Five Things this 37-Year-Old Mom Is Accepting About Herself

 

My car will always be a disaster

It’s embarrassing but true – my car is a trash can. Or maybe a recycling bin. It’s full of paper – school work dumped out of backpacks, crafts left abandoned under the seats, paper towels from every hurried meal I’ve eaten in the car.

Within my mobile paper mill, you can find hidden every imaginable item associated with little girls. Broken Barbies. Melted crayons. Socks. Stickers, stamps, books, goggles, half-full snack bags, escaped fruit snacks, pipe cleaners, hairbrushes, crowns, doll shoes, roller skates. The last time I emptied the dump that is my car I found a plastic baggie with a pair of underpants in it.

It’s not that I don’t clean my car. I do. Whenever I accidentally take a sip of the days-old tea left in the travel mug I forgot to bring inside, I attack that car like Don Quixote wielding a vacuum hose.

When I’m done, the car looks beautiful and I decide that this time it will stay this way. I will be a clean car person.  I will install bags for trash and bags for toys and crafts and everything else the kids bring into the car. I won’t eat in it anymore. I’ll check it every night to make sure there are no science projects festering in cups and mugs.

I never do. I never will. I am a messy car person. And at least I always know were my travel mugs are.

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This is not actually my car. I swear.

 

I will always be the person who buys her clothes at Target and only enters Nordstrom’s to use the fancy bathroom

As every change of season approaches I decide that this time I will replace all my cheap, stained and tattered clothes with quality items I actually try on before buying. I will have a wardrobe and it will be full of coordinating, timeless pieces. I will select signature colors that enhance my youth and beauty and I will tailor my well-cut jeans so the hems don’t drag on the ground.

I will, in short, outfit myself like the accomplished, confident woman that I am.

And then I go to Target, where the siren call of the clearance racks draws me inexorably into their depths. Twenty minutes later, I will emerge with a cart full of cheap tee shirts and jeans that are three inches too long but were $7.88.

It’s better this way, really. I can’t do anything with food without getting something on myself. Those cheap tee shirts and jeans spend most of their time heaped in a laundry basket, stuck in the no man’s land between the dryer and our dresser drawers. Yoga pants and jeans that don’t keep their shape feel like old friends, and no tailored top could ever replace my Hogwarts tees.

My pooch is my pooch is my pouch

My first daughter gave me a pooch – that little flap of stretched out skin hiding just under the belly button. It shows itself most prominently when my jeans start to slip down or when I’m wearing a seatbelt — just hanging out there like it was invited. A guest that became a permanent resident.

In the time since I had kids, there have been stretches when I was in really good shape – when I thought I might have some chance of reclaiming my flat(ish) stomach. I ran a half marathon. I took classes at the gym with the words turbo and insanity in them. I was fit. And I still had my belly pooch.

This little gut of mine isn’t going anywhere. And I don’t really want it to. My younger daughter revels in its stretchy softness — she says it’s her favorite pillow and rubs it when she’s tired. It’s like a trophy, proof that my body has made people.

Plus, there’s always Spanx.

I will always be the mom who is there, but just barely

I am capable of functioning successfully in the mom world — I manage to get at least one (non-powdered cheese coated) starch, one protein, one fruit/vegetable, and a measure of dairy into my kids’ picky little bellies almost every day. I don’t allow them to watch Sponge Bob every minute of their free time. I am occasionally successful at negotiating moments of temporary peace in their endless hours of bickering.

I get my kids to school on time, I make it to all their events, and I never miss a deadline to register them for the activities they love.  Hell, I’m a vice president of our PTA.

But I’m never the mom who has band-aids in her purse when they fall down, or wipes when they get ice-cream all over themselves at the playground. Any tissues I have are leftover Chick-Fil-A napkins.

I always leave at least one towel behind at the pool and I never remember to bring snacks. I have been known to blow past exists when driving my kids places because I was daydreaming or listening to the news. I almost walked out of a building the other day without one of my kids, and I only have two.

I’m absentminded, and I always will be. My flakiness has been something I’ve lamented about myself for as long as I can remember — and no matter how hard I’ve tried, I’ve never been able to change it.

But I have noticed that my absentmindedness is where my creativity lives. It’s what gives my mind space for the ideas and reflections that bring meaning to my life.  It’s me.

Acceptance is not the same as defeat

I used to see acceptance as another word for defeat. Admitting that there were things about myself I couldn’t change felt like giving up, like admitting I was a failure.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized not every flaw we see in ourselves is actually a flaw — that many of the standards or ideals we hold ourselves up to aren’t important, or even valid.

I understand now that letting go of empty standards for what we should be, and accepting what we are, doesn’t mean we stop striving to be a better person. It means we are no longer wasting our energy in a futile attempt to be something we aren’t. It means we are free to be the best version of who we are.

 

Mom Brain

When you’re a 35-year-old operating on 4 hours of puke-scented sleep who has spent the day sitting sitting in front of the TV watching quality children’s programming with the weight of a hot, sick kid on your chest, your mind starts to go to strange places.

Places like this….

“Handy Manny is really good. He’s like the perfect contractor.”

“Seriously, the guy needs to come over here. I’ve got all kinds of things for him to fix… And I am KIND of married to Mr. Lopart… (Hah! That was a good one, Krista!)”

“Maybe he could even make me those built-in bookcases I’ve been wanting.”

“I mean, he really is that good… And no one ever seems to have to pay him. He’s right in my price range.”

“No one pays him because he gets all his stuff for free from that Kelly chick. She is SO into him.”

“I bet his Angie’s List reviews would be hilarious… People would be like, ‘either I was hallucinating or his tools were talking!'”

(Mental pause)

“Oh my God, did I just spend the last five minutes talking to myself about contracting with a cartoon character? I used to think about economic theory and social justice and stuff. I used to speak three languages. Oh dear Lord, what has become of me?”

“Sh*t… Oh sh*t… Where’s the puke bucket? Where did I put it?! Why can’t I find it? I knew it! I’m losing my mind.”

“Oh screw it, just puke in my coffee mug.”

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I bet he’s cute in real life…

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Just look at the way he handles that tool box.

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“Handsome” Manny to the rescue!!!

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It’s been 12 hours and she is finally asleep. All is well.

Twelve Rules for Owning an Independent Preschooler

Those of us with young children who have entered into the “I do it MYSELF” phase have come to understand a great irony of life. We spend the first few years of parenthood imagining a future in which we don’t have to do every little thing for our children. We long for the day when butts will be wiped by hands other than our own, when we no longer have to force limp limbs into coats or kicking feet into shoes. We say things like, “life will just be so much easier when she starts getting dressed herself.”

Then one day, your child will decide to get dressed all by herself. And on that day, you will come to know the true agony of watching a three-year-old trying to remove her day clothes and put on underpants and a pair of footed, zippered pajamas with no help. At all.

And woe betide you if you do try to help. In fact, offering to help is such a rookie mistake that, if made a second time, you really do deserve the wrath your offer will ignite.

Unfortunately for us parents, surviving a preschooler’s attempts at independence isn’t as easy as just withholding your assistance. Oh no. There is a host of rules that you must follow in order to survive your day unscathed. I have broken these rules more times than I can count, and I have suffered accordingly.

Rule #1: Do not offer to help. This is the most basic rule, and really should go without saying. But I am saying it anyway.

Rule #2: Do not attempt to provide child with items necessary for task completion. Don’t you dare give her those socks!

Rule #3: Do not look directly at items necessary for task completion.

Rule #4: Do not think about items necessary for task completion. They read minds.

Rule #5: Do not compliment child. They can sense an unspoken offer for help.

Rule #6: Do not provide suggestions or advice of any kind. Even though there is a nearly 100% chance that she will drop the entire bowl of Cheez-its into the toilet if she brings them into the bathroom with her.

Rule #7: Do not speak to child.

Rule #8 Do not make eye contact with child. Again, they read minds.

Rule #9: Do not look in child’s general direction.

Rule #10: Do not attempt even the smallest tug of the child’s shirt, even though her head is stuck and she is about to fall of the bed.

Rule #11: Do not breathe the same air as child. She can hear your frustration in every sharp intake of breath.

Rule #12: Do not exist in near proximity to child.

The consequences of breaking any of these rules will be that she has to do it. all. over. again. Including the part where she gets her head stuck in the shirt.

Basically, just leave the room with your eyes closed and your ears covered. Stand with your back toward the general direction of your child. Do not think about your child until she has completed the task and given you express permission to address her. Unless, of course, the child with her head stuck in her shirt does fall of the bed, in which case why didn’t you offer to help you terrible, neglectful parent?!

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See? She can do it all. by. herself. (It was 80 degrees and sunny.)

 

My Girls and Music

Last night, my husband was at a meeting, leaving me home alone with our girls. Because they were both entirely too devastated by the reality of having to spend an evening without their beloved, all-knowing, all-powerful daddy, I decided to be the cool mom and have a dance party with them. (I mean really, it was kind of insulting that they both professed the desire to go to a boring, childless preschool meeting rather than staying home with me.)

First, we danced to some CCR, because how can you have a living room dance party without Down on the Corner? Then I played Hesitating Beauty by Wilco, because I love that song and I have a Norah, and what kid doesn’t want to dance to a song with her name in it?

Of course, after playing a song about a Nora for my Norah, I had to play a song about a Michelle for my Michele. So I went online to find a video of Michelle, by the Beatles, and came across My Michelle by Guns N Roses.

Somehow, even though I have liked (the softer side of) Guns N Roses since I was a preteen, and even though I am both the daughter and the mother of a Michele, I had no idea that GNR had a song about a Michelle. So, of course, I decided to click on the video, just to see, because the band who gave us Sweet Child of Mine surely could not produce anything un-kid-friendly. Right?

So I played the video.

At 0:49, my 3-year-old looks at Slash, whose face is covered by his long, black, insanely curly hair, and she says, “Mommy, is dat YOU? When you played your gwuitar?”

“Yes.” I replied, deadpan. “Yes. That is exactly what I looked like in 1988. You have a gift my child.”

As the guitar intro continued, it became clear to me that my girls were doubting whether this video would ever turn into “real” music. I could see the look of doubt dawning on my Michele’s face. Things were not going in the direction she expected them to go. But then, Axel Rose himself appeared at 1:25, and her sweet little face lit up.

Ok, actually, she collapsed into helpless giggles. Our boy Axel was dancing shirtless across the stage with a microphone and my girl thought it was probably the funniest thing she had ever seen in her whole 6 years of life.

Mommy!” She howled. “Why is that NAKED GUY dancing with a microphone? He looks so silly!” So of course, I started to laugh too, because he really does look kind of ridiculous.

We gave up on Guns N Roses and we moved onto the more certain classic. I pulled up a video of Paul McCartney playing Michelle at the White House for our President and his wife (and their daughters, who look distinctly embarrassed  at the way their dad is singing along) and I showed it to my own Michele.

“This is the real song sweetie. The one I always sing to you,” I told her as I started the video.

She took one look at it and said, “Mommy… why is that guy so OLD?”

All in all, it was not a very good moment for classic rock and roll gods in our household last night. And I have come to the realization that, if Axel Rose and Paul McCartney seem totally lame to my young children, there is absolutely no hope that they will ever see me as anything but lame. Except for that time when I used to be Slash.

 

Ants in the Pantry

Last night, after an exhaustingly busy day,  while I was making dinner and baking zucchini bread and arbitrating fights and putting away groceries, I discovered ants in our pantry. Everywhere. Hundreds of ants were congregating for a feast of proportions that must have boggled their tiny ant minds, and I was slightly less than thrilled to be their unwilling hostess. Why is it that these minor household emergencies always happen when you are tired, busy, and cranky?

So, while I was unloading and inspecting all of the food products contained within our cupboards, I composed this terrible poem.

Ants in the Pantry, by Krista Threefoot

Ants in the pantry,
Ants in the pantry,
Oh Lordy, oh Lordy,
We’ve ants in the pantry.

Ants in the sugar,
Ants in the honey,
Ants in the (gluten-free) flour
that costs tons of money.

Ants in the crackers
That keep the kids quiet
Ants in the cookies
That cause them to riot.

I’ll spray them with Windex
and then watch them die.
When they’re back tomorrow
I’ll try not  to cry.

Ants in the pantry,
Ants in the pantry,
Oh Lordy, oh Lordy,
We’ve ants in the pantry.

 

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I had to add this picture because whenever I think of ants, I remember my grandmother’s commentary on the movie Antz: “I hated it. All it was was a bunch of ants fornicating.”   I’m still not sure where she got that from.

And before one of my comedian readers (i.e. Dad) suggests that a little extra protein never hurt: No. Just no. The only time I ever scooped the ants out of a food product and prayed there were no survivors was when we lived in Argentina and the nearly microscopic ants indigenous to Buenos Aired got into my completely closed jar of peanut butter. (It was amazing. I was almost proud of them.) I was in peanut butter withdrawal after going without for several months and even though the stuff was made in Germany and nowhere close to being Skippy, I wasn’t wasting a particle of that viscous gold, ants or no ants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Girls, in Church

I walked the Walk of Shame this morning. Or, at least, I walked the 35-year-old Catholic mom version of it. My family was at Mass, and of course it was a quiet moment because it’s always a quiet moment, when my littlest little person announced to everyone who could hear her (at least half of the congregation) that she had to go pee pee. She pretty much does that at every Mass we attend, so it wasn’t as embarrassing as it could have been. But this time, she decided to expand the discourse on her pottying needs.

“Mommy!” she shouted. “I have to go pee pee. But ‘dis time, I gonna close my legs so I don’t get pee pee everywhere. Ok, mommy? OK?”

I wanted to laugh; I wanted to cry, but I was so frozen by embarrassment that I all could do was furiously whisper for her to use her (bleeping implied) inside voice.

To which she replied, loudly, “I talkin’ loud like ‘dis Mommy… I talkin’ loud like ‘dis… I TALKIN’ LOUD LIKE ‘DIS, MOMMY, BECAUSE I WANT TO TALK LIKE ‘DIS!”

At this point I had almost reached the door, where safety lay, when I sensed the presence of my older daughter jogging up behind me. I looked over my shoulder. She was holding her crotch.

“Mommy!” she shouted. “I’m holding my crotch because I have to pee too!”

So I grabbed her hand, hung my head, and made my ignominious exit.

We completed our pottying exercise almost without incident. I say almost because just as we were approaching the doors  to go back into Mass, my younger daughter broke away from us running, looking back at me to shout, “Mommy! Dere’s a girl here with PINK HAIR! It should be BROWN, Mommy!” And then she sprinted away toward the open doors of the sanctuary, with me yell-whispering for her to freeze while I ran after her dragging my older daughter — who was agog at the pink-haired girl — reluctantly behind me.

Our very noticeable return was, fortunately, at the tail end of the service. So people hardly even noticed when my younger daughter started singing “Peace and harmony, in all the world! Peace and harmony, in all the world! Pe-eace and Ha-armony!” It’s a good thing people didn’t hear her, or they might have gotten the mistaken impression that she had actually benefited from the homily which was about, well, peace and harmony in all the world.

Instead, she was just repeating a song from one of her favorite TV shows, Peppa Pig.

 

Dance Like a Chicken and Fly

Over the last few weeks, I have been spending every Monday morning taking a Zumba class at our gym. I have to say that I am not a dancer, and I never have been a dancer.

All of the action shots my parents took of my during my childhood dance recitals show me off to the side, moving to my own rhythm, apparently oblivious to the fact that I was supposed to be participating along with several other girls in a routine we had spent the last six months practicing. When I was 7, my dance teacher politely told my parents that she didn’t think I was really getting anything out of my ballet and tap dancing experience and that it would probably be better for them to invest their money elsewhere. Unfortunately, remedial coordination classes don’t exist, so we added my failed dance career to my failed soccer career and limited my extra-curricular activities to Girl Scouts.

But these days everybody is doing Zumba and I figured that, if adults with no previous dance experience from countries all around the world can pick up the Zumba moves, then by God, so could I.

My first few classes were embarrassing. I spent the entire time trying to get my feet to do something — anything — that remotely resembled what the instructor was doing, and using vast amounts of concentration to ensure that I didn’t kick anyone or fall down. There were arm movements too, but that was so far beyond my capability that I just let them do whatever they had to do to keep me from falling into a heap on the arena floor.

But after a few classes, I began to feel a little more comfortable. My arm flapping became considerably less noticeable, and I stopped praying for the occasional breaks for running in place or squats that our instructor adds into the work out. I even managed to keep up when Claire, from Desperate English Housewife in America, subbed for our usual instructor and added in this twitchy, hip-shaking move that she made look totally sexy but which had me feeling like my hips, and only my hips, were having seizures.

I was becoming increasingly comfortable with the moves, and I had finally started to think that I was getting kind of, well, good at it. I was concentrating less and smiling more and at the end of the workout I was feeling almost as high as I do after a good run.

But then, summer camps began, and the basketball arena where the class is normally held was handed over to a bunch of sweaty kids. We were shuffled over to a much smaller studio, where there is an entire wall of mirrors.

My friends, they say the mirror don’t lie, and they are right. Watching myself do Zumba was like watching a train wreck. I didn’t want to see it, but I couldn’t stop looking, and the end result was horrifying.

You know that scene in Frozen, when the Duke of Weselton leads Anna off for a dance, and then proceeds to perform dance moves so ridiculous that it can only be comedy? That’s what I looked like. I mean, I was doing what everyone else was doing. At least, I was attempting to do what everyone else was doing, but my execution was significantly less controlled and coordinated. And while I am sure that everyone else was sweating too much to notice me, I noticed myself and it was weird.

 

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop taking the class. I’m not even going to stop watching myself look like a fool. Because although I felt like an idiot, I also got a lot of amusement out of the whole experience.

I think that one of the greatest gifts life can give you is the ability to laugh at yourself. When you can see the ridiculous in your own actions and find the humor in your own shortcomings, you are rewarded with an endless supply of entertainment. We all pave the roads of our lives with the stupid things we do. Laughing at them makes the going so much easier.

But more than that, when you can recognize and laugh at your own absurdities, you often end up having much more patience with the faults and foibles of others. You judge everyone less and you relax more. You become a better person without even trying.

So next Monday, you will find me at the gym in Studio 2, dancing like an overdrawn cartoon character with a smile on my monkey face.