Sink or Swim in the Sea of Schedules

I’ve been a parent for just over seven years. And while sometimes that seems like an eternity, I know it’s not really long at all. However I’ve definitely discovered that there’s a lot of things that I just never was prepared for in terms of this whole parenting gig. I remember being pregnant with my first and maybe kinda attempting to half-ass read a few parenting books in the hopes of “learning the ropes.” (HA! Boy, do I look back at myself and all my glorified, parenting bliss pipe dreams and laugh!) Anyway, at the time I was commuting to the city and working fairly long hours, and honestly who the hell wants to spend their free time reading parenting books?! Besides, what works for one or even a million kids probably isn’t even going to work for yours.

But here I am, seven years into this gig, and my kids are finally getting old enough to get legitimate schedules. And holy shit I thought the newborn sleep deprivation was hard, but this, my friends, is some serious uncharted territory for me. I don’t think anyone ever warned me about the dreaded schedules. Although even if they did I probably would have just shrugged them off and thought to myself, “yeah right, now hard can it be to remember a few activities?” Well let me tell you, my brain is filled with pretty much nothing but awful song lyrics and the kids’ schedule,s and I’m basically maxed out at about 93 percent capacity. That does not leave room for much else. Working moms: I applaud the shit out of you that you’re able to function, use your brain and do all the mom things. Most days I find it difficult walking from one room to another and actually remembering what I was going to do. My daily goal in life is to shower and keep everyone alive. And I call it a win if I only manage the latter.

So yeah, it’s now the end of September and the school year is officially underway and with it comes All. The. Things. Things like dance, Cub scouts, fall baseball, Catechism, swimming lessons, doctor visits, in addition to normal ongoing events like weekly therapy, gymnastics, and all the other random appointments that seem to pop up way more often than one might think. And then there’s that other thing called homework, which praise the Lord we’ve barely scratched the surface in that department. Because amidst the other activities, dinner and like five minutes of free time, when are the kids supposed to do it? Because the thing about young kids is that even if one kid has an activity it really means everyone does, because obviously I can’t leave any of my littles at home alone. And I’m definitely not one of these fancy moms that has an Au pair, nanny or even on-the-call relative to come watch any or all of my kids anytime I need. A girl can definitely dream though.

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My current hot mess “Command Center”

So how do parents do it? Well like any other delusional parent, I turned to Pinterest to  look up “command centers.” Because currently my command center consists of one drawer in the kitchen that is stuffed to the gill with junk. That junk includes homework, school books, important papers, things that need signing, etc. It’s a complete shit show. Oh and of course it’s the favorite spot for my littlest to get into and find paper to “draw on.” So that’s fun and disastrous. But after wasting a month of my life looking at other people’s perfect organization and styled-to-the-max photos, I finally came back to reality and remembered there’s no way in hell I have the time, skill or energy to make these beautiful reclaimed wood-framed calendars and crafty compartments that I had pinned and dreamed up in my head. And I know where my husband would tell me to go if I asked him to add yet one more thing to his ever-growing “wife to do list.” So I looked around at a few local stores and finally decided upon this whiteboard calendar and the accompanying 3-tier letter bin so each kid can have their own bin for homework etc. Of course I realized I can’t even get these hung until I get the mudroom walls prepped and painted, but I’ll get there eventually.

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The current state of my slow-moving organization process.

I’m hoping that having this daily visual of the month’s schedule will better help me compartmentalize (and remember) each person’s activities. I’m currently living out of my iPhone calendar, but it doesn’t allow me to see the entire month’s events at once, something that I’ve come to learn I need. And I know that from this point on, there is no slowing down. Life as a family of five is only going to get busier, but I realize that now is the crucial time for all of us to figure out and establish efficient routines. Without it, I think my brain might eventually just combust. I can’t promise we’ll ever be on time for anything, but dammit I’m determined to at least make all scheduled events. So here’s to planning, organization and big-ass visible calendars!

A Birthday Fit for a King

I’ve lived in good ol’ suburbia since I graduated from college, something like a million years ago. And after so many years of being an official suburbanite, I’m definitely thankful I didn’t grow up here, although I suppose I have lived here long enough that I’ve grown to at least kinda, sorta, semi fit in. That said, however, I think there’s always going to be different things about the suburban way of life that just continue to blow my mind – one of those being the all-out production of kids’ birthdays.

IMG_3987My oldest recently just turned seven and last weekend we had his friend party. He did not get a friend party until he was five, but I’m starting to regret not delaying it until possibly 16. Now in my suburban mind, we kept things fairly simple for his party. He wanted a sports theme, so we rented out a place for two hours, and the kids played a few different games. I brought in pizza, cake, some drinks and called it a day. Oh, and goody bags. Because why wouldn’t kids deserve getting a small bag of junk at every party they attend. [Seriously, has this always been a thing? Who started this tradition? Am I the only one who thinks it’s ridiculous?] Anyway, on the flip side, my small-town mind is still utterly in shock over just how much this “low-key” party cost. I refuse to even acknowledge the total because I swear I could have enjoyed a nice solo three-day trip to Mexico for less. Kidding. Kind of.

Now while the dollar amount is just insane to me, what really gets me is that these kids, mine included, EXPECT this kind of thing. Like every year. How is dropping a few hundred dollars (we’ve been to some that have definitely cost way more) on a little kid’s random birthday the norm? Whatever happened to picking three of your closest friends, having mom bake a Betty Crocker cake and going to celebrate at the nearby park for a few hours? Obviously these suburban kids are not growing up on the same planet that I did. I remember having that park birthday party like ONE time. Any other year I think I might have invited someone over for dinner. And maybe my memory might be slightly off, but either way my dad would have dropped dead before dropping a few Benjamin’s on some insignificant birthday party. I tried explaining to Jaycob just how lucky he was to get such a nice party with his friends and mentioned that I merely went to the park when I was little. I might as well have told him I grew up in a cardboard box for the appalled look he gave me. Like he just couldn’t believe that’s ALL I did.

Things like this just really make question, once again, if I’m doing the right thing by raising my kids in the suburbs. I mean sure, we all want to “give our kids more than we had” but I firmly believe there’s still a fine line between giving them more and not creating spoiled brats. But when yearly elaborate parties are the norm, I find it difficult to tell my kids, “no sorry, you can’t have the party that you want because it’s just INSANE.” So of course, I saddle right up on that suburban bandwagon and do my best to provide an extremely watered-down “extravagant” party. Because all kids should be able to celebrate their special day with their friends. It’s important, and I’ll continue to do my best to make sure my kids get that. I just won’t ever figure out why someone should be forced to sell a kidney in order to pay for it.

Now, here’s where I’m going to go and contradict everything I just said (well at least in terms of the ridiculous cost) because if this party taught me anything at all, it’s that under no circumstances do I want to attempt to save money and host a kids’ (7-year-old boys, to be specific) party at my house. At first I was worried and felt bad for Jaycob because so many of the kids he invited were already busy that day, but ultimately he still had eight friends show up. And honestly even though I wasn’t really even in charge (a couple of teenagers were leading the kids in the games), I think if any more had come I might have just walked out. The energy, the craziness, the noise and just pure chaos with this group of kids was intense. And it’s not even that anyone was misbehaving. They were simply being seven-year-old kids. There was jumping and acrobatics and endless amounts of yelling and nonstop running. These kids were dripping wet in sweat. It certainly looked like everyone had a great time, which of course was fantastic. But truly all I kept thinking was, “oh my God, what if this was going on at my house?! Would I even have a house left?”

So at the end of the day, I ask myself why would I go against my frugal farm upbringing and piss away too much money for a most likely unmemorable birthday? Why would I simply perpetuate what I consider to be a legit problem with children automatically expecting to be handed the world? It’s simple: because I don’t want that kind of crazy up in my house. Survival, people. If it means my kids are happy and I get to keep my house intact; it’s worth it. Because parenting ain’t nothing but a balancing act mixed in with a shit ton of crazy.

Never Think You Don’t Have an Impact

img_3849The other day I randomly started chatting with a woman that I “met” (online) through some mutual friends and interests, thanks to our love for antiques, history and a good story. [But before I go any further let me reassure you (Dad) that NO, I’m not on any crazy website looking to”meet” someone.] Anyway we were chatting and I learned that like me, she’s experienced some serious grief and loss in her life. And while our experiences are different, her words and her overall outlook really struck a chord with me. She wrote:

“The thing is this: if we don’t let the anger fade, if we don’t treasure each breath we take, if we don’t give the best that we have to give…we are not honoring them. I know my son would want us to be happy, to make the best life we can make…to do anything less is an insult to him. So I laugh because he can’t. I breathe because he no longer breathes. I love because he loved with every beat of his big heart. We must do these things in order to not have lost them in vain.”

Now I “know” all this. My friends and family have preached this to me for years. But to hear it from a complete stranger, someone who also truly gets it, the words just seemed to take on a whole new meaning. Like I wrote in a previous blog, “Grief – The Monster in the Closet”  I’m not one to talk much about the pain or sadness I sometimes feel, and if I’m honest with myself, most days I simply try to tuck it away so it’s far out of reach. And with my busy schedule having three little kiddos, it’s not that hard to do. But some days I’ll have a flashback, or hear a song, or in this case talk to someone (other than my family) who has felt the same things I do. And in these moments, it’s simply impossible to bury.

I cried a lot that day after chatting with this woman. But when I was done, I also smiled. And ultimately I felt happy. Because as she reminded me, it’s not always taking it day by day or even hour by hour. Sometimes it’s minute by minute. But that’s okay because “we got this.”

Now coincidentally on this same day, a friend of mine posted a fantastic image that read:

“You might think that you don’t matter in this world, but because of you, someone has a favorite mug to drink their tea out of that you bought them.
Someone hears a song on the radio and it reminds them of you.
Someone has read a book you recommended to them and gotten lost in its pages.
Someone’s remembered a joke you told them and smiled to themselves on the bus.
Never think you don’t have an impact.
Your fingerprints can’t be wiped away from the little marks of kindness that you’ve left behind.”

After my earlier conversation and then seeing this, it just reminded me that sometimes it’s the random words you hear from a stranger. Sometimes it’s a pat on the back. Sometimes it’s reading an inspirational message that just nails it. Whatever the case may be, simple acts of kindness are everywhere. They’re a huge part to what makes us humans. They’re what gets us through the daily challenges; the complicated, messy struggles. But they’re also what gives us that extra reason to smile or what puts that tiny added pep in our step.

I know this woman was simply expressing her thoughts and emotions about her own experiences. She wasn’t necessarily trying to cheer me up or “fix” me. But she ultimately made an impact on me. And that, I feel, is such an important lesson for us all to remember. It’s something that I certainly hope I’ve done, and will continue to do, for others. But even more so, it’s something I strive to teach my kids. Because in a world filled with so much pain, unfairness and hurt, what may seem silly or unimportant to one person may be just the thing that helps someone else decide to push through and keep going.

I feel like so often we get caught up on buying the more expensive gift or focusing on making grand gestures with the assumption that that’s what will get noticed or recognized. And yes, maybe “more” people will notice things on a bigger scale. But quantity doesn’t necessarily equate to a more powerful impact. It’s the little things, the unintended or accidental gestures, that add up to become the big things. So offer up that book recommendation. Buy that silly five dollar gift for a friend. And tell that stupid joke you heard from your seven year old. Because you never know just how much of an impact those insignificant gestures might make.

The End of an Era

IMG_3529So I did a thing the other day. I sold the high chair. Now let me preface this by saying I have been planning to have a bonfire with this thing for probably at least a year. I had basically given up trying to clean it except for the actual tray. But the amount of crusted on food, dog slobber and God knows what else was enough to make even the strongest of stomachs quake. Hence my dreams of the bonfire. That said, however, I suppose with some major arm strength and potent chemicals, that chair has the potential to have a long, happy life.

Now for the most part, so far it seems I have not been a sentimental person when it comes to my kids’ stuff. Which, I’m actually strangely perplexed by. This coming from the person who has oddly saved every single paper and notebook I ever used from eighth grade through college. And after hauling these heavy-ass totes through three moves I feel like it’s just wrong to throw them out now. So under the basement stairs is where they live, because obviously my freshman year Spanish homework is important, but my kids’ baby items are not.

But back to my point – over the past seven years as soon as my kids have outgrown something I’ve done my best to get rid of it, with the exception of a select few items. I’ve just had no desire to hang on to all that stuff because to me, that’s exactly what it was – just stuff. It didn’t represent my babies or our memories together. That is however, until I had already gotten rid of the high chair. It was one of my favorite gifts from my baby shower – over seven years ago (gasp). It was one of the “nicer” things I wanted. It was wooden, semi-expensive and once upon a time looked pretty. And due to the closeness in age of my kiddos, it was essentially used every single day for the past seven years.

Now I had no problems handing it over to the next era of users. Until of course I went to bed, and on queue, my brain fired right up. And then it truly hit me that this was really the last thing that represented my babies. And now it was gone. Which basically translated to my babies are gone. I have never been a baby person. Not my own, not other people’s. Even after having three, they still tend to scare me. So while so many of my friends swoon over the precious little bundles of joy, I’m totally fine keeping my distance.

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My babies aren’t babies anymore

But still I had three and I love them all. And while I still consider myself clueless because they’re all so different, raising each baby gave me different memories, different experiences, different lessons. So while even thinking about having another baby sends me into an immediate panic attack, getting rid of this high chair solidified the fact that I will never go through those experiences again. And while I hate to even admit this, I’m sad. So many of those milestone “firsts” I’ll never witness again. And while I’m ALL for my kids expanding their independence (in terms of self-care at least!) this is still a reminder that I’m just not as needed as I once was. That’s a hard thing to swallow.

I will never be one of those people lecturing younger moms to “cherish these years because they go by so fast.” I hear that all the time and frankly it drives me nuts. Maybe it’s because deep down I know it’s true. Maybe it’s because I have a hard time thinking about the future because I’m knee-deep in the shit that comes with the present. Maybe it’s because I’m just damn tired. And yeah, yeah, I’m well aware that I can “rest when I’m dead” but still. Knowing how to live and actually living that way are two different things.

That said, however, after experiencing the joy, the grief and even the pride that I’ve been feeling over the past week from letting go of this high chair, I’m trying to use these emotions as my own personal lesson. Because as annoying and cliche as it is that “I’ll miss this when it’s gone” it’s just the plain truth. No, I won’t miss everything. I won’t miss bouncing that screaming baby for hours on end during the night. I won’t miss those level 10 blowouts where you just start tossing everything into the garbage because you’re both covered from head to toe in shit and the garbage is all you can see through your tears. But I will miss those adorable baby smiles that you see when they’re sleeping. I will miss when those tiny baby hands grasp your finger and won’t let go. And yes, I’ll even miss when the baby cries for everyone except me because they know that I’m their mom. Those are the experiences I can’t get back, but they’re the memories that will stay with me forever.

With the upcoming school year approaching I’m going to try to remember to slow down even when things are speeding up. I’m going to try to remember their smiles on their first day of school (because we all know that won’t last). And I’m going to try to hug them for a few seconds longer every night. In between the constant daily chaos, the fighting, the screaming and the tears, there’s always memories to be had. Lessons to be learned. And a life to live. I just need to remember to live it.

Motherhood Ain’t for Sissies

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My Perfect Angels (said no mother ever)

Motherhood is f*cking hard. And lately it seems like every day I’m doing nothing but  failing. Over. And over. And over. I suppose maybe it’s the fact that it’s summer and my three kids are constantly in my face All The Time. Or maybe it’s the fact that not only are they in my face nonstop, but they are fighting nonstop. Over NOTHING. Over looking at each other. Or not looking at each other. Or breathing. Or maybe it’s the fact that no one seems to listen. Like ever. Until I’ve practically gone hoarse from yelling so loudly, but even then it’s questionable if they’ll actually listen or just merely acknowledge I’m speaking to them (or in this case yelling). Or maybe it’s the fact that I take the time to cook dinner every single night and no one eats anything. Yet I get asked for a snack at least every three minutes all day long. But when I offer a minimum of four healthy choices for a snack all hell ensues and tantrums are had by all simply because the only thing that can cure the apparent aching hunger pains of my kids is fruit snacks. Or maybe it’s the fact that anytime I even attempt to do something productive, three hurricanes follow right behind me and destroy everything. Maybe it’s the fact that my middle child is going through some serious shit and I don’t know if I’m capable of handling it, let alone handling it properly. Or the best one yet – maybe it’s the fact that I idiotically decided to try and go a week without having a drink. Pure madness, I know.

Whatever the case may be, so often lately I’ve found myself losing my absolute shit. To the point where I swear I’m having an out-of-body experience because all the while I’m freaking out at my kids, inside I’m telling myself, you’re crazy. They’re just little kids. Be the adult. Shut the hell up. But yet that voice of reason is just never quite strong enough in the moment to help me pull myself together. Instead that little voice just simmers politely until about 10:00 p.m. when I’m trying to go to sleep. That’s when it comes blazing back to life. And what was once the voice of reason now turns into the loquacious mastermind of guilt. It likes to remind me over and over how I SHOULD have handled the situation. How I SHOULD have remained calm. How I SHOULD have controlled the 18 things that just flew out of my mouth in the heat of the moment that are undoubtedly going to put my kids on the couch of some high-paying therapist sometime during their adult life.

As a parent or even just as an adult I’d say it’s safe to say that at least more often than not, we learn from our mistakes. Isn’t that part of the definition of even being an adult? Having the capability to stop, reflect and learn. Yet why does it seem like I can never figure out how to properly keep my cool in a tense or frustrating situation?! Why is it that these little people somehow have the ability to put this spell over me that sends me straight to Crazy Town? Because certainly that isn’t something that any adult has the capability of doing to me (well, okay my husband does, but I think that’s just par for the course). I seriously feel like my hard drive is frying some days as I’m constantly being hounded with a barrage of “MOM!” everywhere I go with three people yelling out three different demands simultaneously. There are times that I just can’t focus on a single thing or even hear myself think, which admittedly I’ve even shouted out loud before.

I often wonder if these are just “normal” mom feelings or if I’m some sort of uncontrollable freak that needs therapy herself. (Dad, if you’re reading this OF COURSE I need therapy for a laundry list of reasons but that’s not my current point.) On a handful of occasions I’ve witnessed what ideal parenting is like when a child is in the midst of a shit storm and I simply sit back and stare in awe. Because as much as I WANT to be that parent, more often than not, I’m the farthest thing from it. So am I in the minority or are those patient, docile parents? Who knows! The only thing I do know for certainty – and back to my original point – is that motherhood is damn hard.

But after all of this hemming and hawing, at the end of the day, of course I love my children with all my heart and want nothing more than to help them be happy, healthy, good humans. So thankfully, tomorrow is another day – another day to love and forgive my children – as well as myself. Because the two go hand in hand and are equally important. Obviously none of us are perfect, but I like to think that we’re perfect for each other.

For Some, It’s More Than Just a Game

DSC_9465Last week I was finally able to attend one of my son’s baseball games. Both girls had napped, and for once the weather was cooperating. I was pretty excited as my husband had shown me some videos, and my son seemed to actually be fairly good – well good for a six-year-old boy, that is. So the girls and I got there and set up camp. Immediately, of course, both girls took off for the sandbox. (By the way, did I mention sand is definitely one of those four-letter words.)

Anyway, my son’s team performed, for the most part, as I expected. They screwed around a lot, cheered each other on, repeatedly climbed the fence and got yelled at, taunted the other team – you know, normal boy stuff. Then one boy went up to bat. And after numerous attempts to get a hit (I’m not quite sure what the rules are for this age because he swung his bat at least seven times), this boy was finally called out. And wow was he heart-broken. He walked back to the bench with his shoulders hunched down and immediately started crying. As in sobbing like he just caused his team to lose the World Series. And he wouldn’t stop. He cried all the way up until it was his team’s turn to go into the outfield.

Now my first reaction was oh, the poor kid. But as I watched him, I began to be amazed and overwhelmed – I’m not even sure exactly what I was feeling – at this kid’s intense emotion over merely striking out. None of the other boys really even seemed to pay attention to his reaction, and no one else, thankfully, seemed to get too upset if they struck out or made a mistake. I mean again, it’s six-year-old kids playing baseball. Practically every move is a mistake isn’t it?! Anyway, it really got me thinking about the pressure some kids feel about the need to succeed. And sure, I get it. I got a little nutty during finals or any test really and felt if I didn’t succeed I’d be ruining my life. (Oh the crazy hormonal mind of a teenage girl!) But this was a group of six year olds that were supposed to be just learning how to actually properly play a sport. And in my opinion, the only thing that should have been on their minds was how much fun they were having.

But is this where it starts? Are six year olds already feeling the pressure to be the best? Of course some people might immediately put blame on the parents. But this kid’s dad was there and he kept encouraging his son and reminding him it’s not a big deal, just try again next time. So yes while there are definitely a crap ton of insane parents out there, this dad certainly didn’t seem to be one of them. So again I ask myself where does this extreme pressure kids put on themselves, or feel from an outside source, come from? Because knowing me, had that been my kid I most likely would have brushed him off and told him to buck up and move on. But for some, that intense need to be the best manifests and can turn deadly. So as a parent, how do you know the difference between knowing that your child simply needs to take a step back and take a few breaths from knowing that they have one foot off the edge of that very dangerous cliff?

I’ve experienced my four year old tell me her day had been ruined because some other little girl decided that she didn’t want to play with her. It didn’t matter that five minutes later they were best friends again. My daughter’s focus, when asked about her day, was on that one minute of rejection. And yes that’s four-year-old girl dramatization at its finest, however it still causes me to pause and think “oh, shit is this a glimpse into her (my) future?” And if so, how will she handle rejection? How will my son handle not being good enough to make some sports team because there’s 476 kids in his class and only 30 kids will be picked to be on the team?

These types of issues that kids seem to face these days – at least in the suburbs where I’m raising my family – are things that I never had to deal with. Hell we had to recruit kids from neighboring towns just to have enough kids to make a team so we could even play a sport. And as for being a successful student, yes I absolutely put in my time and effort because it’s how I was raised, but looking back I wasn’t in the top tier of my class because I was overly smart. I simply studied more than most, and when your class has about 32 students in it, it’s easy to be up near the top. Had I been raised in these suburbs where you’re competing with hundreds of hard-core, studious, and determined kids, I never would have had a fighting chance getting into the University of Illinois like I did. I had wanted to go to Illinois since I was in junior high and I think it was the only in-state school I applied to (and of course my dad vetoed even the idea of paying for out-of-state tuition.) But if I hadn’t gotten in, what would that have done to my 17-year-old impressionable self? Would I have been able to handle that kind of rejection when I didn’t really even have a plan B? And to fully understand that one particular college wouldn’t determine my future, because that job was actually up to me. I would like to think so, but in reality all it takes is one out-of-your-mind moment to make a decision that could cost you your life.

It saddens me to think of my kids suffering, or any kids for that matter, because they did poorly on a test or didn’t get invited to a party or was the last out in the game. Kids tend to focus on THAT moment only and can’t grasp the concept that five years from now, hell five months from now, none of their current sorrows even will matter. Because to them and their developing brains, THAT moment is the only thing they can even think about. And whether it’s intentional or not, kids are indeed always under pressure. The pressure to be popular and have a lot of friends, to get good grades and ultimately be accepted to a good college, to be good at sports and aim for a scholarship. And the list goes on. But as we know, it’s impossible to be the best at everything and sometimes even anything. But that’s still okay.

As I’m writing this, my brain keeps attempting to go off on so many different tangents that can be associated with this post. But for me, I suppose my main purpose in writing this is to simply remind myself of the importance of my job. I’m not curing cancer or making people millions, but I do have three tiny monsters that depend on me to show them and to teach them how to shrug off that strike out or friendship rejection. But not only that, but how to shrug it off and still be happy; maybe not that at that moment, but having the capability and self-confidence to eventually get there. I’ve come to learn that it’s hard as shit to be a parent, especially a good one. But I also won’t forget that it’s just as hard to be a kid. To be engulfed with such intense feelings and emotions that all kids, at some point or another, struggle with and to not necessarily have the maturity needed to be able to properly manage those feelings. It’s hard work. Over the years, my advice to my children is going to change. But for now, my focus is on them having fun, being kids and being nice. Unfortunately, they’re going to feel the competitive pressure their entire lives. But for right now, it should be nothing more than a game.

Surviving the Mayhem that is Summer

IMG_2843Well, it’s that time of year again. Parents all over social media are posting all their “first day of school/last day of school” photo montages. People comment about how cute the kids are, how much they’ve grown, and how fast time flies. Sure, I participate in that trend too. Because it’s all fun and games until that first day of summer vacation actually comes around. You wake up to the sound of your kids barging into your room at 6 am with their latest list of wants and demands, and then they immediately start fighting because their wants are more important than their siblings’ wants and It’s Not Fair. And then the baby starts crying too because her diaper is down to her knees from the night and wants to be changed “Right Now!” And you’re barely processing any of it because you were still in the middle of your REM sleep from having gotten up three different times in the night to deal with whomever needed covering up or a drink of water at any given time. So you just stare at these screaming, yelling, demanding monsters and think “what the F is going on?!” And then it dawns on you that this is just your everyday morning, but have no fear the bus will be here soon and you’ll at least be down one kid. But then you really wake up and your brain starts to semi-function and now you’re at “holy shit, there is NO bus. It’s SUMMER!!” You immediately try to slip back under the covers and hope they don’t notice, but it only makes them yell louder, demand more and of course jump on you.

img_2767So yeah, summer vacation has commenced. Remember when you were that kid though and you couldn’t wait. And all you could think about was the freedom, the never-ending playtime and just all of the fun! Those were the days. Yet here we are now, on the other side of the fence wondering how the hell are we going to survive these LONG two and a half months?! I’ve decided it’s basically the same thing as Purgatory. You essentially have one foot in Hell at all times but you know you won’t be stuck there forever (even when it seems like you will). You have one mission for the summer: SURVIVAL. The key is understanding that it doesn’t matter how you get there, just that you GET THERE.

img_2774As a new parent or even a parent of just one kid, you might be delusional in your summer planning. As in you’re actually excited for ALL the fun grandiose activities and adventures you’re going to do. And hey, if that’s what you’re able to actually do (and enjoy it) then more power to you. For me, on the other hand, who’s in the midst of toddler hell, I know better. I’m in full on survival mode and trust me when I say it’s not easy. So here’s a few tricks I’ve learned that just might give you a slight edge to making it to August.

Step #1: Always have a calendar handy and in sight. You want to be able to see the days tick by and know at all times exactly how many you have left. It’s mainly for moral support to again remind you that this won’t be forever. And each day you get those kiddos to bed (well to bed and actually ASLEEP) it’s a full on WIN for the day. Because the key to survival is taking it one day at a time.

Step #2: Do a little recon on your house. Take a few minutes and try to scope out a few different places that you can hide, even if it’s just for five minutes. You know they will hunt you down like dogs and they will do it quickly, but a few minutes of silence is basically the equivalent of Super Mario finding a magical mushroom that gives him that extra boost needed to make it to the next level. We’re stay at home moms; we wipe asses for a living. It doesn’t take much to find our next burst of strength to keep going.

Step #3: Lower your expectations. As in, stop having any. A successful summer is not the equivalent of having a full itinerary every single day. More than likely the kids won’t even remember visiting every single local park. Letting them run wild outside will be just as exciting and probably more memorable anyway.

Step #4: Use your village. Find a few core friends that have the same philosophy as you (as in they don’t give a shit and it’s all about making it through the day) and have play dates. Now, not the Pinterest kind of play dates, the kind that actually make sense. As in “kids, there’s the swingset, a bucket and a pile of dirt. We’ll be back in two hours to feed you so no one withers away. We’re going to drink mom juice and shoot the breeze in peace. Unless someone needs the ER, WORK IT OUT.” Because oftentimes if kids are left alone without hovering, crazy parents, they actually do okay. And even if they don’t, that’s okay too. Our job is not to interfere with every single banter or incident of not sharing. Let the little bastards figure it out. We’ll all be happier in the long run.

Step #5: Do whatever you can to make them more independent. You know they need us for everything, but even if we end up hearing just one less “mom!” in a day, it can make all the difference. Give them access to available snacks. Make sure their clothes are easily accessible so they can dress themselves. If they come down wearing their Christmas dress, so be it. Just remember it’s simply one less thing you have to do yourself. Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to let go of the control, especially when you see the messes they make from doing things themselves. But just keep your eyes on the prize: the more they do, the less you have to (well eventually, because in the beginning there will most likely be a lot of extra messes.) But they will get there!

Step #6: Ignore them. Obviously not entirely, but in those first few weeks when they’re fighting over EVERY SINGLE THING, stop trying to be the referee. It’s simply impossible to do, and you’ll be in the asylum before the end of June. Just keep reminding them that unless there’s blood, they need to work it out themselves. By the end of the summer, more than likely they will have all learned a few new choice words because you’re simply unable to control the not-so-silent mutterings under your breathe anymore. But hey, if they’ve learned to work out even one of their 74,382,974,389 fights in a day, you’re doing a great job.

Step #7: The most important step to surviving the summer is to just have fun. Most likely that will involve a fully stocked (wine) fridge and a secret stash of Snickers, but it is important to remember that this is your time too. Being a stay at home mom is a damn hard job and even though we live with one foot in the nut house, we’re lucky as hell to have this time with our kids. Loosen up and remember, they’re just kids. Give them the damn vats of Goldfish, let them pee in the yard. Because they won’t always be barging in on us in the bathroom or be around to climb in bed with us every night. It’s hard to truly believe, but deep down we know someday we’ll miss this.

So keep your friends close and your alcohol closer. And let the countdown to August begin.