Waitressing and Parenting are Basically the Same Thing

I was a server for two-and-a-half years post college graduation. Immediately following that, I became a mother. Few things in life have prepared me for parenthood like my stint in the service industry. Just like raising kids, waiting tables was hard, humbling work.

I don’t want to give the name of the restaurant where I worked away, but it may or may not have rhymed with TGI Shmidays. Frankly, the similarities between serving and parenting are a little too spot-on.

In the weeds

There is a term that restaurant staff use to describe their situation when they are really, really busy – it’s called being ‘in the weeds.’ It’s been over five years since I have waited tables, but I still have nightmares about this scenario. All six of your tables need refills, the kid at table 20 just spilled his drink, table 21’s food was ordered 25 minutes ago and they are giving you the stink eye, table 22 has a gift card to use and the machine to validate it is broken down, and table 23 has just informed you that someone at their table has a birthday which means that you have to make their free sundae and lead a troop of fellow servers while you belt out a solo in the middle of a crowded restaurant on a Saturday night. Fun times are had by all. Did I mention that this stroke-inducing stress will only render you approximately $12 in tips?

TGIF

I have just walked in the door from work and find that my kids have barely napped. I quickly change my clothes, assess the fridge for dinner, defrost some meat, sit down for five seconds, immediately receive a request for a sippy cup refill, fill the cup, sit back down, smell a poopy diaper, change the diaper, get the defrosted meat, brown the meat, pick up a fussing kid, cook with one kid on my hip and another one at my legs, avoid burning everyone, set the food down on the table, pray for our meal, a kid puts too much food in his mouth and barfs, clean up the barf, get the other kid more to eat, now everyone needs drink refills, sit down to take my first bite and it’s cold. Guess what – I’m back in the weeds.

86 That

The first week or two of serving, I kept hearing people say, “86 spinach dip!” “86 Jack Daniels sauce!” “86 broccoli cheese soup!”

I had no idea what they were talking about.

It turns out, when you ‘86’ something, it means you are all out of it. I used to love it when guests would come in and ask for something right off the bat, which, of course, would be the one thing that you were completely out of. Then they would complain the rest of the time and continue to ask for that one item for the duration of their dining experience. What did they want me to say? “Now that I’ve handed you your check, I just wanted you to know that I’ve been messing with you this whole time and we’ve had macaroni and cheese bites all along!!! Muahahaha.

I’m trolling for tips, people. I want those mac-n-cheese bites as badly as you do.

I don’t know that I have been able to eat more the three vanilla yogurts in my own home in the past three years. We are always out of it. It is no sooner unpacked from the grocery store before it is flying out of the refrigerator. I was putting the laundry away the other day, came downstairs and found that my son had slammed two yogurts while I was upstairs. Obviously, they were the last two yogurts we had. For the rest of the night, that same son continued to ask for more yogurt. Why didn’t we have any? Where did it go? I’m sorry, did you black out while you housed all of the yogurt that we had? You know that it is all gone and no, I do not know how to make yogurt. I checked the fridge one last time and found that we did have one more yogurt – it was strawberry. Wailing ensued. It.must.be.VANILLA! 86 that.

Bite your tongue

Sure, I remembered the nice customers and the once that tipped well. Ideally, they would be both nice and great tippers. BUT, the jerky jerk guests were imprinted on my brain. I would see them walk in the door, see the hostess grab the menus, see her start to head toward my section, see her set them down at my table and then walk away. Things just got real.

Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of things that a server has no control over. It would drive me nuts when a guest would say, “this will reflect in your tip…” Oh, really??? At least with them, you knew not to expect a decent tip. The ones that really got me were the guests who ran me around for an hour and fifteen minutes and then would leave NO TIP AT ALL on the table. Just because our titles literally mean that we are servants, does not mean that we are less than or are not working insanely hard. Servers remember you and they remember how you treated them. I can’t even count the amount of times I had to just walk away to keep myself from saying something mean in return to a rude guest.

I have to admit, there have been times when I have been drawn into a verbal ‘negotiation’ with my kids. When frustrations are high, it’s so easy to do. If it’s not a negotiation, then my sarcastic nature will rear it’s ugly head. When my kid wakes up from a nap and promises to behave better than he did that morning, I have to bite my tongue. I want to tell him that he better behave because he was being a real poophead earlier and I can’t take much more of it. Instead, I just give him a hug and we move on. Most of the time, I can remember that I am the adult and they just learned how to use the toilet, so maybe arguing with them is not the most productive thing that I could do. Many days (like getting stiffed on a tip), there seems to be nothing to show for all of the work, but you just show up, keep your mouth shut, and do it anyway.

Leftovers

Whenever a meal was ordered incorrectly or there was an extra meal for any reason at all, my co-workers and I would jump on that freebie like no other. I would take my meal to the back of the restaurant in a dark corner and shovel that food into my mouth as fast as I could. Inevitably, I would burn my entire mouth and get extreme indigestion, but it was totally worth it. I couldn’t afford to spend my tips on Cajun Chicken and Shrimp Pasta even with my discount. So a treat like that was hard to come by.

I cannot tell you how often I don’t get to eat a real dinner. I’m usually too tired to cook and if I do make a home-cooked meal, the kids are suddenly not hungry. Most of the time, I just make them something then eat their scraps over the sink like some sort of rat while I clean the dishes. It takes me back to the good ol’ days of hiding out in that dark corner at work in between checking on my tables.

Last Call 

The restaurant where I worked was across the street from the host hotel for our town’s minor league baseball team. All the visiting teams stayed there and would often come over to eat lunch and then dinner after the game. I can’t complain too much because there were times when I got free tickets to the games, but when it is 11:45pm and you close at 12, you did not want to see 26 hungry ball players walk across the parking lot. I would just be honest with them and say, “Look, you are all more than welcome here. But, if you order a well done steak I cannot guarantee what may or may not happen to it.”

Bedtime is the new last call.  There is something about it that makes my kids request more things than they did the rest of the day combined. They need water, they need their blankies, they are suddenly interested in reading books, they need songs to be sung, they need you to do a River dance, they need their backs rubbed, and just when you think you are done, they will get out of bed and come downstairs to ask for something else. Bedtime is my cardio routine.

Humility 

Right before I finally got a job that launched my career, a frequent guest of mine came to the restaurant and asked why I continued to serve when I was educated.  Basically, he was insinuating that I was too good to work there. I stopped for a moment and responded truthfully. Other than the fact that there were no jobs to be found, I told him, “When I first started as a server, I believed that I was too good for this job. But nothing has taught me more about humility and grace than serving others. No one is ever too good to serve.”  See what I did there??  Pretty deep for someone who was ‘just’ a server.

There were many days when I was waitressing that I felt like the worst version of myself.  I was bitter and angry that this was how I had to make a living and I was frustrated with the way people treated me.  Motherhood is much the same.  I will lay my head down at night and feel as if I did nothing right throughout the course of the day and I am constantly surprised (and disappointed) by my reactions to things both large and small.  But I pray, ask for forgiveness, and my slate is cleaned.

Parenting is one big sacrifice. You serve others daily, often with little appreciation. It is all about humility, perseverance, and more grace than you can even imagine. But it will teach you more about yourself and what you are capable of than any other job this world has to offer.  I cannot conceive of a life without my kids.  They have shown me what an incredible blessing it is to be able to serve others.

Plus, both experiences have given me enough stories to write a book.

No Bathroom Left Behind

bathroom

My children are on a self-imposed journey to visit every bathroom east of the Mississippi River. They have conspired together and are determined to make this happen. It doesn’t matter if we are in our hometown or traveling – we must check out any and all bathrooms.  There will be no bathroom left behind.

The kids know that if they mention that they have to go to the bathroom, I will move mountains to find them a toilet immediately. This is due to the fact that children don’t mention their need to go until they are a sneeze away from soiling themselves. I can prompt them to go before we leave the house, but if they are otherwise preoccupied, forget about it.

Case in point, we were leaving my parent’s house recently and getting ready for the 20-minute drive back home. I told my 4-year-old to go to the bathroom before we left. He said that he did and we drove away. I stopped for gas and when I did so, he began to yell through the window at me that he had to go NOW. I finished filling up the tank, unbuckled both boys from their car seats, and hustled them into the gas station. The cashier showed us the back room that housed the toilet and I told my son to go.

“Mom, it smells horrible in here! It smells like old toots!”

“Yes, it does smell bad.”

“I can’t go! I’m going to barf. I can’t pee, I can’t pee!”

This is when I tried to take a deep breath (then regretted it because of the awful stench) to calm down. I was holding my 2-year-old who kept grabbing on to a rusty pipe and then popping his thumb in his mouth. He’s up-to-date on his tetanus so he should be fine. Anyway, I managed to keep my cool as I said to my oldest, “You are going to need to find a way to put some pee in that toilet. We are 6 minutes from our own bathroom and you told me that this had to happen now. Make it happen.”

Two drops of pee made it into the toilet. But at least we know what the bathroom looks like at the local Sunoco station.

A few weeks later, we were traveling the hour-and-a-half to my in-laws over Memorial Day weekend. Again, I hear from the backseat that nature was calling and it was calling hard. We had to drive ten more minutes before we could reach the nearest public toilet. Do you know where that toilet happened to be? Boalsburg, PA – the birth place of Memorial Day. Do you know where you do NOT want to randomly stop on Memorial Day weekend? Boalsburg.

As it turns out, it was a false alarm. But the boys can cross the Boalsburg Mart bathroom off of their list of places to see.

We recently took a long trip to South Carolina and back for vacation. Normally, we drive through the night so that the kids are sleeping and the trip doesn’t feel as long to them. However, my husband and I decided that this year we had no desire to struggle to stay awake and then figure out who had enough energy to take care of the kids once we reached our destination. As a result, there were more bathroom breaks.

I always love it when my 2-year-old insists that he use the restroom. He still wears a diaper and I can’t get him interested in using the toilet at home to save my life. As soon as we go somewhere, he immediately wants to visit the bathroom. Part of me feels like saying, “Just go in your pants!” But a bigger part of me wants him to learn to wipe his own butt. So we journey into the restroom where he attempts to unroll the toilet paper and then we all get covered in soap and water because holding up a small child so that they can ‘wash’ their hands is a nightmare.

It’s all worth it because the Buffalo Wild Wings in a random Virginian town is now one less bathroom for us to visit.

Sometimes I’m the one who needs to use the bathroom. On long trips, I try to go as long as possible but that is dangerous because you never know when you might get stuck in traffic. For example, on our recent trip down south, I took over the wheel and about an hour later realized I could use a bathroom break. I didn’t want to stop so soon, so I continued on. At one point, I saw a beautiful rest stop that looked like it was part of a day spa. We were seven hours into our drive and I really could have used some cucumber water and a ten minute neck massage! But no, I soldiered on only to see a sign a mile down the road that said, “Next Rest Stop – 108 Miles.”

Grrrreat. It’s just me, the road, and a handful of shady Exxon’s between my bladder and a decent toilet. If my option is retrieving a key from a gas station worker so that I can walk around to the back of the building to pee in a room that looks like it should be taped off for a crime scene investigation or just hold it, I think I’ll hold it.

Once we reached our destination, the kids were able to hit up more bathrooms than I can even mention. They’ve got to be making great headway with their list.

At one restaurant, the boys took turns making trips with me. My oldest locked the door and then crawled out the bottom rather than unlocking it. Nope, you need to crawl back under and unlock that thing and then I need to wash your clothes as soon as possible now that you crawled all over a bathroom floor. My youngest kept hugging the weird statue that was in the corner of the bathroom and then we both got drenched during the hand-washing portion of the bathroom visit.

*I would like to take a brief moment to discuss family bathrooms.  These seem like a great idea until you realize that your kid is tall enough to unlock the bathroom door and run out, leaving the door open while you are still on the toilet.  This may or may not have happened at Kohl’s.

While shopping, we made another trip to the restrooms. We walked in and my son, always feeling the need to comment on everything, said, “Someone is pooping in here!”

This was accurate, but I quickly explained that this is a bathroom and that’s what people do in bathrooms. Also, just zip your lip.

He just kept at it. “It’s smelly! Are they done pooping yet?” Judging by the orthotic sneakers I saw under the stall, I can only hope and pray that this woman was too hard of hearing to catch what was going on. Given the fact that my son must state everything at the loudest possible volume, especially things that he should keep to himself, I doubt she missed it. My apologies, innocent bathroom goer – but yet another venue has been crossed off of the list.

On the way back home, we stopped at a McDonald’s for breakfast and a quick stretch. The thing that baffled my mind was that this McDonald’s had a PlayPlace, but no diaper changing station in either restroom. Whaaaaat!? You have tried to accommodate the many children that will pass through your doors by offering a place to play, but you failed to allow their parents to change them?? C’mon, man! My oldest could go, but I had to wrestle my youngest in the front seat of the car in order to give him a fresh diaper. At least we put a check-mark beside that location.

The last time I asked the boys, we had only 4,796 bathrooms to go! Ain’t no stoppin’ us now!

 

*On a side note, there needs to be changing stations in men’s restrooms, too. Is it really that much of a shocker that men take their kids places by themselves? I don’t think so. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has not been able to change our children’s diapers in the men’s restroom because there is no option to do so. This is an easy fix, people!

Juggling a Balanced Life: The Clothes

the clothes

I enter the dressing room and suddenly it’s as if all the other lights have been turned off and there is just one big, bright spotlight shining down on my body. It’s an interrogation chamber.

I look at the pieces I brought into the dressing room to try on and sigh. I was confident and loving myself until I walked in here and now every flaw is broadcast in this three-way mirror that should not be legal in stores. I mean, seriously, those things should only be found in the haunted house at the circus. Speaking of which, this mirror is telling me that I belong in the circus.

Sometimes, I walk passed a mirror or a window and I think to myself, “That can’t be accurate.” This is one of those times. I left the house looking decent but somewhere along the way I turned into an extra on The Walking Dead. Right now I have several different angles telling me that this is real life and as in-your-face accurate as it gets.

Now that I’m in a great mood, I begin to try on clothes. I always play it safe and pick out a size that I can basically guarantee will fit. Then, if it fits and there is room I will try on a smaller size and hopefully bask in the glory of a lower number on the tag of my jeans.

Not today. Today, my safe size in pants has created a muffin top that would make the Pillsbury Doughboy jealous. Maybe if I do some squats and lunges these pants will cooperate. As I am engaging in my dressing room calisthenics, it occurs to me that the pants are tight enough that I am dangerously close to enacting the you-bust-through-the-seams, you-buy-it policy that most stores have in place.

Cripes. What gives today? Obviously not my pants. Stretch fit my foot.

Why don’t we move onto the shirts? As I take the shirt that I own off, I stare at my torso in the circus freak mirror. It looks like I have more stretch marks than I thought I walked in here with. Normally, I am aware that I am pretty fortunate to have had two children in less than two years and walk away with only the amount of stretch marks I have, but right now I am a human road map. I go through some positive affirmation phrases in my head and remember that this is the price of life and it’s a price that I would choose to pay over and over again.

I try on the first shirt and it’s a disaster. I can’t even pull it down over my boobs. The second shirt looks decent until I catch a glimpse of my back in the mirror and see that it’s like the rolling hills of South Dakota back there. When and how did I develop back rolls and how do you get rid of them?

So let me get this straight – in an effort to make a profit, stores and clothing designers actually want you to buy their products, right? Then why in the world would they put the most unflattering mirror combined with the most unflattering light in the dressing rooms? I’m pretty sure this lighting just showed me that I have cellulite on my wrist – I didn’t even know that was possible. And why would designers cut their clothing to fit a 12-year-old girl and not a woman’s body? This chest would make a 12-year-old topple over. Not only do I NOT want to buy anything, but it’s a good thing I’m not at the mall or else I would march straight to the food court for a cinnamon covered soft pretzel right about now.

I take a deep breath and think about whether or not I should even bother trying on the last item I brought into the dressing room with me. It’s a dress. When I picked it up off of the rack, I thought that maybe it wouldn’t work for me – it might be more form fitting than what I usually wear.

Well, I brought it in here and I’m already in my underwear so I might as well give it a shot.

Once I get the fabric situated, I finally glance in the mirror. “That can’t be accurate,” I mutter. This time I have a smile on my face. This dress hits my body in all of the right places. I check my figure in the mirrors and all three angles show that there is no muffin top and my back rolls are gone. I don’t even need to do any stretches to see if they will help the dress to fit. It is not inappropriate in any way, yet it is sexy. I channel my inner Beyoncé and dance around the dressing room Like. A. Boss.

The dress I bought is a Large, but that is not what I think of myself when I wear it. I feel beautiful.

I have learned that it does not matter what the size tag says on my clothes. It is all about how I look and feel when I wear the clothes. We have all seen people walking around who are clearly trying to squeeze into a size that is not appropriate for them. Just because the button buttons, doesn’t mean the clothes fit. Also, I have found that if the fit is better in a bigger size, I look smaller. I don’t go around pulling the back of people’s jeans out just to see what size they are wearing. Who cares? But unfortunately, I have lived a decent chunk of my life feeling way too concerned about the number or letter on a stupid tag. And for what reason? All that has done is make me feel badly about the way I look when there is absolutely no reason to feel that way.

I would classify my style as ‘modern modesty.’ I want to be in-style, yet I still want to be age appropriate. What worked for me several years ago might not work now. For example, I recently tried on a pair of jean shorts that I have had for many years. They still fit fine, but when I walked downstairs, my son said, “Mom, why are you wearing jeanie underwear?” Perhaps they were a little short and now they’ve got to go. It doesn’t matter if my husband thinks they look great, if my son believes that I am walking around in public wearing underwear and not shorts, that’s a problem.

I’m working on treating my body well with the food I eat, and the things I do, but I also need to be kind to myself by choosing clothes that reflect who I am on the inside. Not everything is made for me nor will it all look nice on my body, but when I find the things that do it’s wonderful. Part of keeping myself balanced involves the thoughts that I think about my body. Just as I wouldn’t want to go around tearing others down, I shouldn’t be tearing myself down either. I spent years hating the way that I looked and now I know what a shame that was. I was bought at a price and I need to treat myself as Christ treats me – worthy of love. I am determined to keep a godly mindset for all things in my life, which includes balancing health, wellness, and body image.

 

Juggling a Balanced Life: The Food

the food

I just found out what kale was about two years ago and I have not been impressed. I could maybe choke it down if I drenched it in ranch, but correct me if I’m wrong; I believe that defeats the purpose. I’m not exactly whipping up kale smoothies as I happily bounce out of bed each morning. Perhaps I would, if I could figure out how to happily bounce out of bed.   I’m not making homemade kale chips and no amount of convincing will make me believe that they ‘taste just like Lays.’ Kale chips would be the only chips that could make me stop after just eating one.

Hummus?  There is a reason it was recalled – it’s nasty.

Avocado?  Green mush.

Quinoa?  I have been pronouncing it so wrong that I didn’t even know what people were referring to when it was said correctly.  So, I’m not going to eat it.

I do subscribe to the ‘everything in moderation’ theory, but sometimes that moderation leads to full-blown liberty to enjoy every crumb of junk I can find. Every now and then I need to rein things in again. When I start to feel sluggish and lazy and that’s when I know that my food intake needs a reboot. But what’s a girl to do?

After my first child, I could not get rid of the last ten pounds. Not to mention, I had been at my heaviest weight ever when I got pregnant, so I had about twenty pounds that needed to come off. Enter Weight Watchers. I knew if I paid for the program that I would be more likely to follow it.

The first week on Weight Watchers, I wanted to eat my own arm because I was so hungry. The great thing about their point system is that, at least at the time, most fruits and vegetables were worth zero points. That means that you can eat as much of them as you want each day. But, when you are used to chowing down on a foot long Philly Cheese-steak sub from Subway and then inhaling both of the cookies that came with your combo, a raw carrot just isn’t going to cut it.  I doubt this is the Subway diet Jared was on when he lost all of his weight.

It took me some time to adjust, but once I got it down, the weight came off and I really enjoyed the Weight Watchers program. Eventually I stopped paying for it and continued to follow the guidelines on my own. Then I got pregnant again and rediscovered Taco Bell.

Honestly, I didn’t eat as poorly throughout my second pregnancy as I did my first. Also, I have found that it’s not the pregnancies that get me so much as the few months following the pregnancy. I have no time to think about food or cooking so I reach for whatever is easiest to shove into my mouth. Usually that is Chips Ahoy cookies (chewy style) and leftover mac-n-cheese (heavily processed style). When I was nursing, I could get away with this crap. Then suddenly, the baby is celebrating his first birthday, the milk has dried up and those calories aren’t burning themselves anymore. Yet, I am still slamming all of the junk like it’s my J-O-B.

About six months after I stopped nursing, I stepped on the scale and saw that I was seven pounds heavier than when Jett was only five months old. Whaaaat!? I had a routine physical coming up and the doctor asked me about it (of course). She insisted that I have my thyroid checked. I told her that I was just making poor decisions, but that wasn’t enough. It took a $158 lab bill and a negative result to prove that I was slacking off. Insult to injury.

Recently, I have been attempting to clean up my diet….again. Someone had given me a sample of this ‘all natural’ appetite suppressant. All I had to do was add it to my water and I would magically not feel hungry all day.

First of all, I noticed that it said ‘ground spinach’ on the packet. That should have tipped me off right there. As I was dumping it into my water, I immediately wondered if someone hadn’t just gone to my yard right after the grass had been cut and packaged up the extra grass clippings and were now selling it to innocent people. While mixing the grass in my cup, the water turned to mud. The grass would not dissolve and I even added it to 20 oz of water and not the suggested 4 or 8 oz. I would like to see someone use only 4 oz of water and try to choke this stuff down. It was brutal. I took two sips and dumped it. I should have taken a picture of the grassy mud mess, but I wanted it out of my sight. Get thee behind me, Satan! I can see why it would be effective, though – lost my appetite for quite some time after just two sips. I probably wouldn’t have eaten for days if I could have chugged the whole glass. (side note: NOT condoning eating disorders!)

Next, I attempted a healthier option of my morning granola bar. This thing was packaged bark. Apparently all I have to do is go out to my backyard and gnaw on a tree and chew on some grass and suddenly I will be healthier. Also, I can attest to this bar tasting like bark because I tried some bark when I was a kid. So you can trust that I am speaking from experience.

I find it difficult to balance healthy eating in the real world. I rarely buy junk food at the grocery store – like chips and cookies – but we do have our fair share of processed foods. We also love the Dollar Menu or Right Price menu at local fast food chains. After a long day at work, the words ‘quick and easy’ describing what is for dinner sound like music to my ears. Making better choices when it comes to food will be a life-long process because it is a lifestyle. In order for good choices to become effective, good choices must be habitual.

My saving grace is the fact that I do like fruits and veggies. I love salads, too – just not salads made with kale. It’s almost Farmer’s Market season and I am beyond excited to get some fresh food into my system. The older I get, I realize that I am finally not as concerned with how I look, but how I feel. I am confident with my body and am grateful for all that it is capable of doing. That being said, I need to take care of it and feed it well. I don’t want to be a stick – I want to have energy! The more energy I have, the more I enjoy my life.  When I think of food fueling my body in these terms, it is much easier for me to make good choices.

If I want to keep my life balanced, food definitely needs to be a part of the equation.  Stay tuned as I prepare to sarcastically discuss staying balanced in terms of clothes and exercise.

 

How Mothers of Boys Celebrate Mother’s Day

muddyboys

I used to wonder why there were never any Mother/Son banquets or get-togethers around Mother’s Day each year. Mother/Daughter banquets or teas are hosted by many churches and organizations, but where are the Mother/Son activities?

Then I had boys. My boys have caused me to realize that no such Mother/Son gathering would be acceptable. These banquets would require them to sit still and perhaps run a comb through their hair. I can’t even get them to sit in my lap while I read to them, let alone get them to attend a tea with me.

It would be wonderful if someday I could experience a Mother/Daughter banquet with my own daughter, but for now I experience them as the daughter of a wonderful mother. In the meantime, here are some possible ways that mothers and sons can celebrate their relationship on Mother’s Day:

  1. You could, indeed, have a Mother’s Day tea as long as there was a chance that the ‘bad guys’ would come and wreck it and your sons were able to save the day.
  2. Grab some toy trucks and pretend to be at a monster truck rally.
  3. Go to Lowe’s and sit on every tractor that they have there.
  4. Sit in the dirt together with the variety of diggers they seem to have and get to work.
  5. Jump in mud puddles together.
  6. Go to the nearest train station and watch the trains come in and out.
  7. Construct swords out of foam and have an epic sword fight dressed in superhero clothing.
  8. Water gun battle.
  9. Find some swings and slides, which will inevitably turn into them jumping off of the swings and slides.
  10. Sand and sand toys.

My boys are pretty simple. They don’t want to dress up and go anywhere. Heck, half of the time I can’t get them to wear pants. But, I have truly come to love their simplicity and have started to understand the way their minds work. They would LOVE to do any of these things with me and we often do them right in our own backyard.

Whether you are the mother of boys, girls, or both, we all celebrate Mother’s Day all year long. I don’t need to have a once-a-year banquet to celebrate the relationship I have with my kids. Like all children, they just want to spend time with their mom and laugh and have fun. I can honestly say that I have laughed and had more fun since I became I mom than any other time in my life. I am covered in way more dirt than I anticipated, but that’s okay.

Happy Mother’s Day! And by all means, put that dandelion bouquet picked just for you in your best vase and display it for all to see.

 

 

The Contents of My Purse Turn Me into MacGyver

purse

Sometimes, when I notice the random collection of junk I carry around with me in my purse at all times, I realize that I could turn into the next MacGyver. As I dig through my purse to find my keys, I am given ample opportunity to see all that this bag is housing. After all, my keys will immediately dive to the bottom of my purse forcing me to overturn every last receipt in order to find them even if they are in there for two seconds.

My current MacGyver materials include:

  • Wallet (obviously) yet no money (also, obviously)
  • 17 cards, none of them credit cards but I am one punch away from a free treat at Sweet Frog. Score!
  • Repeat insurance cards. Every time I turn around our health insurance company is sending us new cards. I forget to purge the old ones, so I end up carrying around three different copies because I don’t remember which is the newest version of the card.
  • 3 Dunkin Donuts receipts. Mama runs on Dunkin.
  • $0.56 – all pennies
  • 2 linty mints
  • A diaper and one pair of toddler underwear. If I can avoid carrying a second bag, I’m going to do so.
  • Old school mp3 player with actual headphones, ear buds do not agree with my ears
  • 4 pens, various colors
  • 2 church bulletins
  • Hand lotion
  • 3 pairs of mismatched earrings
  • Checkbook that still has our old address on the checks
  • Bible, the actual book, not the phone app
  • Bible study book
  • Tissues, cannot tell if they have been used or not
  • Case for glasses
  • Another case for discreetly storing tampons and pads, also known as the first thing the kids pull out when rooting through my purse
  • 5 Band-Aids and 2 sample packs of ointment for cuts
  • Chapstick
  • A bottle opener. I did not know that I owned a bottle opener, let alone that I carried one around with me each day.
  • Texas Roadhouse gift card. Yessss!!!! Completely forgot about this, but my purse does not hold the free time and/or babysitter that would allow me to use this.
  • Lightning McQueen matchbox car. Taken from church unbeknownst to me by my son. I forget that it is in there each week until approximately ten minutes after we have pulled out of the church parking lot.
  • Erin Condren Life Planner. Helps with life organization, but clearly not purse organization.

Despite purging my purse every few weeks, this junk just creeps in there. It feels like I am carrying a ton of bricks, and frankly, I would not have been surprised if I would have found a brick in there. Like MacGyver, I don’t know how I am going to use these materials until I assess what is needed in the moment.

Kid cuts his knee at the playground? I can clean and bandage him.

Stumble upon a wishing fountain? I have 56 pennies for that.

Hankering for beer and steak? Apparently I can both pop the bottle and pay for the steak.  I’m not going to do that, but according to my purse the option exists.

Need some encouragement?  Let’s have an impromtu Bible study while treating ourselves to that free dish at Sweet Frog.

One thing is clear – whatever the need may be – I’m prepared.  The only thing I am missing is my sweet MacGyver mullet.

My Kids are Always Dirty

My kids are always dirty. I don’t take the term ‘always’ lightly, yet I feel confident in saying that they are always dirty.

They will cdirtome to visit me at work and my husband will swear that they were clean when they left the house, yet somehow on the ride to see me they have full-grown dirt beards. They are like dirt magicians. They could attract dirt even in one of those scientific ‘clean rooms.’

I will try to make them presentable when we go out in public, but they are sure to have uncooperative bed head. In the winter it might not be bed head so much as hat hair. Regardless, it is sticking up everywhere. The kids also like to rock the one pant leg up, one pant leg down look. If we are not covered in dirt, we are sure to look disheveled.

They are also stain magnets. New clothes don’t stay new for very long on these guys. I try to save or donate the clothes that I can once they have outgrown them, but usually they are so well-worn that it’s not even helping anyone to donate them. Grass stains, dirt stains, and food stains are constantly being pre-treated in our laundry room.

The dirt just doesn’t stay on them, either. I have finger prints all over my walls and my windows. If you find a light switch in my house, odds are that the paint around it is covered in crud from their tiny hands. I have given them baths only to drain the water and find the biggest ring of dirt circling the entire tub. Our remote control buttons sometimes stick because they have gotten who-knows-what all over it.  Several times a week, I must ask the question, “Is that chocolate, poop, or mud?”

Dirt travels from them and covers me, as well. After their visits to see me at work, it is not uncommon for me to go to a meeting, look down, and realize that they rubbed chocolate on my sweater (my co-workers always give them candy) or gave me a muddy boot print on my leg when I picked them up for a hug. When I’m at home, I’m pre-treating my clothes too because I am joining in on the activities that make them so dirty. Like the time that my oldest son found a huge mud puddle by our old house and ran into it before I could do anything about it. I had to wade into it to get him out but we played for a while first. When my husband came home he found a pile of muddy clothes out on our deck.muddy

Our bathrooms are always in need of a good scouring, not because I don’t clean them, just because the regular dirt mixes with bodily fluids in this room. When asked why there was pee everywhere, I was told by my son that sometimes he likes to stand there with his eyes closed and “see what happens.” I’ll show you what happens – you’re going to start cleaning the bathroom yourself!

Recently, I thought that there was just run-of-the-mill dirt on the rug in the boys’ bathroom. I waited a few days to wash it with the bathroom towels until I came to find out what it really was. My son informed me that he had run out of toilet paper while going to the bathroom, so he just wiped himself with the bathroom rug. Instead of just walking over random dirt, we had all been stepping on a skid mark for a couple of days. What I can’t figure out is why he didn’t just ask for more toilet paper? I mean, he is never home alone so someone could have helped him out. So gross.

I used to try to fight all of it, but I feel like I am getting better at accepting the fact that where kids abound, dirt abounds. I do my best to keep things clean and dress them nicely, but I can’t keep them from playing and having fun. So stain up your clothes and fingerprint my walls – that’s the stuff memories are made of.

I Just Want to Go to the Bathroom Alone

I am incredibly grateful for the fact that all of my needs and the needs of my family are met – roof over our heads, clothes in our closets, and food on our table. We can pay our bills and while we might not have much left over for material indulgences, I can’t really think of much that I actually want on top of what I already have been given.  I don’t take this for granted and I thank the Lord for these realizations every day. But, there is this one thing that I want more than anything else.

I just want to go to the bathroom alone.

I’m not trying to be gross or inappropriate, but being able to sit down and take care of your business by yourself is one of the simplest life pleasures.   And it is a simple life pleasure that has eluded me for the past four years.

I have always had bathroom issues. Case in point, my high school class once took a train from Pennsylvania to Florida and back for our senior trip. I had to be drugged with Dramamine so that I could relax enough to use the bathroom on the train.   I kept thinking, ‘What if the door jiggles open? What if it didn’t lock? What if someone bursts in to see me?’

Then I became a mother and all of these things happen every single time I try to go to the bathroom.

bathroom

It started out innocently enough – put the baby in the infant seat right in front of the toilet. They aren’t going to go anywhere and they won’t remember what’s going on. Soon I found myself multitasking in every facet of my life and the bathroom was no exception.  Let’s face it, nursing while pooping is weird, but sometimes necessary.   I felt weird about it with one kid, then when I added the second kid, I would be nursing, going to the bathroom, and trying to stop the other kid from dumping (pun intended) Q-tips and cotton balls all over the floor.

Once the nursing stopped, I still didn’t find myself with bathroom privacy. Now they will just storm in and verbally ask for things.

“Can I have a snack? Can you get me a snack?”

Ummm. How do you suggest I get you a snack? I am otherwise occupied and pretzels are going to have to wait for a few minutes.

This is when I hear the kitchen chair being dragged across the floor so that my kid can climb up and get the pretzels himself. Heaven forbid we have to exercise any patience in this home.

Even worse, the minute I sit down on the throne the kids begin to fight. Not just little fights, but they start to scream and push each other and come way too close to the edge of the stairs. Pull up your pants and get out there to break up Friday Night Fights, Mama!

The kids don’t seem to realize that they need me for anything or want to be by my side until I feel that nature is calling. They will knock, but despite this polite gesture, they do not heed my instruction to wait outside of the bathroom until I have finished. First I spy little hands reaching under the door. Shortly after that they will just bust down the door and come in to see what I’m doing. What do you think is going on in here?

Lately, my youngest one comes into the bathroom and wants to sit on my lab while he enjoys a lollipop. Is this real life? Should we have a conversation or just sit here in silence and pretend that this isn’t incredibly awkward? Why don’t we open the window blinds and invite the neighbors to this bathroom pow-wow? Sometimes he will bring a book with him and we will read for a little bit. So you’re telling me that you won’t sit still long enough for me to read to you in the living room on the recliner, but when I’m sitting half-nude on the toilet reading suddenly seems like a good idea?  Ironically, he often chooses the book ‘Everyone Poops’ for me to read.

I could shadoobie at work, but there might as well be a revolving door on that bathroom. It is Grand Central Station in there – not exactly ideal for such a private act. So I hold it in all day, take care of everything I could possibly take care of at home, then at 9pm it hits me that I still haven’t had a bowel movement and it’s probably why I have been so miserable for the last 4 hours. By now everything is practically impacted and even though the kids are in bed and I can use the bathroom alone, it is a less-than-pleasant experience. Good luck passing Stonehenge!

Honestly, all I want to do is wake up and take care of business first thing in the morning. If things work out this way, I will literally skip from my car into the office because I will be in such a great mood. It just never works out that way. The life of a mother means that you are endlessly side-tracked from morning till night. So, if you have to go badly enough, you just adopt the open door policy and roll with it.

In a few years, the kids will realize that it’s not cool to barge in on someone in the bathroom because they will want their privacy in there as well. When that day comes I will rejoice and reclaim this precious alone time.

At the end of the day, if using the bathroom alone is all I really want then there is no room for complaints.

Observations from the Supermarket

supermarket

I can’t be the only one who has noticed and experienced these things while going to the supermarket.

Rules of the cart

Upon entering the supermarket, we grab a cart and then must decide who sits up front and who sits in the back. You know the little flap that covers the front seat of the cart? Well, if you actually look at it, it has several pictures on it displaying what you are NOT supposed to do and how kids are NOT supposed to ride in the cart. We ignore all of these rules. We have hung on to the sides of the cart. We sit on things in the cart. We stand in the cart. We unbuckle ourselves and stand up in the front seat of the cart. We even stand and hold our arms out like we are on the front of the Titanic while riding in the cart.  The only thing missing was Celine Dion’s sweet voice crooning over the loud speaker.

Yes, I know that this is dangerous, but I’m not at the store because it’s happy-fun time. I’m there with two kids by myself because we actually need things. If I did a pantry raid to see what items I can throw together for a meal, I would come up with a can of green beans and some stale cake icing. So, we must power through the supermarket and if that means we break every cart-riding rule, then so be it.

Tampons and acquaintances

Why is it that every time I need to go to the store by myself with both of my kids, it perfectly lines up with the few times a year when I have simultaneously run out of every personal hygiene and household product? Not only does this add extra time onto our trip to the supermarket, it also causes me to field a barrage of questions from my children.  It’s the perfect storm. I have one kid in the front seat hugging a package of pads and another kid in the back of the cart shaking a box of Tampax Sport.

“Mom, what is this? Is this lady stuff? How do you use these? Can I use them? Can you eat them?”

Now that I have stocked up on my ‘lady stuff’ I round the corner of the aisle to run into everyone I have ever known. Or at least a couple of guys from church.  How about we save the small talk for Sunday morning and not while my kid is waving my tampons in your face?

Out-of-stock

It just so happens that the only time I could fit in a trip to the grocery store was the day right before the trucks arrive to replenish the shelves. Seriously, I go down through my list and half of the items are nowhere to be found. Because of this, I get what I can now, but will have to find a way to make another trip back to the supermarket in a few days. What’s for dinner? I guess we are still having green beans and icing.

Consider it destroyed

I try to stay focused and motor through the store as fast as I can in the hopes that this experience will be less painful for everyone. In doing so, the kids have opened a box of cereal and a box of fruit snacks.  Now I know why they have been so quiet. On two separate trips, each one of my kids has gnawed through a package of bologna. True story.

I’m going to pay for these items anyway, but I still have a discussion with my kids about the fact that we haven’t paid for then yet so we can’t open or destroy them. I don’t think that a can has made it from the store to our home without being dented when my kids were along for the supermarket experience.

Staring Contest

It’s no secret that kids are observant and riding in a cart through the store gives them the perfect opportunity to people-watch.  Along with the gift of observation, my kids cannot whisper to save their lives and they also have little to no filter before speaking.  So this ends up happening: “Mom, her boobs – I mean chest – was coming out of her shirt!”  Little one overhears boobs and just repeats “boobies” loudly for several aisles.

“Mom, did you see that guy’s butt crack!?  He leaned over and I saw his butt crack!”  Annnd the little one is now saying butt crack instead of boobies.

I swear this is in no way indicative of the way I parent.  But I will give the private part speech again just in case.

How did this get here

I love when I get home and start to unpack the groceries only to find several random items that I have no recollection of purchasing. I forgot cheese and half of the stuff I need to pack my lunches for the week, but I now have the latest issue of Soap Opera Digest, some Ferrero Rocher chocolate, a vile of 5-hour energy, and that matchbox car one of them just had to have. Did I pay for this stuff? The receipt confirms that I did but all of this junk sneaked passed me.  Granted, the chocolate is a nice treat, but clearly my little ninjas were hard at work while I was unloading the cart in the checkout line. Why are the checkout lines so small and compact? I bet they were designed by someone who doesn’t have kids.

I can’t wait to do this all again in a few days.

 

My Spooky Valentine

I used to hate Valentine’s Day. I never had a date and it was a glaring reminder that I was single. Fast-forward a few years and now it’s my favorite. Not because of the gifts or the romantic gestures, but I love it because it is one of two days each year (our anniversary being the other day) when people will willingly offer to watch our kids so we can have some alone time. Jackpot.

Before we got to this point, I remember my last Valentine’s Day as a single girl. I thought, ‘forget this; I’m going to have a great time.’ So, I got dressed up, did my makeup and hair, strapped on my heels and had the best time by myself. I lived above Panera Bread (horrible for a carb addict) so I grabbed some food there before renting Napoleon Dynamite and treating myself to chocolate covered strawberries. It was awesome. I had just decided that I was going to enjoy this ‘holiday’ one way or another.

Then I met my husband and he loves Valentine’s Day. He is also a big romantic – I am not. He has a way of remembering the smallest details and turning it into something amazing. Five months ago I might have made a comment in passing about wanting something, I’ll completely forget about it and then on Valentine’s Day it will be waiting for me. Meanwhile, I can’t think of anything romantic or creative so I give him a card with coupons for free hugs in it.

It’s not that I don’t want to get him an amazing gift or show how much he means to me; it’s just that I am a horrible gift-giver. I know the things he likes, but yet I don’t. He loves tools and things for his truck, but that is like a foreign language to me. I’ll go to the store and it’s like I blackout. It’s very similar to grocery shopping while pregnant – pregnancy brain takes over and you can’t remember anything that you needed despite the list you are holding in your hand. So, I’ll do a few laps hoping that I’ll come-to and remember what it is that my husband has specifically asked for. This is what usually happens: I get something just close enough, yet not quite right and he either has to take it back or just pick out his own gift in the first place. This is horrible because my husband loves surprises.

I feel like I am slowly getting better at giving him gifts, but I am nowhere near his level of amazing gift-giving. I now know more about tools and trucks than I ever cared to know, so I am making progress in speaking his language. The good thing is, with a family and a budget we don’t make a big deal out of gifts; our limit is $10-15 on each other. We are going out to dinner and are looking forward to the time spent with each other more than anything else.

This year, we cannot go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, so we have to go out the night before, which just so happens to be Friday the 13th. This is a combination my husband loves – scary stuff and romance. I hate spooky things and we’ve already covered that I’m about as romantic as a reciprocating saw. See, I told you I was learning the language of tools.

ourspot

Our Spot

It has become our tradition to go back to the same restaurant where we spent our first Valentine’s Day in college. Then we’ll walk around the town and campus reminiscing about our time there and how we’ve gotten to this place in our lives. He will feel older than he is and I will realize I am younger than I feel (hooray for exhaustion). We’ll pass by my old apartment above Panera Bread and then we’ll go get some ice cream. It will be simple and perfect and romantic in our own way. Then on Saturday morning I will ‘say it with bacon’ and make my husband breakfast before he goes to work.

I love my spooky Valentine.