I have to be honest right upfront…you know that shirt that’s been making its social media rounds
No? Haven’t seen that one yet? Maybe it just pops up for me because Facebook knows me too well. I AM the world’s okayist mom. All. The. Time.
Sometimes I like to daydream that maybe, just maybe, someone someday will pick me up and plop me on a platform to award me the World’s BEST Mom gold medal, but then I feel my daughters’ little fingers (yes, daugherS’ plural, and yes, fingerS plural…no typos there) poking their way into my nose and I snap out of my daydream and whine at them to please stop, mommy needs a little break. And it’s true, mommies always need little breaks, right? We constantly push children off of us in order to cook dinner. We relish the times when we’re able to grocery shop by ourselves. We vie for the day when we’ll be able to take a shower in peace and quiet again instead of being crowded by tiny little butts, connected to tiny little heads all crying because they have soap in their eyes.
We put a pool in our backyard this summer. I know…you should feel jealous. It’s awesome. Better than awesome. It’s a double helping of incredible complete with extra gravy. We made the conscious decision to not sign our daughters up for any summer camps and took the leap to say no to unnecessary obligations, trips, logistics, and any other noises that buzzed in our ears. In the words of Dick Van Dyke as Edgar Hopper in What a Way to Go, we chose to “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!”
And it was lovely. I committed to only cooking easy pool-side meals instead of trying to impress everyone with my incredible gourmet cuisine (note the word trying). I didn’t feel like a bum for not putting makeup on or doing my hair because, hey, I was just going to jump in the pool. I left my phone inside all day because who wants to risk their precious device getting splashed by giggling children?? I bought about a gazillion new swimming suits and got into the pool with my children - letting them climb all over me. It’s somehow more tolerable in a pool…I don’t know.
We had some friends over one day and I joked that it was shaping up to be the least productive summer ever! My friend looked out at the pool where our kids where splashing and laughing with the biggest smiles on their faces - like there wasn’t a care in the world, and he asked me, “Don’t you mean the MOST productive summer?” And of course, he was right. I was there. I was fully present with my family. And it was SO FREAKIN’ FUN! For a couple of blissful months, I let go of adulting and got to be on the same level as my kids. I fully earned that WORLD’S BEST MOM gold medal.
that's not actually me in the pool with my daughters..it's their swim teacher. I was just too lazy to look for another picture. Call it summer mode
Until one day when my daughters wanted to run a lemonade stand. Let me paint the picture: my girls don’t half-ass their lemonade stands. They insist on making fresh-squeezed lemonade table side for their customers. This means a trip to the grocery store because who has two dozen lemons laying around. Plus, I’m in charge of boiling down a simple syrup for them. They must have their insanely awkward-to-carry picnic table complete with umbrella hauled down to the bottom of the driveway. They’d be crushed if I didn’t scrounge up their cash box. Yes, they have a cash box. All things said, it’s not a huge deal, but it’s enough of a deal that it’s sometimes hard to say yes to. As most things parent-related are, right? It’s like, if I come up with an idea of something do to, I’m totally game. But, the second they come up with an idea and ask me to help? I get all shifty and come up with a million excuses why I can’t participate. And it’s always the dumbest stuff!
“Hey mom, could you read this book to me?”
“Uhh….well…not right now. I really need to…uh….poop.”
- or -
“Mommy, will you play dress up with me?”
“Sorry, I need to start dinner.”
“Didn’t we just eat lunch?”
“Yeah…it’s going to take a long time to prep.”
Why is saying yes to our kids so hard? Seriously, I don’t get it. So, I choked down all my excuses and agreed to help out with the lemonade stand. And, of course, as anyone could predict, it was (and always is) awesome.
We made the choice to have children and took full responsibility for all the…well, responsibilities of parenting. And it’s a total catch 22, because all the responsibilities of parenting keep us from having fun with our kids! But, my friend was exactly right - any time I can give those responsibilities the finger and be fully present with my kids over being an adult? Those are my most productive moments.
So, I'm in L.A. at the BlogHer annual conference right now (#blogher16), and as you can imagine - there is a lot of estrogen flying around here. Which, I must say, is really awesome. A roomful of kickass women is a powerful thing and I'm on a major high from it.
BUT, there's one buzz word that has been circulating a bit around here and its bringing up some feelings for me: FEMINISM.
Honestly, that word has been gently gnawing at me ever since I received one of the first reviews for my book, I'd Rather Wear Pajamas, last fall. You see, my story is all about finding my own version of strong after discovering that stumbling around trying to fit into other people's ideals for me just doesn't work. This reviewer started off by giving my book glowing praise, but then ultimately bashed it because at one teensy tiny point, I mention in a single sentence that I don't consider myself to be a stand-on-the-rooftop-and-declare-female-rights feminist. The reviewer made the argument that feminism is all about giving women the right to do anything a man can do. Fair enough. Could a man go off to find his own version of strong after discovering that he doesn't fit into other people's ideals of him? Sure. So, by this definition, Yes I am a feminist. I cowered and apologized to her directly, saying it was an ignorant oversight on my part (probably a very UNfeminist thing to do) and went about my life. But, it really got me thinking about what it means to be a feminist. I mean, isn't hoping for equality for yourself as well as everyone around you more than feminism? Isn't it humanism?
That was months ago. I've since received dozens more reviews, mostly great, and some not so great. But none of them have stuck with me as much as that one feminist comment. I've lost sleep over contemplating what it would look like to re-release my book just to get rid of that one word. Would that make a difference? Would it make more people happy? Would it be authentic to me? Do I fully embrace ALL the aspects of feminism?
Let me stop here and just say that I am 100% in support of feminism and I FULLY agree with the notion that women should be allowed all the same rights as men. Completely onboard with that. Sign, seal, deliver. And by that definition alone, I am a proud feminist. But, there's a darker side of feminism that I see creeping here and there, which makes me cringe. The little section of feminism (and I'm well aware that it's a small percentage of the movement) that pushes men down in order to let women rise up. I mean, in having all the same rights as men, shouldn't that mean we don't put ourselves above men?
As the mother of three young girls, I want nothing more than for them to grow up knowing that they could be an architect or an engineer or the freaking president of the United States. I tell them that day in and day out and will be there as their biggest fan in anything they choose to do. BUT, I don't want to encourage them to belittle men to get there. I mean, isn't that just separating out the sexes again?
My daughter has a shirt that says Strong Like a Girl, which I thought was a fun, empowering little phrase. But, my daughter - six years old and forever wiser than me - asked me what it meant. I explained that girls can be strong, just like boys. To which she responded, "So, why doesn't it just say strong like a person?" And I was speechless.
Part of our "homework" for this conference was to watch a handful of feminist tv ads and to vote for the ones we thought best captured the movement, or whatever. Some of the ads were legitimately awesome. Some of them even made me cry (cough, cough - anything featuring a dad and his daughter). A++ to these kinds of messages that simply and strongly say: Girls and women are amazing. That statement can genuinely stand on its own.
But, some of the ads actually made me feel uncomfortable in the way they either belittled men in order to boost up women, or the way they hyper-focused on how great it is that women can do the same things men can. I mean, isn't that teaching my daughters that we have to really put a lot of effort into saying girls are just as good as boys? Or, even worse, teaching them that they need to beat out boys in order to be better?
So, I guess what I'm saying is, I'm choosing humanism instead of feminism. I'm choosing an -ism that respects every human, regardless of sex. I'm choosing to teach my daughters not to strive to be better, or get more, than boys, but to strive to be the best humans they can be. And to help the people around them - men and women - to do the same.
It's not that I don't want to hang out with my kids on Mothers Day. I do - they're cool kids (I'm a proud mom, what can I say?) The thing is, I don't want to hang out with them like a mom. I want to hang out with them like a grandma.
I want somebody else to make them breakfast while I sit at the table sipping tea and sneaking them extra squirts of whipped cream.
I want somebody else to do the dishes while I romp off with the kids to play fairies and pick flowers.
I want to take the kids out to ice cream and cheerfully allow them two scoops AND sprinkles AND a sugar cone. And then I want to hand them off to somebody else once the sugar crash comes.
I want to buy them any toy they want at the toy store and then silently distance myself when they start fighting over each other's new item.
I want to do all the cuddling, but none of the diaper changing or nose wiping.
I want to be the recipient of all the big hugs but none of the big screams or protests.
I want to take them out for even more ice cream right before bedtime without paying any mind to the fact that they'll never fall asleep.
I want to brush and braid their hair without them turning into floppy fish.
I want to read bedtime stories then leave before the whining and restlessness starts.
I want to keep them up playing all night without having to be the one to wake up to their cranky, overtired cries at 6am.
That's all I want. To be a grandma for a day. I'll even put on pantyhose and wear orange lipstick if it'll help me get the job.
It had started out like any other day. In my random attempts to marketing, I had haphazardly decided to take advantage of being part of the Kindle Direct Publishing program and signed up to do a promo on my lovely little book, I'd Rather Wear Pajamas. I set a date to "sell" my book for free for five days.
Next, I blindly partnered up with BookBub to help promote my free ebook stint. Then, I went about my life as usual.
That is, until I did my nightly check-in the first day of my promo. I was curious to see if I had sold even a single copy of my book that day (which, as any author knows, is a big accomplishment), Boy, was I shocked with what I saw:
To start, see what I mean by being excited to sell even a single copy a day? The first several days on this graph (and many more before those) are total snooze-fests, amiright? But then, there's that peak. I figured, based on the lines, that I had sold 4.5 ebooks that day. I considered it a huge success! To confirm my findings, my eyes scanned to the "Units" number and keyed in on this
11.5 THOUSAND people had ordered my book in one day. I was as surprised as a baby goat wearing pajamas getting startled by...another baby goat wearing pajamas
I timidly made my way over to Amazon, wondering if by any chance those free copies I sold affected my standing. When I first published my book, I intentionally selected some pretty niche categories to attach my book to, knowing that the smaller the competition in any category, the better my chances of having a bestseller. And that's why my quirky memoir is listed under "culinary humor essay." I mean, I do talk about cooking like...twice...
Unbelievably, my book came up as the #1 bestseller in not one, but TWO different categories. Because, here's the thing - there's an entire section of Amazon bestsellers specifically for free ebooks. Say wha?!
I went from having a book in the top 300 (at best) to being first in its class for FIVE SOLID DAYS. I'm still in shock.
Turns out, people really really love free stuff.
So, there you go. You too can become an Amazon bestseller. It's all about setting the right micro niche for your book, not being afraid to give copies away, and finding someone to help get the word out.
I know people love their minivans. I hear about it all the time; from the mom of a trillion kids who has an after school carpool shift, to the adorable family singing about their swagger wagon in those catchy commercials.
I know how convenient and easy they make your life. I mean, they have a freaking vacuum built into them. Heaven, here I come!
Tired of (thinking about) leaving "sorry" notes every time my kids dinged the car doors into somebody else's car, I timidly said to my husband one night, "I think I'm ready for a minivan."
I expected him to freak out and talk me out of it on the spot, but much to my chagrin, he nodded and agreed that our decision to have that third child forced us into the "not-cool-car club."
The next morning, I went about life as usual until I got a call from my husband. "I just signed all the paperwork for you to pick up your new car tomorrow. It'll be a straight up exchange for our car, just bring the keys!" My jaw dropped. I was the proud owner of a new caaaaar!!! (said in a tv-show type of voice)
My kids were thrilled to pieces about the new family member. They poured over pictures of it online, and I even overheard my oldest daughter telling her friend that "minivans are soooo cool. They're like real vans, only smaller."
But, even with all the buzz, I was mortified. I didn't really want a minivan, did I? I mean, sure, that built in vacuum...(drooling). Alright, twist my arm. I can totally handle it. I don't care what I drive anyway; that's never been my thing. I won't be embarrassed. In fact, I'll rock my swagger wagon like nobody has ever seen!
But, even after my little pep talk, I felt really nervous driving into the parking lot full of mom-mobiles. I suddenly loved my car for everything it was (even though I'm known to complain about it quite regularly). Why was I giving up a good thing for a bubble on wheels?
My fingers involuntarily gripped the key as I tried to hand it over to the sales guy. I needed an out. I had to stall for time until I thought of an out!
"Can I take it for a test drive first?" I shyly asked, as if nobody every wanted to test drive a car before. The salesperson hopped into shotgun and we drove around the neighborhood - getting lost only once, which is a huge success for me. The sales guy chatted about his kids and something about Disneyland or whatever. I wasn't listening. I was FREAKING OUT.
And then, it came to me. My garage! This dumb minivan may not fit in my garage! Because my garage is similar to the bat cave. It's in a tiny alley and you have to make like a 20-point star turn just to get a bike into it, let alone a car.
"So...here's the thing," I said confidently, now that I knew my out. "This monstrosity might not fit into my garage. I need to know that if I take it off the lot and it doesn't fit, I can bring it back no questions asked and get my old car back."
He raised his eyebrow at me - as most people do when they try to imagine a garage that is built to fend off cars instead of attract them. Maybe also because most people don't buy a car first and then say it might not work out. "Uh...sure, no problem."
"GREAT!" My buttcheeks released for the first time that day. "I need to run quick to the grocery store and then I'll call you when I get home to let you know the verdict."
"Perfect! I'm sure you'll fall in love with it once you see how well it does on a grocery trip."
I drove the minivan off the lot, shielding my face in case anyone I knew happened to be driving next to me. I had no idea how self conscious I could feel in a vehicle. I wasn't myself. I felt like I could drive like a total crazy woman and nobody would even bat an eye because, hey - she's in a minivan.
I dug through my purse to find my darkest sunglasses and put my hair up in a way I don't normally wear it - JUST TO GET THROUGH THE GROCERY STORE PARKING LOT WITHOUT BEING NOTICED. Celebrities everywhere, I felt your pain that afternoon.
I did my shopping and looked around before darting back to the car as inconspicuously as possible. Then, I headed home praying that this new car wouldn't fit in my garage.
After a good ten minutes of trying to maneuver that thing, I was relieved to find that I couldn't do it. WHEW! I called my husband - who was out of town and waiting at the airport to fly home - who said, "see if they'll let you keep it overnight. I'll try to fit it into the garage in the morning."
To which, I responded an over-eager "NO, that's okay. I'm just going to return it now."
I took it back and, much to the sales guy's dismay, asked for my old car back. Sometimes all it takes is losing something for a minute to appreciate it even more. A rainbow framed my car and I swear it purred "hello" to me as I got in it to drive home. "I'm sorry, car. I'll never abandon you again," I hugged the steering wheel and cried with joy.
My oldest daughter, on the other hand, ran up to her bedroom and cried for a solid hour when I broke the news to her that we were not the owners of a new van, only smaller.
*Let me start of by making it clear that there was NO problem using InstaCart. It was a delightfully easy service that saved me time. Who doesn't want that? All the faults addressed below have to do with me, the user. Not InstaCart. Thank you*
Technology is awesome. I mean like, amazing monkey awesome. Of course, this isn't news; we all know computers make our lives exponentially better. BUT, we also all have our love/hate relationship with them, amiright?
Take, for example, my (all too common) technology blunders. It's hard living in a world of screens when you're a kinesthetic learner. I know, big word...it means I learn by touching and exploring things. Which is why I'm one of the few nerds out there who loves going grocery shopping. Seriously, a favorite pastime. I love comparing nutrition facts between brands. I love getting suckered into buying crappy products because they have cool packaging. I love guessing what overhead music will be playing based on the time of day. Big time NERD ALERT.
But, I've heard a lot of buzz about these life-changing companies that actually do your grocery shopping for you. You fill out a little online form and an hour later, BAM, your food arrives with a smile. Well, your food isn't smiling, but hopefully your delivery person is. Unless you ordered 20 bowling balls and he has to carry them up three flights of stairs to get to your front door. I know that's not a realistic scenario - he'd probably just take the elevator.
We got home from a trip yesterday to an empty fridge and no time in the day to run to the store to fill it. So, I gave in and created an Instacart account.
Let me stop right there and give you a little background. I'm a complete failure when it comes to online shopping, re: kinesthetic learner. I never have the patience to read through product descriptions and somehow often order multiple times more than I need, or a different item altogether. I don't know.
Take for example our 2010 Cinco de Mustache party. I know. You so want to be my friend right now.
Guys, it was a great party. You really should have been there
One item on my to-do list was "purchase mustaches" (as should be an item on anybody's to-do list). I hopped onto Amazon, found a pack of 50 sticker mustaches and viola! they were on their way. Two days later, a GIANT box arrives on our front porch with not 50, but 500 mustaches inside. 500 mustaches, people. I had somehow accidentally ordered 500 mustaches. Six years later, we still have a box full of about 450 mustaches. Let me know if you ever need one. They sometimes just show up for fun because, why not.
I know, I know - this post isn't about pictures of people wearing mustaches. But, when it comes to mustaches, can anybody really contain themselves?
I have also ordered 5 packages of 5-pairs-of-socks thinking "hey, I want five pairs of socks. I guess I should order five." WITHOUT REALIZING ONE PACKAGE CONTAINED FIVE PAIRS. It's bad.
So, I really shouldn't have been surprised when, at my front door yesterday (accompanied by a very smiley delivery person), these items show up:
- Shredded Pepper Jack cheese instead of shredded cheddar. The look of betrayal on my children's faces was real when I handed them quesadillas without telling them about the spicy addition
- Bizarrely-flavored yogurt. We're talking like caramel with pineapple chunks..? Who even eats that? I guess I will now that it's in my fridge.
- Chocolate flavored coconut water. I know some of you (aka, anyone who eats regular, non-hippie food) may not have even heard of or tried coconut water. It's a health thing. Whatever. But chocolate flavored coconut water? I went to naively pour a glass of coco H2O for my daughter AND IT CAME OUT BROWN. Not what you want to see in your cup if you're not expecting it. You would think it'd be obvious that you're buying chocolate anything when the packaging clearly says "chocolate" all over the place.
So yeah, try out InstaCart. It's great. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to enjoy some caramel pineapple chunk yogurt.
I spent the first two years of my eldest daughter's life wearing myself out with making sure her outfits were just perfect. I was strict with the rule: "no dress-ups outside of the house" and only bought articles of clothing that I would want to wear myself.
As soon as she could voice her opinion, my daughter made if very clear that she was notokay with wearing a black blouse underneath a tailored beige blazer. I have to admit, I was not calculated in deciding to let her start dressing herself. Quite the opposite; I was exhausted from fighting about it and just gave up trying to dictate her outfits. But I quickly discovered the awesome benefits that come from letting your kids dress themselves.
I now have three young daughters, and I've held firm to letting each one pick out her own outfit each morning. We've moved their clothes down to lower shelves and drawers to make them easily accessible for even our two year old.
Do our children come downstairs in ridiculously bizarre outfits more mornings than not? Absolutely!
Why yes, those are earmuffs doubling as a belt
Do we have to send our kids back upstairs every so often because their outfits are actually made out of nothing but yarn? For sure.
BUT, do I get to sit leisurely and sip my tea in the morning instead of running around like a crazy lady trying to get everyone ready for the day. YES! Do my kids have better confidence, independence, and a sense of self? YES!
If you ask me, that's a perfect place for a pair of pants...
And so, I will continue to let my children dress themselves. I'm sure someday, I'll have to check their backpacks to make sure they're not planning on changing into more a more scandalous outfit once they leave the house (didn't we all do that?), but for now, I have no problem letting them go to school wearing butterflies and foxes all at the same time.
Like what you see? Check out my quirky memoir about finding your path in life.
I'D RATHER WEAR PAJAMAS