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Friday, October 24, 2014

Marriage. Is. Hard.

Can I just tell you something on the real and raw side? Marriage is hard. Insanely hard. There have been more moments in the last 11 years that have left me fragile and weak and broken that I would ever want to expose out loud. And you might not have ever experienced a moment in your "till death do us part" adventure that comes close to that. To which I would say to you friend "That is amazing. I hope you never do." But here is a truth in marriage (and definitely in parenting) you might not have reached your hard yet. You might not ever. But you may. And you're not alone. I think that is always okay to let one another know that we are not alone. Because that alone feeling can lead to many shades of darkness. And the thoughts that come under darkness are beyond frightening. So lets find the light. Together.

The reality is that marriage, to me, is like the ocean. Sometimes we just need to ride the waves. Sometimes we are up so high that we forget what it feels like to be down. And just as fast as that high came on, it all can come crashing down before you had a chance to brace yourself for it. And then there is the ripple effect that always follows when you are nose down in the sand. You yell. You take it out on the kids. Or the dog. Or your cell phone provider. And that's when the septic system breaks and there's a car accident and someone gets sick and we are late to practice. And Christmas is just staring at you in the face alongside the Halloween decorations. And it all looks so horrendous together that you want to scream but remember that you have dignity so you open your bag of Reese's peanut butter pumpkins and you eat them with vengeance to show that you are on Team Halloween. Ha ha ha (insert evil Halloween laugh)...TAKE THAT TARGET!

That my friends is marriage. And life. 

It rains sometimes. It is dark sometimes. And then it is light and beautiful and so full of future that you could just burst open. And it has the power to make you melt and crack then feel whole again once more. 

And sometimes all it takes is breathing in that other person. And listening to them. And turning off muting the football game in the background. And getting out of the way of your own hurt so that you can listen to them. And to not instantly pounce on judgement or defense but to just listen wide open. To own your imperfection, not to just point out theirs. 

Wine usually helps these conversations.

And you have two choices here: to harden or to soften. What outcome do you want? To build a wall or to break one down. It is as simple and as complicated as that. The softening isn't admitting defeat. It is saying: I choose you. I choose us. This day and maybe just maybe everyday, just one day at once, I am going to pick you on this path. Our path. The softening just may be the key to the lasting.

Yesterday was my husband's 35th birthday. We met when we were 20 years old so we haven't yet grown old together but more trying to survive growing up to adulthood together. I usually try to write something (irritatingly) gushy and romantic for his birthday. But this day, nothing feels more romantic than to be real. And open. And to soften.

And to say:
I am ridiculously imperfect. And I'm sorry that I enjoy shopping so much. I'm sorry that I despise laundry. And I'm not so great at cleaning but amazing at procrastinating. And googling (it is an art, thank you). But I love to cook and laugh and sing loud when I don't know the words and I love to dance like the world depends on it and in my eyes that is not such a bad combination. And I choose you. Everyday. At the end of the day there is no one else that I want to dance with. Or laugh with. Or love out loud.

So let's keep riding the waves. And to pull each other out of the sand. Movies can keep the romance. I'd rather have the love.

Here's to all of us. Cheers.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stand for Kindness

I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed this morning and I was overcome by all the sadness and loss and negativity and bullying and judgment. It was mind blowing and numbing all at the same time. One story in particular really struck me. My father-in-law mentioned it to me and then I saw it on the very lovely site "A Mighty Girl".

It is the story of Jetta, a beautiful 10-year old who donated her hair to a charity for kids and is now enduring bullying from classmates. The school had a disappointing, less than weak response to it. Heartbreaking right? So her mom created a "Stand with Jetta" Facebook page to show support for her and I liked it instantaneously when I saw the bold think positive cover photo. I scrolled down to learn more about the story, more about the inspiring Jetta and her devoted family. I couldn't believe that here in this community of hope, optimism and anti-bullying that her mother had to remind people that this a place of encouragement; she had no choice but to post this:

I am starting to see a few negative posts and messages come through... I know that not everyone agrees with our decision to use social media, approves of Jetta's name, etc... There is no need for personal attacks... This page was set up to offer support and encourage kindness! Thank you to all of you who have been so positive and so kind!

That seems especially heartbreaking to me. Sometimes can we all just keep our negative opinions to ourselves? And it is not just on this site... it is everywhere. Adults, role models, grown ups attacking one another; people that children look up to. 

We are all human beings. So let's start acting like better ones.

Thank you Jetta.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

To Lucy On Your 10th Birthday

Dearest Lucy...

Smart stunning girl. Ten years old today. Are you sure that's right? Yes, 10 it is. 10:24 pm on 10.2.04. Thank you for simplifying the math for me (we both know that it's not my strong suit).

So I've tried, cried and bled to show you the good stuff over the last decade... I know I am no perfect teacher (ahem: nor are you the perfect student) but the world needs less attempts at perfection and more celebration of flaws. I do know time and time again that this what a child needs from their momma: to kiss your wounds when you fall, to be brave even when it is the last thing you feel like doing, to be kind no matter what. But what I haven't told you is that those things don't get any easier over time. You have to still be kind no matter what and be more brave than what you think your small body can even hold. Because there are going to be more falls, inside and out, ones that will rock you to the core and I won't always be there to kiss each one. But keep going forward. You are resilience with a hefty side of potential. You've got this next decade by the horns. You are enough. Never doubt that.

Please know this: life is not fair. Your grandfather used to drive me insane by telling it endlessly to me until it was my own mantra when I was old enough to realize that he was right. The world is not fair and it owes us nothing. We owe it with all the gifts entrusted in us to take it on each day and take it with a smile. Keep on smiling love and hold nothing back.

Don't forget this: you were born of tenacious spirit and mind. I would expect nothing less. Sugar and spice and everything nice? No thanks. I'll take my girls fierce, strong and all things mighty any day.

Always remember this: find your own happy and you will never feel at a loss for joy anywhere your life leads. Strive to be a better, more joyous you every day and let others worry about themselves. Don't get caught up in that type of worry of what everyone else thinks or comparison of what they have to what you have. It will steal your joy.  Nobody has time for that. The world needs more originals anyway.

And most importantly: when in doubt, dance. Life is always more fun when you do.

Cheers to the next decade and embracing it loud and proud. Stay awake for the adventures ahead love. The world needs more eye openers and big dreamers.

The world needs you.

You are more than I could have ever hoped for. Happy birthday beauty.



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Taking the Crazy Out of the School Year

We need to have a chat. I feel like I never got the memo to how to stay on top of things during the school year and how to not have the exasperation with none of the benefits of running a 5K just to get the kids on the bus each morning. The whirlwind of the signing of papers and packing of lunches and "healthy" snacks and the location of cleats and clean uniforms and 4:30 dinners and oh shit we are late. Again. I often feel like I'm drowning before Halloween even hits. But this year I am determined to have my head above water and not drive myself to a one way road of insanity, dragging my children behind me. This year will be different. And not just telling myself it will but by actually doing things to make it better. 

So this is what I'm doing and honestly, most of you probably are already doing these things and holding out on me because it probably is just common sense and you have figured out how to not to turn into school momzilla. But my oldest is in 4th grade this year and I've just now realized that my lack of organization is making our lives more challenging than it really has to be. It doesn't have to be that hard. And if you are the same boat as me, come aboard sister, this year our boat stays afloat. We got this.

Taking the Crazy Out of the School Year Tips:

  • Have your kids physically lay out their clothes the night before. Socks, shoes, the whole freakin number. I know this one is a part of School 101. But the drama that can unfold when there's not a pair of matching socks in the house and the battles over having nothing to wear 7 minutes before the bus is pulling up is downright exasperating. For everyone. I have lived to tell the tale. Save the drama for your momma the night before school instead of the morning. That is School 102.

  • Freeze your PB & J. Or your sun butter and jelly. Or just a piece of bread if that is what your child is into. This is probably the best tip ever but for some reason I had never done it until the end of last year when I thought that there has got to be a better way baby. I mean, they sell uncrustables right? Why can't I do the same thing? Well I can and you can too. The only real trick to it is to put peanut butter (or whatever alternative you fancy) on both sides of the bread and then put jelly in the middle and then smack that together (I use a sandwich cutter to take off the crusts; pottery barn kids has some fun ones) put it in a baggie (or a happy green alternative) and then when you've made a whole loaf's worth put them all in the bread bag or a large baggie and put them all in the freezer. Boom. Mom of the year. I only had one child complain that she (shocker it is the oldest girl) prefers a fresh sandwich which is completely fine because she is old enough to make her own. The other three completely dig it. Success in my book.

Eat your heart out uncrustables.

  • Have a shelf in your life that is dedicated to your kids making their own lunches. Again you might already do this and forgot to tell me about it but it is so brilliantly simple I don't know why I'm just discovering it. Better late than never. When everything is in an assembly line, the kids even the kindergartners can pack their lunch in record time. I can see when we are running low on something so it's easy to restock unlike when everything was in our pantry and the kids would just leave empty boxes stranded in there so I had no idea when we were out of something until the next morning's lunch packing/grunting. I now have a shelf dedicated in our basement to it now so I overlook the process to ensure they are eating more than oreos but they are the ones rocking down the line. They are helping me and I'm actually smiling through something that I used to dread.

I thought I was on fire. And then I made the mistake of going on Pinterest.
We are going to stick with our frozen sandwiches, thanks anyway Goofy.

  • Touch paper only once. It is easy to become a school paper hoarder. And it is natural to put things aside for whenever you will have more time to look over them. That time is never going to happen. You will have no time for these papers as long as you have a child that still rides the bus. So follow this mantra: touch it once and then take care of it. Papers signed. Done. Money that needs to be turned back in. Done. Plug the PTA meeting into your calendar. Done. Fundraisers. Done. Say yes or recycle it and move on. Don't worry, more paper will be headed your way tomorrow so hold on to only to the best ever art projects and remember that you are doing yourself and your child a tremendous favor by learning to let the rest go.

Looks like somebody had a productive day of Kindergarten.

  • Say yes to only what you and your child are into and then let go of guilt. Pick and choose and know it is okay to not be everywhere and everything all of the time. My 2nd grader actually told me that he would prefer that I not come in and read to his class this year. Did it feel like he was ripping my heart out of my chest? YES. Does that mean I can have more time for hot yoga? HELL YES. They are your world. I know. But it is okay to have a moment to focus on you too. You being over scheduled and overwhelmed will not be doing your child's psyche any favors. A more calm, more present you on the other hand, absolutely will. 

So let's do all that we can to start this year off with a little less insanity so that those moments between work and school are spent on the important things with the important people. After all, they happen to growing up a little too fast. And this. Above all else, just please remember this:

You really are. 

Good luck rockstar mommas.
Cheers to us...

Friday, September 5, 2014

What I Have Learned From My Kids First Week of School

This marks the first week ever that all four of my babes got on that big beautiful bus to head off to school. All day. All the live long lovely day. Seeing that bus was like spotting water in the desert. Is this only a mirage? Is this really truly happening?

Oh it happened. And it was glorious. It is glorious. You know how when you have toddlers and you run into mothers of school age children at Target and they say how fast the school day goes and they don't feel like they have much time at all and you're thinking in your mind "What the fuck is this bitch talking about? I don't think we should be friends anymore. I'm disinviting her to book club. But she does bring the good guacamole..."

And you're smiling and nodding and pretending to relate when you only had six seconds of peace in your entire day and that occurred before your kids realized that you were in the bathroom. And you are on the verge of pouring your soy latte on her freshly clean and blow dried hair that smells like coconut (bitch!) but you think better of it. Because you really need that latte.

But now I can sort of relate to it. Because the time that happens when you get a moment alone for the first time since the summer of 2004 is so fucking awesome that you just don't want it to end. You want to shout from the rooftops that you are naked! and alone! and it is the best day of your life! But then the neighbors might hear and ask you to watch their kids. Or ask you to put clothes on. So you retreat to your blog to let everyone know that instead. And the time does go by fast and before you even did a quarter of your to do list it is almost time for that bus to roll back up in your business. Damn.

I love my kids, I really do.

But to be given this time to feel and comprehend and breathe and create is borderline orgasmic. Just kidding. There is nothing borderline about it. IT IS FUCKING ORGASMIC.

I actually even this week developed this wild skin rash that was all red and itchy and hot to the touch. I really think it was a reaction to my mind freaking out because it has found it's lost ability to process full thoughts again. MIND BLOWN. So it took it out on the skin because it knew that I would actually go see a doctor about that. Poor too often ignored mind, thanks for letting me know...

All is good now and healing and my mind is slowly acclimating to its new talents (i.e. thinking). I believe that some time alone should be required homework for all women (and men of course too but let's just vacation separately for now, okay?). It is a stunning form of therapy.

And yes there are to do lists and errands and real life and work projects but to choose when and how to do them, solely up to you, is where the therapy comes in. You feel that you can dictate the clock again for the first time in a long time.

So thank you, school days and brilliant patient teachers, you have given me, well... me. And there really aren't enough words to describe the gratitude in that.

Peace, love and hot yoga.

My favorite to do list.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dear Kindergarten Parents

This. This is a letter I stumbled upon in Parents magazine last September and immediately tore it out (sorry pediatrician's waiting room). It contains probably the best ever advice to preparing not exactly your child but you, YOU (a beautiful concept) to get set to put your baby out in the big big world of education. Kindergarten it turns out isn't usually as tough on the kids as it is for us grown ups. 
Thank you Vicki Glembocki. You summed it up perfectly. I'll toast my wine with olives to you next week...

Dear kindergarten parents,
Take a deep breath. I swear, you won't get a call every day informing you that your child has run out of the classroom screaming "Mooooommy!" Even if you get this call just once, like I did, it will make you feel like a bad parent for not adequately preparing your offspring for the rigors of school. Don't fret: The transition to kindergarten can be tough on everyone. To get through, you may need to do some very hot yoga. Your child? She probably just needs a good midday snack. So pack good snacks.
If you ever forget to pack a snack, you will never hear the end of it. Ever.
From here on out, in this age of ├╝ber-efficient technology, your most significant communication with your child's school will probably happen in a two-pocket folder that your 5-year-old brings home each day. When there is a note for you in the folder -- a permission slip, a reminder to send in box tops, a request to man the Pick-a-Pop booth during the pumpkin fair -- fill it out right away. Touch paper only once.
Keep in mind that some kids will start kindergarten not knowing how to read a single word while others will be reading chapter books. Kids typically level out in second grade, so stop Googling "reading tutors." Seriously. Step away from the computer. Now.
Assume that everything you say or do at home may be repeated to the kindergarten teacher. If not spoken, it can most definitely be drawn, and when the teacher offers to help write a caption for the picture, your child may say, "Mommy's Wine With Olives."
Whether or not you work outside the home, do not feel guilty if you can't attend all of the many daytime events you'll be invited to, such as "The 100th Day of School Party" or "Dr. Seuss's Birthday Party" or the four-minute Halloween parade. Yes, it's special for your child when you are there. But if you're always there, it could stop seeming special. Be involved as much as you can -- it keeps you in touch with your child's activities, and it's good for you. You'll meet the other parents whom you will likely be seeing at Back-to-School night for the next 13 years. You will make friends. Good friends. So bring a batch of brownies to the next PTA meeting and be nice.
Prepare yourself. This year, your child may come home from school with a wad of tissue in her hand, and when you open it up you'll find a teeny baby tooth inside. You will realize, maybe for the first time, that your child now has a life that you will not always be a part of. And you will feel very sad about this, and also very happy, all at the same time. So do what I did: Take another deep breath, pour a "wine with olives," and whisper to yourself, over and over: "Give her wings."
All best,
Vicki Glembocki, mom of a toddler, a first-grader and a third-grader; Westmont, New Jersey

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to Survive Your Kids This Summer

I love summer. Always have. Always will. It is in my veins. But a summer with children asking for something every 4 seconds? I can see how it might not be everyone's favorite time of year. All of those hours. All of those children up in your business. All of the time. Is it possible for someone to  invent a chocolate milk dispenser (with a side of a wine dispenser with an adult friendly child lock on it pretty please)? Is it possible to survive all of the "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, MMMOOOOMMMMs"? Is it possible that could even be (gasp) fun?

For them and for real, you too sister, it can be. Pour yourself a glass of Pinot Noir (the old fashioned way) and let me tell you my top ten tips of summer survival:

  1. Make Friends with People with Pools. You would, of course, be friends with them any way but they kick ass all the more because their backyard equals a vacation. Pay them back by bringing the good, fun snacks for all ages and needless to say, wine. Happy kids, happy mommas.
  2. BORED = CHORES. If my kids even begin to say "I'm bor-" they are put to work. It's almost like them saying a swear word in front of me. Okay, really it's worse. I have a bored chore list so they will be scrubbing some toilets if they need an activity. Boom. Win-win. For me. Try it. You will be amazed at the imagination your kids will develop to avoid that list and how much they will avoid boredom. It is a beautiful thing.
  3. Fighting = loss of technology. You fight and seriously everyone loses. It is the opposite of the boredom chores. This one makes me suffer the most. Damn it. Don't make me take that iPad away. Shit. I have to take that iPad away. For a whole week. No negotiations. I could cry just thinking about it. Losing it for a week may seem harsh. But it has worked for my little tech lovers. Find out what they love and stick your guns with this punishment. I just realized I might be kind of a hard ass. And I like it.
  4. 5 Minute Clean Up. I have just begun being more of a regulator about enforcing this one and let me tell you, if used daily it is AMAZING. Set a timer for 5 minutes, let the kids race against the clock to clean up and you sit down and drink some wine tea (unless it is after 11 a.m. than of course a mojito would be the obvious choice). Do this in the morning and at night and your house will feel less like a tornado ran through it, your kids will be more conscious of how many toys they take out and you will feel like the fucking Queen Bee, a title you have earned. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
  5. Avoid the Grocery Store. Fo Real. But how do we avoid dragging every single dragging child to the longest trip ever each and every week to pick up milk and the "necessities" and end up spending $512? Listen young grasshopper: there are two ways.
    1. Shop the farmers market. This is always a happier way to shop for food. Your kids can see what food looks like in its natural, unpackaged state and what it should taste like and support the local farmers. Our larger farmers market even sells local wine. Another sells local crabmeat. PLEASE DON'T GO AWAY IN OCTOBER. You are deeply loved farmers market, so deeply loved. So take advantage while they are here. Your money will go farther and you will help to make a difference. Your $50 isn't going to hurt Target if you don't shop there but it will greatly help those who grow the food day in and day out.
    2. For everything else (ahem, toilet paper)- take advantage of local grocery pick up. I realize this isn't in every area but in many cities and suburbs there is grocery delivery and/or pick up curbside at the store. We use Peapod by Giant and I order all the groceries online, pay for them, choose the day and time that works for us and pull up in front, like a gangster (is that how gangsters shop? Either way it is bad ass, they should), and an angel of a human being puts them into my car. MY KIDS STAY IN THE CAR, STRAPPED IN. WITH NOWHERE TO ESCAPE. This may be one of my most favorite life savers since the pharmacy drive thru. It saves time, money and sanity. Probably lives too. 
  6. Work and Workout Early. This really applies to those of us who are "off" in the summer- teachers, writers, stay at home parents, working from home parents and any other position of spending endless hours with children and would like to do more than survive it. I find my sanity level to be in a much healthier place when I still wake up early to get a little work, workout and quiet in. Then no matter what happens in the day at least you can carry on knowing you got a little time for you in. When you've made the 12th meal of the day, the laundry is reaching the ceiling, the kids are naked painting each other and I am at the brink of losing it, I remind myself to reflect on those 10 blissful minutes of peace where I was alone. Completely alone. And that is enough to remind myself to wake up early again tomorrow.
  7. Read. Let them read every day. You read at the same time, something that you actually want to. Something with chapters. Something grown up. Just make sure that they are reading what they love and this may quickly become one of your favorite parts of the day. Lay blankets outside or a reading fort inside. Unplug. It will help them be more ready for school, no workbooks required. 
  8. Embrace Being Off the Radar. This is one of my absolute favorite parts of summer. Fun is what you are supposed to be having and people are quicker to forgive when you are. Didn't respond to an e-mail? Sorry I was on vacation. Missed a meeting? Sorry, I was thinking about vacation. When people are soaking in the sun, they are less consumed with accountability. More fun and more forgiveness are abound so enjoy it, September's consuming schedule will be here before you know it.
  9. Let Go of Guilt. So the kids have ice cream for dinner and smores for dessert. Again. So your household television time of one hour a day MAXIMUM has exceeded four hours. So you missed today's reading time. So they've stayed up too late and are up too early. Let's learn from Frozen's most valuable lyrics and just let it go. Let them be kids. Let them feel the sweetness of an open summer afternoon. Let the rest just go.
  10. Embrace the Day. Feel what it feels to not be scheduled. Play. Laugh. Throw a dance party. Start a food fight. Catch fireflies. What is the point of being a parent if you can't toss rules to the wind once in awhile and show them that you know how to have a ball? They learn so much from the way you live. Remember summer, how it used to be and how you yearn for it to be. There is limitless potential between June and August.
Summer goes by fast and childhood is even shorter. Yes you are the homework enforcer, vegetable police, clean up patrol and creator of good respectful citizens. But that also means that you are the puppeteer of childhood memories. You can make them priceless. You can give your kids the tools and the freedom to soak it all in. You are the Queen Bee after all. And you've got this.

Cheers and may survival and mojitos be with us all...

This. More of this.
Simple. Beautiful. Summer.