Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Day My Kids Taught Me to Stop and Pick the Flowers

“Come on, boys,” I scolded, exasperated as their tiny toddler feet wandered off into the weeds for what felt like the hundredth time in the last five minutes. “Keep moving, and stay on the path, or we’re never going to get to the end.”

We’d set out on a family walk at a local park, and my twin boys kept darting off the designated path to pick flowers—most of which were actually weeds—effectively turning our “walk” into more of a “stand around in a puddle of my own sweat while the kids get dirty, itchy, and bug-bitten” situation. No matter how much I insisted that they stick to the route we’d set out upon, they refused to cease their floral-driven detours.

As I stood there, squinting in the harshness of the July Texas sun, I became increasingly frustrated with their apparent distraction. As the mosquitoes descended upon my ankles like ants on a sugar cube, I finally decided I’d had enough. I ventured off the path myself, and, grabbing my eldest just below his pointy little elbow, half-dragged his kicking body back onto the trail.

When I released his skinny forearm from the grasp of my hand, he replaced it with a hodgepodge bouquet of flowers, weeds, and (based on the sudden itching sensation in my palm) a few more mosquitos.

The sweet simplicity of the gesture made me pause, and, for a moment, I stopped clawing at the burgeoning bug bites that were making my knuckles double in size.

I moved my eyes from the tangle of wildlife in my hands to the tangle of his blond curls, slightly damp and glowing in the afternoon sun. They framed a face that was also glowing—not only with the light beating down from above us, but also with the pure, unadulterated pride of a toddler.

I felt a warmth that had nothing to do with the 100 degree heat index.

After that, I let my boys wander to their little hearts’ content. And I started watching them. Really watching them.

I watched them sprint through the weeds, the tall grass tickling their kneecaps, staining the bottoms of their shoes as they raced each other to a far-off flower, their faces blooming even more beautifully than the object of their quest.

I watched their tiny fingers meticulously pinch off the stem of a dandelion, just below the blossom, and listened to the awe in their voices as they excitedly christened it their “Big Yeh-Yo Flower.”

I watched their knobby knees press into the earth as they knelt down to uproot weeds, and I saw them grin at me as they looked at their blackened legs and proclaimed, “Big mess!”

I watched them study tiny white buds as though they were as rare, delicate, and valuable as diamonds, the paleness of the alabaster petals standing out against the bright pink of their flushed cheeks.

I watched them toss dirt in one another’s hair as though it were pixie dust, laughing with that magical laugh that is born exclusively between the lips of a child.

I watched them hold a tiny blossom to their delicate nostrils, and grimace upon discovering that flowers don’t taste as good as they smell.

I watched them fight over something as simple as a dandelion, as if the color of its petals were actual gold, not just the pigmentation of a flowering weed.

And as I watched them, I came to the sudden realization that—despite the fact that I’ve had more “experience” with it—sometimes my kids know more about life than I do. They know how to pause and enjoy a moment. They recognize the opportunity for discovery around them. They know that the most important thing is not always “staying the course” or “moving forward.”

Sometimes the most important—the most beautiful—thing is taking a moment to stop and pick the flowers.

As my sons ran up to either side of me, each taking one of my hands in theirs, I took a moment to revel in the smallness of those hands, in their softness, in the slightly sticky combination of sweat and dandelion juice that coated their skin. I thought back to my earlier words: “Keep moving, and stay on the path, or we’re never going to get to the end.”

Sadly, that’s the way most adults think today, isn’t it? Stay focused. Set a goal, and work towards it. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted.

How often have I ignored the beauty right in front of me in order to “stay the course?”

I’m so desperate to get the kids to bed on time that I deny their request for “one more story,” and I miss out on the feeling of their tiny bodies curled up in my lap like kittens, as they point to pictures and read along with me (even if their “reading” is really just memorization from having heard the book a million times).

I’m so anxious to get them through dinner and into the bathtub that I don’t take the time to laugh as they stuff their cheeks with strawberries, scurrying around the kitchen like little blonde chipmunks.

I’m in such a hurry to get them dressed that I don’t oblige their request to put their own socks on—knowing it will take ten times longer than if I do it—and I deprive myself of the chance to hug them as they grin at their accomplishment, squeezing them close to me and whispering, “Good job! I’m so proud of you!” in their ears.

I’m well-acquainted with the cliché, “stop and smell the roses.” But sometimes—as my kids reminded me that day—we need to do more. Sometimes smelling the flowers isn’t enough. Sometimes we need to grab them while they’re still within our reach. Sometimes we need to pull them up by the roots, clutch them close to our hearts, and then hand them to someone else. Sometimes we need to take all that life has to offer and share it with those we love.

Yes, sometimes we need to just stop and pick the flowers.

And if they turn out to be weeds? Well, all the better: It only reminds us that there is beauty in everything, even in places we wouldn’t normally bother to look.

Monday, July 27, 2015

28 Signs You're a Mom Suffering From 90s Fever

Did you grow up in the 90s? If so, you're probably not over it. After all, 90s pop culture included some of the most superfly, hella-awesome fads ever, and they likely shaped you into the person you are today.

If you're a mom, you might find your affinity for all things 90s influencing how you interact with (or how you act around) your kids.

Here are 28 signs that you're a mom suffering from 90s fever:

1. You have Lip Smackers hidden strategically throughout the house. Definitely your drug of choice. Should you find yourself in need of a fix, you know exactly where to find them: stashed in drawers, purses, empty tampon wrappers—anywhere that’s easily accessible to you, yet hidden from the greedy mouths of hungry toddlers, who assume they taste as good as they smell.

2. Whenever you find yourself in possession of a partially used can of frosting, you crack open a box of Teddy Grahams. Because you could Dunkaroo all day.

3. On more than one occasion, your kids have looked at you like you need to be institutionalized for your dance moves. It’s called The Macarena, yo, and it’s hip to the diggity.

4. Speaking of music with jibberish lyrics, all your favorite songs sound like they’re sung by the minions from Despicable Me. I'm blue da ba dee da ba daa, Mmmbop, ba duba dop ba du bop, I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah.

5. And you still find yourself wondering, Where HAVE all the cowboys gone?

6. Your running shoes look like they were made by Lisa Frank. Number one rule of running shoes: Don’t buy them based on color. Sure, sure. BUT HAVE YOU SEEN THESE?

7. While we’re on the topic of The Neon Goddess: When you take your kids back-to-school shopping, you try to persuade them to get all Lisa Frank stuff. And when you find her brightly colored animals in the sticker aisle, you have to get some, especially if they have the dolphin ones. After all, they make the perfect adornments for your MASH games.

8. Speaking of school supplies, no one seems very impressed with your rubber pencil trick. It’s okay. At least you know it’s dope.

9. And in addition to saying things like “dope,” you’ve embarrassed your kids on several occasions by dropping phrases from Clueless in public. “You want me to spend 60 bucks on a pair of hole-ridden jeans that look like they were spray-painted on you? As if!

10. You mourn the days when Polly could actually fit in your pocket. This may coincide with number 6:

11. You mourn the days when pockets were more than ¼ inch deep. And when jeans weren't designed to fit like sausage casing. And waist bands actually covered your waist, allowing you to bend over without sounding like a Rice Krispies commercial: Snap (oops, just busted a seam),CRACKle (hello, butt cleavage), and Pop (there goes a button)!

12. You sometimes hide your gum in old Band-Aid boxes. It’s not quite the same as the original Ouch gum, but it’s the closest you can get since Hubba Bubba’s traumatic packaging redesign.

13. Occasionally, when your husband walks into the room, you ask him, “How you doin’?” Seriously, why haven’t they made a Friends movie yet? Sex and the City got TWO, dammit.

14. You are appalled by the super-cartoonized versions of Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, and Rainbow Brite. Why? Why are their heads so disproportionately large to their bodies? What the hell happened to Shreeky and Beastly? (I know these came out in the 80s, but you probably still watched them growing up.)

15. Sometimes, when you’re at the playground, you find the highest point, stand on it, put your arms out, and proclaim, “I’m flying, Jack!” And later, at the pool, you may just stand at the edge of the deck, take your kid’s hand, and say, “You jump, I jump, remember?”

16. Stepping on Legos brings back painful flashbacks of stepping on butterfly clips. It also makes you nostalgic for Claire’s, and may even compel you to swing by to look for a few tattoo choker necklaces next time you’re out.

17. You’ve told your kids that Facebook is nowhere near as cool as Xanga. Their response to this was probably something like, “Is Xanga a video game? Can we get it?”

18. You don’t like reading books that don’t have gold binding. There are generally only three exceptions to this rule: (1) All the gold has worn off, and the binding has faded to silver, (2) They are part of the Magic Treehouse series, or (3) Harry Potter. Because LONG LIVE THE BOY WHO LIVED!

19. You lobby to the school board to reintroduce Parachute Day in PE. And then ask to chaperone a class.

20. You occasionally sniff your kids’ crayons, hoping they’ll smell like Yankee Candles. And then to alleviate your disappointment when they don’t, you make black crayon etchings with them as artistic therapy.

21. You may or may not have thrown your kid’s VTech Race Car down the stairs, hoping it would make its way down like a slinky. You probably knew it wouldn’t, but you’re just so flippin' tired of hearing Rob the racecar driver saying, “Let’s drive fast!”

Okay, let’s be honest: You were just trying to break the damn thing.

22. You still roll up one leg of your sweat pants. Or, depending on your lounge pant preferences, one leg of your yoga pants.

23. You distribute chewable medicine tablets to your kids with a Pez dispenser. And you’ve got plenty of them to choose from.

24. You get your old Beanie Baby collection out “for the kids to play with.” And then freak out if anyone rips off a tag.

25. When you’re mad, you sometimes glance down at your wedding ring to see if it’s changed colors. White must mean disappointed.

26. When you go out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant with the fam, you're really tempted to put rubber pencil grips on your chopsticks.

27. The sight of a black cherry warhead gives you PTTD (Post Traumatic Tongue Disorder). It’s like you can feel it splitting all over again.

28. And, sometimes, when you eat around your kids, you set up folders so they can't see what you're doing. "Eyes on your own mean...meal! Or we won't be playing Heads Up, Seven the playground later!"

Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for the Mommy Strain of 90s Fever.

But popping a few frosting-dipped Teddy Grahams into your Lip Smackered mouth certainly couldn't hurt.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Wasted Time, Wasted Tears (Or, Why I’ll Never Read the Comments Section Again)

Yesterday I had a piece published on The Mid that discussed some of the dangers of secondhand smoke, and why I prefer my kids not to be around cigarettes.

I recounted a playground outing I'd had with the boys, during which someone was smoking very close to us. I am going to phrase it that way, because apparently my wording here is the be-all and end-all: You see, in the post, I foolishly used the phrase “along the outer perimeter of the fence,” implying that no “rules” were technically broken (even though said fence was certainly less than 50 feet away from the play area, and fences are comprised primarily of—you know—HOLES.)

But, I digress. To summarize (in case you didn’t read the article and still have no desire to): I briefly noted some of the side effects of secondhand smoke and expressed the frustration I feel when someone is smoking near my kids in a public area.

Let’s be clear: I did not name call. I did not condemn or judge people who smoke. I did not threaten to call The Playground Police. I did not imply or suggest that it’s irresponsible of other parents to allow their kids to play in an area where someone is smoking. (You see, I don’t make a habit of telling people how to raise their kids.)

I did not accuse anybody of giving my kids freaking lung cancer, as one reader suggested (more on that below).

All I did was share my feelings as a parent, and how I chose to react to them; and I did so in a respectful, non-confrontational manner.

And I got virtually crucified for it.

Get a grip.

This is so dumb. Someone occasionally smoking within 20 feet of your children is not going to give them lung cancer. (Could someone kindly point out to me where I said that it would?)



She's going to be surprised to learn the world does not revolve around her and her kids. (Again, could someone point out where I implied it did? I didn’t ask anyone to go out of their way for us; I chose to leave.)

I bet this mom has no friends.


Wow those poor kids having to leave cause of their idiot Mom. (“Cause” their idiot Mom? Hmm. Not sure if this one was intended to be ironic or not.)


Get over yourself.

Hover parent.

These are some of the winningest phrases directed toward me in response to the article.


You know, as I’ve continued to get more and more of my work “out there,” I’ve come to expect a certain amount of backlash. It’s part of the blogging gig: The wider the audience my writing reaches, the wider the range of responses I’m going to get. I have accepted that as one of the inevitable costs of my work being published on a larger platform.

But nothing really prepares you for the first time a total stranger calls you “bitch.” Nothing prepares you for the first time you’re accused of being an “idiot mom” who’s doing a horrible job raising her kids.

I don’t expect people to agree with everything I write. I know that, to some people, breathing in a little cigarette smoke isn’t a big deal. That’s fine. I grew up with asthma and happen to be hyper-aware of its presence. It’s something that frustrates me, so I wrote about it. 

I don’t agree with everything I read either. For example, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with choosing formula over breastmilk, but I couldn’t even tell you how many articles I’ve read where people argue why “breast is best.” As long as those articles are written tastefully, and simply express the author’s personal point-of-view, I don’t find them offensive (even if I don’t necessarily agree).

You know what I do find offensive?

Hatred. Name calling. Rude assumptions and unfair accusations. Being called everything from hypocrite to idiot to bitch, simply because I wrote about my feelings as a mother.

Shouldn't mothers be supporting one another instead of tearing each other down?

When I first started reading those commenters’ ugly words, I cried. I cried hard, and I cried a lot. And then I ate a container of honey pecan cream cheese spread took my kids for a run to clear my head.

Once I’d rid my brain of all the nastiness, I got mad. Really mad. But not at the insensitive, ignorant commenters. No, I got mad for caring: For caring what a bunch of tactless strangers said about me on the internet. For wasting my time and my tears on people who don’t know me and have nothing better to do than showcase their hatred through cowardly Facebook comments.

Some people just look for reasons to be mean.

And you know what? Screw ’em. If you think it’s okay to talk to people like that—to treat people like that—I’m not interested in anything you have to say anyway. Those people can waste all the time they want being hateful, but I’m no longer going to waste my time—or my tears—caring.

In a weird way, those commenters did me a favor. They reminded me that it doesn't matter what other people think of you, as long as you stay true to yourself. There are always going to be ugly-hearted people in this world, and the best we can do is ignore them. 

Oh, and their timing was impeccable: You see, I have an extremely raw and personal Scary Mommy post lined up for this week, and I’ve been worrying about how it’s going to be received among the internet community.

But now I don’t really care.

And you can bet your ass I won’t be wasting any of my time scrolling through the comments people make on it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Gates of Hell Have a Padlock, and We Finally Have the Key!

Readers! I apologize for my absence, as I’ve recently been engaged in scandalous Polyblogamist behavior. I realize my posting on here has been increasingly sparse as of late, but I have tons of lame-ass excuses good reason for my absence.

Basically, I’ve been freelancing my ass off. That’s right: Like a seasoned whore, I’ve gone where the money is. What can I say? Freelancing = money, and money buys groceries, and I live with three members of the male species, one of which is 6’4’’ of pure muscle and has apparently sired two tiny versions of himself with similarly freakish metabolisms.

SO. Yes, I’ve been straying a bit from Between the Monkey Bars in order to make a little extra dough (in addition to the cookie dough the boys and I have been making and irresponsibly eating in bulk).

At the risk of sounding like a beggar in addition to a whore, I’m going to not-so-subtly drop some not-so-little hints that a few of these freelance gigs pay based on page views, so THE MORE YOU SHARE, THE MORE GHIRARDELLI CHOCOLATE MONEY I GET. So please continue sharing :)

In case you missed any of my recent writing gigs, you can find them conveniently listed below:

As far as upcoming pieces, keep an eye out for some more Scary Mommy action, my In the Powder Room debut (a hilarious site I’m super pumped to contribute to), and another piece on The Mid.

Alright, enough of the petty housekeeping business. On to more exciting news….


Well, as those of you who are loyal readers know, you can’t really get the “hell” out of Texas. However, we are removing ourselves from its hellish borders.

You know what they say: You can’t take the hell outta Texas, but you can get the hell outta Texas.

Come September, we will be blissfully BACK IN INDIANA, just in time to see the leaves change colors, and for the boys to actually be able to go trick-or-treating without sweating through their costumes.

So, in celebration, I thought I’d do a little more bitching about the place Satan likes to summer when hell just ain’t meeting his standards for a blisteringly high enough heat index.

They say that everything’s bigger in Texas. ("They" clearly being idiots.) Well, I call bullshit. Everything is definitely NOT bigger in Texas.

I offer, as proof, the following list:

Ten Things That Are NOT Bigger In Texas

1. Popsicles. They shouldn’t even be able to call them popsicles here. They melt almost as quickly as my little boys’ hearts when they realize the frozen treats that I just gave them liquefied the moment they stepped outside. "Popsicles" should just be called juice here. Sticky juice. Sticky juice that stains everything it touches. Aw hell, let's just call them "messes."

2. Apples. Oh, how I miss apple picking: the pleasure of trekking through an orchard on a crisp autumn day, plucking a honeycrip from a low-hanging branch, and sinking my teeth into all of its juicy goodness.

There is no apple picking season here. Because there are no seasons here. And the apples at the grocery store tend to be tiny, hard, and gross. Unless you pay 50 bajillion dollars for the ones they have sent over from areas of the country that aren’t fruit-tree-killing infernos.

3. My boobs. I really hoped that the whole “everything’s bigger in Texas” thing might actually have some magical effect on my bra size. No such luck.

4. The range of our car’s temperature gauge. The first day we moved here (last August), we were driving around, trying to find a hotel for the night. The temperature reading on the dashboard of our van kept climbing: 98…99…100…101…and then it dropped down to 75.

Yup, that’s right: Texas, you bastard, you busted our car.

5. Trystan’s head. Okay, to be fair to Texas, I AM ACTUALLY GRATEFUL for this one. I don’t think my little bobblehead could withstand any more weight on his tiny toddler shoulders. As it is, we have to buy him adult-sized hats.

Trystan, age 2. 
Newsboy Cap, size 2. 
May God have mercy on the mother of his future children. 
And on her poor lady bits.
(Thank God he was born via C-Section.)

6. Spaces between vehicles on highways. Holy f***king traffic, Batman! Seriously. And most of the drivers here are total ass-hats who, apparently, have no working knowledge of how to operate a turn signal.

7. My tolerance for narrow-minded nincompoops. I don’t want to get too political here, but, for starters, there’s this.

8. A basic understanding of the cause-and-effect relationship. Again, don’t want to get too political, but a few months back, there was a biker shootout in Waco, during which nine people died. Sooo…then this happened. I mean, makes total sense, amirite?

9. Shoulders. (This is not referring to the boys’ actual shoulders, which have, coincidentally, gotten bigger since we've moved here, due to their oddly endearing love of pull-ups).

Beast Mode, yo!

I'm talking about the kinds of shoulders you're supposed to be able to pull-over onto while driving. I CAN’T TAKE THE BOYS RUNNING ON THE ROADS HERE. Unless I want to play (and lose) a real-life game of Frogger. There just isn’t room for a double stroller. ANYWHERE. At least not where we live.

10. Chocolate. This one doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but if I’m promised “bigger” things in Texas, my Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie bar should be the size of my freaking face, dammit.

On the flipside, here is a list of Things That Actually ARE Bigger in Texas:

1. The sun. Yeah, I know this is scientifically impossible, but whatever. Galileo, Keplar, Newton, Neil deGrasse Tyson…they can all kiss my ass.

2. Fire ant mounds. Also, my boys’ affinity for “big piles of dirt,” and our need for Quantum Sting Soothe® Bug Bite Relief.

Oh Texas: Where kids have the pleasure of making mud pies 
that—when bitten into—bite back!

3. The trail of sweat I leave behind on a run. Seriously, The Trail of Tears ain’t got shit on me.

4. Lists of things that piss me off.

5. Our electric bill. Air conditioning all damn day, every day.

And, just to keep things in perspective, a list of Things For Which I Harbor A Bigger Hatred Than I Do For Texas:

1. Cockroaches.
And even if it's beyond our reach, we'll haunt you in your nightmares!

So, in conclusion, dear readers:


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

40 Ways to Make Your Toddler Cry This Fourth of July

When you’ve got toddlers, the Fourth of July isn’t so much a “holiday” as it is one giant suckfest. For starters, the main event takes place after bedtime, so you’re basically extending your kids’ waking hours in order to subject yourself to hordes of mosquitoes at a firework show that you probably don’t really give a crap about anyway.

But you know what? It might even be worth the extra stress and exhaustion if you got to see your kids actually enjoying themselves. I mean, I wouldn’t mind spending a late night with my boys snuggled in my lap, their faces lit up with awe and the glow of the fireworks above us, while patriotic music plays softly in the background.

But it doesn’t work that way. Trying to legitimately celebrate the Fourth of July with kids under the age of four pretty much turns the day into one big toddler tantrum. It’s simple math, really:

Overtired Toddlers + Loud Noises + Sparkly Things They Aren’t Allowed to Touch = Tears + Screaming

If you don’t trust in the equation, here are a few real-life examples of things you can do or say to your munchkins to make them weep this July 4th:

1. “No, it’s not a ‘present’ holiday.”

2. “We’re celebrating America’s birthday, not yours.”

3. “No, America’s mom is not providing goody bags.”

4. Wrestle them into their car seats to drive to a family cookout.

5. On the way there: “Sorry, guys, I left Elmo in Grouchland in the DVD player at home.”

6. After they inevitably fall asleep three minutes before arrival, wake them up when you get to the cookout.

7. At the cookout: “Those aren’t bouncy balls. They’re melon balls, and you need to stop throwing them on the floor.”

8. Force them to wear sunscreen when they ask to play outside.

9. “No, you can’t poke your brother with the sparkler. I don’t care if it looks like it would ‘tickle.’”

10. “You can’t eat it either. I don’t care if it looks like ‘sparkly cotton candy.’”

11. “You know what? I think we’re done with the sparklers now.”

12. When someone mentions Uncle Sam: “No, he’s not coming to the cookout.”

13. “…and, no, he doesn’t bring gifts like Santa.”

14. Wrestle them into their car seats after it’s already past bedtime in order to drive to a fireworks show.

15. After they inevitably fall asleep two minutes before arrival, wake them up when you get to the firework show.

16. Hose them down with bug spray in order to save their dewy toddler skin from the onslaught of mosquitoes sure to be there.

17. As you’re laying down a blanket for everyone to sit on: “No, we’re not building a fort.”

18. When they look at you with betrayal and confusion: “It’s the Fourth of July, not the Fort of July.”

19. Pull out the bag of limited edition red, white, and blue goldfish crackers that you foolishly brought in an attempt to provide a festive snack for the firework show.

20. “I didn’t bring orange fishies. These taste exactly like the orange fishies.”

21. Forget to pack juice.

22. Pack the wrong flavor juice.

23. “No, you don’t get presents after the fireworks.”

24. “Stop scratching your mosquito bites.”

25. “No, I’m not spending twenty dollars on a glow stick that’ll entertain you for approximately 15 seconds.”

26. After caving and buying the damn glow sticks: “No, we can’t trade them for the blue ones.”

27. Warn them that the fireworks are going to be loud. Or:

28. Fail to warn them that the fireworks are going to be loud.

29. “No, I can’t make them stop the fireworks.”

30. “No, we’re not going home yet.”

31. “No, I don’t think there’s going to be an Elmo shaped firework.”

32. “No, we can’t watch Elmo in Grouchland on the way home. I already told you, I left it at home.”

33. After the grand finale: “The fireworks are all done.”

34. “Nope, still no presents.”

35. Wrestle them into their car seats for the drive home.

36. After they inevitably fall asleep one minute before arrival, wake them up when you get home.

37. While you tuck them in: “No, Uncle Sam’s not coming tonight to bring presents.”

38. “No, we’re not leaving out milk and cookies for him.”

39. “No, you can’t have milk and cookies right now.”

40. “Yes, the Fourth of July is all done.”

Let freedom ring? Ha. Not if you’re a mom to toddlers.

  Happy “Independence” Day, suckers!