Let’s talk about the last 25 years…A memoir…

Some really monumental things took place in 1994. The TV sitcom “Friends” debuted, Kurt Cobain died, The O.J. Simpson white Bronco chase had us all glued to the TV, Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa, Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction were released, and I became a teenage mother. Sometimes I feel so far removed from all that has happened in these 25 years it starts to feel like it’s someone else’s story. But it’s not. It’s mine. It hasn’t always been glamorous or easy, and there are many things I wish I would have done differently. There are also many things I am very proud of. In the spirit of keeping it real, allow me to share some of the highs and lows with you.

The first day…

September 20, 1994. Small Town, Upstate NY. 

I woke up from an emergency c-section not knowing where I was, where my baby was, if it was a boy or a girl or if he or she was even alright.  I was so relieved when the nurse came in and told me it was a girl and she was just fine. But then she wheeled a baby over to me and I couldn’t believe my eyes. In fairness,  I had never actually seen a brand new baby before. She was purpleish and wrinkly and had cheeks so chubby she couldn’t even open her squinty eyes (which had a thin layer of something gooey and shiny over them). And she had a full head of crazy black hair that was sticking straight up. “THAT can not be MY baby” I thought. “This is NOT at all the way I had imagined this day going.”  I guess I expected the baby was just going to…come out… and would be tiny and magazine cover beautiful, pink and cooing and would make all of my worries about being a teenage mom melt away. I never anticipated days of uncomfortable labor, a baby in distress and counting backwards from 10 in an operating room just to wake up and be handed (fingers crossed) the wrong baby… Ahhhhhhh yes, my first moments of motherhood…

That chubby little face grew on me very quickly. Within minutes, actually. Once the shock (and anesthesia) started to wear off and after she opened her eyes and looked at me,  I became absolutely smitten with her. And so did my entire family, her father and his family as well. She was the first grandchild. The first great-grandchild. The first niece.  And so the world began to revolve around her that very day. Taylor Rene had everyone wrapped around her wrinkly little purple finger.

The early years…

While all of my friends were enjoying their senior year of high school, decorating for homecoming, getting drunk before dances, planning senior skip days, and making college plans, I was busy changing diapers, mixing stage 1 rice cereal with applesauce and rocking that chubby little baby to sleep for hours every night. She was so sweet and easy and made being a first time mom seem almost simple. I did join my friends when I could and I did enjoy my senior year but it was on a completely different level. I was a mother. Still a child, but also a mother. It was a very strange time in my life, but I remember it as a happy time. 

We lived with my mother for the first year, so I was able to finish high school. Taylor and my mom developed a very tight bond during that time. I remember feeling jealous back then. I was too young and immature and didn’t understand the importance of that relationship or the role my mother would play in Taylor’s life. It’s a relief to me now when I allow myself to think back on some darker times during my young-single-motherhood-days to know that Taylor always had the comfort and stability of her grandma when I wasn’t able to give it to her myself.  And y’all, I was a train wreck on and off for a while.

We had a couple dinky apartments and I worked a couple crappy jobs, but then at 21 I settled down with a steady full time job. At 23, I bought us a cozy little house. It was like a doll house with wall to wall pink carpeting throughout the living room and dining room, a tiny kitchen with a REALLY tiny breakfast nook that barely fit our kitchen table and 4 chairs,  2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 2 enclosed porches and a big backyard. We LOVED that house. Taylor made friends at school and in the neighborhood but she hung out mostly with my friends and me. She was more mature than us even back then, so it’s no surprise she grew into such a serious young woman. She used to make up games and force us to play them with her and would get so mad if we said no. She was very bossy and we were all a little scared of her. But she was the center of our tight little core group.  We spent our Sundays with family and friends gathered around our second-hand dining room table, filling our tiny home with love and laughter, pasta and wine. I miss that little house with pink carpeting and I hope Taylor remembers those afternoons with as much joy and happiness as I do. Especially since there were many days that were not as happy as those peaceful Sunday afternoons there. 

Moving on…

At 24, I was blessed with my second daughter, Summer. An unexpected surprise.  And so our family of 2 became a family of 3. Being a single mom was hard enough without the added stress of unnecessary drama, which I kept finding myself in the middle of. Nothing changes if nothing changes though so I decided that we needed a brand new start and it could not be in that town. It was unbelievably hard to leave the people and comforts of the only home we ever knew. It was especially difficult to imagine life without the daily help and support of my mom and it broke her heart to watch her grandchildren move away,  but I knew (and she knew) that the only way I would ever be able to really put the past behind and give my daughters the kind of life they deserved was to get out. 

I sold the house and moved 750 miles south to the coast of North Carolina.  I rented a little 2 bedroom apartment there. I used the money I made from selling the house to pay for a few months rent and to hold us over until I found a job, which I did quickly. Taylor started school, cheer and dance. She made friends, did well in school and rarely complained- which I don’t think I ever even thanked her for. She helped me with Summer too,  who at 2 was quite a handful. Looking back, that move could have been a disaster, but I sometimes think I was on autopilot, just going through the motions and doing what I had to do. 

I never really felt at home there. The best part (my favorite memory) was our early morning drives to the beach on the weekends. I would sip coffee while Taylor and Summer searched for seashells and other ocean treasures. The ocean was so big and beautiful, but living there was sad and lonely and harder than I ever imagined, especially during the holidays. A part of me wanted to pack up and run back home,  but a bigger part of me kept pushing forward. 

After about 9 months of living there, I met my husband, which in a strange twist of fate and a whirlwind of events brought us back up north to New Jersey. Taylor was 9, Summer was almost 3 and they were on their second big move in only 12 months. But this time we were finally on our way “home” and we were finally becoming a real family. It was all so obvious from the very beginning. THIS was where we were heading the whole time, even when it seemed like we were just drifting. Pieces that were missing from all of our lives were starting to fill in.

Unfortunately I had to drag my children along on my chaotic journey (my biggest regret in life). Fortunately, we came out the other end intact (my biggest blessing).

Finally “home”…

We planted roots in suburban New Jersey and never looked back. We were married in 2005 and then in 2009 we were doubly blessed with 2 more daughters. We were now a family of 6. The twins connected us all and were the finishing pieces to our puzzle.

Taylor and Summer were fortunate enough to go through an excellent school system where they both excelled. Taylor broke me in easy during the teenage years, never really getting into much trouble at all. Maybe the occasional eye roll or snarky comment and argument over a messy bedroom,  but minimal drama. I was all “Look at me, I raised this perfectly behaved, respectful, successful teenager. I’m awesome. #1 Mom right here.”… aaaaand then that second one put me right back in my place. It’s always the second one, isn’t it? Turns out, my mom-abilities strongly depend on the child at hand, and in our family, we are a mixed bag. We have 2 very easy daughters and 2 very… -let’s go with- feisty daughters. All very different and all loved completely and uniquely.

Now living in Delaware with her college sweetheart, Taylor has her masters degree in Speech Language Pathology and continues to impress us every day with her drive and success. She has earned me many bragging rights over the years, but I’m not sure it’s even fair for me to accept credit for anything she has accomplished. She was born ready to take charge and I actually joke that she raised me

Summer,  who was so little during the chaotic years, and the twins have never known anything other than the sweet life. Summer just graduated high school and is enrolled in a 3 year certification program for ultrasound technology. She is a hard worker, a leader, an amazing big sister to the Ella and Layla and can throw shade like it’s her job.  Ella is spunky, adorable and very friendly, but she’s also a wild child and my biggest challenge to date, God bless her heart. And then there is my sweet little Layla who is kind, easygoing and loyal to a fault. Blessed, I am.

Let’s talk about homework…

I can’t sugarcoat my feelings about this topic. I hate it. I hate every single thing about it. In fact,  I firmly believe that it was created by Satan himself as a cruel punishment and is intended to tear families apart one assignment at a time.

If you have kids who just get home and do their homework without so much as an eyeroll, then stop reading now. You won’t relate to this one. You must have been very good in a previous life and are now being rewarded. I never totally got it until my now 10 year old started bringing it home. My older two kids would just come home and get it done. Maybe they would have an occasional question or roadblock, but honestly they always knew that homework was dad’s department.  I didn’t do my OWN damn homework back in the day and I certainly didn’t ask my mom for help. I’m happy to do almost all other motherly things (well, besides ironing) but when it comes to homework I’m all “daddy’s right over there in the other room honey”.

Here is a short list of things I would rather do than help my child with homework…

-have a root canal

-watch The View

-clean a Walmart bathroom

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating  (I wouldn’t actually ever watch The View).  But until you have a child who simply can not handle any more than the 7 hours of structured work they are required to put in each day at school, you will not be able to fully understand the struggle. Many children come home from their school day exhausted and overstimulated. All they want to do is have a snack, decompress and PLAY. Instead they have to put in another hour of work. Even if the teacher says homework should take 30 minutes or less, that is unrealistic with a child who is frustrated and throwing a fit the entire time. And I’m sure it’s extremely helpful when I get so filled with rage that I just grab the damn pencil and do it myself in my sloppiest writing so it looks like she actually did it.

Homework is absolute misery around here. I can’t tell you how many school evenings have been ruined in my household over a homework meltdown. I used to be so happy to get my children off the bus to spend the late afternoon and evening with them, but now I DREAD the sound of that bus making its way up my street. I can literally see the look of relief that the school day is over fade from my child’s face once she remembers about her homework. As soon as I hear the words “UGH I don’t get it, can you help me?” I know the rest of the evening (or at the very least, the next hour) will be shot. Tempers will flare, patience will be tested and tears will be shed all around. 

We have had amazing teachers who would give a ton of homework and we have also had equally amazing teachers who would only give occasional assignments to do at home or maybe work that wasn’t finished at school. My kids always do well in school regardless of how much work they bring home.  Whether they spend 15 minutes a day or 2 hours a day working on homework does not seem to play a direct role in the grades they are getting. What it DOES play a direct role in is our home life. 

As it stands now, my little ones leave the house at 8:15am and don’t get home until almost 4pm. I want my kids to come home and be able to ride their bikes with their friends until dinnertime, go to their dance class or gymnastics or lacrosse practice, come home, shower and get into bed at a decent time. Let them be kids!! 

Now, I’m not completely opposed to ALL “home”work however. I do think it’s important for kids to read and study at home. But, if they’re struggling with a subject or lesson, they really need to spend time outside of the classroom with the teacher or a tutor. It shouldn’t just be assumed that the parents will be able to help. Everything is so different now. I don’t even understand first grade math anymore! So, if my kid comes home with something they need my help with, we’re all screwed.

I know a lot of people will disagree with my feelings, and that’s ok. You like homework? That’s great! You’re in luck because it’s not like homework is just going to disappear because I’m publishing this. Teachers will continue to send work home, your easy going kids will still come home and quietly get it done, and I will continue to spend my afternoons dreading the bus while coming up with new bribes to get my little pain in the ass to sit down and just get it done so we can carry on with the rest of our day. Not my proudest mom truth, but I’m just keeping it real. So, don’t mind me, I’m just venting after a long week of homework meltdowns. End rant.

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