November 30, 2015: A Particular Place and Time

About the series: Everywhere you hear it: how fast it goes. How one minute you’re griping about “Seriously, is this kid ever going to be potty trained?”, and the next minute she is, in fact, potty trained, and you’re at Target shopping for furniture for her college dorm room. How all the minutes in between have somehow vanished, and the only details you can recall are the ones in the stories you’ve told or the photos you’ve kept. Already, I feel it. My oldest is five and I find myself reaching for memories of the days when it was just the three of us. What did we do? How did she look at me? Was I the same mom to her that I am now, to all three? I can’t stop time, but I want some of it to stick. So I’m starting a new blog series about the moments. The details. The little world I live in. I hope that in my day-to-day you can recognize a bit of your own family and that we can continue to make this journey together.

November 30, 2015. Lunchtime.


Today I made macaroni and cheese. It’s a treat for the kids, something we reserve for dinner on nights when we’ve made a meal we know they won’t even attempt. But peanut butter gives Ceci eczema and I don’t have anything in the house to make a different kind of sandwich. While the noodles boil, I let all three girls play in the playroom. Maggie is circling toys in a catalog that came today in the mail. Ceci has just abandoned a magnetic dress-up doll and asked me to put a fairy princess dress on over her black and silver Star Wars shirt. She tops the look off with a firefighter hat. Wook at my hat, mom. Alex is sitting in the middle of the mess, though I’ve scanned the radius around her and scooped up all the small pieces I can see. She is always happiest near her sisters, regarding them with eyebrows raised, equal parts surprised and in awe of everything they do.

When the noodles are ready, Maggie wants to put in the cheese. I point out the hot burner and let her pull a chair up to the stove. She and Ceci take turns climbing up to stir. Alex clutches the bottom rung of the chair and gazes upward.

The older girls choose to sit next to each other at the table, which Maggie points out, because usually we stagger them as a method of crowd control. Maggie eats ravenously, dragging macaroni up the sides of the bowl with her fingers. I worry sometimes about her manners, but she’s five. Other kids are probably grosser. At least I hope so. Ceci is still wearing her pink crushed velvet dress and eats with tiny bites. Alex has finished her first bowl of squash with applesauce; I get up to get her more and put a few sweet potato puffs on her tray. When those are gone Maggie takes it upon herself to give Alex more, but first she checks beneath the high chair and in Alex’s lap to see if she’s dropped any. These, Maggie eats.

This is lunch. Next is nap. Dishes are abandoned as Maggie and Ceci race upstairs. I give them a head start. They like to hide from me, and while I know their hiding spot – behind the crib, the same one every time – I still play along. There is one spoonful of macaroni remaining in the pot. This, I eat. Then I heft Alex on my hip and head upstairs to join the others.

The Way We Do Christmas


Mustaches and antlers are an integral part of Christmas.

This post may seem untimely; it’s not Christmas yet. I know. We have to do the whole Pilgrims and Indians thing first. But for me, Thanksgiving and Christmas meld together into a month-long megaholiday, a bonanza of family and gluttony and gratitude and travel and stress and spending and peace and eggnog. It’s all in there.

I love Christmas, I do. At the same time, I hate a lot of the things that have come to be associated with it. I mean, consumerism in general gets to me. I feel slightly ill when I allow myself to think about the volume of goods contained in the box stores up and down my town’s commercial main drag: enough, it seems, to feed and clothe just about everyone, everywhere.

And here, in my own home, my two- and five-year-old are hard at work compiling their Christmas lists from items in the catalogs that have begun to fill our mailbox. “Can I circle this, mom?” Maggie asks, pointing to a blow-up slide and ball pit. “You can circle it,” I say, “But it doesn’t mean that’s what you’re going to get.” (Which really means, circle away, but if you think you’ll be playing in a ball pit in our living room on Christmas morning then you’re not as bright as I thought you were.) “Ceci! We’re getting this for Christmas too!” she cries, as she scribbles a huge circle around it and marks it with an “M”.

When I was younger, I had no issue with the way we do Christmas. Heaps and heaps of gifts under the tree, many of them toys or  games or clothes for me, that was just fine. Santa was this amazing guy who spoiled me rotten every year, and my parents were alright too. I’m sure that in some way I was involved in the act of giving as well, but I honestly can’t recall. I guess my memories of all the Christmas gifts I picked out for others were immediately replaced in my brain by the robotic voice on my new Electronic Mall Madness game, which I can still hear clearly saying, “Ooooohhh, long line. Try again later!”


Look mom, my stocking is as big as me!

But bringing three little beings into the world has caused me to closely examine my ideals. I don’t take anything for granted anymore as “just the way we do things”. So I guess it was becoming a mom that made me think twice about Christmas and the way I want my children to experience it.

My husband and I, thankfully, were on the same page about this. We sat down early on and went over some Christmas rules that we would abide by and share with both our families. Here they are, in a nutshell:

  • Santa will bring each child three presents. If our kids ever questioned this, our response would be, “Oh, so you think you’re better than Jesus?”
  • Each child will receive one gift from mom and dad. Ideally, this gift will be the coolest ever and will totally eclipse anything that old elf-labor-exploiting Santa could come up with.
  • Each family member that wants to give our children gifts may give each child only one gift. Note: In the years since making these rules, both grandmas have tried to get around it by wrapping up a whole bunch of stuff in one package. I’ve realized there’s only so much I can do to control a grandma, and this year we’re giving this rule up as a lost cause.
  • Santa fills the stockings. Grandmas may not try to get around the one gift rule by cramming lots of little toys into the stockings. Note: See above note.
  • We highly discourage toys with batteries. This isn’t because there’s anything inherently wrong with battery-operated toys, it’s because all of the battery compartments on kids toys need to be opened with a screwdriver, and mom and dad are way too busy (or possibly lazy… nah, we’ll go with busy) to be fetching a screwdriver every time Baby Cries-a-Lot runs out of steam.

Why the rules? Why can’t we just let our kids enjoy being showered with capitalist goods and bask in the glorious light of their dozens of new battery-operated gifts as a way of celebrating the birth of Christ the Savior? Why do I have to be such a big bah humbug Christmas meanie?


Oh right, that’s what it’s all supposed to be about.

Because raising kind, generous, unselfish, grateful people is no joke. I’m not even sure I’m doing a very good job at it. I do know that I want to steer my children away from the “What do I get?” mentality.  And in the end, I want them to understand this one thing: Christmas is not about you.  That’s right. I love you, but you already have a birthday.

Here are some things that Christmas IS about:

  • Jesus, if you subscribe to the belief that the whole holiday is based upon
  • Peace on Earth
  • Good will to all people
  • Heartfelt giving
  • Quality time with loved ones (When we celebrate with my family this comes in the form of watching Point Break after the little ones go to bed)
  • Good-naturedly mocking the fact that the priest gives the same Christmas homily EVERY YEAR
  • Electronic Mall Madness
  • Eggnog

And on that note, I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgivstmas.


A little mistletoe never hurt anyone. As far as I know.



Why It’s Better to Fly With a Baby Than to Fly Alone


Look, I’m on a plane! And I’m adorable. What a great combination of things to be!

Last Friday I set out on a girls’ weekend to Boston to visit some old friends.  To make the trip a more attractive sell for my husband, I proposed that I bring our youngest child along with me, leaving him with only the two- and five-year-old, as opposed to all three. (I assume this means that he will bring at least one of the children along with him on his next boys’ trip, and will remind him of this whenever the topic should arise.)

Anyway, it had been a while since I’d flown by myself with a baby. I did it when my oldest was little, but as the size of our family increased, the kids generally came as a package deal- all or none. While I was looking forward to seeing my friends in Boston, I did have some anxiety about the long journey: a two-hour drive to the airport in Charlotte, a parking shuttle from the long-term lot, getting all of our crap through security, and then the flight itself. I just wasn’t thrilled about putting my emotional well-being, as well as that of anyone within hearing range, in the hands of a seven-month-old.

But guess what? There’s something to be said for letting your infant tag along when the need to fly arises. Here are a few observations I was able to make during this weekend’s installment of The Adventures of Mommy and Alex!:

  1. Show TSA agents a baby, and suddenly they are the most pleasant people in the world. And who are you? Aren’t you the cutest person I’ve seen all day! Look at those big, beautiful eyes! I have literally never heard a TSA agent speak in exclamation points before. Or baby talk. Or, come to think of it, display any signs of human emotion.

Once we took these two people on a plane. And then we never did again. True story.

2. When you have a baby with you, strangers help you do things like get your stroller folded up at the end of the jetway. They call your attention to the spoon that baby just dropped on the floor. They offer to hold things for you. The young woman I sat with on my flight up to Boston told me to let her know if there was anything I needed. She let me set my ginger ale on her tray table to keep it away from little baby hands that might want to knock it over. Imagine if I were infant-less and I tried to set my drink on someone else’s tray table. They’d be like, get your drink off of my tray table, you freaking weirdo. Babies make people nicer. It’s a proven fact.

3. Babies are a good conversation starter, a way to connect with the people around you. It generally starts with someone asking how old she is, then we talk about some baby related to them, then we talk about traveling with babies, where we are going, the weather where we are going, and then we settle into an awkward silence because we have nothing left to say and we are trapped in a small space together until the plane lands.

4. Luckily, babies are an even better conversation ender. I could just turn from the person I was talking to and start speaking to Alex instead, and they wouldn’t find it rude at all. What do you want to do, honey? Do you want to look out the window? Do you want to bang on the back of the seat? Do you want to wipe drool all over the arm of the person sitting next to us? You can, because you’re a baby, and everyone likes you! If the nearby conversationalist didn’t get the hint, I always had breastfeeding up my sleeve. Oh, looks like she’s hungry! I find that strangers have a difficult time chatting up someone who has their boob out in a public place. Which I don’t recommend doing unless you are traveling with an infant.

5. First dibs on overhead storage. Try to gate check my carry-on now, beotch!

6. Have you ever arrived at your destination when flying solo and said to yourself, Wow, I handled that really well. No one on the plane hates me and I don’t have any poop on me! I did a great job sitting in a chair while being transported from point A to point B- go me! Add a baby to the mix, and a totally passive act becomes a giant accomplishment, and a reason to celebrate. I think I deserve a drink!

I’m sure when my husband reads this, he will be convinced of the merits of traveling with small children and will want to immediately begin planning his next trip. Where to next, honey? Want to bring all three?

No Small Victories

There are times when the sounds of my children become unbearable, when the five-year-old asks me the same question for the eighth time, when the baby cannot be comforted and the two-year-old dissolves into tears each time her emergent will is thwarted or her whims are not immediately satisfied.  I find myself devoid of sympathy, barking Why are you crying? as if their answer, were they able to give me one, would at all diminish my frustration.

There are days when all I want is for my children to play quietly and ask nothing of me, to fetch their own snacks and sippy cups, to wash their hands without being told, to get along with one another and not climb on the furniture and to put on their own damn socks.


Life’s not perfect. Here’s proof.

I’ve been there, the past week or so. Maybe it’s the rain or the fact that I have a cold I can’t seem to kick. Maybe it’s the six-month-old who was sleeping through the night and now isn’t, or the toddler who wanders into our room at midnight, 3 a.m., 5:30, looking for a lost pacifier or wanting to be covered up. Maybe the loneliness of staying at home is finally setting in. Probably it’s all of these things.

And all the while I know I’m being a joyless witch. I know that my kids are not whinier, snottier, or louder than most; they’re just your average whiny, snotty, loud kids who are often sweet and always amazing. They just want their mom’s attention, and there are days, even though this is what I signed up for when I became a parent, when it all seems like too much.

These are the days when I beat myself up for not being the mom I want to be or the mom  I think my children deserve. I’m not a magazine mom with a sense of adventure and a rainy day activity in my back pocket.  I don’t have an organizational system that works; my daily routine is flimsier than I’d like. I’m always tired, too matter-of-fact: Stop laughing and put on your shoes! 

There have to be millions of moms out there who, like me, exhaust themselves trying to live up to an unattainable ideal. Looking at social media, though, you wouldn’t know it. My feed is full of parental accomplishments: I baked this beautiful cake, I sewed these Halloween costumes, I ran sixteen miles, I redecorated our house. I used to find these posts annoying. Fabulous, the sarcastic voice in my head would say, Now we all know how amazing you are. Good for you.

Now the totally genuine voice in my head says this: Good for you. No sarcasm. We moms (and dads too, I’d bet) are full of self-doubt. Shouldn’t we celebrate the things we are proud of?  Don’t we deserve to congratulate ourselves when we do something that, in the scheme of our humdrum lives, feels extraordinary? Every victory, particularly on the roughest of days, has substance. Every success is monumental in its own way -getting the kids in bed ten minutes before their usual bedtime, putting a kick-ass lunch together from the five items in the refrigerator, speaking only kind words to the kid who wants you to lose your cool.


You know what else I’m good at? Producing awesome kids.

Today my children’s preschool was closed for a holiday. I woke up groggy, my throat burning, my ribs aching from the cough my two-year-old brought home. The forecast was for rain, and by 9 a.m. the backyard was already a marsh. The day would be long, but I needed, more than ever, something to celebrate. The first blanket fort I ever made my kids. A lovely respite from five-year-old boredom won by inviting a friend over to play. A longer than usual nap for the baby and a game of Candy Land with my middle girl. In an hour or so my husband will be home; I will try to have dinner on the table. I try to do my best, and sometimes I fail. But when I am able to count up all of my small successes, I see that they add up to something greater. Suddenly, I don’t feel like such a failure.