To all my friends sending your babies off to college…you are going to be alright…

To all my friends getting ready to drop your babies off at college, I want you to know it will be alright. Yes, you will cry your eyes out as you drive away and more than likely you will hear every sad country song ever written about babies growing up on your lonely drive back home. You may even torture yourself that first night by digging out old photos and reminiscing about chubby cheeks, first steps and first days of kindergarten. You’ll long for the days when all of your ducklings were safely tucked away in their beds each night under one roof. You will question if you even appreciated those times or did you just take them for granted? How does the saying go? “You don’t know whatcha got until it’s gone”?  And now those times have slipped away and are gone for good. You can’t get any of it back and that is such a sad thought, but you will be alright.

I’m not going to lie, the first couple weeks are hard. Little things like the empty place at the dinner table and walking past their bare bedroom may reduce you to tears. All the arguments over setting that damn table…ugh… and that bedroom, the same room you spent countless hours nagging them to clean, is now so…well, clean. That’s a good thing, right? So why does looking at it make you feel as if an actual piece of your heart is missing? Listen to me, I promise you, you will be alright.

Some of you will have to deal with your child being homesick. Ah, that really sucks. What’s the right way to handle that? Tough love? Just tell them to “Suck it up, kid”?  I mean, how long should you be expected to just sit idle repeating comforting things before finally giving in to your parental instincts and driving out there to rescue your baby? Knowing that your child is struggling will break your heart. Believe me when I tell you it is temporary, and you will both be alright.

Then there will be those little brats who seemingly forget your very existence. Forget about that nightly phone call they promised you. They won’t even answer your texts, let alone call you. Meanwhile, you’re home lying on their bed, in their empty room sobbing into their little stuffed doggie-woggie(the same doggie-woggie that they couldn’t sleep without for the last 17 freaking years btw) imagining them beaten and left for dead in a frat house basement. When they finally get around to replying it will say “k” or “nmhbu” or “good”. You know they always have their phone on them so why can’t they just have the decency to reply in a timely manner with actual words and sentences? This not only hurts but will make you feel furious at times, but you will be alright.

Like everything else, you will get used to all the changes. I promise, you will.  The sting of the transition period will gradually ease up and you will all discover a new “normal”.  Days will turn into weeks and weeks into months. Your baby will come home for breaks and you will begin to see them in a new light. Then one day they will do or say something that will make you realize that they are growing up! MY realization came one day when our oldest daughter was home on a break and we took all 4 of our kids into NYC for the afternoon. With the exception of my hubby, we are NOT city-folk. We have always been content with our quiet suburban life and our quiet neighborhood with open starry night skies and dark backroads connecting us to other quiet neighborhoods. But Taylor went to school in a city and was suddenly able to navigate us around NYC confidently and effortlessly. Yep, my girl was growing up and she was doing it beautifully. We were both alright.

Now, as for you empty nesters, you may need to look for another writer to comfort you. That is a different category entirely.  I still have a full house. Thankfully, my 18 year old has decided on pursuing a 3 year certification at community college and my 10 year old twins are still years away from leaving the nest. So, I can only speak to first timers. Honestly, I will probably need heavy sedation to get me through the empty nest phase. But the one thing I have learned for sure through all that life has thrown at me is that even the darkest nights eventually see the light of day. I’ve always let myself feel the emotions, even the most painful ones,  and I’ve always been alright.

Let’s talk about keeping up with the Joneses…

Let’s talk about keeping up with the Joneses…

No matter how much you have, there will always be someone who has more. And no matter how little you have, there will always be someone who has less. We are living in a society that places so much importance on material belongings that many of us consider our “worth” in only numbers. We try to sustain lifestyles that are beyond our financial means because we think that is where we will find happiness. 

When my husband and I were first married, we started out in a small 2 bedroom apartment. We were an instant family because I already had 2 daughters (who shared a bunk bed in a small bedroom.) I drove a tiny Dodge Neon which we would use to drive around aimlessly exploring our new town, looking at all the houses. We used to fantasize about one day owning our first home together.  I pictured myself washing dishes in a stainless steel kitchen sink with a big window overlooking a grassy backyard, watching the kids play catch with a puppy while my hubby grilled burgers on a full size gas grill (we were only allowed to have a tiny little charcoal grill at the apartment). I imagined cold winter nights cuddled up by a fireplace watching TV and Christmas Eves around a huge dining room table with our entire family singing Christmas carols and baking gingerbread cookies. 

My oldest daughter was in 5th grade and started making friends with “the rich kids” (a.k.a “the kids who lived in actual houses”). They all grew up together in a quiet desirable neighborhood and rode their bikes together to school and had play dates after school. They always invited my kid to THEIR house, which made sense. I mean, why would anyone want to come to our tiny apartment, anyway?  This made me feel as if we were “less” than them. We HAD less than them, therefore we WERE less than them. Right? We decided we NEEDED a house. It was the only way to raise a proper family. Yep, everything would be perfect once we lived in a house.

Well, I don’t think I mentioned that we live in an area that might as well be Beverly Hills. Property taxes alone are almost as much as what it costs to rent an apartment. So, we found the shittiest little house in that quiet desirable neighborhood and we decided we would fix ‘er up. And we did. A few years later, that shitty little house was transformed into a lovely 4 bedroom 2 bathroom updated ranch style home with a big addition and a grassy backyard where we would take turns mowing in the summer and help the kids build snowmen in the winter. We had a minivan and a dog and a guest room. We went for family walks around the block and we hosted holidays. For a while we were on top of the world…

Then the twins came and that 4 bedroom ranch seemed to get smaller by the day. Storage became an issue and the older girls were still spending all their time at other people’s houses because “everyone else” had finished basements and pools and trampolines and cool parents and bigger, better everything.  Once again, we fell short. All we needed was a BIGGER house and everything would finally be perfect.

Onward and Upward! 

*Side Note* I do not recommend putting your house on the market when you have 18 month old twins. Just ride that shit out…

6 months later we moved into a gorgeous center hall colonial with a huge finished basement in THE most desirable neighborhood. I never thought I would live in such a nice house. I loved everything about it. It was so open and spacious with big windows and a grand 2 story family room. In fact, it was so big and nice that all of our furniture suddenly felt too small and too old. This house deserved newer, bigger and better everything. We needed a landscaper and a cleaning lady. And that mini van of ours was sticking out like a sore thumb. Everyone else was driving expensive SUVs. If only we had one of those…

You see where I’m going with this? When is it enough? At what point do we just take pride in what we have and stop comparing everything we have to what everyone else has. Why do we care so much about where the Joneses go on their quarterly 10 day International holidays and if they bring their Swedish live-in Au pair along? Does that make them more important than the Smiths who look forward to their yearly week long stay at the Econo Lodge on Lake George? Is THIS the criteria we use to choose our friends? Is THIS how we are ranked? By our bank accounts? By square footage?

This past weekend we threw a huge party at our home to celebrate our daughter’s high school graduation and 18th birthday. We spent weeks planning and preparing. Even though we wanted the theme to be a chill backyard luau, we still stressed out because our yard is not as big or as perfectly manicured as the yards of some of our guests. We worried that all the younger kids would be bored since we don’t have a pool. We apologized for our patio being a little uneven and a little dark because it doesn’t get much sunlight. We basically appeared to be embarrassed of our home. The same home that was like a dream come true when we first moved in. The home we pour our hearts and souls into daily. The home we are raising our family in. SMDH. I’m ashamed of myself for feeling anything but pride for what we have. 

And guess what? EVERYONE HAD A BLAST! 80 people! Friends and family and neighbors all gathered at our house to celebrate our daughter. They ate and drank. They brought gifts and sang happy birthday. They played corn hole and sat around the fire pit my husband built with his own hands well into the night, laughing and making memories with us. The little boys explored the woods around our property while the girls sidewalk chalked my entire walkway and then ran in and out of the house, leaving their chalky little footprints on the floors. It was one of the most memorable days of my life and it really was an eye opener. 

None of these people give a rats ass about our bank account or square footage, and we don’t care about theirs. Depending on what you’re talking about, some have more than us and some have less. Some may have more money but less family. Others might have less debt but more heartache. And if someone only wants to be my friend because of the size of my house or doesn’t want to be my friend because I don’t dress the part, then, to be blunt, they can go shit in a hat. The end.

Let’s talk about “the pause”…

Let’s talk about “the pause”…

“Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret.” – Lori Deschene

I stumbled upon this life changing quote a few years ago and not only have I been practicing it ever since, but I have been repeating it and suggesting it to anyone who will listen. It has become my life mantra. Make no mistake, it is a practice indeed. It requires mindfulness, patience, strength, the humility to admit failure, the willingness to try again, and the ability to remove yourself from a situation BEFORE you react. SO FREAKING HARD!

Pause before judging… Example: Look, some people just naturally have RBF. It does not necessarily mean they are nasty miserable people. Intimidating and unapproachable, maybe. But I know a handful of gals who could easily advance to the RBF semi-finals without even realizing they were participating in a competition. BUT, every single one of them has a heart of pure gold and would be there for me in a heartbeat if I needed them.  I always think of a new acquaintance with RBF as somewhat of a challenge. It doesn’t take long to uncover what’s hiding behind that tough exterior if you take the time to get to know them. Of course not every case of RBF is just an unfortunate involuntary facial expression, some people really are just plain rude, bitter, emotionally detached bitches. I’m not suggesting you try to push your way in and attempt to change these types. The difference is usually obvious from early on. The RBF cases I’m talking about are mostly people using a defense mechanism because they are either insecure or have been burned by previous relationships. Just don’t refuse yourself a potentially amazing friendship because of a little RBF. Give them a chance to show you what’s hiding inside.  

Pause before assuming…You know what happens when you assume… And trust me,  I have wasted countless hours of my life assuming and jumping to conclusions. 

This bump looks a lot like that flesh eating skin bacteria I saw on the news (it was an allergic reaction to an insect bite). 

She’s not returning my texts so she must be upset with me *spends hours obsessing* (she was dealing with her own stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with me). 

She’s so confident with all these gym posts and skimpy outfits- (she has been struggling with an eating disorder since the age of 12 and actually hates herself).

She is so lucky to be able to stay at home with her perfect family in her perfect home- (her husband is a workaholic prick who is never actually home and most days she just feels stuck. Keeping up the act is her full time job). 

Becky’s vague passive aggressive facebook post is probably about me (well, actually I’m still pretty sure it was).

I’ve come a long way with this one, but there is still much work to do. I’m realizing that MOST of the assumptions my mind naturally jumps to are wrong. So now I use my pause to gather more facts (if it is important enough) or to let it go (if it isn’t).

Pause before accusing

Oh geez. This one. Very similar to the previous one but especially difficult for me when friends ask me for advice. Between my gut feelings as a neutral third party (which are RARELY wrong btw) and my big mouth, I find myself actually biting my tongue and silently reminding myself to “practice the pause” in my head. When a friend is asking for advice about a partner, friendship or child it is so very hard not to say “Girl, open your eyes, he is totally banging that coworker” or “she’s obviously blowing you off for better plans” or “yeah, your 16 year old daughter is definitely having sex or at the very least considering it. I don’t believe for one minute that she actually wants to go on the pill to regulate her period, and neither do you, but I’ll play along”. 

As outspoken and intuitive as I am, practicing my pause has taught me to spend more time listening and less time spewing accusations. There is much to be said, however, about those raw gut feelings. Intuition is a powerful gift. Don’t dismiss it. Just try not to act on it before equipping yourself properly. 

Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret

Y’all, the political posts on social media might be the death of my pause. I think it’s where I almost cave the most. But then I have to remind myself before I hit “comment” that A) I’m really not willing to jeopardize friendships over politics and B) these mofos are cray cray and nothing I say is going to change anybody’s mind. Just keep scrolling. Just. Keep. Scrolling.

It’s painfully embarrassing for me to think back on all the times I wish I had practiced my pause. The knee jerk reactions to text messages and facebook posts.  The “harmless” gossiping. The harsh judgements and unfair accusations. The heated conversations which inevitably led to dissolving friendships. So much acting and REacting without so much as a second to think it through. All the lost hours of sleep wasted assuming the worst. The sarcastic comments that seemed pretty hilarious to me but were not fully thought through and received as hurtful. 

I try not to hold myself prisoner to these regrets as I have learned invaluable lessons from them. Moving forward I will do my very best to pause before reacting, which sounds so easy to do, until emotions are involved. But I’m slowly learning to control my response to emotional triggers. At the very least I will pause and wait a few minutes before flying off the handle. 

Baby steps, I suppose… Just keep practicing.

-Dee

Let’s talk about perception vs. reality

Let’s talk about perception vs. reality…

I posted a series of pictures last week taken immediately after my daughter graduated from high school. I knew the minute I posted them I was going to write this piece. It is a perfect example of perception vs. reality. Obviously I am over the moon proud of her and it was an emotional evening for me to watch my second born walk across the stage and complete her chapter as a  high school student. It was my honor to witness that moment.

But the reality of the photoshoot did not quite match up with how the photos will be perceived.

The pictures all show my husband and me beaming on either side of our graduate who is wearing her perfected gorgeous smile and our twin 10 year olds happily at our sides looking angelic and sweet. I knew I was going to get a record number of “likes” and “loves” on that post. We are pretty good at portraying a perfect little family celebrating another milestone. *eyeroll*

What people don’t know is that following the two hour outdoor (and windy AF) ceremony, after the caps were tossed and the processional complete, it was a motha freaking free for all. Thousands of people swarming around looking for their kids, yelling names over the crowd and bumping into each other.  So. Many. People. By the time we found her, our graduate was stressed out and a little bit of an asshole, the hubby was hangry, one kid was freezing and starving, the other kid was bored and complaining and I was completely windblown and overwhelmed (and a little bit of an asshole myself).

We managed to get it together for long enough to take some family pictures but it was not without hushed threats through clenched teeth and flared nostrils. At one point my husband made the mistake of suggesting that our beautiful graduate wear her cap and gown for the pictures and was given THE LOOK. This look could send Satan himself cowering into a corner begging God for forgiveness. I mean fire actually shot from her eyes.  But the person taking the pictures was ready, so “everyone smile!”. CHEESE! (the pics came out lovely btw).

By the time we made it back to the safety of our car we were all miserable and deflated. We ended up at the McDonalds drive thru, which none of us even wanted, but it was the quickest way to the finish line. We all just needed the night to be over.

My point is, everything is not always what it seems. This is a very important thing to remember especially while scrolling through your social media feeds. How many posts do you see that say:

“Here is a pic of our graduate just moments after she wished us dead. We are now drowning our sorrows with big macs and mcflurries. I hope project graduation sucks for her tonight”

or

“sometimes I feel like I’m failing at everything in my life. My marriage is falling apart and my kids are more trouble than they’re worth”

or

“My husband and I are living beyond our means and we can not actually afford this vacation, but enjoy the pics!”

Nope, that’s just not the stuff people want other people to see. AND THAT IS OK. I love seeing all the highlight reels. I’m just saying that EVERYONE (read: EV-ER-Y-ONE) has stress and drama and behind the scenes bullshit that they don’t share. We are ALL a little bit broken. If you aren’t able to recognize that and you find yourself feeling resentful and jealous of everyone because they seem to have it all, then maybe you should not be on social media.

Everything is not always what it seems. Do yourself a favor and just keep that in mind.

-Dee

Let’s talk about friendships…

Let’s talk about friendships…

What type of “friend” are you? Do you have a tight clique and tend to keep your circle small? Or do you keep your options open and have friends everywhere from all walks of life? I like to consider myself a “floater”, which is awesome because I get to have lots of fun experiences with all different groups of people. I have never been exclusive to any one group. If someone makes me laugh, makes me feel comfortable, and thinks enough of me to invite me to something, I’M THERE!

I am honestly so blessed in the friendship department. My husband always asks me how I can possibly maintain so many relationships,  because to him it seems exhausting. I don’t see it that way. I have made and maintained friendships from almost every stage in my life. Not to say I have 600 besties, but I do have a large network of “friends” and “acquaintances” with whom I have either grown up with, went to school with, worked with, befriended through my children or social media, or just randomly crossed paths with. I enjoy these connections. Some I strictly see on social media, some I mostly text with, and some I see in real life.

The friends I grew up with are all scattered around. Many still live in our hometown where they are raising their families. Some, like myself, have ventured out and planted roots elsewhere. I am still close with many of them. We share a history and memories together and a bond that no amount of time or distance can break. Shoutout to all my “forever” friends!  I don’t see or speak to most of them often (besides on facebook…thank GOD for facebook) with the exception of 4 of them which I have an ongoing group text with. The 5 of us communicate almost daily and get together once a year for a girls weekend away where we drink too much wine and reminisce about old times and overshare and laugh until we cry. I love (and equally can’t stand) these girls like sisters.

As a mother I’ve learned that most of your adult friendships are based around your children and your work. Thanks to my daughters and miscellaneous jobs throughout my life , I have made countless connections and friendships. When I moved away from “home” for the first time, I was completely out of my element in a strange place and my only friends were the moms of my oldest daughter’s friends and a couple of women I worked with. I had no family around and they all welcomed me and my children into their homes and families. Our time together was brief but made a lasting impression.  I’ve since moved away from but remain connected with these gems on facebook.

I’m pretty sure that at least 90% of the people I spend time with now are parents of my children’s friends, teammates and classmates. This gets tricky at times because one day your kids may be BFFs and the next day they are calling each other names and swear they will never be friends again. Sometimes as they get older they just drift apart or go in different directions, which is normal. I try to separate the relationships in my mind. I prefer to see these mom friends as simply “my friend” and not “Ella’s friend’s mom”.  Look kid, just because little Suzy didn’t invite you to her sleepover does not mean mommy is cancelling tomorrow’s boozy lunch with her mom. Figure it out. Not my problem.

Most of the time it is a blessing to be friends with these people. I mean, if you have to sit through back to school nights, family fun nights, award ceremonies, concerts, rehearsals, recitals, tournaments and commencements for the next 15 years, you might as well have friends enduring the torture beside you. If you can’t discreetly send a text message that says “kill me” to someone in the same auditorium in the middle of a 3rd grade recorder concert and instantly get a reply that says “this is bullshit, I’m waiting in the car”, you seriously need to reevaluate your social status.

Some of these mom friends I’m closer with than others. Some are casual acquaintances I bump into at school or the grocery store and greet with a quick hug and pleasantries. Some I am a bit closer with because we run in similar circles. We may spend time together at mutual friends parties and have easy conversation over a glass or two of wine. We know each other’s husband’s names and kid’s latest accomplishments because we follow each other on instagram.

And some of these mom friends are my MFing people. The ones who get the unfiltered Dee and the countless but hilarious snapchats and texts. The ones who know not to show up for a playdate without wine and taco dip. I don’t care if it’s 11am. The ones who know I’M JUST KIDDING when I say something completely inappropriate so no need to explain myself. I can drop my kids at their house, starving, disheveled and in their pjs without judgment and they can do the same here. They KNOW I’m bat shit crazy and they still love me. These superstars make being a middle aged mom more fun and I’m grateful for each of them.

We’ve all heard the “reason, season and lifetime” poem. God willing, we will all be blessed with at least one person who will never leave. Nothing better than a ride or die. But realistically, some friendships naturally fade over time and some people are toxic assholes and need to be walked away from.  These are our reason and season people. Or maybe we are theirs. Don’t think for one minute that these people play less of a role in your story than the lifers. Let the lessons you take away from these relationships gone wrong shape you into the type of friend you want to be and don’t accept less than that for yourself either.

#truthbomb #micdrop

-Dee

Let’s talk about parenting…

My most rewarding role in this life, without a doubt, is being a mom to my 4 daughters. I’ve been a mom since I was 17 years old, so I literally don’t know how to NOT be one. I can’t imagine what it will be like when all of my babies are grown and flown (one already is). I try not to think about it too much, but the reality is that time flies by faster and faster with each passing year and my time as a “mommy” to little kids is precious and running out. I want to cherish every moment.

But let’s be real here…being a parent is so freaking hard. Every stage. The pressure, expectations, and conflicting opinions are exhausting. Should you let a screaming infant cry it out to learn to self soothe or is that going to make them emotionally detached and unable to make connections later in life? Is putting a misbehaving toddler in “time out” going to teach them how to calm down and be reasonable before acting out or will it make them feel isolated and lead to teenage depression? Should you step in when your child is having a problem with a classmate so they know you are always in their corner or do you let them work it out on their own and learn valuable life lessons? Should we be parents first and set clear rules, boundaries and consequences for our teenagers or do we try to be “friends first” so they will be less likely to hide things they are struggling with?

SO MANY ways to screw your kids up, so little time.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I was pregnant with my first daughter. I was a baby myself. I know people had a lot to say (behind my back of course) and assumed I was going to completely screw up our lives, that we would be living off the system and that she would eventually become a statistic and find her teenage self in the same situation. I may not have known a single thing about HOW to parent, but I was certain that I was not going to set her up for a shitty life just because she was not brought into the world under ideal circumstances . I made many parenting mistakes along the way, but I worked hard to provide for her. She had a happy childhood. We always had a nice place to live. She went to good schools and always had lots of friends. When she was little I moved her around more than I would have liked but it ultimately resulted in meeting my husband and settling into a better life with better opportunities.  She excelled in high school and continued on to her top choice university and then graduate school. She is now a well educated 24 year old productive member of society with a master’s degree, so all those judgy MFers can SUCK IT.

But, I digress…

Anyway, life took its twists and turns and I now have four children and a wonderful husband and a beautiful home and two dogs and two cars and I work a flexible part time job which allows me to be home for the kids. I have almost 25 years of parenting experience under my belt now, but truth be told, I still don’t know WTF I’m doing most of the time. I’ve never been consistent with discipline, actually I am the worst at discipline. I failed miserably at letting my babies cry it out and to this day I co-sleep with a restless 10 year old. Also, I hated breastfeeding. I make at least 4 parenting mistakes per day and there are days where I would like to just run away and hide from these little humans that keep calling me “mom”.

My point is, there really isn’t a clear right or wrong way to raise your children and we all need to stop comparing ourselves to everyone else. Our family situations and lifestyles and beliefs are all very different. Just because Becky lives in a pristine mansion in the most desirable neighborhood  and breastfed each of her perfectly behaved 2.5 children until they were 2 (and loved every minute of it), had them all potty trained by 18 months, reading by 4 and manages to be on time and showered for every single event does not mean that she is a better mommy than me or that her children will grow up to be happier or more successful than mine. It just means that Becky is obviously an image obsessed control freak with unrealistic expectations and is setting herself up for major disappointment when her children develop minds of their own. Kidding, Becky, kidding…kind of.

I’m not saying I’ll be receiving any awards for my parenting any time soon. Lord knows it’s a circus act gone bad most days around here. I’m somewhat confident, however, that I have lived up to the standards I set for myself a while back. I wholeheartedly believe that if we have provided our children with the basic necessities, a good sense of right and wrong and (most importantly) a safe and loving place to call home, then we have done parenting right.

We need to give ourselves a break. This shit is hard and we are doing the best we can.

-Dee

Let’s talk about summer vacation…

Classic case of the grass is always greener

When I was a single mom working full time, not much changed when school let out for summer. I still had to have the kids in bed at a decent time, we all still had to wake up at the ass crack of dawn, I still packed lunches and we were still out the door by 8am 5 days a week. Only difference was I would drop them both at the daycare instead of the older one at school. I would daydream on the drive to work about having summers off. I longed to spend those lazy summer days with them and I was so so envious of all the stay at home moms who were able to. But, I had a mortgage and bills to pay and I was always blessed with a decent job that provided, so I tried to focus on that. It was not always easy though.

Fast forward to present. I do work part time and a couple side hustles, but gratefully consider myself a stay at home mom. And here we are, mid-June, just about to plunge into 10 glorious weeks of freedom. No more pencils, no more books, no more homework, no more packing school lunches… 10 weeks of blissful summertime laziness. A well deserved break from all the structure and school year craziness. We just have to get through all of the end of year parties, concerts, award ceremonies and banquets and then we are in the clear.

On this end of the break I tend to envision 10 weeks of quiet early morning jogs while the kids sleep in, picnic lunches at the park with mini triangle sandwiches and ice pops on a red and white checkered blanket, afternoons at the pool smelling of sunscreen and chlorine, burgers and corn on the cob for dinner, chasing fireflies barefoot in the backyard at dusk, s’mores over the fire pit, and smiling pink-cheeked children freshly showered and exhausted from another perfect summer day climbing under crisp white sheets at 9pm for 12 hours of rejuvenating sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

So, let me break this down for you. That summertime fairytale lasts until about 7am on day 1 as I am trying to sneak out of the house for that run and the freaking dog starts barking at the sound of the front door opening, which in turn wakes my children up. “I’m hungry” will likely be the first words I will hear on the first official day of summer vacation.

Ok, so I push my run back a few minutes to throw some frozen waffles in the toaster oven. NBD. Breakfast is made and the kids are happily watching some annoying youtube family play hide and seek in target. They promise to be quiet and not wake up the sleeping teenager or bother the working from home hubby while I’m running.  Off I go, hopeful to get at least 30 minutes in before they try to kill each other, but inevitably the texts start rolling in before I finish one lap. I guess half a mile is better than nothing. I’ll plan better tomorrow…

Whatevs, I shake it off and remind myself that we’re going to enjoy a fun afternoon at the pool with friends! But, after the pool-prep (packing 16 bags of towels, snacks, water bottles, first aid kit, sunscreen, snacks,  goggles, snacks and 11 changes of clothes) and then lathering everyone up with sunscreen, which may or may not eventually cause cancer, I am already exhausted…and excuse me, but WHY are these two arguing about where they got their bathing suits from?! I break it up and we pack up the car. As we drive to the pool I gently remind them not to ask me for a play date or -god forbid- a sleepover in front of their friends. We trudge our excessive supplies to the pool, find a nice spot to set up, reapply sunscreen, just in case, and are finally ready for summer vacation mode to kick in.

AH, yes, 15 minutes of relaxation while they take turns with their friends jumping off the diving board. THIS is what it’s all about. But then they want me to “watch THIS! MOM!!” and “MOM! JudgeTHIS on a scale of 1-10” and “MOM! MOM! MOMMMMMM!!! Take a video of THIS”…

Eventually they work up an appetite and start begging for money for the snack bar. I remind them, sweetly at first, that we packed 800 snacks from home, but “EVERYONE ELSE” is buying ice cream sandwiches and nachos with cheese-wiz… FINE! But only this time. From now on we will only eat the snacks we pack. I hand over $10 (the only cash I have).

We reapply sunscreen for the 3rd time and they spend a while splashing and  playing with their friends. At 4:30 I call “Let’s go girls, it’s time to go home to shower and get ready for dinner!” just to get “can Katie sleep over??!!” as a response. Seriously?… I manage to leave with only my own children and not much of a fuss because thankfully they do know how to act in public (1 point for me) but they both melt down on the way home about how mean I am. I didn’t realize I was the ONLY mom who ALWAYS says no. Also, they are both burnt to a crisp. How they managed a sunburn through 16 layers of SPF 200 is beyond me. And, is that seriously the freaking ice cream man right now? It’s 5:00 Mr. Freezy! WTF is wrong with you?

By mid-July I will be polishing up my resume looking for leads for a full time job, not only to escape my kids but to fund these summer camps. Who can afford these things? Especially with multiple children. $400 for a Monday through Thursday half day camp?  I’ll tell you what, for $400 a week you better pick my kid up at 6am Monday morning and not return her until Friday at 6pm.

I read a lovely blog a while back about how we only have 18 summers with our children. It was very powerful and whenever I think about it, I want to change my attitude and adjust my expectations so I can fully experience these precious moments. And there ARE indeed many precious moments. I adore my children and it is not lost on me that my time with little children is fleeting. I don’t want to wish time away. I simply want my kids to not be annoying.

Let’s talk about body image and balance…

Every morning I wake up at 6:00 to enjoy a quiet half hour before anyone else has to be awake. Just me and my coffee getting ready for the day. I check if I missed any texts while my phone was on ‘do not disturb’, then I check facebook, check my calendar and daily planner, check the weather, check my email, check insta…check check check… then once I finish checking everything, I check it all again. The highlight of this early morning routine is visiting my facebook memories. It’s like reading old entries in a journal. It is so bittersweet to see the pictures and videos of the kids when they were little. There are many moments I would have forgotten about had I not posted them.

Today I came across a post from 5 years ago that stopped me in my tracks. I was bathing suit shopping with my 5 year old daughter in tow and I must have been feeling rather confident that day because I tried on a suit I would never actually wear in public. I was just about to take it off and toss it in the “OH-hells-to-the-NO” pile when my little girl said “WOW! Mommy! You look beautiful! I LOVE that one!” I took a second look and tried so hard to see what she was seeing but all I could see were the stretch marks mapped out on my thighs and the blindingly pale “twin skin” covering my stomach. Didn’t she know my mom-bod was 15 pounds away from my unrealistic goal weight? What exactly was this child actually looking at?   

She was happy as could be to see me in that bathing suit. She couldn’t care less about any of my imperfections. In fact, I don’t think she even saw them. When she looked at me, she saw her mommy in a fun, colorful bathing suit ready to take her to the pool for summertime play dates with  friends and day trips to the beach. She saw family picnics and summer vacation. I was filled with so much love and appreciation because she thought I looked beautiful, so I bought that damn bathing suit and I swore to myself I was going to wear it…but of course I never did. I just never felt confident enough.

It’s an endless quest for balance over here.  On one hand, I work so hard to be healthy and strong, I really do. I’m more active now in my 40’s than I have ever been. I’m committed to my workouts.  I run 15-25 miles every week, and as long as I am blessed with the use of my legs, I will continue to do so because I love to run. I attend my barre classes every week because they make me feel strong and fit.  I try to drink half my body weight in ounces of water each day and I try to incorporate lots of green salads and lean proteins into my diet. But, on the other hand, I really love food and wine. ALL THE FOOD. ALL THE WINE.  I realize I’m not exactly on track to get that 6 pack by spending my evenings binging on cheese doodles and wine, but I really really love binging on cheese doodles and wine. *Sigh*. Life is hard.

It comes down to this: I either have to sacrifice things that I love, things that bring me joy, things I really don’t want to give up… or it’s time to learn to love myself as I am. This is not a proclamation of lazy intentions by any means and I’m not suggesting I should give up on my goals or just concede to always having a muffin top and never fitting into those skinny jeans I bought 3 years ago in hopes of rocking them one day.  I think we all NEED to have goals, something to push us forward. I’m just saying I need to stop comparing myself to everyone else. It’s time to stop shaming the woman in the mirror for not looking the same as she did 20 years ago and begin embracing the beauty and wisdom she carries with her now.

I’m not a 22 year old airbrushed supermodel on a 600 calorie a day diet with a personal assistant, trainer, life coach, live-in therapist, housekeeper and chef. I’m a wife to a great guy who tells me all the time how beautiful I am. I’m a mother to 4 girls who are always watching me and learning from me. AND, like most of you,  I am always busy AF, so you will have to excuse the workout clothes and baseball cap I wore to tonight’s 4th grade band concert. Don’t think I didn’t see you sizing me up, Becky. You  in your new “4th grade band mom” outfit and 5” stilettos you just bought at TJMaxx this afternoon. I have been on the go since 6am and a shower just didn’t fit into my day today. But, I was there. I showed up. Even on my worst days, I always show up.

I want to find the key to unlock my own self confidence, because honestly, I would rather wear confidence than those skinny jeans or that bathing suit. Nothing is more beautiful than confidence. I’m going to start small though because it’s unlikely I’ll wake up tomorrow morning feeling confident and balanced just because I’m publishing a blog about wanting to. But, from now on when someone pays me a compliment I am going to simply say “thank you” instead of self consciously turning it into a joke.  I am also going to stop body shaming myself and focus more on how hard I work to keep my body healthy.

Hopefully, these practices will eventually build enough confidence to allow me to write a blog about how incredible it feels to be amazing and sexy and have your shit together, but in the meantime,  the best advice I have is “fake it til you make it” and keep showing up. We are all in this together. Let’s continue to build each other up because EVERYONE is fighting their own battle but no one should have to fight it alone.

-Dee

Let’s talk about anxiety…

This is another topic that I could write about all day, one I know many of you can relate to. I have no problem publicly addressing my anxiety because it is a big part of who I am. I often make jokes about it, sometimes inappropriate ones, but that’s just my way of dealing with pretty much everything. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to speak candidly about it but I do respect those of you who keep it private.

I personally was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks in my early 20’s but truth be told, I worried excessively as a kid too. I remember one night circa 1984/85 lying awake for hours after my mom had tucked me in, quietly listening to my little AM/FM alarm clock radio trying so hard  to fall asleep, irrationally worrying that I was the only person in the whole wide world still awake and what if  I would never be able to sleep again and what if I couldn’t fall asleep because there was something wrong with me?  I remember Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love is”  played once early on and then again a while later. The second time it played made me realize just how long I had been trying to fall asleep and I started feeling all the physical symptoms I couldn’t identify as a 7 year old, but looking back, I believe that was my first ever panic attack. (Disclaimer: I’m not completely blaming Foreigner for my mental health issues, I’m just saying that song IS creepy AF and to this day is still one of my triggers.)

For me, anxiety seems to come in waves. I have gone months, even years without letting it hold me back at all. At 24 I decided on a whim, as a single mother,  to quit my job, sell my house, pack up my kids and move 750 miles away from everyone and everything I had ever known and start a brand new life. UM..WHAT? It’s almost impossible for me to believe I was EVER so adventurous. I don’t even like to VACATION that far from home.  But, that’s a story for another time…

Ultimately, all roads lead me to the life I’m living now, and I’m not tryna get all religious on you here but I do believe that God had his hand in it and was guiding me safely to where I was meant to be. But now, I’m here living my real life and if I’m being completely honest, anxiety is always lingering under the surface, even during my best days. AND IT SUCKS! I’m a high energy, over-thinker by nature so I often spend a ridiculous amount of my time feeling anxious about really stupid shit. I know I mentioned in my first blog that I suffer from health anxiety. In turn, I am extremely focused on and aware of every single ache, pain, twinge, gurgle, creek and crack in my body.   I create worse case scenarios in my head and I spiral out of control from there.

Headache? Probably either an aneurysm or brain tumor.

Sore calf muscle? Could be deep vein thrombosis.

Sore neck? Definitely Meningitis.

Cramps?  Likely Ovarian cancer.  

You name it, I’ve convinced myself I was dying from it and I’ve obsessed over it until it inevitably went away. There is no sense in trying to talk me down once I start googling.

It drives me crazy when people casually talk about having a panic attack. Like, are they saying “I had a panic attack in the elevator” because they LITERALLY HAD an actual panic attack or are they being dramatic to get a point across? Was their elevator experience something along the lines of: “I was very nervous in the elevator. I could feel my heart beating faster and my hands were sweaty” or more like: “I thought I was going to die of suffocation in that elevator, I was sweating profusely, my heart almost exploded out of my chest, my vision tunneled, I visualized myself shoving everyone out of the way and banging on the doors screaming for help and now I have diarrhea”?  Which is it Becky?! Don’t just throw the term “panic attack” around, because that shit is real and we don’t allow posers into our club.

With me it is a vicious cycle. What I am most anxious about is BEING ANXIOUS. What if I have a panic attack on the field trip with the kids? What if I lose control in the middle of the crowd at that concert? What if I make a fool out of myself on the airplane…What if , what if, what if…  I know that all of these what ifs are holding me back from so many things. It’s sad and frustrating. But every day I wake up, set my intentions to be the best version of me (or at the very least not kill anyone) and to be grateful. Some days I barely make it through breakfast before I throw those intentions right out the window but other days I shine like a mother effing rock star. What can I say? I’m a work in progress. Aren’t we all?

-Dee

Let’s talk about the stomach bug…

Or rather, can we NOT talk about the stomach bug? Please?

We all have our demons. The fears and  phobias and obsessions that we struggle with every day and just can’t seem to shake. Some people are deathly afraid of heights, spiders, flying etc… Some crumble at the very thought of public speaking or highway driving. Some people obsess over their diet, body image and workouts. I personally have many (ie most of the above), however, I have a ridiculous amount of health anxiety, the most prominent is without a doubt my fear/phobia/obsession with the stomach bug. My ears perk up at the mention of pretty much any illness -and trust me,my hearing is really not that great- but if across a noisy crowded room you happen to mention any of my “trigger” words, you best believe I heard that shit and I am now completely tuned in and reading your lips.

And please,  for the love of God Becky, you have no idea what your facebook post about little Billy projectile vomiting at the kitchen table this morning has triggered over here.  Honestly, I’m still not fully recovered from the last time your family had it (June 2017). Maybe some people can keep scrolling and go about their day, but this girl is not one of them. I began connecting the dots in my head before I even finished reading your disgusting post. I’m now thinking of every person your family could have possibly been in contact with in the last 24 hours (because trust me,  I have done extensive research and I know for a fact that he was contagious -possibly for days- before the vomit happened) and how these contaminated people could expose my family . I’m playing out scenarios in my head of how this will go down…

Scenario A): It’s going to hit hard and fast. The next 3-4 days will be a total pukefest. We will be fighting over the bathrooms. We will get so sick we will all need to be hospitalized for dehydration.

Scenario B): It’s going to move through my family in agonizingly slow motion, one miserable victim at a time, which could mean 6-8 weeks over here!  

Scenario C): The most likely scenario. Nobody in my family actually gets sick but I waste DAYS (weeks) of my life making everyone in our home completely neurotic and paranoid.

Within minutes of seeing your post I have worked myself into a state of nauseated hysteria.

OH, and now everyone is commenting on your post. Awesome. And of course I can’t tear myself away. I know I should stop reading, but it’s too late.  I’m all in now. According to Carol “it’s going around” and “it’s a bad one”.


OH

MY

GOD

WTF Carol??

I am officially losing my shit. I’m nauseous and clammy and pretty sure I have a fever. I spend the rest of the morning researching and making mental preparations for the next few weeks…just in case…

It’s now lunchtime and I can’t tell if the burning sensation in my stomach is nausea or hunger but I think I might be hungry. That’s a good sign. Maybe I overreacted a little. After all, my family is very cautious. I pride myself on the little army of germaphobes I’ve created. Maybe we will get through this unscathed.  We have an impressive track record after all.

Two years ago when we were having our hardwood floors refinished, my four daughters and I stayed in a local hotel to avoid the fumes.  At 3am little Ella woke me up by saying “Mommy I think I’m going to throw up”. THIS, my friends, is my personal worst case scenario. I lose sleep before family vacations and romantic weekend getaways and pretty much anything out of my everyday comfort zone  in fear of myself or the kids getting sick in a strange place. And since we are home 99% of the time, what are the actual chances? Fortunately, she made it to the toilet. Unfortunately I was not prepared and did not have my supplies with me (rubber gloves, Clorox wipes, paper towels, antibacterial soap). I managed to keep it contained to only Ella, but the entire situation scarred me for life.  

Then, last year we had family friends over for some pizza and drinks. Just as they were getting ready to go home, their daughter came into the kitchen and randomly puked in the middle of my floor. We all froze and I’ll never forget her mom, who happens to be a good friend and KNOWS me and my issues, just kind of chuckled and said “Seriously, of all the houses to get sick at…” and we all laughed and laughed. And then I told them to GTFO.

My well trained oldest daughter Taylor and I were ready with our rubber gloves, Clorox wipes and paper towels and we disinfected as if the entire house had been vomited on. Then I obsessed for the next couple days, texted her mom for hourly updates, continued my compulsive cleaning, drove myself and everyone else completely crazy…and in the end nobody got sick.

Maybe it’s the not knowing that freaks me out the most. With other illnesses you have warning signs. You start to feel crappy and usually have enough time to get home to your bed. Nobody wants to go from zero to barfo in the middle of a traffic jam and I certainly don’t want to be hugging the toilet at my local home depot. If I know “it’s going around and it’s a bad one” I can’t stop worrying that it could hit at any time.

According to Facebook and my mother,  it’s ALWAYS going around, so I wish we could just stop posting about it, Becky.

And with that I’m off to wash my hands! You should do the same.

– Dee