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Parenting FAIL Friday: Those aren’t candy.

What better way to kick off a new year than with a classic anecdote of “How are you allowed to be a mother?”

If you are raising, or someday hope to raise, multiple children, there’s a very good chance you’ll have to dial the Poison Control number at some point. We had to do it when Punkin ate deodorant (yes, deodorant) and when Goo ate approximately 30 gummy vitamins. But you know what there is no hotline for? Inedible objects.

Ringing in the New Year, everybody is making New Year’s resolutions. I’m not really into that, because I’m fairly certain 90% of those are failed attempts. I prefer to continually be trying to be the woman I want to be, whether that means joining (and actually using) the gym, or organizing the art cabinet. A sparkly ball dropping in NYC with a poorly hosted show of random celebrities does nothing to motivate me. Sorry, Carson.

While thinking about the things I’m currently working on, I thought: Maybe this will be the year. Maybe I’ll finally have my stuff so amazingly together, I’ll have to get rid of Parenting FAIL Friday because I’ll run out of material.

I made it 2.5 days.

Finding this next to your toddler is never, ever a good thing.

Finding this next to your toddler is never, ever a good thing.

While getting the girls into bed the other night, I was snuggling Goo, and I heard a distinct crunch, then cough and gag, from the other bed. Cue this conversation:

Me: Smush, are you okay?

Smush: *gagging, spitting* Umm, yeah.

Me: Did you eat something?

Smush: Yeah.

Me: What did you eat?

Smush: Umm, just a Christmas light.

I flew, I mean FLEW, to her bedside, to find her spitting out tiny pieces of red Christmas bulb. Thankfully, it appeared that she did not swallow any, but Mom radar doesn’t shut off, so I have spent the last several days monitoring her eating and pooping (so. fun.) and waiting for the slightest sign of digestive issues.

In the meantime, all Christmas decorations have been taken down, and I’m seriously considering getting those electric shock pads to put around the tree next year. My girls broke no less than 6 ornaments this year. Plus there’s the whole issue of Smush apparently having some mild form of pica. If you read that definition, I’m fairly certain every toddler in the world has had “pica” at some point. Kids eat things. Like crayons, and paper, and light bulbs, evidently.

Maybe I should start off small with this New Year’s thing. “No ER trips in 2013.” Has a nice a ring to it.

Parenting FAIL Friday: Santa needs to keep his mouth shut.

The Nerd and I took the girls to his company’s annual Christmas shindig for the employees’ families. Let me just say, the Nerd works with the woman who heads up these events, and why she is working in HR when clearly should be an event coordinator to the celebrities is beyond me. Girlfriend is amazing: every kid met Santa and Mrs. Claus, dropped off their letters, got faces painted, airbrush tatoos, one Christmas gift, a bag of goodies from the candy shop, and free snacks. They mingled with elves, Frosty the Snowman, and the Gingerbread Man. They had live caroling from a choir. I can barely pull off a birthday party for a 6 year old.

It’s always a wonderful thing for the girls, because the whole Santa experience is so magical. When they met him, he naturally asked what they wanted.

Santa (to Punkin): And what would you like for Christmas this year, since you’re the big sister?

Punkin: Colorful stuff for my room, please.

(Me thinking: Yes! I got this. I already snagged a bright pink area rug, and a canopy tent for her reading nook. I’m good to go.)

Santa: Oh, well that’s nice! I certainly think we can do that.

(Me: Watch it, Santa. Let’s not make promises that you most certainly don’t intend to keep, since it will be my wallet getting hit.)

English: A postcard from 1919, with artwork of...

We’re here to shatter your Christmas dreams, but still take credit for the good stuff. Ho. Ho. Ho. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Santa: How about a pillow that lights up with bright colors?

(Me: Mayday! Mayday! Abort. We do NOT have a light up pillow, Santa. So unless you’re actually making a midnight stop by our tree, shut it.)

Punkin: Ooh, yeah! I would love that.

(Me: Santa, meet me in the parking lot after this.)

Crap. Now what? Freakin Santa has no business saying anything beyond, “Ho ho ho!” and, “We’ll see if the elves have those in stock,” because last time I checked, Santa wasn’t whipping out the card for those Amazon orders.

I get home and Google stupid light up pillows.

They cost $40 each.

Santa is not bringing a $40 light up pillow for Christmas. Neither are Mommy or Daddy. And now I have to come up with yet another reason that Santa didn’t bring the gift he suggested. Punkin’s going to start wondering why so many machines break down at the North Pole.

I had this Christmas owned, Santa. See if I leave you any cookies this year.

Top 9 Christmas presents for a pregnant woman.

It seems to be baby season right now. I currently know 4 pregnant women, 3 of whom are repeat offenders, but for the last one, it’s her first time.

Side note: So dang exciting! I kind of love watching other couples experience the joy/wonder/paralyzing fear that is first time parenthood.

Sadly, two of these ladies are experiencing pregnancy the way I did the first time: persistent, nearly relentless nausea, pain, and indescribable fatigue. Pregnancy is so magical.

In an attempt to be a wonderfully supportive, loving husband, future Daddy went out to buy his lady some bubbly beverages to tame her tumultuous tummy. (I like the alliteration there.) Seltzer is her thing, so he got a myriad of flavors: Boston cream pie, rum punch, and pomegranate.

As soon as he proudly listed off the things he bought his honey, I nearly gagged. Nothing related to Boston cream pie should be mentioned with severe nausea. I took a look at her, and she gazed ever so lovingly at him and said, “You’re joking, right?”

First time dads are the best. They have no idea what to do with the woman they love so much, carrying the baby they love so much, who now throws up as often as she pees. Sometimes simultaneously.

For all the soon-to-be dads, I’ve put together a handy list for you to abide by. It’s probably in your best interest not to venture outside this list.

Also, a disclaimer: pregnancy is different for everyone. You should probably check with your love before doing any of these. One woman’s craving is another woman’s uncontrollable vomiting.

  1. Ask her what she can eat/drink. Purchase only those things. If she says chicken flavored Ramen noodles, do not buy beef. She didn’t say beef, and it’s probably because beef makes her hurl. If she says blue Powerade (that was my only drinkable substance with Goo), don’t get any other color. You’ll thank me later.
  2. Understand when she’s tired. Every. single. time. She slept 16 hours yesterday and needs a nap? You bet your bippy she does. That little gumball-sized parasite miracle is sucking the life out of her right now so she can grow another one. Just get her a blanket, and let her sleep.
  3. Don’t say anything stupid.
  4. Take on the tasks she can’t handle right now. For nine months, your wife may experience unimaginable sickness, exhaustion, aching, insomnia, shortness of breath, and other crap. You can handle the dishes. When I was pregnant with Smush, I had hyperemsis. Puking 12 times a day was not unusual. I ended up at the hospital for dehydration after spending two straight days vomiting nothing but my own bile. Related, the smell of sponges made me vomit when I stepped into the kitchen. I threw them out after a couple uses. This irritated the Nerd. You know what irritated me? Crawling from room to room because I had to hold a bowl with me to puke in while I walked. Throw out the stupid sponge. Or whatever item your lady asks you to, regardless of how absurd it may seem.
  5. Buy her one slammin’ maternity shirt. Something that she’ll feel pretty in no matter how big she gets.
  6. Tell her she’s beautiful every single day. When we watch our bodies explode and morph like some alien has taken over – because it kind of has – we need to hear that you guys still think we’re the bee’s knees. Even if we say we don’t.
  7. Two words: back. rub.
  8. Watch the same chick flick 100 times if she wants to. I watched Nine Months like it was my job when I was pregnant the first time. This made absolutely no sense to the Nerd. Insider tip: Nothing about pregnancy makes sense except the actual baby.
  9. Buy her the good stuff, if you can. Pregnancy also induces rhinitis (runny noses), bleeding gums, and changes in hair consistency. Get her the lotion-y tissues so her nose doesn’t get sore, the soft tooth-brush so her mouth isn’t a bloody mess, and the fancy conditioner so she can relish in the fact that her hair is the thickest it will ever be in her life. If she’s miserable, the least she should get is hair that looks like it came off a salon poster.

Holiday gift guide for that special lady.

Holiday shopping can be stressful. The Nerd is the hardest person to buy for, and I’ve been married to him for 9.5 years. He’s just not a gift person. And when I finally got him to tell me something he’d really, really like to have, do you know what it was? Drum roll please….

An organ.

Not like a kidney or gall bladder. And not the big kind in churches that are built into the walls. The kinds that are sort of like pianos but don’t sound nearly as nice.

Ace Tone unknown 1 electronic home organ

Know what our living room is missing? NOT THIS. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It took a long time to teach the  Nerd how to shop for me. I’m not huge into gifts either, usually because people are like, “I know you wanted a gift card to TJMaxx, but I just thought these cat pajamas were so cute.” His gifts transformed beautifully though, from a piñata and Glad-Ware in the early days, to a Pandora bracelet and my first real pair of earrings over the past few years.

If you’re shopping for that special lady in your life, I’ve put together a handy buying guide for all occasions: no kids, one kid, lots of kids. Once kids enter the picture, our bar for gift gifting drops drastically. So bonus there.

English: A completed PANDORA bracelet

YES. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bling

No kids: Tennis bracelet.

One kid: Authentic Pandora charm.

Multiple kids: Wal-Mart costume jewelry. When the kids break it, I won’t cry.

Housekeeping

No kids: Maid service for full spring cleaning.

One kid: Family cleaning day, no whining allowed.

Multiple kids: To be able to walk through the living room without stepping on a Lego.

Pinatas

NO. (Photo credit: dog.happy.art)

Car

No kids: Shiny new car, red bow attached.

One kid: Full tune-up, detail the interior.

Multiple kids: Find the source of that God-awful smell.

Clothes

No kids: Two words – Michael Kors.

One kid: A new outfit for date night.

Multiple kids: Socks that don’t have holes in them would be fantastic.

Night on the town

No kids: Weekend trip to NYC.

One kid: Dinner at a family restaurant that serves both mac n cheese AND wine.

Multiple kids: “McDonald’s” has never sounded so sexy.

That being said, I’ve saved my secret weapon for last. It is universally the gift that (nearly) every woman wants, it’s free, and it applies to every stage of life:

A day off.

Wash the dishes, vacuum, wrangle the kids if there are any, take the dog for a walk, do some laundry, make dinner, watch a chick flick with her, and give her a back rub. Merry Christmas.

Christmas with kids.

I wrote an entire post today before realizing I had already published one just like it. Apparently my coffee is rebelling.

And because December is the busiest month ever and I’m in a hurry, I made this for your viewing pleasure. Who’s ready for the holidays?!?

Stocking stuffers on a budget.

Remember how our Christmas always tends to look a little…underfinanced? It looks like that again this year. So once again, I’m putting my thinking cap on and coming up with creative ways to make Christmas morning cheap magical. I always stress about the gifts under the tree, until I stop and realize how insanely expensive it can get to stuff 3 stockings (the Nerd and I generally only do something small for each other, if anything, and we never do stockings). This year, I am determined to make those stockings gloriously stuffed for a very, very low price tag. And because I’m putting off mopping the floors I like you guys so much, I’m sharing my ideas with you.

  • Two words: Dollar. Store. My favorites are the packs of multiples: bubbles, cars, other small toys – anything that can be divided up between the kids.
  • Favorite way-too-expensive-for-regular-grocery-runs items. My kids love pomegranate, but they aren’t a regular since they’re like $2 each and require a lot of prep work. I’m kind of a wash and eat girl when it comes to the girls’ snacks. Bonus: big pieces of fruit fill lots of empty stocking space for very little cash. (Alternative: junk food you don’t normally let them have. Punkin gets really excited about white bread. Weird.)
  • Stuff they need anyway: toothbrushes, socks, sparkle underpants, hair elastics, pencils, shampoo, you get the idea. My kids get excited over EVERYTHING, so I can totally get away with this. Going to the dentist is practically a holiday for them because they get new toothpaste and a bouncy ball.

    English: Lysol products on a Costco store shelf.

    Look! It’s a bottle of brightly colored, super fun cleaning solution! Merry Christmas! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Freebie coupons: family movie night, ice cream date with Daddy, play date with a friend of their choice, you pick what we eat for dinner, etc.
  • Discount bins: Please, for the love of your bank account, peruse discount bins everywhere. I hit up the back to school clearance at the end of September and snagged stocking stuffers for 50 cents a piece.
  • Homemade stuff: Pinterest has so. many. ideas for cheap homemade gifts. [This is where the Nerd rolls his eyes until he sees the finished product and eats the amazing recipe I just pinned.] I have lots of ideas for homemade/cheap gifts pinned already, including some I’m working on for Punkin. If you aren’t following me yet, you can by clicking the Pinterest link on the top of the column to the right.
  • Random things you need but they’ll get excited over anyway: I bought a packet of yellow sponges for Smush. She’s obsessed with the color yellow, and got so excited in the grocery store cleaning aisle the other day, I’m totally throwing in a package for her. Bonus: she actually cleans things with them. Because they’re yellow. Winning.

If you have other cheap – I mean frugal – holiday ideas, please share them with me! I’m lacking in the creativity department and I love recommendations from others. I’m kind of obsessed with Christmas so we tack on new traditions and ideas every year for our little family. Happy bargain hunting!

Before and after kids: Christmas card photos.

It’s that time of year again. Where houses are filled with crackling fires, hot cocoa, colored lights, and empty threats about Santa not bringing presents. Which also means – it’s time for Christmas cards. And that means getting a photo for said cards. Which, when you’re trying to capture holiday joy on the faces of small children, often requires patience. And bribery. And wine.

I’ve been perusing holiday photos from all our friends who don’t have kids (yet – muahaha), and realizing how relaxing different that must be. Husband, wife, outfit changes because not only do you own more than one Christmas-appropriate ensemble, but you can change without tiny people throwing the door open and revealing your business to the photographer. The Nerd and I never had that chance. Our first Christmas together I was pregnant with Punkin and puking. A lot. No idea why that never shows up on a Christmas card. And obviously every year after that, there was a kid in tow.

Side note: sarcasm aside, I LOVE our Christmas cards. The Nerd, and our amazing photographer friend whom I shall lovingly refer to as Audrey Hepburn because she’s classically beautiful and looks amazing in everything and if she weren’t so nice you’d want to hate her, take amazing photos of my children. The candid shots always capture the sheer joy of Christmas during childhood, and make me forget that Smush pooped on the rug that morning.

Anyway. Christmas photo shoots with kids look very, very different. Kind of like this:

What every parent hates about Christmas day.

Christmas morning is magical, especially when you have young children. The awe, the wonder, the joy – you just can’t beat it. But that being said, Christmas can be one of the most pain in the you-know-what days of the year. Here’s why:

  1. The ungodly hour of waking. This year, Punkin was the first one up. At 4:30 in the morning. I don’t even think that hour should qualify as, “morning.” Somehow kids know that Christmas day, parents all over the world need a ridiculous amount of patience and energy, and what better way to foster that than by giving them 4 hours of sleep?
  2. The packaging. Oh. My. Goodness. The freakin packaging. I’m seriously considering boycotting all Mattel toys simply for the fact that it takes an hour and a NASA security code to remove one stupid Barbie. People steal them, I get it. Boo hoo for the billion dollar company. But do we really need to sew Barbie’s head to the package? I feel like a need a medical degree to get a $10 doll out of the box. Oh, but craft supplies? Paint that could stain worse than jet engine fuel and sharpie markers? Just give the plastic cover a little tug, and the destruction is underway. I. hate. the packaging.

    Vintage Swirl Ponytail Barbie from 1964

    I'm sorry, it will require 2 copies of that key and top level security access to remove my packaging. Merry Christmas. Image via Wikipedia

  3. The scramble. This doesn’t affect every family, but I’m sure it affects most. Christmas morning: Wake up. Inhale coffee. Open presents in a whirlwind of chaos comparable to an F5 tornado. Pick up wrapping paper. Feed the children leftover Christmas cookies. Get everyone dressed in their Christmas outfits. Get toddler dressed again because she stripped down naked when we weren’t looking. Grab the gifts, head out the door to family house number one. Visit, eat, repeat the pack up process, but spend 30 minutes looking for Baby’s other shoe so you can get in the car and go to family house number two. Unload the car, repeat visiting process. Open gifts. Load gifts into the car, repeat shoe hunt, make third stop. Realize at this point, nobody knows who got what and you may have forgotten everyone’s names because you haven’t stopped since 4:00 AM.
  4. The exhaustion. By the time you finish the scramble, it’s 8:00 PM and the kids have been up for 16 hours with no nap. This could explain why they all just had a meltdown over whose coat got zipped first.

In the end, it’s totally worth it. But next year, I’m giving all the moms I know a Christmas survival kit: espresso, ibuprofen, a box cutter, a lock box (for the craft supplies), and some Benadryl for the kids. You know, in case they get itchy.

The gift of being you.

The gift of being you.

If you’re new here, you can read this to get the background on my amazing Mom.

Warning: if you’re an ugly crier and you’re in public, you may want to read this later. I say this because I am an ugly crier. A very, very ugly crier.

Dear Mom,

It’s that time of year again. The time when I try to stay too busy to think about the fact that my heart aches for you. But the truth is, you’re the reason I love this time of year. Because you made Christmas everything it should be. Real trees that made the whole house smell like pine. Christmas decorations depicting family memories from years gone by. Hot chocolate, snow angels, snuggles under a blanket. And teaching me that it wasn’t about the presents, or the tree, or the nativity set. It was about celebrating our faith, our Savior. I try to give my girls the same thing. The same memories. The same love. And my heart breaks at the thought of them not knowing you. Of you not holding them, loving them, spoiling them with too  much candy. I feel like they got a bum deal, too. Because I know that you would have been the most amazing grandma ever.

I know you would have come to every Christmas play, every school award ceremony. I know you would have kidnapped them for sleepovers. I know you would have taken them for a night when I was sick. I know you would have been at the hospital with me when Goo was in the NICU. I know you would have helped me know if I was doing a good job, if I was overreacting, if I was loving them enough.

The truth is, there is one gift I wish I could have every year: just one more day with you. I day to ask you all my questions. To apologize for all the times I didn’t listen, all the times I hurt you. A day to tell you how amazing you are, how much I miss you, how much I wish I could have understood more as a child. To hear you say it’s okay, that you forgive me for being a kid, for not knowing how precious our time together was. I imagine that you felt the same way I do towards my girls: that Goo could never know how much I wish I could help her calm down when she’s so upset, Punkin could never know how truly amazing I think she is, Smush could never know the pure joy I feel when I see her every morning. I know you understood that I was just a kid, that I made mistakes, that I still had so much to learn.

I’m not one for discussing this openly, but somehow writing to you is cathartic. I have no idea how this afterlife stuff works, but I like to think you can read this. So you can read about Goo’s crazy antics, Smush’s silly smiles, Punkin’s overly aggressive affection. I like to think that you can see Goo scaling the walls, Punkin tickling her sisters, Smush yelling, “Goo! Goo!” every time she wakes up from her nap.

I wish you were here. I wish you were here so very badly. But you’re not, so this is my promise:

I will give like you gave. I will teach like you taught. I will forgive like you forgave. I will encourage like you encouraged. I will discipline like you disciplined. I will love like you loved.

I will teach my girls about you, about the way you let me wear your fancy dress when we watched Gone with Wind so I could pretend I was Scarlett O’Hara. The way you snuggled me at night. The way you prayed. The way you taught me not to listen to the world, but to listen to the truth, to the Word. The way you sang, the way you laughed. The way you were always so perfectly beautiful, inside and out. They way you called me Betsy McGillicutty.

I love you, Mom. Now and always.

Things I love about (being broke at) the holidays.

You may recall that even a lover of all things Christmas like myself can get a little Scroogey this time of year. But there are some things that are kind of awesome about the holidays, especially when you live paycheck-to-paycheck.

  1. The house is cleaner. I know, you’re all like, “What the what?!? How is your house cleaner?” Where we live, it can get ridiculously cold this time of year. The house we rent has no insulation. Anywhere. Plus at some point, someone thought putting a 3 seasons room on the house, without closing it off, would be an awesome idea, because who doesn’t want 12 degree air blowing in for 4 months? We can’t pay for oil choose not to support the oil giants, so our only heat source is a wood stove in the basement. This means when it’s bitterly cold out, the play room is around 50 degrees, and the bedrooms are around 55 during the day. (We open them up at night and close off the heat to the other parts of the house so the kids stay warm at night.) So we bring some snacks and toys in the basement, and hang out down there. This means the mess is completely invisible to visitors, and I look way better than mediocre because my house is so neat and tidy. It’s like a present in and of itself.
  2. Less is more.  Punkin is amazing in many, many ways. But one of my favorites is that she asks for so little, and is genuinely happy with whatever gift she may get. She even clarifies to Santa that he doesn’t have to bring the expensive gifts. Example, here is her letter to Santa this year (*names have been changed to protect the innocent): 
  3.  Cozy times around an open fire is Hallmark in the making. And since we spend most of our time downstairs near the wood stove, we’re like a Bing Crosby Christmas song brought to life.
  4. Just letting it go. Sometimes, that’s what you have to do. If the gift to Great Aunt Flo wasn’t expensive enough, you learn to shake it off. You know why? Feeling gratitude is a thousand times better than feeling bitter and    slighted. Shopping for people who are spoiled? Not nearly as enjoyable. Making that pot holder with the kids’ hand prints that you know will be used by Grandma for every hot dish in the history of forever? Awesome. And watching my kids grow up appreciating whatever they may receive? Not gonna lie, it makes me feel like a pretty good mom, despite the current state of the bank account. I love that we can wrap hand-me-downs from family and friends, and my girls are just as excited about those as I was about my swagger wagon (which, coincidentally, was also a hand-me-down of sorts).
  5.  Christmas really is about faith, love, family and friends. We don’t have cable. We barely have TV. Which means our kids don’t really know what the latest toys are, and thus far, they don’t care. They get excited about dinners with their Grandparents, the Christmas play at church, making homemade presents for family, and spending time drinking hot cocoa by the fire. Added bonus? Seeing their joy reminds me that I should feel that way, too. And then I remember how incredibly blessed I am to have them. And our health. And a place to live, even if it is cold. And coffee in the morning. And my swagger wagon. And that pitcher glass of sangria for the rough days with Goo. And the Nerd who is so exceedingly awesome, we’re actually more in love now than when we got married 8.5 years ago (insert gag reflex here).

So if you’re broke, snuggle your babies, hug your family, get nice and cozy, and send Great Aunt Flo a piece of coal for Christmas. You’ll feel much better afterwords.

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