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Category Archives: Tips on Public Behavior

Parenting FAIL Friday: Manners are so important.

One day last week, my Dad-in-law came over for a last-minute dinner. He had spent the morning deep-sea fishing, and supplied the freshest sea bass I have ever tasted. That has no significance to this post, but it was *that* yummy.

At one point during dinner, we were talking about his candy stash that he keeps in his office at the church (he’s the head pastor). He has a little jar that he keeps full of sweet treats, for when pint-sized visitors (aka, his granddaughters) come calling. The problem is, they’re not that great at keeping candy a secret, and before he knew it, random kids were poking their heads into his office and swiping the goods without even saying hello or asking.

I actually think, on one hand, that this is kind of adorable. He’s the kind of pastor who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Literally. He’s done nursery duty before. And the kids pick up on that, which makes them feel loved and accepted. And comfortable enough to just waltz into his office unannounced.

He caught one little tyke red-handed, and simply told him that before he takes candy, he should ask politely.

And there I sat, nodding in agreement, noting how manners really are important, and children should know the importance of them.

And then I walked into the dining area and found this:

2013-08-08 08.26.45

That would be Smush, diving face first into a stick of butter.

Manners are so important.

How to talk to a cancer parent. Or, how to avoid getting drop kicked by a mom on the edge.

Since Goo’s diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma, we have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received. Words of encouragement, prayer, meals, gas money, presents to make Goo’s days a little bit brighter, babysitting – the list goes on. I expected support because we have the most rockin’ church family ever, but this has blown me away.

That being said, there are always the few: The ones who speak without thinking. Who maybe say things they shouldn’t to a woman who is on the brink of an emotional and psychological breakdown and sees nothing wrong with going Jackie Chan on you in the hospital hallway. For all of those wondering what in the world you say to a parent of a child who’s just been diagnosed with cancer, I give you the following list.

DON’T SAY THIS

  1. At least you don’t [insert asinine and irrelevant activity/situation here]. Goo’s diagnosis hit just before New England was pelted with the biggest blizzard we’ve seen in over a decade. Upon telling someone that my baby girl had just been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, they responded with, “Well at least you aren’t out in the snow!” Um, good point. Because I would *totally* rather see my child in immeasurable pain than have to, you know, shovel. 
  2. I had that procedure/test/scan and it was awful. Umm, thanks for sharing? What would possess you to say that to a parent watching their child fight one of the biggest battles this life can throw at you? And also, my four-year-old handled it all like a freaking champ. Which I’m pretty sure makes her way tougher than you are.
  3. Rejoice! There is blessing! And other religious catch phrases. There comes a point where I’ve battled through my fear and doubt and am ready to throat-punch disease and the devil (and I’m totally there already). But the day after I share that my daughter has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing numerous tests to figure out what the heck is going on? DO NOT TELL ME TO BE HAPPY. Even Jesus wept when He learned that His dear friend Lazarus had died. AND HE’S JESUS. My tears and anger are legit.
  4. Wow! Her treatment lasts how long? It must be really bad! Pediatric oncology treatment plans vary greatly from those that are used in adults. But thank you for the comforting remark that her situation must be utterly dire. In fact, it is not. She’s already beating it. And when she’s done, I might have her beat you. Just because.
  5. You’re wrong and I have the answers for YOUR child. I will  literally have dreams about drop-kicking you if you say this to me. You swear by wheat berry puree and kale juice? Good for you! When your child has cancer, let me know how long you watch them suffer before you do whatever the heck it takes to beat it. This is MY kid. This is OUR fight. I am not stupid. And I’m fairly certain that the theory about rhabdomyosarcoma arising from years of vitamin deficiencies is HOGWASH since her exact diagnosis is EMBRYONAL RHABDOMYOSARCOMA. That means the cells form in utero. Before they’ve had years to consume chicken nuggets and Goldfish. In fact, and this is just my science education talking, but I’ve heard somewhere that cancer actually arises from errors in cellular mitosis, caused by an accumulation of mutations that go unchecked due to malfunction of certain key factors, like defects in the p53 enzyme that check for errors in the nucleotide sequence and halt cellular mitosis before allowing DNA replication to continue. But kale juice sounds good, too.
  6. Not my problem. These exact words weren’t used, but after 10 days in the hospital, with Goo in pain and not being able to eat, she was finally going for her last scan before we decided on a treatment plan and started kicking cancer to the fiery smelly curb of ultimate death. Transport arrived to take her down to the nuclear medicine department, but she needed one more push of morphine to make it through the 2 hour scan. Her nurse said, “She’s all ready. I just have to push her morphine.” He said, “She’s not ready, and I’m just telling you I’m leaving her here and taking her off the schedule.” He left the room. I followed him, and completely forgetting all self-control and decorum, flung her door open and said, “HE*L NO YOU AREN’T!” Again I humbly submit, even Jesus got so angry that he flipped tables over. I didn’t do that, but I did have to second-guess tackling him in the hallway. I settled for rallying the troops and getting a nurse, PA, and oncologist to notify his supervisor and file a nasty report. Do not mess with a mom on the edge. Unless you aren’t a big fan of walking. Because I will take you down. For a long, long time.

    Jackie Chan

    I hired him as Goo’s bodyguard. My advice is to just stop talking. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DO SAY

  1. I’m praying for you. At least to me. Some people hate this, but I believe in the power of prayer. Now, a disclaimer: Don’t say it if you aren’t actually praying. Prayer is how I’m coming at this thing with a vengeance. Don’t take it lightly.
  2. This sucks. A hospital employee literally said this to me, and I started crying and almost hugged her. Why? BECAUSE CANCER SUCKS. No matter who you are, or who is involved, cancer sucks, and sometimes it feels really good to just tell it like it is. Cancer sucks, and it’s going down.
  3. Please tell me how to help. I’m getting so much better at accepting help. Because I can’t fight this fight on my own. We need troops rallying around us. With lasagna. And enchiladas. Those are both very good weapons in this fight. Please feel free to bring them at your leisure.
  4. You’re an inspiration. I don’t need to hear this to boost my ego. I met with medical professionals for 15 days straight wearing pajama pants and no make-up. My vanity has been tossed out the window. But it is a kick-some-serious-butt feeling to know you and your family are conquering this thing and shouting to the world that we’re stronger than cancer. That our faith will not be shaken. That my tiny, skinny, but feisty-as-all-get-out preschooler is going to destroy this thing.

If you’ve said any of the don’ts, don’t worry. I have said many, many stupid things in my 30 years of existence. I will probably say many more. And many things are said from people trying to be helpful and encouraging. Especially the religious catch phrases. And sometimes, they ARE encouraging. But you’ve got to be sensitive to what the family might be experiencing. The grieving process of even a diagnosis often takes a little longer than a few hours. And a big part of that process is anger. So maybe just send a lasagna and call me later. It’s safer for everyone that way.

I’m talking and I can’t shut up.

The other day, J-Money (bff) and I had a day out and about for birthday. Treat Yo Self 2012. Based off this clip from Parks and Rec:

And because J-Money and I are both ridiculous, we spent all week texting each other ridiculous things we would splurge on. Like this:

This is a thing. You can buy a crystal encrusted toilet. Just one question. Why? Image via design-crisis.com

I had explicit instructions from the Nerd to NOT, under any circumstances, come home with things for the girls. I’m that mom: the one wearing socks full of holes because Goo just had a growth spurt and needs new leggings. But on TYS 2012, I splurged on discount make-up, practical shirts, and a pair of TOMS off the clearance rack (squee!). Can we talk about how I excited I was? In case you aren’t familiar, TOMS is a shoe company with a One for One pledge: for every pair of shoes purchased, they will ship a pair of shoes to an underprivileged nation. J-Money does mission trips to the Dominican Republic and said that she saw tons of little Dominican feet running around in their TOMS. Which means that when I treated myself, I also treated a child living in poverty to a brand new pair of shoes! Best thing ever!

I digress. After Treat Yo Self 2012, we had a girls’ night in at a friend’s house with some fabulous ladies. It was so. dang. fun. This is when I realized that I am without question an extrovert, and that being a stay at home mom (SAHM) may or may not be seriously cramping my social style.

An extrovert is someone who is energized by being around other people. I am most definitely an extrovert because I was insanely hyper, loquacious, and obnoxious all night I get super excited to be around people my age. I did. not. shut. up. all night. And here’s the kicker:

I have nothing to talk about except my children. Favorite movie: the Notebook? Haven’t seen it. John Mayer – love his voice? No clue who he is or what he sings. I can, however, tell you how Goo is going to rule the world and I had to punish Punkin by taking reading away. I can talk about how Smush won’t potty train and Goo hates dinner time and how I’m slowly losing a piece of myself because I can’t converse 9 hours a day with anyone over the age of 4.

I came home and told the Nerd I felt like I owed them an apology. I was so excited to be around grown ups. Love my kids, they’re my world, but this SAHM thing is starting to cramp my style.

And then Smush woke up this morning and ran in with her pig tails bouncing and asking for brownies for breakfast in her cute little voice, and I remembered why it’s okay that I’m not cool anymore.

And to all the people who know me in real life, my apologies for verbally vomiting in social situations.

Parenting FAIL Friday: I thought you took care of it?

Last week we had Punkin’s open house at school: see the classroom meet her third grade teacher, etc.

Side note: How is she in third grade already? I’m terrified. Because that means next year she’ll be in fourth grade. And they have health class where they talk about hormones and puberty. Which means two horrific things: I’ll have to have the puberty talk with Punkin. And I’ll have to have that talk, because it’s a matter of time before she’s into it full swing. Excuse me while I cry.

I digress. We ate a quick dinner, I got the girls to look more like little girls and less like feral children, handed Smush off to the Nerd so I could do my make-up, and we headed off to school.

Upon arriving, we unloaded the van and started walking down the road, because we had to park 14 miles away since the parking lot was full. Halfway there, Smush asked me to pick her up. She’s all about independence and not snuggling me right now, so I happily obliged.

It was at this point that I noticed how skinny and smooth her tiny heiny was. Not at all like the padded crumpled wad of tush I normally feel through the diaper. Which could mean only one thing:

Smush wasn’t wearing a diaper. At all. In fact, she was in a dress, going commando.

Me: Nerd, you didn’t put a diaper on her?!?

Nerd: I thought you did! Go check the car.

Me: Okay, but you cleaned out the car and took my emergency diaper stash. Cross your fingers.

I checked. There was nothing. No diapers, no napkins, no tissues, nothing. Crap. Actually, no, don’t crap. Please don’t crap.

Run back to catch up to the Nerd and girls and inform him that our 2-year-old that won’t pee on the potty is going commando. And I hope and pray that please, sweet Jesus, she doesn’t pop a squat and pee in the hallway of the school before I can make it to the bathroom.

Not to brag, but I’m kind of like MacGyver in these situations, so by the time we hit the front doors, I have a plan. I’ll take a huge line of paper towels and wrap them front to back around Smush’s tush. Then I’ll use another huge line to wrap around her waist and hold up her ghetto-rigged pee catcher.

The Nerd and I each grab one of Smush’s hands to keep her from wandering off to pee in the car pool lane explore. Except when we do this, she thinks it’s a signal to swing her legs up really freakin high and show everyone her naked baby bits. Scrap that. Nerd, carry her. I’m wearing my good sweater. There will no be no peeing on my good sweater.

Enter bathroom. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, WHERE ARE THE PAPER TOWELS? Oh, they only have small, individual ones and industrial strength hand dryers. Super. WHAT THE CRAP AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THIS?

I send for Goo. I then ask Goo to strip from the waist down, take her undies, stuff them full of a wad of toilet paper that sort of resembles an eagle’s nest, and put them on Smush. Who now walks like a penguin and keeps talking about how her heiny feels weird.

I don’t see what the problem was. It looks super comfy to me.

The good news is, we made it through open house without christening Punkin’s new classroom.

And just to round out my epic fail, I give you a little balance: Punkin’s teacher said she’s got the highest test scores she’s ever seen. She’s in advanced math and reading, and the teacher said her priority is to keep coming up with material to challenge her because she’s so dang smart.

Mediocre parenting: raising a genius, forgetting to fully clothe your other child. It’s all about balance.

Parenting FAIL Friday – Accessories make the outfit.

Sometimes you can infer a lot about a parent by looking at the way their child dresses. At least in our family you can. The Nerd and I are both pretty laid back, and that is reflected in the fact that Punkin never matches. At all. We decided  years ago that we didn’t really care about the rules of fashion. We wanted our girls to focus on being dressed modestly and appropriately, but that they are free to let their personalities shine through their wardrobe. Looking at Punkin, and more recently Goo, you can tell that we’re parents who don’t put a lot of emphasis on the rules of fashion or designer labels. Lots of people do, it’s just not us. Plus, we can’t afford it. So there’s that.

Clothing choices send a message, no doubt. If you wear a dress that’s 18 inches long top to bottom and has less material than my 20 month old’s t-shirt, you’re sending a message. If you wear sweatpants and your husband’s sweatshirt to the grocery store, you’re sending a message: I ran out of coffee. Don’t judge me.

Keeping this in mind, we let our girls pick whatever they want, as long as we deem it acceptable. No belly shirts, no hoochie outfits, absolutely nothing written across your butt, and nothing from Abercrombie and Fitch.

A few weeks ago, a family member brought over a bag of old jewelry for my girls to play with. I stopped buying that stuff a while ago. Have you ever stepped on a plastic butterfly ring at 3 AM? It feels sort of like having a fireplace poker driven through your flesh. Not unlike stepping on a Lego.

Last week we had to go to the lower circles of Dante’s Inferno the grocery store. Goo asked if she could wear her new beads, I flippantly said, “Sure,” without even glancing, and we packed up and headed out the door. I generally have to give myself a pep talk beforehand, so I really couldn’t care less what accessories she chooses as long as she doesn’t have a meltdown in the cookie aisle.

When we arrived home, she showed me the beads she had chosen for our outing:

You're never too young to...never wear this. Ever.

That would be a shot glass. Attached to a string of beads.

I let Goo ride around the store, waving happily at passersby, while sporting this advertisement for underage drinking. Because I won’t let my girls wear bikinis, but a little hard liquor can’t hurt.

Mediocre Mom: NOT a supporter of underage drinking. Just to clarify.

I can imagine what people were inferring about me from her outfit that day. “There’s a laid back mom. Kicking it old school. Using whiskey for the cranky kids and teething babies.” Or more likely, “If I call child protective services, will they make it here before she leaves?”

I shared this story with J-Money, and she said, “Eh, it could be worse. You didn’t send her in with a fifth of vodka.”

She always makes me feel better about my parenting.

My secret to getting alone time: be sneaky.

This past week was busy, for a change.  Is there a family in America that isn’t busy? If so, I would love to meet you. And then learn your secrets, Kemo Sabe.

As a result of the busy-ness, Goo was a hot mess in the attitude department, I felt like I lost all control of our cleaning project, and once again my children were starting to remind me of gremlins: cute and snuggley on the outside, but vicious little monsters on the inside.

Saturday morning we had a meeting at church at 8:30. Did you catch that? 8:30 on Saturday morning. Saturday is the only day of the week I don’t have to have at least one of the children cleaned, fed, dressed, packed up, and out the door by 8:00 AM. So this Saturday I was up with all the girls by 6:30 AM to get them showered, dressed, and out the door for this meeting. I let the Nerd sleep in later because he’s been up until 3 AM working most nights of the week. I know, I’m so selfless. I’m really just doing that so  if we have another baby, I have a lot of, “Remember when I let you sleep in…” to throw at him after I’m up all night puking, then nursing and changing diapers.

The awesome thing was that although it was chaos to get over to the church with the crazies, breakfast was provided. I love a morning without cooking or dirty dishes. And our church is filled with awesome people, so despite the scramble to get everyone ready on time, it really was nice.

But promptly after leaving this meeting, it was time to feed the little ones, change Smush’s diaper, get Smush and Goo down for a nap, wrap a present, and take Punkin to a birthday party. All of which I did with grace and pizzazz. And some help from the Nerd.

Of course, upon arriving at said party, I realized I had forgotten the gift. This is the part where you nominate me for Mom of the Year again.

I walked in apologizing profusely to the Mom, and asked if I could duck out for a few to go home and grab it. “Sure,” she said, “Most parents are dropping the kids off anyway. Take your time.” I think, “Sounds good. Let me go call the Nerd and tell him I’m coming home for a while.”

Or not.

And in that moment, I had a revelation. A revelation that would change the course of my life. Or at least my afternoon.

This was, without question, the perfect opportunity to get some ME time. No kids. No husband. No obligations. No rush to anywhere. Just me, a beautiful fall day, a swagger wagon, and my VISA card. Oh, heck yes. Besides, the Nerd was napping after his almost all-nighter. It would just be mean to wake him up.

First stop: Starbucks. Like you even needed to ask. There was a grande nonfat no whip salted caramel mocha with my name on it.

Second stop: the local kids’-stuff-only consignment shop. Smush is in desperate need of clothes, and I’m all bout shopping for the kids, but without the kids. It was bliss, I tell you. Bliss. Coffee in hand, and no one crying, whining, clinging, pleading, screaming, fighting, or running away. At least not that I had to pay attention to. It was like I won the lottery, only without all the money. It was perfection.

I put on my big, sexy sunglasses, rolled down the car window, and blasted the stereo. Oh yes I did. I absolutely love hip hop. Maybe that makes me lame since I’m a pasty white chick who digs science, but whatever, I like it. And there I was, cruising into the parking lot, rocking some skinny jeans, having the best hair day ever, bass pumping, mocha in hand. I really should have had a warning sign for oncoming vehicles, approaching that much hotness.

In the parking lot, I stopped to let a guy cut in front of me. He waved to say thank you. He was undoubtedly thinking, “Hey there, deceptively young-looking, super stylish lady blasting some sweet tunes.  That’s almost too much swagger to handle. Thanks for making my day better just by being alive.”

How I saw myself. Image via Glyn Ednie.

At least in my head he was.

In reality, he was probably thinking, “Yeah, lady, I’m late for work, so if you could just wait a few more minutes, soccer mom who is trying way too hard to be cool, I’d appreciate it.”

How he saw me. Image via George Winston.

Needless to say, I will absolutely be taking Punkin to every single birthday party she is ever invited to. By myself. And not telling the Nerd that I can drop her off and go back later to pick her up.

Don’t judge me.

Why you can dress us up, but you can’t take us out…in Amish country.

So the Nerd and I went away for two whole days without kids. Hallelujah and amen. We visited Amish country, which sounds hokey (at least we thought it did), but it’s actually shockingly beautiful and serene. Until you get to the tourist traps.

The Nerd and I went on said trip with a group from our church. I was rushed over by the Nerd to be the first one on the bus so we could snag the back seat. Because we’re in high school.

Childishness aside, snag the back we did, and we were joined by our supremely fantastic friends, the German and Martha. The German is so named because he’s from Germany. I know, I’m brilliant. Martha is so named because she sews, paints, builds things, cans things, makes everything from scratch, raises chickens and has a home straight out of Better Homes and Gardens. She’s flipping Martha Stewart, except not annoying.

Putting the four of us together can be kind of dangerous. My sarcasm is egged on by all three of them, and putting the German and the Nerd together brings out the most immature, caveman-like behavior I have ever seen from a grown man. Seriously. It started with conversation that revolved around bodily functions at least 30% of the time. Really? Doesn’t that stop being entertaining in preschool? Because I was so not laughing. Much…

Then some strange force overcame the Nerd, and he completely lost all semblance of manners. We hit this famous buffet for dinner the first night. While being seated, the Nerd reaches out, with his bare hand, and grabs a piece of fried chicken to eat on the way to the table. It’s a buffet. You sit, you ask for water, you go get food. The wait isn’t THAT long. And reaching with your bare hand for food? Your mama did not raise you like that.

To top it all off, the chicken was devoured by the time we sat down, and the bone was placed directly on the table, under the specials menu. Not on a plate. Or in a napkin. On. the. table. What the what? Where have your manners gone? I briefly considered attending finishing school to get accustomed to the family’s more formal dinners, and now you’re going all wild-man on me and eating with your bare hands, dumping the carcass on the clean tablecloth? Sigh. Your mother would tan your hide.

Meanwhile, the German is laughing, while Martha and I are left dazed and confused at the primordial force that has overcome our husbands. Maybe it’s just been far too long since we’ve been away from the children.

That would explain why I snuck in this photo when the tour guide wasn’t looking:

And why I took this one:

Because nothing says, “Mommy misses you,” like a murderous Amish baby doll.

Amish country really is lovely, though. You can buy a variety of hand-made goodies.

Aside from warped sense of humor, we did have a wonderful time viewing the countryside. We also caught at show at the Sight and Sound Theater, which, if you’re ever in the Lancaster, PA area, is totally worth a visit. It is NOT cheesy Christian entertainment. *cough cough Left Behind cough cough*

These plays are professional, quality shows that are actually worth the money if you have it available. The Nerd and I were blessed with tickets to go on this trip, and we were thoroughly impressed with the production.

Plus, we got some much-needed couple time and grown up time – sort of. It was grow up-ish. Minus the bodily function conversations and the free for all at the buffet. And all kidding aside, the Nerd and I were kind of inspired by the way the Amish live their life. More on that later, though. I don’t want to trivialize it by throwing it in with scary babies and chicken bones.

Ooh! I almost forgot. I met a real, live, fellow Mommy blogger. She’s over at http://www.heydonna.com/, which is loaded with helpful tips, cute anecdotes, and healthy doses of Donna’s sparkling personality (I spoke to her for all of 5 minutes, but she tuned me into some helpful blog tips – like conventions for bloggers – in those few minutes. Who knew?)

One thing is for sure: everybody needs a vacation once in a while. Also, to anyone accompanying us in the future: you can dress us up, but you can’t take us out. Consider yourself warned.

How nose pinches saved the day.

Warning: this is a long post. I ramble. I vent. And I take up far too much of your time.

This day was a roller coaster of giggling, loving highs and defiant, nervous-breakdown lows. Here’s how it went down:

I got up this morning and went into hyper-cleaning mode. I thought that a friend was coming over (which I totally misunderstood), so I wanted to hide the dirty laundry keep my house sparkling clean for her arrival. I also had 8.5 billion errands to run (okay, so technically it was 2, but I had three children with me, so it may as well have been 8.5 billion). Plus we were recently blessed with season passes to a local amusement park, and I told Punkin that we could go after nap time.

We rushed around doing baths and laundry and dishes and vacuuming and making breakfast and cleaning up breakfast just in time for the friend’s arrival at 10:00. Around 10:30 I realized my mind no longer functions at full capacity and I had totally botched the plans. Silly me. But at least this gets us out the door earlier. Yay.

Errand number one was returning 4 ginormous poofy flower girl dresses to the store because they’re the wrong color (tip to the world: white is NOT the same as ivory. The beautiful bride to be didn’t know this. We still love her oodles and oodles, though). So I packed up a stroller, water bottle, baby bottle, purse-o-crap, chi-chi (that’s Goo’s beloved blanket), poofy dresses, three girls, and a bag of pretzels, and hit the road. We arrive at the mall, and I awkwardly load Smush, my purse-o-crap, and the dresses all into the stroller, precariously balancing the dresses on top with one hand while trying to steer with the other hand, and praying that Goo will stay with me as we make the dangerous trek through the parking lot and into the mall.

Gorgeous on the hanger, and on my girls. Not so much when they're precariously perched on top of Smush's head.

Going to the mall with the kids is always an adventure, because it’s a wonderland of colorful, expensive things just screaming to be touched by little hands. I wait in line, reminding the girls ever 3.5 seconds that they cannot climb on the couches and bedding displays because they were traipsing through puddles before we came in, only to find out that because the dresses were purchased by someone else, using their credit card, I can only get store credit. It is decided that I do not need $200 of store credit for these 4 dresses, and I load them back up and journey back to the car, kids and dresses in tow, to unload the glorious gowns.

Now free of cumbersome garments, the kids and I hightail it back into the mall for errand number two: exchanging a bachelorette gift at Gilly Hicks (a cross between Hollister and Victoria’s Secret). Cue the dread. I can barely make it through that dark, odorous, lingerie-strewn store without falling down their 14 sets of stairs when I’m by myself. But hauling a 1-year-old who still isn’t walking, a precocious 3-year-old, and Punkin? God help me.

There are several reasons to avoid taking three small children to Gilly Hicks. The first being that there are stairs everywhere. Each section is in a different room on a different level and you have to go up and down stairs 17 times to make it through their maze of lace thongs, push up bras, and way-too-short shorts. It’s a great place for pretty lingerie for a bride-to-be, but not a place I want to bring my 7-year-old.

The second reason I’ve already stated: it’s a glorified lingerie store. My girls will one day grow up and need bras, I know. And someday, when they’re 40 and can start dating, they may want to purchase pretty lace things to wear for their husbands. That doesn’t mean I want to explain today that those underwear aren’t ripped, that string is supposed to be there.

The third reason: they have make-up, lotion, and perfume. All arranged in eye-catching displays in pretty bottles that draw curious hands like moths to a flame. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

Moths to a flame, I tell you.

The fourth reason is obvious in my opinion, but may make me an old stick in the mud. I don’t actually enjoy pictures of nearly naked people. The only bum I want to see is Smush’s, because everybody knows baby bums are just adorable. But first thing in the store is their art display, complete with an almost life-size portrait of a naked man hiding his, umm, unmentionables. Thankfully I play it off like I’m herding cattle and block the view of the offensive material, directing Punkin and Goo toward the table with the perfume. At this point, I just want to grab the right size, exchange the gift I purchased, and get out of there like a bat out of Hades. The problem is that every time I turn around, I get this visual: an adorable 3-year-old, with light brown bouncy ringlets and a cute dress, grabbing satin thongs off the hangers and tossing them on the floor.

My whole experience was something like, “Goo, no! Stop! No touching the underronies. Leave them there … Okay, where are the bras so I can grab the right size and get the heck out of … Goo! You can’t touch the perfume. Those are fragile. No touching … Okay, bra, check. Underwear, where are the under … Goo? Goo? Goo! Stay with Mommy. Put that down and stay with me. This place is like an underground mining system. Stay. With. Me!”

Sigh. I managed to finish up, and then because I’m completely insane, decided to stop in the dress section of the original store on our way out, to see if I can snag a dress to wear to the wedding. What was I thinking? I mean really. After the Gilly Hicks nightmare, what made me think, “You know what would be a great idea? Herding my three hungry, rambunctious children through a giant department store while I try to be productive.” Goo and Smush are touching everything, because they’re shiny and sparkly and fancy. I grab two dresses, and head for the handicap dressing room so I can cram myself and my caravan into one stall. That one stall? The only stall that will fit all 3 of us? It’s occupied. By one lady. By herself. Taking her sweet freakin time getting changed. Goo at this point thinks the stall is a bathroom, announces she has to go potty, and hikes her dress up, revealing…drum roll please…

See these? NOT optional, Goo.

She has no underwear on. Again. She does this all the time, because she goes potty, and then just leaves her underwear off, without telling me. Sigh. One of these days I’ll remember to check her bum before we leave the house.

The rest of the time is spent desperately searching for a bathroom, fitting room, shoving myself into a dress at the speed of light, rushing through the checkout, and heading home. We wrap up the day with Smush dumping hair accessories all over the bathroom floor, Goo unravelling a whole roll of toilet paper, and throwing a tantrum because … well, I don’t remember. But there was at least one tantrum.

By the end of the day I. was. so. done. I wanted to drug them all and throw them in their beds read them a bedtime story and tuck them in with love and kisses. Goo, naturally, protested bedtime, which made me reach DEFCON 5. And then it happened:

Smush started whining to come up into the bed with us. I grabbed her, and she started giggling and climbing all over Goo, which made Goo giggle, which made me giggle. Punkin joined us, and Smush sat up and pinched my nose.

I made the obligatory nasally voice, and she thought it was the greatest thing ever. The girls erupted in laughter, pinching each other’s noses and making funny voices, with Smush alternating between pinching my nose, giggling, and throwing her arms around me in a huge baby hug. Every ounce of anger and frustration was gone, and I relished in 5 minutes of uninterrupted laughter, love, and snuggles with all three of my girls. Smush saved the day , and my sanity, by pinching my nose.

I cherish those moments. Punkin asked if we could have silly time again the next day. Oh, Punkin, Mommy would love to have silly time with you girls tomorrow.

We will not, however, be going back to Gilly Hicks until you’re all 43 and married. No matter how many nose pinches I get out of it.

Thank you, kind stranger. You may offer unsolicited comments anytime you like.

If you are a parent, or if you’re pregnant, you have already suffered the onslaught of countless unsolicited comments from the prying public eye. You’re huge, you’re due any day now (even though you’re only 3 months pregnant), your beautiful baby boy – oh, what? It’s a girl? Sorry. It looked like a boy.

Sigh. Really, public, did your mothers teach you no manners? I still find myself perplexed when I take Smush with me to the grocery store in a rainbow striped dress with a ruffly bottom and her pink blanket. Why am I perplexed? Because 75% of the comments I received were about my adorable little boy. Really? Really? You see a hairless baby in a dress and pink accessories and you can think one of two things:

  1. What a beautiful baby girl.
  2. I’m still not sure if that’s a girl or boy, so I’m going to say, “What a beautiful baby you have!”
I sometimes think I should write a book. Appropriate Comments to Make to a Complete Stranger When You Just Can’t Help Yourself.
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I understand that people mean well. For whatever reason, they truly don’t know they’re being rude. Okay, I can understand that. Then don’t risk the insult. See that woman who’s hugely pregnant? You know what you should say?

Ah yes, we've met many, many times.

Not, “Oh dear God. Clear the path, people! WIDE LOAD coming through!” Not unless you’re looking for her to punch you in the throat. I’ve always been a fan of, “Wow! You’re 7 months pregnant? You look amazing!” See? It’s really not so hard.

But, despite the senseless and often rude comments I’ve received over the years, society has recently given me hope. I’ve gotten some self-esteem boosting comments from total strangers the last couple weeks, and I have to say, it’s kind of awesome. These were my favorites:
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I was in the grocery store with the three girls. Punkin was pushing the cart with Goo, and I was holding Smush while looking at fancy cheese. A super awesome lady came up to me and commented on how adorable my baby girl was, to which I expressed my gratitude. Punkin came up with Goo, and I told them to stay by me while we put some things in the carriage. Cue Supermarket Lady:
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Oh my, all three are yours? Sweetie, you don’t look old enough to have even one! Good for you. And they’re so well-behaved. You’re obviously doing a great job. Keep it up.
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*Choir of angels sings*
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Not only did she know that Smush was a girl, but she complemented my youthful appearance and my parenting. Folks, that’s basically the. best. thing. you can say to a mom in the grocery store. Or the bank. Or anywhere on earth.
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The second comment came when the Nerd and I decided to do a family trip to a restaurant in celebration of our 8th anniversary. Remember my previous restaurant experiences? We took a break from that whole “family restaurant” scene. Because when your kids behave like rabid wild animals, McDonald’s is the only place you can go where you’re guaranteed to see kids behaving worse than your own.
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But the girls are a little older, and dinner time at home has been easier, so we braved the public eye and ventured out. What’s funny is, I swear we loaded our three adorable girls into the car. But what emerged at the restaurant resembled a cross between the energizer bunny, nails on a chalkboard, and Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka.
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She somehow made it into my car on the way to the restaurant. My children morph into her when they're hungry the way a teenage boy morphs into a werewolf under a full moon.

The whining/dropping things/throwing things/arguing/restlessness that ensued was downright mortifying. Before our dinner had arrived, I had already taken two trips to the bathroom with Goo, and not because she had to go potty. There was one other table near us at the time, with a group of four older adults. Probably parents of adult children, maybe a grandma thrown into the mix. I had issued my second SuperNanny style warning, and was returning from our second bathroom trip when the Nerd leaned over and said:
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While you were gone, that table turned around and said, “That’s how parents used to do it. (Meaning actually following through with discipline. Not always easy.) And really, your girls are very well behaved considering they’re so young and waiting in a restaurant. Good job.”
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*Round two of the angelic choir*
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A man from the table then caught our attention and said, “Make sure you tell Mom what we said, too. Really.”
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It’s true, people. My kids were out in public, acting like children, and people still complemented our parenting.
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Dear Other Table, I love you.
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I will take comments like that any day. The Nerd and I were beaming. We also discussed how refreshing it was to encounter other adults who, despite not having kids with them, understood that it’s really hard for a 3-year-old to sit still in a restaurant for 20 minutes while she wastes away to nothing because she hasn’t eaten since snack time.
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Random Supermarket Lady and Other Table, you have restored my hope that somewhere, there are people who aren’t rude. Aren’t always judgemental. And might even throw in a complement here and there. Thank you. And may I just say, you all looked simply ravishing.
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Image credits listal.com and flixster.com, respectively.

The mom critic. Or, mind your own business.

Posted on

We’ve all been there. The supermarket, the fancy dinner, the pediatrician’s office (don’t even get me started on that one), the department store. And there, lurking in the aisles, dining room chairs, waiting rooms, are the critics. I’m not talking about those famous two-thumbs-up guys. I’m talking about the eye-rolling, under-their-breath-sighing, I’m-trying-to-mask-my-obnoxiousness-with-a-smile MOMMY critics.

Disclaimer: not all strangers/family members fall into this category. In fact, many of them don’t. But when they do, whoa Nelly. You’d be better off rolling your eyes at a starving rabid raccoon.

I used to judge moms. Not all the time. But I definitely fell prey to that ridiculous ideology: If your kids are screaming in the store, it’s because you don’t discipline them well.

Yeah. Because everybody knows that a good stern warning is all it takes for the halos to reappear. Silly, silly me.

Perhaps because I used to judge that mom, the one with the screaming kid, God blessed me with one. And yes, she is a blessing. A terrifying, determined, nervous-breakdown inducing blessing.

Now that the tables have turned, I am appalled when I encounter the Mommy critic. Really, lady? You’ve never seen a two-year-old throw a tantrum? There are three possible explanations for that:

  • You don’t have kids.
  • You have kids, but you also have a live-in nanny. Poor you.
  • You somehow scored one of those super easy-going kids whose idea of a tantrum is scrunching their face and maybe, maybe sitting on the floor. Silently.
If I wrote down every incidence of snide remarks and unmistakable judgmental glances, I’d have something akin to Norton’s anthology, which was the bane of my existence when I took British Literature. Much like Mommy critics can be the bane of my existence now.
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Picture, if you will, a nice social dinner. In someone else’s house. Which is the opposite of child proof. Someday my house will be like that. Wait, no it won’t. Because once I’m a grandma, I’m totally going to be that grandma with awesome toys and nothing breakable where the kids can eat cookies and stay up late at sleepovers. Anyway.

Here, little two-year-old. You can sit right here, just don't touch anything. That won't be too hard, right?

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We have been to numerous houses that weren’t child proof. Which I understand if you don’t have kids. But maybe, perhaps, you could not act like it’s May 21, 2011 and the world is ending because my precocious two-year-old touched ceramic angel number 2,371. Maybe you could not say things like, “Gee, she keeps touching my things. Could you get her to stop that please?” Because two-year olds – they touch things. They touch everything. All. the. time. And try as I may, I have not yet figured out a way to get a toddler with the energy of a nuclear power plant to sit still for 3 hours straight. I know, I know, parenting fail on my part.
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And then there’s the supermarket. The local supermarket, with a toddler in tow, is kind of like the unwritten circle of Dante’s Inferno for moms. Because they want the car carriage, but the car carriages are all gone, and are kind of like steering an 18 wheeler without power steering, and I just don’t have the patience for that right now. Cue tantrum one. And then the aisle with the whole grain crackers is the same aisle with the cookies you can’t have because they ALL have high fructose corn syrup and that makes your head explode. Cue tantrum two. Oh look, grapes! You want to eat them all now? You can’t, because I have to pay for them first. Cue tantrum three. By the time I’ve reached the check out line, we’ve experienced 3-5 full-blown tantrums and frequent bursts of whining at irregular intervals. And now the lady with no kids in tow is looking at me like I’ve never said, “No” to you in my life because the ONLY plausible explanation for your behavior is my complete and utter failure as a mom.

I'm not entirely sure what that is on the cover, but it looks like aisle 3.

Oh, and my favorite. The pediatrician’s office. Listen up people, because I’m about to unveil the cold, hard truth about doctor’s offices: sometimes they do things. Medical things. With cotton swabs. And *gasp* needles. So if my three-year-old is crying with abandon, I’m going to assume that your asking me why she’s crying is a rhetorical question and not a veiled attempt at asking, “Isn’t there something you can do to shut her up?” Because your tone really indicates otherwise. But I have to believe that, while sitting in a pediatrician’s office, you don’t actually need an explanation for the vocal cord extravaganza coming from the waiting room as I pay the copay.
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I suppose I brought it on myself. I never should have, in my child-free naivety, judged those other moms. But here’s a lesson for us all: you don’t actually know why that kid is flailing his arms about as though he’s in a fight to the death with a swarm of killer bees. Maybe he has food allergies and someone gave him an orange cupcake. Maybe he has autism and that’s his only way of communicating right now. Maybe he’s just … two years old. Because sometimes, kids do that. They throw tantrums. In public. At fancy dinners. In the doctor’s office. And guess what? That mom over there, holding it all together despite her utter mortification and your judgmental stare? It’s not her fault.
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