From an early age, I have always been both a teacher’s pet and an overachiever. I passed all the tests. I got all the awards. I always often came in first. For years, I’ve eagerly been awaiting my own kids’ turn. I told myself that I wouldn’t be pushy, wouldn’t assume my kid would be the best and the brightest, and was determined to let her go her own way. When the first few award ceremonies went by and Lila didn’t get an award, I tried my best to shrug it off. That’s okay! Everyone can’t get an award, or they would be meaningless! I mean, she has her moments, but she is fiery and passionate and smart and funny and AWESOME. Her day will come!
And today, when I opened up her homework folder and saw that slip of fancy copy paper, with the hint of a fancy border showing- well, I just knew. Our Her day had finally come.
“Congratulations! Your child has been selected to receive an award. Please join us for a ceremony on Tuesday, as Lila is recognized for… Alertness.”
For a first time Mom, I felt incredibly prepared when my son was born. I had 17 nieces and nephews and had been around kids a LOT. I was ready to change diapers. I wasn’t afraid of the dreaded first cold. I knew all the first aid and CPR you could want. I was prepared. And then the kids showed up and I learned all the things I hadn’t learned.
You probably haven’t learned all the things either.
Make sure to add these to your to-do list.
How to Throw a Ball.
Okay, I’m not a complete athletic disaster. I can throw a ball. But it’s actually WAY harder to throw a ball to a three year old than to another able bodied adult. You have to somehow throw it really slow. And make sure to avoid hitting them in the face. Because they won’t just catch the ball if it’s about to hit them. They’ll wait, let it hit them, and then freak out about it. And then make you throw it again and again until your arm falls off.
How to Draw Every Animal in Existence.
Before I was a Mom I’m not sure I’d ever drawn a rhinoceros. Or a “water dinosaur.” I know I didn’t draw the animals/monsters/creatures that my children imagine – and then request for me to draw. To their exact, but undescribed, specifications. But I do know that a lot of the time my drawings are not up to my children’s standards. I should have spent more of my first pregnancy in an avant garde art class taught by opinionated toddlers. If they have one of these in your area, it will be worth every penny.
Bonus points if they teach you how to draw things that you’ve never seen before. You know, like thunder.
How to Move Silently Through a House.
When we were house shopping, I did not walk through the house listening for squeaky floorboards. FATAL mistake. Because there’s a board in my son’s room that has almost destroyed me. After spending countless hours lying on his floor praying he’ll fall asleep, the last thing I want to do is wake him up stepping on that board. Squeaky doors? I’m just going to take them all of their hinges. Or go to some sort of cat burglar crash course in how to be more sneaky.
How to Remove Objects from a Nose
Maybe you think this is covered under basic first aid, but not so, my friends. There are actual techniques for this sort of thing. For example, do not put any kind of finger or tool up there. Is it close enough to the nostril that you can pinch above it and push it out? Or should you try to blow it out like in that viral video that’s been going around (doctors say no, by the way, so THANKS FOR NOTHING VIRAL VIDEO)? Or do you have to go to freaking urgent care over this?? No one prepared us for A.) That level of decision making. B.) That kind of medical know-how.
Tetris Level Packing Skills
No one told me that I should have been spending WAY more time playing Tetris in preparation for parenthood. From packing a diaper bag, to packing my car for a day trip, to packing my daughter’s backpack on show and tell day (which is much more complicated than one would originally believe, I assure you), I use way more spatial awareness on the daily than I ever imagined I would.
Emotional Awareness of Others, Bordering on Psychic Ability
In the thirteen seconds it takes from when my daughter first appears in the dismissal line to when her teacher hands her over at the gate, I have to decide what kind of mood she is in and how to react appropriately. Will a big hug make her push me or melt her like a popsicle? Should I dare ask how school went? Does she want to walk or should I prepare for a battle about whether or not I am going to carry her to the car? It seems like an impossible task, one I am certainly untrained for. But I gotta say…for an impossible task, I’m getting pretty darn good at it.
How to Put Gloves on a Child
Ooooohhhhh, you think this is easy? That’s cute. Because guess what? Kids can’t move one finger at a time. And eight of their little fingers fit into one glove finger. So you sit there like a rational adult saying “Move this finger, no pull this one one, okay put the big one back in, no not that one, the other one, wait, now we’re back how we started!,” before you realize that you are fighting a losing battle. Better to take your chances with frostbite and save your sanity.
What other skills do you wish they’d told you that you’d need as a parent?
Okay, so it can’t just be us- kids’ movies give us all.the.feelings sometimes. Trolls? Who didn’t shed a little tear at that beautiful True Colors Duet? Or Finding Dory-did anyone else catch that her poor parents missed her ENTIRE CHILDHOOD? They can’t get that back, people! But that reunion, sigh. So lovely. And don’t even get me started on Up. Like, I can’t. I just can’t.
The most recent culprit? Moana, by a landslide. But Moana can affect everyone so differently, and for such different reasons. Will you simply trip on a taro root? Remind yourself that you know the way? Or discover friggin’ happiness is WHERE YOU ARE?!? Whoa, Moana. Whoa.
So? Where are you on the Sob-Spectrum?
Jaymi: Oh dear God, Lila is Moana. She loves her grandmas, she strays from convention, and she has to go her own way. She is strong, beautiful, and brave. She trusts her instincts and chooses her own path, but thoughtfully and responsibly. She knows who she is and can always find her way. And we just don’t freaking understand her sometimes. So, it’s sweet little tears for the first twenty minutes or so. And then at the part where she decides to leave, and the dad is mad cause he doesn’t understand yet, and the mom just gives her a little nod and helps her pack?!? It is like a flash forward to college, when Lila’s heading off to study fashion design in Tibet and I have to be like, “follow that voice inside, Lila” when really I want to be like, “Get your ass into nursing school.” Total onslaught of waterworks.
Christine: Don’t get me wrong. I’m made of stone. The whole “daughter going on a journey” thing? I can keep it together there. At this point Moana is a delightful story of a girl that wants to be on the ocean. Love it. Catchy tunes, that Maui cracks me up, and OH the crab. I get my old times Flight of the Conchords fix from the crab. Fun, fun, fun. And then she’s alone. On a boat. With the ghost of her Grandma. Singing. And that’s kind of a game changer. Because for us – family is EVERYTHING. And yes, my Nana passed away a little bit ago, so sue me if I cling to an eccentric cartoon Grandma. So when her Grandma sings to her and there’s a freaking key change, so you know it’s about to get real, and Moana finds out that “the call isn’t out there at all it’s inside me,” yeah, I start to get a little watery. Can you blame me?? And sure, maybe when she runs back to Ghost Grandma and the music swells as she says, “I will carry you here in my heart you’ll remind me that come what may, I know the way” my eyes swell too. I mean, she IS MOANA.
Chad (Christine’s Husband): You guys are crying at the wrong part. You cry when Moana is walking to Teka to restore the heart. I mean, she’s crossed the horizon to restore the heart and fix all of mankind! It’s about societal restoration and no matter what people do to you it’s how you respond. Moana telling Teka, “they have stolen the heart from inside you, but this does not define you” is a message to all of us that we are more than our circumstances! And fighting doesn’t get you anywhere, that’s why Maui failed. But you need someone that sees you. You just need that love, someone to say “this is not who you are, I know who you are.” It’s all about the love.
Michael (Jaymi’s Husband): Wait, you guys cry at Moana?
Everyone Else: You DON’T cry at Moana?!?
Michael: I don’t cry. Also, it’s a cartoon. Calm down.
The minute we moved into our house, I started dog hunting. I pored over animal rescue group Facebook pages, I searched City-funded shelters, I even looked up breeders and in pet stores. I knew my dog’s name was Ace, I knew he was under a year old, and I knew in my heart he was out there somewhere just waiting for me to find him and bring him home.
I had puppy fever.
And when we found him, it was love at first sight. My husband and I looked at each other and said, “This is Ace.” And when we got him out of the kennel to take him home, I swear to you, he knew we were his people, and he knew who we were. He pulled us until we were basically horizontal, straight to our car (he magically knew which one was ours his), waited impatiently until we opened the car door, and jumped right in. He never looked back, and neither did we.
We called him our baby. We fed him the best of foods, paid for the most expensive trainers, and bought him about 1,100 beds until we found the one he liked best. He had a million toys, he had playdates, he had long walks on the beach and hours at the park. People were like, “when are you going to have babies?” And we’re like, “we have one.”
They always responded with side eye, a smug little smirk, or sometimes with distaste, like what we’d said was offensive at best, sacrilege at worst. “Wait until you get kids, you’ll see. It’s different.”
So we got a kid. And I know you think you know where this is going.
But Ace is still our baby.
We still celebrate his birthday each year with a cake. His new leash cost more than my purse did. He has beds in each room of the house, and custom-made water and food bowls that we bought for him on Etsy. We photograph him. We walk him. We love him. He is our vacuum cleaner, our motivation to stay active, and our evening-tv-time-snuggler. We tell the kids that Ace was here first, and that he is their big brother, and they need to respect him. They love him, and they mostly accept that this is the way things go.
So no, we didn’t ditch Ace the moment people-babies entered our household. We taught him to run alongside a baby stroller, and to stay in his spot in the house and away from the kids’ rooms, and we taught the Salties that Ace is not a pony or a plaything or a jungle gym. And we keep a very close eye on them because, let’s be honest, life is unpredictable and dogs are dogs and kids are kids.
And Ace? Ace is family. From long before he actually arrived until long after he is gone, he’s our family. And he always will be.
It seems that every other weekend or so, my husband gets it in his head that we NEED something from Costco. A part of me seizes up inside because carts and samples and hot dogs and toys and clothes and so many things for the kids to ask for and so many places for them to get lost! Another part of me knows that I CANNOT send my husband alone because he will come home with a new TV, 96 beers, a giant tool chest, a squatty potty 2-pack and a gallon of potato salad. He will spend $800 and will not get the paper towels we were going for in the first place.
One might think, take a page from Jaymi’s playbook! Divide and conquer!! Check things off your list, girl! And I admit, that sounds good. But somewhere along the line we got into the habit of just being together all weekend. Even if that means five of us strolling through Costco trying not to lose each other. And for me, after five days of braving the day to day parenting alone, I want to attach to Chad like a barnacle and have him there to help deal with any tantrums, freakouts, blowouts, accidents, or injuries.
So most Saturdays, after our family breakfast, we drive through the car wash (another family favorite) and then head to Costco. We’ve gotten it down to a bit of a science, so here’s what works for us – including a couple tips I KNOW you’ll love!!
Don’t be shy about the samples.
I used to be so embarrassed to hover by the samples and get enough for Chad and the kids. No longer. I proudly announce that I’m with an entourage and take however many samples I need to survive until we get to the next aisle. Maybe even one for the road. It’s easier than having my kids throw a fit in the middle of the store. And guess what? No one cares! Except maybe the other people hovering waiting for free food, but guess what? I waited my turn patiently (I’ll turn into the sample police when it comes to waiting your turn) and they can wait for theirs. There will be more. Grab your stash and carry on.
Set limits about toys/books/craft supplies early.
My kids go ape-shit for the books and toys at Costco. And they often have giant bins of some sort of crafts for sale. Unless you want eighty thousand puff balls and 40 baggies of glitter all over your house, set limits before you even get out of the car. I like to tell the kids they can get a book just to keep them happy. In our house we will (almost) always allow books. And a book or two is better than listening to my kids cry desperately for a GIANT BEAR THE SIZE OF MY CAR. We always give the bear a hug though. I’m not a monster.
Ask the cashier for an extra receipt.
Yeah, you heard me right, your kids do NOT have to fight until the end of days over who gets to carry the receipt to the door and get a happy face. If you ask nicely, your cashier will print out a little extra paper so that each kid has their own!! This was maybe one of the most life-changing parenting tips I have ever received. So you’re welcome. Now, if your kids are like mine and decide to try to make the person working the exit play Pictionary with them I do not have help for you. But I do know sometimes they’ll draw a fish if you ask nicely.
At the food court – ask the cashier to cut your pizza slice in half.
You know how the pizza slices at Costco are HUGE and your kids each want one and refuse to share? So you end up asking for a plastic knife and hacking through the thing like a bad slasher movie? No need my friends! If you ask, they will straight up slice your piece in half. AND give you an extra plate. You just gotta slide that over real stealth like and your kids have their own slice. I know. Life changing info here.
So yes, doing all the things as a family can be intimidating, but with a few tricks and tips, I promise it’s not as miserable as it sounds. And if it all backfired on you, the iced mocha at the food court isn’t half bad. You earned it.
Yesterday you got to meet Jaymi’s little ones, and I know what you’re thinking: mic drop stuff. Trust me, I know. I love that little sassafras and my meatball like they were my own. It’s one of the many benefits of knowing someone’s kids basically since they were covered in vernix. (Too far? Sorry. But true). But ladies and gentledads, don’t write off the rest of the Salties just yet. Mine are kinda badass too.
So, without further adieu, I’d like you to meet my three: Cole, Evie and Izzie.
Cole. Holy moly, where to start with Cole? Honestly, I’m not even sure.
Here’s the thing…I was actually supposed to be the one to post yesterday, but for the life of me I COULD NOT FIGURE OUT HOW TO DESCRIBE COLE. So you know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? Here’s a picture that might help:
This wasn’t something special. This was just like a Tuesday. He’s a performer that just wants to entertain and make people laugh. And damned if he doesn’t succeed every time. He loves to play in the dirt with toy dinosaurs and touches ALL the bugs, building them habitats and taking care of them like beloved pets. He also likes to wear costumes, sing, dance and get his nails painted. When you think you have him figured out, he will throw you a fastball. Oh yeah, he’s also like REALLY good at ball sports despite my great desire to never attend a little league baseball game. He’s also a really, REALLY good big brother, which is probably one of my favorite things about him. Also, dimples.
Evie. My little Grumpy Cat. This girl was born with a scowl on her face and a naughty twinkle in her eye. Sometimes I feel like I’m in physical pain because of how cute she is and the rest of the time she is driving me nuts. I’m pretty sure she’s the former out of necessity of the latter. She’s very particular and knows what she wants. I have high hopes that this will serve her well as a young woman, despite being utter hell for her Mama during the toddler years. She loves to play in the dirt while wearing a dress and “farkle jelly shoes.” (See picture above). She’s lightened up considerably in her short two years, and now spends most of her time striving to be as silly as her brother. And she’s giving him a run for his money.
Izzie. My little Love Nugget. She is leaps and bounds more snuggly than any of my other kids. I had high hopes that she was also going to be my most well-behaved child, but then she stared at me in the eyes and took two steps. The week she turned 9 months. So I’m pretty sure she’s decided to defect and join the Bigs in their attempts at mutiny. At least after playing she always wants to come back to snuggle with Mama. She pretends to be shy, but loves anyone and everyone. She has stinky little feet, an ear piercing squeal, and thinks sleeping more than two hours at a time is for losers. But we love her anyway.
I know every mom thinks their kids are the coolest, and I’m no exception. Mine are pretty awesome. I mean, most days anyways. Other days I threaten to throw them both in the trashcan twice before 8 am. But that’s for another post. This post is for introducing you to my two little salties, the little cuties that made me a mama and the reason I drink have so much to say on this blog.
Lila, Age Four- Lila is something. That little girl started acting up in the womb, pressing her little booty against my tummy and shaking it for all the world to see. We promptly had to change her name from the sweet, demure Caroline we had planned to the takes-on-the-world-and-makes-no-apologies name Lila. And she has not disappointed. Lila is petite, has this tiny voice, and has an incredible spark. My daughter is smart and fierce, she catches attention everywhere she goes, and is incredibly bossy shows amazing leadership skills. She loves making new friends, and can play with them for hours. She loves fashion and makeup, has five boyfriends at any given time, and loves nothing more than putting on a show for people. She was born a diva, and she’s still going strong.
Abram, Age Two- Abram is alllllll boy. He loves basketball, cars, and super heroes. Though I never intended to buy him toy guns, he started “Pew-Pewing” people with a wrapping-paper-shotgun around 16 months old, and he received about 1,110 nerf guns for his second birthday. He is quite the charmer, and knows how to shoot you a winning smile after he breaks the TV, or give a sweet kiss and “sorry” after kicking you in the knee. He is busy but easygoing, and as cuddly as he is strong. We are constantly laughing at our silly little guy, and giving him a thousand hugs and kisses- when we can catch him, that is.
So those are my two little Salties, but there’s more where that came from. There’ll be a whole other set of Salties to learn about tomorrow! In the meantime, we’d love to hear more about YOUR little Salties. Drop a comment to tell us about your babies below!
Now sure, most of us do, but I’m brave enough to admit that I can be kind of, well, obnoxious about it. I’m also incredibly stubborn. I know, it’s an incredibly attractive combination ain’t it? But I try, oh how I try, to not say, “I told you so.” Especially often. Especially to my husband.
Lucky for me, said husband is also phenomenally stubborn, so we’re really two peas in a pod. He also is one of those delightful people that has to learn things the hard way. There is no amount of talking that will convince him that his way is not the right way.
So while I fretted about our trip to the cabin for weeks, he quickly dismissed my concerns, telling me not to worry about it. We were going with some of his family, and the quarters are somewhat cramped. I asked him repeatedly to make a couple calls to find out what the sleeping arrangements were. I do better being able to visualize where I’m going to sleep, where my kids are going to sleep, and depending on their proximity to me, how much alcohol to bring to survive.
He said we’d figure it out when we got there and it wouldn’t be a big deal. I took a deep breath, and chose to trust him.
I was worried about my husband’s expectations for the week…he wanted to take Cole fishing. He wanted us to go on a family hike to the Wishbone tree – a 45 minute hike each way. He wanted us to stay up and cook s’mores and share his love of the great outdoors with our kids. I worried about the record breaking river levels and it’s speed. I hate hiking and was skeptical our 2 and 4 year olds would be up for the trek. I warned that if we let them go too many days without a nap and staying up late they’d turn into actual literal monsters. They may grow horns and extra eyes, I don’t know, I just know that it’s not advised to try.
He thought I was just being negative.
He grew up at the cabin. He knew what he was doing. I’d see.
Now this is where you have to decide, dear reader: Which of us stubborn ass people won the day and got to be right?
Have I built up enough suspense??
Okay, I won’t make you wait any longer…..
That’s right. Me. This is NOT one of those posts where I realize that my kids are lovely, that my husband is capable and thoughtful, that I just need to take the road less traveled and be brave and bend the rules and not be such a rigid, negative, naggy B of a wife.
No, this is a post where the moral of the story is TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS!
Because here’s what happened our first night: The baby was asleep, a minor miracle with all the excitement of a new place, the kids were just finishing up a movie, their beds set up, and we had almost made it to bedtime. And then it happened: My husband’s Aunt and a carful of teenagers pulled up. They came in the house, guns of excitement blazing, woke up the baby, amped up the other kids and killed any chance my husband had of being right.
We had arrived first and taken the “Master” room, as it was the largest room and we, the largest family. But apparently that room wasn’t to stay ours for long and we had to cede it to the Aunt who basically complained until we gave up. So then we had to move the beds – the ones we had set up for all three of our kids, shown to them, explained how this was the place they’d be sleeping, etc. – to the other, much smaller, room. The teenagers were to sleep in the attic via a ladder. A ladder that the teens had to go up and down one hundred thousand times in the first seven minutes of being there. A ladder that is VERY enticing to 2 and 4 year olds. 2 and 4 year olds that are supposed to be going to sleep even. Especially?
Three hours later, we had the baby back down and the other 2 were wavering between complete and total exhaustion and an undeniable desire to be outside around the campfire with their cousins. A delightful combination let me assure you.
The first morning went a little better…because pancakes are generally a uniting force no matter your age or how much sleep you got the night before.
And then we hiked.
We slathered on sunscreen and deet, I put the baby in her carrier and we put the 2 year old in the hiking backpack. Off we went! And everyone LOVED it.
For four minutes. We got hot, but we trudged on. The kids got heavy, but we trudged on. We got hungry and THIRSTY, but we trudged on. And then we found a GOD DAMNED ROTTING MOUNTAIN LION CARCASS. We did not trudge on. Cole burst into tears, and stubborn Daddy started to crack realizing this whole thing was a terrible mistake. I may have never loved him more than when he latched onto the giant dead animal on the trail as an excuse to turn around and head back.
As we walked back Daddy said, “Well, you’re a trooper.”
“And this has been kind of a mess.”
“And it’s been a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”
“And? Come on…give it to me…..”
“And you were right.”
God, I love to be right. But sometimes I really wish we didn’t have to live out all the wrong to get to the right…
Ahh. It’s the weekend. Everybody’s home, there are activities galore, and it’s time for a well-deserved respite from the day-to-day. The kids feel the difference in the air, and they start putting in requests. After all, there are no limits today- you want a popsicle? Sure. 76 hours of Peppa Pig? No problem. You want to ride your bike allll the way to park? Do. Your. Thing.
But… first you’re gonna have to let mom and dad do a little logisticking. Cause we got stuff to do, too.
I’m not sure this is a popular thing to say, but around here our weekends are not necessarily for togetherness. I mean, it creeps in plenty. There are meals together, and trips to the park. But for us, that’s not the point of the weekend. The weekend is for getting stuff done, and everyone getting a chance to do what they want to do. We divide, and we conquer.
At our house, weekends mean that it’s time for the grown-ups to have their dreams come true, too. You want to binge watch Netflix? Let’s make it happen. Mama wants to sit at Starbucks for an hour ALL BY HERSELF? Go for it! The cars need washed/you have to go clothes shopping/you have to do any task that sucks when the kids are along for the ride? Oh, it’s going down.
Which is why, right this minute, I am writing this from the lobby of a McDonald’s fine dining establishment, enjoying a Diet Coke and French fries, both the size of my head, and both deliciously, gloriously, mine-all-mine. There are no children poking me, I’ve got my creative pursuits spread out across a booth that belongs just to me, and I am getting the full use of their free wifi on all three of my devices, which no one is begging to use to watch toy videos. It’s not always McDonalds, and it’s not always just quiet time. Mostly, it’s just my chance to get out of the house, do some grown-up stuff, and pursue my own interests for a minute. And if you think about it, an hour and a half a week is definitely not too much to ask. So why shouldn’t we be focused on making it happen? And this quality time with little old me is just one piece of the pie.
Maybe later today I’ll take the kids to the gym for an hour or two so he can watch his movie, and tomorrow he’ll take the kids while I duck out for a quick haircut. I’ll take my turn with the kids and so will he, and together we’ll engage in a delicate dance where the kids get fun time with each parent, without them even knowing that the other one is getting a much deserved break. So we spend a little time apart, and when we get back together, we are refreshed and rejuvenated. We are ready to change the diapers, and read the same book 74 times, and push the kids on the swings for a hundred years, and make three complete dinners because little miss decided that tonight she is EXTRA hungry.
But none of that is gonna happen yet. Right now I’m gonna put on my headphones, drink a few Diet Cokes, and bust out the blogs I’ve been trying to get finished since last Wednesday. I’ll read a few chapters of the RBG book I’ve been wanting to get through, spend a few minutes catching up on texts and Facebook messages, and then I’ll close up shop and head home to my family, where, if I’m being honest, I’m gonna be much less grouchy and a lot more relaxed than I was a few hours ago. I’ll probably get a warm welcome, like I’m a soldier returning from battle, instead of someone who spent just shy of 90 minutes in a fast food joint. There will hopefully be a few hugs and kisses, and then we’ll leash up the dog and head out en masse to go conquer the park. And this time, we’ll be ready to take that one on, together.