A raging case of The Mondays.

When Mommy Shorts contacted me about participating in her Monday Mornings campaign with Allstate, I was admittedly on the fence. But, there was something so lovely about the transparency of the series that spoke to me. Ilana of Mommy Shorts started Monday Mornings to showcase the hidden beauty in the Monday morning routines and rituals of families through the literal lens of another. It often takes a totally foreign perspective to get us to say, “I’m a good mom. I’m doing alright with my small people.” So, I said, “Yes” and Allstate said, “A woman named Bad Parenting Moments? What could possibly go wrong? Yes!” and like that, an unlikely partnership formed.

As I drew closer to my Monday morning coffee date with all of you, I started to get unbelievably and insanely nervous. Photos of the piles of shoes on our floor? Photos of my bedhead? Photos of me pouring cereal when I should’ve, could’ve made scrambled eggs? The inevitable photo of me pointing with utter exasperation to the back door – 5 minutes late and no one has their damn socks on? Why? Why would I do that?

And then I said, why wouldn’t I do that? I share so much with all of you. Why wouldn’t I share my family and our bruised and battered Monday? So, here it is. Our Monday morning with cream and 1 sugar.

Through the chaos, I found moments of real beauty; emphasis on the REAL. And it struck me how Allstate’s mantra of Keeping you in Good Hands and Helping you live the Good Life, is eerily similar to my Monday morning mantra. In the few, minuscule moments of quiet; before the house stumbles awake, I always ask for patience. I ask for the ability to be the best mother I can be. I ask for the grace to forgive myself when I, undoubtedly, fail. I ask for the good life for my children. I ask for the universe to hold them safely in her hands. I ask for the ability to find joy in simplicity and I ask for my children to thrive despite my many shortcomings. I fit a lot of asking into those two minutes.

So, here we go….

A big pile of my family’s Monday on your doorstep. Thank you for being a part of our day. (photo credit and huge, loving thanks to Belinda Lashway)

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Want more? Of course you do. Here are a few of my absolute favorite Monday Morning posts:

Monday morning with Shaneka

Monday morning with Sara

Monday morning with Laura

The minutes and measure of a man.

On Saturday night, at a small restaurant at an even smaller table, four parents discussed parenting. That’s a big topic. Broad and cavernous – so full of the space between all our ideologies and thoughts. 4 parents. 4 philosophies. No matter how intertwined, when it comes right down to it, we are always and utterly in left field. There is no amount of sameness that makes parenting truly feel simpatico.

We were talking about the rapture of current parenting. This new-age “all in” prom. Everyday, all of the children are kings and queens and we’re there to make sure no one spikes the punch. It’s lovely and exhausting; our wanting to be fully involved while functioning on the same lack of sleep as our forefathers. Four score and seven cups of coffee ago.

With all of the supposed progress, it’s much the same except the stakes are so much higher. We MUST be present or, to our children’s chagrin, we are absentee. And, we worry so much more about being absentee even though we are perpetually and stunningly there. SO there. It’s nonsense this “not enough”. It’s nonsense.


Whenever I’m in the depths of the, “I don’t show up enough.”, I always think of my father.

My parents divorced when I was very young. I saw my father only during the summer. Still, he is my soft place to land. He is my humanity ground zero. When all is broken, he is the fullness of possibility and the truthful teller of the consequences of bad decisions. He is the parent I run to and he was rarely “there”.

There is subjective. There bends.

He was always and boldly working toward fulfilling his dream of being a musician. Our fleeting times with him were mostly spent with grandparents I’ve grown to idolize and homes I’ve grown to daily daydream of. His presence in his own life, never giving up on his life’s calling, led to a very rich carousel of love and presence in the family around us; yet, I can imagine that he felt the ugly tug of parenting guilt. He worked constantly and we did what latchkey kids do – we used our goddamn imagination.

Guess what? We’re ok.

My father taught me about the value of kindness, the bravery of a great adventure, the American songbook and the weight of your own decisions.

We probably spent, on average, roughly 90 quality minutes with him every day for two months once a year.

Yet, those 90 minutes are the cornerstone of who I am.

I think of the time I spend with my children…the kitchen that I seem to occupy with every spare breath I breathe. The meals that take on a life of their own and the pure function that overrides the fun. You can’t spell function without f-u-n. But, watch us try…

As I readied myself for this Saturday night dinner, my eldest daughter was showering while I put on make-up and we spoke for about 15 minutes about friendship and secrets. Those you should keep and those you should never keep. We talked about her growing up. We talked a little about me growing up. I’d been with her all day and yet, these 15 minutes, we were both THERE. We were both all in and I think, if I can just carve 15 minutes a day just like that into their lives, that will equal success.

It’s ok that I can’t be totally and 100% present every moment. It really is. Being there is about providing the cornerstone and there’s no manual on how much time builds the foundation.

It could be 15 minutes a day. There is something stunning about that. There is something beautiful. I’m giving myself permission to truly be there for 15 minutes a day – because right now, that’s the best I can do. That means that I also have to give myself permission to not worry about how much I’m messing it up the other hours of the day while writing, cooking, laundering or just, sometimes blindly, showing up.

90 minutes for 2 months a year taught me all of the good things I know about truth, love, life and the human experience. Maybe we should all relax a little.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.

Ruby reds and tin with heart

When I was a young girl, The Wizard of Oz came on once a year. We called it “Dorothy Day!” and sometimes, we even had cake. We would hunker down in front of our television, then – the size of a computer monitor. It would be silence for the duration. We knew it would be a full 364 days before disgruntled trees threw apples, the witch disappeared into sulfur smoke and before Dorothy learned that all she ever needed was in Kansas. A point, to this day, I still find hard to believe and yet thoroughly understand from the inside of my little, suburban life.

We learned something beautiful waiting for those ruby red shoes each year. Anticipation is often was the best part and true magic lives in the details. We knew the moment would end and that made it all the more delicious; like the last bite of a perfect piece of pie.

Every year, I watched Dorothy and her roving gang of misfits. Every year, I learned something new. As I grew, so did the meaning of her story. She is still my lifelong heroine. Flawed, but generous of spirit. Kind, but, intolerant of injustice. Always seeking. Always questioning. Realizing that the best way to take on the world is with people you trust who have flaws of their own that they’re willing to share.

My children are not the fans I was and still am. When they ask why it’s my favorite, I have my age appropriate stock answers. And the universal answer, The Wizard of Oz is about living an authentic life. They roll their eyes, convinced I’ve just always wanted a pair of shimmering, red kitten heels.

But, one day I will say this:

The Wizard of Oz is a story about a woman who can’t see the beauty in her life. She feels alone. She feels persecuted by boredom and small town injustice. She feels powerless and starts an identity struggle that will lead her to the realization that all of the power to become her best self is not in beautiful shoes or in powerful men or in exciting, new places. She learns that you follow yourself wherever you go.

In any place where you seek answers to questions only you can answer, you will find inevitable truths – No matter where you land, there will be kind, authentic people to surround and support you. There will also be the inevitable witch, unable to joyously support the journey of others. You can not allow these people to alter or control your destiny. You must keep your loved ones very close on your journey and know that the smoke and sulfur of the unhappy will lead to their own undoing.

She discovers that, the thing you dislike the most about yourself, you hide behind. It serves as your excuse to not make brave decisions or try new things and, if you allow it, it will become so big and so all consuming that you will believe that it is the only thing others can see when they look at you. But, she also learns that the people who love you, will help you find strength in what you believe is your hurdle to happiness. You are never too lost to find your own way home. You are smarter and braver than you believe. You have enough heart to love the world.

She learns that no one can give you all of life’s answers and that anyone who claims to have them is probably hiding something too. That home is not the place where your hat is; It’s the place where your heart is. At the end, you want to be surrounded by the people who love you the most and that life could be a dream, sweetheart.

Desperately Seeking Ingalls

Often, as I’m sitting with the children, I’ll start thinking about parenting in general. When this happens, I usually find myself pouring over the stories of the idolized families of my youth. The Ingalls, in particular.

No one ever yelled when things went wrong, there were plenty of bedside or kitchen table chats and we all learned something.

It was a beautiful life, but, not without heartache. It was as real as I wanted real life to be. It was flawed and difficult, but, love conquered all. Everyone wore their insides as clearly as the bonnets or coats dressing their bodies. The love for each other so obvious it was their most beautiful accessory.

This world of parenting is so starkly different in comparison. The access to absolutely everything we need and most of what we want. With so much to be thankful for, I find myself lusting after those days of less.

Carrie running down the hill and quiet evenings in dark rooms with the squeaking of the bunk bed stairs signaling some naughty adventure. I would not sew, but, my husband and I would bond over a table he made. Possible, but, not realistic. The world has changed. We have adapted.

I know, intellectually, it is not living like the Ingalls that makes one an Ingalls. It is living a genuinely giving and loving life. Family first. Family forever.

I love my children. There is no doubt. Like an internal bleed; you can not find the source, this love is everywhere. But, I am constantly comparing my reality to the pie baking, cart and horse mother lodged in my subconscious. Parenting does not look the way I imagined. It sometimes feels more routine than full of grace and spectacular teaching moments. There are hazy days and days when I wonder if I’ve been connecting at all as we wander through moments that feels like yesterday and every day.

How can something that looks so different still be authentic? Still be good enough? Can I be a both a great writer and a great mother? When they say, “Mommy, you’re the best mommy ever?”, will I ever believe them?

I have to remind myself that I am their Ma Ingalls even with my typing fingers and my flaws and I may not make them clothes, but, I write their stories. We are all part of each other and we need each other desperately even though I can not always mend hemlines and hearts over only the light of the hearth.

And, it is indeed a beautiful life, but, not without heartache. It is flawed and difficult, but, I still think love conquers all.

This reality is just as real as my beloved Little House on the Prairie, though it looks and feels different to the touch; this family is perfect in its own way in this home where family is forever and kitchen table chats bring laughter, spilled milk and so-and-so dipped in my ketchup and yes, even sometimes, those big moments when we all learn something.

Not Amused.

This past Saturday, in the midst of our town’s nationally recognized and beloved parade, we decided to leave town. Because, when you’re searching for adventure and memories, it’s best to look for the more expensive version of good times inconveniently located hours outside of your own backyard. It’s the time honored tradition of knowing better and doing it anyway. Spend mo’ money. Have mo’ fun. Or, exactly the opposite.

Everyone loves to spend money they don’t have on stuff they don’t need in search of creating memories that rarely last. It’s the American way. So, full of the hope of providing cherished childhood recollections and relying on AAA discounts, we made our way North.

We’d driven about fifty miles when the car started rumbling like the introduction to a monster truck rally. Excellent. After a quick stop just long enough to wake all of our sleeping children, we determined that it was clear cut case of OurCarisaPieceofShititis. There was no immediate cure. We would have to ride this out for the remaining 2 hours with plenty of time to think about upgrading to a limousine, simply for the privacy glass, as the kids began the world’s longest game of, “Are we there yet?”.

It was sometime between the 35,000th explanation of amusement park height requirements that I played my own game of punch buggy and knocked myself unconscious.

When I arose, we were in the Motel parking lot. The best thing about Motels is that you set your standards really low and are still somehow disappointed. This year, we arrived to find the on-site playground had removed the slide, stairs and floor to the play structure. They did leave a huge amount of splintered wood for the kids to play with though which, I think we all can agree, was a classy move.

The thing the kids loved best about our stay was the phone in the room. They really enjoyed seeing how humans used to communicate before we all just talked into computer screens. When life hands you obsolete telecommunication devices, make history lesson lemonade. After their fortieth call to the front desk, “Which side do you talk into? Do you hang the cord around your neck so the phone doesn’t fall? Can we call China? Can we call grandpa?”, they disconnected our line.

"Well, Hello there children! I'm a phone. Once, people picked up the thing-a-majig that looks like earmuffs and talked into me to speak to loved ones near and far!"

“Well, hello there children! I’m a phone. Once, people picked up the thing-a-majig that looks like earmuffs and talked into me to speak to loved ones near and far!”

The next morning, we made our way to the amusement park. “ARE YOU READY TO RUMMMMMMMMMBLLLLLLLLE?” If I’m being honest (which I must, the power of BPM compels me), my husband and I spent the first 15 minutes in the parking lot debating about whether or not to say the 3 year old was 2 to secure free admission. Yes, it’s totally wrong. It’s stealing. It’s lying. There is no Robin Hood justification. We finally decided against it at the entry. I could not bring myself to start a one woman show to distract the children from our thievery, “Oh look kids, a bird! Oh look, an ice cream cone on the ground! Oh look, a wallet someone dropped that your dad and I will obviously return because despite this momentary lapse in judgment, we are honest, law abiding citizens! Promise!”. Besides, $29.99 was just too low a price to sell my self-respect. For a $60 ticket? Let’s talk.

It started off great with the everyone running in separate directions and my tampons flying out of my purse next to the park mascot, a talking tree. I felt a little bit awkward with the cardboard applicators, but, thank you tree for your service. Your body gives us important things.

Honey Badger, our 3 year old, immediately found a lovely older woman who decided to volunteer her time handing out park stickers to the visiting children. You had to enter a giant shoe, request a sticker and walk out. Unless you are Honey Badger, then you walk the loop until someone lies to you and tells you they are all out of stickers. “Mama, I think that old lady is telling the lies!”

Sooner or later, every adult at an amusement park has to tell, “the lies”.

1) The park is all out of cotton candy

2) We can’t have THOSE Icees because they dumped poison into them. That’s why they’re green.

3) There is plenty of steering wheel for you both to share it.

4) Aren’t we all having the BEST TIME EVER? I know I am!

5) The park closes at 3:30 p.m., those other people staying are breaking the rules.

After six hours, we were done. Crawling through the desert in search of an oasis done. Someone please cut off my feet because they are now just bloody stumps of regret done. Are you going to eat that churro you found on the ground? done.

Long story short, it was the best almost $600 we couldn’t possibly afford that we never should have spent. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Yes, it's true, for a mere $600, your kids too can take the best nap ever! (not shown: 2 older children in back seat who refused to stop talking for the 3.5 hour trip home.)

Yes, it’s true, for a mere $600, your kids too can take the best nap ever! (not shown: 2 older children in back seat who refused to stop talking for the 3.5 hour trip home.)

Unidentified Flying Childhood

On the way home, I caught sight of a falling item through the bare branches lining the highway. It appeared to be hurtling through the sky. Ready to crash land at any moment. I continued to drive.  The item continued to fall with the same speed and ferocity while never reaching a target. I was mesmerized. I drove. It fell. I watched. It fell. The smoke trailing behind the object serving as the only indication of motion. A picture of perpetual movement with no visible progress. I know that feeling.

I am not the kind of mother who spends all day quietly crafting in the evergreen scented warmth of my kitchen, oven slightly ajar to release heat and the smells of baking. I do not cry when my children leave to begin a new school year or lose a tooth. I am a believer in progress. I am thankful for each new phase. Stepping stones signaling passage from dependence to independence. I celebrate forward motion as I watch them create a life, separate from me and my expectations of who they are. I watch their light bulb moments with curiosity and eagerness. Some days, it seems as if it is moving so quickly. Some days, perpetual movement with no visible progress. We become stuck in the day to day minutia.

I have been in varying stages of parenting young children since I first stepped into the role in 2006. Every two years, another infant. Every two years, a rearranging of the family structure. A re-learning of infancy. A re-tooling of our resources, abilities and boundaries with ourselves and each other. Every two years, my well defined parenting taste buds mature and I must further develop my palate.

When pregnant with our last, I knew we were pushing the reaches of our abilities and resources. I knew we were done.  Thus began a new vision of parenting. A model where another baby would not come home in a striped hat of pink and blue. Things are changing. The baby on my chest is the last. The chalk throwing 2 year old looks older. The 4 year old seems tall, lanky with no sign of his baby cheeks. The 6 year old, a shorter and wittier version of young adult me. Time has finally started moving. Swiftly.

I used to feel unable to say that the fully dependent times are trying. It is difficult to admit that, on some days, you feel like you are hurtling through space, in a dark void filled with only screams, dirty diapers and the incessant need of you.

We are a society that is so focused on the past and future that we neglect our present. In either judgmental hindsight or thoughtful foreshadowing, we ignore the now in its hideous imperfection. The hindsighters who watch you navigate moments of DEFCON 1 parenting and, with lustful implication, say, “Oh enjoy it, it goes by so fast.” In hindsight, do we all view childhood as a shooting star? Beautiful, rare and blindingly brief.

Perhaps, in some ways, this is true. We pine for what is gone. We long for what is just outside our future reach. In the present though, we are frozen in lack of noticeable progress. We look forward to the abilities, competencies and skills they have yet to grow into. We pine for full cheeks, soft bellies and toothless grins.

I don’t like to drink from the, “This is as good as it gets.” fountain. I cherish the soft days of baby. I laugh through the wild rumpus of toddlerhood, I marvel at the knowledge of my newly school aged children’s vivid understanding of the complicated world around them. I watch as they embrace every moment as it is happening; maybe children are the only ones who are truly able to.

Peter Pan never wanted to grow up. Wendy, Michael and John, even after the adventure of Neverland, wanted to go home to their mother. I think we all carry a bit of this as we fly through life. Half child/Half grown-up emotion hoping our children slow down, believe in fairies and, no matter where they are in the adventure, always fly home.

Life is happening while we court the great reckoning of longing versus progress. And, while we’re here in this daily fall of non-visible momentum, the smoke is signaling that we’re traveling. Swiftly.


Long Live the Terrible Twos

If you ask a toddler who they are, they will say, “I am ME!” Simple and true. There can only be one you and, never are we more aware of this than during the big, self-pimptastic-realization of age 2. When the world is your oyster and that bitch better produce a pearl. This is the prime of our take. When you are 2, there is very little control over your world. You control only your reaction to the decisions being made for you and around you. In order to swallow that pill, you become one.

If you ask an adult who they are, they wax philosophical. Answering with who they want to be more often than who they currently are. At times, we may not even know. We project our desires with less toddler-like stomping and biting, but, with only a quarter of the badass that toddlerhood organically, and abundantly, produces.

There are times I desire that toddler, Foghorn Leghorn puffed chest pride. Every time I see my daughter strut around new terrain, secure in her right to be there, claiming the space as her own, I am awe-struck. So much sense of self trapped in one, tiny body. I imagine that the internal soundtrack in her head is Danger Zone. 24/7 Danger Zone and so much fantastic, she doesn’t need Goose to co-pilot.

There are times when the brazenness of her age embarrasses me. Everything is theirs. That wallet in your hand? THEIRS. The grapes in the produce section. THEIRS. The chalk in your toddler’s hands? Sorry, THEIRS. The cat’s flea collar, your bowl of cereal, the sack of plastic bags in the basement. Right. THEIRS.

Alternatively, in all the well documented take of the toddler age, I see saintly giving. The affection they give to everyone they meet. The trust they extend and their unlimited well of forgiveness. I see those traits more acutely developed in these pint-sized Mother Theresas than in the majority of adult society. So much love to give and everyone is deserving. You only need be in their extended orbit to be a recipient of their time, words, love and attention.

Sure, they could use some polish. The crapping directly in their pants and failure to understand how to use a tissue require finesse, but, when it comes to give and take, good and bad, the light and dark, I have to say, toddlers may have us beat.

Toddler 101: Enter a room and be brazenly YOU.  Make friends with everyone. If anyone steps on your toes, tell them and then, hug it out. Friends may not always agree, but, if we have Goldfish and a few minutes, we’ll remember that having relationships is far better than being right and, we’ll move on. Everyone can play and if we all pool our snacks, there is plenty to go around. If I get hurt, it’s alright to cry. If I need love, I’ll ask for a hug. The world is great. People are kind. If you love the music, dance…no matter where you are. If you hurt someone, say sorry. Share.

Long live the Terrible Twos.

Summer’s Last Stand

Who doesn’t love summer with its endlessness and perpetual abyss of all of your offspring under one roof? I enjoy my weekly shower and cold cup of coffee because life is revitalizing when freezing cold  and roughly scheduled. I also enjoy our 2 1/2 month inch toward poverty as the locusts children eat us out of house and home. Of course you can have all 15 of the Hot Pockets. I was saving them for the apocalypse, but, frankly that seems closer now than ever so, enjoy!

After several months home, the gifts of summer’s delight keep on giving, and giving, and giving and…come play with us Danny (elevator doors open in Overlook Hotel).

We’re going back to school shopping…forever and ever and ever and ever…

As we drag our weary, bedraggled bodies toward the home stretch, I can think of only two things: How many more days until school starts? and, How did I manage to only get a tan on my feet?

This week has brought more of the same. The zest of the initial June kiddie pool filling has been replaced with August 13ths, “Can’t you just go play NEAR the hose. I might turn it on later. I don’t know, maybe if you’re really thirsty.” and our bounding out of the gates trips to the park have turned into, “Hey kids, look out the window! There’s the park!” as we speed home from the grocery store. I’ve caved and they can smell my desperation. Desperation for Moms – the new scent by mothers, for mothers. A scent for the simple, complicated woman who just can’t wait for effing school to start. *whisper* DESSSSPERATION.

As swift as sand through the hourglass, so are the the days of our lives…except for the days of summer.

Now what, you ask? Exactly. I am out of ideas. I am out of pipe cleaners, glue and stickers. And, to quote the great philosopher, Prince, “Party over, oops out of time.” But, summer still had one sucker punch for me: Several days of torrential downpour. Game on, summer. One more chance to give it my “A game” or, to establish an A game since I’ve been riding the bench between C – and D, but, with the curve I’m hoping to pull it up to a solid B -.  Here’s hoping the kids accept my extra credit sprinkling of dirt on their note to the fairies that I passed off as fairy dust! Fingers crossed!

Now, I give you our rainy day summer projects you will NEVER see on Pinterest:

Weather Hats – They are fashionable and informative. If they are wet, it’s raining. If your forehead starts to smoke, the sun is shining. If the forecast calls for thunder and lightning, it’s time to ask yourself, Are you a bettin’ man? Well, are you?

You are seriously impressed right now. Who wouldn’t be? Now taking orders for my shop featured on Regretsy.

Telephone – Ring, Ring? Hello? Hello? HELLOOOOO? Just like when the phone rings during the day in my house, I’m going to ignore these calls too. The kids love that they can scream at each other from different rooms and I love that they are screaming things like, “HI! I CAN’T WAIT TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL SO WE CAN GET AWAY FROM She’sLostIt McOutOfHerMind!” instead of screaming directly into each other’s faces about who gets to eat the fruit snack they just found under the radiator vent.

“What is the legal age you can emancipate yourself from your parents?”

They sure don’t make them like this anymore. Or, ever.

Sticks – This game is really neat. You go out in the rain and collect as many sticks as possible. Then, you put the sticks in a giant pile. Then, you pick up large debris, add it to the stick pile and, this is where it gets REALLY interesting, then rake smaller debris into the BIG pile until the yard is 100% absent of debris. After this, you apply for a burn permit through your local fire department and burn any debris that is not usable as mulch. Kids LOVE this game. You can thank me later.

If this doesn’t make you want to immediately run out and play “sticks”, well, then I guess FUN means something different to you.

I have to say, I think it’s clear I nailed it. Speaking of nails….well, we can get to that game next summer. I don’t want to give all of  my secrets away in one post.

"My Kids Are My Best Friends!"

I have heard tales of parent – child relationships so strong that they refer to each other as best friends. I can only surmise that this works the same way 18th century courting worked. After being told you were betrothed and had no choice but to be together for life, you figured you’d make the best of it, find out each other’s similarities and give it a good old fashioned try. You would drink a lot and fan yourself. In fits of anger, they would throw things at you….mostly breakable things you love. You’d make tea sandwiches. They would eat them, except for the crust.  Back then, divorce was unheard of. And since parenthood is also a life sentence, I think it’s a good idea to take a deep breath and settle in. Fortunately, unlike marriage, you do all the diapering in the beginning and get to the dating and drinking together in the later years. This seems like a fair deal. The sweet after the constantly urinated on in public sour.

In some ways, my kids are my best friends. Mostly because baby and toddler hood are a battlefield that we have all fought on together. This makes us soldiers in the same platoon. We’re bros. No one knows you like your platoon during war-time. We haven’t shared cigarettes or pin-up pictures, but, I have carried them over my shoulder while running from an angry bee and when we have explosions of the diaper variety, I am the medic.  SO yeah, we’re tight.

Best friends have secret languages. I speak all four of my children’s garbled languages fluently. I know that EOGHRTOUERFSOHGT SOTHEOUHTTT!!!! means, “Hey Mom. I want a sandwich.” and I know that ERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR means, “Head’s up. I’m tired. You’d better postpone that grocery store trip until after nap time.” Our secret handshakes change daily, but, we have those too. Their current favorite is pull mom’s pants down and laugh which I know means, “The four of us will be ganging up on you for the rest of your life. Get used to it!” I then respond with my secret handshake of tripping over my pants and clenching my teeth in half pain/half anger which means, “I know. I’m ready for you. Next time I’m wearing pants 3 sizes too small! SUCKERS!”

Best friends are often well matched. They may love to read, write or go to theatre. My children and I are well matched as well. We are generally cranky, covered in mud and none of us know how to spell. Similarities. Check.

Best friends fight and then make up. Does this even require an example? No, it doesn’t.

Best friends borrow each other’s clothes.  They wear my underwear on their heads. Close enough.

Best friends tell each other secrets. I know ALL of their secrets. I plan on never telling them…until the truly perfect moment of horrifying embarrassment. That’s what best friends do.

Best friends know that no matter what, they have each other’s backs. Mean chick at Day Camp who refused to do Twin Day with my daughter, Aggressive Troll on the slide that pushed my toddler into a cardboard box and ANYone who breaks their hearts, this (best) Bud’s for you. And, by Bud, I mean my evil, death stare while menacingly peeling an orange.

Ok, I admit it  – we are besties. Now to find a BFF necklace that splits into 5 pieces.

Tripping the Hazmat Fantastic.

Parenthood is a ticking, germ-laden time bomb. A sea of vile, phobia creating quarantine shed scenarios that make even the bravest of the brave fall to their knees (get up, sanitize their knees with a travel sized Wet One, return to their knees, hand sanitize their hands after touching said knees) in horror. I have taken a deep breath and, for the betterment of kindred parenting spirits everywhere, have gone to a dark, dark place in order to tell you about the worst of the worst. Public arenas turned Outbreak. Places soap can not touch. Places soap doesn’t bother touching. Places where hand sanitizer is futile. Places of danger. Places I always end up.

Kids, is everyone suited up? Great. Let’s get out there and have some FUN.

Remember that scene in E.T.? – The scientists arrive at Elliott’s home to study E.T. and his connection to Elliott. They are all wearing hazmat suits with full astronaut helmet. The entire house is connected to the research site by an elaborate series of above ground tunnels? These places are exactly like that except remove ALL attempts of sterilization and order.

I must insist you keep your body completely covered while in the milk crate. Gertie found it in a KFC dumpster.

 1) The Indoor Play Place
The sites! The sounds! The smells! No, it’s not Clorox. Take 15 – 40 partially potty trained toddlers, several babies and a smattering of 1/2 tuned in parents and you have the perfect storm that is the indoor play place. Urine. Unrecongnizable assaulted food products. Dirty diapers. Soiled underwear. That is just the coat rack near the entrance. There is, inevitably, a climbing structure that is just big enough for a child to become stuck and terrified and just small enough for you to lay on the floor, stick one leg under the structure for support and flail most useful arm up into the abyss, motioning for your child to grab your limb. During this cirque du soleil feat, you try not to think about the wet spot grazing your hand and are hopeful that your foot is digging in to what could be so many things, but, is probably not the nutrigrain bar you’re hoping for. After hours with other parents, exchanging horror stories and on-call pediatric physician numbers for the closest three counties, you leave, shower your children and burn their clothes in the backyard.

2) The Children’s Museum
At the children’s museum, you can explore your local city. You can learn how to anchor a news desk, work the local market register and learn about transportation. There is one exhibit missing – how to fight off the resurgence of 14th century “black death”. Come with questions, leave with the Bubonic Plague. Not on museum t-shirts yet. I’m working on it. The children’s museum is a maze of sticky plastic produce and rare childhood viruses. Learn how to make change, ride the subway and survive hand, foot and mouth disease. Be the foreman at a construction site, try on a fireman’s helmet and pass on Fifths Disease to your family and friends. Excuse me, your former friends. The children’s museum. Discover. Learn. Vomit.

3) The Public Pool
All you need at our local pool is $1 per child, a swim diaper and the intestinal fortitude of a world champion butter eater. From the kiddie area, the regular pool gleams with sparkling chlorine filled water. Water filled with adults. Water filled with the expert level potty trained of America. Over in the kiddie pool? Well, imagine a sewer line. That’s it. Just imagine a sewer line. Turned inside out. With lots of crying. And, unusually warm water. Our toddler water area is very festive. Rainbow sprayers, turtles to climb on, and giant shower head sprayers. I see the appeal. So does every 2 year old in New England. The turtle, and its fun shell sprayers, act as a seat AND an unintentional water fountain. Mmmm…can you taste that? That’s chlorine and anxiety. Delicious. Between the tears, swim diaper blow-outs and smashed snack shack fries, I make a weekly vow to never return, but, the fanciful rainbow sucks me back in every time. “This time it will be different.”, it whispers. “This time, it will be magic. I’m a rainbow…trust me!” The rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers and pee.

4) The “Family Restroom”

I appreciate the idea behind the Family Restroom. Logistically, where else could I take a cart filled with a gaggle of children that all inevitably require some sort of restroom attention as soon as the magical, bowel clearing automatic store doors open? I appreciate the consideration. I appreciate the size. I appreciate the intention. But, as we all know, the path to Hell is paved with good intentions. And, the path to the family restroom is paved with e-coli. The real BUMmer about the family restroom is its lies. Its sweet, vile lies. “Oh, come on in! You can ALL fit in here. Yep, the cart too!” You wander in and just like that, you are the fly and this room is the Venus Fly Trap. Upon entry, you have already realized that it is too late. You are right. You can fit 3 – 4 regular sized bathroom stalls in the family restroom. You will find an adult toilet, a toddler toilet, a changing table, a toddler seat, a stool and the sink. 250 square feet of chaos. Think it’s hard to keep children from touching the singular toilet in a small stall? Try 3 toilets, 3 trash cans, a painter’s step stool placed directly undereath a dangling light fixture and, just for giggles, add enough running room on slippery tile to make this interesting. Imagine the game of Life. Every car is a shopping cart. Every home, a Family Restroom. Every road leads to a hospital and every crank of the wheel, another dose of IV antibiotics. The only improvement I can offer – single use straight jackets. Problem solved. Long story even longer (brace yourself for endlessness), I guess what I’m saying is, I am not down with O.P.P. (Other People’s Pottys, Outdoor Port o’ Pottys, Ominous Public Pottys, Opulent Porcelain Pottys, Offensive Putrid Pottys….I could go all day). Yeah, you know me. The BOTTOM line? As often as the family restroom horrifies me, it gives me flowers and promises that next time the initials indicating the last cleaning will be in this decade. It will be better. Clean. I believe it because I like flowers and second chances. And scouring my hands with Soft Scrub.
“You JUST went to the bathroom before we left the house!”
The undeniable fact is, I still go to all of these places. Frequently. Willingly. Like when a horse is willingly hitched to a plow in a field in the dead of August or, when parents willingly attend Recorder concerts. Willingly means something different when you become a parent. Willingly now means; My kids enjoy or need this so, hook that rope around my waist and send me in to the demon portal closet full of poltergeists. I’m coming through the other side covered in pink slime and clutching my babies. Willingly. Like a thankful for up to to date immunization boosters BOSS.