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

Hello? Is it Keys You’re Looking For?

I used to have brains. Big brains. Like, off to see the Wizard to discover you already had brains, brains. Ideas that didn’t involve car seat buckling strategies. Ideas about life. Theories. I had things to say. Now, I just forget what I was going to say. What was I going to say?

The square root of…hey….did I ever switch that load over to the dryer?

With every pregnancy, 2 zillionths of my brain has been lost. A shit-ton (actual measurement) of lost brain matter, if you will. Most days, I can not spell words I’ve known my whole life. Octopus. No, octopuss? I call all of my children by the wrong name. Every day. I compensate for the guilt by concluding that it only endears me to them as you always most want to please the person who easily forgets you.

I have a key hook which may as well be a magic portal to Narnia. Keys go there, but they never ARE there. Sometimes, I will find my key ring (AHA! BRAINS!) only to find that the car key isn’t on it, but, 3 sets of house keys are. WHAT? I don’t know. I have NO idea. How, you ask? This is your brain on kids.

My husband has come home to find I’ve left both sliding van doors open. In the rain. And has walked up the deck to discover the keys. In the door. On the same day. What’s missing…besides my brain? The sign that says: “Free Van and Family!”

I will be in the shower with shampoo on my head and I will think, “Where the hell am I in this shower process? Did I put conditioner on my hair first? How did I even get in here? What’s that sound? Where are the kids? Where’s what’shername? Did I wash my face? SHIT! It’s what’shisname’s snack day today! SHIT! Did I put conditioner on top of my shampoo? Why am I wearing underwear?”

I have a calendar full of reminders written in my handwriting with a pen I wielded and I generally forget to check said calendar. I walk past it, at least 100 times a day, but, it’s invisible to my brain. Then there is the flip side – I look at the calendar with no knowledge of writing items down. I look at the calendar. I look at my hands. I look to the heavens. Divine calendar writing? I check to make sure ink isn’t pouring from my hands a la stigmata. How in the? Who in the? Brains.

With baby # 3, I devised a clever system of placing a rubber band on the wrist of the side I last nursed on. BOOOOYAH! BRAINS! Only to go to feed and wonder if I ever remembered to switch the rubber band to the alternate side? Sleep deprived, raccoon eyed and caffeine thirsty, I’d stare at my wrist as if high. Stare. Stares. Staring. *Shrugs* Nevermind. What’s the matter, grey matter?

At each pediatrician appointment, I take notice that my childrens’ head circumference is growing. Growing with knowledge, growing into new hat sizes. Growing with my stolen brain. As they covertly and adorably activate the brain sucking transfer sequence, I marvel at how willing I was to let my brain go. How willing I was to do it all again. To become more Forrest Gump with each passing child. I may not know where my keys are, but, I know what love IS.

Load up, kids! The doctor says you are healthy and smarter than your mom. Everyone in? Everyone is buckled? Where are the keys? *Sees lovely, kind and sympathetic receptionist running out to van holding key ring* Sigh. Brains.

This is your brain on kids. Any questions?

Online Personas vs. Real Life Personas – The WWF Smackdown

This amazing thing happens on the Internet. You become anonymous. Running a close second behind indoor plumbing, anonymity is one of the greatest luxuries gifted to mankind. The ability to create an identity – a no holds barred super-you. Anxiety? Nope. Social awkwardness? Gone. Worrying about what the mom in the pick-up line thinks? Not a problem on the www. You can take a big step to the left of “Real You” and just let the crazy fly! It’s a whole new, brave world filled with creative possibility and connection. You can write what you want while wearing what you want and, while making jokes you’d never make during kindergarten pick-up. Laughing uproariously while you sit on your crappy, juice stained couch, thinking up your next blog post and grinding that fruit bar ever further into your Lego ridden area rugs. As far as everyone knows, our online selves are kick-ass, red boot wearing, cape donning, baby seal saving spies with abs sculpted personally by Suzanne Somers. Online personas give us the outlet to be our best, superhero selves. We dive boldly into the deep end of the pool. Online, we take snippets of a life and quilt them into a creation of interest.That idea is so intoxicating and appealing because the real me….well, the real me is just not that interesting.

I’m a full-time mom of four young children. I am a mom all day. I make breakfast and then clean it up. I shower and put my wet hair in a bun or ponytail where it stays in varied degrees of disheveled mess for the duration of the day. I make lunch and then clean it up. I change diapers. I wipe rears. I pay library fines…a lot of library fines. I nurse the baby…constantly. Nursing pads make unflattering lumps in my shirt that I acknowledge but ignore. I drive a minivan with windows I have to manually roll down. I help with homework. I fill kiddie pools. I am hounded for snacks every quarter hour. I forget baked goods I’ve promised for school events. I am constantly loading and unloading children from our car and switching laundry from washer to dryer to basket. After sweeping for what seems like eternity, I still step on Cheerios and sticky patches of foreign substances. I constantly have Play-Doh stuck to the bottom of my pants. I drink copious amounts of coffee, yet yawn all day long. I go to grocery stores. I go to parks. I color, read books and snuggle. I make concerted efforts to be patient and still get frustrated. At 5:30 p.m., every day, my brain starts to shut off and the last hour before my husband gets home seems endless. I make dinner and then clean it up. I put toys in bins. I give kisses goodnight and then plop my rear on same juice stained couch, exhausted. Rinse and repeat. This is not to say that I don’t love it. The honor of being a parent is the best damn honor in the world. It is epic in its overwhelming joy and satisfaction and epic in its day-to-day redundancy.

And, while I’m being honest here about virtual versus reality, I have to admit that Real Me gets uncomfortable at parties with new people. Real Me struggles trying to make small talk. Real Me sometimes (often) chokes trying to get a thought from head to mouth. Frankly, Real Me can be a real pain in my ass. Online Me is fun. Online Me is in the moment. Online Me takes chances and gives herself a break. Online Me is an open book. An open, anonymous book where the names and places have been crossed through with Sharpie.

The pull of the safety and anonymity of the online persona is strong. The safety of a real life hiding just behind an idea of who you are or, better yet, who you want to be. No one really knows what is happening inside the recesses of my head except me and me. This is the affair we’re having with our inner self.

The thing that surprises me the most about this journey is that this pseudo-self helps me embrace the real humor, in real moments, in my real life as mom. Moments that I may have glossed over before have become moments I now capture and share with a community; and, in that community, I am finding the bridge between Bad Parenting Moments and Real Me. That bridge is something I think every mom is looking for. A bridge to your kick-ass, anonymous, super hero self. A bridge that connects a healthy piece of escapism to your grounded, real life. A bridge that sweetens the sweet and helps to humorize the sour. The ability to multi-task with multiple personalities and not end up institutionalized. To not end up institutionalized…every mother’s goal!

The next transition will be working on allowing the best parts of real life and the best parts of online life to combine and make me the super human I have always wanted to be, but lacked the courage (or knowledge of quantum physics and chemistry) to pursue.  This may mean nothing more than showing up at school at 3:00 p.m. wearing a replica of Wonder Woman’s red boots, but, with my hair still in a bun and the strap of my nursing bra accidentally and partially exposed. Hey, baby steps.

And, when you read our posts and banter with us online, I hope you are picturing BPM like this:

“Kids, don’t make me use the lasso of truth!”

Keeping Her Faith

When it comes to religion and faith, I have lived my life with self diagnosed Religious Schizophrenia. My Father was raised in a Jewish household. My Mother, with inactive Protestants. Both left their childhood faith in young adulthood and became Mormon. After my sister and I were born, disenfranchised with the Mormon faith, they both left the church. From that point on, aside from sporadic trips to church with well meaning families wanting to save our flailing  Jewish, Protestant, Mormon souls, we didn’t attend church. Organized Religion was a sore subject for my mother. The feminist in her couldn’t get past the diminished role of women in most forms of organized faith. And, for me, regardless of the church I attended with friends or other families, the experience left me wanting. The porridge was always too hot or far too cold.

In high school, I dated the son of a minister. The church was a Born Again sect called, Christian Renewal. As a shining example of the divine wisdom of high school girls, I went to church with my heart pounding for the son of the preacher man and not the son of God. I attended weekly. I studied their movements, I learned the songs. I so wanted to be touched by whatever power was touching this congregation. It did not touch me.  I started to wonder if I was missing something. Where was God? Is it possible that I was born unable to feel faith? The biggest question of all; What does faith feel like? How do I find it? Will I know it when I’ve found it? Will I go through my entire life without it?

I married a devout Catholic. He is a wonderful man. I know that his faith is part of what makes him so amazing. He was raised Catholic in a large, respected, church-going family. His faith is multi-pronged. It is familiar, but, he also has a strong, independent desire to nourish his faith and spiritual relationship with his church outside of his upbringing. While I fully acknowledge that this faith helps make him a wonderful husband, father and human being, I do not feel the connection to Catholicism. I feel the community in the church, I appreciate the devotion of the congregation and I marvel at the faith of the man I married, but, sadly, faith is not transferable. I want to feel the call. I want to feel the pull. I do not. My husband and I discuss, quite frequently, his faith and even, his interest in the Priesthood. Ultimately, his desire to marry and have children was stronger, but, if The Catholic Church ever allows men of the cloth to also be husbands and fathers, he would consider taking those revitalized vows. All of this is great, but, it leaves me dubbed, The Agnostic Wife of a Catholic Man. No one has written a song about that…yet. I’m assuming I should attend Agnostic Anonymous meetings where I would start with, “Hello, My name is Bethany and I don’t know what to believe, but, I do know all the lyrics to George Michael’s, Faith!”

When we had children, we agreed that he would take the lead on matters of faith and that he would raise our children as Catholics with my full support. Who was I to argue? He has something I desperately want and admire. Clearly, he was the obvious parental choice for spiritual guidance.

Picture our oldest drew of her going to church with Daddy. Mommy? Not pictured…at home in PJs.

All four of our children have been baptized. The two that are school aged attend Catholic School. My only request has been that they be allowed to explore their own feelings of faith and that, if, at any time, they wanted to explore outside the faith of my husband, we would be supportive and encouraging. We would recognize that it is not his or my choice to make. We would support their individual decision to participate in a faith that speaks to them. Their faith would be theirs. He agreed. See, an amazing man.

My son is in pre-school. Matters of faith are new and come home in the form of songs and coloring pages. He is not feeling the faith; He is learning it. My daughter is in Kindergarten. This is more complicated. She is exploring her faith. She is asking hard questions. She is having feelings that lead her toward prayer and, she is asking me what all of it means. Of course she is. I am her mother and her primary care giver. I am the adult at home when the questions in her brain beg to be asked. I answer her questions using my background in the ONE World Religions course I took in college, life experience, the tidbits I’ve gathered from my husband’s religious knowledge and well, faith…in myself. The questions she asks are huge and loaded. The answers I give? Entirely based on my love for her and with respect for her personal journey. I am supportive and gentle in my responses, but, I know I do not have the answers she’s looking for.

Christmas Morning 2011. She started drawing the nativity scene on the playroom chalkboard…on her own.

More unprompted home drawings of religious figures.

A: “Mommy, when we die, does our spirit stay in our body after we’re buried? Does it go straight to Heaven? Will I see Grandpa there? Will my family be there?”


Me: “Well, some people believe that your spirit…what makes you, you and me, me leaves your body and goes to Heaven. Some people believe all our loved ones that died before us are there waiting for us.”

A: “Cool! I wish there was a book I could read about that!”

Me: “There is.”

A: “AWESOME. Mommy, do you believe that?”

This is when I start asking if anyone wants a frozen lemonade. That works, for now. What I want to say, what I want to say more than anything is that there is absolutely nothing I’d love to believe more. I want to say that the thought of this being all we have, the thought of only having this one lifetime of unknown length to be with her and love her is so heartbreaking that every cell in my body needs to believe that this can’t be all there is. That, yes, absolutely, I will be waiting for her and that Daddy will be there too and that we will be a family, always. I can’t promise that. So, we get a frozen lemonade and save this talk for another day.

I am not completely devoid of awe and wonder. I have had profound moments with feelings of  “connectivity bliss”. I felt it at the birth of all of my children. The blinding feelings of love, fear and joy. In those moments, I am aware of a power bigger than me. I am praising the universe. Is that feeling faith? Is that what is being felt in Holy places of worship?

Right now, when it comes to faith, the only truth I do not doubt is my faith in my children, my husband and the love for my family, those still here and those gone. As far as my personal journey, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, but, I refuse to stop searching.

‘Cause, I’ve gotta have faith, faith, faith…

A Pox on Our House/A Case of Bieber Fever

I am deeply unhip. I have said it before. I’ll say it again. I just said it now. There is no shame in my lack of game. I have no idea what is currently popular on the radio. I have no clue who is on American Idol. I have no idea if American Idol is even still on the air. I don’t have cable. I don’t play Words With Friends (because I haven’t figured out how to access the app) and I have no clue how to navigate a Twitter party. I tried the “Tweetdeck” last night and jumped off almost immediately…thereby committing Twitter party suicide. Need I go on?

I have been dreading the moment that recently occurred in my kitchen since my oldest daughter made her brutally slow debut into the world. She has officially started her relationship with pop culture. On Monday, over a plate of dino nuggets and smiley face potatoes, my SIX YEAR OLD professed her love for Justin Bieber. Holy Mother of Thor. As if it wasn’t hard enough to develop a meaningful and kick-ass relationship, here comes Justin Beiber and his, what I hear is, blonde hair and (apparently?) heartthrob good looks to call me out for the hardcore out of touch 30-something I am. Damn you, Bieber. Damn you hard.

My daughter, through no guidance by her parental units, discovered “the Biebs”. Discovered seems like much too kind a word. People discover cures for illness,  planetary systems and fossils. Correction: she tripped over him. Bieber is the neglected, pot hole laced highway and she is the tread bare tire. Like a mosquito loves the zapper. Like a fly loves shit. This is how my daughter loves “The” Bieber. She repeatedly sings the chorus of one nameless, siren song. If I were to guess the name, I’d have to use the singular line repeated  ad nauseum at a decibel only audible by bees, dogs and this horrified mother. “BAY-BAH, BAY-BAH, BAY-BAH…AHHHHH!” Kill. Me. Now.

In addition to proclaiming her undying love, she has also requested a Justin Bieber poster for her room…that she shares…with a 2 year old. It’s nice to have dreams. Everyone should. It’s also nice to be brought back  down to Earth by the life lesson that you can’t always get what you want. Maybe kids are right. Parents just don’t understand. True, but, if a life sentence of Bieber Fever is my chance at understanding, I’m fine living in total darkness, in a dark cave in a dark land where it is dark…all the time

Is this my karma for my boom box blasting of Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and Sound Garden? Was my love for Keds, Umbro and Hypercolor so obnoxious that I must now be forced to endure Justin Bieber? Is Biebs my pound of flesh?

Dear random kid who inoculated my daughter with a hefty dose of the Heeby Biebees, I’m coming for you.


What I Want to Be When I Grow Up/(Beauty) School Drop-Out

As “Bad Parenting Moments”, I love to explore, exploit and enjoy the humor of parenthood. This is my “shit just got REAL” post for the month. I’ll return to the funny next week. I promise! xo – Debbie Downer

When I was a little girl, I went through the normal line-up of prospective careers: Rainbow Brite, Princess, Veterinarian, Doctor, Lawyer, President, Ballerina, Actress on, “Hey Dude!”. The usual. Then, I grew up. Well, I partially grew up. I did well in school. I was fortunate to be given a scholarship to college. Before college, I narrowed down my career choices: Lawyer and Rainbow Brite. Sadly, UGA did not offer advanced degrees in Rainbow Brite or the option to minor in riding horned unicorns over rainbows. Hey, no school is perfect. I settled for pre-law. My freshman year was a disaster. A total disaster. I was a mess. I was immature. I was afraid. I did not know who I was or what the hell I was doing. I was 18. I would like to say that somewhere deep down inside of me, where I knew I could be and do whatever I wanted, that I channeled my inner She-Ra and pulled through. Not the case. After a year of failing, I failed myself and quit. The broken pieces of my paper bag princess hopped a Greyhound bus from Georgia to Los Angeles, California (another blog for another time) and I never…ok, I rarely looked back. I started working and built an excellent career. I started at the bottom and worked my way up the “old fashioned” way. I met a boy, fell in love, had lots of babies, moved to a small town in New England and put my ideas of what I thought I wanted to be on the back burner of the extra stove you keep in the basement. What I wanted to be when I grew up was irrelevant. I was living the dream. Happy, healthy family. My greatest career? Mom, of course! Babies and joy and chaos. There was no time to examine the 18 year old I was or the Poet/Lawyer/Warrior Princess she wanted to be, but, who cared. I. Was. Living. The. Dream.

I have written about this before. The quiet need of a mother to find and/or retain who she is amidst the joy and chaos of parenthood. I write about it because I have no earthly idea how to manifest this idea in real life. A mother finds little outlet in the day to day, in the “thick” of parenting to nourish herself, EXCEPT, through the growth, happiness and nourishment of her children. That is spectacular and gratifying, but, is it enough? I don’t know.

Some would label me unhappy or ungrateful for even having this thought. Guess what, I am scared to have that thought. What kind of mother am I if I say, in print, that being a mother may not nourish every fiber of my being to satisfaction. What if, I dare to say that I may need my own childhood dreams of being my own super hero fulfilled outside of the confines of “mom”?  And, my biggest fear, what if I am not the best mother I can be because I do not know who I am outside of their mother. What if I fail them like I failed at 18. Because, like stepping into the world at 18, I am afraid and, on most days, I still do not know who I am or what the hell I am doing.

Here is the difference; my complete, heartbreaking love for my children will not allow me to quit. They make me want to truly examine the desires I have to become not just their mother, but, a woman they can be proud of. In quiet moments, I imagine my adult relationships with my children. In all of these imagined scenarios, they are always happy. We are always laughing. I do not know if they will be ballerinas, doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, paleontologists, Broadway actors, college grads or college drop-outs. Are they happy? Are they fulfilled? Do they know who they are? Do they know that it is never too late to figure out who you want to be in the world?

And, what’s next for me? Well, it is never to late to figure out who you want to be in the world. I don’t owe Rainbow Brite or college for that piece of truth. I owe my children for that life lesson.

An Inconvenient Poop

“In the Parenthood Justice System, the people are represented by only one all powerful unit. The parent who investigates crimes and the same parent who prosecutes the offenders. These are their stories.”

It was March of 2008. I was a new mom for the 2nd time. My son was 2 weeks old and my darling first born was just over 2. The transition for her had been rough. The transition for me had been rough. Lots of tears. Lots of jealousy. Lots of mistakes. Lots of “learning moments”. Our daughter, OLD baby, was taking a nap. I was hanging out with NEW baby in the living room, nursing, making lovey dovey googly eyes at him. You know, the usual. I then heard my daughter call for me. A very (suspiciously) sweet and light, “Maaaahhhhmmaaahhhh“. I pick up new baby and head over to the door. As I began to open the door, I was hit with the unmistakable smell of nap poop. Now, parents know what nap poop is. It is, hours old, burn the hair out of your nostrils, stagnant closed door poop. It is vile. I brace myself by taking a deep breath so I can run in, grab O.B. (old baby) and get out of the toxic fumes. Sadly, it was not just low level breathable toxins that awaited me. It was so. much. worse.

The next few minutes are a blur. I’m fairly certain I went into a sort of trauma coma. I do not know how much time passed before I recovered, but, when I did, this is what I saw.

1) Completely naked 2 year old covered in crap from head to toe
2) Crap wall “mural” behind crib (looking back, masterful artistry)
3) Crib bars, rail, mattress, sheets, blankets and stuffed friends (with friends like my 2 year old, who needs enemies) covered in crap.
4) Crap filled diaper (how much crap was in there?!?!?!??) upside down on CARPETED floor.

I managed to muster some sort of quasi sentence out. “Annabelle..what…what…happening? What?!?”

Her reply, “Mommy, I eat it? Why I do that?”

The sound that came out of me at that moment can only be described as the deep, primal, guttural bellowing that people generally reserve for grieving death. (To be fair, part of me died at that moment). I sank to the floor, still holding my newborn, and started to sob while screaming, “NO…NO…ANNABELLE! NO. NO. You did NOT eat it! YOU DID NOT EAT IT.”

Annabelle begins sobbing and shrieks, “WHY I DO THAT?”

At that point, Mother Bethany bitch slapped Falling Apart Bethany on the floor. “GET YOURSELF TOGETHER! Welcome to motherhood!” In a daze, I picked myself up and began to formalize a plan of action.

Step 1 – Put. Baby. Somewhere. I set up new (and now favorite) baby in his bassinet. Ok, I can do this. One step down.

Step 2. – Find gloves. No gloves to be found. Ok, I’ll improvise. Wrap hands in saran wrap. Check.

Step 3. – Retrieve toddler (from Hell) from her room. If we can even still call it a room. I remembered thinking, “We may have to move.”

Step 4. – Shower toddler with bleach? No, that can’t be right. Ok, no bleach.

This went on for HOURS. I meticulously corrected every foul, ungodly thing my daughter had done. At the end, not even CSI (The S, clearly standing for something else) could have detected the horrific event had even occurred.

I don’t like to talk about it much. It is one of those parenting stories that will live on as family folklore. Maybe one day, a few generations from now, they’ll forget all about it. Sadly, I never will. It is burned into my brain and corneas. In the history books of my time as a parent, this will be my Vietnam.

After this happened, I was not (and still am not) afraid of ANYthing. I know I can do it. And, if for a second I doubt my strength, I can count on Mother Bethany to give me a good bitch slap back to reality.