White lies I told my children this week*

*or possibly just today

The sun doesn’t like it when you wake up before he does.

Mommy can’t play cars with you until she drinks ALL her coffee. It’s the law.

I’ll come help you find the green car in five minutes.

No, it hasn’t been five minutes yet.

I still have three minutes.

Maybe I’ll let you go play in the snow after breakfast.

Nope, we’re all out of yogurt.

Oatmeal tastes just as good as yogurt.

Daddy ate the last piece of bacon.

What’s in my mouth? Green beans.

You can’t eat the crayons. Look, it says right here on the box, “toxic.”

You have to poop in the potty once you turn three. It’s the law.

I can only read this book three times. Then it has to rest to regain its strength.

If you sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” more than 10 times in a row, the spider dies. Horrifically.

Netflix is broken.

Hulu is broken.

Amazon is broken.

My phone is broken.

The banana from “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” is on vacation with his wife. He’ll be back next week.

The playground is closing. We have to go home or they’ll kick us out.

You have to go in the stroller. The sidewalk is closed to kids today. Only Mommies can walk on them.

We can’t listen to Christmas music when it’s not December because then Santa doesn’t get the royalties.

Fish is just sea chicken, baby.

Nope, we’re all out of chocolate.

Broccoli tastes just as good as chocolate.

Cookie Monster LOVES broccoli.

No, we can’t watch it. Everyone on “Sesame Street” is in a very important meeting right now.

Mommy ate all her broccoli while she was cooking in the kitchen.

I will pay for your entire college education if you try just one bite of broccoli.

Nope, we’re all out of crackers.

And applesauce.

And raisins.

Dessert is for closers and broccoli-eaters.

All the water has to stay in tub or the bathroom floor will start to melt.

No, you can’t have a sip of Mommy’s juice. It’s her medicine. The doctor wants her to drink all of it.

According to my watch, it’s bedtime in five minutes.

It’s been five minutes.

If you don’t pick up all your toys, you forfeit them and they are now legally the property of your baby sister. It’s the law.

Well of course you should always be honest, honey.

Night, night! Remember, it’s illegal to get out of bed after 8 o’clock!

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Confessions of “Threenage” Drama King

He’s moody. He’s disrespectful. He hates everything I do.

Yup, my little boy is growing up. I can’t believe he’s a teenager already.

Oh wait. Sorry. That was a typo. I meant to type threenager.

He’s three.

THREE.

I always thought people were exaggerating when they talked about the Terrible Twos. My angel was just that when he was two. An angel. He was sweet. Polite, even. And, oh, how he loved me. Every day was an emoji shower of hearts and googly eyes with this kid. He loved his Momma.

LOVED.

Me and my stretch marks I got from giving him life were firmly entrenched on that pedestal. And I loved it there.

LOVED IT.

So, of course, these same people had to be exaggerating about when their kids turned three. They just had to be.

They weren’t.

Not at all.

AT ALL.

My angel has fallen. Only now I’m apparently Satan.

Because no matter how many tantrums he has, no matter how many times he screams directly into my face, and no matter how many toys he hurls at my head, I’m always the bad guy these days. I am mean Mommy. A mean Mommy who yells for no apparent toddler reason. And only a mean Mommy wouldn’t let him jump off the back of the couch onto the cold, hard floor or hurl a heavy wooden toy car at his baby sister’s still somewhat soft skull.

I know he’s manipulating me. I’m just surprised it’s working so well.

And, oh, how it’s working. So incredibly well. Because he’s hitting below the belt, right straight into my uterus, by making it clear, in no uncertain terms, that he now prefers Daddy to mean ‘ol Mommy.

Now, since having kids, I’ve tried to be the mature one, no matter how much it goes against my basic personality. When my son calls me a stupid poop face, do I respond with “at least I can wipe my own butt!”? No. Except for that one time. Because I’m the grown-up now.

So as much as I want to respond with this new development in the family dynamic by setting fire to all his stupid toys and slashing his security blanket with a knife, I can’t.

Because I’m the…sigh…grown-up now.

But it’s slowly killing me.

KILLING ME.

As the mom, and as the primary caretaker, you get used to a certain level of favoritism. In my not-so-humble opinion, it’s our payment for all we do in lieu of actual money. Daddy got laid and I got 10 months (IT’S ACTUALLY 10 MONTHS) of discomfort and extreme farting, followed by a scalpel to my gut and shredded nipples and weird-smelling yellow poop in my hair. Followed by 3 a.m. feedings and hours of theatrical Dr. Seuss readings and cleaning up spills roughly every 23 minutes.

So, yeah, I get to be the favorite parent.

Except now I’m not. And again, I’m trying to be the mature one but IT’S NOT FAIR. *throws nursing bra against the wall*

Daddy is indeed great. That’s why I married him, in fact. He’s wonderful. But Daddy gets to leave and go to work.

So, by the very nature of our parenting arrangement, he always gets to be the fresh parent. The one who hasn’t had to say “stop it” 1,987 times or play “This Parent Is My Jungle Gym” for nine hours straight.

And trust me when I say I’m so happy I have a partner who works at a highly demanding job all day and can come home exhausted and yet still swoop up both kids immediately before he’s even had a chance to put down his computer bag (making sure to pet our dog in the chaos to boot). He’s a very hands-on parent and the kids love it. And the stupid dog loves it. And, of course, I love it.

Except I’m starting to hate it.

Because that’s the thing. Daddy always gets to be the hero. And I am the swamp demon who hasn’t showered and won’t let them eat cupcakes for breakfast.

But I guess it’s only fair that Daddy now gets his day in the sun. He deserves it and I selfishly hogged my son’s favoritism for almost three years.

But, still, it stings a bit.

At least until I remember I’m still his baby sister’s favorite.

But where’s my gold star?

The one thing I probably hear the most since having children? (Besides “whoa, you look tired”).

“You are so lucky you get to stay home with your kids.”

There are different versions of this, of course. All with fun varying degrees of passive-aggressiveness.

“I’d love to spend all day in my pajamas doing nothing.”

“I hope you appreciate it. I die a little inside when I drop my children off at daycare.”

“It must be nice not working a real job and having all that extra time for your little writing hobby.”

But what it all eventually boils down to is “you, lady, have it made and are not allowed to complain.”

It doesn’t seem to matter that it’s not actually luck. It’s a decision we made based on our economic reality. We are right in that not-so-sweet spot of middle class where my income would have been pretty much the exact price tag of a semi-reputable daycare facility (and trust me, we looked at all of them, including JoJo’s Discount Kid Farm).

And it doesn’t matter that it is actually just like a “real” job (albeit with a much less strict dress code). If it wasn’t a job, we wouldn’t pay other people to watch our kids when we can’t.

And it doesn’t seem to matter that in this country we treat stay-at-home moms with the same level of respect we treat line jumpers and broccoli pizza. Because Americans love nothing more than demanding a woman do something and then treating her with disdain when she does it.

Everyone still feels the need to inform me that I have somehow hit the life jackpot.

None of that really bothers me though. I spent many years as a journalist, which just did a terrific job of stomping my give-a-crap meter to death. Plus, I really do love that I’m able to stay home with my littles. They’re great fun to be around and super chill about when the microwave is dirty.

Still, there is one thing about my stay-at-home status that I do struggle with, one thing I can’t quite get over. Because the hard part is also the best part. I have no boss. No higher-ups. No co-workers or peers. No one to play witness to my day.

Which means I can be Super Mom all day. Racing cars on the floor, reading books over and over, handling potential meltdowns like a seasoned hostage negotiator. I’m goofy. I’m delightful. I’m gentle yet firm, like a white, female Morgan Freeman.

But then, about 20 minutes before my husband gets home, all hell breaks loose. Only this time, it’s the 17th time its broken loose. And…

I.

JUST.

CAN’T.

ANYMORE.

So I lose my temper. Which makes everything one thousand times worse. Meaning when he walks in the door, 4 out of 5 times, I am losing my mind and both kids are crying and the stupid dog won’t stop barking. (And that fifth time, everything is on fire and I’m calmly sitting on the living room floor drinking wine straight from the bottle).

And that’s his most common image of me. Screaming, yelling, crying, cursing, laughing manically, with macaroni in my hair and baby poop on my pants. But did he see the 147 times I didn’t go insane when it was completely warranted?

No.

No one did.

Because it’s not just with him. In public, when my toddler is walking with the speed of a sloth high on oxy, do I yell at him to hurry up? No. Even though he is slowly killing my soul because, seriously, how is it humanly possible to move this slow? No. Even though it’s 8 degrees out and my back is screaming because I’m carrying his sister, who is the world’s heaviest 15 pounds? No.

And when he asks me 33 times in a row if he can have a cookie when we’re done shopping, do I explode that 34th time? No. Or when he spills my expensive coffee even though I told him explicitly to knock it off before he spills my expensive coffee? No.

No one sees these things. What they do see, however, is when I finally do explode because he purposely hit his baby sister because I wouldn’t buy him some dumb toy he doesn’t even really want anyway. And all they see is the horrible mother holding a screaming baby and yelling at the adorable toddler who has perfected the giant crocodile tear.

It’s not fair, you guys.

No one sees the good stuff. No one sees Super Mom.

And yeah, yeah, even though no one saw it, I know it still counts and my kids will grow up to be great humans because I am a great mom when no one is looking and blah, blah, bibbity-blah. But this is 2017. If you go somewhere and don’t take a selfie, did you really go? If you walk somewhere and aren’t wearing a Fitbit, did it really count? If you prick me, do I not bleed? I do, but only because I tweeted about the random cray-cray who stabbed me. #anyonegotabandaid

I want credit, dammit. A gold star. Where are my stickers and lollipops for not biting my kid back when he bites me for the fourth time that day?

Sigh. Guess I’ll just have to settle for more wine and…ugh…an intrinsic sense of self-worth at a job (mostly) well done.

Oh crap. Am I a lazy mom?

You know those brief moments in time when, as a parent, you finally feel like you have it all together? All the balls are in the air and you feel oddly confident you can keep them there? Maybe even have a whole extra second to use one of your hands to gulp down a glass of wine because you are a parenting goddess and you’ve earned it, dammit.

This was me a few days ago. My youngest is finally sleeping(ish) through the night. My oldest is developing into just a terrific human being, if with a bit more smart-assery than I’d like (although, to be fair, he gets it honest). We have a good daily routine down and I haven’t had to hide in the basement stress-eating baking chocolate in at least a week.

Finally. Finally, I got this, I told myself. I can do this. I am doing this. What was I stressing about in the first place?

And this amazing feeling lasted for all of 30 seconds.

It was a beautiful 30 seconds.

Because, of course, then I logged online like an idiot. Where I was inundated with pictures of all my friends and their kids at preschool and in swim lessons and banging a drum at baby music class and wearing matching outfits while doing Mommy and Me yoga and hanging out at craft workshops and playing pint-sized soccer.

My kids are enrolled in zero classes. None. Zip. Worse yet, they go to zero organized playgroups. Ditto for unorganized casual play dates. Double ditto for anything with the word “team” in the title. Basically they are involved in nothing that even has a whiff of a nurturing learning environment.

And that’s when I started to panic. Oh god, am I a lazy mom?

I mean, I’m not a complete monster. I take them to storytime at the library. Occasionally. Or, to be more accurate, erratically. Three weeks in a row! Followed by a four-month hiatus! Cause Momma is going through a “pants are too complicated” phase!

I also take them on a fairly regular basis to one of the two playgrounds that are within walking distance from my house, where my toddler speaks gibberish to the other kids and they look confused and I make awkward jokes with the other parents and they look confused.

We also have casual friendships with a small smattering of other neighborhood parents. But getting together and syncing up nap/food/not sick/regularly scheduled meltdown times requires spreadsheets and that computer from “Jeopardy” and an abacus or two.

lazy-schedule

I always have good intentions. This past summer, I planned on signing up my toddler for swimming lessons. But since I was a billion months pregnant, our scheduled activities pretty much just consisted of going out for ice cream.

Every single day.

At 10 a.m.

(On the plus side, if he’s ever drowning in ice cream, I have the utmost confidence he’d survive).

lazy-ice-cream

Once my daughter was born, I’d casually Google local Mommy and Me things or whatever. And they looked great. And they looked fun. And they looked expensive.

The local school district also has a drop-in playgroup I’ve been meaning to look into. Which I’ll do soon. I promise. It’s just…pants, you know?

Sometimes (all the time) I worry that they’ll fall behind their peers, who can already speak Mandarin and know computer code and play on no less than four sport teams. I mean, he’s almost 3. She’s heading toward 7 months. And neither one has developed an app, let alone sold it for millions.

So, I torture myself daily with the question of whether I’m an underachieving slacker mother or everybody else is just an annoying overachiever.

In my rare saner moments, I remind myself that we read books daily. We have music dance parties. We do violent circles with crayons and/or chalk and call it “art.”

lazy-art

We go to parks and take long walks along the river by our house and do impressions of our favorite SNL characters and Skype with grandparents and do “pretend” math lessons (since my skill and my toddler’s skill are pretty much on par with each other). Our day is filled with activities. They just happen to be mostly activities you can do in your underwear and a ratty Miami University sweatshirt.

But most importantly, I remind myself in these moments that my kids are happy. They’ll spend the rest of their lives in classes and organized activities and casual gatherings and not casual meetings and…*shudder*…group work.

And I take a deep breath and calm my frazzled mind.

They’re fine. They’ll be fine.

And that good feeling lasts for all of 30 seconds.

Ah, but what a 30 seconds.

 

 

Why I went to the Women’s March

I’ve been trying to write this godforsaken article for hours now. So much of my social media feed is cluttered with people demanding to know why women across this country felt the need to protest and, as someone who participated, I felt it was my duty to explain. To respond. To…ugh…get a dialogue going.

I started a bunch of sentences. About how we’re fighting for equal pay. For the right to paid maternity and paternity leave. For reasonable access to affordable healthcare. For the right not to have our genitalia grabbed by strangers. For equality for everyone. On and on and on.

There were so many reasons. But I was getting increasingly frustrated the more I tried to justify why I decided to exercise my American right to peacefully protest. And it took me awhile (clearly) but I think I finally figured out why I was having so much trouble.

I don’t care anymore. I don’t care if you don’t “get it.”

I spent the day surrounded by a sea of people who did. And they spilled out into the streets to make themselves heard. They wanted their government, who works for them, for all of us, to know how a huge chunk of us felt about the direction we were headed as a nation. And it was beautiful and life-affirming and gave me hope and made me realize that this nation is already great and there are huge swaths of us fighting to make it even better.

But most importantly, it made me realize that the burden of explaining why we did this didn’t have to fall on my shoulders. Because if the sight of hundreds of thousands of women, men and children all uniting for equal rights bothers you, maybe you need to examine why it bothers you. If the idea of a level playing field bothers you, then perhaps you should examine why it bothers you.

Because if you don’t get why women’s rights are human rights, I can’t make you understand. Nor can I make you feel how oppressive it is to hear a lifetime’s worth of negative comments about how you look, your weight, your wrinkles, your clothes, your makeup, your attitude, your competence, your drive, your passion, your sexuality.

If you see nothing wrong with blaming a rape victim for being raped rather than blaming the rapist, I can’t make you see how wrong and cruel that is.

If you don’t think it’s appalling that a country as wealthy and advanced as America has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world, I can’t make you be appalled.

If you don’t think it’s criminal that we pass laws that punish children for having poor parents, I can’t make you see how reprehensible that is.

If you can’t possibly fathom why a minority or a gay person or an immigrant or a young girl would be scared for their safety, I can’t make you try to imagine what it’s like to be them.

I can’t make you care about other people in this country. I can’t make you understand that just because you have it good and I have it good in this country doesn’t mean that everyone else does. These are all things you need to try to understand for yourself. Because clearly a huge portion of our population already understands these things.

We will not go backward in this great nation of ours that I personally happen to love. Not without a fight. If you understand nothing else, understand that. The 1950’s, the 1980’s, the 1800’s…whatever time period you thought America was great and are trying to get back to, was only great for a small minority.

But I, and millions of other Americans who marched Saturday, want it great for all.

And if you don’t understand that, that’s on you.

 

 

How much no is too much no?

Is there anything more surreal than being a parent?

I can’t tell you how many times I have been in the midst of some hardcore parenting and thought to myself “is this real life?” Pretty much every day of my life is the ultimate performance in the theater of the absurd.

Take, for instance, when I’m arguing with my almost 3-year-old about something ridiculous. And LOSING.

TODDLER: I can’t use the potty.

ME: Why not?

TODDLER: Because I can’t.

Me: …

Or when the dog senses the exact moment the baby has finally fallen asleep and chooses that exact moment to make every old man dog noise in his arsenal (you know, groans, farts, clickety nails, unnecessarily loud yawns, whole body shakes that makes his collar chime like church bells) RIGHT BESIDE THE BABY.

nope1

Or when your child demands toast but toast that is not warm or brown or toasted. But Lord help you if you try to give them just BUTTERED BREAD.

Or those moments when I realize I’m less a mother and more just a living, breathing, no machine.

These days, I produce no’s like Kardashians produce tabloid stories. I’m a bustling no factory. I’m a volcano of nope gushing a river of hot lava negatives throughout my children’s lives.

nope2

Can I have a cookie?

No.

Can I wear my swimsuit to play in the snow?

No.

Can Mr. Doody have a cookie?

No.

Can I eat this rock?

Nope.

Can I have two cookies?

Hahaha…no.

Can I use your body as an elaborate jungle gym as you are making an important phone call?

Ow. No. Ow.

Can I draw all over the TV in permanent marker?

NO. NOOOOOOOOOOO…

Can I bang incessantly on the table with these two huge sticks I illegally procured at the park, producing a sound I imagine they play on a loop at the entrance to Hell, for 45 minutes straight while staring directly into your eyes because I’m hoping for some kind of passionate reaction because that is how I get a perverted toddler thrill?

*gritted teeth* No.

Even the baby gets told no pretty much around the clock. And she can’t even talk yet.

Can I bite your nipple with my two brand new and razor sharp teeth?

No!

Can I head butt you when you least expect it?

No–oh my god, that’s so much blood.

Can I only nap while you are holding me?

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, ok, fine, whatever.

And yes, sometimes I feel awful about always having to tell them no. It’s no fun being the fun police. But the alternative is to say yes, and if you’ve ever met a small child, then you know that they simply cannot handle the freedom of unrestrained yes.

See, as far as I can tell in my limited experience, the main goal of a small child’s life is to kill themselves in the most spectacular manner possible. Whether that manner is death via sugar overdose, or jumping off very high and very unstable items, or running up to hug the huge and clearly agitated stray dog that looks like a mix of Cujo and Vin Diesel, is really up to them. But as someone with a working knowledge of physics, and the limits of the human digestive system, and wonderful yet cheesy cinema, I simply can’t stand by and watch it all unfold.

Thus, it is my job to stop that spectacular death from happening. And I personally choose the Sword of No as my weapon in this daily war.

Oh sure, I could use the Shield of Compromise or perhaps the Scythe of Indifference, or even, in desperate times, the Cuddly Ax of Indulgence.

But I like my kids. And I want them to live forever. And more importantly, I want them to live forever in such a way that they can eventually function in this world without me. And be successful in their own lives. And afford the fancy retirement home for me and their father.

So, I am currently ruining their lives with a never-ending verbal conga line of no.

They’ll thank me some day.

Actually, they won’t.

But at least I’ll have the consolation of eating all those cookies I won’t let them have. Which I will do in secret. In that dark corner of the kitchen. While laughing manically.

nope3

I bet Hell is nice this time of year

Well, Christmas is over. Meaning life is basically over. Nothing to look forward to now except a bleak, never-ending winter and easily getting all my cardio in with the Herculean exertion it takes to stuff two squirmy tiny humans into snow suits and winter coats and mittens and hats and snow boots that were designed by engineers who have apparently never seen a child’s foot before.

Welcome to the most depressing time of the year! Cheers!

winter1

Every year it’s the same thing. I spend the next four months just trying to survive. I pretty much put my entire life on hold until the day I can crawl out of bed without mentally weighing the pros and cons of moving to a warmer climate, like Hell.

But this year on December 26, as I was doing my post-Christmas manic purging (you know, picking up all the wrapping paper, breaking down all the Amazon boxes, coping with the plastic Mount Doom in my living room after liberating all the children’s toys from their synthetic prisons, and then trying to stealthily burglarize the kids’ rooms of old clothes and toys to make room for the new ones…)

winter2

…it hit me. It doesn’t have to be this way. This year I could try to appreciate all that the winter season has to offer (besides making it socially acceptable to drink whiskey at 3 p.m. simply because “it’s so cold out.”). I could actually embrace it instead of just waiting for it to be over.

Of course, I didn’t come to this conclusion on my own. That kind of mature response to adversity is not in my nature (my nature being more drink whiskey at 3 p.m. and drunkenly yell at falling snow when it hits my face).

No, I came to this enlightened conclusion after reading an article by an old friend, Stacie Kenton, who is an outdoor enthusiast and lives on a 22-acre farm in Ohio (and was, like, a super chill senior when I was a freshman in high school and bought me beer that one time). She wrote a great piece about enjoying your connection to nature during winter and how we should all try “to live in this winter and not just through it.”

Now, I should mention that Stacie is the love child of Diana the Huntress and a mermaid, so, pretty much my complete opposite (I’m more like if Lorelai Gilmore and a bottle of gin had a baby). Meaning it is highly unlikely I will ever achieve her sincere level of love and light and calm when dealing with the world.

But, hey, who’s to say a girl can’t change in the name of self-growth?

I plan to start small. For example, usually this time of year, when a blast of icy wind hits my face, I unleash a torrent of curse words so harsh and horrifyingly creative it’s been known to make grown sailors cry. But this year, I’m going to try to embrace the fact that when the air hurts my face it’s letting me know I’m alive. Even though I want to die. Just curl up in a snow bank and wait for sweet, sweet death. And even though Father Winter is a vindictive douchebag who is targeting my face specifically. And even though winter is stupid.

But no! Not this year! I’m alive, dammit! Feel the freezer burn!

winter3

Winter also means all the bugs and mosquitos and ridiculously hairy spiders are dead. And they probably died a horrific death, screaming their tiny bug screams as they lay there and raged against a world so cruel before their tiny lives were snuffed out. Ha! Ha! So, the enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that.

Not to mention, this time of year offers a whole new slew of opportunities to make memories with my young family. For example, I want to take the kids sledding! Or at least the one who doesn’t currently flop over without an extensive chair support system.

I want to take walks in a quiet snowy wood (and not complain the whole time about how that vindictive douchebag Father Winter is a part of our U.S. system of patriarchy and is, again, targeting my face specifically)!

I want to build a snowman and drink hot chocolate and not stress out about the trail of snow and salt and grimy dirt all our freaking shoes drag through the house that is bound later to be licked up by the aforementioned infant who constantly flops over and makes out with the floor like it’s her job.

I’ve even Googled local skiing resorts where you can go and not actually ski but just drink booze in front of a fireplace and they don’t kick you out.

Winter! Yay…!?!

winter4

So, yes, I’ve decided I’m embracing this post-Christmas winter season whole-heartedly. And by whole-heartedly I mean half-assedly. But hey, it’s a start.

Life is too short, my friends. Too short to wish for an entire season to be over. Even if that season is dumb and cold and makes it impossible to find an effective moisturizer.

So, here’s to appreciating what’s in front of us right now!

Right after I finish this hot toddy under my electric blanket fort and cry for a few hours.