When the milestones come, sometimes we Moms get a little choked up. And by a little, we mean we are swallowing big ugly cries every time someone cues up a photo montage. While it would probably be enough to just say “good luck” and “I love you,’ that’s not all there is to say. Not by a long shot.
Here are ten things I want/wish/really, really, really hope make it out of my mouth before we cross that tassel over to the other side.
Ignore my sniveling and carrying on. In fact, forget everyone and make this about you for a moment. Accept every slap on the back and lean into all those sloppy kisses. Take your victory lap. This is one of the big moments. Drink it all in.
2. Put one foot in front of the other.
Take your minute, then move on. Now is the first time, but certainly not the last one, that you’ll learn that life just keeps rolling on. Hold your head up, put your eyes forward, then take the next step. The truth is that everybody worries about what’s around the corner. Does it help to know that you’re not special in this way? Everyday heroes put one foot in front of the other and just do it. You can too.
3. Pick up your _________________.
Clothes, room, car, self, people. Take care of yourself, your stuff, and those you love. A good life is yours for the taking if you can fill in that blank for yourself a little every day.
4. Hold your fire.
People, things, and even circumstances may be fully deserving of the full power of your ire. Hold your fire. Count to ten, whistle a happy tune, find your happy place. Do whatever you have to do to find a peaceful but workable solution. The world needs more lovers, not fighters.
5. We’ve got your back.
You are never alone in this world. There’s a safety net knit tightly of good friends and family who are all ready to reach out when you need that helping hand. Let their great love embolden you in weak moments. And when you get a chance, do the same for someone else. There is almost nothing in the world that will cure what ails you like doing something nice for someone else.
6. Dare mightily.
Dream really, really big, but also live every day with a spirit of wonder and brave resolve too. A lot of adulthood is not so much an exciting new road but a familiar, well-worn path. Venture to marvel at the simple joys and brace for the sad, scary things that can pop up along the way. Dare to imagine a better you every day.
7. Show up.
We never wanted you to just be a guy. We were always hoping you would be a certain type of guy. So show up for people. Celebrate their successes and ease the burden of their failures. Make them laugh and sit with them when they are sad. Go to boring parties, lame weddings, and uncomfortable dinner parties because someone asked you to be there for them. Just show up. You’ll be amazed at the joy you’ll find from doing the thing you really didn’t want to do.
8. Love is all you need.
You will have a lot of choices to make the next few days, months, and years. It can all seem a little overwhelming. Let The Beatles provide a little clarity in the chaos: all you need is love. If you have it, give it. Plain and simple. Spread love around like you are lousy with it. Then you won’t just have a blessed life, you will be a blessing to others as well.
9. You look so handsome.
Seriously. This one sticks in my throat every time. That picture of you in the paper with all the other graduating seniors? Almost did me in.
You have no idea what it’s like to watch someone grow up before your eyes yet, but I hope you get that privilege. You were a beautiful, perfect boy the minute I met you and your bright, golden light has never dimmed. We are so unspeakably proud of the young man you have become inside and out. And you look great in that cap and gown too. Really, you are rocking it.
10. I love you.
Truly, honestly, deeply. This day. Every day. Forever. Take that knowledge with you into beautiful corners and brave new worlds. Let it warm you on cold nights and lead you out of dark places.
The best is yet to come, sweet boy. Knock ’em dead.
Ah, sweet family memories are the golden egg we’re all chasing, no? Fess up, we’ve seen your Pinterest boards. Wanna make certain that this year’s bunny bonanza is forever imprinted on your family’s memory? Well, peel back the foil on that Cadbury and get comfy because we have one simple step to creating a lasting Easter memory. This is one from the Dymowski family vault.
Spring Break may look a little different once you’ve traded bikinis for, well, Pittsburgh, but we had high expectations for album-worthy memories despite the less than exotic locale. My sister had a new job, a new baby, and a new town, and we were descending upon her young family and new abode en masse for some hard-core sight-seeing and family bonding. I was already mentally planning the page layouts for my Shutterfly album before we had even unloaded. Fate laughs in the face of such hubris. All of this enthusiastic anticipation could only mean one thing: this minivan was about to go down in flames and spectacularly so.
Ahh, the pretty pictures before the hammer of fate cracked this trip wide open.
We had exactly one picture-perfect day before trouble started brewing on Friday night. The youngest started vomiting like it was his job. There is no faster way to become persona non grata in someone’s home than to start chewing through their linens. It’s all fun and games until someone needs a bucket. Or three.
My sister looked torn. On the one hand, my sister was super-excited to have us visit. Furthermore, she was deeply worried about my youngest boy who currently seemed possessed by some horrible demon. On the other hand, we had just dropped Patient Zero in the middle of her lovely new home and he was spewing viral missiles far and wide. I could see her mind click through her options: Grab her own child à la Sally Field in “Not Without My Daughter,” kick mine to the curb, or re-create a scene from Outbreak complete with isolation tents and masks.
Too much? You weren’t there. It wasn’t much of a stretch.
Um, we started packing.
In the beginning, I was harboring a fantasy that the exorcism coming from my child really was the result of his excitement and high fructose red no. 49 jellybeans. In fact, I was packaging this spin for my sister and her husband, Dan, when Victim 2 fell. And hard. The siege was underway, but we did what any good soldiers would do, we left to protect the others.
Pittsburgh is about five horrible, evil, ugly hours from home when you’re under attack. Within a mere 12 hours, the viral marauders had taken down three family members and cut a swath of destruction along the Pennsylvania turnpike and its rest stops that inspired awe, panic, and a desperate yearning for bleach and hand sanitizer. I’m going to spare you the details, but leave you with this image: Steve pulled the car into the driveway after a looooooooong drive on the Puking Parkway from Pittsburgh and promptly tossed his cookies on the front lawn. This was Saturday night. Easter morning was less than a day away. We were already in the midst of an unholy mess when the other three kids started dropping like flies.
What’s a woman to do in the face of an outbreak that might make an epidemiologist’s palms sweat? Don a Hazmat suit? Grab a quarantine sign and some yellow tape? Wave a white flag? Hellz no, I started wrapping and assembling Easter baskets. It was me against the clock. Just as I nestled that last chocolate egg into its basket, I succumbed too.
Dawn rose that Easter morning with two parents completely incapacitated, but with kids who still believed in a candy-toting Bunny who would brave our viral hell to deliver the goods. In between prayers to the porcelain god, we were sending up hopes for an Easter miracle. We got one.
Ace (12), who not 6 hours earlier had been wrapped around a toilet bowl, had regained his usual pep. This meant one thing: he was getting a huge promotion complete with bunny ears, baskets full of candy, and full-on bragging rights. I felt a little like a stage mom pushing my baby into the spotlight, “You can do it, honey! Just think positive thoughts” but frankly, I was too sick to move so it was probably more like gesturing and mumbling.
No childhood innocence was lost in the making of this memory. At least, I hope not. I actually have no recollection of that day, but Ace even took pictures. It happened.
Is this not the most pathetic looking child you have ever seen?
The virus took down my sister’s whole family viciously within hours of our hasty retreat. Dan still uses The Great Pittsburgh Easter Plague as the yardstick to measure all other illnesses. In fact, he was completely unsympathetic when another virus took us all down the next year.
But I did get my fond family Easter memory after all even if it was not Pinterest album-worthy. Mostly because Dan won’t let me forget it.
Today you turn 16. You are no longer a child but nearly a man. And as much as I celebrate the ever more amazing you, I want to wrap you up in super duper extra strength bubble wrap and keep you safe and sound as you navigate the next few years. In light of the obvious practical issues with doing this, I offer this prayer instead.
May you always remember to silence your phone before you drive. My heart couldn’t take a last text from you about what you want to eat for dinner. And furthermore, may other cars steer clear of you on stormy nights, in winter storms, in summer downpours, and on sunny days. May every road you travel bring you safely back to us in one piece.
If you decide to skydive, hang glide, scale huge mountains, wrestle alligators, or fly a small Cessna, may you have every bit of luck to get you back home and the good sense to know that your mother doesn’t need to know about that craziness until long after the fact.
May you make good decisions every time. But when you make the bad ones, may you be given a moment of grace so that the consequences aren’t life-altering, heart-breaking, or soul-crushing. May you appreciate this moment then for what it was: a gift and a chance to grow. May you understand why we will feel the need to take away the car/phone/TV/computer to help you learn this lesson.
May you pick a college that we can all afford that gets you where you want to go. May you be blessed with friends there who will help you bridge that last important step to full manhood. May you appreciate the wonderful opportunities college affords. And may you have a ridiculously good time there. Bills and responsibilities and weekly paychecks will all come soon enough, so have fun. Just not the kind of fun that requires bail money. May you have the wisdom to know the difference.
May you forgive us our trespasses. These are the years where we are revealed fully to you for good or ill. May we measure up to the job we were striving to do. If you ever suspected we are winging this parenting thing, you were only partially right. We took our job very seriously—read the parenting books, asked for guidance, fretted about travel teams, laid down technology rules and saved for college tuition—but we wonder often whether all those decisions were setting you on the right path. Throw us up a flare once in a while to let us know things are going well on your end. And know fully that every mistake was one of the heart. You’ll see someday just how blind and crazy love can make you.
And speaking of love, take your time. True love is worth the wait. May you find someone who loves you, not like we do, but completely, honestly, and deeply. May your future partner be your friend too who can help you on your way. There is nothing like a partner who can help you laugh through life’s hiccups, hold the bucket through life’s illnesses, and grab the tissues through life’s disappointments and heartbreaks. And as a bonus, may you find someone who happens to think that I am great too. I don’t want to have to beg you to visit, so find someone who loves your family as much you do.
May you pick a job you love that makes enough money so you can move out of the basement, but not so much that you are trading happiness for a fat paycheck. Money is great. We are big fans of money, but it pales in comparison to time with the people you love.
Oh, and here’s prayers for a life well lived. Be all in. Explore, read, see the world, get involved, defend a cause, right a wrong, step out of your comfort zone, sing, dance, make a fool of yourself, swim, run, hike, watch sunsets, play games, and look at stars.
Live long and prosper, sweet boy. The best is yet to come.
Almost sixteen years into this parenting gig, kids still shock me. What they see. What they know. What they instinctively feel. On any given day, anything can be, and yet they surprise me in new and astonishing ways. Even still, I wasn’t ready for what I witnessed one day on the track.
About three weeks ago, I got this text:
I don’t care what people say about not reading tone into text. This text was an alarm bell, a siren, a scream. This text sent to me from Lisa, my neighbor who carpools with me to high school track practice, said to me in no uncertain terms to pick up the phone pronto. So I did.
And the story unravelled. Apparently, Lisa was at Defcon 5 with her son Dylon who has autism. Anyone with a teenager knows that hormones alone can rain down the hurt and pain on even the happiest of families. Autism ratchets up that hormonal hot mess and takes it to levels even Dante couldn’t imagine. Lisa was in hell, her kid was hurting, and she needed answers. . . like thirty minutes ago.
Ace filled in the blanks. Apparently, none of the coaches had remembered to get Dylon to his races at the meet and he missed them. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Hence, the monumental meltdown.
Now let’s put aside that this was not Dylon’s first track meet. We have been carpooling with him for over a year. Let’s acknowledge that these coaches are not uncaring. They have recognized Dylon’s efforts on the team with support and tangible rewards. They even gave him a most improved runner award last spring. So this is not the time for our litigious, self-righteous, holier-than-thou selves. This is where we stand back and recognize that this is what autism brings to the table. Confusion, miscommunication, and dropped balls all come part and parcel with kids bearing this diagnosis. That’s why we talk of hidden capes with absolutely no hint of hyperbole when speaking about the people who love them.
When we started our carpool last spring, we were grateful for the opportunity to help our neighbor, support Dylon, and also, let’s be frank, split the drive time. We weren’t really expecting anything other than some savings at the gas pump and warm neighborly feelings, but that turned out to be just the beginning.
Good things happened. Ace and Dylon developed a real bond. Dylon started talking to me more. The boys were able to transition to hanging out in front of the school with all of the other athletes instead of being picked up at the track. After many years outside of my classroom, I had a chance to reimagine what the future could hold for the preschoolers with autism I had taught way back when. We were in a good place. It was a good fit. And carpooling gave me back valuable hours in my day.
But autism is an unforgiving highway with treacherous curves that you don’t see coming. Getting closer to Dylon meant that we were now navigating some of those blind turns with him. Like when this winter on a training run through a neighborhood, Dylon was spooked by a dog and took off running scared. Ace ran an extra 3 miles trying to get him back to calm him down. I then spent the rest of the evening talking to my kid who was still worried about it long after he had unlaced his shoes.
And then there was the day that we thought we lost Dyln. We couldn’t find him at school and Lisa couldn’t get in touch with him and his teachers didn’t know where he was. Ace tried to break into their house to see if Dylon had somehow made it home early on the bus. We found Dylon safe on the football field watching his sister’s band practice, but our hearts were still pounding with the What-Ifs. We don’t begin to presume what life is like day in and day out with autism, but our peek into that world was sometimes scary.
And frustrating. Nobody was more irritated than Ace to hear that Dylon had missed his events. All athletes deserve their moment to see what all that practice is for. Dylon had put in the work. He earned the chance to prove himself against a clock and the other runners. It was JUST. SO. WRONG. in that black and white way that belongs to the world of teenagers and toddlers.
The next track meet was only two days later at a local rival high school. When we arrived at the meet, we immediately saw all of the kids on the field in the center of the track, including Dylon and Ace. Now I may have been distracted buying granola bars, chasing kids out from under bleachers, and teaching the kindergartener how to take pictures. Taking four siblings to a track meet ensures that you have brought the traveling sideshow.
But when I looked up for the first race, my breath caught. There was Dylon being led to his first event by his teammates with nary an adult in sight. And it went on that way for the rest of the meet. They had this. Adults, step aside. Dylon was not going to miss an event on their watch. To see the cloud of orange and black surround him and then deliver him to the starting line before EVERY race was a sight to see. And that’s what melted my heart, I think. The way they owned the situation and the way they acted. They were a team. Dylon was their teammate. End of story.
Ace verified after the fact that there was no edict that had been handed down from the coaches. It was just a group of kids trying to do the right thing by their teammate.
Blame it on the beautiful weather that day after an abysmal spring. Blame it on a group on kids who fixed what was broken on their own. Whatever it was, I lifted my face to feel the warm sun and smiled like it was going it out of style.
If a tiny tear was in my eye, you can never prove it. Anything can happen. Anything can be.
In the beginning, our trip to Pittsburgh to visit family was shaping up to be a lovely moment on the timeline of our lives. My sister, Karen, had finally moved within a distance we could drive on a single tank of gas. She had a new job, a new baby, and a new house under contract. So my husband, Steve, and I loaded up the minivan with our crew of five and pointed her west. Spring Break looks a little different once you’ve traded bikinis for, well, Pittsburgh, but we had high expectations for album-worthy memories on this trip. Which meant there was only way it could go: down in flames. And spectacularly so.
Fate laughs in the face of such hubris.
Trouble started brewing on Friday night, when Eddie (2) started vomiting. There is no faster way to become persona non grata in someone’s home than to start chewing through their linens. My poor sister had been a mom for about 10 minutes, but she was torn. It’s all fun and games until someone needs a bucket.
We had just dropped Patient Zero in the middle of her lovely new home. I could see her mind click through her options: Grab her own child a la Sally Field in “Not Without My Daughter”, kick mine to the curb, or re-create a scene from Outbreak complete with tenting and masks.
My sister may or may not have been thinking this!
Um, we started packing.
At this point, I was harboring a fantasy that the exorcism coming from my child really was the result of his licking the bathroom floor at the rest stop as Charlie (8) suggested. I was packaging this spin for my sister and her husband, Dan, when Victim 2 fell. And hard. The siege was underway.
Pittsburgh is about five horrible, evil, ugly hours from home when you’re under attack. I’m gonna spare you the details, but leave you with this image: Steve pulled the car into the driveway after a looooooooong drive on the Puking Parkway from Pittsburgh and promptly tossed his cookies on the front lawn. Where’s a white flag when you really need one??
This was Saturday night. Easter morning was a mere 6 hours away. So in addition to Eddie, Ace (12) was down, Steve was down, and the other three kids were dropping like flies. We could have used a quarantine sign and some yellow tape.
What did this seemingly sane woman do then? Start wrapping and assembling Easter baskets. It was me against the clock. But much like the scene with Steve hours before, I succumbed right about the time I nestled the last chocolate egg in its basket.
Dawn rose on a day with two parents completely incapacitated. It was not looking good for an Easter miracle, but thank every lucky star in the sky for the resilience of boys when candy is on the line! Ace (12) who not 6 hours earlier had been wrapped around a toilet bowl had regained his usual step. He had no idea what I had in store for him.
Bottom Line: Sonny Boy got a huge promotion, complete with bunny ears and bragging rights. I felt like a stage mom pushing my baby into the spotlight, “You can do it, honey! Just think positive thoughts.” To be frank, I was too sick to move so it was more like gesturing and mumbling, but, whatever, he was my Chosen One.
No childhood innocence was lost in the making of this memory. At least, I hope not. I actually have no recollection of that day, but Ace even took pictures. It happened.
Is this not the most pathetic looking child you have ever seen?
Postscript: The virus took down my sister’s whole family viciously within hours of our hasty retreat. Dan still uses The Great Pittsburgh Easter Plague as the yardstick to measure all other illnesses. In fact, he was completely unsympathetic when another virus took us all down last year.
And I did get my album-worthy memory after all. Mostly because Dan won’t let me forget it.
We are all familiar with the fog that smothers your sleep-deprived brain when you first have a baby. A typical day consists of finding your cellphone in the refrigerator and discovering butter in your diaper bag. This fuzzy consciousness has frequently been dubbed “Mommy Brain.”
We hate to break it to you, but since we are The Sensible Moms, we have to set the record straight: it NEVER ends. You may now want to call us “The Buzz Kill Moms” or “Moms Who Need to Shut It”, but sticking your head in the sand won’t change the reality. In fact, we’re knighting this condition “Mom Brain” because our kids are too old to still be calling us Mommy.
Here’s a point to send you rocking in the corner: we are all aging as our kids get older. It’s a sliding scale for losing your ever-loving mind and for it staying lost. Erin is five years from infant times and Ellen is a whopping twelve years out, and Mom Brain is still kicking us in the rear. The Super-Duper-Swell-Can-I-Have-A-Xanax-On-The-Side difference? Now the collateral damage has an even larger zone of destruction.
Sad Scenario One: You lose important shizz.
Ellen: People! I misplaced not only my passport, but my husband’s, too! This was just two years ago. Do you know the expense and the paperwork that must be filled out when you can’t turn in the old passport? It blows.
But you want to play a little crazy Mom Brain association game with me? What else do you blow? (Keep it G rated!) That’s right, birthday candles and balloons. And that’s where I found our passports one month after we got back from our trip —in the birthday candle and balloon box.
Erin:I think we need to discuss the “Birthday Candle and Balloon Box”. WTH?
Ellen: Hey, I can find those things when I need them, right? I’m combating Mom Brain with organization.
Yes, the Birthday Balloon and Candle Box is located just north of the litter box (that Ellen scooped right before snapping this photo because she loves you that hard).
Erin:Sounds more like hoarding because it would just be silly to lay out a buck for a new set of birthday candles each time. Much more economical to create a place for your passport to hide.
Ellen: So we’re throwing stones? How about that camera bag and lens you misplaced?
Erin:I can’t even talk about it. By the way, did security strip search you or anything because you were flagged for lost passports?
Ellen: No thank goodness. Why do you ask?
Erin:I MAY have just had to go through the same process when I couldn’t find my passport for the Bermuda cruise my husband, Steve and I are FINALLY sprinting away on.
Ellen: I will be over here fighting an uncontrollable urge to hide something in your luggage until the moment of your departure.
Erin:I would be worried, but you are going to forget about it anyway. See, I AM Pollyanna. I just found the sunny side of Mom Brain.
Sad Scenario Two: Your calendar plots to punk you all of the time.
Ellen: Mmmmm, I’m gonna have to call “projecting” and say that YOU punk me all of the time.
Erin:Does it make you feel better that I’ve gotten Steve, too?
Ellen: No, it doesn’t because I happen to like your husband. You know what would make me feel better? To transcribe MY incident down for the record.
Erin:If this can be the last I hear of it, go ahead.
Ellen: Short version: Erin needed to sign some paperwork for the blog. She was supposed to print it out, sign it, and mail it to me. We live about 35 minutes apart.
Erin:We’re 25 minutes apart if you believe our friend, Mary.
Ellen: Don’t try to derail my train of thought with another Mom Brain topic: the inability to properly gauge travel time.
Anyway, she forgot to mail it for a week straight, so she was going to bring it to me—sort of. She wanted to meet me at my child’s high school because she thought her son, Ace (15) was playing soccer there. She maintained that the game was at MY school despite the fact I quoted three sources that said it was at her school.
Erin:I thought it had been changed!
Ellen: So I drove yet another round trip to my kid’s school. That brought the grand total to five for that day, but at least that one was for NOTHING. Well, shame on my Mom Brain for listening to you instead of my three sources.
Erin: My Mom Brain and I are really, really sorry about that. I was still learning to juggle my new part-time work schedule with my soccer-moming and the volunteer commitments I had made the year before. All of that keeping my eye on the ball apparently blurred my vision so I just didn’t read the schedule right. End of sad, sad story.
Ellen: Amazing I can’t remember where my iPod is , but this story stays fresh. Probably time to let it go.
Erin:Like I said, it was nothing against you because I darn near did the same thing to Steve.
Steve was on soccer field duties with three of our spunky future soccer stars AND the crap schedule I gave him. As he fumbled around the soccer field trying to piece together where the boys were ACTUALLY supposed to be, I got to listen to the whole debacle unfold in real time via cell phone. Oh, good times! If the sound of the fuming husband didn’t make me feel like a crumbled biscuit, the pathetic whimper of the heartbroken five year old who missed his game did me in. I took down my entire family’s happy Saturday with one faulty calendar entry.
Puddle of crap. Party of one.
Ellen: See what we were talking about with the larger radius of destruction?? Only so much chaos could go down when the only thing on your schedule was story time.
Sad Scenario Three: You have to go back to the paper trail.
Ellen: We can just hear your Mom Brains shouting, “But that is what smartphones are for! You can enter, link, and share calendars. There are even alerts!”
Erin:Oh, but there is this little thing my husband likes to call the ID10T error. Must I really explain?
Ellen: Yeah, I’ve muffed entering a date into my phone when bedlam is buzzing around me— the kids yelling and the cat puking on the 25% of my house that is carpet. The worst, though? Speeding through a calendar entry on my phone because, grrrrr, the phone starts ringing.
Erin:I not only have to record the date in my phone and on my wall calendar, but I have been schooled to keep the originals.
My super-organized friend Nicole sent out her birthday party invitation well in advance. I promptly loaded that data into our Google calendar and tossed that puppy into the recycling bin. When I saw her at school, I said, “See you Saturday.” “You mean Sunday.” “No, Saturday.” “Erin, his party’s on Sunday.” “No, it’s not.” Do you see what I am laying down? I was arguing with my friend about the date of HER party. Good grief. Y’all should just put me down already. I’m not fit for human company.
Ellen: In all fairness, you really could have been correct. I was still putting the finishing touches on this beauty . . .
JellyBean’s (12) PERSONAL birthday cake because in our family you’re never too old to have your own cake to dig into with abandon.
Ellen: . . . when the guests started arriving for my daughter’s sleepover. Yeah, they were on time, I was under the delusion that I had one more hour, despite the fact I put the time on the invitations.
Erin:And so our lives are reduced to entering the date on multiple calendars AND keeping the originals. I miss the days when all I had was the pediatrician visit reminder cards.
So are you actually rocking in the corner yet? Where’s the trust? We’re not going to leave you without any solutions!
The Sensible Moms Solutions to Mom Brain
1. Number Your Children
In fact, number ALL of the children because those little hooligans are waiting to take you down too! We find this system works best if you always make them walk, move, and arrange themselves around the table in numerical order.
2. Tag Your Stuff
We know Brookstone makes a Wireless Key Finder, but it’s expensive, and let’s face it, you’ll probably lose the transmitter that locates your tagged shiz. Plus, you have more stuff to lose than keys. We’re solving this problem old school à la bright-orange-flag-on-the-back-of-a-banana-seat-bike style.
3. Velcro Shirt
Keep your MOST important items within your sight at all times. Your keys are just a boob length away!
Mom Brain might be here to stay, but it was all worth it. Right? Our kids, the precious memories, even the not-so-precious memories. It was all worth it, right? Right!?! At this point, we’re too addled to know any better. Bring your Velcro and come rock in the corner with us. Arts and crafts are soothing.
Erin:Our girl Stasha is definitely speaking our language on this one.
Ellen: We are in no way disrespecting resolutions. We both agree that they are noble. It’s just I’m not into making promises in the deep dark of winter that I know I’m going to depress myself by breaking. Resolutions are just so much pressure. I’m more of a September — back to school, shiny new shoes, fresh start — kind of girl.
Erin:Aww, you make me want to bring you a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils. (“You’ve Got Mail”, anyone?)
Truth be told, I’m really more of a July—too busy hanging out by the pool with a cool drink to bother with some pesky resolutions–kind of girl. But I do like to at least go through the motions of recording goals, so we have a tradition for that.
Every New Year’s morning, I set the dining room table with butcher paper (or plain sheets of paper if I run out of butcher paper like I did this year!). There are six different headings and everybody who is around has to finish the statements in the heading (Sorry, SIL and BIL, but you stay, you play!). This little tradition always yields funny and sweet results. Check out these gems from this year.
But even with these fabulous resolutions to inspire you, here are . . .
10 Things That Will Not Change In 2013
On a Scale of Sappy to What-the-Fudge?
1. Savoring the Moments
Erin:Even though it seems completely inconceivable, I have a high schooler. I know I’m not just looking at this through mommy goggles, either. My lifelong friend Rob’s comment about our Christmas picture— “Holy crap, that’s Ace?”— just cements that it’s unbelievable.Ace will be going to college in two and a half years and I am soaking up the moments we are all together. I am basking in the times we can just be.
This may be uber-over-the-top-sappy, but this is my life right now and I am unapologetic in recording it all in my heart and head and blog to tuck away for those moments later when he will be off doing awesome things and we are just left missing him.
Ellen: I would be making fun of you right now but, *sob* I have a ninth grader. And I’ll miss Ace, too.
Erin: Okay. Somebody pass me a tissue. And a cocktail. I have to go sign him up for driver’s ed.
2. Alone Time With Our Husbands
Ellen: Not every household is made up of two parents, but if yours is, you have to work to keep that relationship strong.
Erin:And that means vanquishing the guilt over spending time away from your kids! It is more than okay to spend time on your relationship/marriage. Think of it as a gift to your kids. And your sanity.
Ellen: And here’s a little Sisterhood Secret for you: The more routine you make it, the easier it is for you to maintain and for your kids to accept.
Erin:Swap with friends . . .
Ellen: She means babysitting kids, not husbands.
Erin:Put it in the budget, tell family members to give you babysitting instead of gifts, spend a small fortune on camps. Do whatever it takes.
Ellen: A night in a hotel can really readjust your meter for not sweating the small stuff. If you know what I mean.
3. Writing Things Our Kids Can Read
Ellen: I am constantly preaching to my children about not offering up anything to the internet machine that they don’t want to see immortalized forever. And since we are more lead-by-example kinds of mommas, we try to keep it PG-13 around here, even up there in point #2. I keep a heavy lid on my robust swearing habit in real life, so why let the bombs fly here? Where it can be Googled.
Erin:We also try to be fair and kind and to not write anything that is going to be hurtful or offensive. But we’re not saints,and we’re not perfect.
Ellen: The one group we don’t honor are those poor souls who have lost their senses of humor.
Erin:But hey, it’s a hard knock life for those buttercups anyway, so what are you going to do?
Ellen: But maybe we should set the filter standards higher for the pictures we post.
Ellen and Erin: NAH!
Purty as princesses.
4. Our Blogging Cooperation – Bloggeration
Erin:We are not gonna lie to you. It takes some a very specific friendship to be able to blog together like we do. I swear I can handle Ellen, because her voice sounds an awful lot like my husband’s in my head.
Ellen: Alright! I have one thing that could change for 2013! Could you please stop saying that? Creepers.
Erin:You know what I mean. I need your “type” in my life—the type that brings me down to earth and keeps it real. You even share the same birthday. How’s that for creepers??
But the truth is that among the many other things we have learned from blogging together this year, we’ve also figured out when to walk away and when to give some slack.
Ellen: Interesting. You are truly one of the most forgiving and easy-going people I know . . . except when you’re not. Which leads us to our next point . .
Erin: Dear sweet well-intentioned friends, please do not invite me to Bunco. Bring on Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, even Just Dance 4! I rock at real games. But this “game” makes me yearn for that dark beast of board games, Chutes and Ladders —the game that subjects adults to hours of mind-numbing climbing and sliding repetitive hell.
Oh, but Bunco is about socializing and hanging out and drinking lovely girl-y drinks, you say! You love all that, you say! Well, the little BUNCO dice are the evil overlords of fun and they seem hell-bent on interrupting my good time flow. They determine where you sit, who you hang with, and where you move. I will have just settled into my chair with my cocktail when I am sent packing because I didn’t roll 3s. Makes me tweak-y.
Ellen: And rant-y. Good grief. Dude, I just think you don’t like to be told what to do. You’re not comfortable unless you are the Grandmaster Game Master. What was that guy’s name in Saw? If anyone wants to invite me to a night out with friends, snacks, and wine, tweet me up.
Erin:Oh my word. Moving on . . .
Ellen: I know we just said we aim to not purposely offend anyone, but we are making an exception with The Hobbit. We are just not entertained by hairy barefooted fantastical little freaks. We are not going to see it.
Erin:Not in a theater, not in a plane.
Ellen: Not on Showtime, or Netflix, or even on a train.
Erin:Not out of Redbox or Xbox, because it would drive us insane.
Ellen: We’re just not going to view it, have we made ourselves plain?
Erin:We’re hoping our love for Dr. Seuss counteracts your offense springing from our hatred for hobbits.
Full disclosure: Erin’s whole clan saw it to mixed reviews. 3 out of 5 stars.
7. Fat Pants Free Zone
Ellen: This one is my rant, but Erin is whittling away so she is chucking fat pants away left and right. I, on the other hand, have one pair of jeans that fits me and a whole GAP store full of jeans that are just a little snug — if, by snug, I meant like a freakin’ tourniquet. But I am not buying any “fat pants.” I will lose the Fifteen (lbs) After Forty (years) and triumphantly wear my wardrobe again. This I pledge for I am Sparticus! Too dramatic?
Erin:Absolutely not. Just try not to burn Athens in your wake.
Don’t hate Erin because she looks like she’s wearing clown pants.
8. The War and Peace Trap
Erin:If the last one was all you, then this one is all me and has been for like 15 years. Every year, I always have the best intentions of reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace and every year I find about 52 books I would rather read more. Every year, I think roping my pals into doing it too means that I’ll actually follow through. And every year, a handful of lovely, sweet victims, er, I mean friends, add this tome to their list of “have-read”s while it remains solidly on my “to-do” list.
Ellen: How many times has this happened?
Erin:I’m out of digits.
Ellen: And let the record show I have never fallen for this trap.
Erin: But this is the year! It’s gonna happen.
Ellen: Not. Falling. For. That. One.
9. We are Fourth Decaders One Directioners
Erin:In fact, if anything, we’re kickin’ it up a notch.
Ellen: We are going to see One Direction in concert! That’s right! We are going to stand in the midst of throngs of hormonal teen and tween girls and sing our little hearts out making memories all the while.
Erin: <singing> That’s what makes us beautiful.
Ellen: And smart. We got huge Mom Points on this one. And it was the easiest Mom Points ever, because you know I love them.
The lads and Ellen had a brilliant Christmas.
10. Christmas Decorations
Ellen: As we have stated before, we are very traditional and sentimental about our Christmas decorations.
Erin:But let’s face it, we are also very pressed for time in December. So, we’re considering just leaving them up until next year. Save some hassle.
Ellen: Never mind we both have live trees.
Erin:Well, how about just the outside ones, you know, because mine were so spectacularly gorgeous.
Yes, we realized that there were shorts in the line. No, we didn’t fix it. Yes, you should be very grateful that we are not your neighbors.
Ellen: The kicker is you actually chose to plug that sadness in every. single. night. And your next door neighbor looked like the scene below. I think you have enough bulbs there to spell out “Ditto.”
Erin:Yeah, I’ll file that suggestion away for next year. Somewhere . . . where the Christmas lights don’t shine.
So, whether you decide to make a resolution this year or not, we both hope you have a great new year. You can definitely start out on the right foot by checking out Monday Listicles and exploring some of the great bloggers there. It’s easy. You can do it in your pajamas. So get over there already!!
Happy Memorial Day, everyone! I hope you have had plenty of family time and have taken a moment to think about our freedom and remember all of the women and men who have secured it for us. That’s what it’s all about, right?
Erin is spending Memorial Day Weekend at the beach celebrating Ace’s 15th birthday. But I’m relaxing with my family close to home, going to some parties, doing some baking, and attacking some yard work. So there is no reason to skip Stasha’s Monday Listicle: 10 WORDS THAT DESCRIBE YOUR HOME. A girl can only haul so much mulch or bake so many cookies without a break. Quick word of advice, don’t let those two activities cross paths. Mulch in baked goods cannot be passed off as fiber.
Ellen's Weekend. This is totally representative of my discovery of the snake skin shed in the holly bush I was trimming. No exaggeration.
So where to begin? Erin threw out this helpful email, “My house is known as command central.” Gee, I think we all can say that. Not really enough to work with. Even though I’m not rollicking on the beach, I have better things to do than create lists out of thin air.
Then there is the post we wrote about Erin’s Oasis and my counter post about The Coco Room Apocalypse. Quite frankly, they provided TOO much to work with. And since my house hasn’t been completely clean since I started blogging, I was in no mood to review Erin’s neat house techniques, albeit, they are very good and handy.
See? I'm sappier than I let on.
So I was going to copy from this canvas on my wall because Erin has a very similar one hanging in her house. But it seemed very precious and quite frankly, a little plagiarize-y. I mean, do I really want to stoop to ripping off the equivalent a Hallmark card? I may have a touch of the sappy, but I ooze with integrity. I’m Googling right now to see if there is an ointment for that.
But I was inspired! The Listicle asks for words describing our homes, not our houses. I was on the right track with the wall art, but I needed originality. Our homes are the people who fill our hearts and clog our septic systems, not the disorderly conditions of our stray sock baskets. And since you can’t get more one-of-a-kind than the people in our lives, I present without further ado…
The People Who Transform Our Houses Into Homes
(While the names have been changed per our kids’ requests, the personalities are all real.)
Erin’s Army first…
They are almost this funny. Wait, they ARE this funny.
1. Ace. My oldest son just turned 15 years old and is completing his freshman year in High School. He is a huge sports fan and plays soccer and runs track. Ace looks like my husband and acts like me. He can make friends with a light bulb. He is funny, impetuous, and confounding.
2. Biddie. Her blog name came to me, because my husband’s family is Polish. They used this nickname for his sister when she was younger, because she was small but mighty. That’s our Biddie. Thirteen years old, smart, creative, funny, and athletic, Biddie is everything I wish I was at her age.
3. Charlie. He is my 11 year old who loves soccer, Comic Books, and hats. I swear that he is either going to be the Frat President in college or its mascot. The kid is slightly cracked, but in the best possible way. Everybody loves him. One of the nicest compliments a teacher gave us about him was that of the 24 kids in his class, twenty-three of them considered him one of their best friends. He is our soft, sweet center.
4. Deacon. He was the one I had the hardest time renaming for the blog. His actual name is soooo perfectly him that it was hard to imagine him or referring to him any other way. Deacon is 8 years old and loves to build LEGOs, play soccer, and do science and art projects. At home, we sometimes call him The Hammer, because he has singular focus and knows what he wants.
5. Eddie. Eddie is a total Momma’s boy. My husband implied that his obsession might be a little more than your average bear (do you see where we are going with this? Oedipal Complex?). Eddie is 4 years old and loves Star Wars, stealing the iPad2 from his siblings, books, and hiking. He is stubborn, smart, and adorable—a deadly combo.
6. Steve. Last, but never least, is my husband of 15 years, Steve. When I told him that I was going to use military-inspired aliases for the blog and I thought that I might call him The Colonel (you know, because I am The General), he said, “I feel more like The Corporal.” He makes me laugh most days, and he is the most patient, kind person I have ever known. He’s the best. You are just going to have to trust me on this one.
Now Ellen’s Crew…
Don't worry, we only wear these pants on Thanksgiving..for the stretch. Oh and on Groundhog Day...for the style.
7. Frank. He is my soul mate and the best father I could imagine for our two girls. We have been together since he hit on me on that fraternity house lawn. I am blessed to have his support and love. He is sharp and witty and definitely lightens me up. I might be a smidge intense. I do have a tendency to tell him that he is lucky I don’t have an addictive personality, because he might be a bit of an enabler. But hey, he boosts my ego when Coco gets done with me.
8. Coco. So, Coco is nearly 14. I think she really picked the alias Cocoa because she loves chocolate, but I changed it to Coco because the girl has style. She is a preternatural force. She brought me to my knees as an infant with her colic and sometimes we question if the colic ever ended. She is a musician, an athlete, an actress, a writer, and a first class student. God gave her to me to keep me in my place. You should thank her too, because she keeps me from thinking that I am all that and a bag of chips. I am happy and blessed to know her.
9. Jellybean. She is 11. She is the least pleased with any of this blog stuff. She is a girl you want as your friend. She is kind, but not sappy, and definitely has a bit of the imp about her; just ask the cat. She is fun with a silly sense of humor, but has a well-defined BS meter. She is happy to be with a group, but can go and do her own thing without forcing the group to conform to her. She brings her determination to her sports, her Legos, and her schoolwork. Jellybean just gets it done. Her laugh has brought me joy from the first moment I heard it.
Hmmm…I ran out of family members. Seems like we didn’t have Monday Listicles in mind when we were squirting out kids. So number 1o is a bonus funny…
10. Antique White. This is something both of our families ridicule tease Erin about. She wants to paint everything in her home “Antique White,” (I know, that’s a whole different issue). She actually thinks she has painted everything “Antique White.” I, along with the entire Army and Crew, are here to tell the world, and her, once and for all: HER CHOSEN COLOR IS YELLOW!
So I guess the moral of this story is that Erin can’t suppress her sunny, positive personality with the bland and mundane, even when she tries.
Booooooring Antique White or Sparkling Superfly Yellow? Which do you think fits Erin best?
Now check out the other great Listicles, although I can almost guarantee they won’t contain a flying Boohbah.
This week on Monday Listicles we are following the prompt from Anna at The Mommy Padawan. She charged us with creating a list of “10 things you really like about yourself, things you are good at, or your super powers!”
We actually feel pretty good about ourselves. This defies all reason if you check out our old school pictures, but what can we say, we were late bloomers. So, hopped up on our own hubris, we decided to ask our kids what they thought was good about us.
When I asked my kids what they liked about me, the resulting conversation felt like a rollicking three ring circus. So my list got a little out of control. I’m going to give each of my kids five things, because when you get this much sunshine blown your way, it feels like Mother’s Day.
1. You buy us Cheez-its three boxes at a time.
Me – But what do you like about ME, beyond what I buy for you? You know, the inner me?
Jellybean – You have intestines.
That’s my girl!
2. Your fashion sense isn’t embarrassing.
3. You do doctor stuff like healing my wounds.
4. You make great Tater Tot casserole and you stay fit.
Those two things seem kinda contradictory, don’t they?
5. You made me.
And my heart sings.
1. You’re able to persevere through anything.
2. You don’t get all uncomfortably up in my life.
3. You can parasail, rock climb, canoe, kayak, and hike.
Like a boss.
4. You are very creative with your blog.
That’s it. I need no other praise.
5. But what do you like about yourself, Mom?
Me – I like that I can pretty much do anything I put my mind to.
Jellybean and Coco – Yeah, we can see that.
Wow. Validation is mine, reflected back to me by my daughters’ words.
Wow. Reading Ellen’s kids’ reflections on their mom is sweet and inspiring and dear. My first thought after I asked my crew what they liked about me and heard their responses: “Huh, now I know why some animals eat their offspring.”
Sometimes Momma Bear just has to take matters into her own, er, paws!
To be fair, we were traveling in the car when I asked them, but here is the list unedited (and my crew didn’t make it anywhere close to 10!).
Me: So, what is something I do really well?
Crickets. Nada. Nothing. Then this. . .
1. Ace (14): You make great chocolate chip cookies.
Um, okay, he’s fourteen. All he thinks about is food.
2. Charlie (11): You are a great baker. You make great chocolate chip cookies.
Ok, slacker, your brother just said. . .
3. Deacon (8): Hmm, let me think. . . you make great chocolate chip cookies.
Really, boys? Where’s the love?
Now, I have heard that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but I didn’t know this applied to little men as well.
But I do make a damn, fine cookie if I say so myself.
Girl child made me feel slightly better . . .
4. Biddie (13, and my new favorite child): You are a creative writer, a good friend to everyone, you stay fit, and have a good fashion sense. Oh, and you make really good chocolate chip cookies.
Well, she is definitely fishing for something, but I’ll take it.
But the piece de resistance!! My sweet baby who still cuddles me and tells me that I am his girlfriend and the most beautiful woman alive, what does he have to say??
5. Eddie (4): You are really good at yelling at Daddy.
(I feel like I need a disclaimer here: WE WERE ON A CAR TRIP! I was driving, and Steve was being a front-seat driver.)
Seriously? Are you kidding me?? The whole car thought that was a total hoot and raucous laughter ensued.
Charlie chimed in: “No do-overs! You have to put that on the blog.”
So there you go. Ellen’s kids sound like they want to nominate her for Mother of the Year, and MY kids sound like they want me in their own little sweatshop churning out the baked goods or appearing as a guest on Maury.
It just goes to prove what I have always known: My superpower is finding the humor in anything!!
So just to recap. . .
How Ellen’s Kids See Her: ROCK STAR
My kids tell me I look like Michael Jackson
How Erin’s Kids See Her: COOKIE JAR
My Kids tell me I look like Betty Crocker
Thank you to Stasha once again for her Monday Listicles. Without her, we might not have these beautiful family moments to treasure. But, in all seriousness, she has created a lovely community of writers who start their week off “write” with a list. Great writers, great blogs—what are you waiting for?? Get over there! Erin and Ellen