I think they call that full circle.

Lights off, Kids on

This morning Evelyn bucked tradition and watched cartoons on actual TV instead of watching the same Daniel Tiger episode on Netflix for the 62nd time. While I was thrilled not to see that little red hoodie for the first morning in two years, I should have known what was coming. One commercial break alone yielded five additions to her Birthday/Christmas list.

We’ve gotten so used to watching everything on Netflix that until now I’ve managed to exert complete, glorious control over Evelyn’s wish lists.

“You’d probably like some Lincoln Logs from Santa, do you know what those are? No? That’s okay, you’ll love them. We’ll ask Santa.” “How about some new undershirts? Toothpaste? Some new flossers? Ask for some for your birthday.”

For three Birthdays and Christmases in a row my house has been gloriously free of small, junky plastic toys, and holidays have yielded essentials that will actually get used. Like socks. And with excitement!

Until today.



What in the actual hell is a Boxy Girl? I gather they’re pinky-finger-sized versions of my childhood puppy surprise — although instead of a pregnant stuffed dog you’re getting a girl with completely unrealistic bodily dimensions who’s just received mail that you get to open for her. Inside you’ll find a tiny accessory that will get lost, vacuumed or eaten within a half hour. It’s all Evelyn has been able to talk about all day.

That’s it, the beginning of the end of any semblance of organization in the toy room. It’s all downhill from here.

At least I still have my own wish list to control. Last Christmas I asked for a baby, a FitBit, and a full night’s rest. Two out of three ‘aint bad.

I tore open my FitBit and couldn’t wait to start tracking my steps and my sleep. I set my sleep goal to 8 hours a night, and my daily step goal to 10,000 … both clearly realistic goals two days before bringing a newborn home in the middle of winter.

What a fantastic way to add a new level of daily failure to my repertoire. But still I cannot take the thing off — I’m obsessed with achieving that green star they give you when you get 8 hours of sleep or more.

Turns out I can count on one hand the number of nights since December that I’ve met my 8 hour goal — all of them were on vacation, and all of them involved going to bed before 9 pm — including one 7:29 p.m. bedtime, far and away my favorite night of 2018 so far.


For those of you who don’t have a FitBit, either because you don’t want one or because you’re too rich for the FitBit and went with the Apple Watch instead, the different blues  represent different sleep stages — and the red represents time spent awake.

Last night’s looked like this:


One HOUR and forty five minutes spent awake. And none of this was due to the baby. No, last night’s restful glory was brought to you by WeEnergies and our second power outage in two weeks.

The power goes out and along with it go the nightlights and the sound machines, creating a pitch black, perfectly silent house. Really, creating a perfect sleep environment unless you are under 40″ tall and answer to the name Evelyn or Alex.

You can’t so much as breathe in their rooms without them jumping up at full attention and demanding breakfast.

One of my little light-sleepers is awakened by the most subtle of changes — and it really doesn’t matter which one it is — once they’re up they’re not satisfied until the whole house is awake.

Last night it was Evelyn, who was crying out in terror that she could no longer see the Clark Griswold style spotlight that’s usually shining through her window. In fact, she screamed, she couldn’t see anything, but yet she could somehow see a ladybug in her room and she was not about to sleep in the same room as such a highly poisonous and deadly insect.

Eric finally got her to calm down, but not before she’d woken Alex, who was now demanding that someone remove his sleep sack and get him a glass of water and read him a book and sing him a lullaby and feed him dates and massage his feet while fanning him with palm fronds.

Somehow Lottie slept through it all, which is exactly why she’s my favorite child, and with Evelyn assured that the ladybug was well on its way to exploring our septic tank, we only had Alex to appease before could get back to bed.

Unfortunately Alex had other plans, and so we decided to attempt for the first time bringing him into our bed with us.

Somewhere out there are magical unicorn parents whose magical unicorn kids crawl into bed with them in the middle of the night and actually fall asleep. What kind of sorcery is this? How is it achieved? Are the children misted with Lavender and Benadryl as they walk through the door?

Our kids come into our bed and it’s like social hour at Shady Pines, what with all the yelling and repeating of oneself. Alex was lying there rattling of full sentences with words I didn’t even know he had in his vocabulary.

“It’s nice and toasty warm in here, Mama. Let’s call Grandma, Mama. Tell me all about the Magna Carta Mama.” Telling him to shush fell on deaf ears, and ignoring it just spurred him to repeat himself at an increasing volume until you acknowledged that yes, it was indeed toasty warm in here and that yes, that was my ear his finger was in and that no, I would not be making him pancakes right now.

And then they were all bright-eyed and energetic today while I assumed this position every chance I got.


Tomorrow we have a wedding, and I can’t decide if I’m more excited to see one of my very oldest and dearest friends walk down the aisle, or for a hotel room with no children.

The real challenge will be staying up past 7:30, you know so we can eat dinner with the other adults. If we can do that, we can do anything. Except buy Evelyn some Boxy Girls … I’m hoping she’ll forget about that one by October.



Mother of Dragons

Mother’s Day started off like any other day, waking up to a Great Dane’s tongue inside my mouth at 5:15, with a Daniel Tiger song stuck in my head. Luckily I was able to fall back asleep after Pippa’s wakeup call, and Eric got up with the kids so I could sleep in. Which — after 364 consecutive mornings of waking up at 6 or earlier — meant my body clock woke me up at promptly 6:03.

It was only uphill from there — my kids were so sweet to let me do some of my favorite things, like wipe their butts and administer eye-drops to a two-year-old … a task second only to pilling a cat in its degree of difficulty.

Actually it was a really great day — Eric let me do some of my actual favorite things, like eat ALL of the chocolate covered strawberries he got me and read an actual book for two uninterrupted hours. I didn’t even have to repeat a page once.

We went out to breakfast so that some other poor soul had to clean up after our spawn, and where onlookers heard a lot of questions like “Evelyn why is your shoe on the table?” and “Alex what is your hand doing in your diaper?” The place was filled with other mothers and one mother-to-be — the mothers of older kids looked at us with knowing and pity, and the mother-to-be looked at us with a mix of judgement and dread.


This year we were especially smart and let Evelyn dip whole pancakes by hand into her syrup instead of cutting them up for her, because we were looking for a way to use up all of our wipes and I was hoping to perfect a way to comb syrup out of hair without tears.


We rocked Mother’s Day. In fact we Mother’s Day’d so hard that Evelyn woke up at 4:00 this morning because she was so excited to do it all again. My saint of a husband got up with her, and when I woke up a few hours later I found him sleeping on the floor of the toy room wearing a headlamp while she played at the train table. (The real reason she woke up is because the power went out, hence the headlamp.)

The power going out meant that her nightlight turned off, which somehow woke her from a deep sleep and prompted the immediate shouting of demands and inane questions.

“It’s too dark in my room!” “Turn my nightlight back on!” “I need a snuggle!” “Is it eight fourty-teen o’clock?!” “When is going to be Halloween!?”

This child has been on a streak of early wake-ups for the last two weeks and it’s about to drive me completely insane. I’m a morning person and it’s not that I mind being up early … it’s more about the ridiculous behavior I know is about to follow. By 9:45 she’s dragging, by 11 she’s passed “tired” and is on her way to “overtired”, and by the time I pick her up from school and put her down for a ‘nap’ at 1:30 she is so overtired that she’s either arrived in Meltdown City or has detoured to Hypertown. She’s either on the floor sobbing because the polka-dots on her pants are too small, or she’s attempting to leap around her entire room without touching the floor once.

Neither scenario spells out “good nap”, and so she ends up boycotting that as well, and by the end of the day she has turned into such a crazy mess that I’m wracking my brain trying to remember if at any point in my life I made a deal with the devil in exchange for giving him full control of my firstborn.

Up until a few weeks ago, Alex was my most difficult. Then one day he woke up and decided he’d be my easy one. Evelyn was quick to volunteer to take his place as difficult child.

Playing with Alex is easy — first I get myself into Childs Pose, and then I tell him that my back is a construction site for his diggers


He proceeds to drive Muck and Scoop up and down my back for a half hour while I scroll through Instagram or pick my nose or do something else equally productive.

And when he melts down, it’s directly related to an obvious cause. He’s hungry. He bumped his head. He’s thirsty. He’s hungry again. He’s hungry. He’s still hungry. His emotions are relatively simple.

With Evelyn, on the other hand, everything’s emotionally charged. The back talk has also started, which is a real treat.

Me: “Evelyn, I don’t like the way your voice sounds right now.”

Evelyn: “That’s because I don’t like what you’re saying right now!”


Me: “Ev, you need to zip it.”

Evelyn: “No YOU need to zip it!”

Or my favorite,

Evelyn: “Mommy I want you to do ______ right now, and unless you do what I say you will not get ANY treats.”

I haven’t a clue where she picked that last one up. The fact that I say that to her at least once a day is one theory.

Then there are moments when I can’t tell if she’s being deliberately naughty or if we’re just waiting for a few more pieces to connect upstairs. Like this morning, when I told her she could choose one small toy to bring in the car, and she chose:


Candy Land.

Anyhow … the backtalk has to be part of the stage. (“It’s a tough stage” has been my catchphrase since she was 4 months.)

The rest of the attitude … who knows. Maybe she’s like me and has completely given up on the end of the school/activity year. “Finish as strong as you started” will get me through any workout at Burn, but I’m waiting for the perfect moment to apply it to the rest of my life.

For example, Evelyn’s dance attire is strictly “Pink Leotard, White Tights, White Shoes.” Well, today I sent her in this:


With two more dance classes to go I just can’t. I’m done forgetting to wash the white tights and then hunting through the laundry pile to find and frantically clean them Monday morning.

Given her own level of participation tonight, it seems Evelyn shares my sentiment:


Oh, and also she’s wearing borrowed shoes because hers have gone missing.

They’re probably with her white tights somewhere in the whopping pile of laundry that I didn’t get to yesterday, because it was Mother’s Day and I was on strike from such Motherly duties. I was busy basking in the judgment from that soon-to-be Mom, looking on in horror as my child palmed a saucer full of syrup.

I was her, three years and five months ago, back before I had any kids but I did have all the answers on how to raise perfect ones.

Now some days it feels like I’m raising actual dragons. I think I even saw Evelyn breathe fire during her last meltdown.

But man, I love those dragons so much, and I’m so glad they made me a mother. And next year I hope to celebrate it in exactly the same fashion, with maybe a little less syrup.

Mean Mommy

Staying at home with kids leaves you vulnerable to a wide array of emotions — unbelievable love and joy … unbelievable boredom … unbelievable frustration … disgust at the unbelievable amount of fecal matter you’re dealing with … and that’s all before 8 am.

With three of them to get out the door and into the car and into activities and back into the car and back in the door and fed and down for naps, I’ve started running my days with military-style efficiency. Does it work? Absolutely. Is it conducive to all the warmth and sunshine and butterflies you’d like to bestow upon your kids? Ummm … nope. I’m basically a drill sergeant, and no one is full of warm fuzzies for their drill sergeant.

In fact, most days I feel like little more than Mean Mommy.

“You’re making it out to be worse than it is,” I tell myself. “Your kids don’t think you’re mean.” And to prove it, the Mother’s Day crafts started rolling in this week.

Today Evelyn brought this home from school:


My heart pretty much exploded when I saw that. I mean how can it not? Then I opened up the card:


You know who that is? Mean. Mommy. And if it’s not, then it’s Evelyn, and she sure doesn’t look happy.

All I could think of when I looked at this was one of Evelyn’s frequently asked questions: “Mommy, why does your face look mad?”

Well, child, my face looks mad because I am mad, because this is now the fifteenth time I’ve asked you to get. on. the. potty. so we can get this bedtime routine moving along.

Eric works his butt off all week, and often at least one weekend day, which means it’s rare that he’s here for bedtime. Or for dinner or bath, for that matter.

I’ve adjusted to these circumstances by cutting out bath time. Unless someone soils him or herself, baths are once a week on Sunday night. They have swim lessons in the middle of the week and I like to think the chlorine will kill anything growing on them in the interim. When I was little it seemed there was always a smelly kid in class, you know the one who was always in the same elastic sweatpants that smelled of urine and stale cigarettes. I’m afraid that now that’s my kids, except instead of urine stale cigarettes they smell of urine and the Peace and Calming I’ve been diffusing for three weeks on end to try to get them to just stop yelling.

Unfortunately you can’t cut out dinner, so my kids eat a lot more PB&J than I’d care to admit, and a lot of those are consumed in the car on the way home from activities so that I’m not spending 20 minutes wiping peanut butter off of the table/chairs/any surface within arms reach of my diners.


Then there’s bedtime. Easily my meanest time of day. Questions that earlier in the day would be met with a (somewhat) patient explanation are now answered with what can only be described as a roar. I imagine it’s a lot like what the Rebel Yell sounded like in the Civil War. Veterans found it hard to explain or replicate after the fact, but they all said that nothing raised the hair on your arms faster.

It’s just that there’s three of them and one of me, and my oldest has been boycotting naps for over a month which means by 4:15 she is just D – O – N – E done. And so there’s just no time to dilly dally, lest we miss our window and enter the dreaded “I’m over-tired and will therefore defy logic and refuse to fall asleep until 10 p.m.” stage.

It’s definitely not that dreamy, snuggly, lullaby-y time of day that I always pictured.

Instead it’s chaos and barking orders and threats of no stories unless someone stops dancing and gets back in the bathroom and then delivering on those threats and then major tears and then the baby crying on the floor while I unzip the toddler’s sleepsack because I forgot to put pajamas on him first and the baby crying on another floor while I hold the door shut against a tantruming preschooler and the baby crying on a different floor while I rock back and forth in a corner and finally the baby crying in a crib because it’s been 13 hours since anyone interacted with her and now her brother is crying himself to sleep because I won’t let him take his milk to bed and her sister is crying herself to sleep because – shocker – she didn’t get that story and Mom is crying into a big ol’ snifter of whiskey because I haven’t taken my circus to the grocery store all week and Peapod doesn’t deliver wine.


It’s glorious, it really is. And it’s getting to be the time of year where my windows are open and therefore the neighbors can hear all of these shenanigans and they probably wonder what kind of parent I am.

Or, they know what kind of parent I am. Mean Mommy.

Then again, Evelyn did also produce this:


I know she knows my name, because she calls me Melissa more than she calls me Mom.

We do love to bake together, and I’m glad it’s as special to her as it is to me.

The only reason that “My Mom’s Favorite Thing to Do” answer isn’t “Eat ice cream and watch Netflix” is because she’s never awake to see me do that. If Eric had to answer this same questionnaire, that would be his answer, 100%. I’d be hard pressed to think of the last time that’s not what I was doing when he walked in the door.

But the answer that pleased me the most is the “My Mom Is” answer … because if she still thinks I’m sweet, then all is not lost. Yet. We’ve still got two bedtimes to go this week before help arrives.


Life’s a Song

When I was fifteen I went to Las Vegas. I know what you’re thinking … Fifteen … Vegas … what a great destination for someone who can’t drink, can’t gamble, and can’t stay up past 9. But it was my grandfather’s 70th birthday, and the man was fond of throwing big soirees in his own honor. And so there I was.

There are only three things I remember clearly from the trip. The first is the mini Beef Wellingtons that we ate (You know what they say about never forgetting your first love).

The second is the party favors that we left with — two CD’s comprised of all of my grandpa’s favorite songs. There was a little Patsy Cline, a little Willie Nelson, some Whitney Houston, a few numbers from Fiddler on the Roof … These were the days of portable CD players, so I spent the flight home familiarizing myself with his eclectic taste in music.

The third thing I remember clearly is arriving at the baggage claim back in Milwaukee where I ran into some friends who had also been out of town for the weekend, who informed me that another friend of ours had been killed in a hunting accident.

It was the first death of a peer I’d experienced, and I hadn’t a clue how to process the grief I was feeling. I put my headphones back on and pressed play, but all of a sudden I found it impossible to listen to any of the music — there were no lyrics on this or any other CD that could fit the way I was feeling.

Luckily, Chauncey was a big fan of “Stranger on the Shore” by Acker Bilk, and I put the wordless clarinet solo on repeat. For two weeks. To this day it’s the first thing I turn on when I’m grieving, and even though I’ve listened to it hundreds of times, for those first few moments after it comes on, I’m back at that airport in 2001.

My whole life has a soundtrack like that … it’s amazing how music can transport you. “Band on the Run” by Wings takes me back to my childhood living room in Wauwatosa, and while it’s playing I could recall details about that room that I’d never be able to come up with otherwise.

Any track from Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to “The Mission” and I’m in my childhood (and forever) happy place outside of Lander Wyoming. I can literally close my eyes smell the sagebrush.


We went to Disney World the year Aladdin came out, and I wore this wind suit for most of the trip:


Now every time I hear “A Whole New World”, I can feel that Windbreaker again as if I actually have it on, can smell the gallon of Salon Selectives hairpsray holding the curl in my ill-advised bangs … can recall exactly how uncomfortable those wind pants were after I’d peed in them. That was the day I learned to never wet your pants unless they’re at least somewhat absorbent.

“Don’t Stop Believing” comes on, and I’m back in college. I can close my eyes and smell the stale beer. And I’m 99% sure so can everyone else who’s gone to college since 1982 … it’s like the American binge-drinking anthem.

Anyhow, this is a very roundabout, long winded intro to my point — and that point is that in the soundtrack of my life, I’m afraid the year 2018 will be missing. I’ll never turn on the radio and be transported back to these days, because I can’t think of a single circumstance where a radio station will choose to play “When You’re Sick, Rest is Best”.

We listen to Daniel Tiger every single hour of every single day. In the car, at home, on Tv, on the phone. In a boat, in the tub, in our coats, on the rug.

It is so engrained in my head that I’ve started spewing the lyrics out as part of everyday conversation, much like I do with lines from FRIENDS and old Dane Cook one-liners.

The other night Eric and I were out on a date and he said he had to use the restroom, and without thinking I responded by singing “When you have to go potty, stop and go right away … flush and wash and be on your way!”


In public, I did this. To my husband, who is not three. And is not a cartoon. And is not a Tiger.

I do love Daniel Tiger. I love what it is teaching my kids, and I love that it’s a spin off of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. But it’s different, too. Mr. Rogers was a saint, but he was removed enough from the family scene that you didn’t hate him for it. He was just a neighbor, and a really really good one.

I can get on board with that, because I can see a saint of a neighbor and admire that. Seeing a saint of a mother is harder to swallow, because it immediately highlights my flaws. In fact I’m convinced Mrs. Tiger exists only to make me feel worse about myself.

In the last episode we watched, Daniel and Prince Wednesday wanted to have a beach day, but it was raining. So that wretched little tiger lugged a bunch of sand into the house to make an indoor beach.


Granted, the Tiger Family’s living room furniture looks a lot like beach loungers, and it seems like every picture on their wall features Daniel at the beach, so you can see where he’d be confused. Where they found such easy access to all this sand, I don’t know. But I do know how I would have reacted.

When Mrs. Tiger walked in and discovered her living room had been taken over by the hardest substance in the world to clean, she did what any of us would do. “Oh, I’m mad,” she said quietly. “I must calm down.” And then she took a deep breath and was instantly calm, offering the kids some alternative ideas for indoor beach play.

I can correctly identify a feeling, too, but I’m not nearly as good at diffusing it. This is exactly the kind of thing that drives Evelyn to look at me with a quivering lip whenever my voice rises above a whisper and say “Mommy, you forgot to take a deep breath and count to four.”

Where is the show with the terrible, shouty, impatient Mom that my kids can compare me to and thus feel better about who is raising them?

I digress. My point is that this Tiger family and their friends have weaseled their way into our every waking hour, and I’m making a conscious effort to pipe some different music into our house.

And if my kids protest, which they will, I can just sing them this song and all will be well in the world.


Little Dreamers & Big Jerks

Alex turned two on Friday, which meant a donut for breakfast, cupcakes at his party, and a sugar-high aftermath that we got to deal with for the rest of the weekend.

It also means he’s officially being launched into the world of chores, like it or not. I’m talking simple, age appropriate chores like helping unload his dishes and put them away, dusting the baseboards and changing the oil in my car.

Chores are one part of my (and most other parents) plan to not raise jerks and to turn these little blobs into contributing members of society. Some days my kids actually have me believing that it’s working, but those days are few and far between.

I keep a note on my phone in which I enter questions I have for the pediatrician between appointments so that I don’t forget. Usually they’re small things I want to ask about — diaper rashes, etc. — but last week as I was adding Alex’s clogged tear duct to this list, I noticed my latest entry for Evelyn:


Don’t get me wrong, Evelyn has an awesome personality – she’s sweet and funny and has quirks that I find absolutely hysterical. But sometimes when she Just. Won’t. Calm. Down. … or when she sneaks up and yells in my ear for no reason at all … or when she just refuses to look me in the eye, I wonder what kind of psychopath I’m raising.

I brought it on myself, really, as this scene has always been my absolute favorite of any movie scene. Now that at least once a day I have to tell Evelyn to look at me like a human child, it’s lost a little of its humor for me. But only a little.

Of course, wondering how they’ll turn out ultimately leads to wondering what my kids will grow up to be.

Evelyn would make a perfect engineer or architect … her mind just works that way. But she says she wants to be a lawyer, a police man, a farmer, a professional trumpet player, a firefighter, Ella Fitzgerald AND a shark, and I’m certainly not going to try and alter her dreams.

I have no idea what Alex wants to be, but I do know the only vehicle he can identify on this page is the yacht, so it better be lucrative.


I just hope whatever dreams they choose to pursue are realistic, as Evelyn’s obviously are.

In one of my last posts I said I want my kids to learn that if they think they can, they can. Which is true … but I also want them to learn how to tell when it’s time to move on.

For example — my dream was to be an Olympic gymnast.

At 7, I believe most future Olympian’s should be able to at least turn a cartwheel. At 7, I could do this:

I also had the personality of an Envirocloth, and I’m pretty sure Olympians have to likable. No one would put that face on a Wheaties box. (Also, what do I need to do to get that metabolism back? What I wouldn’t give to look so sickly and scrawny again.)

I eventually moved on to a new dream of being the piano player at the Mayfair food court. That one I probably could have realized, had I kept up with the piano lessons. Now I just play to my kids at night after I put them to bed. At one point I also wanted to farm sheep on the corner of Dorn and Rybeck, be the first ever piano player in the UW Marching Band, be a professional bowler and be a famous actress, despite having no interest in or talent for acting. I think I just wanted to meet Leonardo DiCaprio.

What I finally ended up pursuing was writing. Ten years ago I self-published a novel. Now every time I open it up and read it I want to pull my hood over my head and roll around on the floor, the writing is so bad. But it was a jumping off point, a learning experience, and for those reasons I don’t regret it. I’m glad I was encouraged to pursue it, because I enjoy it, can actually do it, and despite all evidence to the contrary I still believe that someday it will pay a bill.

But I often wonder what my parents would they have done if my Olympic dream had never died. When I turned 23 and was still performing the world’s weakest headstands, they would have had to sit me down for the difficult talk that it was probably time to hang up the leotards.

Evelyn loves dance, but after getting a sneak peek at her recital performance yesterday I wonder if it might be a good idea to introduce her to something else, just to give her options…

I don’t really blame her … I’d like to lie on the floor during all of my organized workouts, too. But I think she may just in it for the costume, which certainly didn’t work out well for my field hockey career.

Oh well, at this point I don’t really care what she grows up to be as long as she doesn’t continue on her path of turning into Clifford.

As for Alex, he’s going to have to dust a lot of baseboards before he earns enough for that yacht.



I’ve officially been a Mom now for three and a half years. In that time I’ve had three and a half babies. I’m counting Pippa as a half because while I did not carry her, birth her or nurse her (there’s a thought), she can be every bit as demanding as my actual children (see giant pile of puke next to the couch that I walked into this afternoon.)

Though my kids aren’t old enough yet that they know to ask me if I have a favorite child, I can unapologetically tell you that I do. And it’s this one:


Yep, Lottie is my favorite. Today. Yesterday it was Evelyn. Alex had a three day run last week. My favorite child is whichever child is currently being the easiest for me, and it’s my belief that any parent of toddlers who tells you otherwise is either lying or so thoroughly medicated that all her children are surrounded by a rose-colored haze.

I plan on clueing my kids in on this fact as soon as possible, in hopes that if they grow up competitive, they’ll immediately enter into a lifelong competition with each other to be the easiest kid for Mom and Dad, thus securing permanent favorite child status.

Social media has a way of making it look like all of our children are always easy for us, and all-around wonderful, and that they eat vegetables and tofu and curried anything for every meal, and that we have perfect marriages and ride unicorns on the beach in our downtime. Probably because we usually post just this.

Meanwhile behind the scenes you’ve just been in a row with your spouse, so you throw Pop Tarts on the table for the kids, who then get so hopped up on sugar before 7 a.m. that they run full speed at you with their fists blazing and they end up giving you a fat lip to go with your bloodshot eyes. And the closest you’ve been to the beach or a unicorn is the Lisa Frank folder you just pulled out of your daughter’s backpack that contains the snack schedule, reminding you today’s your day to supply a peanut-free/gluten-free/dairy-free/dairy-substitute-free/sugar-free/rice-free/corn-free/color-free/flavor-free/fun-free/easily-chewable/non-stainable/individually-packaged snack, and you’ve completely forgotten.

So, in case I’m guilty of over-posting/over-gramming the wonderful aspects of my kids, here are some of their not-as-wonderful truths to balance everything out.

Lottie. My current favorite. The day she was born I shared a beautiful, filtered image of her that welcomed her to the family. A few hours later my sister called and I answered the phone in tears, asking if it was too late to put her up for adoption, and I was only 95% kidding. Maybe even 90%. Those first few days postpartum were rough — I’d been so excited for the hospital stay as a break from my older two kids that I’d forgotten about the ridiculous round-the-clock cluster feeding of a fussy newborn who is impatient for your milk to come in.

And I’d forgotten just how violently ill I get every time I’d nurse for those first few days as my uterus shrinks back down from the size of an elephant to the size of grape. Therefore, what the first few days really looked like was this:


One cute little baby all snuggled up and nursing, and one not-so-cute puke bag to throw up into so I didn’t throw up all over her.

And next to me on my little hospital table:


More puke bags, two Starbucks that I was dying for but couldn’t keep down, a gatorade to wash down the anti-nausea meds, and the stress-gingerbread-boy that had gotten me through labor, passed out facedown on a banana I couldn’t eat. Not very glamorous.

But we got through it, and my crying cluster-feeder became a sweet baby who quickly became my easiest. Until this week, when instead of sleeping in her carseat she decided to hate it. Now she’s the baby that screams unless she is moving, and moving at a certain speed. Which is bad news for everyone else because she basically lives in her carseat on Monday and Tuesday. It also means that my tolerance for slow, elderly and/or indecisive drivers has plummeted, which rules out any grocery store parking lot between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2, and The Dollar Store parking lot at all times,

Now Alex. My sweet smiley boy who we call The Ambassador because he has a smile and a “Hi!” for everyone he sees.

He also whines for 86% of his waking hours and screams for 45 minutes when goes to bed. He currently refuses all food that isn’t a Brach’s Jelly Bird Egg, so he eats an average of one meal a week when he finally gets hungry enough, and acts like a jerk the rest of the week because his tummy hurts and he can’t figure out why. And he’s a lot like a dog in that he always wants to be on the other side of the door, then as soon as he is he changes his mind and wants to go back. Even if that “door” is time out:



Please excuse A) the state of my floors (this was about a week before I had Lottie and I was completely over wiping up paw prints.) and B) the state of our deck — it had just been ripped up so they could fill in the old septic tank. And by “Just”, I mean the previous September. We should get around to finishing it by this summer. And by “We” I mean my super-handy husband, Father-in-law and Dad. I helped for an afternoon and have now been promoted to supervisor.

And then there’s Evie, my sweet Evie. She’s truly delightful, until she ingests a single grain of sugar or is the slightest bit overtired, at which point her personality is best explained by this picture:


She’s the one I was thinking of when I mentioned a kid running at you fists blazing. Fatigue and/or sugar turns the girl into an absolute maniac, which is why I’ve been known to put her to bed for the night at 4:30 and also why we still haven’t finished her Valentines Day candy from 2016.

Then there are moments when they’re all my least favorite:

I shot this video as a Public Service Announcement — and its message is to anyone considering multiple children — don’t … don’t do it until you can hire someone else to take them to the doctor for you.

Of course there are also moments when they’re all my favorite — like when they’re all smiling and sweet and looking in the same direction and no one is picking their nose and eating it.


So you see it all evens out. And speaking of evening out, never forget that for every nice, happy, sunshiny picture I post, I’m probably sitting at the computer with a fresh black eye from a toddler head butt and I’m only posting it because it’s the one day this week that my kids have been in real clothes and hell, I’m proud of that.

Sarah’s Village

Sometimes I feel like I live online, specifically on social media. I’m often guilty of overgramming, and there are days that I scroll through Facebook so frequently that there have been no new posts since the last time I logged on. Not a single one. That means I’m signing back on about a minute and a half after I sign off.

Is that sad? I try not to think about it.

What makes me feel less pathetic – albiet slightly – is that there are a handful of other people I notice on social media with this frequency — mostly others with young kids at home. These are my people, and I love every picture I see of their babies sleeping peacefully or their toddlers throwing tantrums or their hands on 12 oz. pours of wine at 3 pm.

I read an article last week about how while “it takes a village”, we no longer have a village because of changing societal norms.

It’s true — even if I was okay letting my kids roam the neighborhood all summer or walk the mile and a half to school, Social Services would be on my doorstep before they even made it to the end of the block.

But to me it seems our village is still there, it has just moved online. I may not be sending my kids to play with the older kids next door while I run to the grocery store, but I can jump online and ask for recipe ideas with whatever ingredients I happen to have in my pantry.


For the record, TetraFin/Hoisin Sauce sandwiches are supposed to be amaaaazing.

It’s definitely a different world that we live in, and there is plenty to make me nostalgic for a day and age I never parented in. That Nesquik is one of them.

“Good Dog Carl” is another. The original “Good Dog Carl” is one of my favorite children’s books. Mostly I like it because it has no words and so I can “Read” it in two minutes flat, a trick that comes in handy when trying to get three kids to bed in a twenty minute timeframe.

I also love it because it’s ridiculous. So Mom leaves her baby in the care of the family Rottweiler, Carl, which immediately endears the book to me because I have a special love for any animal with a human name.


The year is 1986, so I can only assume she’s off to see Top Gun. The baby is in a crib that’s since been recalled with a drop side that’s been banned. If this woman was on Instagram and this was her post, there would immediately be fifteen people down her throat demanding she remove that blanket from her baby. But she’d never post this picture on Insta, because that nursery is definitely not Pintrest-worthy and she can’t have anybody seeing that.

Anyway, Carl goes on to try and kill the baby in every way possible, except for the one way a Rottweiler could actually inflict harm.



Then he turns on the record player and teaches the baby The Macarena, ten years ahead of its time.


Somehow the baby survives the day and the Mom is none the wiser when she returns, presumably because she can’t stop thinking about Tom Cruise.

Another of Evelyn’s favorite books that takes me right back is “Where the Sidewalk Ends”, which I’ll read to her even though nine out of ten of the illustrations creep me out and I can’t look directly at the picture on the back.

I love me some Shel Silverstein, but did anyone tell him that this picture was going on the back of a children’s book and not his speed dating profile?


And while I’m on Mr. Silverstein and bad decisions, I still haven’t read Evelyn “The Giving Tree.”

That poor tree needs to get herself to an Al Anon meeting immediately. I mean this jerk of a kid shows up every time he needs something from her and then disappears. Every time he comes back he gives her just enough to trick her into giving him something else he wants.

“Can I have all of your branches since I carved our names together in a heart?” And then when he turns into a jerk of a man, “I squandered my money and failed at love, can you rescue me by letting me chop you down and make you into a boat that I can use to escape my bad choices?”

These are not exactly the lessons I want my kids learning.

I want them learning that if they think they can, they can – like The Little Engine That Could.

This book I take no issue with, except for this one page:


This little train is happily traveling through what appears to be Holland, and then all of a sudden there’s Butch Cassidy running after it, armed with a pistol. The first couple of times I read it as an adult I did a double take. But then I figured if Little Bo Peep and the lawn jockey don’t seem bothered by him, I shouldn’t be either.

Last summer while I was pregnant with Lottie, I took the kids to my first prenatal appointment. My doctor got called away to deliver a baby so we were stuck waiting for about an hour.

My kids lost interest in the activities I’d brought for them after four and a half minutes.

Happily, they were well stocked with children’s books and even more happily, one of them was a sequel to “Good Dog Carl” that I didn’t know existed.


I like this one even better than the original because the Mom — whose name turns out to be Sarah  — takes her deplorable parenting public, leaving Carl in charge at the park. It makes me laugh, and it also makes me jealous, because this is exactly the kind of thing that you can’t do anymore. Not that I don’t love living online … but I want to be part of Sarah’s village.

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