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





That mom.

These last three weeks have been a test of something. I’m still trying to figure out what the universe is saying. I really am intently listening, but, her message is being drowned out by my perpetual yelling at my children.

We are at the tail end of the school year. We’re all proceeding as if we are in our last week of work after 50 years with the company. We’re physically present and emotionally in Aruba.

Every school morning has become a pained documentary about the world’s slowest and most mismanaged mile. School lunches have basically been reduced to a box of band-aids.

Like marathon runners in the home stretch, we are limping in and drenched in our own urine. We’re shutting the fuck down.

And, because of this, I have been “that mom” more often than usual. Which for me means, I’ve been “that mom” almost constantly.

I hate being “that mom”. But, they are being “those kids”. And this mom turns to THAT mom like a wildfire starts in the dry and brittle California hills.

We’re on the world’s most annoying roller coaster of all uphill and no sweet release of the easy and exhilarating down. Nothing has been easy.

I have fully given up my societal facade of decorum. “That mom” with the screaming two year old with only one shoe hanging sideways under her arm? Yep. Totally me. And, “that mom” carrying 3 backpacks and stomp-fuming toward the playground her children ran off to without telling her first? Nice to meet you!

And “that mom” running after her toddler who has developed a new obsession with parking lots…her thighs causing enough friction to create an electrical storm? Me again.

And, “that mom” trying to avoid after school play dates like the a middle school band concert? Also me.

And, “that mom” grounding everyone and then happily letting them go to parties and slumber parties because GET OUT OF HERE! Howdy.

And they are “those kids” with the constant whining and fighting and running off and the terrible case of doing whatever the hell we want-itis.

And I’m the one trying not to eat her young.

I know it’s the season of discontentment. They can taste summer. They are railing against structure and time constraints. They are done with school and not moving their bodies while the sun is shining through unopened school windows.

I can taste summer. I am railing against muffin baking and school fundraisers and kill-me-now packing lunches and not moving my body after a winter in which I ate my weight in bread and cheese and all of the buttered things.

I have to remind myself that the great thing about this time of perpetual deconstruction is that eventually we will hit rock bottom.

I love rock bottom.

That point at which the sand castle you built all year crumbles. The foundation is flat and you have no choice but to all look at each other and say, “Our home is gone. I love you. Let’s start again.”

We always rebuild.

I don’t know what our rock bottom this year will be. Will it be me completely flipping out at a Farmer’s Market when my 2 year old tries to steal someone’s goat? Will it be when I undoubtedly forget someone’s end of year school field trip and they vow to hate me forever?

I don’t know, but, I do know that when we sit surrounded by the ashes of this school year, we’ll come together like everyone does after defeat and complete devastation and the trauma of life and all of the hard things we share.

Like family. We may be “that mom” and “those kids”, but, we’re in this together.

I can’t wait to see next year’s castle. I hope it has an in-ground pool.





“You’re fine.”

After four children and several years of parenting, you could say my emotional responses to certain things have changed over time.

I know the particular sound a child makes when its foot is caught between two crib rails. I know the difference between hunger and boredom and I know, I know, I know when you are fake upset or fake crying.

I’m like a crying Yoda. The Navy Seal of crying. *Field of Dreams whisper* If you fake cry, I will not come.

Today my four year old was pretending to be very upset about something really, really, devastatingly unimportant. It was the usual wailing and coyote howls straight from the Tom Cruise school of over-acting.

I ignored her. That’s how I roll. I stirred my coffee very slowly and made no movement to rectify the obviously concocted plight.

She finally came downstairs and said, “MY STRIPED SHIRT IS DIRTY! IT IS MY FAVORITE! I CAN’T WEAR IT TODAY!” and then she melted into a puddle of tears and barely passible grief and I said, “You’re fine.”

Later today, a mock shriek of epic proportions came from the swing set. “MOMMY! MOMMMMMYYYYYYY!”

I continued to wash dishes.

She finally stomped in and said, “There is dirt on my feet!” and I said, “You’re fine.”

Four is a lot like really bad dinner theatre. The actors are really into it. This is their moment and they think that everyone filling the room is just as into it as they are. They often fail to notice that the filet looks like dog shit and that the attendees are hoping for a massive coronary, praying for a swift death. “Dear Lawd, please take me away from all this tragedy and terrible acting.”

Since she is my third 4 year old, I’m kind of like that friend you have who continues to lose really stupid bets. I’ve been here before and I’m not impressed by the terrible theatrics and yes, my filet will always look like dog shit.

A friend recently pointed me toward a magazine article that severely detailed the “10 things you should NEVER EVER say to your child!”. I found one of my stock answers, “You’re fine/ok” was among them.

And I had to excuse myself from the internet while I kicked a whole boat load of rocks.

Because,

1) Calm down, parenting magazines

but guess what, no biggie…

2) I’m fine.

and

3) She’s ok.

I tell my 4 year old that she is fine because she is and if that’s the kind of brash, harsh reality that I shouldn’t be exposing my children to then…oh well. I’m sure we’ll be fine.

It’s the same way I feel about lots of things people “should” you about. You should do this and you should do that and you should consider…” but, no thank you, I believe I will not.

I tell her that she is fine because she is and more than that, no matter what any magazine tells me my job is, I truly don’t believe my job is to make every tiny cardboard lizard into a terrible, ferocious fire breathing dragon. Sometimes, we do need to acknowledge that a dirty shirt isn’t the end of the world.

She fell off of the swing a few days ago. She was hurt and scared and a bit confused. The wind was knocked out of her. I ran over and scooped her up. She cried and buried her face in my hair. I said, “I’m here! I’m right here. I’m sorry you’re hurt. I love you.”

The world is like that. Humanity is like that. We don’t need our community to run to our aid over every teeny-tiny perceived threat to our psyche, but, when we’re really hurt, we really show up for each other. I like this model; recognizing the times that call for a soft shoulder while acknowledging that sometimes, that gnawing inconvenience is not the end of our world even if it may feel like it for a few minutes.

Someone is going to continue to stir their coffee when you complain about your shirt, but, they’re also going to scoop you up and love you when you fall.

And I’m going to continue to say that she’s fine when she is and I’m going to continue to love her through the hard stuff when she’s not.

I can live with that even if I’m doing it wrong.





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.

Because…

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.





And let it begin with me.

Hands Free
Scream Free
Cry Free
BPA Free
Dye Free
GMO Free

Suddenly, parenting has picked up New Hampshire’s much loved state motto – Live free or die.

I’ve never been a free gal. I’ve always bent more toward moderation – organic Cinnamon Toast Crunch and the like.

Philosophically, I think it’s that I don’t love people telling me what to do; unless they came out of my vagina.

But more to the point, I don’t like negotiating with terrorists. Big corporations using our perpetual, undying love and infinity deep abyss of paternal guilt prompting us to say, “Shut up and take my money!”. All of this information at our fingertips; an abundant garden. So, when you know more, you worry more. When you worry more, you fling money. And, those lines of common sense become blurred. Necessity versus frivolity. We don’t know how to weed our garden.

So, we’ve started using uncommon sense to dictate our parenting choices – thereby lumping us in to minuscule genres of micro-management; wary-eyed over whether the fruit snacks are Annie’s Organics or *satan voice* Store Brand. When, guess what? All fruit snacks are crap. And, that’s ok. I love crap. My kids LOVE crap. Fruit snacks just aren’t important.

There are $42 organic cotton onesies and a lot of sneering at those who can’t afford to love their babies the way “we” do. Us and them. Organic versus conventional. Cotton versus polyester. Choosy moms no longer choose Jif but, they do care very deeply about your choice of peanut butter.

It’s a broken record. And, I so desperately want to change it. To fling it against the bow of a new ship; The S.S. Doing The Best I Can.

Just last week, I scrambled outside of my car – trying to determine if the snack I was bringing to a play group was acceptable. The peanuts were unsalted, but, there was some highly suspect Honey Nut cereal in there. Oooooh, and, did I buy the reduced sugar craisins? It’s the end of the common sense world as we know it…and I feel, incredibly guilty. Incredibly caught up in the very nonsense I rail against.

And this is how it continues to work. The doubt seed of “I’m not doing everything I can.” helps fuel the uncommon sense. Change needs to start with me. I need to look at what I bring to the table with gratitude instead of fear. Even if it’s just a small, snack table and even if it’s some non-organic, store-brand, full sugar craisins.

Because, I really and truly am doing the best I can. And because, you can’t purchase peace of mind. That needs to, organically, stem from me.





Grace is the new black.

I’ve never aligned myself with any school of parenting. It’s just too tedious – to try and cram yourself into every tiny, open orifice, like that guy on Spring Break.

I’m not organic enough to qualify for much more than the frequent flyer club at Burger King. I turn the crowns into crafty shit though…so, I’ll pass on your sincere yet ill-timed childhood diabetes lecture to the next patron in line.

I admit, I’ve placed my child in car seats with the puffy coat on, but, I’ve also taken it off before rolling toward our next late appointment. All of us miserable either way – throwing granola and tantrums as we pull into the parking lot 20 minutes late to a local class we’ve undoubtedly overpaid for. But, don’t worry about my dedication to timeliness. Next week, I’ll roll to a near stop by the door 15 minutes early. It all works out in the end.

And, I promise, I’m not angry because you have something important to say or because you know something that could be of sincere use to me or because you’re a safety girl for car seats instead of condoms.

It’s not what you say, but, how you say it. And just like content of the soul equals the content of your character, the content of your assumptions equal the rate at which my eyes move into the slanted, death stare of my people – gently willing you to please, please stop. Please stop.

There is no one who loves my children more than I do. Not you. Not you. No, not you either. I will kill and steal and knock over your Lego tower. And, I’d be happy to hear your opinion on the subject, but, no one asked you. These are not your children. Lady Justice is kind and knowing because she makes sure I know nothing about your children either. It’s best this way – the general observance of humility. How we choose to turn our focus in instead of pushing out knowledge in the name of love dressed as sanctimony.

I know that hurts to hear because best intentions are the bridges we burn ourselves on.

And it’s not so much that I have a cross to bear, but, that you want to bear one for me; picking up my slack, while you instruct me and while your children watch television…hey, what do you know, just like mine.

We’re really not that different and, it’s not that we can’t learn from each other because we can and we do when it’s said with love and prefaced with a soft shoulder – if someone lost comes crying. But, remember, not all those who wander are lost – J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that. He was the shit. I think that’s something we can all agree on.

It wouldn’t hurt to extend some grace. Because brother; because sister…trust me, it all works out in the end.





If at first you don’t succeed, come sit next to me.

There’s a rash of resolution posts and status updates and phone calls and e-mails making the rounds. I think it’s great. All of us willing ourselves to do more and try harder in the name of newness.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but, I do applaud efforts from my sideline barcalounger. I’ll lean forward just enough to hand you a Dixie cup as you, a more motivated person, run by.

It’s not that I don’t care. I do; deeply. I make resolutions every night. Before my eyes close, I resolve to yell less, to read more, to be more sensitive to my children’s needs, to be less judgmental, to be more honest, to be less impatient, to be a better fill in the blank.

I do this to the point of self-shaming. Wanting my vices to roll away, becoming the wheels that lead me to success. Desperately hoping my weaknesses transform into strengths. Expecting rebirth, every morning, caterpillar to butterfly.

I could be a better everything. I could be a better friend. A better lover. A better mother. I could be a more patient daughter. I could approach parenting with more seriousness. I could. I could. I should. I should.

There is no end to the things I could be doing better. My body, my mind, my heart, my soul…frankly, all need some work.

But, honestly, these things are the things I love most about people. We are so wonderfully imperfect. And, even lovelier, most of the time we want to be better than we are. The ultimate redemption of character – we try. Then, we try harder.

So, while I don’t resolve formally, I count myself part of the collective consciousness of humans, licking our wounds just long enough to learn something and grow, more every day. Always learning, evolving and finding ways to accept our inability to attain perfection.

I love that most resolutions drift off, die and are not achieved. I love that, despite this, we show up…every day. We try. We resolve to try. There’s nothing more hopeful than the attempt.





The hand we’re dealt.

My grandmother taught me how to play poker. She insisted we play with real money. We’d each start with a stack of pennies. I’d get 10 additional to help balance the age/wisdom/experience factor. She was all about fair.

When we first began the lessons that would one day make me comfortable in smoke-filled casinos and a sea of new faces, I would fold every hand – even my three 7s and two 5s. My grandmother would lovingly explain the Full House. I had an even harder time understanding the concept of a straight, I would see a series of small cards in order not realizing the value of the combination. Unsure, I would lay my cards face down and look at my grandmother with the wounded eyes of child’s defeat. Frustration, because I did not immediately understand the intricacies of the game. Anger, because my previously stacked deck of pennies was now far shorter than my professor’s. She’d grab my hand and say, “I can’t let you win. We all have to play the cards we are dealt.” Eventually, I learned to trust my cards and the hands holding them. The jumble of faces and numbers began to form a strategy. You win some, you lose some.

As a mother, the cards we’re dealt change daily. I long for the elusive royal flush. I’ll keep flipping my cards over and over and over again hoping to see the face of the sly, smiling Queen.

But some days, you have a pair of 2s. Until the some days, turned into most days here.

My struggle now is in “the fold”.

The last few months have been a lot of 2s and a lot of nothing at all. A lot of staring at my hand trying to will a shift in perspective; to see something that simply is not there. I haven’t been playing my hand. I’ve not been all in. I haven’t even been bluffing. I’ve just been folding. Hand after hand after hand.

I wonder about my poker face. I wonder how long it will convince the kids. My husband. Me.

So much of me wanted to continue to pretend. It was easier to do. Until I stopped writing and then, I stopped making plans to leave the cocoon of my home and then, I stopped. I just stopped trying. And, it was my lack of desire to even make the effort that ultimately was the force pushing me toward something scary and something new. It’s time to put on my own oxygen mask.

I cried to my husband, “My mother was always miserable. We always knew she was miserable. I can’t do that to them.”

And when I said it out loud, it wasn’t quite as terrifying. I really looked at my cards. I laid them out lovingly on the table. It’s time to play my hand.

I’m finally ready to go all in.





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.





On a wing and a series of poorly executed decisions.

I have no idea what I’m doing. In a sea of confusion, this fact is the only clarity I have. In a den or poor decisions made in haste or poor decisions that were well thought out or poor decisions born from the best intentions, failure is all I have to cling to. I will fail tomorrow and the next day and every day after that. And for always and forever. Like a good neighbor, failure is there.

Lately, my good neighbor has been making more of a pronounced entrance; think Kramer.

I don’t know exactly when the shift happened. We were in a groove. Things were ok and then, all the good things melted. Like ice cream on a hot day or m&ms in a tightly gripped palm. The good things have turned messy and I left the wipes in the other diaper bag.

I told a friend today that I fear they can sense my chaos and that this chaos manifests in false abduction claims, running away and their failure to not only listen but to hear me that is so severe that I’m considering consulting a pediatric auditory specialist. Thankfully, my friend is a life coach and she says,

“It could be that or, it could be that sometimes, kids are just assholes. If you weren’t in chaos, they would still make chaos.” I’m paraphrasing. It was far more brilliant and used more better words and stuff.

AHA. Yes. Sometimes, kids are assholes.

And, sometimes, I’m an asshole.

And, I think we all just may have a case of the assholes real bad.

Sadly, knowing this doesn’t seem to make the 24 hour day seem less 480 hour-y and it does little to alleviate the cloud of Eeyore that follows our minivan like an incredibly loyal puppy.

I promise, I’m doing the counting my lucky stars thing. I’m doing the smelling the baby’s sleepy head thing. I’m doing the kissing and hugging and all the good things even though we’re coated in sticky, melted Rocky Road. Rocky road, indeed.

But, I’m also wondering, how long does a really entrenched case of asshole last? And, if it’s truly contagious, who transferred the first asshole germ? Can I stop the spread before my house is sucked into an abyss of asshole so great that not even a seasoned proctologist can save us?

Does this end with us surrounded by pizza boxes and scurvy? Is there still time before our case of asshole is terminal? Is the treatment boxed wine or, the far more intolerable, “waiting it out”.

Please, anything but that.

Until next week and hopefully greener pastures, this is Bad Parenting Moments (aka Chief Executive Asshole), over and out.